Well, there are just two weeks to go until the election, so it’s about time for my predictions for who’ll be popping the champagne corks on the morning of 4 May.
I’m basing my predictions on a combination of recent polling at the UK level and the most recent poll that includes Plaid Cymru as a separate entity. I’m looking at what happened in Penarth last time as compared to the 2004 results – in particular, what effect the poll ratings at that time might have had on the results, and forecasting a similar equivalent effect this time.
So at the UK level, in 2004, the average of three polls gave Conservatives 32%, Labour 34.3%, Lib Dem 20.3% and Other 13.3% – a Labour lead of 2.3%. In 2008, the average of four polls put the Conservatives on 40%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 20% and Other 11% – a 10% lead for the Conservatives.
For 2012, the BBC’s poll of polls indicates that as of 10 April, the Labour lead over the Conservatives in the UK was 9% (42% to 33%). The Lib Dem share of the vote has shrunk to 8% in total. The most recent all-Wales poll indicates that Labour have 47%, Conservatives 20%, Plaid 16% and Lib Dems 7%.
So back to the results. The fascinating thing is that on first glance there’s no consistent pattern across the wards. A 10% Conservative lead over Labour before the 2008 elections translated to the following:
- Cornerswell – Labour vote decreased by 3%, Conservative vote increased by 29%
- Plymouth – Labour vote decreased by 15%, Conservative vote increased by 3%
- St. Augustine’s – Labour vote increased by 2%, Conservative vote increased by 39%, Plaid vote decreased by 8%
- Stanwell – Labour vote decreased by 1%, Conservative vote increased by 30%, Lib Dem vote decreased by 28%
- Sully – Labour vote decreased by 31%, Conservative vote increased by 20%, Independent vote decreased by 31%, Plaid vote increased by 63% (from a very low base)
So with a Conservative opinion poll lead of 10%, the Labour vote held up in highly contested wards but collapsed in Sully and Plymouth (wards where Labour stands no chance even in a good year). Meanwhile, the Conservative vote barely increased in the shoe-in ward of Plymouth but increased by 29% or more in the competitive wards of Cornerswell, St. Augustine’s and Stanwell. Incidentally, this seems to be decent evidence in favour of adopting the alternative vote system for local elections (as they have in Scotland).
So what does that mean for our hopefuls on 3 May? Broadly, I’m expecting the reverse of last election, with a slightly increased Labour vote (considerably higher in Sully and Plymouth) and a substantial decline in the Conservative vote, with one exception in St. Augustine’s where Sophie Williams’ vote will remain high enough to grab one of the two seats on offer. Plaid’s share of the vote will increase across most wards, but particularly where the historic vote has been low. It’s going to be a miserable night for the Liberal Democrat hopefuls; both of them will record fewer votes than the Green candidate.
- Cornerswell will elect two Labour councillors, Rhiannon Birch and Peter King, despite whispers of an energetic Plaid campaign. Turfing out John Fraser and Dorothy Turner will be a very welcome result for the people of Cogan.
- Plymouth will keep its two Conservative councillors forever. Councillors Maureen Kelly Owen and Clive Williams will retain their seats until they drop.
- St. Augustine’s is the most interesting ward of the lot. It’s got a history of electing candidates from different parties, and that’s going to happen again in 2012. It’s going to be the first ward in living memory to have two women councillors as Councillor Sophie Williams is returned alongside Lis Burnett.
- Stanwell will keep its current Labour Councillors Janice Birch and Mark Wilson. Presumably life will be interesting in the Birch household since Rhiannon lives at the same address as Mark Wilson.
- Sully will also keep its incumbent councillors, Conservatives Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe.
Penarth/Sully will end up with an even split of councillors, 5 apiece for the Conservatives and Labour, which brings us back to the same result as for 2004. Regardless of what happens elsewhere (and seats will almost certainly change hands in Barry), this result alone means that the Conservative-run administration in the Vale will come to an end on 4 May. We’re looking at a coalition running the Vale of Glamorgan for the next five years.
It’s also the end for our Penarth wards which will dissolve in 2017 when the recommendations of the Local Government Boundary Commission come into effect. We’ll end up with the 4-member super-ward of Penarth South (Plymouth plus Stanwell) and the 5-member Penarth North (Cornerswell, Llandough and St. Augustine’s). Sully will remain stand-alone with two members.