So this post is the contrepoint to the last, during which we determined that there will be 15 seats which cannot possibly change hands in the 2015 UK election. So if you live in Penarth then you’re stuck with Stephen Doughty, whose election as our MP I announced 4 months early. That may be a good or bad thing from your viewpoint. What is certain is that it’s a bad thing for more people than it’s a good thing, as a result of our tired first-past-the-post system that renders so many seats in Wales – in so many different elections – totally pointless non-contests.
Enough of doubting the system. But ‘The Impregnables’ got me thinking, following on from this comment:
These ultra-safe seats are important for political parties for much more reason than it’s nice to have them in the bank. Firstly, almost no electoral effort has to be made, which means that the parties can target their resources at other seats – either to defend or to expand their territory. But secondly, and most importantly, these politicians can concentrate on the machinations of government or legislation, without worrying too much about their constituents. It means that they can become Ministers, or focus on becoming experts in subject areas, can serve with distinction on Committees and toady up to lobbyists without casting one eye over their shoulder at their electorate.
How many of today’s Welsh Ministers represent impregnable constituencies?
- Carwyn Jones – Bridgend – impregnable
- Jeff Cuthbert – Caerphilly – not impregnable
- Alun Davies – Blaenau Gwent – impregnable
- Mark Drakeford – Cardiff West – not impregnable
- John Griffiths – Newport East – impregnable
- Lesley Griffiths – Wrexham – not impregnable
- Edwina Hart – Gower – not impregnable
- Jane Hutt – Vale of Glamorgan – not impregnable
- Huw Lewis – Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney – impregnable
- Carl Sargeant – Alyn & Deeside – impregnable
and the Deputy Ministers:
- Vaughan Gething – Penarth & Cardiff South – impregnable
- Ken Skates – Clwyd South – not impregnable
- Gwenda Thomas – Neath – not impregnable
Labour has 29 constituency Assembly Members, 14 of whom are impregnable. So it looks like Carwyn’s sticking with the probabilistic outcome that he pays no attention to how safe a seat they represent by a 50% count of impregnable Ministers (adding in the Deputies pushes it slightly under 50%). If that’s not interesting then at least it’s a now-established fact.
But back to the contestables.
How do I determine which seats are contestable? I’m going to sift them according to the parties either holding the seat or for whom the sesat is a top 10 target. So, drum roll, let’s look at those seats chased by all four parties:
- Aberconwy – realistic contestants (>20% of vote) – Conservative, Plaid, Labour
- Clwyd South – realistic contestants – Labour, Conservative
Next those seats where three parties are in with a shout:
- Cardiff Central – realistic contestants – Labour, Lib Dem
- Cardiff North – realistic contestants – Labour, Conservative
- Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South – realistic contestants – Conservative, Labour, Plaid
- Clwyd West – realistic contestants – Conservative, Labour, Plaid
- Preseli Pembrokeshire – realistic contestants – Conservative, Labour
- Vale of Glamorgan – realistic contestants – Labour, Conservative
- Vale of Clwyd – realistic contestants – Labour, Conservative
- Ynys Mon – realistic contestants – Plaid, Conservative, Labour
Well, I don’t know about you, but that analysis feels unsatisfactory. What we’re really looking for is a ranking, based on statistics. So let’s reassess our methodology. Firstly, the margin of victory must be the key sign of a contested seat. That’s our first basis of calculation. But there is a factor associated with a seat being contested by more than two parties. So I’m going to assign an additional weighting for the ‘multiple contestant factor’ – that is, where more than one party is within a certain percentage of the 2011 victor.
This is the top 10 contested constituencies in Wales, in order of most contested (if you’re interested in the following 10 or my methodology, take a peep at the calculations here):
- Cardiff Central
- Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
- Cardiff North
- Preseli Pembrokeshire
- Brecon & Radnorshire
- Ynys Mon
There are a few surprises in amongst that lot. Why is the Vale of Glamorgan ranked only at number 11, for example? Clearly some of our top 10 are less likely to change hands than the Vale. That’s because I ranked all parties equally when considering the marginality of seats. And I’ve already noted that some parties will be looking to expand their holdings while others will be struggling to hold their current crop. But I’d be willing to bet that of those seats that change hands in 2015, several of them will be on this list of Contestables. And funnily enough, not one Minister holds a seat in the top 10…