As the dust settles in the wake of last week’s council elections, councillors, ex-councillors , political activists and party workers have been coming to terms with the results in the Vale of Glamorgan and in Penarth .
One of the main questions being asked how on earth did a Labour Party – led by Jeremy Corbyn – which has lost hundreds of seats across the UK – manage to lose only 1 seat on Penarth Town Council?
Another question being posed was just how did the Labour Party in Penarth persuade so many people to vote for candidates they knew virtually nothing about?
In the Labour party election literature, there was scant information about any of the party’s new candidates, little about their careers or qualifications, nothing about their ages and few had volunteered any information about their employment – or lack of it.
One veteran local councillor grumbled “many people, (not least myself), have not a clue as to who some of the candidates are, where they live, their experience and qualifications for office, and perhaps even why they are standing.”
In Penarth Town Council however there was an even more curious phenomenon about the Labour results .
On Penarth Town Council , well-established Labour Party councillors – such as former Labour Mayors like Gwyn Roberts and Neil Thomas both lost their seats – and were unceremoniously bundled out of office – whilst brand-new ingénue Labour candidates, bidding to be elected to Penarth Town Council for the very first time, effortlessly out-performed their far more experienced party colleagues by a considerable margin.
In Cornerswell Ward, firefighter Ian Buckley – a local born-and-bred Penarthian who is captain of the “Old Pens 2s” – but who has never served on Penarth Council before – topped the poll with an astonishing 921 votes.
Also in Cornerswell Ward, former Penarth Times journalist Laura Rochefort romped home with 722 votes in third place, just behind the experienced Labour councillor Rhiannon Birch and – in the process- helped to push out Penarth Town Council’s Labour planning committee chairman Neil Thomas . [Unbeknownst to Penarth voters, Ms Rochefort was also simultaneously standing in the Sully Ward for the Vale of Glamorgan Council – a point not mentioned in her Penarth Town Council election literature. She came next to last in Sully, but nevertheless won a seat on Penarth Town Council. ]
The only consolation for Neil Thomas was that although he lost his Cornerswell seat on Penarth Town Council he did win a salaried seat for St Augustine’s Ward on the Vale of Glamorgan Council . And although he lost in Cornerswell, he did receive just 16 more votes in that ward than did another loser – Dorothy Turner, chair of the Cardiff South and Penarth Conservative Association.
The Conservative election tactics in Penarth – for which Mrs Turner would have been partly responsible – were so confused they appeared to puzzle the other parties…..
Plaid Cymru leader on the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Dr Ian Johnson, just couldn’t fathom why the Conservatives had fielded no less than 4 candidates in Stanwell Ward – when there were only 3 seats in that Ward that were up for grabs.
In a Twitter message he said the Conservatives had ” stood 4 candidates for a 3-member ward. Unsurprisingly lost #useless” .
In fielding 4 candidates in Stanwell, the overall Conservative vote in the ward (1, 332) was diluted by being shared between 4 candidates – at least 1 of whom was utterly superfluous.
This contrasts with the much cannier Labour strategy – successfully used in Plymouth Ward. Here, newcomer Angela Thomas (right) (no relation to Neil Thomas) was fielded as the ONLY Labour candidate and therefore garnered every single Labour vote going in the entire ward (739 in all) . The strategy worked like a dream . She squeezed in to win the last of the 4 available seats .
PDN attempts to get some sort of explanation from the Penarth Conservative Branch as to why it fielded too many candidates in Stanwell Ward have so far proved fruitless.
The Conservative party also paid the price for the internal divisions fomented by its clumsy “de-selection” of Cllr Clive Williams MBE in Plymouth Ward and the inroads made in the Conservative vote there, in Stanwell Ward and in St Augustine’s Ward, by his rebel mini-party – the Penarth First Independents.
One of the main motivations of Clive Williams’s Penarth First Independents was revenge. They aimed to stop former Conservative Mayor of Penarth Martin Turner (chairman of Penarth Conservative Branch) from being elected as a Vale of Glamorgan councillor in St Augustine’s Ward – and in that, they certainly succeeded.
The Penarth First Independents fielded veteran former Conservative Mayor of Penarth – Paul Church – in St Augustine’s. He received 312 votes which might otherwise have gone to Turner – who polled only 737, thus missed the cut and was denied the seat he wanted on the Vale of Glamorgan Council . Had Turner received those 312 votes he would have been elected.
Instead the Vale Council seats for St Augustine’s Ward went to another unheard-of Labour newcomer Ruba Sivgnanam (977 votes) and Neil Thomas (827) with the Conservative chairman Martin Turner being denied a seat on the Vale Council by coming 3rd with only 737 votes. Cllr Turner was, however, elected to Penarth Town Council to represent Plymouth Ward
St Augustine’s Ward was another part of Penarth where Labour newcomers again pushed established Labour councillors down the pecking order.
The Leader of Penarth Town Council and Mayor of Penarth Mike Cuddy had the ignomy of being shoved down into third place on the list beneath Labour council-newcomers, theatrical producer Yvonne Clare Murphy and LGBT activist Liz Fahy .
Another Labour activist, Nigel Humphrey took 4th place in this 5-seat constituency with Conservative Gary Allman capturing the fifth and last council seat with 943 votes – just a nail-biting 3 votes ahead of former Labour Councillor Gwyn Roberts – who missed the cut and lost his seat.
There now seems little doubt however that Labour’s strategy of individually-targeted voter-letters (which laid out how voters should complete their postal votes) worked well and – apart from Conservative internecine squabbles – could have been the decisive factor in Labour retaining control of Penarth Town Council.
The 16-member Penarth Town Council will now undergo a massive turnover in membership with only 4 members of the previous administration ( Cllr Rhiannon Birch, Cllr Mark Wilson, Cllr Mike Cuddy and Cllr Martin Turner) hanging on to their seats and 12 new councillors being sworn-in.
The full list of Penarth Town Council results with all the winners – and all the losers – was published on Friday on PDN and can be found on http://tinyurl.com/k9fkweh