Analysis ... South Wales West

The time has come for me to do some detailed analysis of how this year's general election will unfold. I think this is best done on a region-by-region basis because the results of the individual constituencies in each region will have a direct bearing on which parties get the additional seats.

I'm going to start with the three regions in south Wales, because the issues are generally much more straightforward there than they are in either North Wales or Mid and West Wales. This was the result in South Wales West in 2007:

South Wales West

1   Aberafan
2   Bridgend
3   Gower
4   Neath
5   Ogmore
6   Swansea East
7   Swansea West
Regional seats
1   Plaid Cymru
2   Conservative
3   LibDem
4   Plaid Cymru

The map shows that every one of the seven constituency seats is currently held by Labour and, to put it bluntly, that's how it's likely to remain.

Over the past few years, the Tories might have had the odd wild dream about winning Gower or Bridgend. In 2007 they trailed Labour in Gower by 29.8% to 34.2%, and in Bridgend by 29.9% to 40.3% But with Labour's resurgence in the polls, it is hard to see their share of the vote fall relative to the Tories, even if the Tories manage to hold on to their own vote.

Similarly the LibDems would once have dreamed about Swansea West, where they trailed Labour by 25.7% to 32.3%. But the LibDem vote has dropped like a stone since they became the rear end of the ConDem coalition in Westminster.

And Plaid? Well, if I'd had my way, Adam Price would now be standing for Neath, and with his high profile I'm sure he would have won it. Plaid were on 35.7% last time behind Labour's 43.4% ... which is easily our highest share of the vote in a seat that we did not win. But with the greatest respect to Alun Llewellyn, I don't think he's going to make it. I'd love to be wrong, though.

However I did hear a very interesting story a week or so ago. The present AM for Neath is Gwenda Thomas, and I had wondered if she intended to stand again as she is now 69 years old and will be 74 by the time of the next election. Apparently she was thinking of retiring but, to put it mildly, she and Peter Hain don't exactly see eye-to-eye and she objected very strongly to the candidate that Peter Hain (whose word is law in the Neath Labour Party) wanted to replace her with. So she decided to stay on to prevent that happening. I've always had a soft spot for Gwenda—largely because she is just like my favourite auntie, who's Labour too—and this has only served to enhance my opinion of her.


So, sad to say, it looks like Labour will hold on to all seven constituency seats. But things get rather more interesting when we look at the regional seats.

At the risk of teaching most people reading this how to suck eggs, the regional vote is worked out on the basis of there being eleven seats in the region: the seven constituency seats plus the four regional seats. The parties are awarded seats in accordance with the votes cast on the second ballot paper, but will only get an additional seat after any seats won at constituency level have been counted.

In 2007, the regional percentages were:

Labour ... 38.8%
Plaid Cymru ... 19.2%
Conservative ... 17.4%
LibDem ... 13.5%
UKIP .... 4.0%

Labour won seats in rounds 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the count, but did not get any additional seats because they had already won seven constituency seats. Plaid Cymru won seats in rounds 3 and 8, the Tories won a seat in round 4, and the LibDems won a seat in round 5. The final seat was won with 9.6% of the vote.

If Labour win all seven seats (or even if they only win 5 or 6 of them) it will be completely impossible for them to win any of the four regional seats. So the 38.9% who voted Labour were in fact throwing their vote away. Labour would need to get something like 65% of the vote to stand even the slightest chance of winning a regional seat. Of course it would be pointless for Labour to tell their supporters that, because it doesn't sit well with their line that all elections are only a choice between them and the Tories. But for any Labour voter in SWW that cares to listen to my advice, I would say that they should give their regional vote to the party they would most like to see gain seats after Labour.

There is virtually no chance of a minor party getting a list seat either, as the threshold is unusually high in this region compared with the others: partly because it only has 11 seats and partly because all the constituency seats are likely to go to Labour.


So for the three remaining main parties the maths is simple: the one that gets the largest percentage of the regional vote will win two seats, the party that comes second will win at least one and maybe two seats, and the party that comes third will only win a seat if they get more than half the vote of the second remaining party.

The big question is which party will come where. The early March YouGov poll showed Plaid on 26%, the Tories on 15% and the LibDems on 1% ... but I can't take that entirely seriously. Their poll at the end of March showed Plaid on 14%, the Tories on 17% and the LibDems on 5%. Whichever is more accurate, it means there's everything to play for between us and the Tories. But even if—horror of horrors—the Tories beat us, the silver lining is that the LibDems are doing so badly that we will still keep both our seats. Peter Black will be a goner. He's a decent enough person, but that's the price he will have to pay for his rather over-enthusiastic support for what the ConDem coalition are doing in Westminster. Contrition would have been more appropriate than hype. Still, he might be consoled if we get a Yes vote in the AV referendum.

In a nutshell, Plaid should aim to beat the Tories, but at a minimum must get more than twice the LibDem vote. Except in Neath, we are not fighting Labour in South Wales West, we are fighting the Tories and the LibDems. The smart thing to do is to persuade Labour voters and angry and disillusioned LibDem voters who intend to switch to Labour to go ahead and vote Labour in the other constituencies, but give their regional vote to Plaid. It will be absolutely wasted on Labour because of the number of constituency seats they will win.

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Welshguy said...

Whatever happened to Adam Price? Last I heard, he was taking a year off in the US and then going to stand in these elections. However, that was over a year ago and I've heard nothing from him since.

Anonymous said...

Adam is not coming back as his university term so to speak clashes with the elections, patience is a thing of virtue when the time is right adam will lead us into the abyss

Welshguy said...

Don't you mean, *from* the abyss?

Owen said...

I think this analysis is pretty much spot on. No change except for a fight between the Tories, Lib Dems and perhaps the Greens (who were polling well in SWW IIRC) for a regional seat.

I guess that Plaid will finish ahead of the Tories, something like 21% to 16-17%. Lib Dems will get 7-8% if they campaign well which should be enough for Peter Black.

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