Sunday, 6 May 2012

A Bittersweet Victory

The days following an election are like no other. The frenzy, the mania and the sheer energy of the campaign is suddenly exchanged for the exhaustion, the solitude and the quiet contemplation that follows.

I was greatly proud to have been formally re-elected as the County Councillor for Rhyd-Y-Fuwch ward on Ceredigion County Council in the early hours of Friday morning to serve for a 3rd term. Since that declaration, I have spent a quiet weekend looking back at the campaign and looking at the results from across the country.

It has been a bittersweet experience because whilst I have been able to consider the great honour that has once more been bestowed on me, I have also spoken to many good friends who were not so fortunate.

A Local Campaign
Here in Cardigan, it was very much a local campaign. Having served for 8 years, I found it easier to speak to residents on their doorsteps as they naturally knew me better than before and the work that I have done on their behalf in that time spoke loudly through the 75+ posters that were displayed in windows on Aberystwyth Road, Maeshenffordd, Brynhafod, Rhos-Y-Dre, Bro Teifi, Heol Hafod, Maesyrhaf, Napier Gardens, Napier St, North Road, Feidrfair, William St and in Llys Owen.

Out of the 600+ houses that comprises the Rhyd-Y-Fuwch Ward (yes, it is a relatively small ward compared to that of those in more urban areas), I only received one virtual slammed door in the face due to the policies of the Coalition Government in London. Quite incredibly, on election day outside of the count, the same couple approached me and apologised for the manner in which they spoke to me having subsequently spoken to Mark Williams MP about their personal problems and made progress on them with his support. They were now voting for me once more they said. So there was certainly no sense that the bigger picture was having an impact on this local campaign - it was an election based around the calibre of the local candidates and in a local election, that is how it should be.

The campaign was a relatively quiet one in which my Plaid Cymru opponent also knocked on the doors in the ward and had himself a dozen or so posters up in windows. There was from what I can gather, very little negativity in the campaigning methods used and when the result was announced, it gave me 76% of the vote.

Around the county, as I had long suggested would probably be the case, the County Council remained in No Overall Control. Plaid Cymru made the gains necessary to gain an outright majority but then lost seats as well to leave them 1 seat down on 19 seats - 3 short of an outright majority. Our Welsh Liberal Democrat ranks sadly lost 2 of our 9 wards to leaves us with 7 Councillors going into the new Council. The Independents meanwhile saw an increase from 12 to 15 Councillors but this figure however hides the surprise loss of the Leader of the Council Cllr Keith Evans' seat in Llandysul which was certainly the shock of the night.

Not all of the Independents I expect will willingly serve within the formal Independent Group. How many of those will serve as 'Independent Independents', time will soon tell and it will play an important role in the discussions that will go on during the coming days as different groups discuss the possibility of working together to form a new administration.

Welsh Heartache
But whilst the long election night count saw the intrigue of wins and losses, the agony and the ecstasy and the whole array of human emotion, the morning just brought me dismay.

The relief of having finally heard my own result was replaced with the dismay of hearing of news of Council losses across Wales that are more than just figures, they are the personal circumstances of close and good friends of mine in areas such as Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr.

They were unfortunate to represent wards where the first question asked was not of the quality of the candidate and their response to local issues, but of national concerns to which it wasn't their role to represent. Many of these friends have served in local government for the same 8 year period of time as myself. I have known them and have grown up with them in local government terms during this time and have seen how hard they have worked for their communities.

Such of course is the fickle nature of politics. But please remember reader that behind every headline, there's a human story.

But be it fair or otherwise, the inescapable fact is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats principal Councillor ranks shrank from 166 down to just 72 in the blink of an eye in the early hours of Friday morning. But, we shall dust ourselves down and carry on because that is the liberal way. We have a strong record of diligently serving our communities and that won't change.

Onward and upward for there is of course, no alternative.


  1. I too fought a local campaign in Llansantffraed, and whilst I didn't have any slammed doors, I did have about three people who said "Sorry, you're a politician, I can't stand you" but everytime they did I replied in a very friendly manner, "I am sorry to hear that, sorry to have troubled you".

    But on the plus side, I managed to garner 141 votes (part of the almost 7,000 Lib Dem votes across the county) and from tomorrow evening will be a formally sworn in member of Llansantffraed Community Council (so hope that whilst I will not be able to do perhaps as much as you can in the County Council, I can do my own small bit towards representing the community to which I have been elected)

  2. Congratulations Mark on your personal success which I knew you would win.

    So whilst some Lib Dems have lost across Wales, as you say, I have argued on Facebook groups that we have made gains in recent decades as we were "the opposition". Now we are in Govt, we are taking the kick ourselves. I have seen some comments where hard working former councillors are disillusioned but just cannot see that its not a vote against them, but a vote agaist the Lib Dems (and Cons) for the tough decisions made by the Govt after the mess inherited from Labour.

    Still, the electorate get what they deserve is also what I firmly believe in and they will realise that they have lost their hard working Lib Dem councillors and got Labour councillors who dont lift a finger or they toe the line from Welsh Labour or Ed Miliband.

    We do not have the divine right to govern.

    I wish you well as you either take over as the Ceredigion fete opener, or whether your skills are better suited as a Cabinet Member seeing as 2 Lib Dem Cabinet Members lost their seats. I have a feeling your talents may be better put to use as a portfolio holder, rather than the tour of events and the curse of a Chair of Council... the sausages on a stick, pizza slices, chicken legs and curly sandwiches...

    Well done again, Mark.

  3. Well, Harry... congratulations....

    At least you have a springboard for 2016 and to get a reputation for listening and getting things done and initiating things in your village.

    Secondly....regarding Mark's re-election, I apologise for omitting to mention slices of quiche as well...

    (I am sure you are heading for better things than opening fetes and guest speaker at a village WI AGM meeting).