Analysis ... North Wales

The three electoral regions in south Wales: South Wales West, South Wales Central and South Wales East, are characterized by heavy support for Labour with only a small handful of seats that could be won by other parties. As a consequence of this it is virtually impossible for Labour to win any additional seats in the three south Wales regions, and all those who vote for Labour on the regional ballot paper are in effect wasting their vote.

But elsewhere in Wales the constituency map is not predominantly red, and this means a different set of factors come into play. This is how things worked out in the North Wales region in 2007:

North Wales

1   Aberconwy
2   Alyn & Deeside
3   Arfon
4   Clwyd South
5   Clwyd West
6   Delyn
7   Vale of Clwyd
8   Wrecsam
9   Ynys Môn
Regional seats
1   Conservative
2   Conservative
3   LibDem
4   Plaid Cymru

Labour are strong only in the north east, where they won five constituency seats. The Tories generally ran them close, but only succeeded in winning Clwyd West. Plaid Cymru are strong in the north west, winning all three seats. The LibDems are no more than also-rans, with their greatest pocket of support around Wrecsam ... but even there they only got 16.7% of the constituency vote.

The regional vote was remarkable in that Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Tories each got virtually the same share, with 27.9%, 27.2% and 27.0% respectively. The LibDems managed only 8.2%.

Yet in total Labour ended up with 5 seats, Plaid with 4, the Tories with 3, and the LibDems with 1. This is a very good illustration of why having only 4 regional seats out of a total of 13 is not enough to compensate for the inherent unfairness of the first-past-the-post voting system used for the constituencies. Under a fairer system, each of the three main parties would have won 4 seats in total.


The Constituency Vote

It's probably easiest to start with the five seats Labour already hold. In each of these the Tories came second, and the results were sometimes very close:

•  In the Vale of Clwyd, Labour got 36.4% and the Tories 36.0%
•  In Delyn, Labour got 34.6% and the Tories 32.3%
•  In Clwyd South, Labour got 35.1% and the Tories 29.3%
•  In Wrecsam, Labour got 28.8% and the Tories 17.2%
•  In Alyn and Deeside, Labour got 38.9% and the Tories 22.9%

Yet even in the Westminster election last year, where there was a general swing away from Labour to the Tories, all these seats remained Labour. It is therefore very hard to see Labour losing them now, especially with the general swing to Labour shown in the polls.

However this doesn't mean that there's nothing for the other parties to fight for. The main job of all the candidates in these constituencies will be to increase their party's share of the regional vote, for even though we might urge people to use their two votes in different ways according to where they live, it is much simpler to campaign by urging people to vote the same way twice. That's what most voters do anyway. So a good showing at constituency level might not affect the constituency result, but it will most definitely affect the regional result ... as I hope will become clear later.


In the north west, there is no real doubt that both Arfon and Ynys Môn will be held comfortably by Plaid Cymru.


But this leaves to seats which are best described as three-way marginals. These were the results in 2007:

Clwyd West

Conservative ... 34.0%
Labour ... 27.9%
Plaid Cymru ... 27.3%
LibDem ... 6.5%


Plaid Cymru ... 38.6%
Conservative ... 30.4%
Labour ... 21.8%
LibDem ... 9.3%

In Clwyd West, the question is whether the general upswing in the Labour vote will be greater than the Tories' ability to hold on to their share of the vote. I don't think Plaid stand much chance. I'm inclined to say that Labour will edge this seat; but if they do win it, the Tories will not lose out in overall terms. They will pick up a regional seat to replace it.

Aberconwy is a more difficult seat to predict, not least following the result in the Westminster election last May, when the Tories won the seat with 35.8% of the vote, with Labour second and Plaid in fourth place behind the LibDems. I think it's fair to say that people in Plaid are still trying to figure out what happened, because it wasn't what anyone on the ground was predicting ... or at least admitting to. There was a real sense of having been misled, although my view is that there was no deliberate intention of doing so; it was more a case of allowing ourselves to believe the hype.

But Assembly elections are very different, so there's no reason why Plaid should not get back above 30%, and the Tories should also be in the middle-to-low 30% region, which will make this seat a close contest between Plaid and the Tories. I actually think the Tories will edge it; but if they do they will lose a regional seat and Plaid will gain one.

This leaves us in the position that the actual result in both these seats becomes irrelevant to the overall regional performance of the parties. This has two practical consequences: first, that the regional vote matters much more than the constituency vote; and second, that no tactical voting in the constituencies is necessary, for it will make no difference to the overall result.


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 ... 27.9%
Plaid Cymru ... 27.2%
Conservative ... 27.0%
LibDem ... 8.2%
UKIP ... 4.3%

Round 1 ... Labour 27.9% ... already won
Round 2 ... Plaid Cymru 27.2% ... already won
Round 3 ... Conservative 27.0% ... already won
Round 4 ... Labour 13.9% ... already won
Round 5 ... Plaid Cymru 13.6% ... already won
Round 6 ... Conservative 13.5% ... regional seat 1
Round 7 ... Labour 9.3% ... already won
Round 8 ... Plaid Cymru 9.1% ... already won
Round 9 ... Conservative 9.0% ... regional seat 2
Round 10 ... LibDem 8.2% ... regional seat 3
Round 11 ... Labour 7.0% ... already won
Round 12 ... Plaid Cymru 6.8% ... regional seat 4

I think that Labour's vote will go up, and that both Plaid's and the Tories' share of the vote will go down. But I think that North Wales is one region where the LibDem vote is likely to completely collapse, because it has no cores of strong support that could be relied on to hold it up.

So I think the overall share of the vote will be something like:

Labour ... 38.0%
Plaid Cymru ... 25.0%
Conservative ... 22.0%
LibDem ... 6.0%
UKIP ... 5.0%

Which would result in this distribution of seats:

Round 1 ... Labour 38.0%
Round 2 ... Plaid Cymru 25.0%
Round 3 ... Conservative 22.0%
Round 4 ... Labour 19.0%
Round 5 ... Labour 12.7%
Round 6 ... Plaid Cymru 12.5%
Round 7 ... Conservative 11.0%
Round 8 ... Labour 9.5%
Round 9 ... Plaid Cymru 8.3%
Round 10 ... Labour 7.6%
Round 11 ... Conservative 7.3%
Round 12 ... Labour 6.3%
Round 13 ... Plaid Cymru 6.3%

As I said above, I think Labour are certain to win in five constituencies and Plaid Cymru certain to win in two. But these are are less than the number of seats they are entitled to according to my prediction of their share of the vote on the regional list. This means that the additional member system will be able to deliver a broadly proportional result in a way that it is not able to do in the three south Wales regions.

The only way a disproportionate result could be achieved is if Labour win in both Clwyd West and Aberconwy. For there would then not be enough regional seats available to restore proportionality. However I think it is very unlikely that Labour will win in both constituencies.

But Labour are very likely to win six seats in total, either by gaining one constituency seat (probably Clwyd West) or by picking up a regional seat if they fail to do so.


The Tories will win three seats in total no matter whether they win or lose individual seats at constituency level. If they hold Clwyd West and win Aberconwy they will get one regional seat. If they lose Clwyd West but gain Aberconwy they will get two regional seats. If they hold Clwyd West and fail to win Aberconwy they will get two regional seats. If they don't win either, they will get three regional seats.


Plaid Cymru are certain to hold Arfon and Ynys Môn. It doesn't particularly matter whether we win or lose Aberconwy, because we will get at least one regional seat to make up for it at about the 8.3% level. But provided that Labour do not win Clwyd West and Aberconwy (which is unlikely) there will still be one more regional seat available.

This seat should go to Plaid, provided that we get more of the regional vote than the Tories and more than four times the vote of either the LibDems or UKIP. This is where percentages become critical. If Plaid get 25% of the regional vote, it means that both UKIP and the LibDems must get no more than 6.25% of the vote.

I doubt very much whether UKIP will reach that figure, because people with views on the right of the political spectrum will vote Tory. But I also think that the LibDems are unlikely to reach that figure because they have no strong pockets of support in the region. For that reason I think Plaid will get the final regional seat.


The Prediction

North Wales is an unusual region because Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Tories each have substantial support, even though it is unevenly distributed. It means that the additional member system can work effectively to produce an outcome that is broadly proportional to the percentage of the regional vote as a whole. However this makes the results in the two marginal constituencies—Aberconwy and Clwyd West—less important than they might otherwise be ... except of course to the individual candidates concerned.

I'm fairly confident that Labour will win six seats in total, the Tories will win three, and Plaid will win at least three. That leaves one seat to be decided, and I think it will be won by Plaid. However this overall outcome can be achieved in several different ways, and I'm less certain about the individual results. But I should put myself on the spot, and this is how I think things will work out:

•  The Tories will lose Clwyd West but win Aberconwy. They will get two regional seats, giving them three seats in total.

•  Labour will retain control in the five constituencies they already hold—Alyn and Deeside, Delyn, the Vale of Clwyd, Clwyd South and Wrecsam—and will win Clwyd West. They will not win a regional seat, but will get six seats in total.

•  Plaid will hold Arfon and Ynys Môn. We will lose Aberconwy to the Tories, but win two regional seats ... making four seats in total.

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Bilidowcar said...

You forgot to mention the very popular councillor Jason Weyman who is standing as an Independent in the regional vote. He will be getting a lot of the 'none of the above' vote and will have an impact on the regional vote.

MH said...

No, I didn't forget; I just don't think it's all that relevant.

But I wish him more success than he wishes himself, for I can't imagine him taking any votes that would otherwise go to Plaid. However he will take some votes away from the Tories and UKIP ... and maybe even the sort of person who might vote LibDem as a protest because they were "none of the above".

Gwilym said...

From what I hear in my workplace, from neighbours and from the queue at Tesco (hardly scientific, I know), Aberconwy will go to Labour.

Anonymous said...

It does looks that way Gwilym. Labour on probably 38-40+% and Plaid and Tories 25-30% figting out for second place. Lib Dem vote to collapse to maybe around 8-10%. This is what I have heared from the ground from both Plaid and the Conservatives. Plus a friend who lives in the area and is a life long Labour activist.

I think last time round Plaid knew that they couldnt win. The truth was that they ran the worst campaign, compared to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. It was inefectual on the ground, and didnt in anyway connect with voters. I also dont think people realise the personal vote Gareth Jones has, especially in the part of Aberconwy where Plaid dont do very well at all usually. Guto Bebb was also the best candidated, a class above Phil Edwards. All came together with the national picture last time round in Aberconwy sadly.

Bilidowcar said...

In Aberconwy the Tories and Lib-Dems have popular local councillors standing and this will affect the vote. As for the Labour candidate he's non existant, his name hasn't appeared on the literature coming through the post. I think the Labour party are getting arrogant thinking that they have it in the bag. Personally I think it'll be 3 way fight between the Tories,Lib-Dems and Plaid Cymru

Gwilym said...

Sorry, Bilidowcar. I think you must have failed to look at your Labour leaflets before you put them in the recycling. I've just checked mine. All of them, including a newspaper-format one and the latest bilingual A5 offering give Eifion Wyn Williams' name clearly.

If you live in the constituency, you can't fail to have seen the army of local Labour supporters on the road, talking to people. The other parties simply have smaller groups of supporters involved.

Jason Weyman said...

There is the possibility for an Independent candidate to make a difference. North Wales as your post suggests is finely balanced and as you say is more likely to return a proportional representation than other regions.
If I can pick up a good backing from the Conwy constituencies of Aberconwy and Clwyd West plus support from other North Wales voters then it is possible for something different to happen.
If voters are prepared to give me their 2nd Vote, we have the chance of having someone representing North Wales and not a political party.
It does take people to make the conscious decision to vote for an indvidual and not a poltical party list in the regional vote. Mine is the only name on the ballot paper, voters will know what they are getting.
An Independent Member in a closely balanced Assembly could hold very good bargaining power.

I am the Independent Assembly Candidate for the North Wales Region Election.
I am currently an Independent Councillor for Conwy County Borough Councillor.
More details about me and about my campaign can be found on my Blog site:
The people of North Wales deserve someone that will represent them, independently of Party Politics. If elected I will listen to the people of North Wales and will work across the political spectrum to represent and to fight for North Wales. I will not be under political pressure to vote any particular way and will be able to challenge all decisions from a North Wales perception. I will ask “How will this benefit North Wales?” It will be essential to work across the political parties and as an Independent I believe I have skills and experience to do this.

Listening to North Wales / Yn Gwrando ar Ogledd Cymru

Jason Weyman
North Wales Regional Election

Anonymous said...

For Plaid Cymru, who will surely be seeking to bounce back from a disappointing campaign result this time round, losing Aberconwy could be a blessing in disguise. The opportunist Iwan Hughes is hardly likely to challenge Plaid Cymru's current safety-first approach, should he be elected. Heledd Fychan( second on Plaid's Regional List) on the other hand, is sure to try and shake things up, should Plaid win a second regional seat.

MH said...

Although it's not impossible for Labour to win Aberconwy, I don't think it's at all likely. If Labour were serious about taking it, I think they would have chosen a local candidate rather than one who lives in Wrecsam.

The percentages 18:01 mentions are probably not so far out ... but only for the region as a whole. The local percentages will vary dramatically, with Plaid strong in the west and Labour strong in the east. Aberconwy is more west than east.


I can't imagine what sort of agenda 22:15 has against Iwan Huws.

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