A campaign leaflet from our local Liberal Democrat Assembly Member (Kirsty Williams) flopped through my letterbox yesterday. And what a flop it is!
With the inevitable dreariness of a wet Sunday afternoon, it features the trademark Lib Dem bar chart. This one shows the result of last year’s general election, which the Liberal Democrats lost to the Conservatives, with Labour coming third. “It’s still a Two Horse race here in Brecon and Radnorshire” the headline misleadingly proclaims.
It’s misleading because it takes no account of voter intentions. The Lib Dem share of the vote nearly halved, from 46 per cent in 2010 – when that party won the seat – to 28 per cent. To take the seat, the Tory vote increased by just four per cent (37 per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent in 2015). Labour’s share increased by a similar margin (11 per cent to 15 per cent). But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
On the doorstep last year, Labour campaigners met many people who said they were disillusioned with the Liberal Democrats because of the Coalition Government. Some said they would abandon the Lib Dems – but others said they would continue voting Lib Dem, tactically, to keep the Tory out.
That worked well, didn’t it?
Those people are still unhappy with the Lib Dems – and our AM, Kirsty Williams, was a supporter of the Coalition, let’s not forget (although she seems to be trying). The voters will remember that their tactical vote didn’t stop the Tories last year, and may try something different this time around.
So the way we all voted last year won’t tell us anything about the way votes will go in May.
The rest of the leaflet is pro-Kirsty propaganda, as one might expect.
“Llandrindod High School under threat” is one headline, above a story in which we are told Kirsty spoke against a plan to merge two high schools. Meanwhile the Labour candidate, Alex Thomas, took the school’s petition against closure around the town’s residents, collecting their signatures and support and actually doing something to help.
“Work starts on Llandrindod Wells Hospital” headlines an article on a £5.3 million redevelopment which Ms Williams claims she secured. Very nice – shame it isn’t true. The February 25 edition of local paper the Brecon and Radnor Express quotes Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford (of the Labour Party), who said: “Dr John Matson, the local GP lead, made the case for how much more could be done with a relatively modest amount of investment.
“We went back to the Assembly [and] found some money.” This is a Welsh Labour scheme and nothing to do with Ms Williams.
Over the page, “Kirsty secures extra money for local services” is another lie. This Writer personally researched the facts and it seems Powys County Council had requested £1.7 million extra funding from the Labour-run Welsh Government – receiving £1.93 million in return. That happened because the Assembly has tried to find extra money to mitigate the extremity of cuts to rural counties every year – not because of any meetings Kirsty Williams might have had with ministers. She isn’t a member of the Welsh Government; she didn’t affect its decision.
Finally, we have “Kirsty calls for level crossing to stay open”. Network Rail is re-evaluating a level crossing in Llandrindod Wells, with a bias towards closing it due to the high number of deaths that occur on these crossings (although not necessarily this one).
Ms Williams is right to say closing the crossing would damage the town – but suppose Network Rail kept it open and somebody died. Would she accept the blame for it? Doubtful.
Again, it’s the Labour candidate who has come up with a better answer. Alex Thomas wants the crossing redeveloped so it still provides a link for both vehicles and pedestrians. Alternatively, Network Rail should provide ongoing compensation to any business likely to lose income as a result of the suggested closure. Mr Thomas’s proposal is safe, and it is fair. Ms Williams’s idea is not.
If this is the quality of campaigning we can expect from the Liberal Democrats, it’s no wonder they only have eight MPs. Let’s hope they lose a few of their five Assembly members too.
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