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?