European elections are strange old things at the best of times, but none more so than these latest ones which were far less about European issues than ever before. You hardly have to be a genius to work out that Brown's unpopularity, the expenses row, email smears, the recession and so on were the real issues at the forefront of people's minds when they cast their vote, not Europe.
Much analysis has been going on all day, with many people trying to predict how these results will translate in a general election. I can understand why people do it, but I wouldn't place down any bets based solely on last night's results. Ok, so it was a fantastic result for the Conservatives and a shocking/ disastrous/ devastating night for Labour so its safe to say that it seems certain that David Cameron will be leading the next UK government. But as for individual seats in Wales, there are other factors that need to be taken into account before making sweeping predictions. Turnout in a general election will be higher, plus people will be voting for individual candidates rather than a party. Yes, there will be an element of punishing the current government and Labour will lose ground and the Conservatives will gain ground, but its not an accurate reflection. As for my own party, though Plaid Cymru won in all of our target seats for the general election, we can't become complacent and if that is to become a reality, then its going to take a lot of hard work to secure such a victory. Whilst last night was certainly encouraging, its no guarantee - and the same goes for every political party. It's amazing to think though that there was less than three per cent separating the Conservatives, Labour and Plaid Cymru in this election. It just goes to show that everything is to play for, and that every political party needs to re-evaluate, especially in light of the obvious protest vote that UKIP and the BNP picked up.
I've been trying to find out all day what the actual numbers were in Montgomeryshire in the 2004 euro election. I seem to remember that the Lib Dems didn't do we as well that time either, and think the Conservatives even topped the poll then. Can anyone help me out, maybe Glyn? I think Plaid's percentage was a bit higher last time as well - possibly 17% - and yet that wasn't reflected in the General Election. Either way, the Conservatives in Montgomeryshire can't get carried away by last night's result. Yes, it was a good result but its by no way a guaranteed victory. Also, if I were Glyn I'd be worried that UKIP might be tempted to put forward a candidate having performed so well, coming second in Montgomeryshire. That would certainly be a blow to his campaign and shake things up quite a bit...
Shame neither Glyn nor Lembit were at the count though. They should have been, if only to look at the spoiled ballot papers as I did. People were very clear in those that they wanted a General Election and that they'd lost all faith in politicians. Just a shame the two leading candidates for the seat weren't there to look at the messages for themselves and that one chose to be at home blogging instead. Certainly doesn't send out the right message in terms of listening to the electorate!
From a personal perspective, I was encouraged by the Plaid Cymru vote especially given that we didn't run any sort of campaign for the European election in Montgomeryshire. As I'm just newly into a job, I couldn't take the time off to co-ordinate a local team and as a result, barely nothing was done to get out our vote or increase it. I do feel bad about that, and I vow that things will be different between now and the General Election whenever that may be. People will definitely see a huge Plaid presence in the constituency from now on, and I will be campaigning full time once the election is called. I am determined to give the other candidates a run for their money, and also determined to increase our vote significantly. There's no way on earth I'll settle for fourth place, and we are certainly on track to overtake Labour for that bronze position. Obviously I'd love to do better than that and we are running to win, but it will take time to re-build Plaid Cymru in Montgomeryshire and I am realistic about that. Time will tell anyway!