Delyth Jewell MS reflects on what the local elections meant for Plaid Cymru

This article was published in The National on Sunday 15 May 2022

They say a day is long time in politics. So last week’s local government election results feel like a much longer period has passed, already.

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, I was standing in an election count in Caerphilly with results pouring in from every direction amidst an avalanche of rosettes and ballot papers - the beautiful chaos of democracy. And in the days since the results, I’ve been reflecting on the debt of gratitude we all owe to the people who stood in those elections: the people who won seats, and those who weren’t successful.  Because standing up for what you believe in matters – as a nation, we should be immensely grateful to all candidates.

A week is a long time, and indeed, enough time to allow the dust to start to settle and to reflect on what the results mean, as well, for Plaid Cymru – and where we go next.

The day did result in a strong set of results for Plaid Cymru: we had outstanding results in Gwynedd, Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire – maintaining overall control of Gwynedd council and gaining overall control of the latter three.

Each of the new Plaid-controlled councils will have their own election story to tell. In Ynys Môn, Plaid won five extra seats from the Independents to take control. The Conservatives fought a hard campaign, putting up candidates in every ward - but made no impact. The result was a powerful vindication of the council’s capable handling of the Covid pandemic, under the strong direction of Plaid’s leader Llinos Medi.

In Gwynedd, Plaid won 44 of the 69 seats, gaining three from Independents. Gwynedd saw a significant number of younger Plaid councillors elected – many of them women too – and I know that the newly elected local champions like Llio Elenid Owen, Menna Mai Jones, Dewi Jones, Beca Roberts, Sasha Williams, Rhys Tudur and Kim Jones will be powerful and energetic young voices on the council.

The Ceredigion, too, the result was historic, and a clear signal that people in the area have appreciated the leadership that’s been shown by the council during the Covid crisis.  The Liberal Democrats had failed to contest a number of wards, and the Independents, too, lost ground.

In Carmarthenshire, although we gained two seats and won overall control, I was saddened that Plaid’s leader Emlyn Dole, lost his Llanon seat by just eight votes. Emlyn’s wise counsel will be much missed in Carmarthenshire and in local government circles across Wales – and what he’s achieved in Carmarthenshire will stand his successor, Darren Price, in good stead. I have no doubt that Darren, a young and experienced councillor, will provide Carmarthenshire with dynamic and energetic leadership.

This is the first time since local government reorganisation that Plaid Cymru has secured a majority on four councils: it can only be interpreted as a huge vote of confidence in Plaid Cymru leadership in local government, and a result of the excellent track record of Plaid Cymru councillors in all these areas.

But Plaid Cymru excelled outside these four local authorities, too - in Wrexham, the hard work of our councillors and activists was rewarded with significant gains as we tripled our number of councillors. In Neath Port Talbot, the historic election result which saw Labour lose overall control for the first time ever, has seen our group of 12 councillors enter into talks on a platform of key Plaid policies to form a new progressive administration with independent councillors, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Similar advances were also made in Powys, the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff – where, in the latter, our cross-party initiative of the Common Ground alliance with the Greens returned two councillors in Pentyrch and St Fagans in the persons of Andrea Gibson and Rhys Livesy.

I was so proud of the slate of candidates who stood for us across Wales: many of them were young, many were women, and many were people of colour. But there is always more to be done and we are determined to build to make sure that Plaid is representative of our wonderfully diverse nation, in every part of Wales.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that the party has some heavy lifting to do in some areas of Wales. For instance, our losses in the Rhondda means the work of rebuilding locally must begin right away. Similarly, we have work to do in places like Monmouth and Pembrokeshire, to ensure that by the next election, everyone will have the chance to vote for Plaid Cymru representatives.

Because although elections can be bruising, at their best, they are a celebration of community, and a chance to change things.  I want to pay tribute to all Plaid Cymru councillors who have worked so hard for their communities, many of whom were long serving, who weren’t returned to office. And I’d also pay tribute to all of those who stood – perhaps for the first time – and didn’t win this time.

Standing for public office is a difficult thing – it can be intimidating, and takes great courage, and you should all be so proud of what you achieved over the course of your campaigns: you each stood on a positive platform of pledges to tackle the housing crisis, extend free school meals, and free childcare to support households across Wales. You stood because you believed that our communities are best represented when we have a strong team of Plaid Cymru councillors working together to make a difference. And we know that this is still true.

And in a week when the pomp and pantomime politics of Westminster was contrasted so markedly with the plans to create a stronger, more equal and representative Senedd, I’m left feeling a sense of quiet resolve to keep going – for the future of our nation, and for our party.

The youthful energy, the drive, and the confidence I’ve seen over the last few weeks in our party and in our country has truly been a thing to behold. Let’s keep that momentum going and channel that energy into growing and building our party from the ground up so we can continue to make a difference. 

So get active. Join a local Plaid Cymru branch. Start those conversations with friends and family.

And if you haven’t taken that step yet – join Plaid Cymru today. You’ll never look back.