Jane Dodds makes it into the Senedd

So I updated the Welsh results post at 10:30 last night and went, exhausted, to bed.

At that point, the Mid and West Wales result, our only hope of a seat in the Senedd, hung in the balance – and the mood music I was hearing was not positive. We were very worried that, for the first time in its history, there would be no Lib Dems in the Senedd.

Just after midnight, though, everyone else breathed a huge sigh of relief.

It’s such a relief that someone who is so committed to tackling poverty and isolation will have that national voice. The Welsh party is full of fantastically talented young people like Callum Littlemore and Chloe Hutchinson and we need to make sure that they and others join Jane next time.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • Alasdair Brooks 8th May '21 - 9:05am

    While my personal focus is more on Scotland and the [English] Midlands, the results in Wales are a profound concern. A tradition of Welsh liberalism that dates back to Gladstone (via Lloyd George), and which provided the old Liberal party with seats even at its nadir, seems to be on life support. A quick check suggests that Brecon, Montgomeryshire, Ceredigion, and Cardiff Central are the only Senedd constituency seats where the party won more than 10% of the vote, and Brecon and Cardiff Central are the only seats where the party came second. Across most of the rest of Wales, the party is only winning 2-4% of the vote, and coming fourth or fifth. This is not encouraging.

    I’m pleased that Jane Dodds has been elected to the Senedd, but if our big success in Wales is scraping in to a single Senedd seat on the basis of residual support in one Welsh region, then the party is in serious trouble in Wales.

    As noted, I follow Scotland and the Midlands more closely than Wales, but I’d welcome thoughts from any Welsh party members on what – if anything – we think we can do to change this in the longer term.

  • David Blake 8th May '21 - 9:17am

    The Welsh Liberals – book on the history of https://welsh-academic-press.shopfactory.com/contents/en-uk/p35.html

  • Gwyn Williams 8th May '21 - 10:18am

    This morning we can all be relieved that the flame of Welsh Liberalism has not been snuffed out in 2021. However my fear is that this is just a reprieve until 2026. The loss of B&R means that the Party’s decline continues.
    In 2016 I naively believed that we had hit rock bottom. The catastrophic results in Mid Wales proved me wrong.
    Having stood on many occasions in the last 30 years, always in a Labour/Tory marginal, I know what it is like to be squeezed. There are always some who blame the candidate. This time apart from one or two we can safely say that it was not the candidate’s fault.
    Jane Dodds has an opportunity to live and work full time in Wales. She can come to understand devolution and the Party she leads. I sincerely hope that she embraces that opportunity.

  • There is a two fold issue, lack of traction – any message the party puts out doesn’t get picked up, shared or even thought about, and (more fundamental) lack of message. I’ve seen WLD FB posts routinely gather about 2 likes. I can’t tell you what any of them were about.

    There’s also a lack of candour really, for example everyone says well done Kirsty, and fine, but her being education minister meant no voice for the public to hear in the Senedd for 5 years. She has her local following but this came to mean very little after she decided to quit suddenly after re-selection last year. Also, where I live a nearby seat sent me a ‘it’s neck and neck here’ please drop everything and come over to help message. Even if I hadn’t received it until after Polling Day, it wasn’t true. If the party wants to rebuild it needs to begin by deciding what it is really for, besides providing politicians with something to do, and how it treats people, especially its own.

    The agrarian heartlands are moribund, the cities’ cores weren’t well looked after in any case and advances in the towns in Wales were non existent anyway.

    Hmmn

  • I’m really pleased for Jane, and moreso for the people of Wales. She’ll be a great representative for them. She does a lot of great work and someone I’m always keen to listen to.

    I can’t claim to understand Welsh politics, but I have noticed that the party of government seems to be doing best in these elections, presumably from the predictable but seemingly overlooked pandemic lift. Kirsty was doing fantastic work during the pandemic, but I wonder whether she got as much credit as she deserved, and if so, how much of that was associated with the party.

    I had got the impression Plaid were expecting to make gains, but from afar their attempts to use Brexit came across as opportunism, but even if they’ve not made gains in seat numbers, they do seem to be stirring up grass roots support, so shouldn’t be under-estimated.

  • John Barrett 8th May '21 - 11:17am

    Alasdair – although there were two excellent constituency results in Scotland, just like in Wales, our vote north of the border has seen many areas with a long record of Liberal and Lib-Dem support, now on life support as well.

    This morning (with many seats yet to declare) we have four seats compared to three for the Conservatives and two for Labour, which at first glance looks promising, but looking at the actual votes, we polled 8% compared to 21% each for both those other parties who have fewer seats.

    Of the 145,000 votes counted for the Lib-Dems so far, nearly one third of those were cast in only two seats, in Edinburgh Western and North East Fife.

    Our vote elsewhere in Scotland is like in Wales, very thin on the ground in most of the country, and the depth of the problem must not be overlooked by the party highlighting only the silver lining, when there is a very dark cloud over the party in both Scotland and Wales.

  • The party machine needs to provide Jane Dodds with the necessary resources to rebuild over the comming years.

  • @John Barrett

    While I suspect you know a lot more about Scottish politics than me I think you are being a little harsh.

    Of course we would like a big increase in our vote in Scotland as anywhere else. But this is – on the constituency vote at least – almost exactly as you were election with all the parties +/- 1% of their previous vote. And OK – the SNP and Greens are up a tad and the unionist parties are down a tad.

    But as regards breaking into new ground there is obv. a lot of tactical voting going on for unionists to back the unionist party most likely to win so that is a massive “chicken and egg” problem to actually break new ground.

    But we do seem to have defended our seats better than the other unionist parties with Labour and the Tories losing seats to the SNP.

    It has to be said although it is clear a very good result for the SNP – 47% nationwide would any politician’s dream result but they haven’t quite touched the highs that they were getting in the opinion polls of 50% or more.

    Even when we were doing well in Scotland our vote was fairly concentrated with some very difficult areas for us.

    So clearly if we are on 6% = we have a lot of room for improvement. But in Westminster elections (if and while they exist in Scotland!), the task is probably to pick up 2-4 extra seats and help contribute to the UK party getting to its first milestone which would be 20 Westminster MPs and that’s a highly concentrated task.

  • John Roffey 8th May '21 - 1:30pm

    From BBC lunchtime News:

    It seems that Labour are not going to win the extra seat they need for a majority in the Senate and are likely to ask the single Lib/Dem member to join with them to establish a majority.

  • George Thomas 8th May '21 - 3:10pm

    I think part of it is that Lib Dems didn’t have anything obviously positive to hang their hat on this Senedd election: young people still remember LD’s as party of austerity and student fees, older voters/ex-UKIP party voters see LD’s as party of wanting to overturn the EU referendum. Meanwhile Labour/Tories swallowed up sympathetic voters who feared/anticipated Tories making gains as they have done in England and 2019 Westminster elections in Wales.

    One of the Welsh Tory attack lines was on Labour’s education record. Dodds will need to make sure Kirsty’s work is implemented properly and that LD’s can claim any improvement in education standards – that’s the positive message to hang the hat on next time.

    While some challenges remain stable (how does devolving powers to Cardiff help those in north and west Wales) newer challenges will quickly develop with brexit fall out, covid recovery and growing anti-devolution voice in Westminster as Tories maintains control. LD’s need to identify workable answers and a way of being heard, but with so many foreseeable challenges and Drakeford stepping down there is still room for each party to step up and lead into a really competitive race next time.

  • Alasdair Brooks 8th May '21 - 4:38pm

    @ John Barrett

    Believe me, I’m by no means complacent about the state of the party in Scotland (I fully recognise that holding all four constituency seats potentially masks serious issues) but it still seems to me that the situation in Wales is significantly worse.

    At least in Scotland the party is managing to stay competitive in some of the traditional centres of strength, notably Orkney & Shetland, Caithness, and NE Fife, even if results in other areas we’ve historically been strong in – notably the Borders – are disappointing, to say the least. So if the LibDems are much-diminished in Scotland, undoubtedly face serious challenges, and there’s no grounds for complacency, we at least have a stable base as a minority party, and a platform – however reduced – for our voice being heard.

    But Wales? We barely scraped in a single Senedd top-up list seat, and even in Brecon, Montgomeryshire, and Ceredigion – the areas we’ve historically been in strong in – we seem to be collapsing. From 1880 through 2010, Montgomeryshire was held consistently by a Liberal or LibDem (glossing over Clement Davies’s shift from Liberal to National Liberal and back again) except from ’79-’83; for decades it was close to being the Welsh version of Orkney & Shetland.

    I don’t know enough about the specifics of the Welsh political context to properly understand cause; I can only observe outcome. But clearly something’s gone badly wrong – and in a manner that suggests it’s more than just a continuing consequence of the coalition, but rather something that runs much deeper. I was just hoping to get some Welsh perspectives on the problem.

  • David Evans 9th May '21 - 9:24am

    It is clear that the party in Wales is now in a critical situation. Our share of the vote in what was our heartland Mid and West Wales has fallen by over a third since 2016, and was only just enough to get Jane elected through the regional list.

    We have to come to terms with the fact that we are now a small party on the brink. Hard questions have got to be asked of our leaders and they have to answer the very hard question – What have you been doing?

    Because whatever it was it has totally failed.

  • Hilton Marlton 9th May '21 - 7:17pm

    I’m sure most of us in the Welsh party are relieved that we have retained our one seat in the Senedd and will be wishing Jane Dodds all the best for the next five years. The harsh reality though is that we achieved this regional list seat as a default, on the back of our hard working constituency candidates misfortune. We now have not a single constituency base in Wales and we are now in second place in only two constituencies. In both of these we are many percentage points behind the Tory lead. Since 2016 our constituency vote share has slumped a further 36% to a mere 4.9% of the total. In all but 13 constituencies, our vote share fell. Our best result was a trend bucking 2.2% increase on an already tiny figure. In our former strong holds; Brecon and Radnorshire, Ceredigion, Cardiff Central and Montgomeryshire, the fall was dramatic, 28%, 10.5%, 19.1% and 16.8% respectively. We retained our deposit in only 8 constituencies. It would be disingenuous to blame the coalition or anything else for this failure for it belongs squarely to the Welsh Lib Dems and those who run the party. These results are catastrophic. So, please let’s stop making excuses, let’s be honest and open in our analysis, let’s learn lessons and then put together a credible plan to unite this fractured party so we can become a healthy, effective campaigning team that once more knows the elation of winning elections.

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