Analysis ... Mid and West Wales

On the principle of leaving the best until last, my final analysis is for the Mid and West Wales region.

This was the result in 2007:

Mid and West Wales

1   Brecon & Radnor
2   Carmarthen East & Dinefwr
3   Carmarthen West & SP
4   Ceredigion
5   Dwyfor Meirionnydd
6   Llanelli
7   Montgomery
8   Preseli Pembrokeshire
Regional seats
1   Labour
2   Labour
3   Conservative
4   Plaid Cymru

This was the only region in Wales where Labour failed to win a constituency seat. However they did get 18.4% of the regional vote which entitled them to two regional seats. They were very close to winning a third, but Plaid Cymru just beat them to it.

The Constituency Vote

It's probably easiest to start with the LibDems. They won two seats—Brecon and Radnor, and Montgomery—and got a creditable 36.1% in Ceredigion, coming second to Plaid.

I think they are likely to hold Brecon and Radnor not least because of Kirsty Williams, who has proved to be a relatively good leader of her party. She's feisty, and she can sometimes lay a verbal glove on minsters in the Labour-Plaid One Wales government ... although maybe only one time in ten. If that is what an opposition leader is for, she probably makes a better job of it than the Tories. I'm not sure that her party has anything very positive to offer as an alternative, though.

What will see her through is that her margin of victory last time was 52.3% to the Tories' 33.5% ... with both Labour and Plaid down in single figures. This margin is simply too big to be eroded away completely, especially because the only party that has a chance of taking the seat from her is the Tories. No LibDem—no matter how angry they might be about what their party is doing in Westminster—will switch to the Tories because of it.


Things are slightly different in Montgomery. Although this seat was won by Mick Bates by a margin of 39.0% to 30.2% over the Tories, he was obliged to leave the LibDems as a result of his conviction for assault and some commentators might consider this to be an independent rather than a LibDem seat as a result.

The LibDems lost this seat at Westminster level in May last year, but there were some unusual factors. We had the strange and rather ridiculous antics of Lembit Öpik, who made the mistake of thinking that any personal publicity, no matter how inappropriate, was a way of promoting politics. And he was up against the popular Glyn Davies who, because of his conversion to devolution and clearly expressed commitment to a Senedd with primary lawmaking powers, is someone I would call a decent Tory.

This result will be crucial to the overall distribution of seats in this region and the Assembly as a whole. It is highly unlikely that the LibDems will get 13% of the regional vote, and as such they would only be entitled to one of the twelve seats on a proportional basis. If the LibDems lose Montgomery, they will not get a regional seat to make up for it. If they win, they will effectively take away a regional seat from one of the other parties. Because of this, people who do not support the LibDems need to vote tactically. It will be close, but the bookies are showing Russell George, the Tory candidate, slightly ahead.

Of course voting for a Tory is something most people in Wales would only do after a full frontal lobotomy. So I need to explain that the Tories will not gain anything in overall terms if they win this seat. They will simply get one less regional seat and end up with the same number as they would get based on their share of the regional vote. I'll explain how it works in more detail later in this post.


In Ceredigion the LibDems might feel they have a chance, largely because Mark Williams held the seat comfortably in 2010, by a margin that came as a shock to most people in Plaid. But there are factors that would explain this, and the most important of these is incumbency.

As a particular type of MP, Mark Williams is second to none. He makes himself known all over the constituency, picking up every complaint and promising to deal with it. He faithfully writes the letters or asks the questions, then reports back able to say that he did his best for them. Of course nothing he says or does could actually have made one scrap of difference, because the LibDems did not have the power to change anything. Nor could he ever be criticized for voting one way or the other, because whichever way he voted would make no difference to the result. That is the luxury of being neither in the government nor in the opposition. But who has ever heard of Elizabeth Evans?

The incumbency factor also works for Plaid Cymru's Elin Jones, but in a different way. She is a minister in the One Wales government, and probably the only AM that could successfully deliver on agriculture and rural affairs ... simply because nobody in Labour has got the first clue about it. She has done that job particularly well. I actually think the biggest danger in Ceredigion comes from Plaid not being forthright on its policies, particularly with regard to green issues. Our failure to explicitly state in our manifesto that we are against nuclear power is likely to cost us votes from those who do care passionately about the environment. The LibDems have done this, and this might sway a good number of voters to them.

It is a ridiculous situation for Plaid to find itself in because our opposition to nuclear would come across clearly if it were not for Ieuan Wyn Jones. He seems to have calculated that he stands more chance of winning votes in Ynys Môn by supporting nuclear power there, but opposing it everywhere else. Even at a pragmatic level he is being much too defensive, for his seat is safer than he thinks and much safer than Ceredigion. The margin in Ynys Môn is 22.3%, in Ceredigion it is 13.1%. But on the level of principle, I would go so far as to say that his equivocation on matters like this might well be primarily responsible for our lack-lustre showing in the opinion polls. A leader at odds with his party will constantly be forced onto the back foot. We need to be sending clear messages rather than mixed messages.

Even so, I don't think this will be enough to see Elin lose her seat. But it will make it much closer than it otherwise would be, and will also have a generally negative effect elsewhere in Wales that could make all the difference between Plaid winning and losing regional seats.


Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Carmarthern East and Dinefor are and will remain rock solid Plaid seats. The fourth constituency Plaid hold is Llanelli. Helen Mary Jones won this with 50.1% of the vote, comfortably ahead of Labour with 36.1%. That's a large margin and the seat should be safe for Plaid, even though it will be a lot tighter than before. However even if Plaid were to lose the seat, it would probably make no difference to the overall result because we would gain a regional seat to make up for it, and Labour would simply win one regional seat less. Again, I'll explain how that works in more detail later.


This leaves two other constituencies currently held by the Tories. In 2007 the Tories won Preseli Pembrokeshire with 38.6% of the vote, with Labour and Plaid not too far behind on 27.4% and 24.7% of the vote respectively. This time round, it should be a battle between the Tories and Labour. Will the Tory vote hold up, or will the general surge to Labour overtake it? The bookies favour Labour and I'd probably go along with that, but I do have a suspicion that the Tories might hold on. Yet whichever way it goes won't make any difference to the overall number of seats each party will win.

In 2007 Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was a very tight contest in which fewer than 300 votes separated the three main parties. The Tories won it with 30.1% of the vote, with Labour on 29.7% and Plaid on 29.2%. In better times, this is a seat that Plaid should expect to win if we ever hope to make a breakthrough in Welsh politics; and I'm sure it was for this reason that Nerys Evans chose to fight this seat now rather than stay on the regional list. Although it must be said that Plaid would have very little hope of winning a list seat if it won five constituency seats, so in that respect she made the right choice.

But it doesn't look like she will win. If Llanelli is going to be tight when Plaid are defending a margin of 14%, I don't think there is any realistic chance of Plaid overtaking Labour in Carmathen West, despite all of Nerys' qualities. This seat will be a battle between Labour and the Tories. I think Labour will win but, in just the same way as in Presceli, the outcome won't make any difference to the overall number of seats either Labour or the Tories will win in the region.

So let's now look at the regional vote to see why.


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.

Plaid Cymru ... 31.0%
Conservative ... 22.9%
Labour ... 18.4%
LibDem ... 13.3%

Round 1 ... Plaid Cymru 31.0% ... already won
Round 2 ... Conservative 22.9% ... already won
Round 3 ... Labour 18.4% ... regional seat 1
Round 4 ... Plaid Cymru 15.5% ... already won
Round 5 ... LibDem 13.3% ... already won
Round 6 ... Conservative 11.5% ... already won
Round 7 ... Plaid Cymru 10.3% ... already won
Round 8 ... Labour 9.2% ... regional seat 2
Round 9 ... Plaid Cymru 7.8% ... already won
Round 10 ... Conservative 7.6% ... regional seat 3
Round 11 ... LibDem 6.7% ... already won
Round 12 ... Plaid Cymru 6.2% ... regional seat 4

This time round, the two things we can say with relative certainty are that Labour will increase their share of the vote and will probably come top; and that the LibDems will lose votes. I reckon Plaid will still beat the Tories. As it happens, this is also what the latest YouGov poll suggests. So I'm content to use their figures to project the likely result even though I think YouGov's polling methods tend to over-estimate Labour's share of the vote:

Labour ... 29.0%
Plaid Cymru ... 27.0%
Conservative ... 25.0%
LibDem ... 8.0%

Round 1 ... Labour 29.0%
Round 2 ... Plaid Cymru 27.0%
Round 3 ... Conservative 25.0%
Round 4 ... Labour 14.5%
Round 5 ... Plaid Cymru 13.5%
Round 6 ... Conservative 12.5%
Round 7 ... Labour 9.7%
Round 8 ... Plaid Cymru 9.0%
Round 9 ... Conservative 8.3%
Round 10 ... LibDem 8.0%
Round 11 ... Labour 7.3%
Round 12 ... Plaid Cymru 6.8%

The first thing to note is that it will be impossible for the LibDems to win more than one seat in this region on a proportional basis. Even if they managed to get 13% of the regional vote—which is highly unlikely with the polls showing them at only 8%—they would still only get one seat.

But the additional member electoral system has an inbuilt bias towards constituencies, because these are taken into account first. So if the LibDems win both Brecon and Radnor and Montgomery, they will end up with one more seat than they would otherwise be entitled to, and this will effectively take away a regional seat from one of the other parties. That's why it's important for supporters of other parties to vote tactically for the Tory candidate if they live in Montgomery, but then use their regional vote for their first choice party.

If the LibDems win two seats at constituency level, it means only ten seats are available for the other parties. But if we can hold them to one, it means that eleven seats are available.


None of the three main parties is likely to win more constituency seats than they would be entitled to based on the regional vote. So it is the regional vote that will determine the overall number of seats they win, irrespective of the results in any individual constituency. Because of this, voting tactically for the Tory candidate if you live in Montgomery will not give an overall advantage to the Tories ... for they will still win the three seats they are entitled to from their share of the list vote, and are very unlikely to win a fourth seat.

The Tories will get three seats and only three seats. Even in the all but impossible event of them holding Preseli and Carmarthen West, and winning Montgomery from the LibDems, they will still get three seats overall. But it is much more likely that they will win just one constituency, but then get two of the regional seats.

Labour look likely to get four seats overall. As I've said, I think they will win both Carmarthen West and Presceli, but not win Llanelli. If I'm right, that will mean that they win two constituency and two list seats. But if I'm wrong and they do win Llanelli, they'll simply get one less regional seat, making no difference to the overall result.

Finally for Plaid, we will definitely win Dwyfor Meirionydd, Carmarthen East and Ceredigion, and I think we'll just hold on in Llanelli. But even if we lose Llanelli, we will probably get the fourth regional seat anyway ... providing we get more regional votes than the Tories and more than four times the vote of any of the minor parties. Either the Greens or UKIP would need to get somewhere around 7% to take it from us.


The Prediction

The overall result hinges on two key constituency battles: whether the Tories can win Montgomery from the LibDems and, although to a much lesser extent, whether Plaid hold Llanelli. Both will be tight, but this is how I think things will work out:

•  Labour will win both Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire from the Tories, but will fail to take Llanelli from Plaid. They will win two regional seats if they lose Llanelli, but only one if they were to win it. Either way, Labour will get four seats in total.

•  Plaid Cymru will hold each of the constituencies they won in 2007: Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Ceredigion and Llanelli. But if Plaid were to lose Llanelli we would win a regional seat instead. Either way, Plaid will get four seats in total.

•  The Tories will win Montgomeryshire from the LibDems, but will lose the two constituencies they currently hold. They will win two regional seats, giving them three seats in total.

•  The LibDems will hold Brecon and Radnorshire but lose Montgomeryshire to the Tories. They will not win a regional seat, leaving them with only one seat in total.

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Anonymous said...

So you therefore think that Nerys Evans will not be in the next Assembly?

Do you then think that Plaid's tactics were wrong; in that they have concentrated so much on this seat (both with coverage and money) and they should have concentrated on other marginals?

Blog Banw said...

I have to disgaree on Nerys Evans chances, have you been down to the constituency yourself and noted the Plaid Presence compared to that of the Labour and Tory party? it's massive. I will be blogging on it later.

MH said...

I'd love Nerys to win, but I'm not confident she will. It certainly isn't a mistake for us to put so much effort into trying.

Winning Carmarthen West would give us a definite gain. Other marginal seats such as Caerffili or Aberconwy would be good to win, but would not make so much difference because of the regional list.

Anonymous said...

what we dont realise is what taking caerphilly could do the chances of a labour majority and to a smaller exten carmarthen, plaid taking caerphilly would hurt them extrmely badly,

though i doubt they would win in caerphilly, to that extent keeping hold of llanelli and aberconwy would be nothing short of a miracle

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Blog Banw. I know that Plaid's presence is very visible in CW&SP, but Nerys really only has the proverbial snowball's chance of winning.

Plaid's vote will fall to below 25% in CW&SP on Thursday, with Labour and the Conservatives slugging it out for 1st place at around 35% each.

Blog Banw said...

You think? Annonymous based on what though? If your basing it on the YOUGOV polls I would disagree because especially in an area such as Carmarthen West south pembrokeshire local issues are very significant, this assembly election will go down for its local campaigns rather than national ones, therefore IMO not saying Im right or wrong but you can't relly on polls conducted on a national basis for these key marginals.

MH said...

I've just had a chance to read Blog Banw, and I'd recommend it to others:

It would make things very interesting if Angela Burns has given up the fight in Carmarthen West. I certainly don't doubt Nerys' and Plaid's hard work and effort. Yet I do remember a very similar sort of effort being put into Ceredigion last May, with people being called from campaigning in other constituencies all over Wales to help out. Effort doesn't guarantee success, and people in the thick of it sometimes lose perspective.

One point I've tried to hammer home in these analyses is that the result in individual constituencies is usually less important than the overall regional vote. Getting new people to vote Plaid on the regional ballot in unpromising places will be just as important, and maybe even more so, than putting all our effort into winning the last hundred votes in a particular constituency. The law of diminishing returns applies.

The nightmare scenario would be for us to have put effort into places like Carmarthen West at the expense of, say, Llanelli. If we think Llanelli is tight when we are defending a 14 point lead, it seems odd to at the same time think we have a good chance of winning a seat from third place. On the other hand, if we are convinced that Llanelli is safe, it would make sense to divert effort and resources to Carmarthen West.

On the whole, I think that effort is more effective when used locally. The only exception is for "prominent people" whose visit to a constituency will attract media interest. The problem comes in not realizing the distinction, for it is often those same prominent people who direct campaign resources.

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