Put yourself on the list, Leighton

As yesterday's reshuffle showed only too clearly, Labour has precious few AMs of any real calibre. However I have to admit that Leighton Andrews is probably one of them.

So it's a real shame that he won't get to be re-elected as AM for the Rhondda in 2016, now that Leanne Wood has announced that she is going to stand for election in that constituency.

I'd therefore urge him to put himself forward as one of the candidates on Labour's list for the South Wales Central region, as it is likely to be his best hope of returning to the Assembly. The new Welsh Government will need an effective opposition, and his experience will make him an ideal shadow minister.

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Shambo said...

I like your confidence that Leanne Wood can win this constituency seat. I'd be interested to see if she shares your upbeat views and declines to go on the regional list herself.

BoiCymraeg said...

Assuming Plaid won the Rhondda, and even assuming Cons/Libs took back Cardiff North and Central, Leighton still wouldn't get in on the list because Labour would have all the other seats... their list % would have to be enormous, unlikely given our scenario assumes that the other parties are doing well.

I'm unhappy with the way the BBC are discussing this issue. They keep describing the list as an "insurance choice" and the like, when actually, being elected on the list is a completely legitimate and democratic route to the assembly. Peter Hain completely misses the point when he talks about "losers shouldn't be allowed to win", because the list candidates are being voted for by people as well.

I used to live in Barry; when I voted for Plaid on both constituency and list in 2007 that reflected my choice for my constituency (Ian Johnson or whoever it was) and region (Leanne Wood). Had Leanne Wood stood and lost in the Rhondda, by Hain's logic I should have been disenfranchised because she "lost", even though I voted for her too and she in fact "won", albeit to represent a different geographical entity. Those who get in on the list HAVE been voted for and HAVE won.

All it does is reinforce the argument that this was Labour gerrymandering in the first place.

BoiCymraeg said...

Leanne would be foolish not to put her name on the list. She has nothing to lose by doing so and nothing to prove to anyone else by declining to. She has said she'll fight a constituency, which was brave under the old rules but she's no reason not to put her name on the list too now that she can.

I'm not confident of a Plaid win in Rhondda, though don't think it's impossible either; but another leadership contests will do the party no favours.

glynbeddau said...

BoiCymraeg makes a good point that Labour probably cannot win a regional seat South Wales Central region, It would a very bad night for them if they did.

Don't rule out a Plaid win in the Cynon Valley though

So Leighton may not bother claiming Leanne is edging her bets.

But will Labour have the same candidates in constituencies and the regional list in n the rest of Wales? I suspect so.

Expect much hypocrisy from Leighton and Labour in 2016.

BoiCymraeg said...

This is why Labour instituted the ban on dual candidacy in the first place: they are generally not in a situation to benefit from it because of their dominance at constituency level (Mid & West Wales being the exception but their AMs there are not very high ranking).

Artorious said...

I can understand Plaid commentators talking up their chances. Unconvinced myself that rebranding and dual candidacy will do anything mote than help the party regain the four places lost in 2011.

Anonymous said...

I think LW has a very good chance of winning providing voter turnout is higher than normal for the area. I can imagine that given the coverage she will bring to the area this could (and hopefully will) escalate into a full on war against the Labour party as a whole.

Wales desperately needs an alternative to Labour. Even if it means a Plaid led coalition of everyone else.

Cai Larsen said...

Leighton could put himself forward for the list in Mid & West Wales & for the constituency in Rhondda.

MH said...

Sorry for the delay in responding, I got a little distracted yesterday ;-)

I agree with BoiCymraeg that it is wrong to think of the regional seats as any less important than the constituency seats. The additional member system is far from perfect, but it does partly make up for the inherent unfairness of first-past-the-post. Peter Hain is just being Peter Hain, I'm not even sure that he takes himself seriously nowadays.

But as this is the system we're stuck with, Plaid does need to win more constituency seats in order to be able to get past 15 or so seats. In south Wales, our main target seats are going to be the ones in which we already have a substantial support base. The share of the vote we got in 2011 for these seats was:

Caerffili ... 29.7%
Rhondda ... 29.5%
Cynon ... 27.2%
Neath ... 26.6%
Islwyn ... 21.7%
Cardiff West ... 20.0%

I think Leanne could have chose to fight any of the first three. But the Rhondda is her home patch, so fighting that seat gives her much more "street credibility". I expect her to win.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is something that Cai has spoken of in BlogMenai. Labour are very likely to win the 2015 Westminster election, and because of this the usual battle cry of Labour in Wales—Vote Labour to protect Wales from the wicked Tories in Westminster!—won't work. People are much more willing to vote for Plaid when Labour is in power in Westminster. They vote Plaid for almost the same reason, namely to protect Wales from the wicked Labour party in Westminster. In other words, we recognize that Labour are a little bit better than the Tories, but that Labour in Westminster doesn't have Wales' interests at heart either.

The second is that by 2016, Labour will have been in uninterrupted power in Wales for 17 years. If we were to elect them again they would be in power for 22 years. Democracies cannot tolerate one party rule. People in Wales are already tiring of Labour, and Labour themselves are tired. The pendulum must swing. The only question is whether it swings towards Plaid or towards the Tories. I think it is certain to swing towards us because what the Tories are now doing will leave as deep a scar on Wales as Thatcher inflicted on us a generation ago. So I think we could see both the Labour and Tory vote collapse in Wales in 2016.


I do accept that Leighton Andrews wouldn't have much of a chance on the South Wales Central list (so perhaps he should consider an alternative, as Cai suggests). But some chance is better than none at all. Labour needs to learn a lesson from the Scottish general election in 2011. Labour lost many of its big hitters in Scotland because it did not take advantage of the fact that it could put them on the regional lists too; and this is the main reason why Labour has been unable to form an effective opposition to the SNP in Holyrood. As luck would have it, there was an article on this in Newsnet Scotland only yesterday.

Good oppositions are good for democracy. That is why I want the next Welsh Government to have to answer questions from the best Labour has to offer, rather than from their second-raters. And that is why I am urging Leighton, as one of the better Labour ministers, to put himself on the list.

BoiCymraeg said...

"The second is that by 2016, Labour will have been in uninterrupted power in Wales for 17 years. If we were to elect them again they would be in power for 22 years. Democracies cannot tolerate one party rule. People in Wales are already tiring of Labour, and Labour themselves are tired. The pendulum must swing."

I think this is rather hopeful and idealistic. Drawing parallels with other one-party systems only goes so far because most of them don't have the "two layers" system represented by devolution. Labour can simultaneously be in government and opposition, so simple patterns of voters swinging like a pendulum aren't going to work. Sure, the Assembly is where most decisions that actually affect people are made so you'd hope that things would start to reflect this, but lots of people don't realise this and continue to look at things from a UK-perspective (a fact not helped by the UK-centric media).

It's certainly possible that in 2016 people will have grown tired of Labour after 17 years in power; but Labour had already been in power for 12 years by 2011 yet they chalked up their best-ever performance in the Assembly. Why are people likely to be so much more fatiged after another five years?

Don't get me wrong, I think you have some valid points. I would definitely expect Labour/Plaid to do worse/better respectively in 2016 than 2011, but mainly because Labour did as well as they possibly could have done in 2011 and it's inevitable that they can only go down from such a high. I think it's *possible* Leanne might win in Rhondda in 2015, just as I think it was *possible* Ron Davies might have won Caerfili in 2011 (1999 proved such things are possible under the right circumstances). I think 2015 may be quite a good year for Plaid relatively speaking, for the reasons you describe above. But I still think Labour will be the biggest party and am not expecting any great shocks, and I'm not expecting Plaid to win any valleys seats, though no doubt they will record some good results. I hope to be proved wrong though!

MH said...

You've concentrated on the second reason I gave without considering the first, BC. I'd have thought the first goes some way to answer the points you raise in criticism of the second.

BoiCymraeg said...

You're right - but I'm not convinced by that either.

There's *some* evidence to suggest that Plaid do better when Labour is in power in Westminster, and a reasonably convincing narrative to explain why this should be the case (people feel that it's "safer" to vote Plaid when they think Labour will win anyway, but when the Tories might win they get scared and go home to Labour). It's mentioned quite often and a lot of Palid supporters seem to take it for granted. But what exactly is this evidence? Let's see...

- Plaid's best Westminster election results were 1997 and 2001, both in terms of seats (4) and Vote %; these were Labour's landslide victories.

- Plaid did very well in the Assembly in 1999, in between the two above and in the early years of a new Labour Westminster government.

- Plaid did well in the Assembly in 2007 amid the perception that the Labour government were shite.

The problem is that this is just statistical and factual [i]cherry picking[/i]. There are lots of other statistics and facts which go against this trend.

- For example, you could read Plaid's Westminster peak in 1997-2001 as the peak of a process of increasing support in Voter % which began in the 1980s, under Tory governments, actually peaking early in the Labour years before disappointing Westminster results in the last GE that Labour won (2005).

- Ceredigion and Ynys Mon were first won in elections that took place under and were won by Conservative governments (and both seats were subsequently lost under elections which were defended and won by Labour governments).

- Plaid's first significant General election victories came in 1974, when the main UK parties were very closely tied and under the "Plaid do better when Labour do better" logic this should have been when everyone was running home to Labour to prevent the risk of a Tory government.

- Finally, what about the 2003 Assembly election when Plaid performed very disappointingly, even though Labour were in power in Westminster.

I can accept that there might be some benefit for Plaid Cymru's election fortunes to having Labour as the incumbent government in Westminster, for the usual reasons. But to expect improved fortunes to come by default off the back of this seems rather hopeful, and potentially dangerous in that it shifts the responsibility for Plaid's electoral fortunes away from the competence of its members and representatives and onto purely external factors.

BoiCymraeg said...

I guess that what I'm saying is that while there are several things in Leanne's favour when she stands in Rhondda in 2015, even taken together these by no means guarantee her victory, in what is after all a safe Labour seat with a popular and competent incumbent. We've been in situations like this before - Ron Davies seemed like a shoe-in for Caerfili at one point, how long ago that now seems! We shall see.

MH said...

I don't think your narrative that "people feel it's safer to vote Plaid when they think Labour will win anyway" is right, CB. It has elements that are right, but I think you've put them together in the wrong way.

As I said before, the reason as I see it is that people vote Labour in preference to the Tories because they want to protect Wales from the Tories, but vote Plaid in preference to Labour because they want to protect Wales from a Labour party in Westminster which regards Wales as an irrelevance in comparison with the needs of the electorate of middle England.

Of course the first is a fantasy, but it is one that Labour in Wales always peddle. In 2011, voting Labour was meant to "send a signal to the Tories in Westminster". It's totally bogus—for nobody in Westminster took or will take a blind bit of notice—but I think it underlines the pattern that the way people vote in Assembly elections tends to depend on what is happening in Westminster.


I'd also like to pick up on your statement that "the Assembly is where most decisions that actually affect people are made", for I think it might explain why we disagree. I agree that things like health and education matter to people, but even those things are not entirely decided in the Assembly. All the Welsh Government can do is decide how to spend the money it is given, it cannot decide how much money it has to spend because it has no power to set levels of taxation. The general decrease in public spending is much more significant than how that limited pot of money is divided up between health, education and the other devolved areas.

On top of that, I think that most people right now are much more concerned with the economy in general and their jobs in particular, but the Welsh Government has none of the major levers of the economy in its hands. So in short, Westminster is where most decisions that actually affect people in Wales are made. It shouldn't be that way, of course, but it is. And I think this explains why, for example, turnout is lower in Assembly elections than Westminster elections and why the way we vote in Assembly elections tends to depend on what is happening in Westminster.


My point is that the combination of (1) a "new broom" Labour Government in Westminster immediately after a period of Tory rule, and (2) a long period of hitherto unbroken Labour rule in the Assembly, creates a "perfect storm" in which conditions will be just right for people to vote Plaid rather than Labour.

To be slightly cynical, I could also take up your point and say that people will feel safe voting for a Plaid government precisely because they know the big decisions will still be made at Westminster. So to put your sentence together in a slightly different way, I think it would be better to say that "people feel it's safe to vote Plaid when Labour are in power at Westminster".

But nothing is, to use your word, "guaranteed". We in Plaid will have to present ourselves as a credible alternative in order to persuade people to make that shift. I think we have lots of good policies, but the big thing we lacked (especially in the 2011 election) was a manifesto which joined everything up into a coherent, compelling package which people felt they could "buy into". That's what we'll need to do this time. If we can do this, I'm confident that we will win constituency seats in the Valleys and form the next Welsh Government in 2016.

Draig said...

Plaid is a Party built around the proposition that Wales should opt out of the stagnant two-Party system centered around Westminster. The idea that Plaid should pin it's fortunes on the electoral cycle of such a stagnant and bankrupt system strikes me as depressingly fatalistic.

You have to ask whether a Party that effectively proposes to break 700 years of colonization and create an Independent Welsh State would ever be able to do so with such a fatalistic outlook.

MH said...

In a democracy, it is necessary for a political party to "pin its fortunes" on the way people vote, Draig. Winning elections requires an understanding of why people vote in the way they do.

BoiCymraeg said...

You've asserted that Plaid will do better in the Assembly in 2016 because Labour will be in power in Westminster by then. You've taken issue with my interpretation of why you believe this to be the case, which is fair enough. However, you haven't really answered my central point which was that I don't think the evidence for this assertion exists, or at least any that is is vague and inconsistent.

MH said...

I still think you're looking for "guarantees" in an area where there are none to be had, BC. These are matters of opinion rather than proof.

The parallel to "a 'new broom' Labour Government in Westminster immediately after a period of Tory rule" is the 1999 election, where Plaid won 17 seats including the Rhondda and Islwyn. It proves we can win constituency seats in the Valleys in such circumstances. The fact that a Labour have been in uninterrupted power in the Assembly for such a long time and are now tired only adds to the likelihood of winning seats in the Valleys.

What I find incredible is that you don't think Plaid can win any Valleys seats ... even though you say that you hope to be proved wrong. That's defeatist and negative, and I have no time for it. That attitude in itself is the most likely way of "guaranteeing" that Plaid won't win. It is a sad contrast to Leanne's positivity in standing for a constituency seat.

BoiCymraeg said...

The problem with 1999 is that firstly, it's only a single event and so it's difficult to draw any conclusions as to trends and probabilities from it; secondly, elections are very complex things and are affected by hundreds of factors.

Plaid did very well it 1999, and Labour had recently won a general election after a long period of Tory rule. It's possible that the two were linked, but then there are also other reasons why Plaid might have done well. For example, Dafydd Wigley was a much more popular leader than Alun Michael. I suspect the main factor contributing to Plaid's success though was that they were riding the back of a wave of national euphoria following the establishment of the Assembly, a hypothesis supported by the fact turnout was much higher in 1999 than in any subsequent assembly election. That, more than any "bounce" from the recently-elected Labour government in Westminster, seems to me to be the primary factor at work in 1999.

I don't wish to sound defeatist or cynical. I do think it's possible for Plaid to win in the valleys, and indeed anywhere else (1999 indeed proved that it is possible under the right circumstances). This might happen in 2015 too. I just think that it's very dangerous to be pegging all our hopes on some kind of quasi-mythical bounce in support that people seem to think inevitably comes from Labour success at Westminster.

If you want some positivity, here's some things that I think we should be more pleased about than an impending Labour Westminster government:

- Polls are indicating that Leanne Wood, while not as well-known or popular as Carwyn, is significantly better known and liked than the other opposition parties' leaders.

- If polls stay as they are then the Tory vote will collapse at the next Assembly election. While this will probably work in Labour's favour in some places, it may well help Plaid in 3-way marginals like Aberconwy or Carmarthen West.

- The lifting of the dual-candidacy ban will allow us to run good candidates like Nerys Evans, Simon Thomas, Leanne Wood and others in constituencies as well as on the list, while ensuring that others like Helen Mary Jones aren't lost if things go bad in the constituencies (though I guess the competition for the Mid & West list will be fierce!).

- Both Tories and Lib Dems are unpopular and this may lead many people to consider voting Plaid for the first time.

- If the Scots vote yes in 2014 it might just trigger a similar wave of national feeling as happened in 1999; even if they eventually vote no the increased publicity to constitutional matters, and the challenge the concept of Scottish Independence represents to the London bubble, can only work in Plaid's favour.

MH said...

Those are fair points, BC. I do think the popularity of Dafydd Wigley and unpopularity of Alun Michael were factors, though I'm much less sure about "national euphoria".

And I have to say I'm still concerned that your reasons to be positive seem to revolve around taking votes from the Tories and the LibDems, but that you don't seem to have a plan for taking votes off Labour. Going back to your earlier statement that "people feel it's safer to vote Plaid when they think Labour will win anyway" I can't help but think that you envisage Plaid always playing second fiddle to Labour. How about some ideas on how Plaid will take seats from Labour?

Finally, I think you rather spoil your argument by talking about "pegging all our hopes on some kind of quasi-mythical bounce in support that people seem to think inevitably comes from Labour success at Westminster." Who has done that? You're just inventing a straw man.

BoiCymraeg said...

Those "reasons to be positive" weren't supposed to be strategies or action plans; just factors to be glad about that I mention in response to your accusation that I was being negative defeatist. More to the point they're factors that I consider to be more concrete than the "Labour-in-Westminster-Bounce". Of the five I mention two of them weren't specifically to do with the Con/Lib Dems. I also think that Carwyn Jones / Leanne Wood's relative popularity is in the best ratio for Plaid since Michael / Wigley (consider how Rhodri Morgan was popular, and Ieuan Wyn Jones... well, less so), so that's not a factor that I'd say will only "take voters from the Tories and Libs" even if I did word it as if it would.

I agree that Plaid need to gain voters from Labour. I don't envision Plaid always playing second fiddle - I'd obviously love to see them as the largest party in the Assembly. Most certainly they need a plan for how this is going to happen; but "People in Wales are already tiring of Labour, and Labour themselves are tired. The pendulum must swing" isn't a plan; it's a hope, a faith. It may turn out correct, and I hope it does, but that doesn't mean it's not still a hope rather than an actual action plan. I guess you might be saying that we should be arguing that "Labour are tired" on the doorstep, but isn't this what we do every election anyway!?

You say I'm straw manning you, but read your first comment above. You claim that you think LW will win, and say that your "two main reasons" for believing this are 1) "People are much more willing to vote for Plaid when Labour is in power in Westminster." 2) "Democracies cannot tolerate one party rule. People in Wales are already tiring of Labour, and Labour themselves are tired. The pendulum must swing."

I don't think I'm straw manning to say that you've at claimed that these are the main reasons that you're hopeful for 2015. In fact, you pretty much explicitly say that this is the case. I just think these are not good reasons alone to be hopeful because I question the logic behind them.

MH said...

The more you try to justify yourself to prolong some sort of argument, the more idiotic the things you say, BC.

As it now appears you were talking about me, the very fact that I gave two main reasons means it was silly to say I was pinning all my hopes on just one of them. And just because I gave two main reasons doesn't mean I don't have others as well.

Neither did I ever say they constituted a plan, I said they were factors that would act in favour of Plaid in 2016.

If you want to continue this, you need to stop misrepresenting what I say.

BoiCymraeg said...

There's no need to go calling me idiotic. I enjoy this blog and am a keen follower, I normally agree pretty much 100% with what you have to say - so much so that I don't normally feel a need to comment.

As such I'm genuinely sorry if I have misrepresented you at any point. I very sincerely don't want you to think that I'm some kind of cynic / idiot of the kind who seem to be depressingly common within the Welsh national cause.

Most of my comments have been an attempt to respond to your original accusation that I have been cynical or defeatist. I realise that you've never pretended to be presenting any kind of an action plan; but then nor have I - yet you yourself complained that "I'm still concerned... that you don't seem to have a plan for taking votes off Labour." - my only intent was to point out that you've not presented any such plan either. Not that I'm saying you should (!); I just wanted to point out that I don't need a "plan to gain votes from Labour" to make my arguments re: Historic-political trends valid.

Nor did I ever suggest that your "main arguments" were your "only arguments"; but as they are your "main" ones I think I'm justified in taking issue with them as the principal justification for your claims.

What you *have* done, in response to my pessimism re: Leanne's chances in 2015, is make some broad statements about political trends regarding the Labour party's success and it is with these statements that I take issue. If Leanne Wood wins in the Rhondda in 2015 then it certainly won't be because "the pendulum must swing." IT'll be because of her own hard work and that of her campaigners.

MH said...

Thank you for your apology, but an apology is not much use unless you stop doing it, BC.

You added to the idiotic things you've said in your last comment. Just look back at what you actually wrote before saying "nor did I ever suggest". You need to be much more careful about what you write in future, or I will conclude that you're just taking the piss and delete it.


But moving on from that, I think your final two sentences are telling. I don't doubt that Leanne and her campaigners will work hard, but working hard is not the only factor in winning elections.

Many Plaid candidates and their teams have worked hard in every election, but didn't win. Many candidates from other parties worked hard too, but didn't win. Equally, some candidates win without having to work hard at all.

There's a difference between rowing a boat and sailing a boat. To get somewhere by rowing you need to rely almost entirely on hard work. To get somewhere by sailing still requires some hard work, but is more about being able to read the wind and trim your sails in order to use it to help get you to where you want to go. The two factors that you've taken such objection to are my attempt at reading the wind.

You can concentrate on rowing the Plaid boat to the winning post if you want to. It all helps. But putting up a sail and using the wind will make more of a difference to whether we win or lose.

BoiCymraeg said...

I don't disagree with that. It is indeed your "attempt at reading the wind" that I take issue with; and despite the fact that I made that point a long time ago I still don't feel you have actually addressed it; instead you've just sidelined me (rather successfully) into discussing totally irrelevant points (like whether I'm defeatist and what my plan for 2015 would be, neither of which really have anything to do with the point I originally made).

What you have also done is accuse me of being idiotic twice. Regardless of what I've said I think these personal attacks have no place in rational debate - if I did the same to you I'm sure you'd delete my comments immediately, and rightly so. It'd only be polite for you to temper your own words in the same way.

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