Jacob Williams
Tuesday 23rd May, 2017
Winners and losers

Winners and losers

The 2017 Pembrokeshire County Council election has seen nineteen new councillors returned and some big changes to the chamber’s political composition.

Share this...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

Council leader of the 2012-2017 term, Cllr. Jamie Adams, eventually conceded defeat to his former cabinet member, Cllr. David Simpson, who mounted his challenge soon after the election results were known.

With nearly a week to gather his thoughts after running away from Simpson through lack of support, he now tells the Western Telegraph that he was “never precious about retaining the role of leader.”

Surprising, really, considering the new depths he shamelessly plumbed in his desperation to keep his mitts on the levers of power, as covered on this blog here, and here.

Slamming “some sections of the press and members with blogs” and lamenting “social media ‘keyboard warriors’,” PCC’s outgoing leader says he’s “not bitter” – before giving largely incomprehensible comments and advice to Simpson that can only be described as, well, bitter.

Adams’ independent party, in its various iterations, has held sway at County Hall since the authority formed.

Through some of its members’ retirements, defections and ballot box drubbings, the independent party – known as the IPG or IPPG – has been hacked right back to 14 members, from its pre-election 33-strong majority group status.

Only one councillor of the 2017 intake, Hundleton’s Margot Bateman, has so far joined Adams’ party.

Though not as dramatic, the Labour party didn’t have a good election either, winning only seven seats compared to 2012’s nine, whilst ‘proper’ independents, like me who sit as individual members not a part of a group, look to number 21 of PCC’s sixty councillors.

The biggest winner of the election was the Conservative group, which had three councillors before the election, now twelve.

In no particular order, let’s take a whistlestop tour of some – but not all – of the seats that changed hands, and some that didn’t.

The wager

On the night before election day I challenged the author of that other website, Cllr. Mike Stoddart, to predict the 47 contested council seats (13 councillors having already been returned unopposed.)

He was well up for the challenge and, of course, was the first to suggest we put a bottle of wine on it.

Grumpette (Cllr. Vivien Stoddart) got wind of our little wager and wanted in on the fun. Feeling confident, Grumpy suggested we allowed not only Grumpette but their daughter, Cllr. Tessa Hodgson, into the predictor stakes.

I thought he was just being inclusive, until he followed it straight up with: “…and if we all put a bottle of wine on it, the winner will have FOUR bottles to get through!”

It wasn’t the best bet I’ve ever placed. Not because I wasn’t confident, au contraire – I’m not a wine drinker.

Viv correctly predicted the winners in 28 wards, Mike got 33 right, Tessa picked 34 victors but I won the pool – and the plonk – by predicting 35 of the 47 councillors.

One of the notable features of this election is just how many recounts took place and seats were won by single digits.

Margins of 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 votes featured, and it’s said to be unlucky for some but in the county’s northwest city, Saint David himself scraped ahead by a mere 13 votes!

Amroth

Having represented the ward from 2004-2017, outgoing chairman Tony Brinsden (unaffiliated independent) stepped down from the council.

He endorsed his predecessor, Mary Megarry, who’d won the seat as a Conservative by twelve votes in 1999, before stepping down at the next election.

Standing this time as a Liberal Democrat, Megarry faced a sole opponent to realise her comeback: Tony Baron, Conservative.

It went down to the wire as Baron pipped Megarry by two votes – 225-223 – the smallest majority of all sixty county councillors.

Many thought the Lib Dem gain was preordained, some say Mary included – who blames Theresa May’s snap general election announcement for her slim defeat.

The Conservatives’ impressive surge across the county this election, and this result in particular, leaves no doubt that every single vote counts.

Amroth was declared early on, and was to set the tone of unexpected Tory gains, including Pembroke’s St. Mary North ward by six votes.

Camrose

Widely unpopular across Pembrokeshire, council leader Jamie Adams (like several candidates in this election) defended his seat by a plurality of votes – in his case a mere 36%, ninety votes ahead of his closest rival from the four runners.

The result may have been so much different had the field not been so crowded.

Chief among those in Pembrokeshire pondering ‘what might have been’ are the Camrose 768 – the other 64% of voters whose crosses went to other candidates.

For there may be no coincidence that Camrose residents turned out in their droves to cast their ballots, providing (fractionally) the second highest turnout – 58.3% – well above the countywide average of 47.5%.

Incidentally this was to be their first local authority election in thirteen years, Adams having been returned unopposed in 2008 and 2012.

2022 seems so far away!

Crymych

Keith Lewis, first elected in 2012, was one of the ruling IPPG’s most trusty. Immediately promoted to the cabinet, he rose to the heady heights of the deputy leadership, where he served out his tenure.

Unlike many of his cronies who took themselves way too seriously, Keith had a sense of humour and a limited willingness to hear (though rarely persuaded by) other people’s views.

This semblance of a personality is perhaps why none of us in the predictor saw his defeat coming.

Big things were planned for Lewis – and it’s widely speculated that, had he survived the 2017 ballot box, he would right now be angling to become PCC’s new leader.

Unluckily for the former baker, Plaid Cymru’s Cristoffer Tomos had other ideas – and so did Crymych voters, who gave him a toasting.

In an exact rerun of the seat’s two-horse 2012 poll, the good burghers of Crymych overturned Keith’s handsome majority and placed their confidence this time in Tomos, who may never realise just how he’s changed the face of Pembrokeshire council.

Whilst I hesitate to be too tough on Keith, he played an absolutely pivotal role in some of the authority’s most shameful episodes of the 2012-17 term.

He was a member of the small constitutional review sub-committee which considered my long-championed proposal for PCC’s leader to be elected annually, rather than once every five years.

This cross-party working group – Keith included – agreed that it would meet me half way by supporting a leadership election every other year, and formally recommended that the constitution be amended accordingly.

Perhaps with an ambitious eye on his future career prospects, when it came to formally adopting biennial leadership terms at full council, up popped Keith with his own amendment, totally out of the blue.

He said he actually now wanted the leader to be elected for the duration of the council – five years – despite having previously supported two year terms.

Keith’s proposal was thankfully voted down, only narrowly, and two-year leadership terms were approved – but his sneaky U-turn lost him considerable credit in my book.

And even I had forgotten, until recently reading through one of my back-issues, how instrumental he was in the Bryn Parry-Jones saga.

Bryn’s gross misconduct allegations were before a committee, chaired by Lewis, who decided it was appropriate to consider how the potty-mouthed Porsche driver could be paid off to avoid a protracted investigation.

Instead of pressing ahead with the committee’s task – to probe the disgraced CEO’s misdeeds – Keith steered deliberations, no doubt with pressure from on high, toward the fishy negotiations which eventually saw BP-J part company with the council with minimal fuss – but a monumental cash bonus.

And who can forget his role in the outrageous Valentine’s day massacre – where opposition councillors were targeted in the most appalling way.

The gutter-level ambush sparked an unprecedented Western Telegraph front-page editorial.

In an attempt to apply pressure on us councillors who’d expressed disapproval of the discredited former chief exec, Keith went all amateur dramatic.

His head was famously seen bobbing up and down at the bottom of the newfangled webcast, as he left, re-entered and left the chamber again in his part of the carefully choreographed audacious stunt.

Keith must now find a new arena in which to tread the boards.

Martletwy

Crymych’s Cris Tomos indubitably claimed the biggest scalp of them all in deputy leader Keith Lewis, but my result of the 2017 council election was in Martletwy.

It saw cabinet member, former deputy leader and fix-it extraordinaire, Rob Lewis, defeated in spectacular fashion.

I’d known Lewis was in serious trouble for many months from various sources of anecdotal evidence, and while many were surprised by the outcome, all four of us in the predictor stakes pencilled it in.

Conservative party stalwart, Diane Clements, won the seat resoundingly, trouncing the former JCB driver by more than two-to-one.

The Martletwy ward is a strange beast, both geographically and demographically, and if he was flavour of the month in his home corner, Lewis’ support across the ward overall certainly vanished since his clear 2012 majority.

No doubt his lowly antics, as detailed in my website’s Partygate series, brought his nature to a wider audience.

And if that didn’t, his suspension from office following the subsequent formal probe – where he held his hands up but still pled that the rules weren’t clear – surely did.

Click for the full story

His involvement alongside Keith Lewis in the Valentine’s Day massacre – where he gleefully held up newspaper cuttings as part of the pre-arranged ambush – was another low point.

Ex-Cllr. Lewis may have been the model local councillor to many, for whom he was helpful and ‘got things done.’

Dealing with constituents’ queries efficiently is one thing, and he may have done lots for his community, but there were patterns to ex-Cllr. Lewis’ behaviour and actions in elected office which showed a complete contempt for the paying public, on whose behalf he was supposed to work.

‘Upstanding,’ ‘noble’ and ‘principled’ are the last words anyone would use to describe his council behaviour.

Lewis’ greasy fingerprints were all over so many of PCC’s outrages over the past decade, and if his face wasn’t linked to one scandal or the other, you could guarantee that maniacally loyal Rob was working hard behind the scenes.

Cunningly conniving to keep his ruling ‘independent’ party together and in a position of unswerving dominance, he was a schemer: a fixer’s fixer.

He and many others will have learned through this election there are only so many times even the most active local councillor can ‘manure’ all over his electorate in County Hall before they have enough.

Having served practically his entire council career as a cabinet member and deputy leader, Lewis plopped from a great height, time after time.

However I’m pleased to say the Landshipping loser’s legacy will live on.

Councillors like me who, unlike Rob, honour our pledges to serve our electorates as independent councillors should be able to simply call ourselves independent.

But thanks to his IPPG and the IPG before it, who hijacked the term ‘independent,’ Rob was all too aware how their antics had made the word meaningless when referring to councillors who are independent of any others, i.e. not affiliated to any political group.

In 2012 I acquired a haul of Lewis’ secret files, which, along with election leaflets he created for his chums, broke all the rules about political use of public resources. They were never supposed to be known by the public, never mind seen, but I acquired them and published them on my website.

These files, including pre-election plotting documents, revealed so much of the inner-working of PCC’s ruthless and ceaselessly scheming non-political political party.

One gem was how he referred to unaffiliated independent councillors as ‘Uglies’ and ‘Idiots.’

Plaid Cymru councillor Michael Williams jovially distinguishes ‘independent party’ members from us proper independent councillors by calling us ‘the mongrels’ or ‘the great unwashed.’

Unaffiliated, non-affiliated, unaligned, non-aligned, ‘proper independent,’ ‘true independent’ and ‘dictionary independent’ are just some of the many other monikers used by necessity.

Being good-humoured sorts, quite a few of us use the term ‘uglies’ or ‘the uglies’ almost exclusively – and it’s certainly the most commonly used descriptor among ‘ugly’ councillors, which we wear as a badge of honour.

We can only imagine Rob’s secret new nickname for Cllr. Di Clements…

Scleddau

One of the Conservative newbies we all saw coming was the election of 24-year-old Samuel Kurtz.

He defeated IPPG member, Owen James, who was himself elected as a Tory in 2012, but refused to join the group, serving as an unaffiliated councillor before joining the IPPG.

As well as how nice it is to see more of the clichéd young blood on the council, Kurtz shows promise.

His early declaration that he would not be voting for Jamie Adams to become leader – long before his group followed suit – showed the sort of clear expression his predecessor, who seemed to only speak in riddles, sorely lacked.

Haverfordwest Prendergast and Narberth

One of the difficulties with predictors like this is when you have no local feel or knowledge of any candidates in a particular race. It’s probably for that reason none of us called the Prendergast result.

Having been uncontested in 2008 and 2012, this open seat drew a field of four candidates when long-standing IPPG councillor Mark Edwards announced he’d be stepping down.

As Edwards had first been elected as a Conservative, albeit many years ago, and given the Tory surge elsewhere, they surely fancied their chances.

Against the backdrop of a pretty lacklustre election for the Labour party, its gain here was all the more impressive.

Alison Tudor, wife of the town’s long-serving Labour councillor Tom Tudor, won in her first election – commanding a considerable 192 majority over the second-placed Tory.

The Tudors join Old Grumpy and Grumpette, a.k.a. Cllrs. Mike and Vivien Stoddart, as the authority’s second married couple.

Meanwhile in Narberth, the IPPG lost another seat to Labour after Wynne Evans stood down.

Vic Dennis beat two others to clinch the seat by 28 votes.

A staunch union man, who only recently retired from PCC, Dennis is one to watch and I’m sure has strong potential to make valuable contributions to the chamber, the authority and his constituents.

Letterston

Only three founding members of Pembrokeshire County Council – i.e. those who were first elected in 1995 – are still councillors.

Tenby’s Michael Williams, Neyland’s Simon Hancock and Haverfordwest’s Tom Tudor.

The other councillors who, until this election, served right from the very start were: John Allen-Mirehouse (Hundleton) and Peter Stock (Haverfordwest) who both stood down, and Letterston’s Tom Richards.

The consummate ‘independent’ party devotee, Richards had a close brush with a Tory in the 2012 poll, which surely made his decision to seek the party’s nomination himself this time around.

But being the Conservative candidate didn’t help Tom in the slightest – he came bottom of the pile of three.

But it was the way Michelle Bateman, who I’m reliably informed is steadfast in her determination to remain an ‘ugly’ independent, led the pack that most impressed JW.

With a majority of 339, Bateman received the largest majority of the 2017 intake – a prize East Williamston voters gave me in 2012, and a feat we both accomplished by unseating ruling party incumbents as first-time election candidates.

Hundleton

The aforementioned John Allen-Mirehouse stood down. Hoping to replace him were four candidates – one of whom, Nicola Hancock, he nominated.

But the best she could manage was third place, as Margot Bateman OBE – who Johnny narrowly beat in 2012 – cruised to victory.

Yet Bateman has already caused disappointment all-round because, despite standing as an independent candidate, she’s signed up to Jamie Adams’ ruling ‘independent’ party, defying her pre-election claims.

I’ll soon be writing in a lot more detail about what went on here – in a dedicated post.

Carew, Pembroke St. Mary South, Merlin’s Bridge

I group the defeats of these three IPPG uber-loyalists because they’re similar stories.

It’s hard to think of much to say about the erstwhile Carew councillor, David Neale, or Merlin’s Bridge’s Umelda Havard, who at any time had little to say for themselves.

Daphne Bush, on the other hand, never stopped.

But when it came to the council chamber, the three were united in silence. Mute, raising their hands to vote when they were expected to, it’s no wonder these – surely the toadiest ruling independent party guys and gals – held their seats this long.

Neale was beaten comfortably by Plaid Cymru’s Paul Rapi. The former secondary school teacher was head of music in Tenby’s Greenhill, and in my first year there was my form tutor.

Any rumours that it was his decision to hive me off to any other teacher for my second year are, you must believe, purest fantasy.

Of the four runners in her Pembroke seat, Bush only avoided coming dead last by a whisker, with the seat – another Tory gain – going by 72 votes to Aaron Carey.

I’ll never forget at the 2012 election count standing next to Daphne’s teary-eyed predecessor, Rosalie Lilwall, who was overcome with joy when Daphne’s eight-vote victory – the narrowest of the 2012 election – was announced.

A similarly obsequious ruling party member, Rosie had stepped down and Daphne was her protégé.

I spotted her again at this year’s election count, where I couldn’t help but notice she deals with bad news far better. No histrionics this time!

Umelda Havard, meanwhile, did come bottom of the pile – with John Cole (proper independent) leading the pack of three independents by a long way.

Pembroke Dock Central

With six candidates vying to replace retiring Labour-IPPG turncoat, Alison Lee, this race was an eye-opener.

Dirty campaigning – from many quarters – saw the sort of antics you might expect in communist China.

Candidates seemed to have the police on speed dial, reporting each other for such varied claims as election poster rule breaches to alleged threats of violence!

The outcome here was just as notable – of 393 votes cast, a mere 24 votes separated the first four candidates, which saw Paul Dowson clinch the seat by the second slimmest majority of the election.

Just three votes separated Dowson from second-placed Terry Judkins, whose election leaflet was word-for-word a copy of the town’s Cllr. Brian Hall’s.

Only, wherever Hall claimed: “I have…” Judkins’ facsimile said: “I will…”

Dowson’s, shall we say, alternative style is sure to shake up the council chamber because, it would seem, nobody knows what he’ll say or do next…him included!

Maenclochog

Whilst his cabinet service as a ruling ‘independent’ party zealot leaves a lot to be desired, the genuine talents of Maenclochog councillor, the Rev. Huw George, at eulogising strangers has featured on these pages before.

It only remains to be seen if he’ll officiate the funerals of his defeated pals’ political careers.

Plaid Cymru’s John Rhys-Davies came a particularly uninspiring second against Huw at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections.

This year saw the party field Hefin Wyn to unseat the rockin’ Rev.

Click to hear Nigel Farage call Huw George a ‘ghastly puritan!’

And, given Huw’s torrent of bad press since the 2012 election, he surely thought he was in with a chance.

You may have forgotten – please tell me you hadn’t – that George was famously described last year by Nigel Farage as an “appalling human being” and a “ghastly puritan!”

Farage made his assessment of the Maenclochog minister in a BBC radio interview, which I saved for posterity, here.

The story goes that this ward’s outcome was looking particularly close on the day of the count.

Accordingly, after arriving for the sort, our ghastly puritan saw the ballot papers on the table – and the way the wind was blowing among his erstwhile colleagues.

Instead of hanging round for the handshake, he scarpered home before Maenclochog was declared.

At least, he thought he was in for bad news, but went on to retain the seat by 110 votes.

The other theory holds that Huw had to get back to the crem to conduct his next funeral.

There are two sides to every pancake

Pembroke Dock Llanion

I’ve developed grey strands, the odd wrinkle, and a bigger waistline than I care to calculate since being elected Pembrokeshire’s youngest councillor, aged 22, in 2012.

Fighting off two others in Pembroke Dock Llanion, that record was smashed by Labour candidate Joshua Beynon – who’s only 19!

In small talk with the returning officer when I handed in my council nomination papers, I recall saying how I believed PCC was about to see its first teenage councillor elected in Llanion.

A few weeks later, at the election count, I was fortunate to be near the Llanion table as it got underway.

Usually you can tell who’s ahead but this one was a mystery right until the counting officer revealed Beynon clinched it by nine.

Of course, us elders have a responsibility to youngsters and since his election I’ve tried to keep the young lad grounded.

We’ve already played tennis at least half a dozen times, where I’ve warned him that, with ex-British Lions centre, Peter Morgan’s re-election in The Havens, he’ll probably become the butt of ‘jokes’ about missing the school bus, forgetting his pencil case, etc.

But he can’t complain, because Arwyn Williams stood down this election – and I had to deal with the pair of them and their ‘banter!’

He tells me he’s avidly read up on the council’s shenanigans in recent years. And it was all going so well until he said he regularly visits OldGrumpy.co.uk.

I suppose somebody has to!

There are certain people you meet when canvassing who you’ll never forget.

At the start of my 2012 candidacy I befriended a very enthusiastic supporter in Cresselly, an elderly lady called Rene Beynon.

Rene was the salt of the earth and lived a hard life, beset with misfortune yet still had a heart of gold.

It’s difficult to imagine how she could have been more hopeful for my victory, and for “fresh meat” to be elected to the council.

As we both come from local families, it was no surprise she knew exactly who I was, and we sat talking for a long time in the back room (kitchen) of her old-fashioned cottage with a coal range.

On one of my electioneering rounds I recall carrying in the coal scuttle she’d just filled, from the back garden. Before I left she gave me a five pound note, which I refused.

But she wouldn’t let me – she said she was giving it to me “for luck,” and was most insistent I took it. I only did so because she gave me no option.

In conversation with Josh – who knows Cresselly’s in my ward – I learned that Rene was his grandmother.

I told him how, not only did I know and remember her but I visited her in her Milford Haven nursing home, months before she died.

If he’s anything like Rene, he won’t go far wrong.

And if he puts in 105%, one of these days he may be able to return my cross-court backhands with interest…


Share this...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

6 Comments...

  • Flashbang

    Can you please lead the charge for a shake up and clean out of all the dead wood staff at County Hall?

    The infamous legal department for a start is a waste of taxpayers’ money. I’m sure there are many others who were complicit in the last regime’s shady business practices who need to be shown the door.

    You can’t have good governance if there are those in positions of power who stymie what needs to be done to get the county away from the bad old days. Get them thrown out on their collective backsides and into the dole queue please.

  • Martin Lewis

    Great account Jacob, very humorous as usual and some great insights.

  • Keanjo

    Thank you Jacob for this amusing summary of the elections. I note Jamie acknowledges that he was ‘never precious’.

    One thing I shall miss with his not being leader is his unique use of the English language!

  • Ratcatcher

    Well done Jacob and the “true” returning independents, and welcome to all new councillors.

    I notice that Margot Bateman (I know that name from somewhere but can’t for the life of me think where) has already changed her loyalties, and proved what her word is worth.

    It is nice to see the nest has been stirred up and some of the rats have been sent running, but there are still more to get rid of.

    Perhaps now we have a chance to have a council that acts on behalf of the local ratepayers, rather than a pompous group of self important idiots who ride roughshod over us and ignore the views of the small bunch of trustworthy councillors.

    Keep on fighting on our behalf Jacob, and the small bunch of stalwarts, it really is appreciated!

    P.S. Is it true that you have some wine that you are trying to offload cheaply?!

  • Patrick

    I think this widely-watched webcast probably had an effect on the vote for Tom Richards.

  • Larry T. Lamb

    I well remember that Western Telegraph front page, but not half as well as the grovelling interview with Jamie Adams the week afterwards when they kissed, made up and promised never to do it again.

  • Have your say...

    Please complete this simple verification sum by typing the answer to the sum in the box below, then press Submit:

    E.g. If 6 + 3 appears below, type 9 then press Submit
    Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box