Target Seats in Wales: Plaid

Plaid Cymru’s situation throws up a series of interesting findings. For the other parties, there was by and large a clear correlation: those seats where the party does well in share of the vote are those where it is relatively close to the incumbent party. For Plaid there are a slew of seats where they pick up a decent share of the vote (ten seats they don’t hold with 20% of the vote or more) but are way behind the victorious party. The reason is, of course, the Labour hegemony in south Wales.

So here are the stats for those keenest amongst us.

Plaid already hold: Arfon, Carmarthenshire East & Dinefwr, Ceredigion, Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Ynys Môn.

And here’s the top 10, in order, of seats that Plaid will be eyeing up in 2015:

  • Llanelli
  • Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
  • Caerphilly
  • Aberconwy
  • Clwyd West
  • Neath
  • Clwyd South
  • Cardiff West
  • Rhondda
  • Preseli Pembrokeshire

This gives us an indication of the scale of the challenge facing Leanne Wood in her decision to contest Rhondda in 2016. The reason it’s only the 9th-best prospect is because Plaid were a massive 34% behind the first-placed party in the last poll, despite recording nearly 30% of the vote themselves. It’s a mountain to climb. People talk in awe about Alex Salmond’s astounding capture of Gordon in 2007. That required an increase in the share of the vote of merely 19%. Leanne needs an increase of 35%. Such a result would be spectacular and – excepting Brent East (itself a special case) – unprecedented.

Should Labour be complacent? The stats tell us a bit more of the story. Leighton Andrews’ 12,650 votes were only 1,400 more than Wayne David’s in 1999 – and would not have been enough to deny Geraint Davies from taking Rhondda in 1999. In that first Assembly election turnout was 50.2%; turnout in the last Assembly election was just 38%. It seems to suggest that when there’s an interesting political contest, turnout is boosted. And history suggests that the boost in turnout benefits one party more than any other.

Enough of Rhondda. Because we need to take account of the fact that Plaid don’t hold the same constituencies in both Parliaments, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn arrive at the top of the list, pushing Rhondda to 11th spot. Our list now looks like:

  • Ynys Môn
  • Ceredigion
  • Llanelli
  • Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
  • Caerphilly
  • Aberconwy
  • Clwyd West
  • Neath
  • Clwyd South
  • Cardiff West

It’s no surprise to see Ynys Môn at the top of the list. Following Plaid’s recent success in the local elections, and with Ieuan Wyn Jones announcing his resignation today, Plaid would be in pretty poor shape to lose the seat at the upcoming by-election. Expect lots of visits to the island from Peter Hain and other Labour big guns, and a non-stop discussion of Plaid’s uncomfortable position on nuclear. Following by-election success, Ynys Môn is clearly a major target for Plaid in 2015, with Albert Owen’s majority of under 2,500. Ieuan Wyn as the candidate, perhaps?!

Ceredigion has become a much more interesting contest with the selection of Mike Parker as candidate for Plaid. Mike is one of the most interesting candidates Plaid could have picked for this constituency. Erudite, English and engaging. Someone who can fire people’s imagination.

I said previously that Mark Williams would be “firmly in control of the seat for 2015”. Suddenly I’m not so sure. Let’s remember that Cynog Dafis pulled in an additional 8,200 votes to take Ceredigion for Plaid in 1992. And Mark’s majority? 8,300. Hold onto your hats!

Llanelli looks distinctly less achievable for Plaid in the UK election than at the Welsh election. Nia Griffith commands a 4,500 majority, and although that was reduced at the 2010 election, it was a poor election for Labour in general. And given that the totemic Ron Davies couldn’t take Caerphilly in an Assembly election that is always more benign for the Party of Wales, it’s not likely to fall in 2015. 

In the face of a Labour party expected to improve on its 2010 performance – although not spectacularly, given Ed Miliband’s struggling leadership – most of the rest of the top 10 look challenging. Add in the UK context under which UK elections are (unsurprisingly) fought, alongside the London-centric bias of the broadcast and print media, and the picture looks tough for gains of more than one seat. Holding onto Arfon will be enough to keep the troops busy between now and 2015.

10 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

10 responses to “Target Seats in Wales: Plaid

  1. Glyn

    I don’t see Plaid as a serious contender for the Aberconwy seat. There is a by-election in the Caerhun ward of Conwy County Council on 11 July, but Plaid could not even find a candidate. There’s a strong Labour candidate, I hear.

  2. I don’t see Plaid as a serious contender for Aberconwy either, Glyn, certainly not in the next UK election in 2015. The 2016 elections show a bit more promise, but still not in the top target zone. And your Caerhun comment confirms it. Any party that wants to stand a chance of winning a seat must find candidates for every local authority seat as a minimum (Plaid in Gwynedd – are you listening?! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-17622555). Failing to find one for a by-election is a dereliction of duty – not least because the party has let down electors in Caerhun who might have considered voting for Plaid.

    • Glyn

      Sorry. I was wrong. I see in today’s North Wales Pioneer that there is a Plaid candidate called Pered Morris in the Caerhun by-election.

      I shall be more cautious in the information I pass on in future.

  3. Not to worry Glyn, it was good to get Bryncrug off my chest in any case!

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