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Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Baglan dilemma

In the middle of the Labour stronghold of Aberavon, spread along the slopes of a rather steep hill and washing up against the M4 is the community of Baglan. It has been a long time since this ward was represented by Labour. At a local government level it is a ratepayer stronghold. In UK General and Welsh Assembly elections some of its boxes have been known to produce majorities for the Tories or the Liberal Democrats.

Today however, the voters of Baglan will be waking up to find that they are represented by two Labour Councillors. I am told that at the last minute, Juliet Hopkins and Peter Richards, first elected for the Ratepayer Neath Port Talbot group in the Baglan Ward in 2004, switched their allegiance to Labour.

Because Labour did not put up any candidates in this ward, because the other parties have traditionally given the ratepayers a clear run in this area and because the ratepayers themselves did not expect this defection and had not made any contingency for it then two Labour candidates and one ratepayer candidate have been elected unopposed. The people of Baglan have had no say in it whatsoever. I am sure that they will not be happy.
I think uncontested elections are bad for both the voters and the politicians.

The politicians cannot point to a mandate and the voters are denied an opportunity to express their views.
As far as Welsh Council Labour Leaders go, Neath Port Talbot (NPT CBC) is fortunate - it has not only one of the brightest, but one of the nicest decent guys in Derek Vaughan. However, he is ambitious and dersrves to soon go further up the greasy Labour pole. Where will that then leave NPT CBC? More importantly where will that leave the two defectors? They will never get far in Labour and will be told what to do by the uglier side of Labour in NPT CBC. They will deserve all they get! They will become "Yes Lackeys" to old Labour bullies!
Isn't this an abuse of the Democratic Process?

You would expect such tactics from Robert Mugabe's Zanu Pief but not from the NPT Labour Party.

I have cast my vote religiously, in every election, for all of my voting life but this year I am fed up with it all and am deciding not to vote. But thats my choice to do that. I am angry that this choice has been denied from the people of Baglan by the Labour Party.

It would seem that the people of Baglan have effectively been disenfranchised.
Not sure I'd be quite so fulsome in my praise of Vaughan, but in nay event isn't he off to Europe as second on Labour's list.

On the Baglan issue, do I understand it that the two concerned have been nominated as Labour candidates (offcial certificates and all). If so, didn't the other Ratepayer have some inkling that this was going on when his/her colleagues were effectively blanking him/her (or was it really that last minute.

Also, why are parties not challenging in this ward "because Labour did not put up any candidates" What's so special about the Ratepayers that they shouldn't be opposed

Why do you bemoan the fact that the people of Baglan have had no say. If things had gone as you hoped and expected, there would have been three unopposed Ratepayer candidates and the people of Baglan would still have had no say.

David Walters
I am not defending the failure to contest this ward by the other parties. My preference always is that people have a full choice in elections. In this instance I think that the expectation was that there would be a straight Labour-Ratepayer contest. Labour ensured that this would not happen by poaching two ratepayers and not contesting the other seat. Clearly, the other ratepayer was oblivious to the whole scam.
Well clearly these two folk represent the ratepayers! IF YOU DISAGREED WITH THEM, WHY DID YOUR PARTY NOT PUT UP CANDIDATES? Put up. or shut up is surely the rule here ...

I dislike ratepayer candidates generally because they tend to be single issue loonies who achieve little or nothing for their communities, attracting little more than derision among colleagues. Usually moreover such candidates carry tory (or sometimes lib dem) membership cards in their back pockets but are afraid to run under their true colours.

Presumably you thought the sitting councillors were OK until they joined Labour, or you would have fielded candidates against them. In effect you are saying that the Lib Dems stood aside here to give the Ratepayers a better chance. Well you've been done over by your own cynicism!

Would you mind explaining why the Lib Dems have failed to field a candidate in Mayals?

This is a ward your party won last time around, only to see your councillor dfect to the tories. Yet your party is denying the voters the chance this time of electing another lib dem. Why?

Speaking as a former labour canddate for the Mayals i suppose i should welcome the fact that the only way to oust turncoat Rene is by voting labour, but history sadly does not favour my party in this ward...

Dave Collins

promoted & published, blah blah by david collins on behalf of the labour candidates in grangetown all at 3 taff terrace, cf11 7al.
For the record, i scored the largest labour vote ever recorded in mayals in 1999 and i still finished last out of 4! Mayals is not ever going to be a labour seat, butr it was won by the lib dems in 1991, 1995 and 2003, so it is astonishing that they are now gifting it to the Tories - especially given the circumstances!

Just who is Nick Clegg trying to cuddle up to?

Dave Collins

promoted & posted by dave collins on behalf of the labour candidates for grangetown, all at 3 taff terrace, cf11 7al.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that the two defectors have been promised something. Either it is expenditure in the ward or it is a responsibility allowance. The real issue again is that very few people seem interested in standing for the Council in some areas. Glyn Davies has already got a list of 16 elected unopposed in Powys. That's over 20% of the Council. Looking at some of the photos of the candidates in many areas it seems to be the same old faces who have been around for years. By 2012 it will be worse. But what do you expect with capping and tighter settlements. Most of those standing for the first time will not know what has hit them when they have to make the tough decisions required in the next few years.
Anon 2:47am: Don't you people ever sleep? You will notice that there are only five Liberal Democrat candidates in Neath Port Talbot. The fact is we did not have a candidate to put up or we would have done. That is also why we did not fight the by-election in this ward over a year ago.

Dave: nice to see you still commenting on blogs. The decision on Mayals was out of my hands. It was in the gift of the Swansea West local party. Presumably they decided that the independent had a better chance of unseating Rene. Labour certainly have no chance there and a vote for them would be wasted.
As regards putting up candidates; people have to come forward.

Since politics in this particular borough is seen as beening very seedy; not just by labour but also the ratepayers as shown by this defection, its hardly surprising that people won't put themselves forward.

I noticed that NPTCBC gets commented upon by labour as a flagship council due to its low council tax rise; hardly surprising in an election year, it still remains the highest or second highest taxing council in Wales.

As regards the defection being classed as independents going to labour, the Ratepayers is a registered political party, granted the ratepayer party will take anyone from Stalin to Hitler and every political colour in between into it's ranks under the general banner of "Ratepayer".

It will be intersting to see if any independents join the labour ranks post May 1st.

Do you know if this is the only uncontested election in NPT?

As usual their website seems to be lagging behind Swansea, Bridgend & Cardiff for lists of candidates.
The Big question should be “What have they (Hopkins & Richards)been promised?”

This situation reminds me of the film Braveheart, the last battle scene of the film the Scottish nobles turn their backs on William Wallace, and ride off the field with their men as the English regulars battle with the Scots and Irish on the field.

General (turns to Longshanks): “Mornay, Lochlan?”

Longshanks: “I gave Mornay double his lands in Scotland and matching
estates in England. Lochlan turned for much less”

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems
"Do you know if this is the only uncontested election in NPT?"

I can confirm that Labour in NPT already have 6 seats, all of which are uncontested.
The uncontested Labour seats in NPT are presumably Baglan (2), the two Briton Ferry seats, Cwmllynfell and Lower Brynaman.

On the other hand, Labour are not standing in at least two wards: Coedffranc North and Dyffryn Clydach. This is the first time I have known Labour not to put up a full slate in NPT (or Lliw Valley before).
I am from Baglan and I am furious at being disenfranchised. I have always voted for the Ratepayers. To respond to previous comments about them being "single issue loonies", I would like to point out that the reason Ratepayers have so much support in Baglan is because unlike Labour they actually listen to the concerns and needs of the people. They have done so much important work in the community and have really fought for important issues. I feel so let down that Hopkins and Richards have defected to Labour as Labour have done so little for our community. I know from speaking to others that they have lost a lot of trust and I don't think many of their supporters will follow them to Labour. After seeing what Labour has contributed to the area I don't feel I could ever give my vote to Labour. Not that I'll have a chance to vote now anyway!
Surely, this cannot be right?
Can it? Isn't there something that the electoral commission can do? If this is legal, people are going to lose even more faith in the electoral process after this debacle.
The people of Baglan have been denied a vote by a sneaky slide of hand.
I am also from Baglan; if you knew anything about Cllr Hopkins and Cllr Richards they have worked very hard for our ward in the last four years and hopefully will continue to do so. I also voted Ratepayer previously, but I voted for the person not the party both the late Cllr Evans and the late Cllr Wheatley were exceptional Councillors in their time and fought for what was important, their community. Cllr Hopkins and Cllr Richards have continued this on. Perhaps if they had joined the Liberal Democrats you would be singing a different tune.
The Welsh Lib Dems would have been more open and less under-handed about such a defection.
I am from Baglan. I am considering starting a petition (unless one already exists)to send to the local authority from people who feel they have been cheated out of a vote.

The defection was made at the last minute and did not leave any time for somebody to stand against them. They obviously knew long before hand what they were going to do and these tactics are just unacceptable.

They will represent the residents of Baglan by default.

OK, so what would be the point of a petition? People who feel they have been disenfranchised will be able to get their voices heard to some degree.

If anyone is interested in this idea, please e-mail me at markshanks@yahoo.co.uk
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