|There is no disguising the fact that the overall outcomes were disappointing, but there were significant consolations to be found and some very important lessons learned.
Across the whole of Wales, we achieved 3.4%, which on a truly proportional system would give us 2 out of 60 seats in the WAG (with the BNP getting the same, incidentally). This election shows that even with a supposedly more proportional additional member system, the effort required to achieve anything electorally is extraordinary for smaller parties. We ended up with the same 4 parties carving up the 20 regional seats as won all the 40 FPTP constituency seats.
At least we are within striking distance of achieving representation via this system. Chris Simpson achieved the same 5.2% as Jake standing in just one constituency, Ceredigion, at his own expense I believe. I am delighted that he got his deposit back for achieving over 5%, but this still left him a distant 5th out of five, even in a very quirky seat (PC hold, but swing to LD in second and Labour just 1000 votes ahead of the Greens in 4th place).
The appeal to Labour voters to put more thought into their second votes largely fell on deaf ears. There were 72000 labour votes binned in our South Wales West region; over 85000 in the key South Wales Central region (where less than 6000 heeding the call to 2nd Vote Green would have got Jake in); and nationally 350000 votes achieved just 2 top-up seats, even though they already had won 47% of the seats with just 42% of the votes in the constituencies! The nonsense of the system also meant that the Lib Dems got 4 top-up seats for 76000 votes whereas we got nothing for 33000 votes and 6th place (but then neither did UKIP for 44000 votes in 5th place).
South Wales West:
So well done Keith Ross for some reward for all his hard work in Swansea West over a long period. The Gower surprised me a bit, but I was pleased that Bridgend came next and suggests we have made a bit of difference since getting going last November. But overall, we are behind the national average. Add this to the fact that we fell into 8th place, behind UKIP (5th), Socialist Labour (6th) and, most disturbingly, the BNP (7th); and it is clear we have much work to do.
Socialist Labour are a bit of an enigma. This is the Party backed by Arthur Scargill. They have no real presence on the ground and the general feeling is that they pick up votes intended for the Labour Party (some deluded supporters might still think that Labour is vaguely socialist), and they may even have ‘nicked’ a few of of us as they were listed next to us on the ballot paper with a logo very similar to ours with a casual glance.
It would not appear viable to even contemplate a serious challenge in this region next time around as things stand. 7% would have been enough this time around, but that means roughly trebling our support region-wide. Without active members in every constituency, or enough to work every constituency, we would only be likely to suffer the same fate that befell Jake.
We did some sampling on the area-wide postal votes, which was happening before the polling station boxes arrived. This was actually fairly encouraging, giving results that suggested 4-5% may be realistic. However, once the polling station boxes started arriving we were quickly spinning tops! We also did not have the preparation in place to know that where all the polling station names/numbers related to. We ended up with some pretty crude and patchy results which threw up some interesting enough impressions.
We appear to have done better than average (c5%) in a few areas, such as parts of Maesteg (eg Garth) and Oldcastle (Jonathan Spink’s old stomping ground); whereas we seemed to do particularly poorly in a few other areas, such as Morfa (town centre) and Porthcawl. I had hoped that Sustainable Wales’ high profile in Porthcawl might be beneficial – but it appears not. Unfortunately, we were unable to spot ballot boxes from wards that we have talked about as possible targets.
OVERALL – It is clear that we have to clearly target our efforts if we are to achieve any electoral success at all. I think it confirms that the strategy we have talked about for the BCBC elections is the right one. We have to work within the confines of a system that is skewed very heavily against us (see AV below). The experience in other parts of Wales and the UK as a whole underline this. But there are also shining examples that if we are prepared to commit to the long haul, breakthroughs are possible. And furthermore, where we have seen breakthroughs happen, the general experience is that people like our principles and our integrity, and it becomes possible to build relatively quickly on these breakthroughs.
Time will tell what this result really means. If it really is the British public saying that they are happy with the tried and tested way of doing politics, then the British Public really has to stop moaning about our politics – and that includes the 60% who could not be bothered to express any opinion on the matter. Does anyone really believe this?
I prefer to spin this the other way. People are thoroughly disillusioned with our politics and the grubby little compromise offered no real prospect of that changing. People saw through the appalling campaigns of exaggeration and misrepresentation of both sides of the argument. There was not enough in it to merit any enthusiasm at all. Clegg played nicely into the hands of the Tory interests that always have and always will benefit disproportionately from the present system.
Looking forward, I am pleased to see determination on the part of all with a true interest in improving our democracy, to continue the argument and battle on. We have to continue fight for real alternatives and real democracy. It is the end of the beginning – not the beginning of the end that some are portraying it as.