Sunday, May 04, 2008


Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey (as she was then known) was elected to the National Assembly for Wales in 2003 to represent Presceli Pembrokeshire. At last May's election, she was resoundingly defeated by Conservative, Paul Davies, who is making a name for himself speaking on cultural issues. In passing, I should record that if she had retained her seat, I would have retained my regional 'top-up' position as an Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales. Today, she has been selected as the Labour candidate to contest the forthcoming by-election in the Crewe and Nantwich constituency, though under her current name of Tamsin Dunwoody.

Tamsin's mother Gwyneth Dunwoody was a much respected, long serving MP, with a majority of 7,078. There are several reasons why this may not be enough to ensure Tamsin's victory. Firstly, there is the unseemly haste by Labour to hold this by-election, Gwyneth Dunwoody having died on 17th April. I don't know why, but it could be that Labour feels the great respect for the mother will be reflected in support for the daughter. But some Labour MPs are openly expressing their distaste for this tactic - and rightly so. Mrs Dunwoody had not been buried before the Party was openly discussing her replacement. It could backfire very badly indeed. It certainly deserves to. Or of course, Labour could have already written off the seat, and want to get all the bad news out of the way quickly - to clear the ground for a reshuffle based re-launch of the Prime Minister.

Tamsin was a member of the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee which I chaired during the last Assembly. She was appointed a Deputy Minister by Rhodri Morgan, and given a special responsibility to develop a strategy to tackle Bovine Tb by the Minister with this same responsibility, Carwyn Jones. She did have an independent streak, but nothing like as pronounced as her mother, and I was disappointed by the lack of urgency in bringing forward a Bovine Tb strategy - in stark contrast to her successor, Elin Jones. Perhaps she would have been more decisive had she been the Minister. The By-election is to be held on 22nd May. The Conservative Candidate is Edward Timpson.


Left Field said...

I don't think Gwyneth Dunwoody had a strong independent streak when first elected either. Also, as a Deputy Minister, you are bound by collective responsibility. Even Tony Benn towed the line when a minister.

Tamsin Dunwoody was selected by the members. She was not a shoo-in from the London party. So if Labour MPs have distaste, then they have it for ordinary members (probably another reason the party is up s**t creak)

I think the Labour party have made a tactical error holding the election so soon after the locals. I can't see opinion being turned round in 3 weeks. However, Tamsin Dunwoody is their best chance rather than some unknown New Labour clone.

The Tory candidate Edward Timpson has been getting his pictures in the local press for quite a while now, long before Gwyneth Dunwoody even had health problems. So probably has a high recognition factor.

The Lib Dems are once again facing both ways. They splutter about the unnecessary urgency of the by-election, yet the day the writ is moved, old candidate dumped, new one selected, Chris Rennard rolls into town (according to Newsnight) Website up, complete with one of their notorious graphs to 'prove' they can win.

Glyn Davies said...

left field - I agree that the unseemly rush might affect Tamsin's chances.

These graphs the Lib Dems produce just before elections are quite amusing. Last week I saw one where 'election experts' were announcing that Mr Dougie Bancroft was going to win the Newtown Central Ward on Powys County Council. We did not think this could possibly be true, and he went on to lose to Russell George by over 100 votes. Maybe this tactic used to work, but voters have got wise to it.

Welsh Spin said...

The trouble is the alternatoive would subject the poor folk of Crewe & Nantwich to an incessant bombardment from the yellow perils replete with the whole paraphrenalia of manufacted little 'pavement' issues. Both the main parties would be obliged to escalate in response, so you can make a case that a lightning campaign is the environmentally more friendly option ...

I was never a fan of 5 week Assembly campaigns either. If 3 weeks is long enough to elect a house of commons, it's long enough to elect any other tier.

Glyn Davies said...

Welsh spin - this is subjective. I too tend towards getting on with it - but in this instance it was insensitive to be discussing the by-election before the funeral - and it would have been better to allow another week or two, to prevent it looking like unseemly haste. That is how it looks and I think it will backfire on Labour.