Daran Hill considers the implications of the interim local election results
First the small caveat: not all the results are in.
Next, the big caveat: local election results are not General Election results. There is significant variability, not least because different parties stand or don’t stand, there are large differences in motivation, voters often split votes between parties in a way they can’t in a General Election, and the turnout is radically different. But having said all that, what do the results today tell us about the strength of the political parties and are there any messages peeping through for 8th June? The answers aren’t crystal clear but nevertheless there are some clear messages for the different political parties.
Labour: It could have been worse. A lot worse. The bad bit for them was losing control in Bridgend and melting down in Wrexham; while they were clobbered in the heads of the valleys area of Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent and, to a lesser extent compared to last year, in Rhondda too. But consolidating their hold in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Flintshire with a few cheeky new wins would surely have been their biggest triumphs had they not held on so convincingly in the urban centres of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. Heartland Neath Port Talbot and Torfaen were never in doubt either. Overall Labour will be heartily pleased at outperforming every other party, and maybe including their own party in England too, showing the resilience of a brand that has been rather shaken in recent weeks and by recent polls. Yes, ground was lost to the Conservatives, but it wasn’t any sort of meltdown and it wasn’t as bad as 2008 so Labour is bruised but resilient. More to the point, it enters the short campaign of the General Election being able to argue convincingly it is the only party which has the reach and ability to tackle the UK Government.
Conservatives: The Tories had a highly credible if unspectacular night. Apart from some weaker than hoped council returns in places like Conwy and Newport, they had little to reproach themselves for. Outright control in Monmouthshire, 20 seats in Cardiff, official opposition status in both the capital and the second city for the first time, up from 9 to 19 seats in Powys and now the largest group, the biggest group on Denbighshire, and within a wafer thin strike of forming a majority in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Conservatives have asserted themselves clearly once again as the second party of Welsh politics. The real significance for the General Election is that they mainly did this in areas corresponding with seats they hold or hope to win next month.
Plaid Cymru: Well the number of seats has climbed and there is much to be pleased about in Carmarthenshire and also other authorities like Wrexham, Neath Port Talbot and Denbighshire where Plaid has strengthened its presence considerably. Less impressive was failing to win Ceredigion outright, losing its only seats in Torfaen, going backward in Caerphilly and just making a bit of ground in Rhondda Cynon Taff. Indeed, Rhondda should have been a romp forward for Plaid and they should have capitalised on the aforementioned weakness of Labour in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil too but at least trying there. And Plaid also failed to #GetItDone in any meaningful way in Cardiff, despite all the hype, and lost Dinas Powys in the Vale of Glamorgan to the Conservatives for the first time in decades. So Plaid may be spinning their extra 30 plus councillors as a positive but they know deep down that, with Labour in trouble, they should have been doing way, way better than they have done.
Liberal Democrats: The Lib Dem performance was a bit of a damp squib. A decade ago they were the urban alternative to Labour in Wales; today they are no longer the second party in Wrexham, Swansea or Cardiff and have yielded ground and oomph in county halls to the Conservatives. Even in their one realistic target seat of Cardiff Central they failed to cut it and lost councillors to other parties. There’s not a lot to smile about over the next month as the Second Part of the contest is one where they are going to find it even more difficult to make an impact.
UKIP: No councillors, no prospects, no momentum, no hope, no further comment.