Talk of a Plaid-Labour coalition for Anglesey

David Taylor reports on the local election in an authority which has been blighted by controversy and failure

Anglesey has a new council, complete with larger electoral wards designed to end personal fiefdoms and encourage a more responsible approach to governance from an authority blighted by controversy and failure in the past.

Independents – 14
Plaid Cymru – 12
Labour – 3
Lib Dems – 1

Clearly, the results are a blow for those like me who saw these elections as an opportunity to rid the island of its incompetent and parochial “independent” councillors and introduce much-needed political accountability to Wales’s most dysfunctional and under-performing council.

Personally, I’m disappointed Labour didn’t do better, but frankly under the circumstances I would have settled for Plaid being the largest group. There is talk now of a Plaid-Labour coalition, I hope this can happen. New leadership is in the interests of Anglesey, it’s difficult to see how real progress can be made for as long as the independents remain in control.

Plaid have doubled their number of councillors – a good result by any measure. In fact, it’s their best result anywhere in Wales for several years and is a welcome boost for the leadership of Leanne Wood, perhaps Wales’s most underestimated politician. But its baffling that some senior figures in her party seem to be passing up the opportunity to talk up their success.

It’s true that in the past I have been critical of the Nationalists for refusing to acknowledge poor results, the 2010 general election being the most obvious example. The advice was well intentioned, the electorate keep punishing you if they don’t think you’ve heard the message. It was only when Plaid finally started showing some humility after their heavy defeat in the 2011 Welsh assembly elections that they began to turn a corner. If Anglesey is anything to go by, that humility has paid dividends and the electorate are starting to listen to them again, now they can afford to celebrate a little and savour these hard-fought victories.

Instead Jonathan Edwards MP, one the party’s principal spokespeople (a member of the leadership team, no less) yesterday chose to detract from their Anglesey success with his own fanciful interpretation of UKIP’s surge in England. Edwards is a talented politician but is prone to letting his wishful thinking cloud his judgement. To dismiss UKIP as merely an English problem, “alien to [Wales’s] political tradition” is not only untrue (polls show support for UKIP in Wales as strong as in many parts of England), it’s also extraordinarily bad politics as comments like this will succeed only in driving more Welsh voters to UKIP ahead of the European elections next year.

Adam Price, Leanne Wood’s chief strategist, took to Twitter to complain about the lack of BBC coverage of his party’s success in Anglesey. I can understand Adam’s frustration, but if even senior figures in Plaid are seemingly more interested in offering unconsidered UKIP punditry, is it fair to blame the BBC?

David Taylor is a former Labour election strategist and special adviser to former Welsh secretary Peter Hain.

8 thoughts on “Talk of a Plaid-Labour coalition for Anglesey

  1. A fair assessment of the Anglesey election and Plaid’s good showing. Surprised not to have had more of an opinion of Labour’s very poor result, though.

    When you consider UKIP polled just 2.4 per cent of the 2010 General Election vote in Wales, and don’t have a single councillor or Assembly Member in Wales, I think it’s fair for Jonathan Edwards to say UKIP is alien to our political tradition.

  2. I’m quite fascinated by UKIP in Wales. Whilst it’s true that they didn’t takes a seat on Anglesey council I think that it’s also true that the potential is there; you could say, as John Walker has said elsewhere, that the Tories robbed UKIP of a seat or two. I notice that in Lligwy the combined vote of UKIP and Tories would have comfortably taken a seat.

    The reason why UKIP is a power in Wales is that Wales is cloyingly and depressingly un-democratic. By that I mean that there are issues in Wales where all 4 parties share much the same viewpoint. Devolution for instance. Plaid, Lib Dems and Tories all queue up to rubbish the performance of Labour on the major issues facing Wales yet none of them blame devolution for the several blind alleys that we have travelled down. When we came to vote for that “Tidying up exercise” on law making powers we had the combined might of the political parties all asking for a yes vote. In the event 36% voted “NO”. So more than a third of those who voted were unrepresented by any of the established parties in Wales.

    This is what worries me. It is politically impossible for politicians in Wales to say that they don’t support devolution… UKIP is the exception.

    The other major rift between all our political parties and (in this case) the majority of the population is the drive for a bilingual Wales. The majority would want the option of removing compulsory Welsh from schools… not one party has the courage to support that position. UKIP would use a referendum to test the will of the people.

    Just saying that UKIP is out of character with the Welsh Nation is too simplistic… It isn’t the voice of the majority, but then, neither is Plaid…or the Conservatives…still less the Lib Dems and only sometimes Labour.

    Look out for significant minorities.

  3. Some of those independents must be Plaid sympathisers or at least biddable. Plaid needs only four of them to sign up. Why bother with Labour?

  4. UKIP polled equally as badly in England in 2010 so their result in Wales in the same election is no indicator of their support here now. If there had been all-out elections in Wales on Thursday it is likely they would have won seats here as well. What you should not forget though is that they have a Welsh MEP. If that is not an indicator of their strength here then nothing is. UKIP may be a 100% English nationalist party but that does not mean they do not have support in Wales.

  5. David Taylor,

    When you talk of ‘Nationalists’ could you make it clear as to who you are referring to? Welsh ones or Brit ones such as Labour or the Tories etc. Otherwise, many are confused. Thanks.

  6. Peter Black says: ‘UKIP may be a 100% English nationalist party but that does not mean they do not have support in Wales’.
    I don’t doubt it for a minute, although I DO doubt that much of it comes from Welsh voters; far more likely, I would dare to venture, is that most of UKIP’s support comes from voters who just happen to have a vote here.
    The party’s name would more accurately reflect the mindset of its supporters if it were changed to G.E.I.P. : the Greater-England Independence Party.

  7. Well events have overtaken us it seems. The dis-united independents plus Labour and the single Lib-Dem may have one uniting feature…..They don’t want Plaid forming the local government of Ynys Mon.

    So lessons to be learned all round really. Labour and Conservatives, choose a single candidate not three where you are unlikely to win and canvas strongly with two or more candidates where you could win.

    Plaid… if you are looking to jump into bed with Labour or Independents don’t go blackguarding them before-hand.

  8. Jon,

    I suspect that the lesson may well be learned by the electorate of Ynys Mon well before the next election, although I hope I’m wrong – for their sake.

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