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Local Election Results - A Week On

Lara Stace
Lara Stace

A week on from Election Day’s results, their implications are starting to sink in. We’re very proud of the Deryn Dashboard, which contains all the important results and data from the Local Elections, so take a look if you haven’t already. Beyond the Welsh Conservatives losses, which have been the headline story from the election, the results have raised a multitude of question marks for the future political landscape in Wales, including over leadership and messaging.

Welsh Labour had a good result across Wales as a whole, although it has not quite recovered from its 2017 losses and is still 50 seats behind where it was in 2012. It regained Blaenau Gwent, switching once again with the local independents, and made significant gains in Monmouthshire, where it rocketed from 10 to 22 seats. Now looking further ahead, the party needs to ensure Mark Drakeford’s replacement, who we can expect to take their place during this Senedd term, maintains the appeal Mark Drakeford has built for Welsh Labour as a result of its handling of the pandemic.

The Green Party also had a good Local Election, going from zero councillors in Wales (after Emily Durrant left the party to join Plaid Cymru in 2021) to eight, plus two more councillors elected via the Common Ground Alliance with Plaid Cymru. The party now has representation across seven councils: Conwy, Denbighshire, Monmouthshire, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Powys and Swansea. In Monmouthshire, the Green Party councillor elected, Ian Chandler, may be able to bolster Labour in forming an administration at the former Conservative council.

The Green Party’s Local Election results show the party is building support, but the Senedd reform proposed by the Welsh Government may hinder the party’s chances at Senedd Elections. The d’Hondt voting system, although a form of proportional representation, favours larger parties and the Green Party may struggle to reach the new, higher threshold to gain one of the 96 seats. In the last Senedd Election, the threshold to win a regional seat ranged from 6% to 9%, while the Greens won 4.4% at the regional voting – although higher than the Liberal Democrats’ 4.3%, who saw Jane Dodds MS elected.

The Liberal Democrats remained fairly static in this year’s election, growing from 62 to 69 councillors overall. The growth of the Green Party across Wales risks encroaching on the Liberal Democrats’ appeal to voters who have either become disinterested in or turned away from the larger parties. It means Liberal Democrats need to position themselves in the current Senedd and across Wales more broadly as still relevant, first and foremost, and prepare for a long journey if they are to reach the former glory of 2010.

Now we must turn to the Conservatives’ experiences at the polls. The UK Government’s Wales Secretary, Simon Hart MP, attempted to sell the Welsh Conservatives’ abysmal results as a ‘warning’ from voters and said the sitting Conservative UK Government needs to ‘listen and learn’, even going so far to say there is a message of encouragement if voters’ words are heeded. It is likely the more than 70 Conservative councillors who lost their seats are yet to appreciate those words of ‘encouragement’.

The biggest knock was of course Monmouthshire, in which the Welsh Conservatives have held the most seats for almost 20 years and had run the council since 2017. This loss of the party’s flagship, or only, council should serve as a warning to the party. The easiest take suggests the national picture, not just of partygate, but inaction on the cost of living crisis and a plethora of events besmirching the Conservative brand (Neil Parish’s tractor habit comes to mind as a recent example), is starting to bite. The Prime Minister has until now appeared to survive scandal after scandal, including those which would have previously toppled former Number 10 incumbents.

However, there is a more systemic challenge facing the party in Wales – namely, that it is the Conservative Party in Wales. With a Senedd group leader rather than a figurehead directing a national party, there are limits to how the Welsh Conservatives can develop their purpose and brand. In much the same way as Welsh Labour has become distinct from the UK party and maintained its appeal in Wales – governing since powers were initially devolved in 1999 – despite the UK party faltering elsewhere in England and Scotland, the Conservative Party needs to take a leap and hand over the reins to a Welsh Conservative party leader.

Since the results became clear on Friday evening, Conservatives have been looking in all directions seeking to find the cause of their local election woes but have been unable to settle on the lucky person. Although some candidates must have arisen, including Chairperson of the Conservative Party in Wales, Glyn Davies, the lack of accountability and structure in the party’s local election campaign has made it difficult. The lack of this infrastructure means the Welsh Conservatives start on the back foot, less able to strategically communicate and target voters, and when things don’t go their way it means the subsequent blame game is muddy.

Finally, to Plaid Cymru, which took control in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Ynys Mon, making gains where it already good representation, and retaining its hold on Gwynedd. It means our map of overall control now has an impressive swathe of green painted from North West to South West, but hides the party’s overall performance. Across Wales, Plaid Cymru remained stationary, burgeoning where it already has support rather than reaching into new territory. Council gains may provide the chance to demonstrate how the party can perform in power, but there are still echoes of last year’s difficulty to expand and maintain a hold in traditional Labour garrisons.

For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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