Labour savours success at Welsh polls

 

Labour celebrated its election success in Wales with a mini victory parade by a statue of one its most famous politicians.

First Minister Carwyn Jones, Shadow Secretary Peter Hain and a hoard of party members hit Cardiff City Centre today just a few hours after taking control of nine councils in Wales.

They gathered by the statue of the late Labour MP and NHS founder Aneurin Bevan in Queen Street to spell out their vision for its local authorities.

Among its major victories included winning the "big three" of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport - completing a hat trick over rivals the Liberal Democrats, who suffered a torrid time in the polls.

Labour also managed to snatch the Vale of Glamorgan from the Conservatives as well make gains from Plaid Cymru.

Upsets for the nationalists included seeing their Caerphilly councillor Ron Davies - a former Labour MP and UK government cabinet minister - lose his seat.

Joining Mr Jones and Mr Hain at the statue this morning was Cardiff Council's soon-to-be new Labour leader Heather Joyce.

She said the election had been a "fantastic one for Labour" and promised her party "would not let Cardiff down".

First Minister Mr Jones, who had previously called on the electorate to use their vote as "a message to David Cameron", said taking control of the Welsh capital's local authority was no easy task, but he paid tribute to activists and supporters for their hard work.

He said: "Cardiff was a difficult mountain to climb, but we've climbed it.

"Of course the hard work begins now.

"I think there are three messages from this morning's results.

"There is a message to the UK Government, and there is also support for what we are doing as a government in the Assembly.

"And here in Cardiff there has been the resounding message from the people that they wanted to a change in the administration and see us back in power."

The Welsh Labour leader also dismissed suggestions his party had run a negative campaign during the elections.

He added: "If you want to see negative campaigning you should see some of the Plaid Cymru leaflets.

"Yes there were people on the doorstep who said they were going to vote Labour because of what is happening in Westminster - but we were going to deter them for doing that."

And Neath MP Mr Hain added the result put Labour in a strong position for the next UK general election.

He said: "We saw gains right across the city - from Tories, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and from Independents.

"This was replicated right across Wales. We did better than we have done in Wales for a long, long time. This is a vindication of our election strategy.

"This was not a national message to send a message to Cameron and Clegg, this was a grassroots campaign and a new type of refounded Welsh Labour.

"It shows we are well on the way to getting a good result in the next general election."

Today's results were the best Labour has achieved since local government was reorganised in 1996.

As well as rejoicing over winning Cardiff, the party returned to power in Wales's second city, Swansea, following eight years of a Lib Dem-led coalition.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservatives lost their majority in Monmouthshire, falling three seats short of the 22 they needed to secure outright control.

And they also lost control of the Vale of Glamorgan, with Labour now the largest party but without an overall majority, and its leadership of Newport.

The Conservatives' leader in the Welsh Assembly, Andrew RT Davies, said the Welsh Tories suffered a "setback" because of a "difficult national backdrop".

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan added: "This was never going to be an easy election as we started from a record high base in Wales having made gains at successive elections.

"When these seats were last fought, Labour was in government and received their worst result in local elections for decades.

"In the last two years, the Conservative-led UK Government has had to take some very tough decisions in the national interest to clean up the mess left by Labour.

"Labour in Wales has regained lost ground but people don't want triumphalism. They expect delivery."

PA

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