The Price of Democracy

Tonight, the 31st of August 2023 a real victory for Gwlad was delivered in the Penllergaer East ward. Now based on the opening line you would assume that Gwlad had made it across the line in a tightly fought election, however nothing could be further from the truth, we were soundly beaten 387 votes to 14 by Independent candidate Dave Harris!

There would be some who upon seeing such a result would determine abject failure, but there is more to this situation than meets the eye.

Firstly we must explain what we in the Rhys ap Gruffydd branch would consider success to be in this local election, and it’s simple: to prevent the co-opting of a councillor to a position of representation via back door deals between current council members and their “chums”. We were successful and achieved our aim.

Our chairman and dogged community activist Wayne Erasmus, supported by others within the branch, was determined to prevent a co-option taking place and he put himself forward to instigate an election. The signatures were gathered and the election called. This act of democracy infuriated a current council member to the point that a complaint was made by Mrs. Wendy Fitzgerald to Wales’s counsel general and minister for the constitution, MS Mick Antoniw, that instigated a news article.

Successful candidate, Dave Harris, who stood as an Independent.

The article highlights Mrs Fitzgerald’s view that it was too expensive to run an election and that co-opting was the preferred way to fill the vacancy for the small community council, and as a result we as Gwlad ended up with some column inches to spread the word and bring attention to our cause – a good result and a win for us. We always knew that Gwlad would not likely win the seat but it was never our aim – we ran a candidate within the rules and ensured that Penllergaer had a councillor with a democratic mandate to represent the people, and what a mandate, 387 votes from a 20% turnout, these are great numbers for a community election, a real display of democracy in action, open, transparent and legitimate.

Wayne and Gwlad represented the community tonight, they may have rejected them in ballots cast but over 20% of the population Penllergaer East turned out to exercise their rights to democratic representation and we as Gwlad made that possible, despite the disappointing snide remarks following the declaration from a sitting councillor – unlike Dave Harris, who was dignified and respectful following his win, we wish councillor Harris every success in his position and hope he can deliver on his mandate.

Our victory tonight was not in ballots cast but in achieving our goals and delivering democracy, too often the political process is broken down into a meaningless pursuit of numbers rather than the act of service it should be. Did we want to win the seat? Of course we did, it would be wrong of us to deny it; but we are not disheartened or dismayed, but instead instilled with faith that the people of Wales want real representation and a transparent democratic process that produces representatives with the people and their needs the priority.

No price can be put on democracy, too much blood has been spilt over too many years to allow it to be disregarded as an essential part of our day to day lives. 14 people made their voices heard tonight – 14 people who without this election would have had no means to voice their preference but 387 people gave a clear mandate to councillor Harris and without Gwlad that would not have been possible.

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