Labour candidate: We will lose seats

The man heading the Labour list in North Wales predicts his party will lose seats in Thursday's vote

The picture across Wales varies dramatically and although there is certainly some disillusionment with Labour, this is not translating into votes for any of the other parties.

As a regional candidate I get to taste the political air across North Wales and I’m predicting a few surprise outcomes.

First of all, turnout for Labour in the past two Assembly elections was low and my assessment is that disgruntled Labour voters who intend to stay at home on May 3rd probably failed to vote in 2003.
Consequently, Labour's vote will not fall by much.

Support for the Tories has increased, but my impression is this due to a desire to hurt Labour. Here in Wales the Cameron effect is non-existent and any rise in the Tory vote should not be seen as a positive endorsement of the party.

Plaid Cymru have the problem of reaching out beyond those who speak Welsh as a first language. My guess is that without the language issue, their support might have been in the 30s instead of languishing in the
low 20s. In contrast to the SNP (for whom a native Scottish dialect has never been an election issue) Plaid Cymru’s appeal will always be limited to those who speak Welsh fluently.

Finally, I see the Liberal Democrat vote in North Wales struggling to reach 10 per cent. Because disgruntled Labour voters will stay at home instead of switching their votes, the Liberal Democrats will not benefit from the Iraq effect this time around.

Turnout in Alyn and Deeside back in 2003 was shamefully low – less than 25 per cent. This time it will be different. I predict a significant increase in Labour’s safest seat in the North and I’m also sticking my
neck out over the result. I reckon Carl Sargeant will be the only Labour AM to increase both the size and proportion of Labour’s vote.

Similarly, Wrexham is looking like a Labour gain. Independent John Marek has worked hard on the Polish vote, but at the expense of his core supporter. He sent out literature in English and Polish, yet the
number of Poles on the electoral register is said to be just 200.

Elsewhere in North Wales I see Labour losing a couple of seats, probably to the Tories.

My forecast is that Labour in Wales will not do as badly as the national polls suggest. We’ll fall to 27 (down two) whereas the Tories will gain a handful. The effect of the regional top-up system will offset some of Labour’s losses and limit the success of the Conservatives. Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats will barely move, so a coalition could yet be avoided if Rhodri has the courage to continue with minority rule.

Kenneth Skates is top of the Labour list in North Wales, 31 years old, he is PA to Mark Tami MP and a former journalist.
Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.