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Love for Labour lost
Following the 1999 assembly and council elections, Dafydd Wigley said a “political earthquake” had struck Wales. In 2008, a suitable geographical metaphor is more elusive.
British media recorded a large swing from Labour to Conservative. In Wales, the results were ambiguous. Although the Conservatives gained 66 seats and control of a second council (Vale of Glamorgan), they only swapped positions on the leaderboard with the Lib Dems.
Labour’s support fell to the Conservatives in prosperous semi-rural areas, to the Lib Dems in cities and some of the valleys, and to Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire and the west.
Though one popular peace activist, the evergreen Ray Davies, managed to hold his Labour seat in Caerphilly, Labour lost control of a number of councils in its south Wales heartland to local coalitions who believe it has lost its way and its moral authority.
In Gwynedd, Plaid Cymru suffered a similar fate for similar reasons. Party president and peace movement stalwart Dafydd Iwan lost his Bont Newydd seat.
While the swing towards grassroots politics may be generally welcomed, voters need to be wary of some coalitions. Llais Gwynedd, for example, contains hard-line nationalists of both the Welsh-speaking (ex-Plaid) and British-Eurosceptic (ex-UKIP) varieties.
Perhaps the geographical metaphor for 2008 is “Watch this space”?