The Throw Away Constituencies

Where were we in 2017? An analysis of the 2017 election in Wales with special interest in the Stop Brexit LibDem led alliance proposed for 2019.

The 2017 election was very interesting but of course is not now a good guide to how people may vote in a general election which may be held in 2019. The entry of the Brexit Party to the field gives a definite uncertainty the whole picture, as does the effect of Brexit itself, especially as voters may chose differently related not only to the parties but whether or not Brexit has been delivered by the time of the next election.

Four seats changed hands in Wales in 2017. Labour made three gains from the Conservatives: Cardiff North, Gower, and Vale of Clywd. Plaid Cymru gained Ceredigion from the Liberal Democrats, who for the first time had no seats in Wales. The Conservatives won 36.6% of vote, equal to their highest share in Wales in 1935. Labour increased its number of seats to 28. Its vote share of 48.9%, was its highest in Wales since 1997 (54.7%). Turnout was 68.6% of a total electorate of 2,298,161, up from 65.7% in 2015.

Willie Sullivan of Politics.co.uk wrote last week on Brexit Pacts:

We’re seeing a crystallisation of a bizarre demand: parties – which exist to contest elections – being urged to stand aside to avoid ‘splitting the vote’
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These are short-term electoral alliances which don’t really provide a solution to our fragmented politics. But they do highlight something useful. They show up Westminster’s voting system for the anti-choice stitch up that it is.

Alliance or no alliance, for too long our voting system has forced voters into making ‘tactical’ choices at the ballot box. In 2017, BMG polling for the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) suggested that one in five people held their nose and opted for their second or third choice party just to keep out someone they hated more.

In Wales, the arithmetic on the seats likely to be agreed between Plaid and the Lib Dems, both parties seem to be giving up “no hope” seats to their formal rivals.

Plaid’s new role as the Stop Brexit party is presumably thought to be a vote catcher. This probably only works once, and only if a General Election is called before Brexit can be delivered. These new tactical voters are unlikely to repeat the exercise.

Looking at seats of interest to Ein Gwlad, specifically the ones likely to be abandoned by Plaid to help Stop Brexit alliance in 2019, the bare figures for 2017 results are:

Cardiff Central had the highest election majority in Wales in 2017 at well over 17,000 of Labour over Conservatives. Now, the Labour vote may be eroded by this party’s ambiguity and the Conservative vote may be eroded by the Brexit Party but those are 2 maybes.

The LibDems were 3rd, Plaid 4th with 1,000 votes, Green Party 400. It’s a big mountain to climb even if both Plaid and Green voters vote Lib Dem.

The major advantage to both Plaid and the Greens is the financial savings from not having to pay for a deposit and leaflets, and freeing up activists for other areas. This applies to all the “deals”

REMAIN Constituency

Brecon and Radnorshire, the recent Liberal Democrat gain in the By Election, is again abandoned by Plaid and the Greens who have not even stood there recently.

Again, a financial saving for the 2 lesser parties but may be not a definite LD shoo in. The Liberal Democrats are renowned at concentrating their efforts successfully in By Elections but may not have these resources in a General Election even if they pass off most welsh seats to Plaid. The B&R Tory candidate was easy to attack due to his criminal conviction and a new one may do well enough to reverse the result, especially if there is a Tory/Brexit Party arrangement.

Voted LEAVE in 2016

Montgomeryshire is a seat where the Lib Dems came second to the Conservatives in 2017. Glyn Davies (Conservative) had a majority of 9,285 over Jane Dodds, (LD) the recent victor in Brecon and Radnorshire.

The sum of the Plaid and Green votes was 2,484 in this election. Glyn got over 50% of the vote, Ms Dodds is presumably not going to be there to fight her local seat again, Labour got 10% of the vote and there is the wild card of the Brexit Party.

LEAVE Constituency

Monmouth has been suggested as another constituency where Plaid and the greens would stand down. Won by David Davies in 2017 with 54% of the total vote, Labour, a good second with 36% of the vote and Plaid, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP all losing their deposits. It looks speculative. Plaid and the Greens could deliver their combined 4.5 % to the LD’s but would it be enough unless LD’s make massive gains for the Alliance? Again, the Brexit Party is crucial.

REMAIN Constituency

Another possible Candidate is Newport East, results in 2017 were:

Labour 56.5%
Conservative 34.8%
UKIP 3.2%
LibDems 2.6%
Plaid 2.4%
Independent 0.5%

This looks like a no hope constituency for Plaid who came 5th last time so nothing lost electorally for them except morally. Party of Wales? Not anymore.

But how much do the Lib-Dems stand to gain? They are only 0.2% ahead of Plaid and need to get a swing of around 25%

LEAVE Constituency

Conclusion:

This Remain alliance in Wales primarily favours the Lib Dems. They do not stand in every parliamentary seat in the UK General elections, but in recent years they have committed to stand in most.

Plaid normally stand in every seat in Wales. As most of the Welsh seats will be now left to Plaid, the LDs will save £000’s in deposits and leaflets, but Plaid is left to contest almost all Welsh seats, Plaid may not make significant gains.

Plaid stands to weaken its financial position with “saving” only a few deposits it would have lost while. Welsh Lib-Dem Constituencies as a whole, will benefit financially and will be able to divert their members and more money to their target seats. Come the Assembly Elections the LD’s may find themselves better financed and prepared.

Most Plaid General Election candidates are not expected to win, with only 8 to 10 key welsh seats habitually fully funded (Aprox.10k in Party donations per seat) I cannot see this changing.

As there are signs that the LD’s are not flush with money, they look unlikely to subsidise their partners in the Alliance. In 2017 they stood in 629 seats, 2 less than 2015. The Greens have always struggled in General Elections in 2017 standing in 467, 106 fewer than 2015. The conservatives fielded most candidates in 2017, 638.

If say, 35 Welsh seats are allocated to Plaid, the other 2 alliance parties benefit financially, without breaking a commitment of always standing in every seat in Wales. The Lib Dems have no clearly winnable new seats as far as I can see, other than a good pot at Ceredigion and LDs in Wales would probably like to concentrate on Ceredigion and retaining B&R.

At the time of writing it is not clear when, or even if. there will be a general election in the next few months. It is simply felt that it is likely.

There is a concerted movement, joined by Plaid, to somehow, perhaps by any means, to bring down the Johnson Government before it can deliver Brexit. Whatever happens it’s going to be very messy. The very interesting factor is how much of the Labour vote will go to the Brexit Party?

Before the B&R by election Plaid had contested every Welsh By election since the late 1940’s. Now they plan to play a strategic game with General Elections, probably for little political benefit but saving some money as the seats likely to be given up to the LD’s do not have significant levels of Plaid support, they will not lose much in electoral opportunity, but they could lose a lot in credibility. As for the detail of the Plaid deal, we will have to wait and see! Do they have cold feet?

Sian Caiach

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