Rhodri tells why Labour lost

Rhodri Morgan wandered up in decidedly relaxed fashion to talk to the press in the wake of the “terrible” election results he had just witnessed.

His trousers seemed to have come straight from the gardening sRhodri Morganhed and his “Chile” jumper talked all about leisure and absolutely nothing about governance.

Relaxed he, indeed, was as he talked to us in front of Transport House in Cardiff. Perhaps that was because he had experienced worse – such as the year in the 60s, when Splott ward in Cardiff went Conservative. In those days, the city council was elected by “thirds” – one-third of the seats each year – which went far towards weakening that blow.

Speaking while still awaiting the blow of Caerffili, Mr Morgan spoke of the loss of “rock solid” seats around Wales. It was definitely not an attempt to seek a silver lining, but he correctly pointed out that over one wide area of Wales, no lasting political alternative was arising to Labour.

In that area – no doubt, that of greatest interest to his party – he drew consolation from the councillor-replacements hailing from a wide range of protest groups.

In the core area of the upper Valleys, Mr Morgan seemed mightily relieved that the winners were “not Lib Dem, not Plaid, not Tories”. Labour lost Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen to a broad range of Independents.

But it must be bad news for the First Minister that only at Torfaen could he quickly fix on a reason – the disputed closure of a swimming pool, which had led to a formal petition to the Assembly Petitions Committee.

Could the reason next door in Blaenau Gwent be the council’s cock-up which led to the reopening of the railway being delayed several months ?

Whatever – as Mr Morgan must be painfully aware – the local voters were delighted to take a kick at a Labour Party which has been in uninterrupted power almost since democratic councils were invented.

The Assembly leader saw the vote as an attack on incumbency. He already knew his own people were suffering, and he fancied (as was about to be proved) that the same would happen to Plaid in the only council they controlled – Gwynedd.

He also admitted that his party’s failure to listen to the electors – due to its arrogant belief that almost all electors were “workers” and thus best elected by a “labour” party, and that there was no need to listen outside party ward meetings – was a major cause for defeats.

The two councils where – at that time – Labour had held on or clawed back – Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend – were both credited to the local party actually listening, although in the latter case a new party leader had to be elected to replace the one who had caused so much unjustified trouble to then-minister Mike German.

Mr Morgan did his best to spoil the Tory celebrations. In Llandaff, Cardiff, rock-solid for the Conservatives for decades, the Lib Dems had swept in.

And in the rich rural acres of the Vale of Glamorgan, MP John Smith and AM Jane Hutt still had reasons to retain smiles on their faces. The council had gone Tory, but that was, said Mr Morgan, solely due to the vote in Penarth (which in part of Cardiff South constituency).

Mr Morgan had discovered a couple of pink spots on the map. But he must be thankful that he will shortly retire. It will then be up to somelike like Carwyn Jones to lead a much-smaller Welsh party, and settle down to being no more than a medium-weight partner in coalition.

5 thoughts on “Rhodri tells why Labour lost

  1. Clive . I assume you that you are referring to me re the ‘unjustified trouble for Mike German.’ I challenge you to prove that assertion. I still have all the facts. As usual you are talking absolute rubbish. Pick a hall anywhere in Wales and we can debate the whole issue. I look forward to hearing from you. He misused the WJEC’s credit cards and that is a fact. When we threatened to take him to county court he paid up on the petrol bills in France. Nobody got rid of me.I decided not to stand in 2004 to pursue a career in the private sector where I’m glad to say I have been very successful over the past fout years. You are and were a god awful journalist because unfortunately you let your private prejudices get in the way of the facts.

  2. Rhodri Morgan didn’t mention individual names when he spoke of the way in which two – and only two – Labour councils had halted the melt-down. But the reason for their relative “success” he was extremely happy to spell out. Bridgend and NPT Labour groups had started to LISTEN. In other words, previously they had not, which was why they lost seats and power. And who was the Bridgend leader who apparently was so unable to listen ? Could we be talking about a Mr Jones – and not, of course, Carwyn. Jeff Jones was indeed Bridgend’s former Labour leader.
    Mr Jones may, indeed, have had some justifiable points to make against Mr German, but much of the case revolved around the date of an event in Vienna – and on that point Mr German was right – simply because Mr Jones misread the way German-speakers write certain numberals.

  3. Wrong again Clive. Read the Bentley Jennison report to see that the issue did not just revolve around events in Vienna. There was a long catalogue of the misuse of a company credit card for personal purchases. If he was innocent then why did he pay for the token petrol bills he claimed for two cars whilst he was travelling through France on non company business when the WJEC threatened to take him to County Court? I remember you in the press conferences we held and you obviously did not understand or did not want to understand the issues involved. What you should understand is that the WJEC was and is a company limited by guarantee and registered with the Charity Commission as a charity . Officers of the company brought to the attention of the company’s directors evidence of misuse of the company credit card by a former employee and mismangement of EU funds which could have led to the company being made insolvent. In those circumstances the Directors of the company had no alternative but to call in outside accountants to investigate the issues raised. If the directors had failed to order an investigation all 22 would have been liable to prosecution and would face the prospect of being disqualified as company directors. Under Company law the first duty of any director is to the company and failure to investigate criminal allegations when it is brought to your attention is a very serious offence.The Accountant’s independent report showed that there had indeed been misuse of the company credit card by a number of former employees and that the company was liable to pay back a considerable amount of money which had been misclaimed from the EU. Politics played no part whatsoever in the whole affair. At the time I stated that if the former employee had been Tony Blair we would have called in the police. The real question is why the CPS did not decide to take the matter to court when only last year an employee of British Waterways who also used his company credit card for personal use was prosecuted and sent to prison. I really wasn’t surprised when the Western Mail dispensed with your services you just haven’t got what it takes to see a good story when it stares you in the face. Your analysis what happened in Bridgend on May 1st is frankly laughable.

  4. I knew that the comment came from Rhodri. It is typical spin without any substance. One of the problems with local elections as you highlight in another post is that people very rarely analyse the results. They often forget that they are local and in most cases voters are not voting to decide who will run the council. Instead they are often voting to decide who will represent the ward. When people lose their seats it is often much easier to explain the defeat because of national factors or other reasons. National factors might play a part but it doesn’t explain why some Labour councillors survived on Thursday night whilst others were defeated. In local politics voters often cast their vote after assessing the quality and personality of the candidate. In Bridgend you had virtually a rerun of 2004 with this time all the votes being counted! there were 39 mini elections not one elcetion to run the council. Labour will run the council with indpendent support not because it listened to the voters. What happened was in the Ogmore constituency it regained seats it had lost in 2004 because of the failings of the sitting councillors. In the Bridgend constituency Labour once again did badly. It only gained one seat and even that result I would put down to the personal vote of the individaul concerned who came second to the Lib Dem who topped the poll. It lost another seat to the independents in what was formally a very safe Labour ward dominated by council houses.. It nearly lost another seat after a recount and held on to another because the anti Labour vote was split. On low turn outs where most of the voters are not really interested who represents them then those who do vote are often delivering a verdict not on the parties but on their perception of the qualities of the individual candidates. Ironically if Labour had held on to control of Bridgedn in 2004 they would probaly have been hammered on May 1st. Unfortunately the Labour party in ,many areas has been in decline for a number of years. This decline has been masked first by hostility to Thatcherism and then by economic prosperity. The party organisation is often a shell with an age profile closer to 70 rather than 40. Everyone knows that this years the Labour party had difficulty in getting candidates to stand in many areas. In Bridgend there were wards without candidates only months before th election and two of the candidates came from the Ogmore constituency. Others stood because no one else would come forward and they will not be there in 2012.The Labour party needs an honest debate about went wrong both last year in the Assembly election and this year. If it doesn’t then it will start to lose seats at both a Parliamentary and Assembly level. Blaming Gordon Brown and UK politics is far too simplistic and it stops people asking the really searching questions as to what direction the party in Wales should take in the 21st century.

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