Sunday, 25 September 2011

Welsh By-Election Preview : September 29th 2011

Wales may only have 22 local authorities (compared to the 32 in Scotland and several hundred in England) but every now and again there comes a by-election that throws the normal electoral rules into reverse. And next week we have one such by-election as the electors in the Diffwys and Maenofferen ward on Gwynedd County Council are asked whether they are prepared to continue their support of Llais Gwynedd's policy of the retention of Welsh medium education in Gwynedd as opposed to Plaid Cymru's policy of closing them.

(Sorry about that, had a very strange feeling of deja vu for a moment then)

In the 2008 local elections, Plaid (who had been in control of Gwynedd since it's formation in 1995) faced a challenge from the party who stood in opposition to the council's policy of closing Welsh medium schools and in those elections scored a number of successes, not least ousting the leader of the council and the chairman of Plaid Cymru, Dafydd Iwan and Diffwys and Maenofferen was one of those gains

Yes, you're right. We are all suffering from a case of deja vu, and here's the reason why. On July 15th 2010, Diffwys and Maenofferen went to the polls to elect a new councillor after the previous councillor was jailed for attacking his estranged wife. Llais Gwynedd held the seat (Llais 51% Plaid 49%) and Cllr. Richard Lloyd Jones became the new member. However, in July of this year, he tendered his resignation from the council (after only 361 days as a councillor) citing "extra family and work commitments" meaning that on Thursday the electors of Diffwys and Maenofferen will face their third election for a councillor in three years (and their fourth in four years at next year's local elections) and it will be another Plaid Cymru / Llais Gwynedd straight fight.

On the same day and in another part of the county in the ward of Penrhyndeudraeth another by-election will held following the resignation of Cllr. Dewi Eirwyn Lewis after allegations that he stole £53,000 from the post office he ran in the village where he was the councillor. He pleaded guilty to the allegations in August 2011 and was jailed for 16 months. In this by-election there are three candidates. Plaid (who will be seeking to defend the seat), Llais Gwynedd (hoping to increase their tally to 14 seats) and an Independent.


  1. What a remarkable opening paragraph.

    The question of retaining Welsh medium education isn't an issue. Where school are closed & children move, they're educated through the medium of Welsh in their new schools.

    The issue is the number of buildings rather than the medium of the education provided. You confuse two entirely seperate matters.

  2. Plaid Cymru closing Welsh medium schools! Ha ha ha! That's hardly likely is it? Opening more of them perhaps...

  3. Menaiblog's comments are disingenuous, as he knows there are no Welsh medium schools in Gwynedd all of the counties schools are considered to be naturally bilingual. How much prominence each language gets as part of the bilingual mix is dependent on the attitude of teachers, governors and parents. Closing bilingual schools where there is a strong emphasis on the Welsh language element and sending their pupils to schools where the emphasis on Welsh isn't as strong is part of the Plaid /Llais debate.

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  5. The 'Welsh Medium' schools debate is a bit of a red herring here. Harry's original post is almost right ... the debate is about closing small rural schools, whatever the precise bilingual mix. Llais Gwynedd have opposed the closures very vociferously - Plaid have implemented a plan of closures and actions short of closure. Both wards will be very interesting to watch on Thursday night

  6. The medium of teaching also depends on the county's education policy.

    If Alwyn knows of any schools where Welsh was the medium of instruction which has been closed & the children sent to a school where English is the medium, I'm sure he's willing to name the school involved

  7. BlogMenai is the head teacher of a school in Gwynedd, he knows better than most that the statement that I made above "that all schools in Gwynedd are considered to be naturally bilingual" is factual. There are no Welsh medium Schools in the county and there are no English medium schools in the county, so asking me to provide examples of pupils being transferred from Welsh Medium to English medium schools in Gwynedd is silly.

    As a head teacher BlogMenai also knows that the level of Welsh / English ethos and teaching in Gwynedd's bilingual schools is not the same in each and every school in the county.

    BlogMenai is also a Plaid Cymru activist who has opposed Llais Gwynedd since its formation, so he knows what the arguments between Llais and Plaid are. There is no doubt that one of Llais' arguments has been that the council wishes to close some schools which have a strong Welsh language ethos and move the pupils to schools where the ethos and teaching isn't as strong. BlogMenai might claim that this is a false argument and that Plaid councillors aren't doing anything of the sort, but surely he can't reasonably claim that such an argument (however unjust) is nonexistent as he seems to attempt to do in his comment above!