My attention has been drawn to something which was said to Welsh Conservatives at their policy forum last weekend and has been overlooked.
It gives an insight into the party’s intentions for next year’s local elections and, I think, into a wider strategy.
Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan told party members that next year, they should aim to challenge Labour in its traditional heartlands in the South Wales valleys.
The Conservatives were the third largest political group (if you discount Independents) after the last elections in 2008 and hope to move up the ladder.
Last time the party fielded candidates in every council apart from one. This time, Cheryl Gillan reckons, it can match that as well as putting up candidates in more wards.
There are some other motives here though as well as the obvious desire to win more seats.
The first is the idea which I’ve heard expressed that by fielding more candidates, the Conservatives will ‘keep Labour busy’ in its Valleys heartlands and parts of the North, stopping Labour from ‘spilling over’ into areas where the Tories have better prospects.
The second is, I think, part of a longer-term effort which I’ve reported on before to establish a narrative that Wales is ‘returning to two-party politics.’
As I’ve said before both the Conservatives and Labour show clear signs of following this strategy. And, as I’ve also said before, this presents a major challenge to Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats to prevent it taking hold.
Here’s the press notice of what Cheryl Gillan said to the Policy Forum:
Welsh Conservatives must challenge Labour in their heartlands at next year’s local elections, Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan has said.
Speaking at the party’s policy forum in Cardiff yesterday, Mrs Gillan urged colleagues to continue to build on the success of recent elections and reach beyond the areas of traditional support.
Welsh Conservatives are defending more than 170 seats next May and overall control of Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan councils.
At the conference Mrs Gillan urged the party to fight as many seats as possible across Wales, including in the traditionally Labour areas.
She said: “We must give the electors an opportunity to vote for another party – the Welsh Conservative Party. Labour has repeatedly let Wales down. Those areas of traditional Labour support have been left behind.
“We’ve taken our party forward at every election in Wales since David Cameron became leader, in the teeth of opposition from Labour. With a clear message both now and in next year’s local elections we will take decisions in the best interests of Wales and the people that live here.”