For the other parties, this is a theoretical exercise. For Labour, it should be reality.
To get a better view on the Labour party’s grip on power in Wales, Roger Scully’s analysis is second to none. Just for the record, Labour has achieved the following number of seats in National Assembly elections:
- 1999 – 28 seats
- 2003 – 30 seats
- 2007 – 26 seats
- 2011 – 30 seats
Having half the seats isn’t enough in the power game. To truly wield power you need 50% +1 seat, or 31 seats. In 2003 and 2011 alike Labour’s failure to grab the critical additional seat meant governing in a minority administration, and therefore needing to secure a vote from at least one opposition Member in order to win crucial votes (such as approving the annual budget and votes of no confidence).
So how does Labour go about getting 31 seats? Read on.
The most straightforward way is to win 31 constituency seats. In 2003 Labour won 30 constituencies, but in 2011 they took 28 constituency seats, receiving 2 compensatory seats in mid and west Wales courtesy of d’Hondt. The missing constituencies this time around are Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire. Given that they also hold Ynys Môn at Westminster, perhaps these three seats are the targets?
In order to win absolute power, Labour must take Preseli Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, and a seat that has eluded them thus far: Carmarthen East & Dinefwr. Ok – so that’s what the stats say. What does reality think?
Angela Burns has a reasonable (5.4%) majority in Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire. Not unassailable by any stretch, although much less marginal than her 0.3% majority in 2007. Labour will certainly be eyeing up this seat for 2016. Paul Davies meanwhile has quite a grip on Preseli Pembrokeshire for the Conservatives (8.0%). It will be a tough task for Labour to regain. Labour’s additional problem is that both these seats are in mid and west Wales electoral region. Winning either of them will deny Rebecca Evans or Joyce Watson their seats in the Senedd.
Carmarthen East & Dinefwr would be more of a challenge under normal circumstances. Plaid have a 14.9% majority. And the circumstances are anything but normal, with the prodigal son returning in the high probability of becoming a professional politician again.
So let’s look to greener pastures. A seat in an electoral region where Labour don’t stand to lose any seats through winning a new constituency. There can only be one electoral region to target. South Wales West and Central are clean sweeps for Labour, so it’s simply a case of holding the line (no-one mention Rhondda at this point). And Monmouth is the only non-Labour seat in South Wales East. Nick Ramsay will be difficult to dislodge. The pickings are definitely richer in the north.
There are two obvious contenders here, and one less so because Clwyd West is wholly unlikely to fall to Labour. Darren Millar has made this seat his own, following Alun Pugh’s losing performance in 2007. Aberconwy, meanwhile, is the most promising seat for Labour. They’re 8.3% off the pace in a three-way tussle for supremacy. But there’s real potential here, not least because a reasonable proportion of the 14.2% share of the vote garnered by the Lib Dems in 2011 could be up for grabs with the right overtures. Put a decent UKIP performance into the mix, wresting votes from Janet Finch-Saunders, and this seat suddenly looks like a decent bet.
And the other obvious contender? Ynys Môn. How a party can hold a seat at Westminster, with a majority that has increased in each of the last 2 elections to 7.1% now, and yet be 42.3% off the pace in Cardiff Bay is beyond me. Labour should have thrown everything at the August by-election for the prize of an outright majority. They have 30 full-time politicians at the National Assembly, alongside their 28 MPs from Wales. But a glance at the twitter feed of Labour4YnysMon reveals the absence of a swathe of even local (north Wales) Labour politicians from the fray: Sandy Mewies, Carl Sargeant, David Hanson, Susan Elan Jones, Chris Ruane, Mark Tami, Lesley Griffiths…
Or does it reflect a lack of hunger by the party of government?