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Monday, June 08, 2009

The verdict in Wales

It was a long night. It was made longer by the fact that the All-Wales count took place in an unheated hangar/cow shed/factory unit (delete as appropriate) on the edge of Haverfordwest. One suspects that if the electorate had known of its availability earlier they would have voted en masse to detain all the country's politicians there indefinitely.

For despite all the political earth-shaking events of the night there was no doubt that the overwhelming verdict was one of a plague-on-all-your-houses both in Wales and across the UK. People turned out to vote against the government and to cast their protest against the political system and the biggest beneficiaries of those trends were UKIP and the BNP. The Conservatives cleaned up on what was left but then that was the most predictable outcome of the whole event.

In Wales there is no doubt that the night's biggest losers were Labour. They lost 12% of their vote and their second MEP to UKIP. More significantly they failed to secure a majority of Welsh votes for the the first time since 1918 watching the Conservatives slip past them to top the poll, something that party has not done here since the mid-nineteenth century when only land-owners had the vote (OK, I may have exaggerated a bit there). However, the Tories achieved this with only a modest increase in their vote and failed to win the second seat they had hoped for.

Plaid Cymru put on a brave face. They had spent a significant part of this campaign talking up their chances. They believed they could top the poll, they were confident they were going to beat Labour and win a second place. However, despite a one per cent uplift in their vote and some solid wins in their heartland areas they failed to meet all of their objectives. It was yet another election for them when the hype failed to be met by reality.

And yes, it was not the best of nights for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. We came fifth again despite a miniscule increase in our vote and missed out on a seat because of the UKIP surge. However, we took comfort in our strong performance in areas where we hope to do well in future elections.

There was a 5.3% swing for example from Plaid Cymru to the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Ceredigion, enough to give Mark Williams a 1500 majority. We matched previous European performances in Brecon and Radnor, which have seen us go on to win the subsequent General Election in that seat and we won Cardiff Central for the first time ever in a European Election. We also turned in very strong second places in Swansea West and Newport East that must surely set us up for future success in those seats in future General and Assembly elections.

Only in Montgomery did we fail to meet our expectations and there we just missed out on second place by a few hundred votes to UKIP. We have failed to win this seat at all previous European Elections by similar margins and yet went onto secure significant majorities at the General Election. We certainly did not suffer the collapse there our opponents predicted and we continue to be confident that we will retain the seat whenever Gordon Brown decides to go to the country.

It is true that people are now voting differently in different elections and it is difficult to extrapolate from one to another. However, I believe that the Welsh Liberal Democrats made solid progress last night. As well as our targets we either held our vote steady or increased it across most seats in Wales. This was a result we can build on and a cause for optimism rather than despondency,
I don't know how you can extrapolate a 1500 majority for Mark Williams from the Euro results. It must have been a bad night for the Lib Dems if the only positive is the result from Ceredigion. You lost in Montgomeryshire, Brecon and Radnor as well as Ceredigion. Fact, the Liberals got 19% of the vote against 35% Plaid Cymru. As a proportion of the vote in Ceredigion the Lib Dems have declined in each successive election since the 2005 General Election (Assembly Constituency and List, County Council and now European).
I can extrapolate because we are talking about different elections and what happens in European terms will not translate to Westminster in terms of vote share. That is a rule that has held good since we started voting for Europe.

Because we are comparing like for like then the Lib Dems achieved a 5.3% swing to them from Plaid on the last time we voted in Europe in Ceredigion.

That sort of movement can be carried forward and indicates progress in Mark Williams' favour. As I said, if hypothetically that swing were repeated at a General Election then Mark would have a 1500 majority. It is not a difficult calculation but it certainly is a legitimate one.
Anyway, didn't the Lib Dems come fourth in 2004 in Ceredigion and win the seat 11 months later?

If that is the basis you want to use it is going to be a good night for the Lib Dems in Ceredigion next year.
Of the 87,585 people in Wales who voted for UKIP, I wonder how many had read the following extract?
"We will be fair to England, with an English Parliament of English MPs at Westminster. We will replace assembly members like MSPs with MPs." - UKIP Policies in Brief 2009.
Plaid heartlands? We won Conwy on a night the Tories were sweeping all before them. Woith the exception of 99 hardly heartland for Plaid and the new boundaries are better for us.
Clutching at straws with the Ceredigion result aren't you? From my reading of the figures Plaid managed 3,000 more votes than the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems have managed to beat Plaid in Ceredigion in 1 election since 1997 (probably since 1992 but I haven't checked). If it was the most recent election that you managed it you'd have a case to make, but since 2005 the Lib Dems haven't managed to repeat it. Might have just been a fluke....
Plaid won in Conwy, Llanelli, Ceredigion and Ynys Mon. None of which are areas they have an MP. Not a great result for them nationally but in terms of their Westminster objectives not bad.

As for the Lib Dems i fear you are clutching at straws to say the Ceredigion result was good. We will no doubt have an election this year and yet Plaid almost doubled your vote. Also losing in the constituency that has your party leader as an AM and also the MP is Lib Dem is a pretty sobering result.

I think there are positives and negatives for everyone but this was certainly a very poor result for the Lib Dems?
Why do you people bang on about heartlands in a PR election?

Face it PR gives you a chance for a voice, ergo split votes either side of the spectrum.

I can once vote for the party I want to instread of who has the chance of beating the incumbant zanu labour MP.
"we continue to be confident that we will retain the seat whenever Gordon Brown decides to go to the country." Quoted in the paragraph re Montgomeryshire.

You are misplaced in your confidence as far as Montgomeryshire is concerned. The writing is on the wall for the Montgomeryshire MP, and has been for a very long time.

Unless he is deselected - you will NOT retain a seat there - that is a certainty.
Peter - if you want to take heart from the Ceredigon result then please yourself. But in a seat where the Lib Dems have had an MP for 4 years, to get half the votes of another party is nothing short of a disaster. And to come THIRD in Montgomeryshire is dismal. Finally, to lose in the area where your party leader is an AM and you also have an MP is simply abysmal.

Since the Lib Dems got cold feet at the prospect of being in power after the last Assembly election the party has been teetering on the edge of a Welsh wipeout.

The Lib Dems need to seriously, seriously up their game if Kirsty is to avoid seeing her batch of MP's fall to 2, or even 1 whenever Gordon calls the enxt election. On the evidence so far that is something she simply cannot do.

(and finally, Ynys Môn, Conwy, Ceredigion and Llanelli are all areas where Plaid have no MP's and where they topped the poll last night - hardly "heartlands")
Old_Miwl: As I said you have to take each type of election on its merits. Compared with the last European Elections the Liberal Democrats improved their performance in Ceredigion. They have moved from fourth to second and secured a 5.3% swing from Plaid Cymru to us. That is very encourgaing and bodes well for the General Election.

Swansea Voter: see above but also note that the Plaid share of the vote fell in Ceredigion. Again I refer you to previous European Elections where people vote for different reasons. In both Montgomery and B&R we have come second in 1999 and 2004 and yet went on to safely win with increasing majorities in subsequent General Elections. There were some very good individual results for the Welsh Lib Dems in Wales last night and we are rightly pleased with the progress we made.

A view from the glen: the reason we refer to heartlands in a PR election is because of the impact of this election on others that do not have PR and where the concept has more meaning.

Frankie: that maybe your view but we will have to see. I am confident of holding Montgomeryshire for the Welsh Lib Dems.

Hen: see above. My reference to heartlands was actually to rural Carmarthenshire and Gwynedd. The point I am making is that on these results the Welsh Lib Dems are on course to retain our four MPs and add two more.
"The point I am making is that on these results the Welsh Lib Dems are on course to retain our four MPs and add two more."

Then I can only say that you must be deluded.

And since the only thing that can save the Lib Dems from disaster at the next election is a realisation that they are heading for disaster and need a dramatic refresh then deluding yourself that these results mean you're heading for 6MP's is equiviliant to writing your own suicide note.

I can only hope that Kirsty can see what's written on the wall better than you Peter or the Lib Dems might as well give up in Wales.
Not at all. Check the swings between 2004 and 2009. Do you need a crash course on how to read statistics?
There's a big difference between now and 2004 Peter, and you know it well. In 2004 Ceredigion had a Plaid MP. There's now been a Lib Dem MP in Ceredigion for 4 years. Failing to even get half the votes of another party in an area where you have a sitting MP is very worrying.

Look at the Tories and Plaid. In the seats they hold they won the poll - in the seats where they want to win in the next General Election they topped the poll. For the Tories they even topped the poll in seats they wouldn't dare dream win.

Compare that to the Lib Dems who only topped the poll in one area where they have an MP, and in none of their target seats. In one area where you have an MP you came third. THIRD.

You know what they say about statistics Peter - lies and damn lies and all that. The Lib Dems seem very good at that with their "only we can win here" rubbish.

Don't worry, it's no skin off my back if the Lib Dems keep sleep walking into a wipeout - but to be honest I quite like the fact that Wales has 4 big(ish) parties instead of just 3 and I'd rather it stayed that way. But on the evidence of the last three elections you have to seriously doubt that it will.
The swing in Ceredigion of 5.3% from Plaid to Lib Dem was generated by Plaid Cymru polling 35% (compared to the 39% they managed in 2004) and the Lib Dems polling 19% (compared to the 13% they managed in 2004). Swing is calculated by taking the change (Plaid -4% Lib Dem +6%) and then halving it (4+6=10/2=5%). I should know what I am talking about (as I was taught by the orginal king of the swingers Peter Snow)
Hen, in 2004 the Lib Dems polled 13% and came fourth in Ceredigion and then went onto win the constituency in 2005. In 2009 we polled 19% and came second. The Plaid vote was down. I think the only conclusion that can be drawn is that we are on course to hold the seat with a bigger majority. The thing about statistics is that they enable you to reach these sorts of conclusions. Factoring in your own prejudiced expectations is not a widely accepted statistical technique.
Peter - I know parties are supposed to spin their results to look better than they are but this defies belief. But there we go, I'll let you keep spinning this as a good result if you want. As I said, it's no water off my back to see the Lib Dems sleepwalk to disaster.

Since you clearly don't think your party needs to wake up we'll talk again in the Autumn or in May next year when the counts have begun and Lembit and Mark are already calculating their Golden Goodbyes, Roger looking over his shoulder and Jenny starting to feel lonely.
If we're on about statistical techniques surely it's wise to take into account other variables. E.g. in Ceredigion in 2004 the Lib Dems did not have a sitting MP (and the resources that go with it) in Ceredigion, and the elections were also held on the same day as local government polls, in which Plaid had candidates in nearly all the wards and the Lib Dems in about half.
A vote of over 35% for Plaid in Ceredigion in 2009 is better than almost any other party in any other seat - better, for instance, the Tories achieved in Cardiff North, Preseli or Clwyd West.
On these results you can see Mark Williams getting in again by 1000-2000 votes at the next general election, whoever plaid field
Three factors influenced the 2005 result in Ceredigion

Lib Dems overwhelmingly won the student vote, remember Iraq war and all that.
Plaid campaign caught a dose of complacency.
Tories hardly turned up.

Next time the students will split Liberal/Tory, Plaid are wide awake and the Tories will gain from the national swing in their favour. I cant see that there are enough votes left to give Mark Williams any sort of majority, let alone 1500. The Plaid vote in Ceredigion has been pretty solid since 1992 a 5.3% swing means nothing. It wont be Plaid that beat him, it will be down to the Tories who pinch his votes.
Suddenly everybody is an expert. I have no idea how the General Election will play out in Ceredigion but what I do know is that trends from these elections are favourable to the Welsh Liberal Democrats and improve our chances of holding the seat. One of the reasons though why European Elections are no indicator of how things will subsequently pan out is the low turnout. This makes them unrepresentative and difficult to use to make any sort of prediction. That is why I have referred to trends rather than results.
Then ........

"There was a 5.3% swing for example from Plaid Cymru to the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Ceredigion, enough to give Mark Williams a 1500 majority."

Now .......

"I have no idea how the General Election will play out in Ceredigion."

Lib Dem speaks the truth!
'I have no idea how the General Election will play out...
'European Elections are no indicator of how things will subsequently pan out... 'unrepresentative and difficult to use to make any sort of prediction.'

Oh, right, I must have misread the bit where you were pointing to these results as evidence of a likely 1500 majority in Ceredigion, holding 4 seats and gaining 2 more. Crikey, make your mind up.
What I said was that the swing was positive for the Welsh Liberal Democrats and if repeated then it would give us a 1500 majority. That is hardly a prediction, it is a reasonable interpretation of trends.
I admire your tenacity in defending a lost cause but 'hole', 'dig', 'stop' come to mind. Lib Dems had a pretty awful night polling 17%,19% and 24% in seats where they have MP's (Montgomeryshire, Ceredigion and Brecon and Radnor)and coming 3rd, 2nd and 2nd respectively. The deficit in Ceredigion is greater than any of the others at 16% and the Plaid share of the vote at 35% is among the highest in Wales. Its been explained previously that the mayoral referendum and council elections pushed the Plaid % up in the last euro election and even at 35% you as a party have only once passed this share since 1989. Keeping to push the 5.3% swing makes you look ridiculous. I read the Lib Dem press release in Ceredigion sometime yesterday and when a press release emphasises the poll of the opposing party and never once mentions the actual result then its a sign that they are in trouble. Short of Mark Williams' Office staff, some students and a handful of councillors - most of which are politically inactive - the Liberals are a dying party in Ceredigion will few party members and activists. I predict a comfortable Plaid win.

PS You are clearly angry with Ceredigion, witness the petulant swipe at the Minister for not using 'Great'. The company is called 'Dairy Farmers of Britain'
The reference to the Dairy Farmers of Britain was meant as a flippant aside but it seems that people cannot take a joke.

I do not see why I need to repeat myself but I would point you to the low turnout, the General Election will be a new ball game and to the swing from Plaid Cymru to Welsh Lib Dems.

Statistically, your arguments are illiterate.
Gosh, these Plaid types do go on (and on) about Ceredigion don't they? Still, I suppose they don't have many more seats to look to.

How about a new thread perhaps, since so many Plaid-bots seem to be here - 'Plaid Cymru did so much worse in Wales than the SNP did in Scotland because .........'
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