Wales politics

Warning: Mr Ruthless on the warpath

UPDATE Wed 11.30

"Will they stick together and refuse to sink out of sight this time?" was my question yesterday of Anglesey's independent councillors. The answer, by the looks of things at least, is yes. Talks are now well underway to form a council, led by independents, with support from the three Labour members.

The irony isn't lost on some of those in Welsh government circles who had hoped this election would put the council in party political hands. Labour support now looks as though it's about to put the independent group - which includes a former Conservative AM - back in power.

One senior government source smiled and threw up their hands, before muttering something that sounded a lot like 'you couldn't make it up.'

They may be cheered by this comment left on the blog last night by Hywel Meredydd Davies:

As Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, ensuring responsible and fair democracy was the only motive for the Commission, which introduced the principle of a new multi-member wards to Anglesey. Today I am delighted to see so many new successful and responsible Councillors who are keen to tackle the profound current challenges facing the community on Anglesey.

Keep an eye out here for the latest.

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There are, a colleague and old hand once told me, just two areas of Welsh politics I've never been able to crack - the politics of Welsh choirs and the politics of Anglesey. Both complex, both bloody-minded - both pretty impenetrable.

Now as an alto who turns up to choir practice most Thursdays, don't get me started on the former. The latter? He has a point.

You'll know by now that in Thursday's local election, the people of Anglesey were encouraged/pretty much guided (delete as applicable) not to put independent candidates back in charge and to vote instead for a party political leadership. They looked at the script, looked at their ballot papers and decided to do things their own way.

The independents did lose ground. Some jumped before the new broom came for them. Some had had enough. All the same they remain the largest group - except of course, they haven't operated as a single group in the past. They've operated as two or three groups. That's the point and the issue that's led to any number of the island's political woes. So let's rephrase. There are still more independent councillors than there are councillors from any one political party. That wasn't the plan. Will they stick together and refuse to sink out of sight this time?

The only party to emerge smiling was Plaid Cymru with 12 seats. They put the work in and got the vote out. If they were - and I think we can bet they were - putting to work the campaigning tactics recently picked up from the SNP in Scotland, then 12 seats says some of them worked. What didn't work was the bit that said they would then join forces with the Labour group to give them a clear majority. Labour fell short. With only three councillors elected (too few to form an official 'group') on an island they represent in Westminster and just at a time the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are on the ropes, they must have emerged scowling and with rather a lot of questions that need answering.

The sole Liberal Democrat is talking to the independents, keen - or so we're told in Cardiff - to ensure some of the policies he supported are adopted.

Plaid are in talks - pre-preliminary talks - with Labour and the independents to form a ruling coalition.

The Conservatives? No councillors, and considerably worse if you're the leader in Wales, trailing Ukip in terms of support. There were no excuses from Andrew R T Davies this morning. What, I asked him, had gone wrong? Putting up five times as many candidates as at the last election was all well and good, he said but that doesn't win you elections. You need a campaign, you need to communicate with the voters. His party had failed on both counts - and he didn't stop there. The failure of the Tory campaign in this election "will be ruthlessly - and I mean ruthlessly - sorted out!" He wouldn't elaborate.

Perhaps they'll think twice before coming out with 'Loony Leanne' jibes in future, said a Plaid source. After all, they've already realised that calling Ukip names was a bad idea.

Nigel Farage's party didn't make huge strides on Anglesey. All the same, they did better than Mr Davies' and Mr Cameron's party and if colleagues who were there on the night are right, many of those who did vote for Ukip didn't choose - having made their protest - to give their second, or even third vote, to the Conservatives.

If so, it seems it wasn't just a bit of a kick in Mr Cameron's direction. It was a decisive shift in support - and evidence of something rather more fundamental for the Conservative party both in Wales and in England to "ruthlessly - and I mean ruthlessly" - sort out.

Then again, maybe you have cracked Anglesey politics. If you have, go for it - spell out what lessons you reckon the parties should learn from Thursday's vote, Friday's count and those pre-pre-preliminary talks.