It is almost a year since the local government elections in Wales and it is certainly fair to say the political landscape has been changed in North East Wales. Both the counties of Wrexham and Flintshire returned no overall control and have coalition arrangements in place leaving Labour out in the cold.
I am regularly asked how I did it and the usual "who’d have thought a Tory could be elected in Brymbo?".
Brymbo was an industrial community near Wrexham which suffered the loss of its steelworks in the early 1990s during a Conservative government. Labour had held onto the seat for many years, more recently socialist independents who had disagreed with the local Labour Party regime and therefore I knew to stand in Brymbo – the community where I was brought up would be a challenge. During a byelection seven years before the Conservatives had missed out by nine votes however this time the community had changed, there had been significant housing developments and residents were still furious that despite over 10 years of Labour in power they had failed to deliver a regeneration project for the former steelworks site.
I am a believer in local candidates at all levels of politics. As a
result of local knowledge I ran a positive campaign on key issues with
achievable aims. This I felt was essential to meet the expectations of
the community. Identifying the needs of the community and what matters
to them and at the poll the Conservatives leapfrogged the independent
incumbent and the Labour candidate. Gasps echoed around
the hall as the announcement was made. A Conservative had taken Brymbo for the first time in over 35 years.
Was this to be a trend across the county? Expectations of further
gains soon diminished and I was the only gain for the Conservatives on
Wrexham Council however Labour were reduced to 11 councillors out of a
possible 52. The Conservatives in Wrexham now form part of a coalition
with many independents, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru – many of
whom had got in unexpectedly, some of them paper
candidates in wards where there was no Conservative candidate. I
believe by identifying candidates across key wards at an early stage
and allowing them sufficient time to work the area that this will help
the Conservatives in Wrexham.
The Conservatives are currently contributing significantly to the
direction of Wrexham County Borough Council and are very much a key
part of the agenda.
The message was clear in May 2008, the electorate did not want Labour
in control. At a byelection in Wrexham last month, the Conservatives
held the seat with an increased percentage of the vote and Labour ended
up in fourth place behind the independent candidate. It will be
interesting to see if this transforms into the results at the next
general and assembly elections.