Five is the Magic Number

Daran Hill offers some advice to each of the parties in the new assembly.

Democracy is a wonderful thing… it’s great to have so many amazing candidates… no moral mandate… all a numbers game… 40 by-elections… useless Tories… who stayed up for Leighton…#plaidbabysurge.

Right, that’s the election analysis done. Now on to the most important Five Year Plan since Stalin.

Ah five. Five years, and five parties now too (I’m being compassionately generous). So here’s five bits of advice to each of them.


1. Slap each other’s backs as there are enough of you to do that. You did well but you were also extremely lucky that the Conservative campaign was so bad. If it had matched Plaid’s you’d be down a few more seats.

2. Be real about the next programme of government. You will need to avoid legislating as much as possible, in order to minimise risk of losing votes on the floor of the Assembly. Luckily the manifesto was legislation light. But be a bit more honest and a bit less arrogant about the way you explain that and so many other things.

3. You need to be a more political group. You need to up your game collectively. You need to tolerate a bit of dissent and free thinking. You owe your ability to govern to people like Jenny Rathbone, Julie Morgan and Lee Waters. The very fact that they bucked the trend shows their constituents want a bit of that. Labour should want it too.

4. Resist the temptation to appoint directly to Government from the new intake. It will really annoy other people. And resist the temptation to follow the media line and create two classes of new entrants. Huw Irranca-Davies and Eluned Morgan aren’t the only ones to just arrive. I know next to nothing about Rhiannon Passmore or Vicky Howells, but who’s to say right now they are not government material early in this Assembly? Let talent create its own narrative.

5. Don’t feel just because the law permits you to have a hundred ministers, you need to appoint to every position. Sometimes small is beautiful.

Plaid Cymru

1. You did well but not as well as you are pretending. Take Rhondda and Cardiff West out of the equation, and your constituency result would look as bad as the Conservative one. Indeed, the very fact of the Conservative poor performance magnifies your own.

2. Rally behind your leader. She did the incredible thing, not the rest of you. Whispering and briefing against her needs to stop.

3. Use all of the members of the team properly. And that includes Dafydd Elis Thomas and Bethan Jenkins. They have been there a long time and bring something different which strengthens not weakens you.

4. It’s not just Labour which appears arrogant. You are not the only ones “speaking up for Wales” and it is rude to suggest you are. Appointing extra Shadow Cabinet members from people who weren’t even elected to the Assembly was as arrogant as anything I saw Labour do in the last few months.

5. You have never had a more talented group than you have now. Use that talent to energise debate and build. Play the five year game the 1999 intake should have done.


1. It was bad and stop pretending it wasn’t. Those still defending the Welsh Conservative election result should reflect on the majorities for Labour over Conservatives in Vale of Glamorgan and Vale of Clwyd are way bigger than in 2007, and in that election you also won Cardiff North.

2. Incumbent Conservative First Past the Post AMs triumphed and mainly increased majorities. There was always going to be a problem with holding list places. But why exactly didn’t you make any first past the post gains? Was it selections? Was it resourcing? Was it messaging? You need a review and bleeding honest one at that.

3. Throughout the campaign you accused Labour of being tired and stale. The new Assembly will not look like that. There are very many fresh, energetic new Labour faces. There are no new Conservative AMs for the first time ever. You will look like the tired ones.

4. The Conservatives now have the same number of AMs as MPs. The Members of Parliament are more popular and in touch with their electorates than most of you are. Utilise that rather than being scared of it.

5. For god’s sake give Paul Davies a proper, frontline job. He’s one of your best assets and yet he’s sometimes been vying with Gwyn Price for public exposure.

Liberal Democrats

1. This is like threatening to shoot a puppy, but don’t imagine for a moment that you have hit rock bottom. You haven’t. There’s local government elections next year and more good hard working elected representatives are on track to lose their seats.

2. Just because you have been pretending to play in the big league of Welsh politics, it doesn’t mean you were playing there. Rhetoric is easier than delivery. You couldn’t even beat the Abolish the Assembly Party in North Wales. You are now staring down into the abyss and there is no guarantee you won’t jump.

3. Remember that the Assembly electoral system was created specifically to buy your party in. You’re the ones who are the most committed to electoral reform of any party. The fact that you can only win a seat using first past the post speaks volumes.

4. Kirsty Williams has been for years and remains your biggest asset. She has more chance of political survival than the Welsh party as a whole.

5. Before he died Charles Kennedy was talking to Alistair Campbell about realigning the Scottish Liberal Democrats to make them relevant again. Go back and try to talk to the Greens again. You are both up that very smelly creek.


1. You’ve done an incredible thing. You’ve become the first new party ever to break through into the National Assembly. That is an amazing achievement. Just don’t make it the only amazing achievement you’re ever part of in the Assembly.

2. You’ve not even sat down yet and you’re looking self indulgent and fractious. If people want that, they can get it from the Labour group on Cardiff City Council. A leadership challenge in a group that has just performed a political miracle is both unseemly and unexplainable to the public. Pull together and pull back from the brink.

3. You don’t need to be told, but keep the focus on Europe. The public are way more with you on that issue than they are of accusing immigrants of bringing hygiene problems.

4. Behave like you are the real opposition. Keep repeating the line about the cosy consensus. Don’t go native. People elected you to shake things up.

5. Turn up and make sure you discipline those who don’t. There are enough lazy or absent people in the Welsh public sector. We don’t need more.

Daran Hill is MD of Positif.

9 thoughts on “Five is the Magic Number

  1. Darren on Plaid: ‘You did well but not as well as you are pretending. Take Rhondda and Cardiff West out of the equation, and your constituency result would look as bad as the Conservative one. Indeed, the very fact of the Conservative poor performance magnifies your own”.

    It is interesting that there was no mention of Blaenau Gwent and the 27% Lab – Plaid swing. Is that because you believe (as do many) that it was all personality and graft of Nigel Copner rather than a genuine swing to Plaid Cymru there? I’ve had many discussions over the last few days with ex-Labour suporters who voted Plaid this time, but said they wouldn’t vote for Plaid again if Copner was not standing. Some even went as far as to say they didn’t really vote Plaid but rather Copner (which is odd considering he never stood as and independent). In many respects it was also an anti-Alun Davies vote too, not Labour per se, and so if a different Labour candidate stood I wonder whether Plaid would retain that near 8,000 vote share? Labour would be fools to put Davies up again in 2021. It would be interesting to know your thoughts on the somewhat unexpected result that came out of the old Ebbw Vale steelworks site at 4am Friday morning.

  2. Interesting piece but there is a contradiction in saying Plaid didn’t do that well on the one hand, but then saying they should rally around their leader. For me, if a party doesn’t do well, the leader should take responsibility, regardless of their own FPTP seat.

    Leanne was talking about becoming the biggest party but even when both Labour and Conservatives are in meltdown at UK level; even when Labour has been in power in Wales for 17 years and their record is abysmal; even when Plaid get a level playing field in UK media for the general election for the first time ever, their vote goes up by 1%.

    Leanne has done an amazing thing in winning Rhondda, but she has also led her party to a deeply disappointing election result in very favourable circumstances. You’re right about the talent within the Plaid group – they should use it. Get 2017 out of the way and then move Leanne to a shadow minister for the valleys or something and elect a new leader to take them through to 2021.

  3. This is such an interesting and insightful commentary on what may lie ahead. Each party’s core charachtetistics provide a bold and candid account of past behaviours and future possibilities. The statistical analysis reveals what might have been in a few, tantalisingly, close cases.

  4. Plaid faces severe, perhaps insuperable problems. First is the hoary issue of the language. A substantial minority of English-speaking Welsh people resent the fact that others speak Welsh while they don’t and are always ready to feel oppressed by that relatively powerless minority. That makes it hard for them to support Plaid given its stance in promoting the language. Plaid “breakthroughs” in anglophone Wales are often disguised personal votes. Second, all successful populist movements are now right-wing, unlike the situation fifty years ago. Most people have lost confidence in collective action and few put any hope in state action led by politicians. In Marxist terminology the majority now have an individualistic petit bourgeois philosophy. Hence UKIP out-polls the Greens. The same is true in France and Germany. Plaid is now well to the left of most of the electorate. ( I am, too, but then I am approaching dinosaur status. ). Given those two facts it is pointless to blame Leanne for Plaid not doing better. She is not a perfect leader but the political genius who could do much better has not been born.

  5. Self indulgent garbage. These dilettantes of Cardiff Bay really are embarrassing.

  6. interesting election. Ukip are the only real change and what a breath of fresh air. Thats if they dont kill themselves off. Hamilton should shut up and get behind the brilliant Nathan Gill. They probably will do much better in the future once they get their new party organisation set up. They are explorers claiming new terrirtory wherever they go. Most of this being labour territory where the old utterly arrogant giant who spends most of their their time fighting for asylum seekers rather than the indigenious population who used to support them. Which is why they will in time loose their support. Otherwise no change and what would be the point of voting anymore. Wales needs a massive seed change in the way it is governed. Scrap all the councils and the assembly and lets streamline welsh costs of government and take the burden of the people.
    Footnote. Lee Waters should resign from iwa through conflict of interest. He just used them to get on the gravy train. Another plastic politician like we need any more.

  7. They are explorers claiming new terrirtory wherever they go.

    Huh? Actually this territory was extensively explored and colonized in the 1930s and bankrupted in the 1940s.

  8. @Jeff Cuffe; I think you’ll find that Lee Waters has resigned from the IWA as he was always going to if he won; we should just hope that he takes the independence of thought shown here into the Senedd. Your faith in Nathan Gill is obviously not shared by the UKIP group who ditched him at the first possible opportunity

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