Saturday, 30 April 2011

Battlegrounds 2011 : Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru will be hoping that the last four years of coalition government with Labour will have been able to lay to rest the question "Yes, but what could Plaid do in government?" and hope that electors will ask a new question "What can Plaid do with an overall majority in the Assembly?". At the moment Plaid have seven Assembly constituencies under their belt. These seven are (in decreasing order of safeness)

  1. Dwyfor, Meirionnydd (40.09% majority) won by Lord Elis Thomas AM (who is the presiding officer of the Assembly). This seat has voted Plaid continually since February 1974 and with the presiding officer seeking another term in the Assembly, I can see no reason why it shouldn't continue
  2. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (28.94% majority) won by Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM. When the coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru was agreed, Rhodri was nominated as Culture and Heritage Minister (in charge of the Welsh language, Cadw and the arts) but did tend to put his foot in it just once or twice, most notably when he did a Terry Wogan and announced the wrong winner at a major book awards ceremony. Labour need a swing of 14.5% to topple Rhodri and whilst I think he will be back in the new Assembly, he might find his majority cut down to size
  3. Arfon (25.64% majority) won by Alun Ffred Jones AM. Alun was given the Heritage brief after Rhodri's faux pas with the awards and you would think that with a 26% majority (13% swing to Labour needed to gain) he too would be safe, but given that Plaid won Arfon last year in the Westminster election by only 6%, this could well go to a recount (if so, expect Wales North to be even later than they expect at the moment)
  4. Ynys Môn (16.38% majority) won by the Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM. Elected as the MP for the constituency in 1987 (gaining the seat from the Conservatives) and then as the Assembly member in 1999 Ieuan should be fairly secure here (if only due to the Labour candidate putting his foot in it last week), but Peter Rogers (the former Con regional AM) polled a very respectable 23% last time, and if those votes went en masse to the Conservative candidate in 2007, his majority would be down to just 3%. Could there be an upset in the pipeline?
  5. Llanelli (14.07% majority) won by Helen Mary Jones AM. Who can forget the scene at Llanelli in 2003 when Helen Mary Jones lost the Llanelli constituency by just 21 votes to Labour and was clearly upset by the loss? Could that happen again in 2011? Well, to be honest I have no idea. Labour should be expected to gain the seat (on a 7.04% swing) but have chosen a candidate who is in his 70's against a sitting Assembly member who has demonstrated her ability to sit in government. If Labour do gain this seat, it's going to be another recount job.
  6. Ceredigion (13.14% majority) won by Elin Jones AM. Elin was given the agriculture brief as part of the coalition agreement (previously occupied by Carwyn Jones and before him Christine Gwyther) and has proved to be a bit of a poisoned chalice as Elin discovered when she piloted leglisation through the Assembly authorising a cull of badgers to prevent outbreaks of bovine TB. Indeed, just last week in Aberystwyth a group opposed to the cull interuppted a campaign event and demanded she answer her critics. Ceredigion is a very rural constituency, but the main votes are in the student towns of Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter (where about 25% of the electorate live). The Lib Dems need a swing of 6.57% to gain the seat, but will the U turn over tuition fees hurt them or will they be able to demonstrate that local issues can decide elections?
  7. Aberconwy (8.18% majority) won by Gareth Jones AM. Gareth Jones has decided that after three elections (where he won twice and lost once) 12 years involved in the Assembly is enough for anyone and has stood down. With the Westminster seat going Conservative and Labour only needing a swing of 4.09% to gain, this is one seat that should change hands next week. As to who will gain it, I've not a clue!
And just like the other parties, Plaid have their own collection of seats they would love to get their hands on:

  1. Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South (0.44% swing from third). Carmarthen West is that strange constituency that's made up of all sorts. There's a bit of the old Carmarthen, a bit of the old Pembroke and even a little bit of the old Ceredigion in there for good measure, as a result this constituency (especially since 1999) has been a right old battleground. In 1999, it was a Lab / Con battleground (Lab 35% Con 30%), then in 2003 it became a Lab / Plaid battleground (Lab 36% Plaid 34%) and then in 2007 it became a three way marginal (Con 30% Lab 30% Plaid 29%). Whatever does happen at least one Assembly member will be on the way out as Nerys Evans (one of Plaid's regional AM's has decided to contest the constituency and under the rules of the Assembly cannot stand for the regional list at the same time)
  2. Clwyd West (3.33% swing from third). The same could be said for Clwyd West (a Con / Lab battleground in 1997), Plaid decided to gatecrash the party in 1999 (Lab 31%, Con 28%, Plaid 27%), and although losing a little headway in 2003 recovered in 2007 to make this seat a three way marginal as well (Con 34%, Lab 28%, Plaid 27%). Will Clwyd West be Plaid's first seat in Clwyd ever or will it revert to form as a Con / Lab battleground?
  3. Caerphilly (3.60% swing). Now Plaid must be thinking they have a chance here if only because their candidate this time around was the Independent candidate last time and the former Labour MP for the constituency until 2001. Yes, that's right, Ron Davies is standing for Plaid Cymru in his former seat (and when you consider that between him and Plaid in 2007, a total of 12,544 votes were cast as opposed to the 9,026 votes cast for Jeff Cuthbert, you can see why they are quite optimistic), but will the Labour increase across Wales since 2007 put paid to their plans?
  4. Neath (3.86% swing). Gwenda Thomas will be seeking her fourth Assembly term next week (one of 11 Labour AM's elected at the first Assembly elections) and given the national swing to Labour since 2007, she must be feeling fairly confident, but could the Liberal Democrat and Conservative voters (9% and 11% in 2007) spoil the party by tactically voting for Plaid Cymru?
  5. Preseli, Pembrokeshire (6.94% swing from third). And here is another example of a seat that has been trending Plaid since 1999. 25% in 1999 for Plaid, 23% in 2003 and 25% again in 2007. Having won the north of the county in 1992 (as part of Ceredigion and Pembroke North) could Plaid pull off another win in 2011? My personal feelings are that the south of the county (Milford Haven and Haverfordwest) is not as conducive to Plaid as the north so think that this could well revert to a Con / Lab battleground again
  6. Clwyd South (7.55% swing from third). Now we are starting to get into the long shots for Plaid. In 1999, Plaid polled a very respectable 25% in Clwyd South, but that has slipped down to just 20% in 2007, although with Karen Sinclair standing down from the Assembly could Plaid pick up votes and regain second place?
  7. Gower (7.81% swing from third). It's a similar story in Gower, 24% in 1999, 19% now but unlike Clwyd South, Edwina Hart is standing again. The best Plaid can hope for here is a strong second, but a gain is rather unlikely.


  1. Labour are in fact 17% behind Plaid in Aberconwy.

    It is the Tories who came second 8% behind Gareth Jones.

  2. Not sure I'd say Aberconwy "should change". I think Plaid have at least as good a chance as Labour or the Tories to win it. Labour have never won the seat before - the old seat of Conwy, which they won in 2003, was radically different in terms of boundaries; essentially the seat has lost Bangor (mostly Labour territory) and gained the Conwy valley (mostly Plaid territory) making the new seat much easier for Plaid and the Tories, much harder for Labour (Arfon in turn is easier for Labour to win than Caernarfon ever was). That it will be close is not in doubt, but I suspect Plaid Cymru will keep Aberconwy this year - just.

    UNS applies less to Plaid Cymru than any other party. There are areas of Wales, especially strong Welsh-speaking areas such as Caernarfon, where the Plaid is very strongly ingrained in the local population (rather like voting Liberal in the Shetland Isles). In the S Wales valleys on the other hand the vote is "softer" - Plaid gained many thousands of votes across the valleys seats in 2007 but Labour's majorities in those areas are so huge that it generally went unreported. If the polls indicate a national swing from Plaid to Labour, my instinct would be that this is mostly Plaid voters in the valleys "coming home" and is unlikely to mean that safe Plaid seats like Arfon or Carmarthen East are in danger. I reckon based on this that their least safe seat is Llanelli.

    Caerphilly seems the most likely gain this year, mainly for the Ron-factor of course. Other seats to watch from a Plaid-perspective include Islwyn, Rhondda and the Cynon Valley. These are all strong traditionally Labour seats (although Islwyn & Rhondda were won by Plaid in 1999) and I would fully expect them to go that way this time; but they are the kind of seats Plaid need to win if they are to become the biggest party in the Assembly.

  3. A big swing from LibDem > Labour doesn't seem too likely to adversely affect Plaid either. The Lib Dems are virtually nonexistant in most seats where Plaid are the main challengers to Labour (Llanelli, Caerphilly), and vice-versa (Swansea West, Newport East). The obvious exception is Ceredigion, but a swing from Lib > Lab there will make Plaid less likely to lose the seat, not more likely.

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  5. I believe the figures for Carms West and South Pembs are incorrect here (no parts of the old Ceredigion seat are here by the way) - the Tories came from nowhere in 2007, to such a degree that nobody was more shocked than Angela Burns herself!

    The figures are 1999: Lab 35%, Plaid 30%, Tory 18%; in 2003 Lab 35%, Plaid 33%, Tory 21%.

    I believe the general consensus here is that it will be a close Plaid-Labour battle again, and that the Conservatives themselves aren't very confident here this year. Personally I'd be reluctant to rule them out.

    Also, I doubt very much that Arfon will be recount territory. Although it was closer last year than many expected, Plaid Cymru *should* still hold on here fairly comfortably.

    There was a recent poll in Ceredigion putting Plaid about 20% ahead of the Lib Dems, with a surge in the Labour vote, apparently from a reputable source which actally predicted the 2007 Llanelli result within the margin of error. Elin Jones should hold on here fairly comfortably.

  6. Plaid will not win Caerphilly. It'll be close, but the theory of the 2007 plaid vote + 2007 Ron vote = more than Labour is flawed.

    The Lib vote (2,000 ish) will go to Labour in it's entirety, that takes the Labour vote up to 11,000. There will be people who voted plaid last time, that won't this time due to their candidate being Ron Davies, (I would say around 1,000 ex-plaid will vote Labour for this reason) That takes us to:

    Labour: 12,000
    Plaid+Ron: 11,500

    And that doesn't take into account, the UNS that, as Welshguy mentioned above, will be much more evident in the valleys than anywhere else.

    Prediction - Labour: 12,500, Plaid: 10,500

  7. It seems as though many bloggers and hacks who should have known better fell for the usual Ron Davies hype in Caerphilly - in the end he came nowhere near winning the seat for Plaid; Labour more than doubled their majority to almost 5,000.