A Once-in-a-Century Election

I’ve been thinking about democracy, Wales, the UK and Europe for a while, and David Cameron has helpfully prodded me to examine the issue in greater detail. After all, the independence campaign in Scotland is making hay over his in-out EU referendum project. If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

So let’s have a look at the baseline. I wanted to find out: how influential have Wales’ general election results been in the UK context over the last 150 years or so? And as a corollary, how useful was your vote in the overall scheme of things. The test I put the results to was this: If Welsh results were excluded from the election, would the result have been any different? You might find the results surprising.

I’ve used the UK Parliament’s report as my source for 1918-2010 results, and Wikipedia prior to that (hence the lack of detail).

Election
Governing party(ies)
Welsh MPs from opposition parties
Governing majority
Did your vote count?
1868
 Liberal
Conservative
 115
No
1874
 Conservative
Liberal
 49
No
1880
 Liberal
Conservative
 51
No
1885
 Liberal
Conservative
 -172
No
1886
 Conservative
Liberal
 116
No
1892
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Conservative
 37
No
1895
 Conservative
Liberal
 153
No
1900
 Conservative + Lib Unionist
Liberal and Labour
 130
No
1906
 Liberal
Conservative
 129
No
1910Jan
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 345 vs 325 (20)
No
1910Dec
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 346 vs 324 (22)
No
1918
 Conservative + Liberal
9 Labour, 3 Conservative, 4 Liberal
 459 vs 248 (211)
No
1922
 Conservative
18 Labour, 10 Liberal
 334 vs 281 (53)
No
1923
 Labour (minority)
4 Conservative, 11 Liberal
 191 vs 424 (-233)
No
1924
 Conservative
16 Labour, 10 Liberal
 412 vs 203 (209)
No
1929
 Labour
1 Conservative, 9 Liberal
 287 vs 328 (-41)
No
1931
 Conservative + Liberal
16 Labour
 510 vs 105 (405)
No
1935
 Conservative
18 Labour, 6 Liberal
 429 vs 186 (243)
No
1945
 Labour
4 Conservative, 6 Liberal
 393 vs 247 (146)
No
1950
 Labour
4 Conservative, 5 Liberal
 315 vs 310 (5)
Yes
1951
 Conservative
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 321 vs 304 (17)
No
1955
 Conservative
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 344 vs 286 (58)
No
1959
 Conservative
27 Labour, 2 Liberal
 365 vs 265 (100)
No
1964
 Labour
6 Conservative, 2 Liberal
 317 vs 313 (4)
Yes
1966
 Labour
3 Conservative, 1 Liberal
 363 vs 267 (96)
No
1970
 Conservative
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 1 Independent Labour
 330 vs 300 (30)
No
1974Feb
 Labour
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 301 vs 334 (-33)
No
1974Oct
 Labour
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 319 vs 316 (3)
Yes
1979
 Conservative
21 Labour, 1 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru, 1 other
 339 vs 296 (43)
No
1983
 Conservative
20 Labour, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 397 vs 253 (144)
No
1987
 Conservative
24 Labour, 3 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 375 vs 275 (100)
No
1992
 Conservative
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 336 vs 315 (21)
No
1997
 Labour
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 418 vs 241 (177)
No
2001
 Labour
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 412 vs 247 (165)
No
2005
 Labour
3 Conservative, 4 Liberal, 3 Plaid, 1 Independent
 355 vs 291 (64)
No
2010
 Conservative + Lib Dem
29 Labour, 3 Plaid Cymru
 363 vs 287 (76)
No

 

So in the 146 years since the Reform Act 1867 there have only been 3 elections where members returned from Wales have made the slightest difference to the outcome of an election. This isn’t to say that individual members haven’t made an impression; David Lloyd George being one such example.

But as for casting your vote? Only people aged 57 and over can claim to have had any influence over the outcome of an election in the UK.

This result isn’t really that surprising. There are currently 40 MPs representing Welsh constituencies out of 650 in total. The Welsh voice is drowned out by the 73 in Greater London alone. I’m not suggesting that Greater London shouldn’t have more MPs than Wales – I’m a democrat, after all! But it got me thinking.

Most political parties have staked a fair amount of political capital on ‘sending a message to Westminster‘ at various elections. But it turns out that the only election where you’re pretty much guaranteed to have no impact other than sending a message is the one where you’re electing MPs to sit in Westminster. Unless you’re hanging on in there for the once-in-a-century election where your vote actually will make a difference, you’re better off casting it in a way  that will send a genuine message to Westminster – whatever you want that message to be.

This lack of influence means that Wales will continue to have things done to us by other people who know best, in all areas that are not devolved. Think taxation, benefits, foreign affairs, defence (war), energy, policing, justice and so on. And your vote matters not a jot.

Conversely, some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

However there are elections where your vote makes a genuine difference to the way things are run around here. Those are local elections and elections for the National Assembly. These are two sets of elections where precisely what you should not be thinking about is sending a message to Westminster. Frankly, Westminster couldn’t give a hoot what results Wales coughs up even in a UK election, so why anyone thinks the powers that be will bat an eyelid at Assembly or local elections I have no idea.

But local elections are important because decisions are made that affect all of us on a day-to-day basis, like planning decisions, the proportion of affordable housing in new developments, the number and location of new developments, education policy, the location of schools, what schools should be closed or opened, where and how you access social services, libraries, sports facilities, local traffic and highways, how frequently your recycling is picked up and so on. You should be voting for the candidates and/or parties that provide the most compelling suite of policies that reflect your needs.

Likewise, at the National Assembly, don’t vote for a party because you think you’ll be sending a message to Westminster. That really is a wasted vote. Check out the manifestos and consider which of the parties best meets your ideas on education, health, economic development, culture, housing, highways, planning and the environment.

I asked at the start: If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

The answer is that there’s an ever-so-slightly increased chance that votes cast in FUK general elections would be able to have an influence on the outcome. But the best way for us to service our democratic needs in Wales is to make sure that issues that matter to us are ones we can have an influence over.

So if sending our young people to war is something important to you, look to get defence devolved to Wales. If economic growth is your bag, you’ll be looking for taxation powers. And if health and education are your crucial issues, well you’re probably already happy with the way your vote can have an impact on the way things are done. Even if you’re not over the moon with the way things are being done!

4 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government, Westminster

4 responses to “A Once-in-a-Century Election

  1. Hysbysiad cyfeirio: The Impregnables | penartharbyd

  2. Hysbysiad cyfeirio: Penarth and Cardiff South: Labour | penartharbyd

  3. Hysbysiad cyfeirio: Penarth and Cardiff South: Other Parties | penartharbyd

  4. Hysbysiad cyfeirio: Welsh Politics Changes – for Good | penartharbyd

Gadael Ymateb

Rhowch eich manylion isod neu cliciwch ar eicon i fewngofnodi:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Newid )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Newid )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Newid )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Newid )

Connecting to %s