Cathy Owens reflects on last night’s results and emerging lessons for the parties in Wales
“Oh no, not another one”, so said Brenda from Bristol, speaking for us all.
No one but Mrs May, whilst worrying sheep in Snowdonia, thought this was a good idea, but also not many foresaw that so many of the British people would agree, and back Brenda all the way, punishing Mrs May for making them get their brollies out and vote in the rain on Thursday.
Probably a good 20% of the population who might have considered staying at home in the face of Hobson’s Choice at the ballot box came out to say in a very British way, that up with this they would not put. Not just to protest the needlessness of the process, expensive in time and resources and frankly just *bother*, but also to stick two fingers up at the newspapers they read in huge numbers, who were utterly relentless in framing Corbyn as a someone palling around with terrorists who couldn’t find a bacon sandwich in a branch of Greggs.
Hands up, I did not see this coming. And not just because most pollsters were off by about 8%, but because many long in the tooth Labour candidates, agents and activists could not see it coming either. I think they were spooked by 2015, when Lynton Crosby and the Conservatives spent £50K in each marginal, and no one could see the micro-targeting that cash delivered.
Only Survation and YouGov got the polls about right, and that included the Cardiff University / ITV Wales – whose polls are delivered by YouGov. So Scully got it right again in Wales, and we were not all listening. We knew Labour would likely do better in Wales than in England – which might not now stand up – but the Labour strategists at Transport House were still working off the first poll in April, which suggested the Tories would win a majority here. They ran a defensive campaign, leaving candidates like Tonia Antoniazzi in the Gower to run an entirely voluntary-led campaign until the last week of the election. Imagine if they had put some resource into Aberconwy?
And you can partly understand why the misread – because the Tories still did very well here – moving from 27% of the vote in Wales to 37% of the vote, so the Labour Doorstep was picking up a boost for the Conservatives whilst having to deal with a fair bit of #NeverCorbyn.
And how can you prepare for a shock result? Well, we should be a bit more used to it by now, as the electorate in Wales have delivered a shock result for the fourth time in just two years.
So let’s look at the parties. It was another extraordinary night for Labour with 49% of the vote, taking back Cardiff North, Gower and the Vale of Clwyd from the Conservatives and increasing majorities elsewhere. The only problem for Welsh Labour is that it is a tad more tricky to claim that Carwyn Jones won unilaterally, given how much better Corbyn’s Labour did across the UK.
The Conservatives had a terrible night in Wales. It’s worse because they increase their share of the votes by a massive 6 points, but they clearly misjudged where those votes would be, leading to some very squeaky moments during the night, and a net loss of 3 seats. It’s about time the blokes sorted themselves out here. Perhaps with some women. They hid all their actual candidates, and that just left the blokes to argue a bit and parrot the strong stable patter which eventually drove people to distraction.
And Plaid Cymru will be spending all day telling everyone that the pundits are wrong, and that in taking Ceredigion from the Lib Dems (who are in a death spiral) by 104 votes, they’ve had a fabulous night, increasing their MPs by 25%. Well, yes. But they got properly trousered elsewhere. In my view, the result is good enough that nothing changes for them, and that is why it’s a bad result. It’s just good enough that they will spend another election cycle not reassessing their position, and not openly discussing their strategy, sales patter and policy platform. Also, when are they going to get their voter contact and expectation management right? Why make such a play of Rhondda and Blaenau Gwent when they were not competitive?
And the Lib Dems and UKIP? Well both seem like no-legged, properly dead ducks. We’ve seen it with the Lib Dems for a while – there have been more observers like me than party members at Lib Dem conferences in Wales for the past few years. And you can now fit the remaining elected representatives of UKIP in the UK in a small family car. Parked at the Assembly.
So it may be interesting to see how Labour and Plaid MPs now work together in whatever coalition discussions occur in Westminster. Frankly, I have no idea what is going to happen, and neither does anyone else. But I have a sneaking suspicion that though some people won last night, we may all be losers. Another General Election in the Autumn? Brenda from Bristol is going to be bloody livid.