Relief

The overwhelming feeling, both for me and for most people who support Plaid Cymru, after the announcement of the European Parliament election result will be relief that Jill Evans managed to hold on to her seat.

Plaid lost a lot of their support and were in a fairly miserable fourth place. In the end Jill's seat was saved by Labour's failure ... and by UKIP's success.

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In the Welsh Political Barometer in February and YouGov poll in April, Labour were at 39% (details here) and in last week's Wales Political Barometer they were at 33% (details here). These percentages would easily have given Labour two seats. But in the end, Labour only managed to get 28.15% of the vote. This fall in support for Labour, and this alone, enabled Jill to squeeze in with 15.26%. If Labour had managed to get 30.6% of the vote, they would have won the fourth Welsh seat by getting more than twice Plaid's vote.

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Looking back at the campaign, Labour did themselves no favours by not really contesting these elections. They kept a low profile, not really engaging in the fight in any meaningful way; probably thinking that this election didn't really matter and keeping their resources safe for fighting the 2015 Westminster election instead. So they've only got themselves to blame for not getting two Welsh seats.

The second factor was that UKIP did much better than even I imagined they would do. They were never in any danger of not winning a seat in Wales, but they probably picked up enough votes from people in Wales who would otherwise vote Labour to keep Labour below the magic 30.6% that would have squeezed Plaid out. Mark Hutchings tweeted it right: UKIP saved Plaid's bacon.

So Plaid owes UKIP a rather large thank you. Quite ironic really, as Plaid's main tactic in this election had been to single out UKIP for attack.

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24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very lucky.

Welsh not British said...

Surely this highlights how inaccurate the polls actually are? As for Labour not putting up much of a fight, do you think this was done because they know they will be changing their stance on the EU when they realise how many MPs they will lose ahead of the GE?

Anonymous said...

I think that Roger Scully will have to re-think his Barometer, particularly that one crucial factor...likelihood to vote.
But If I was in Plaid's shoes I would worry; 4th party in Wales with 2 right of centre parties ahead of them and losing support from their own right of centre nationalists. In their case the biggest worry must be that, when they had their backs against the wall, they still didn't get as many people voting for them, on a higher overall turnout, as voted Plaid in 2009. In 2014 112,000 and in 2009 (when they were a shoo in for one MEP) 127,000.
For Plaid and Tories, the two parties who stood to be humiliated in this election, the poll predictions wern't that bad; Plaid 16% (or 17% of certain to vote) would have been 117,000 (124,620) so the polls overestimated by 5000-12000. Plaid lost 15,000 voters since 2009.

Llew said...

Actually the poll predictions were terrible, with Plaid on 11% in yougov quite recently. I assumed they had lost. During the campaign UKIP and Plaid moved their votes upwards, but Labour dropped off and the Tories stagnated.

I don't know about "right of centre nationalists". Most Plaid Cymru voters are not nationalists of any kind, but the polls did seem to show some Plaid voters going to UKIP. Since 2009, some people that voted for Plaid (at a time when Gordon Brown was in) will also have gone back to Labour.

I am very surprised that Labour didn't win 2 seats. They let things slip during the campaign and I barely saw Carwyn Jones online or on tv. Last year it was being said that they could take 3 seats, but UKIP has also stopped that.

Anonymous said...

Yes I think that I'm in agreement with you about Labour Llew; they didn't try very hard and paid the price. If you look at English results UKIP have exactly the same share of the vote as here with Labour a bit higher in Wales and Tories quite a bit lower. Apart from Plaid Wales has pretty well followed England. That 11% for Plaid was a while back, it was 16% in the final Yougov/ITV poll which wasn't a bad prediction.

Anonymous said...

This was the worst Plaid result in an Euro poll since 1984.

Since 1999 Plaid have gone backwards in every EU poll lising 70,000 votes in the process.

Plaid significantly outpolled in Valleys even where they have a decent local gov. base. Caerphilly result was 2:1 for UKIP against PC with RCT same. If it was not for the rural west Jill would be gone. For a party that aspired to lead in Wales back in 1999 this is nothing less than a massive failure.

MH said...

Yes, I think it was just a matter of luck, 2:22. But luck is important. The Plaid strategists picked the wrong party to single out for attack, and if that ploy had actually succeeded Jill would not now be going back to Brussels. Sometimes you just have to be thankful that you don't get what you think you want.

The big question is whether they will take any notice, or whether they will say that Jill's re-election justified their strategy. I'm pessimistic about that. Self-justification is a powerful force.

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08:16 and 12:09 quote the numbers, and I would highlight Plaid's performance like this, data here:

1999 ... 185,235
2004 ... 159,888
2009 ... 126,702
2014 ... 111,864


The trend is inexorably downwards, and worse in percentage terms than the raw numbers suggest. Our share of the vote in 1999 was 29.6%, our share of the vote last week was only 15.3%. In percentage terms, our share of the vote has almost halved. Something is seriously wrong, and I would put it down to Plaid being seen as untrustworthy.

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As for the polls, I wouldn't be as harsh on them as Llew is. Yes, there are always things to be learned about how to weigh the numbers, but the numbers themselves are not inaccurate. They simply record what people said to the pollsters at the time they were asked. They are not predictions.

What has struck me most has been the recent and rapid fall-off in Labour's vote across Britain in the last week or so. We always knew UKIP would take votes from the Tories, but Labour voters also defected. This is a particularly bad result for Labour on an all-Britain level, especially when we consider that most of the LibDem collapse (which was inevitable because of being in coalition with the Tories at Westminster) would have switched to Labour. The underlying pattern is probably that dissaffected ABC1 LibDem supporters did switch to Labour, but that dissaffected C2DE Labour supporters were at the same time switching to UKIP.

For me, the big question is what effect this will now have on the 2015 Westminster election. The unfair electoral system means that UKIP will not do well and things will go back to the usual two-way battle between them and the Tories. Even UKIP say they are not expecting to get many:

"Four, five, six, seven, ten. Who knows? But we’re going to be having 20 to 30 target seats."

That seems to me to be entirely realistic, if not optimistic. Farage, if he picks his seat well, will get in on the basis of his personal popularity. UKIP might get one or two other MPs to keep him company if they're lucky. That could only change if UKIP and the Tories do a deal (or local deals).

From Labour's point of view, they probably took the view that if they didn't waste energy fighting it out with UKIP in this election they could not get bruised, and could go on to fight the 2015 election unscathed, with UKIP as a party that might still be vocal and irritating, but will be electorally irrelevant to them because of the voting system. That's actually quite a clever strategy.

So that would explain why Labour didn't really fight it out in this election. The loss of a second Welsh MEP and maybe half a dozen other MEPs across Britain is a very small price to pay if it helps them win what they see as a much bigger prize next May.

Anonymous said...

You've looked at the EU elections and at the GE but what do you fore-see in the Assembly elections MH? Mr d' Hondt will be a good friend of UKIP there; are there any regions where they won't get an AM?

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the headline figures look at the sentiment that lets UKIP out-poll Plaid in so many areas of Wales. UKIP is the quintessential "Little Englander" party with all that implies about identity. What does this say about Plaid's claim to be The Party of Wales? A mantra certainly not shared.

I always thought nationalists greatly underplayed the sympathy for Thatcher in Wales.There is a core poujadist element , even within your own Project , that you ignore at your peril.

MH said...

The next Assembly elections (although it might well be the National Parliament of Wales by then) will be in May 2016, and a lot will have happened before then, 13:25.

UKIP always does well in European Parliament elections, but then fades away because the media aren't really interested in what actually happens there. As I said, I very much doubt whether UKIP will get more than a small handful of Westminster seats in 2015. They'll be starved of publicity, and therefore won't do well in Wales in 2016. One seat in the North Wales region and one seat in the South Wales East region, perhaps.

However that could change if the 2015 election results in a Westminster government that is set to deliver an In-Out referendum. The EU will then be a hot topic and UKIP would therefore do better in 2016. Maybe half a dozen seats.

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As I said at the time, as well as making the tactical mistake of singling out UKIP for attack, the way Plaid attacked them was also entirely wrong, 16:08. I don't see why voting UKIP is any more a vote against Wales than a vote for any other party ... including, at times, Plaid Cymru itself.

Politics should be about policies, not about identities. So to label UKIP as "little Englander" is as absurd as thinking of Plaid as the only party that speaks for Wales.

One of the most depressing things about Plaid's campaign in this election was that they said that Wales would lose its voice in the EU if Jill lost her seat. Wales would not have lost its voice; it had four seats in the EP and it still has four seats. It's a question of who we choose to sit in them. In a plural democracy it's the height of arrogance, or delusion, for Plaid to claim to be the only party to speak for Wales. The best that can be said is that it speaks for 16% of Wales ... and it will only ever speak for a greater number to the extent that the policies it pursues are seen by the people of Wales to be in the best interests of Wales. We need to do a lot more work on that front than we have done over the last few years.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Ive spent most of my overlong life hearing Plaid say endlessly that they are the only party that actually speaks for Wales. Now dancing to a different drummer as the slippage dawns?

If you dont "get" the full reality of last night and the implications for the trip to the Independence rose garden, well enjoy the denial. As Elliot almost said, Mankind and Plaid cant really bear too much reality.

Llew said...

I disagree with MH. I believe that only Plaid Cymru's representatives put Wales before Westminster or other interests. I don't believe the party is in a good place electorally but I think Wales also is not in a good place politically or socially.

I disagree with alot of bloggers these days to be honest, despite reading as many as I can.

MH is right to say that its about policies and this is where Plaid will either go forward or stay on the same stagnant level. I would add that media coverage is important to actually broadcast the policies.

Llew said...

"Regardless of the headline figures look at the sentiment that lets UKIP out-poll Plaid in so many areas of Wales. UKIP is the quintessential "Little Englander" party with all that implies about identity. What does this say about Plaid's claim to be The Party of Wales? A mantra certainly not shared."

It says Plaid's mantra about being the party of Wales is a radical and aspirational proposition, rather than the settled will. What's new there?

Welsh nationality is quite tenuous and passive as a concept. Much of Welsh life exists in a British context. Plaid Cymru tries to represent an essentially Welsh voice within this context, but it is only one party in an increasingly pluralistic system (not like Scotland, more like Ireland). It's not always a popular voice. It usually (in Welsh election history) isn't as popular as the Tories and has only come close to Labour in one year (1999). This election was about getting Jill Evans re-elected. Nothing else was possible and most people in Wales don't agree with Plaid Cymru's main aim as a party. As MH says the work to be done is on having a more convincing message and policies.

Anonymous said...

So its "optimism of the will" and ever onwards as my old mate, Toni Gramsci used to say on his Newport ice cream van. Well good luck with that one. Its working well.

Btw, he also said "pessimism of the intellect" but that never sold him too many 99s in Wales.

MH said...

As you might have gathered, what some Plaid politicians say and what I say can often be quite different, 18:38. I think I do Plaid far more good by being critical of what they don't get right than by re-spinning what I see as a lame party line. This annoys the hell out of the leadership.

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All I'd say is that it doesn't always pay to be too partisan, Llew. Other parties have policies which are good for Wales. Labour has policies that have, for example, helped bring Welsh unemployment down to below the UK average. The LibDems should be credited for doggedly pushing through the Pupil Deprivation Grant. And equally, not all Plaid's policies are good for Wales, for some of our politicians are as much masters of the art of being vague, wishy-washy and inconsistent as politicians in other parties.

Let's say that it's always better to examine the policy in the tin rather than go by the label that's been put on the tin.

Anonymous said...

MH despite my comments above...UKIP and Gramsci etc and my obvious lack of sympathy with the "Project" being of old Trot stock, you indeed write a very interesting blog, well written, and rational. Rare anywhere. Lotta Continua

Anonymous said...

I think some of the analysis of Plaid's performance in these elections is influenced more by personal prejudice and perceived grievance than by an objective analysis of the facts. In the euro election 1979, the party received 11.7% of the votes, in 1984 - 12.2%, 1989 - 12.9%, 1994 - 17.1%, 1999 - 29.6%, 2004 - 17.4%, 2009 - 18.5% and 2014 - 15.3%. In short - and leaving aside the result in 1999 which would be described by pollsters as an outlier - the party's performance in 2014 is pretty much in keeping with how it has always done in euro elections. In fact, it's almost exactly at the mean. Given the particular nature of these elections - and the ability of UKIP to mop up most of of the protest vote (including, no doubt, a couple of percentage points worth which would otherwise have gone to Plaid) - the result is by no means a poor one for the party. On the other it isn't a good one either for any party which has aspirations to become a future party of government. Of course, Plaid's problem in this election, and indeed in all elections, is its lack of meaningful coverage in the London based media, which dominates the news consumption of most people in Wales.As a consequence, it is largely irrelevant whether it would be tactically more astute for Plaid to choose to attack UKIP or the Conservatives because most people will be completely unware either way.

MH said...

For those who aren't aware of it, "personal prejudice and perceived grievance" is how the current leadership of Plaid want to brush off my criticism of them and the way in which they have tried, and are still trying, to get me thrown out of the party for it. All the details are here ... with lots more to come later.

As I've already told them: if they don't like their lies and hypocrisy being exposed for all to see, tough. The answer is to stop telling and condoning lies and stop being hypocrites, rather than try to cover it up. For me, telling the truth is far more important than Plaid Cymru will ever be.

MH said...

Thanks, 21:37.

Anonymous said...

Despite retaining the European seat, losing 15,000 votes from 2009 is alarming, and there's no getting away from that. What's also alarming for me is the fact that Plaid Cymru don't seem to be getting any bounce at all from the referendum campaign in Scotland which is rejuvenating political culture throughout that country, and which could well deliver a YES vote in September. Plaid have failed to tap into this groundswell in any meaningful way, and a Welsh/Scottish factor which could have given their Euro campaign a different perspective and more meaningful impart, and bolstered their public support, was completely missing.

It's interesting that the Scottish referendum bounce seems to have gone UKIP's way entirely. I think that an overlooked element in their success in these elections is the events happening in Scotland, and how the main nation in these isles is responding to developments over the border. If you look at how UKIP is gathering momentum, in both media attention and popular support, it's as if we are seeing the birth of a real national party for England. All part of the SNP master plan I would imagine. This is a hugely positive development for Wales in one sense, although it also bring its own problems in the shape of a "Greater England" mentality which is gaining traction here, as can be seen in the 28% share of the vote for UKIP.

Realistically, we have to accept that this faction is here to stay in Welsh politics. In a sense, the rise of a properly England-identifying party was inevitable in Wales if you consider that 25% of the population of Wales was born in England. Some of these people may be attracted back to England to be part of their own national movement, but the likelihood is that the majority will stay here. We have to hope and pray that many will come to identify with Wales, and its own political aspirations, but we also have to face up to the fact that a "Greater England" mentality is only likely to get stronger here in view of what is likely to happen over the border. For instance,UKIP in Wales may well be the first off the blocks to call for a renewed union with England in the event of a YES vote in Scotland in September.

My fear is that Plaid Cymru are woefully unprepared for the historical possibilities of such a YES vote, and therefore unable to counter such arguments with a real vision for Wales's future which can resonate with people.
Aled GJ






Every problem is an opportunity and such a development galvanize Welsh political consciousness anew, and persuade people that we have to be more committed and involved than ever if we want a real national future for Wales as a nation. I think that too many of us have imagined that devolution would be a seamless trake

Anonymous said...

MH - I couldn't say whether my earlier use of the phrase 'personal prejudice and perceived grievance' is how Plaid's leadership is likely to 'brush off' your critcism as I am neither a member of the leadership nor even a member of Plaid. It is just my objective view of some of your original analysis and that provided by others in some of subsequent comments.

Aled GJ - The Scottish referedum 'bounce' you refer to doesn't seem to have done much for the SNP. Their share of the vote was almost the same as it was in 2009. A simplistic analysis of the vote in Scotland might lead to the conclusion that Labour and UKIP are the parties benefiting from the referendum 'bounce'. Although the SNP topped the poll, I suspect the the result falls well short of their hopes and expectations. In the current political context, it was poor result for them.

Neil McEvoy said...

The result justifies a whole re-think of Plaid strategy. Frankly, we are missing opportunities and give Labour a far too easy time. Local Development Plans are disastrous all over Wales, yet the Party virtually ignored THE issue which could have put the election in a Welsh context. Yet again, a missed chance to make progress.

Anonymous said...

I'll grant you, Aled, that UKIP topped the poll in counties with larger English born populations but they came second in every other county and that's including counties in the Fro Cymraeg and in the Valleys where the population that was "Born in England" is very small and Welsh Identity is the highest.

I don't think that you can generalise about the reasons for the rise of UKIP popularity; In some counties it was definitely a pro Union vote whilst in others it was anti-Europe and anti immigration with a strong flavouring of "so you think that you can take our votes for granted?".
No one is going to vote Tory in Blaenau Gwent or Merthyr but UKIP in Europe....too far away to make any difference and it sends a message to Labour to pull their fingers out on REAL matters and stop messing about with devolution.

Plaid got their MEP but if they think that they can start congratulating themselves they are dead. Labour was rubbish and that was their present to Plaid....intended or otherwise.

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