Tories on track for general election success.
The local elections are over in Wales. What can we read in the results? Although Labour lost over a hundred seats they must be breathing a massive sigh of relief.
Why? It wasn’t the wipeout that many predicted. They held on to Caerphilly, Cardiff, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, RCT, Swansea and Torfaen.
All be it, they lost Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr. Once part of the South Wales coalfield and for much of the twentieth century regarded as Labour strongholds.
Both seats have been lost Independents in Parliamentary elections in the past. And it was these that swept Labour out of control of the respective county halls. Interestingly neither seat seems fertile ground for the other political parties. But it does show that once loyal Labour voters have moved from supporting Labour in the past it is possible to do it again.
Conservatives will of course be quietly satisfied with the results having gained seats in many parts of Wales and it augers well for their general election campaign.
The results will help them to decide which seats to target for June. When the dust settles we will expect that most of their resources will be concentrated in North East Wales where they can expect some happy hunting.
Plaid Cymru will be disappointed though gaining over thirty seats they failed to gain overall control of any authority other than Gwynedd. In their target seat of Ceredigion their council results so no gains at all. Despite gaining 8 more seats control of Carmarthenshire still eludes them.
Similarly they only gained 2 seats in Ynys Mon so again control is out of their grasp. But they will be quietly optimistic of wrestling the seat from Labour in the general election.
In 2012 the Liberal Democrats had a disaster but rather than gain ground they have suffered further losses. On the bases of this they will find it difficult to gain any seats in Wales in the forthcoming general election.
Cardiff Central where they had hopes has become a three way marginal seat with the Conservatives also back in the game here.
Finally, UKIP have now ceased to be a force in either England or Wales. Their last remaining stronghold is their presence in the Assembly. Even here, because of defections they are down to 5 members from their original 7 members.
Their vote throughout the country has gone straight to the Tories. And even those Labour voters that voted UKIP have not gone back to Labour but have moved to backing the Tories.
What does this all tell us about the general election result? The local election results point to Teresa May getting her overall majority. Unless there is a dramatic change in Labour’s fortune the only question is how big a landslide?
“It’s wrong to leave the European Union.” By the smallest of margin that is the view of the people in the latest poll.
And with Angela Merkel making it absolutely clear that whatever deal is struck the terms won’t be as good as what the UK has at the moment.
Undoubtedly Teresa May will use the German Chancellor’s remarks to her own advantage. “Look they’re all ganging up on us, so you need a strong leader to stand up to them.”
Strong or not, the 27 remaining countries in the EU are not going to give ground and having triggered article 50 the UK has very few negotiating cards in its hand.
Playing the nationalism card
May might say that “Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done.
Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union.”
She is using the same phenomena that Mrs Thatcher used with the Falklans – nationalism.
It’s the plucky UK in battle against the rest of the EU. You can almost here the soundtrack of the Dam Busters march playing in the background. And of course if anyone does not share the vision they are “saboteurs.’ May’s election announcement bounce therefore has similarities to Thatcher’s Falklands poll bounce.
Not our call
But as the EU and Mrs Merkel made very clear the reality is very different. In the negotiations what happens is largely down to the EU, with the occasional choice for the UK.
But even these limited choices should be made by democratic means, and not by one person who has the interests of her party to worry about.
Brexit hits economy
But opportunist May had to call the election now. For the negative impact of brexit are about to become very clear.
Today’s announcement by the Office for National Statistics that UK economic igrowth has slowed down sharply in 2017 adds to the nervousness of business. As it does to the City, which constitutes far more hundreds of thousands of employees than the small, avaricious band of bankers who made their notorious contribution to the financial crisis.
The impact on prices and real earnings from the collapse of the pound is daily becoming more evident. And plans for major firms to relocate their investments to continental Europe will gradually be implemented.
As a musical hall magician would say “All will be revealed.” But not until after 8 June.
Blair wants to stop a landslide
That’s why Mrs May and her friends in the supporting media are pushing for a landslide result. They know that they have a small window of opportunity to get us out of Europe before it dawns on the nation what a terrible mistake it has done. But by then it will be to late.
That’s why the Conservatives will focus relentlessly on Brexit and leadership. So is a wipeout for Labour inevitable? Not necessarily.
It is fashionable to ignore Tony Blair in Labour circles but yesterday he was right in saying the campaign slogan of Labour should be “no blank cheque.” It accepts the reality of the polls that May is likely to win the election. But at a stroke it shifts the attention from Corbyn’s leadership credentials and focuses more on the need to strengthen Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Choices can then be made in the country’s best interests and not in the Conservative party’s interest.
As we start the general election campaign the overall polling position is a strong lead for the Conservative party. Most polls are showing extremely strong leads up in the high teens, a few breaking twenty.
As the polls currently stand (and, obviously, there are seven weeks to go) a Conservative majority looks very, very likely. But a word of warning in 1983 and 1997 the polls largely overstated the victorious party’s lead. And during campaigns the polls tend to narrow.
The first Welsh polls are due to be published next week.
Another factor that is unusual is that there will be local elections held in the middle of the general election campaign in recent times they’ve tended to be held on the same day as the general election. The last time this happened was in 1983 and 1987.
But the results were not good predictors for what happened a month later. In 1983’s local government election the Conservatives were 3 points ahead a month later in the general election they were 14 points ahead. Similarly in 1987 the Conservatives were 6 points ahead and a month later they were ahead by 11 points.
Moral, don’t get excited or depressed on the local council results they will mean very little on 8 June. Although they might get some party workers to renew their efforts in the big one.
Labour vulnerable in North East Wales
So which are the Welsh seats to watch on election night? With the Conservatives riding high in the polls there are six seats that they will be concentrating their efforts 4 in North East Wales namely, Alan and Deeside; Wrexham; Clwyd South and Delyn. All could be captured if the Conservatives are 10 points ahead on the day.
South Wales predictions
In South Wales Bridgend would fall if the Tory lead was 5 points as would Newport West if the lead was 10 points.
If the 20-point lead in the polls were translated to votes on the day then the 3 Labour seats in Cardiff would fall. Cardiff South and Cardiff West to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would be in with a shout of winning back Cardiff Central.
The hopes of other parties
Another Labour seat that is very vulnerable is Ynys Mon. Plaid Cymru would have high hopes of capturing it Labour’s Albert Owen has only a majority of 229 which makes him vulnerable. That said the last time the islanders got rid of a sitting MP was in 1951 when Megan Lloyd George lost to Cledwyn Hughes.
What if there is a change of fortune
But should the campaign itself change Labour’s fortunes, they would be chasing the Tories in Gower, which the Conservatives hold on a meager 27; Vale of Clwyd where their majority is 237. And if that miracle happened and Labour started to lead by 5 points then Cardiff North would be back in the frame.
There is an outside chance that if the Liberal Democrats see a surge in their support they might win back Brecon & Radnor and Montgomery. They would need leads of double figures but with the Conservatives riding high in the country at the moment it is unlikely.
Plaid Cymru live in hope of gaining back Ceredigion but having failed last time when the Liberal Democrats were at their lowest ebb the political tide would have to be much more favourable for them to succeed.
A golden rule for all elections, be prepared for the voters to produce a shock result somewhere on the night. That’s what makes election night such fun when we see our politicians squirm when the electors have given them a kick in the nether regions.