‘Influx of English voters’ made it harder for Lib Dems to win seats, says former AM
An “influx of English voters” has made it more difficult for the Welsh Liberal Democrats to win some rural seats, according to a former AM.
Peter Black, who represented South Wales West in what known as the Assembly, slammed his party for focusing time and resources in these constituencies “at the expense of the rest of Wales”.
The Swansea councillor ripped into the party’s strategy at the Senedd election on his blog, taking aim at the “vacuous national slogan” Put Recovery First, its “poor messaging” and it’s “bland literature that was not even distributed in all constituencies”.
He also criticised the federal party for turning the “Welsh Liberal Democrats from a proud, independent political entity into a client”.
Peter Black said: “The areas of Wales we have always relied on to get us over the line have changed beyond recognition.
“Rural Wales is no longer populated by traditional liberals, while the farming fraternity has always largely voted Tory despite the misguided contrary view held by some ‘senior’ Liberal Democrats.
“A large influx of English voters and the breaking down of tactical voting patterns subsequent to the coalition has made these seats much harder to win.
“In addition there is little all-year round campaigning in any of these areas, and scant work outside election time in those parts where Labour is strong, making it more difficult for us to convince voters there that we are a viable alternative to the Tories.
“Despite that we continue to focus our resources and time into these constituencies at the expense of the rest of Wales, leading to local parties elsewhere becoming moribund and causing an exodus of activists.
“This exodus was exacerbated by the capitulation of the Welsh Party hierarchy to the Feds during the 2019 General Election, when they didn’t just give Plaid Cymru and the Greens free rein in certain constituencies, but did so against the wishes of local parties, undermined key activists and ceded our autonomy as a Welsh Party on key matters such as candidate selection and approval.
“They turned the Welsh Liberal Democrats from a proud, independent political entity into a client of the federal party. It is little wonder that a number of valuable members took that as a cue to call it a day and find other political outlets as independents or in different parties.
He added: “Despite an unprecedented investment in staffing and campaigning resource, the recent Welsh Senedd elections were a mess.
“Those of us seeking to persuade voters to consider placing their cross next to Welsh Liberal Democrats candidates were hampered by a vacuous national slogan, an anonymous manifesto, poor messaging, a shaky digital presence, and bland literature that was not even distributed in all constituencies.
“This was not the fault of hard-working and committed staff, but a failure in the planning stage to craft a distinctive message and vision which the party could campaign on, and to address the organisational issues that have plagued the Welsh Party for some time.
“The result was £33,000 in lost deposits, £15,000 of which was lost in contesting PCC elections, which were largely treated as an afterthought.
“The slogan on which we staked our future was ‘Put Recovery First’, three words that were repeated ad nauseum in interviews, in literature and on ballot papers, as if it had not occurred to any other party or candidate that this might be a good thing.
“It was a slogan adopted at a time when Labour were reaping the benefits of a successful vaccination programme, were viewed as having managed the pandemic with a surer touch than their counterparts on the other side of Offa’s Dyke, and were dominating the headlines with their plans to move Wales on.
“Why did we think that we could compete with that or appear distinctive through a three-word phrase?
“By and large our policy positions were sound and interesting, they just didn’t attract much attention, mostly because our spokespeople did not talk about them and, with the exception of mental health and a vague unexplained and unfunded promise about the environment, they did not feature on our literature.”