I’ve spent the last couple of days predicting the general election outcome in the 40 seats in Wales. It’s been quite an interesting exercise as I am by no means an expert in Welsh politics. Ive trawled around various sites and blogs and received quite a lot of input from people on Twitter. One excellent blog I came across was THIS one run by an academic, Roger Scully (@roger_scully), at the University Cardiff. It’s called Elections in Wales and is a mine of wonderful information. It’s the sort of blog that any UK political correspondent worth their salt should follow religiously. One blogpost in particular caused me to rethink some of the predictions I had already made. It analyses two national Welsh polls taken in December 2013 and then in December 2014. The results are quite astounding and I imagine will have caused Welsh Labour and Ed Miliband a bit of a headache. Here’s what they show.
Here’s the commentary..
There are two major changes evident in the figures here. The first is the 10-point decline in Labour vote share. Our inaugural Barometer poll already showed Labour some eight points down from their high-point of 54% in a July 2012 YouGov poll. But over the last twelve months Labour have lost very nearly one-quarter of their remaining general election support in Wales. Last December’s poll would – on uniform national swings – have projected Labour to win 33 of the 40 parliamentary seats in Wales, a net gain of seven on the 2010 general election. Wales was thus on-track for making a fairly significant contribution towards Labour winning an overall majority in the House of Commons. In our latest poll, Labour’s support level is actually no higher than it was in May 2010, and Labour is projected to make only very modest seat gains.
The other major change is clearly the rise of UKIP. Twelve months ago they still seemed like a relatively minor factor in Welsh politics. That is no longer so. Their support levels began to pick up in Wales in the latter part of 2013, and the party has maintained momentum throughout 2014. Recent polls have placed UKIP in a clear third place in terms of general election vote share. However, on uniform swings, at least, UKIP are not projected to actually win any seats next May. The challenge for them in May 2015 will be to try to concentrate support effectively in particular seats; otherwise they may well win the electoral support of a fair proportion of the Welsh electorate but have nothing to show for it in terms of parliamentary representation.
The Conservatives have held very steady throughout the last year. And with Labour support falling, this places them in a much stronger position to hold their ground in the general election. Twelve months ago the Tories were projected to win only three parliamentary seats in the next general election, a net loss of five from 2010. In our new poll they are now projected to make no net losses at all, with the potential loss of Cardiff North being offset by a projected gain from the Liberal Democrats in Brecon and Radnor.
Plaid Cymru have held similarly steady over the last year, although I suspect that would accord them somewhat less comfort than it would the Conservatives. On our new poll they are projected to hold onto their three current seats – which is again an improvement on last year, when they were projected to lose Arfon. However, this change reflects Labour’s declining support rather than any significant advance for Plaid.
The Liberal Democrats continue to languish. A year ago they were doing dismally in the polls, having lost well over half the support they won in 2010. Now they are doing even worse. On uniform swings, they are currently projected to lose both Cardiff Central and Brecon and Radnor, and only to hang onto Ceredigion. This represents a decline on last year, when our inaugural Barometer poll projected them to hold Brecon and Radnor.
This is further proof that in some parts of the United Kingdom UKIP is taking far more votes from Labour than other parties, and this could well depress the number of Labour gains at the election. In some cases (and there are four or five examples of this in Wales – Alyn & Deeside, Delyn, Wrexham & Yns Mon being the main ones) it could also allow the Conservatives make a few gains at the expense of Labour. This is something I have been banging on about for a year but Labour seem to have stuck their heads in the sand on this and refuse to countenance any possibility of this phenomenon happening. It’s something they may well live to regret.
My full Welsh predictions will be posted on the site next week.