It’s the holy grail of political parties to enjoy power. If you can do it alone, so much the better; the unpalatable compromise is to enter a coalition. In this series of posts I’ll be examining the scale of the challenge for each of the main political parties in seizing power in Wales.
Not just any old power. Full, complete majority power in the National Assembly for Wales. Easier for some than for others.
First let’s just recoup. The proportional element of our National Assembly elections was incorporated partially to make the electoral system more reflective of people’s voting patterns. But it was also there to make it impossible for any one party to wield majority control in Wales. But we’ve already seen from Scotland’s experience that the best-laid plans can fall apart.
What do the Conservatives have to do to win 31 seats in Cardiff Bay? This list is in order of the most likely to be held/fall first (see this post for the reasoning of the target seats). I’m going to make the assumption that they’ll need to do it in the absence of any regional/list seats – and you’ll see why from the complexion of the seats they need to win. The Conservatives’ worst-performing electoral region is South Wales West, but they still need to pick up three seats here in order to get a majority. It’s inconceivable that they’ll get list seats in this or any other region under those circumstances.
- Monmouth – held with 20.4% majority
- Clwyd West – held with 16.9% majority
- Montgomeryshire – held with 10.1% majority
- Preseli Pembrokeshire – held with 8.0% majority
- Aberconwy – held with 7.7% majority
- Carmarthenshire West & South Pembrokeshire – held with 5.3% majority
- Cardiff North – 5.2% behind 1st place
- Vale of Glamorgan – 11.4% behind
- Brecon & Radnorshire – 9.7% behind
- Delyn – 12.4% behind
- Vale of Clwyd – 17.4% behind
- Ynys Mon – 12.2% behind
- Newport West – 18.3% behind
- Clwyd South – 13.2% behind
- Gower – 18.2% behind
- Wrexham – 17.9% behind
- Cardiff West – 21.3% behind
- Penarth & Cardiff South – 22.8% behind
- Alyn & Deeside – 24.5% behind
- Swansea West – 21.3% behind
- Bridgend – 28.2% behind
- Carmarthen East & Dinefwr – 22.7% behind
- Dwyfor Meirionnydd – 26.2% behind
- Newport East – 27.7% behind
- Cardiff Central – 22.8% behind
- Torfaen – 31.4% behind
- Pontypridd – 35.1% behind
- Arfon – 44.2% behind
- Islwyn – 46.0% behind
- Swansea East – 43.8% behind
- Llanelli – 28.7% behind
So to get a full, working majority in the National Assembly the Conservatives will need to make a clean sweep of all constituency seats in the north Wales electoral region, along with capturing the seats of Labour former First Secretary Alun Michael (Penarth & Cardiff South), First Minister Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff West), current First Minister Carwyn Jones (Bridgend), and valleys seats such as Pontypridd, Torfaen and Islwyn, along with seats where they are as much as 44% behind the incumbent in terms of share of the vote.
It’ll need a seismic shift in the politics of Wales for this to happen. There are two possible scenarios which could see it happen.
First off, public opinion and politics in Wales could shift dramatically to the right of where it is in England. I don’t see that as being likely any time in the coming decades.
The other possible scenario is for the Conservative party in Wales to move much further to the left. The Conservative’s placement on the political spectrum (some way to the left of their friends in England) is partially responsible for the comparative electoral success they’ve enjoyed in Wales in recent elections. But to continue to move left the Conservatives would have to do several things:
- Find an Assembly group leader other than Andrew RT Davies
- Probably split from the UK party – or find some other means of reconciling the political ideologies
- Play a very careful wicket in holding on to existing right-wing supporters in the light of new right-wing vote absorber UKIP
I find this a distinctly more plausible scenario than the political make-up of Wales veering wildly to the right. But to say that a split from the UK Conservatives is ‘more plausible’ than any other scenario indicates just how implausible an absolute majority is for the Conservatives.
Unless they become unlikely coalition partners, the Conservatives’ fate in Wales is permanent opposition.