Saturday, May 2, 2015

And here comes the Plaid surge, as Leanne Wood's party overtakes UKIP in Wales

A rare rift between the national movements in Scotland and Wales occurred just after the devolution referendums in 1997, when the future SNP MSP Dorothy Grace-Elder provoked irritation by snidely suggesting that Wales would never have been brave enough to vote Yes by the narrowest of margins if Scotland hadn't shown the way a week earlier.  There was never the slightest evidence to support that claim - in fact, it was striking how little effect the enormous Yes-Yes vote in Scotland had on the latter stages of the campaign in Wales.

However, in the case of the current general election campaign, I think it's probably fair to say that the SNP surge has had an important indirect effect on Wales.  The assumption is that Leanne Wood was only invited to the UK-wide leaders' debates because it was impossible to exclude the SNP in the current circumstances, and if the SNP were there, logically Plaid Cymru had to be there as well.  We're now seeing clear signs that a fairer level of coverage has weaved its magic for Plaid, which has overtaken UKIP in the latest Wales-wide YouGov poll -

Welsh voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election (YouGov, 28th-30th April) :

Labour 39% (-1)
Conservatives 26% (n/c)
Plaid Cymru 13% (+1)
UKIP 12% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
Greens 3% (-1)

Although the changes may look like meaningless margin of error stuff, it has to be borne in mind that Plaid are up from 9% in the last-but-one poll, and that 13% is a higher than usual figure.  It seems likely that Wood's involvement in the debates and her relentless focus on Wales while she was there is a big part of the explanation for this mini-surge, because a supplementary question finds that 29% identify her as the leader that best stands up for Wales, a full 17% ahead of her nearest challenger (Carwyn Jones, the Labour First Minister).

Unlike the SNP, Plaid's support is particularly concentrated in certain areas, which makes the result of the following question highly significant -

Thinking specifically about your own constituency and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency at the next general election?

Labour 37%
Conservatives 25%
Plaid Cymru 15%
UKIP 12%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 2%

It looks as if Plaid are only shedding 3% of their potential voters due to tactical/local considerations, which is being more than offset by the much larger number of tactical votes in their favour from supporters of other parties.  These votes will presumably be, for the most part, in the handful of constituencies Plaid have a serious chance in. There's a maximum of six they could win - Arfon (Plaid-held), Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (Plaid-held), Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Plaid-held), Ynys Môn (Labour-held), Llanelli (Labour-held), and Ceredigion (Lib Dem-held). If they were to win five or all six, they could make up more than 10% of the informal 'progressive bloc' in the new House of Commons.


  1. " If they were to win five or all six, they could make up more than 10% of the informal 'progressive bloc' in the new House of Commons."

    Oh boy! that would be wonderful.

  2. Only in my wildest dreams could Plaid win 6 seats... I know they were at first struggling to hold onto their 3 seats (I remember those dreadful "seat loss probable" comments on articles on Welsh polls earlier this year) but if they can keep them and potentially take Ynys Mon that would be outstanding.

    That said... surely they could take Ceredigion? I've heard from my close Welsh friends there was quite a serious stooshie over a Labour smear campaign against the Plaid candidate there, but it seemed to have backfired. Maybe my impression is completely wrong, but there's no way it'll stay Lib Dem; if Ceredigion's going anywhere surely it would be to PC.

    But O be still my beating heart, Llanelli... if only. My gut feeling is it's just out of reach. If Plaid take Llanelli that certainly will be worth opening the bottle of penderyn for.

    1. I know the Plaid Llanelli guys have been working their fingers to the bone all winter to get that seat. I had three of them staying with me to help at the referendum, and I follow them on Twitter. They started posting pics of themselves canvassing with their candidate Vaughan Williams almost as soon as they got back. They've been working solidly in all weathers, absolutely amazing effort.

      If anyone deserves a win, it's Plaid Llanelli.

  3. Hopefully the Welsh show UKIP the exit door.
    I feel for my Celtic cousins, as they have suffered from incoming Tory/Unionist/Rich Settlers more than us. Our distance from the home counties has spared us, up until now.
    I can see many London government jobs being moved North in the future.

  4. Perhaps it is the Welsh knowing they are not battling alone against a two-party system, that has fueled their determination to have their own voice heard. I send 'Good Luck' wishes from Scotland.

  5. 13% may not sound like much, but considering that Plaid were on 9% as recently as the end of March, I'll take it.

    15% would be Plaid's highest ever vote share in a general election - so that would be pretty astounding.

    Both fall short of what is suggesting, however - as of today, they have Plaid on 18% of the national vote and leading in all six of their target seats. That would be absolutely ludicrous.

    I don't want to get excited. Being a Plaid supporter in Wales is to be perennially disappointed. I'm finding it hard, though - it's been a good campaign for the party, and the polling, sparse though it may be in Wales, is looking increasingly encouraging.

    1. Is six the absolute top limit at this election?

      Personally, I think Leanne Wood should be allowed as much time on national TV - all channels - as a certain Mr Farage. Were that to be the case the sky could be the limit for you electorially.

      Best wishes.

    2. Realistically, yes, and even that would be an absolute mountain to climb.

      Of their three target seats, they only came close in one last time around: Ynys Mon. There, they face a strong incumbent and a strong core Labour vote. UKIP may prove critical here: if they can draw enough support away from Labour in its traditional strongholds like Holyhead and Amlwch, Plaid may come away with the seat. Plaid will also be heartened by an extremely strong showing in a recent Assembly by-election where they got almost 60% of the vote - but then again, this is one of those seats that tends to vote one way in Assembly elections and the other in UK elections. Here's hoping 2015 will be an exception.

      Ceredigion is perhaps their best hope. It's a Lib Dem seat at the moment, and their vote is set to collapse nationally. Ceredigion tends to go against national trends at elections, but there is no reason to believe that the Libs won't be hit hard this time around - particularly given that the seat is home to two universities. That said, Plaid are going to have to overturn a huge majority (LDs got 50% of the vote here in 2010), and they're facing another popular incumbent in the shape of Mark Williams.

      Llanelli is the longest shot. The parliamentary constituency has been Labour since the dawn of time (though Plaid have held the Assembly seat in the past), though Plaid has been gradually growing its vote here and could mount a real challenge this time around.

      They have a shot at each of these three seats, but they're also not guaranteed to hold on to those they already have - Carmarthen East and Dwyfor Meirionnydd should be safe, but the party has been treating Arfon as a marginal for good reason.

      Every other seat in this election is a no-hoper. I hope (and to a degree expect) that Plaid will continue to build on its vote share in the post-industrial South Wales coalfield. In time, seats like Rhondda, Caerphilly, Neath and the Cynon Valley could become Labour-Plaid marginals. Then Labour hegemony in Wales would face its first real challenge. The first step on that road is taking Llanelli. Unlikely this time around, but in the 2016 Assembly elections, not so much. They could come away with anything between 2 - 6 seats. I'd guess 3-4, myself.

    3. Thanks for that insight. It is truly a long and winding road

      Best wishes.

  6. What people need to realise is that the majority of Plaid support is in the six constituencies that make up Y Fro, this is the belt stretching from Llanelli up to Ynys Mon (Anglesey). Support here is at its strongest. Support for Labour is at its strongest in the densely populated valleys where 13 constituencies have had Labour MPs for between 93-105 years. This is why the averages work out the way they do.

    It should be no surprise to anyone in Scotland that the top ten poorest wards in Wales all have Labour MPs, AMs and County Councillors. Labour constituencies all have the highest child poverty. I say it should be no surprise as historically the same would have been true for you guys.

    Personally I'm hoping for another election after Ed refuses to deal with the rest of us, perhaps those people elsewhere in Wales will finally see through Labour.

  7. Those Lib Dems votes are up for grabs, hopefully Plaid can take a few more % before the final vote.

  8. Good luck to Plaid in the coming Election from all SNP members, we may not be "Better Together", but undoubtably we are "Stronger Together"

  9. Plaid are canvassing extremely hard in Llanelli. I've had a sneaky feeling Plaid will gain Llanelli this time round and will go on to further their spot by claiming the Assembly seat also. I expect Plaid to keep the three seats we have at the moment. Places like Neath, Rhondda also look very interesting, if Plaid can grow their vote percentage, as is being predicted in recent polls then I think the Assembly elections will be very interesting indeed.

  10. Maybe this surge is real, tonight Hinterland actor Richard Harrington endorsed Rhondda Plaid Cymru candidate Shelly Rees Owen a fellow actor and local councillor as a strong voice for the south Wales valleys

  11. Best wishes to Plaid Cymru, its leader and its militants from the Welsh diaspora.