Marf for tonight + Harry Hayfield’s local by-election preview

Marf for tonight + Harry Hayfield’s local by-election preview

Tonight’s local by- elections from Harry Hayfield

Hengoed on Carmarthenshire (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Plaid Cymru 28, Labour 23, Independents 22, People First 1 (No Overall Control, Plaid Cymru short by 10)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
People First 337, 261 (33%)
Labour 338, 253 (28%)
Plaid Cymru 315, 271 (28%)
Independent 213 (10%)
Non Party Independent 89 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Martin Davies (Plaid), Stephen Davies (Con), Penny Edwards (Lab), Bramwell Richards (UKIP), Wynford Samuel (People First), Edward Skinner (Ind)

Since Plaid’s triumph in the 1999 Assembly elections, Plaid have suffered from the same sort of problems as Labour have been experiencing in areas where the local party are deemed to be out of touch only with Plaid, it’s not being out of touch that is the problem, it’s not looking after their traditional roots. The first rumblings started in 2004 when Llais Ceredigion (The Voice of Ceredigion) started the process to hold a referendum on the concept of a directly elected mayor when the county’s planning department called for a massive increase in the number of homes in the county which Llais Ceredigion said would lead to the Welsh language becoming a minority language in less than two decades and that a directly elected mayor would have the power to stop such a plan. The referendum was called for a month before the local elections and so Llais Ceredigion fielded candidates in the local elections hoping to captialise on the referendum result. Sadly for them, the concept of a mayor was rejected by a margin of two to one and no Llais candidates were elected, although that they did manage to poll 22% of the vote in the six wards they contested and in Beulah managed to attract 31% of the vote in direct opposition to the sitting Plaid Cymru councillor.

In 2008, a Llais came back to haunt Plaid in the biggest way possible. This time it was Llais Gwynedd and their gripe with Plaid Cymru was the fact that Gwynedd (controlled by Plaid since the council was formed in 1995) was closing Welsh medium primary schools. This time, however, unlike Llais Ceredigion, Llais Gwynedd was out in force and stood in 28 seats in the elections in 2008 and for the first time Plaid faced the real threat of losing overall control and when the votes were tallied Llais proved that they meant business. In the 28 seats they stood in they polled 7,119 votes (39%) to Plaid’s 7,091 (38%) and managed to win 12 seats (nine of which came from Plaid) including the ward of Bontnewydd represented in the 2004 council chamber by Dafydd Iwan, the Welsh folk singer and Plaid Cymru leader at the time. In fact, Llais Gwynedd were so impressed with their performance that they stood in the new Dwyfor, Meirionnydd constituency in 2011 in direct opposition to the Presiding Officer, Lord Elis Thomas and managed to poll 16% (13% of which came from Plaid Cymru)

In the same elections, more trouble was on the horizon for Plaid as Sian Caiach (the Plaid Cymru councillor for Hengoed) stood as a “People First” candidate in the Plaid battleground seat of Llanelli and managed to poll 8% of the vote which contributed to Labour gaining the seat but that didn’t stop her as he stood in 2012 as a People First candiate in the local elections and managed to hold on to her seat with her running partner a mere 76 votes behind the second seat, so as you can see this by-election will be a real test for People First, can they take a seat from Labour or prevent Plaid winning a seat? If they can, expect to see Sian standing in the general election for Llanelli and potentially making Plaid’s life even more difficult than it is already (with both Arfon and Carmarthen East as Labour targets and their Westminster leader standing down in Dwyfor)

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