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.
- Ynys Môn – held with 42.3% majority
- Arfon – held with 30.5% majority
- Dwyfor Meirionnydd – held with 26.1% majority
- Carmarthen East & Dinefwr – held with 14.9% majority
- Ceredigion – held with 6.1% majority
- Llanelli – 0.3% behind 1st place
- Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire – 6.2% behind
- Caerphilly – 19.3% behind
- Aberconwy – 7.7% behind
- Clwyd West – 20.3% behind
- Neath – 26.8% behind
- Clwyd South – 23.8% behind
- Cardiff West – 27.1% behind
- Rhondda – 33.7% behind
- Preseli Pembrokeshire – 26.9% behind
- Cynon Valley – 34.8% behind
- Wrexham – 30.9% behind
- Swansea West – 31.4% behind
- Islwyn – 36.2% behind
- Delyn – 33.5% behind
- Torfaen – 34.0% behind
- Montgomeryshire – 32.4% behind
- Pontypridd – 37.3% behind
- Cardiff Central – 30.5% behind
- Vale of Glamorgan – 35.3% behind
- Gower – 36.0% behind
- Penarth & Cardiff South – 38.2% behind
- Ogmore – 47.3% behind
- Aberavon – 49.3% behind
- Vale of Clwyd – 39.4% behind
- 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.