Labour loses grip on Welsh strongholds

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Indy Politics

Labour was losing control of heartland councils in Wales today in a dire set of local election results. It lost its grip on the Valleys strongholds of Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen. Flintshire, in north-east Wales, fell to no overall control.

The Tories kept Monmouthshire and claimed a victory in the Vale of Glamorgan - a must-win council if David Cameron is on course for a General Election victory.

Plaid Cymru became the largest party in Ceredigion, but failed to take overall control.

The nationalists were losing seats to a backlash in rock-solid Gwynedd where the Plaid executive has pushed ahead with a schools closure programme.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan admitted early on that he was "very apprehensive" as it appeared that the tide was "running strongly" against his party.

"If Labour voters are disaffected, they are not going to come out and we are going to lose seats," he told Sky News.

Mr Morgan has tried to distance his wing of the party from the 10p tax row which politicians from all sides, including Labour, say has been the dominant issue on the doorstep.

Labour's rivals had used the elections as a "plebiscite" on Gordon Brown's popularity, he told the BBC.

"This may be worse than the average mid-term blues, but mid-term elections are a phenomenon that very few governments manage to crack," he said.

More than 1,200 council seats in all 22 of Wales's local authorities were up for grabs in yesterday's poll.

Labour comfortably regained control of Neath Port Talbot. With some seats undeclared, it looked poised to claw back some ground in Bridgend, but seemed destined for a poor result in Cardiff.

The outcome in Newport was on a knife edge as declarations were delayed by recounts until later today in two wards with three seats each.

Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy said Labour's defeat in Torfaen - his constituency - and other parts of South Wales was "very disappointing".

He told BBC Radio Wales: "We have to listen to what the people have told us and their concerns about certain things. We have to redouble our efforts."

Shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "Labour's performance at last year's Assembly elections was a disaster - today they're even worse.

"They went backwards at the last local elections in Wales, they went backwards in the Assembly elections, and now they going back even further."

Welsh Lib Dem leader Mike German said: "In Cardiff we've won more seats despite being Labour's number one target. Their muck-slinging campaign has backfired spectacularly.

"In my own south-east Wales region we have made a breakthrough in Merthyr, taking six seats, and made gains in Monmouthshire and Newport."

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price said his party had a night of "highs and lows".

He said: "To be the biggest party in Cardiff West, Ceredigion and Ynys Mon (Anglesey) is great news and we're confident that this trend will continue as today's results are declared.

"We are, of course, disappointed with the losses in Gwynedd and Swansea and I'd like to pay tribute to the councillors who have lost their seats for their years of service to their communities."



On a flying visit to Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, Tory leader David Cameron said there was "not one ounce of complacency in the Conservative Party".

"This is a big moment for the Conservative Party. This is a big step forward," he said.

"I think it shows Wales, north and south, the Conservative Party is back in contention, winning seats."

He told an assembled crowd: "What we have seen is one sensible step after another, people looking at us seeing it's a modernised party indeed, a party working for people in Wales and offering people choices."

He added: "We can really build from here, not build on Labour's failings but prove to people we can make the changes they want to see."

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