Labour has swept to power in Caerphilly County Borough after thrashing Plaid Cymru in the local election.
After losing control of the local authority in 2008 to a minority Plaid Cymru administration, Labour made the most of a national bounce in popularity and got a healthy majority winning 50 seats against Plaid’s 20. Three seats went to independents.
Labour group leader Harry Andrews said: “This is a truly wonderful feeling. This is a superb result – no-one could have predicted the margin we achieved.
“But it has been achieved, and it has been achieved by the consistent involvement of party members. First of all with the campaign for our MP, succeeded by the campaign for our AM and then since last September, we have canvassed every week.”
Cllr Andrews said one of the reasons for the mauling of Plaid was the decision to refuse planning permission for a new Morrisons supermarket on Blackwood Gate Retail Park.
He added: “It’s fair to say it started rather innocuous but has become a major factor and has contributed, possibly, to the downfall of some councillors.”
One such councillor was Plaid’s council leader Allan Pritchard who lost his council seat of Penmaen after almost 20 years service as a councillor.
Plaid were quick to point to the national swing towards Labour and said voters had elected Labour on national issues and not local issues.
Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies – another of Plaid’s big hitters to lose their seat – said: “I’m very disappointed. The election was fought and won on the basis of the Labour Party claim that a vote here in Caerphilly County Borough would somehow send a message to David Cameron.
“That is a false claim. We’ll wake up tomorrow and still have David Cameron.
“It was about Westminster politics.”
Mr Davies conceded defeat in the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen ward early on in the night and stayed at the count until 5.50am waiting for the official result to be called. He could be seen looking on at celebrating Labour activists and by the time the result was called, he had gone.
The former Labour MP’s successor in Parliament, Wayne David, was also early with his prediction that Labour would have a successful night.
At around 11.30pm he confidently declared that it looked encouraging, but judging by the faces of some Labour supporters, even they were taken aback by the scale of Labour’s win.
Just as Labour were early in their predication of a strong showing, so were Plaid in their own predictions they would do badly. Plaid were stunned and hurt at how badly they did.
Plaid’s Deputy deputy group Colin Mann, who retained his Llanbradach seat alongside councillor Rob Gough, said: “The extent of the Labour gains has been a surprise.
“Plaid Cymru has certainly not reaped the reward for running an excellent council over the last few years. I think a lot of people don’t realise who runs the council. The Labour Party has really used its propaganda to vote against Cameron.
“They have conned a lot of the electors and convinced them this was somehow a verdict on the Tory coalition government.”
He added: “We’ll regroup and when you take in the record of this council, we’ll probably regain it next time. This council has never stayed in the same political hands for more than one session and I can see us winning it back.”
Read our liveblog from the count as it happened.