Pluralism is set to be the defining characteristic of Welsh politics after the May 2008 Council Elections dramatically altered the political landscape of Wales.Pluralism is set to be the defining characteristic of Welsh politics after the May 2008 Council Elections dramatically altered the political landscape of Wales.
The Labour party was battered after losing 122 seats at the Welsh Local Elections held in May Day 2008.
Of the 1,264 Welsh council seats being contested in the election, Labour held just 344 councillors in the worst result for the party in decades.
Labour lost support in its traditional core areas as Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, Lib-Dems and independents took over the control of almost all the Welsh councils.
Out of the 22 councils in Wales, the Labour party only managed to retain office in Neath Port Talbot, Rhonda, and Torfaen.
After a near-century long domination of the Labour party in Welsh local politics, the May 2008 Council Elections open up a new era of political pluralism where coalitions and compromises will be the norm across most of the 22 Welsh councils.
Labour Party loses grip in traditional heartlands
The Welsh Labour party lost 122 seats and is now down to 344 councillors from the 466 seats it had before the elections.
The party lost control of traditional heartland councils Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Torfaen, with further important losses in Caerphilly, Flintshire, Newport, Torfaen, and Wrexham.
Labour only retained a majority in Neath Port Talbot and Rhonda. In Torfaen, the Labour party managed to stay in power thanks to the support of Plaid Cymru and independents.
Plaid Cymru take control of four councils
Election results brought mixed fortunes for Plaid Cymru after the party, which is currently governing Wales in coalition with Labour, lost majority control of Gwynedd and suffered further embarrassment as the party's president Dafydd Iwan also lost his Gwynedd councillor seat.
However, Plaid Cymru made an overall gain of 33 seats, going up from 174 to 207 councillors, which eventually allowed the party to lead four councils in coalition. Plaid Cymru is now leading Caerphilly, Conwy, Flintshire, Gwynedd, and is also at Cardiff's Council as part of a LibDem-led coalition.
Welsh Conservatives the biggest winners
The Conservative Party claimed to be the biggest winners in the local council elections after winning 62 new seats up to a total of 173 councillors. Prior to the elections, the tories had 111 councillors and just one council under majority control.
The conservatives retained Monmouthshire under majority and won control of the Vale of Glamorgan. They also became the largest party in Conwy and Denbighshire, although the two northern councils were eventually secured by Plaid Cymru and independent led coalitions.
Liberal-Democrats retain Cardiff
The Liberal-Democrat party had also reasons for celebration after retaining control of Cardiff, Wales' largest council.
The Lib-Dems gained 21 seats, bringing their councillors up from 141 to 162 and consolidating gains in urban Wales. The party managed to form Lib-Dem led coalitions in Cardiff, Swansea, Bridgend and Wrexham.
Independent candidates hold their seats
Independent candidates remain the dominant colour in Wales with 378 councillors across the country, six seats more than before the election. Independent-led coalitions are in place in Blaenau Gwent, Carmarthen, Ceredigion, Denbighshire, Merthyr Tydfil, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
Welsh Labour councillors blame British politics for poor results
Welsh Labour officials did not try to disguise how disappointing the council election results had been for the party.
The First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan qualified the results as “very, very serious” and the Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy said Labour's performance had been “very disappointing”.
Rhodri Morgan blamed dissatisfaction with Gordon Brown's UK Government for the poor results of Welsh Labour. He said that the Welsh Labour party had been victim of a “general anti-Labour tide” caused by a broad disenchantment with British Labour.
“All our efforts to try and persuade people this is a local election have failed”, said the Welsh First Minister.
The Welsh Labour Party is governing the National Assembly of Wales in coalition with Plaid Cymru.
Pluralism will be the defining characteristic of Welsh politics
John Osmond, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), the Welsh leading political and economic Think-Tank, said that Welsh politics had entered a new era following the May 2008 council elections.
After the elections, most of the Welsh political map was left under no control of any single party, meaning that most councils are now governed by coalitions.
Mr. Osmond stated that “the implications for Welsh politics and, in particular, the country’s constitutional development, will be profound. No longer will the key decisions be able to be framed within one political party, the Labour Party, as has been the case for the past two generations.”
“Instead, the inevitable deals and compromises that will be part of negotiating the future governance of Wales will be forced into the open, to be debated across the parties”, said the director of the leading Welsh Think-Tank