Tag Archive | "pembrokeshire"

Seeking Red Shoots

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Seeking Red Shoots

Posted on 01 April 2011 by admin

Making a comeback in previously Labour-free zones, rather than seizing back control of councils, could be the big story this May, says Lewis Baston

This year will see the fourth set of elections for the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly which Labour established in 1999. They will be seen as an important early test of Labour’s national recovery, despite the very different contexts of Welsh and Scottish politics. And, of course, this is also the big year of the four-year cycle for English local government elections. Nearly everywhere outside London will have elections, either for every council seat or ‘by thirds’.

In Scotland the aim is not for an overall majority, which is highly improbable because the electoral system is quite proportional, but for a clear lead in seats over the Scottish National party and a mandate to form a government either as a minority or as the clearly dominant force within a coalition. There have been extensive boundary changes for the Scottish parliament constituencies, making it harder to predict what might happen and where the crucial seats are. One is Glasgow Southside, where deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP faces Labour councillor Stephen Curran in a seat with an estimated Labour majority in 2007 of 27 votes. Clackmannanshire and Dunblane is also a key Labour-SNP contest. South of Glasgow, boundary changes have made Eastwood a likely Conservative seat, but Labour has made big progress here – Jim Murphy has been the MP since 1997 – and could spring a surprise. The mixed new seat of Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale should be SNP, but has elements of support for all four main parties.

Labour’s target in Wales is a majority in the assembly, which polls indicate is very possible. The party needs five gains on 2007, although more are required if Labour loses list seats in compensation for constituency successes. Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South is possibly the most interesting seat, a three-way marginal where the winning Conservative and third-placed Plaid Cymru were separated by only 250 votes. After Nick Smith’s triumph in the Westminster election, Blaenau Gwent‘s assembly seat should return to the fold. The ‘clear red water’ in Wales over tuition fees may help in Cardiff Central, despite a large Liberal Democrat majority in 2007 – it is an ambitious target.

The 2007 elections, when this year’s English local government seats were last fought, were – though pretty bad for Labour – not the humiliating drubbing that the local polls were in 2008 and 2009. It is not until May 2012, when the councillors elected in 2008 will be up for re-election, that Labour will make huge gains in terms of control of authorities that elect by thirds. The story of the 2011 elections in many areas, particularly southern urban councils such as Southampton, Plymouth and Harlow, will be more about putting in solid foundations to take control next year than outright wins this year.

Labour recovered ground in some cities in 2010 (recapturing Liverpool and Coventry, for example), and those gains left the party only just short of overall control in authorities such as Leeds and Warrington – these should fall easily in 2011, as should Nick Clegg’s disaffected home patch, Sheffield. If polling and by-election evidence of a big Liberal Democrat collapse in the northern cities is borne out, Labour should be in the business of taking out its rivals’ northern flagship of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and, following a by-election win in March, seizing Burnley. It would take quite a sweep to win outright control of Hull, but Labour should at least deprive the Liberal Democrats of control there.

Against the Conservatives the potential pickings are slimmer, with the prize of Ipswich (a Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition) being a hoped-for symbol of Labour recovery in eastern England; Lincoln should be a win as well.

In some ways the most interesting story for Labour will not be in terms of council control but in ‘red shoots’ popping up in areas where the party has been shut out of representation in recent years, an essential step to rebuilding Labour as a national party. Harriet Harman in particular has been tireless in urging Labour candidates to come forward even in difficult areas, and this should produce a scattering of surprising individual victories in hitherto barren territory. In 1996 Labour was running councils like St Edmundsbury and Cherwell. Re-establishing a presence would be a good start, and control is a realistic proposition in several of these councils – Waveney in Suffolk, Stockton-on-Tees and North Warwickshire all cover parliamentary marginals.

Labour should take several urban unitaries including Blackpool, although control in Brighton and Hove is very difficult because the Greens now win several formerly Labour wards. There are few areas where Labour is on the defensive in these elections, but among them is North Lincolnshire where the Conservatives are the main opposition. It would be an extremely good result if Labour were to bounce back from third in Northampton – but expect a few surprises once the polls close on 5 May.

Originally published 1 April 2011 Progress Online

Comments Off on Seeking Red Shoots

Welsh electoral system may produce surprise result (1 May 2007)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Welsh electoral system may produce surprise result (1 May 2007)

Posted on 01 May 2007 by admin

Which parties get to form a government in Wales may depend more on who comes second than on how many seats Labour gets, writes Lewis Baston

The electoral system in Wales is significantly less proportional than the one used in Scotland.

In an assembly of 60 members, 40 are elected from single-member constituencies and only 20 from compensatory regional lists (Wales is divided into five regions, each with four regional seats).

This 33% element is not enough to produce the high level of proportionality achieved in Scottish elections and it sets a higher threshold for the election of smaller parties.

Coalition was always going to happen in Scotland, but not necessarily in Wales, and in a good year Labour could obtain a comfortable majority.

But in the last two elections Labour fell short, with 28 seats out of 60 in 1999 and 30 in 2003, when they were able to form a precarious executive without the Liberal Democrats.

The backdrop in 2007 is so unfavourable that the chances of Rhodri Morgan and his fellow assembly members winning another majority in Wales are remote at best, but there is still no doubt that Labour will emerge the largest single party.

The questions of the election are how far short of a majority Labour will fall, and who will come second?

Labour looks likely to lose constituency seats to the Conservatives such as Preseli Pembrokeshire and Clwyd West (both Tory gains in the 2005 Westminster election) and suburban Cardiff North, and the Tories have other, sketchier hopes elsewhere.

Plaid Cymru will hope to pick up Llanelli, and both they and the Conservatives are trying for the redrawn seat of Aberconwy in the north west.

This would take Labour down to 25 seats, although the party would probably pick up a compensatory list seat to make 26.

Most expectations are for Labour to have 24-26 AMs. This is probably not enough to run a minority government, and a coalition would need to be formed.

Labour has two potential coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats (with whom Labour worked well between 2000 and 2003) and Plaid Cymru.

Another tantalising option is the “rainbow” coalition of Conservative, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats.

While this alliance between nationalist left and unionist centre-right may seem incongruous, it could work; the Welsh Conservatives are much more thoroughgoing modernisers even than Cameron supporters in England.

Strangely, the Conservatives’ chances of going into government would be enhanced by coming third rather than second in the election.

It would be easier for them to work under a Plaid Cymru First Minister than vice versa. The Conservatives coming second would also make Plaid Cymru a more attractive coalition partner for Labour.

Which government is formed may depend more on who comes second than on how many seats Labour gets.

The elections in Scotland, Wales and for Scottish local authorities are all in their way fascinating demonstrations of how much Britain has changed since 1997.

For someone so often lambasted as a control freak, Tony Blair has presided over a huge devolution of power, the consequences of which – local government electoral reform, a possible Plaid-Conservative government, even possible Scottish independence – spiral ever-further from his original intentions.

It is ironic, and perhaps sad, that the Labour party itself looks like getting buried in the rubble of this constitutional and political construction site.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/may/01/wales.devolution

Comments Off on Welsh electoral system may produce surprise result (1 May 2007)