Analysis ... South Wales East

This is the third in my series of analyses for the five electoral regions of Wales, following South Wales West and South Wales Central. In 2007 the result was:

South Wales East

1   Blaenau Gwent
2   Caerffili
3   Islwyn
4   Merthyr Tudful & Rhymni
5   Monmouthshire
6   Newport East
7   Newport West
8   Torfaen
Regional seats
1   Plaid Cymru
2   LibDem
3   Conservative
4   Plaid Cymru

The eight constituency seats were all held by Labour with the exception of Tory Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent, held by Trish Law as an independent affiliated to Peoples Voice. Two of the regional seats were won by Plaid, although one of these was lost to the Tories when Mohammad Asghar defected in 2009. Of the other two regional seats, one was won by the LibDems and one by the Tories.

The Constituency Vote

Monmouthshire is, and is certain to remain, rock solid Tory.

In Blaenau Gwent Trish Law is standing down, and even though Jayne Sullivan is standing as an independent with her backing, Blaenau Gwent seems certain to revert to Labour. Alun Davies ran a typically vicious personal campaign when first selected for the seat, but after Trish Law announced she was standing down he realized he no longer needed to.

The two Newport seats were not entirely comfortable wins for Labour. In Newport West the Tories ran them close with 34.6% of the vote to Labour's 40.5%, and in Newport East the LibDems got 27.6% to Labour's 32.0%. But because of the current ConDem coalition in Westminster, the share of the vote for each of these two parties is likely to go down, meaning that Labour should hold both without too much trouble.

The three remaining seats were all marked by strong showings from independents, but won by Labour. Merthyr Tudful and Rhymni had a total of five independents who between them collected 30.3% of the vote. It's a perfect illustration of why we would be better off with AV, because these candidates split the vote and allowed Labour an easy win. In Islwyn Plaid got a strong 21.6% of the vote, and because no independent is standing this time round our share of the vote should go up, but it still won't be enough to beat Labour.


The really interesting seat in this region is Caerffili. Plaid got 25.8% of the vote behind Labour's 34.6%, a margin that in itself would make this seat one of Plaid's main targets; but because the person who was standing as an independent is now Plaid's candidate, it has become a seat that Plaid should expect to win.

Ron Davies got 22.2% of the vote as an independent, and adding the two percentages together gives 48.0% ... which would beat Labour comfortably. But is it reasonable to add them together? My answer is yes. Plaid's core vote last time is going to remain largely intact, though subject to the same swings common to the rest of the country, of course. The question is whether Ron's own personal vote will stay with him. Fairly obviously those who turned against him because he was no longer in the Labour party had already done so in 2007, which indicates that they are more impressed with his personal qualities than his political affiliation. These people will not switch back to Labour. So it is only those who would rule out voting Plaid in any circumstances that will turn away from him now. Some of his 22.2% may feel that way, but it certainly won't be half.

So I think Ron Davies will make it, though it will be tighter than it otherwise would be simply because Labour are riding high in the national polls. It will be good to see him back, for the Assembly does not have that many heavyweights.


The Regional Vote

These are the details of the regional vote in 2007. Seats are determined by the percentage of the vote on the second ballot paper, but seats already won at constituency level are taken into account. After a seat has been won, the percentage necessary to win another seat is the original percentage divided by two, then three, then four, etc.

Labour ... 38.4%
Conservative ... 21.4%
Plaid Cymru ... 14.6%
LibDem ... 11.8%
UKIP ... 4.9%

Round  1 ... Labour 38.4% ... already won
Round  2 ... Conservative 21.4% ... already won
Round  3 ... Labour 19.2% ... already won
Round  4 ... Plaid Cymru 14.6% ... regional seat 1
Round  5 ... Labour 12.8% ... already won
Round  6 ... LibDem ... 11.8% ... regional seat 2
Round  7 ... Conservative 10.7% ... regional seat 3
Round  8 ... Labour 9.6% ... already won
Round  9 ... Labour 7.7% ... already won
Round 10 ... Plaid Cymru 7.3% ... regional seat 4

This time around, the regional vote is going to be enormously hard to predict. Having spent many an hour looking at the spreadsheets, it looks like the final regional seats will be decided on very small percentage differences at around 6.5%.

What we can say with relative confidence is that the LibDems will get one, but only one, regional seat. It actually doesn't matter too much what their percentage share of the vote will be, because it can't possibly be more than 12% and won't be less than about 7% ... and anywhere in that range will get them one seat. Newport East and to a lesser extent Merthyr have a good core level of LibDem support which will stop them falling too far.

A few months ago I had thought that Plaid would at least break even, either holding our two regional seats or winning Caerffili and holding one regional seat. I'm not so sure about that now, but we are able to win a total of two seats in two different ways.

If Plaid win Caerffili, then either of these two things needs to happen to get one regional seat:

•  to get more than twice the regional vote of UKIP
•  to get more than two-thirds of the regional vote of the Tories

But if we lose Caerffili, both of them need to happen to get two regional seats.

We could scrape it if we get about 13% of the vote. This would be down on our 2007 showing of 14.6%, but not disastrously so. We have solid core support in Caerffili and Islwyn, and this should help to keep any fall lower than it would otherwise be.

UKIP are an unknown quantity, and I've never been convinced that those who want to get rid of the Assembly will ever be motivated to get out and vote in Assembly elections. They might say they'll vote UKIP at home on the phone or sitting in front of their computers, but I think they will stay there on polling day. What's the point of voting to get rid of something that all five electoral regions of Wales have just voted to enhance by an overwhelming margin? So although the latest poll puts them at about 8%, I'd expect them to get more like 6.5%.

There's no doubt that the Tories will be down on their 21.4% showing in 2007, but the question is by how much. I think it will be less than the polls suggest because of their core support in Monmouthshire and Newport West. This might also be bolstered by people who would not normally vote in an Assembly election, but who vote Tory in Westminster elections, turning out to vote No in the AV referendum. My guess is that the Tories will get about 19%.


Now if these share of the vote predictions for Plaid, UKIP and the Tories are right, it means that there will be a very tight three-way battle for the third and fourth regional seats if Ron Davies wins in Caerffili, or for the fourth regional seat if he doesn't. Although the actual percentages are different, they each boil down to a figure of around 6.5% when divided to take account of the seats already won:

Half of Plaid's 13% ... vs ... all of UKIP's 6.5% ... vs ... a third of the Tories' 19%

One thing is obvious: Plaid's chances of getting two seats in total will be better if we win Caerffili. However this is not just because of the extra seat that will be available. The beauty of the situation is that it will be a fight between one party on the left and two parties on the right, so people with views on the right of the political spectrum will have to choose between the Tories and UKIP. Therefore if we win Caerffili, it wouldn't matter if one of the two does better than Plaid; for what one right wing party gains, the other right wing party will lose ... and that will leave Plaid with, at worst, the fourth regional seat.

Given a choice between them, I hope UKIP wins. A UKIP AM continually sniping against the Assembly will tend to make the three other unionist parties more united in favour of further devolution for Wales. And from Plaid's point of view, we hardly want the Tories to become the second largest group in the Assembly at our expense.

However if we don't win Caerffili, we will easily win the first regional seat with 13% of the vote, but this will mean that there is one less seat to fight over at the 6.5% level. Plaid would only then get the final regional seat by getting more than twice UKIP's vote and more than two thirds of the Tories' vote. So Plaid need to fight hard, for if we win Caerffili it is possible for Jocelyn Davies to lose her seat. She has shown herself to be a competent and determined deputy minister, and it would be a great shame to lose her.


The Prediction

If I were more cautious, I wouldn't dream of predicting the overall result in South Wales East. But seats are not won by being cautious, so this is my prediction:

•  Ron Davies will win Caerffili for Plaid; the Tories will win in Monmouthshire; and the six other constituency seats will be won by Labour.

•  The LibDems and Tories will win the first two regional seats, and it doesn't matter which way round. The two remaining regional seats will be won by Plaid and UKIP.

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Anonymous said...

Youve made a mistake calculating the seat distribution.
The Lib Dems didnt win a constituency seat so had the 3rd list seat. Plaid the 4th. The Tories onlhad one list seat

Anonymous said...

Apologies if this appears twice. Interesting discusion re UKIP. A firend and I were discussing the possibility of them picking up the fourth regional seat in Mid and west Wales if the four main parties each win consituencies (posisbly even if Kirsty loses Brecon and Radnor?). Would you be able to comment on this in your analysis of this region? Diolch!

MH said...

Thanks, 15:28. Too many cut and pastes. Now corrected, and sorry.

MH said...

Yes of course I will, Anon 15:41. I'm working on the two remaining regions now.

Anonymous said...

Interesting; it seems that Oscar did the right thing in defecting.

On Caerphilly, the only way Labour can win is dependent on how popular a local candidate is Jeff (I don't live there so don't know), I cannot see people there voting Labour 'just coz it's Labour'.

In terms of UKIP I would be surprised if they did win a seat in this election, as they are not an 'anti Assembly' party anymore so the votes from the European election in my view won't come.

If there is to be another party, my bet is on the greens. But again is dependent on how well/badly the parties do on a constituency level.

I read from your above comment that you will look at the remaining Regions. Whilst you are can you pleeeease explain to me how the "Mid" Wales region was created- I remember in 1999 that Pen Llyn was in the North region (which is better suited). How have they decided to create such a huge Mid Wales region...... it's mental!

MH said...

Oscar is Oscar, 22:06. I hope he joined the Tories because they were the best match for his policical views, not in order to be elected. But he was probably more interested in furthering his daughter's career. He's second on the Tory list after William Graham, and he'll be in the 6.5% battle for the fourth seat. I don't think he'll get in.

But the second placed candidate on Plaid's list could be in exactly the same battle. If Ron Davies loses Caerffili, Jocelyn will get in easily and Lindsay Whittle will be in with a shout at the final seat. It's possible that he will make it to the Assembly instead of Ron Davies ... after fighting him for so many years in Caerffili, he might get in by not fighting him. O the irony! But I think Ron and Jocelyn will get in.

I don't think the Greens stand much of a chance in SWE. But as I said in my SWC analysis, I think they will get a seat there.

The idea of the five regions is to try and equalize their size in terms of pupulation, but they aren't quite equal. North Wales has 13 seats, South Wales West has 11, and the other three have 12. Pen Llŷn used to be part of the Caernarfon constituency in North Wales, with Meirionnydd Nant Conwy in Mid and West Wales. But the boundaries were changed and now it's part of Dwyfor Meirionnydd, with Nant Conwy now part of Aberconwy in North Wales.

Plaid Panteg said...

I am on the ground in caerphilly - it is very close, very close indeed.

To be honest, I was always of the view that if we came very close but lost in Caerphilly, then we would get the 2nd regional slot. Who knows...

It might be the likes of Torfaen etc that swing it in that regard, increasing the votes a few hundred in a couple of those type of seats could be the difference.

MH said...

I had thought the same thing too, Marcus. It's only by going through the figures that I've come to realize how tight things will be for the last regional seat. That's why I've said that even though Plaid's constituency candidates in all three south Wales regions may not have much hope of winning a seat (this year ;-) except in Caerffili, everything that they are able to do in terms of winning people over to Plaid will be crucial in regional terms.

Our SWE regional vote was 14.6% in 2007. If we manage to get 14% this year, then I think things should be safe for two seats overall. Every vote will count. Things could be decided by 50 or 100 votes.

The other message to get across—particularly to Labour supporters in the three south Wales regions—is that their regional vote will be wasted if they vote Labour twice, because Labour will win so many constituency seats ... and to give it to us instead, of course, for the past four years have shown that they can work with Plaid. If Labour supporters are serious about wanting to keep the Tories out, that's the best way they can use their regional vote.

Plaid Panteg said...


So essentially if we win Caerphilly, what percentage of the vote regionally will we need for Lindsay to get in?

If we don't win Caerphilly, then we would need around 14%?


MH said...

What matters is not the absolute percentage, but the percentage relative to others, M.

If Ron wins in Caerffili, then we would need to get more regional votes than the Tories for both Jocelyn and Lindsay to get in. I reckon that would mean 20% or so of the vote, and I think that's far too much to hope for ... though I'd love to be wrong.

If we don't win Caerffili, Jocelyn will get in easily, but we'd need to get more than twice UKIP's vote and more than two-thirds of the Tories' vote for Lindsay to get in too. I reckon we might scrape it with 13%, but it would be very tight. If we got 14% it would be more likely, but still not certain.

Plaid Panteg said...

Thanks Mate...

Anonymous said...

"Ron Davies got 22.2% of the vote as an independent, and adding the two percentages together gives 48.0% ... which would beat Labour comfortably. But is it reasonable to add them together? My answer is yes."

If I ever ask you to choose my lottery numbers, please say no.

Anonymous said...

And for the sake of all that is good, please do not go into psephology.

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