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Local By-Election Preview : June 30th 2015

June 30th, 2015

Pentyrch on Cardiff (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 46, Liberal Democrats 16, Conservatives 7, Independents 4, Plaid Cymru 2 (Labour majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 772 (54%), Labour 413 (29%), Plaid Cymru 171 (12%), Green 40 (3%), Liberal Democrat 22 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Cadan ap Tomos (Lib Dem), Paul Fisher (Lab), Gavin Hill (Con), Munawar Mughal (Ind), Ruth Osner (Green), Hywel Wigley (Plaid)

Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, has always had a local council and it has followed the twists and turns of Welsh politics over the years in more or less the same way as the national picture. When the council was created in 1973, during the oil crisis and the lack of confidence in Edward Heath’s administration, Labour won control of the new council, however not by the margin you might think.

They only had a 3% popular vote lead and a majority of nine in the council chamber so it should come as no suprise that in 1976, the Conservatives romped house with a popular vote lead of 24% (on a 13.5% swing) and getting an overall majority of 13.

But, as we have seen in recent elections held on general election day, Labour voters always come back and in 1979, Labour regained control (despite losing the popular vote by 3%) but it’s the council members that matter and with 41 to the Conservatives 34, Labour were back in charge but it all flipped around in 1983 when the Conservative regained control with a majority of 3 (helped by the newly found Alliance who polled 19% of the vote and causing the Labour vote to fall by 10%) but even that didn’t last long as in 1987, Cardiff became hung.

The Conservatives won 25 councillors (36% vote share), Labour won 29 councillors (35% vote share) and the Alliance won 11 councillors (27% vote share) but in 1991 it was Labour who had the smiles and the majority as they polled 44% of the vote and won an overall majority of 16 as the Conservatives plunged and Labour became confident of winning every seat in Cardiff in 1992.

Sadly for them that didn’t happen, and in 1993 John Redwood announced that Cardiff would become a unitary authority with the first elections being held in 1995. And my word, talk about a landslide. Labour polled 57% of the vote and won 56 out of 67 seats with the Liberal Democrats taking their position as the first ever non Conservative opposition on the council.

And what of the Conservatives you ask? 16% vote share and just one lowly councillor. In 1999, it was clear that the Liberal Democrats were the party making inroads. In those Assembly elections they won Cardiff Central and in the locals polled 28% of the vote (higher than in 1987) and won 17 councillors and they sensed that take off was happening, confirmed in 2004 when the unthinkable happened.

The Liberal Democrats became the largest party on the council with 32 seats and a 33% vote share and although all the parties were equal in the 2008 local elections (Con 28%, Lab 27%, Lib Dem 26%) the Lib Dems remained the largest party just three short of an overall majority. Then came 2012. Labour 40%, Conservatives 18%, Liberal Democrats 18% electing a Labour majority suggesting that Cardiff had come full circle once again and was now as perhaps it always had been a Labour heartland.

Harry Hayfield