Archive for May, 2011

What went wrong for Plaid

Plaid Cymru are having a review of what went wrong for them in the election. Having no particular axe to grind here are a few thoughts.

Over the years Plaid Cymru have positioned themselves as a left of centre party. Of course, this puts them in competition with the dominant ’˜leftish’ Labour Party for votes. Consequently, they mop up the votes of protest when the main party of the left is unpopular. But alas, when the reverse is true they suffer a loss of votes.

Now the SNP in Scotland have never branded themselves as either right or left but ‘nationalist’ . They’ve been branded ‘tartan Tories’ , by Labour. But whatever label you put on them they have been an effective electoral machine.

First of all they targeted the Tory vote and swallowed up the Conservative vote in Scotland. They then moved their tanks onto the Liberal Democrats lawn and helped themselves to their votes. By so doing, they eclipsed Labour in most of the Scottish constituencies, to gain an absolute majority. A first as no other party in the Scottish parliament has had such a majority.

Now, of course, Scotland is not Wales. But there are lessons in this approach for Plaid Cymru.

Over the years Plaid Cymru have being obsessed with attracting the Labour vote. Attacking Labour from the left has been their chosen approach. Indeed the recent Assembly election was a prime example of this strategy.

Barely a word about the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Westminster governments cuts. Cuts that most people in Wales are uncomfortably aware of. And which Labour exploited so effectively in the campaign.

No, Plaid barely mentioned these. Their campaign was almost exclusively a litany of Labour’s mistakes. OK, such a campaign might have had some merit if they had been in opposition these past four years. But the public are not idiots and found such attacks barely credible from a party that had shared the governmental bed with Labour over the last Assembly term.

Such a strategy failed from two points of view, it was not creditable and secondly it was a negative campaign. The public tend to switch off such negative campaigns.

Plaid Cymru went into the campaign with high expectations Why? They thought that there would be a dividend arising from the successful referendum on law making powers. Indeed much of their eve of election party conference was a valediction of the part they had played in the successful referendum. What was overlooked in the heady aftermath of the win was that sixty per cent of Welsh people were not bothered enough to vote. So if there was to be an electoral bonus to Plaid it would only come from the minority that bothered to vote in that referendum. To base an election strategy on such slender foundations proved to be mistake.

The resulting law making Assembly causes a more fundamental problem for the party. Now that the assembly is a real law making body many voters question whether there is now a purpose in voting for Plaid Cymru. Surely, the voter reasons, they have met their ambitions.

Clearly, a problem for them if ’˜Indepedence’ is a word that none may dare call it by name. What then is the underlying philosophy of the party. How can it attract people to its banner? Where is it going as a party? What is it’s raison d’etre?

Unless it comes up with a creditable answer to these questions it’s electoral success or failure will be determined more by the ebb and flow of the political fortunes of Labour than anything they do as a party. In other words, Plaid Cymru only benefits in Labour’s lean years. A party that bases its electoral philosophy on Micawber’s philosophy that ‘something will turn up’ is not likely to have to bright a future.

On a more practical level their one unique selling point, their plan to create 50,000 jobs with their Build for Wales company, was kept till almost the last minute of the campaign. Why? Because when the proposal was first unveiled it was subject to a withering attack by Labour in Westminster. Instead of ploughing ahead and being confident in their own work they shied away from the issue until a few dates before polling day. Result a possible vote winner not deployed effectively.

So will Plaid review of the campaign be clinical and forensic? Only time will tell.

But the omens are not good with local constituencies already patting themselves on the back on excellent campaigns -despite losing. It’s like a football team claiming victory on the number of near misses rather than goals.

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Regional List: explained

Many have asked me to explain how the regional top up works for the National Assembly. So below. I’ve tried to explain it. 

This will be my last blog for  a week or so, as I’m off on holidays!



Regions and Voting

There are five regions, each electing four regional AMs. This gives an additional 20 regional seats to top the 40 elected on the first past the post system based on constituencies.

A quota system invented by Belgian mathematician and lawyer Victor d’Hondt (1841 – 1901) is used for deciding the 20 regional seats.  Thus proving that there is more to Belgium than beer, chocolates and Tin Tin. 

Now back to the sums. It’s all worked out on the total number of regional votes received by a party or independent candidate. These are then divided by the number of constituency seats already gained in the region +1. No, this not bad typing on my part the plus 1 is an essential part of the calculation.

Should you be a ‘billy no mates’ party with no constituency seats the number of votes you received in the whole of the region is divided by one. If the party has secured one constituency seat in that region then its number of votes is divided by two, if it has two seats in that region it is divided by three, and so on. Simple, ain’t it. If you don’t understand it now then the Welsh standards of numeracy is lower than previously thought.

So, the rule is, the more constituency seats a political party wins, the harder it is to gain any additional seats through the regional list system. Now the overall allocation of seats is more proportional to the number of votes cast.

You can check it all – below.

This is how the system operated for the 2011 Assembly elections. Whether it is the best system is a question for another day, but Lord Richards thought not. 

When asked to make a recommendation he suggested a system of Single Transferable Vote based on multi-member seats based on local authority boundaries. So that all  Assembly Members would then be chosen in the same way.

North Wales Regional List

Labour

5 Const. AMs  +1

Conservative

2 Const. AMs

+1

Plaid Cymru

2 Const. AMs +1

Lib.Democrat

0 Const. AMs

+1

UKIP

0 Const. AMs +1

62,677/6

52,201/3

41,701/3

11,507/1

9,601/1

10,446

17,400   AM

13,900

11,507

9,601

10,466

13,050

13,900   AM

11,507

9,601

10,466

13,050   AM

10,425

11,507

9,601

10,466

10,440

10,425

11,507 AM

9,601

Mark Isherwood

Conservative

Antoinette Sandbach

Conservative

Llyr Huws Gruffydd

Plaid Cymru

Aled Roberts

Liberal Democrat

Party

Votes

Percentage

Conservative

52,201

26.8

Plaid Cymru

41,701

21.4

Liberal Democrat

11,507

5.9

Labour

62,677

32.2

UKIP

9,608

4.9

Socialist Labour Party

4,895

2.5

BNP

4,785

2.5

Green

4,406

2.3

Welsh Christian Party

1,401

0.7

Independent – Weyman

1,094

0.6

Communist Party of Britain

523

0.3

South Wales West Regional List

Labour

7 Const. AMs  +1

Conservative

0 Const. AMs

+1

Plaid Cymru

0 Const. AMs +1

Lib.Democrat

0 Const. AMs

+1

UKIP

0 Const. AMs +1

71,766/8

27,457/1

21,258/1

10,683/1

6619/1

8,970

27,457   AM

21,258

10,683

6619

8,970

13,728

21,258 AM

10,683

6619

8,970

13,728 AM

10,629

10,683

6619

8,970

  9,152

10,629

10,683 AM

6619














Suzy Davies

Conservative

Byron Davies

Conservative

Bethan Jenkins

Plaid Cymru

Peter Black

Liberal Democrat

Party

Votes

Percentage

Conservative

27,457

17.8

Plaid Cymru

21,258

13.8

Liberal Democrat

10,683

6.9

Labour

71,766

46.9

UKIP

6,619

4.3

Socialist Labour Party

5,057

3.3

BNP

4,714

3.1

Green

3,952

2.6

Welsh Christian Party

1,602

1.0

Trade Unionist & Socialist against cuts

809

0.5

Communist Party of Britain

464

0.3

South Wales East Regional List

Labour

7 Const. AMs  +1

Conservative

1 Const. AMs

+1

Plaid Cymru

0 Const. AMs +1

Lib.Democrat

0 Const. AMs

+1

UKIP

0 Const. AMs +1

82,699/8

35,459/2

21,850/1

10,798/1

9,526/1

8,970

17,729  

21,258   AM

10,798

9,526

8,970

17,729   AM

10,925

10,798

9,526

8,970

11,819  AM

10,925

10,798

9,526

8,970

  8,864

10,925  AM

10,798

9,526














William Graham

Conservative

Antoinette Sandbach

Conservative

Jocelyn Davies

Plaid Cymru

Lindsay Whittle

Plaid Cymru


Party

Votes

Percentage

Conservative

35,459

19.6

Plaid Cymru

21,850

12.1

Labour

82,699

45.7

Liberal Democrat

10,798

6

UKIP

9,526

5.3

BNP

6,485

3.6

Green

4,857

2.7

Socialist Labour Party

4,427

2.4

Welsh Christian Party

1,904

1.3

English Democrats

1,904

1.1

Communist Party of Britain

578

0.3

South Wales Central Regional List

Labour

8 Const. AMs  +1

Conservative

0 Const. AMs

+1

Plaid Cymru

0 Const. AMs +1

Lib.Democrat

0 Const. AMs

+1

Green

0 Const. AMs +1

22,013/9

9.780/1

6,169/1

4,468/1

2,583/1

2,445

9.780     AM

6,169

4,468

2,583

2,445

4,890  

6,169    AM

4,468

2,583

2,445

4,890   AM

3,084

4,468

2,583

2,445

3,260

3,084

4,468  AM

2,583














Andrew RT Davies

Conservative

David Melding

Conservative

Leanne Wood

Plaid Cymru

John Dixon

Liberal Democrat


Party

Votes

Percentage

Labour

22,013

43.1

Conservative

9,780

19.2

Plaid Cymru

6,169

12.1

Liberal Democrat

4,468

 8.8

Green

2,583

 5.1

UKIP

2,465

 4.8

Socialist Labour Party

1,230

 2.4

BNP

1,098

 2.2

Communist Party of Britain

   522

 1.0

Monster Raving Loony Party

   357

 0.7

Trade Unionist & Socialist against cuts

   219

 0.4

Welsh Christian Party

  156

 0.3

Mid and West Wales Regional List

Labour

1 Const. AMs  +1

Conservative

3 Const. AMs

+1

Plaid Cymru

3 Const. AMs +1

Lib.Democrat

1 Const. AMs

+1

UKIP

0 Const. AMs +1

47,348/2

52,905/4

56,384/4

26,847/2

9,711/1

23,674  AM

13,226

14,096

13,423

9,711

15,782  AM

13,226

14,096

13,423

9,711

11,837

13,226

14,096   AM

13,423

9,711

11,837

13,226

11,276

13,423 AM

9,711

Elizabeth Joyce Watson

Labour

Rebecca Mary Evans

Labour

Simon Thomas

Plaid Cymru

William Powell

Liberal Democrat


Party

Votes

Percentage

Labour

47,348

22.5

Plaid Cymru

56,384

26.7

Liberal Democrat

26,847

12.7

Conservative

52,905

25.1

UKIP

 9,711

 4.6

Green

8,660

 4.1

Socialist Labour Party

3,951

 1.9

BNP

2,821

 1.3

Communist Party of Britain

1,630

 0.8

Welsh Christian Party

  595

 0.3

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Labour to dance alone – for the moment!

Labour have decided to go it alone despite not having a majority.  The party fell short of an outright majority and it is true if there was only a first past the post system for a  40 seated Assembly they would have had 28 seats. Over twice the seats gained by the other parties. However, it’s a 60 seat Assembly, with a top up regional  element. 

Although the current system was devised to give the other parties a look in. Raising the possibility in a good year of having an overall majority between them all and the  prospect of perhaps unseating Labour should they be able to agree amongst themselves. That  prospect came close to being realized in 2007 with the prospect of what was called a ‘rainbow coalition.’However, in 2011 the system did favour Labour slightly, by given them half the seat with only 44 per cent of the votes overall.

Ian Lucas the  Labour Member of Parliament for Wrexham has argued on the airwaves, that the system needs changing as it is unfair to Labour. Presumably he is arguing for the scrapping of the current system and going back to the first past the post system. 

Many less tribal politicians would argue such a system would be unhealthy for democracy and could lead to practices and excesses on an all-Wales basis that were associated with some of those old Welsh Labour controlled County Councils. One party rule for ever and a day. Surely, that should not be wished for. 

To be fair to Carwyn Jones it is not something that he has any interest in. 

Although taking over the sole reins of government for his party he has made it clear “over the coming weeks and months, I will have ongoing discussions with the other parties about what shape this role will take, but some time and space must be afforded to opposition parties for them to consider what this election has meant for them, what the electorate has said to them, and how they wish to interpret that message.” 

So there is a prospect that Wales coould be world leaders  in introducing grown up politics. Now that would be radical idea. But whatever Carwyn Jones’s aspirations, he must be aware that there are many dinosaurs around, not least in his own party that would prevent such an innovation.

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