Monthly Archives: Tachwedd 2013

The Plaid-Lib Dem Coalition

It came to me during the previous post that Adam Price is much better informed about politics than myself. That means that he must consider it a possibility of some sort that Plaid will be able to lead a Plaid-Lib Dem coalition in Cardiff Bay.

Let’s look at the stats.

Many commentators expect the Lib Dems to receive a kicking in 2015, with even some Lib Dems forecasting grim news. But by 2016 – assuming  they’re not in government in Westminster – it’s entirely possible that their prospects will have improved. A year is a very long time in politics.

Looking back at the Lib Dem target seats we can see that they have just three seats that are winnable on a swing of 10% or less. Unfortunately for them, those three need a swing from three different parties. And given that Plaid – in this scenario – will need to win lots of seats, I’ll discount Ceredigion. That would mean they’d gain Cardiff Central and Montgomeryshire, but at least one of these, if not both, would rip a list seat from out of their grasp. Given that they are at least 20% behind first place in every other seat, I’m going to assume that the maximum coalition contribution from the Lib Dems is their traditional high-water mark of six seats.

That leaves the simple task for Plaid to take 25 seats.

The maths isn’t great in this scenario. Firstly, both Montgomeryshire and Cardiff Central are within Plaid’s 25 top constituencies. That would push the seats needed up to numbers 26 and 27: Gower, and Penarth & Cardiff South. Secondly, there is still no chance of list seats being available for Plaid, because they’re still looking for at least three seats in South Wales East. The question to ask, therefore, is: is it likely that Plaid will win seats such as Penarth & Cardiff South while not both:

  • Picking up Montgomeryshire and Cardiff Central, and
  • Damaging the Lib Dem vote sufficiently to erode their list seat potential, bearing in mind that for Plaid to have this level of dominance, Labour will presumably be heavily dependent on list seats for representation

The logical conclusion is that the Lib Dems are unlikely to be in a position to be useful coalition partners. Plaid stand almost as much chance of outright victory as they do of leading a coalition with the Lib Dems.

So was Adam’s gesture a way of reaching out to disaffected Lib Dem voters, rather than a realistic, calculated scenario?

Advertisements

1 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government

Seizing Power in Cardiff Bay: Plaid

And so to the final post in this series. How will Plaid manage to do what their sister party did in Scotland – bearing in mind that the proportional representation element of elections in Wales provides a less fair allocation of seats than it does up north?

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. Plaid’s worst-performing electoral region is South Wales East, but they still need to pick up three seats here in order to get a majority. It’s difficult to imagine that they’ll get list seats in this or any other region under those circumstances.

  1. Ynys Môn – held with 42.3% majority
  2. Arfon – held with 30.5% majority
  3. Dwyfor Meirionnydd – held with 26.1% majority
  4. Carmarthen East & Dinefwr – held with 14.9% majority
  5. Ceredigion – held with 6.1% majority
  6. Llanelli – 0.3% behind 1st place
  7. Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire – 6.2% behind
  8. Caerphilly – 19.3% behind
  9. Aberconwy – 7.7% behind
  10. Clwyd West – 20.3% behind
  11. Neath – 26.8% behind
  12. Clwyd South – 23.8% behind
  13. Cardiff West – 27.1% behind
  14. Rhondda – 33.7% behind
  15. Preseli Pembrokeshire – 26.9% behind
  16. Cynon Valley – 34.8% behind
  17. Wrexham – 30.9% behind
  18. Swansea West – 31.4% behind
  19. Islwyn – 36.2% behind
  20. Delyn – 33.5% behind
  21. Torfaen – 34.0% behind
  22. Montgomeryshire – 32.4% behind
  23. Pontypridd – 37.3% behind
  24. Cardiff Central – 30.5% behind
  25. Vale of Glamorgan – 35.3% behind
  26. Gower – 36.0% behind
  27. Penarth & Cardiff South – 38.2% behind
  28. Ogmore – 47.3% behind
  29. Aberavon – 49.3% behind
  30. Vale of Clwyd – 39.4% behind
  31. Swansea East – 46.0% behind

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Plaid managed to grab a list seat in South Wales East plus 30 constituency seats. That would mean they wouldn’t need to win Swansea East, for example. But they’d still need to be winning seats where they’re nearly 50% behind first place. Is the picture hopeless for Plaid?

As with the other two opposition parties, we’re looking for a seismic shift in Welsh politics. But unlike for the Lib Dems or Conservatives, Plaid can hold out a glimmer of hope.

An opinion poll conducted by ICM on behalf of the BBC found that the proportion of people in Wales inclined towards independence would increase by 5% (from 7% to 12%) if Scotland votes for independence in 10 months’ time. And perhaps even more interestingly, if you delve into the detail of that poll, you’ll find that pro-independence sentiment is substantially stronger in younger age groups. So while the former suggests that a block shift could happen in the short term, the latter indicates that in the longer term, Plaid may be looking at a generational shift in their favour.

So what would an increase of, say 5% in Plaid’s share of the vote mean? Well, the block shift isn’t seismic. On the list above, it would mean Llanelli falling into Plaid’s lap, with Carmarthen West and Aberconwy coming within reach. But gaining Llanelli would spell the end for Simon Thomas as a regional member for mid and west Wales.

Of course, that 5% of votes has to come from somewhere. So it would also reduce some of the huge majorities currently facing Plaid. Seats such as Neath and Clwyd West and South would need in the order of a further 7-10% swing to come Plaid’s way. Doable? Possibly.

Clearly independence for Scotland, while having an influence, isn’t going to be enough on its own.

So if we’re ruling out the tectonic possibility for now, how else could it happen? The simple answer is that it couldn’t. With the best candidates in Wales grafting around the clock from now until 2016, seats like Aberavon, Swansea East and our beloved Penarth & Cardiff South are going to stay exactly where they are now: safe Labour territory.

Which brings us back to coalition government as the only viable route for Plaid to exert Ministerial influence in Wales in the foreseeable future. And that in turn means one of the following:

  • Coalition with Labour – presumably unlikely after the last such experience
  • Coalition with Lib Dems alone – highly improbable given the Lib Dems’ problems – despite what Adam Price thinks
  • The rainbow coalition with Lib Dems and Conservatives – ruled out by current Plaid leader Leanne Wood on account of the Conservatives (or as Roger Scully puts it: “Leanne Wood entering a coalition with the Conservatives currently looks about as likely as one of the Rev Ian Paisley’s daughters becoming Pope”)

So where does that leave politics in Wales?

Labour government – either minority or majority – for the foreseeable future.

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government

A Wasted Opportunity

Well that didn’t take long!

Back in February 2012 I suggested that the Vale of Glamorgan’s new ‘chuck it all in one bag’ recycling service was doomed from the start. Not only that, but that council officers knew that it was doomed to be an expensive failure and pressed ahead with the changes in the full knowledge that this day would come.

And now it has.

Here’s part of what I said 18 months ago:

So it looks like co-mingled collections are about to be placed on the scrap-heap. And that brings us back to our council tax.

The report on which this change was based (authors: Clifford Parish and Rob Quick) noted all sorts of ways in which the move to co-mingling would save lots of money (£284k) for the cash-strapped Vale. Presumably, the reverse move in a year or two will mean an awful lot of incurred costs. Not to mention an erosion in goodwill of Vale residents towards the recycling service.

Incidentally, it does seem a little odd that Clifford Parish in his role as Chair of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management Wales didn’t think that a legal challenge to the definition of co-mingling might be reason to approach this plan with caution. I’m not sure that an institution that “demands the highest levels of professionalism and excellence” would be overly pleased that one of its most august members had failed to take into account such an obvious risk to a major project. (And talking of major projects, a certain Cliff Parish is found hiding on the list of project executives of Prosiect Gwyrdd). But I’m sure the officers did what they thought was best using the information available.

The detailed reasoning for the end of co-mingled recycling in Wales is not what I’d anticipated. In a stunning turn-around for stupidity over reason, the Campaign for Real Recycling lost its judicial review that had challenged the government’s claim that co-mingled matches the European definition of waste “kept separate by type and nature” (for a bit more detail, see here).

But it seems as if the pressure put on the Welsh Government (and their stooges at Defra) has belatedly roused them from their stupor. Because the Welsh Government’s draft Environment Bill includes this gem of a proposal:

We are proposing to give Welsh Ministers the power to:
• Require businesses and the public sector to present their recyclable waste separately for collection;
• Require waste collectors to collect specified materials separately;

Ok, so having the powers doesn’t mean that Welsh Ministers will use them. But if Welsh Ministers weren’t minded to use them, why include them in the White Paper?

Further information comes from the unlikely hero of old Etonian hereditary peer Lord Rupert Charles Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley:

From 1st January 2015 an establishment or undertaking which collects waste paper, metal, plastic or glass must do so by way of separate collection. These requirements apply where separate collection:

(a) is necessary, in effect, to provide high quality recyclates, and
(b) is technically, environmentally and economically practicable.

Where waste paper, metal, plastic or glass has been collected separately all reasonable steps must be taken to keep that stream separate from other waste streams wherever this is necessary to provide high quality recyclates.

It is clear that the intention is that these requirements should represent a high hurdle. I am aware that co-mingled metal and plastic are relatively easy to separate at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). However, at present many of our existing MRFs struggle to keep glass shards out of the paper stream. In addition many MRFs produce low quality mixed glass which needs further sorting and can be uneconomic to re-smelt. I look to local authorities actively to address these problems, by the effective implementation of the new regulations and by tackling problems with operating practices.

Separate collection does not of course mean that each household will need more bins. For example, many areas have kerbside sort systems where materials are sorted before being loaded into the waste collection vehicle. The WRAP website is a useful source of help.

Any local authorities considering new collection or disposal plans should take care to ensure that they are placing themselves in a position to fulfil their legal duties from 2015. This is particularly important for local authorities who may be considering moving away from separate collection, or including glass within a co-mingled stream. Local authorities should consult their own lawyers as necessary, and should keep a clear audit trail given the potential for legal challenge.

Does anyone in the Vale remember “kerbside sort systems where materials are sorted before being loaded into the waste collection vehicle”? Yes, it’s the very same system that the Vale surrendered with such aplomb in September 2011.

The Environment Bill is set to become law in 2015 – and let’s not forget the ominous “potential for legal challenge” starting on 1 January 2015 if paper, metal, glass or plastic are not collected separately.

I anticipate some very tense discussions down at Barry Docks, starting, erm, round about now.

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Vale of Glamorgan Council, Waste, Welsh Government

Seizing Power in Cardiff Bay: Lib Dems

The third in this exhilarating series of posts examines what the Lib Dems have to do to seize power in Wales. Not that this is where their attention will be focused; avoiding electoral annihilation will be top of their list in 2016:

But the Lib Dems are in a bit of a state in Wales. There are only 11 constituencies where they garnered more than 10% of the vote last time round. And to rub salt into their wounds, they scooped up less than 5% of the vote in 17 constituencies. Lost deposits in Wales alone cost them £8,500 in 2011.

No matter. How do they gain a total of 31 seats? Let’s find out.

The list below 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, because in order to get their majority of no less than one they have to pick up at least four seats in each electoral region. The maths says it’s impossible to get a regional seat under those circumstances. That’s the price you pay for being a party equally unpopular everywhere. So far, Labour is the only party that’s managed to use regional unpopularity to its advantage.

  1. Brecon & Radnorshire – held with 9.7% majority
  2. Cardiff Central – 0.2% behind 1st place
  3. Ceredigion – 6.1% behind
  4. Montgomeryshire – 10.1% behind
  5. Swansea West – 28.5% behind
  6. Newport East – 31.8% behind
  7. Aberconwy – 19.8% behind
  8. Wrexham – 30.4% behind
  9. Pontypridd – 32.9% behind
  10. Clwyd South – 32.5% behind
  11. Preseli Pembrokeshire – 34.7% behind
  12. Gower – 38.2% behind
  13. Penarth & Cardiff South – 40.2% behind
  14. Clwyd West – 36.0% behind
  15. Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney – 41.5% behind
  16. Delyn – 38.5% behind
  17. Monmouth – 40.5% behind
  18. Cardiff West – 40.1% behind
  19. Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire – 32.0% behind
  20. Carmarthen East & Dinefwr – 40.1% behind
  21. Alyn & Deeside – 45.0% behind
  22. Swansea East – 49.6% behind
  23. Dwyfor Meirionnydd – 41.8% behind
  24. Ynys Môn – 38.2% behind
  25. Newport West – 45.3% behind
  26. Bridgend – 49.0% behind
  27. Llanelli – 37.6% behind
  28. Cardiff North – 43.0% behind
  29. Vale of Glamorgan – 42.9% behind
  30. Vale of Clwyd – 46.0% behind
  31. Torfaen – 42.4% behind

Ouch.

In nearly half the seats they need for an electoral majority, the Liberal Democrats are more than 40% behind the incumbent party.

To say that this is unlikely at the next election – or indeed the next few elections – is stating the blindingly obvious, especially when you consider the trauma that UKIP is likely to inflict upon the Lib Dem representation in the next election.

There are two rays of sunshine I hold out for Lib Dem supporters in Wales. Firstly, every now and then an unforeseen and seismic shift happens in politics. This is as true in Wales as it is elsewhere. In Wales, it appears to have happened three times ever. It could happen again in the Lib Dems’ favour. The ‘unforeseen’ nature of these shifts is one of the reasons I can’t imagine it happening. But happen it could.

The second is that – as the Lib Dems have proven in the past – you don’t need 31 seats to sit in the back of a Ministerial car. And perhaps holding the balance of power is as much ambition as we might reasonably permit. Only this time, do us all a favour and make the single transferable vote in local elections an immutable condition of your coalition. And then sit back and watch as the “corridors run with blood“.

PS I’ve finally found time to upload the Sunderland Commission report (in Welsh and in English) that recommended proportional representation for local elections in Wales. Presumably the Welsh Government doesn’t want this to be seen by anyone. For starters, it’s not on their website. And second, it took them 8 months and a few reminders for them to reply to my FoI request for it.

1 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Welsh Government

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Labour?

Roger Scully and the Wales Governance  Centre do a tremendous service to public life in Wales. But not only through Roger’s excellent blog. He’s also happy to provide a wealth of data for people to wade through in their quest for the truth.

And that’s exactly what’s grabbed my attention, with the full data (pdf) from a survey conducted on behalf of the governance centre in July this year.

Hidden down in the detail is some very interesting information about how the parties are faring in terms of garnering the support from different sections of society. The first of the two aspects of the survey I’m going to focus on relates to party fidelity. That is, how solid the support is for different parties – something that Roger alluded to in this article. A quick health warning – don’t assume you can add up the percentages I’m quoting and get 100%. The results are comparative not absolute.

The ranking of parties in terms of least breadth of electoral appeal is as follows (where a 0 or 1 likelihood on a scale of 0 to 10 is considered to be highly unlikely to vote for this party):

  1. Conservatives – 52%
  2. UKIP – 50%
  3. Lib Dems – 46%
  4. Greens – 37%
  5. Plaid Cymru – 33%
  6. Labour – 26%

I was going to say ‘so far, so unsurprising’, but actually the only unsurprising stats here are that a half of the population of Wales has no intention, ever, of voting for UKIP, and that three-quarters of people would consider voting for Labour to at least a marginal degree. The figure for the Conservatives is jaw-dropping. Being the least preferred (or most-despised) party for people in Wales puts them above UKIP in that chart. The Welsh Conservatives must be thanking their lucky stars the Alternative Vote isn’t in place for Assembly elections. And the Lib Dems only just beat UKIP in the popularity stakes. The Green party will be delighted that 63% of people would to at least some degree consider voting for them, although transferring that broad electoral appeal into votes is where they need to concentrate their minds. The same goes for Plaid – hard antagonism to the Party is limited to just one-third of the population. Were one to imagine (and Plaid would contest this vigorously) that English people living in Wales might be less favourably inclined to the party, and given that 14% of the population considers themselves to be English, the result could indicate that Labour and Plaid are in a genuine two-way tussle for support amongst those people considering themselves to be Welsh.

That’s one end of the scale. Let’s have a look at how high fidelity is for the parties. This time, I’m going to take a scale of 7 to 10 to indicate a high degree of fidelity:

  1. Labour – 46%
  2. Plaid – 26%
  3. Conservative – 21%
  4. UKIP – 18%
  5. Greens – 15%
  6. Lib Dem – 14%

Labour are way out in the lead. Again, rather unsurprising. That’s what accounts for the massive dominance Labour has enjoyed in Wales since 1945. But the fidelity level of Plaid is surprisingly high. Let’s compare this voting intention with the share of the vote in 2011 (average of regional and constituency votes):

  1. Labour – fidelity 46%, share of vote 40% (-6%)
  2. Plaid – fidelity 26%, share of vote 19% (-7%)
  3. Conservative – fidelity 21%, share of vote 24% (+3%)
  4. UKIP – fidelity 18%, insufficient votes to determine
  5. Greens – fidelity 15%, insufficient votes to determine
  6. Lib Dem – fidelity 14%, share of vote 10% (-4%)

Not too much news there, other than the Conservatives having a higher share of the vote than expected. Obviously their message in 2011 helped persuade people who would not otherwise have voted for them to give them a try. Buoyed by the early successes of the UK coalition government, no doubt?! The reason the other parties have a lower share of the vote is because the fidelity scores add up to greater than 100%, whereas the share of the vote can only add up to 100%.

In passing, I’m just going to look at the gender split for the different parties. Labour support has an identifiable bias in favour of men, a pattern not replicated by any other party. The other parties (with the exception of UKIP, which shows no gender trend) have some degree of preference from women, ranging from a clear preference for the Conservatives to marginal for Plaid, the Lib Dems and the Greens.

The final point of particular interest in these stats relates to age category. There are two different aspects to this. First is that people in older age categories are more likely to vote, with pensioners the most likely of all. It stands to reason that it’s good for a political party to be scooping up the grey vote. But any organisation – and political parties are no exception – needs to think about succession. That’s why attracting young voters to a party is absolutely crucial.

The high fidelity pensioner (60+) vote is split as follows:

  1. Labour – 47%
  2. Plaid – 29%
  3. Conservative – 28%
  4. UKIP – 26%
  5. Lib Dem – 16%
  6. Greens – 13%

Conventional wisdom always taught me that people tend to get more conservative as they get older. But that effect doesn’t appear to be tremendously strong in Wales, the increase in fidelity for the Conservatives (+7%) and UKIP (+8%) in this older age category being rather more than that for Plaid (+3%) as compared to all age categories, but not massively so.

So what’s the story at the other end of the scale? Amongst the 18-24 bracket we get:

  1. Labour – 41%
  2. Conservative – 27%
  3. Plaid – 20%
  4. Greens – 19%
  5. Lib Dem – 17%
  6. UKIP – 15%

Labour have succeeded in maintaining their electoral appeal right across the age categories to a spectacular degree. The Conservatives do surprisingly well amongst younger voters (voters untainted by the Thatcher years), Plaid do rather poorly and the Greens can look to the future with some optimism.

But things aren’t quite that simple. Because if we take the fidelity as being those who rank the parties on a 6-10 scale rather than 7-10, we get the following:

  1. Labour – 51%
  2. Plaid – 38%
  3. Conservative – 32%
  4. Lib Dem – 27%
  5. Greens – 22%
  6. UKIP – 19%

As ever, it’s a question of where you define the boundaries. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

2 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, UKIP