Local elections 2012: Labour enjoys ‘stunning’ night in Wales
Labour has enjoyed what it called a “stunning” night in Wales, claiming impressive wins in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.
The party had been expected to take back former strongholds, including Newport and Swansea, but it had not been so confident of winning in the capital, where the Liberal Democrats have ruled for eight years.
Recounts were taking place in two Cardiff wards but Labour was satisfied it had won enough seats to seize control of the council and expected the Liberal Democrat leader, Rodney Berman, to be ousted from his seat.
Ahead of the count, Labour had claimed that voters who deserted the party at the height of Gordon Brown’s unpopular premiership were returning. As the night went on it began to look as if new voters had also turned to the party.
The Welsh Labour leader and first minister, Carwyn Jones, said: “The momentum is clearly with Welsh Labour. We are taking seats from every party across the country. We have reconnected with people and our community campaigning has resonated with voters right across Wales.”
Welsh Labour’s campaign was a two-pronged affair. It called on the electorate to make the vote a referendum on the Tory/Lib Dem coalition at Westminster. And it encouraged activists to prepare manifestos tailored to local needs, rather than publishing a national agenda.
Kirsty Williams, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the party had tried to fight the election on local issues and the record of its councillors. But she said Labour and the media had concentrated on what was happening at Westminster.
The Conservatives had a poor night, losing the majority in two of their strongest areas, the Vale of Glamorgan, west of Cardiff, and Monmouthshire. Peter Hain, the shadow Welsh secretary, said the Tory vote was softening and claimed Labour was persuading Conservative voters to switch.
Andrew RT Davies, the Tory leader in Wales, said the night had been a setback. Like Williams, he said Labour had succeeded in focusing on the Westminster agenda.
Plaid Cymru, under its new leader, Leanne Wood, suffered disappointments, particularly in Caerphilly, where the nationalists lost control of the council to Labour. A familiar figure, the former Welsh secretary Ron Davies who is now a member of Plaid, lost his seat. Plaid activists argued they were the victims of a UK-wide move towards Labour.
But as elsewhere in the UK, it may be Liberal Democrat losses that create the biggest headlines. They lost power — of various kinds — in the cities of Swansea and Newport in the south and in Wales’ largest town in the north, Wrexham. In Cardiff, the Lib Dems went into the election holding 34 seats to the Tories’ 16 and Labour’s 14, but saw their vote collapse.
Interestingly, council leaders lost their seats in Wrexham, Caerphilly, Ceredigion and the Vale of Glamorgan, possibly because they were so closely identified with cuts in services.
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