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Tactical voting in the Senedd regions: How to get the most out of your second vote

23 Apr 2021 7 minute read
The regional list can be confusing

Ifan Morgan Jones

The short version of this article:

  • Don’t bother voting Labour on the list in the South Wales West, South Wales East and South Wales Central regions, because they won’t win regional seats here. Vote Plaid Cymru or Conservatives instead as they have the best chance of winning list seats.
  • Vote for either Plaid Cymru, Conservative or Labour on the list in North Wales because marginal constituencies make regional list seats too close to call.
  • Vote for either Plaid Cymru, Conservatives or Labour on the list in Mid and West Wales, or also the Lib Dems if you think they’ll lose Brecon and Radnorshire.
  • If you really want to vote Green on the list go ahead, as they could pick up a surprise seat in any of the regions – especially South Wales Central – but it’s unlikely to happen.

The long version of this article:

Senedd elections are different to Westminster elections because you have two votes – one for the constituency and one for the region.

The regional list method is better than First Past the Post because it ‘tops up’ those parties who missed out on constituencies. This means that their final share of the seats is closer to their share on the vote.

However, it’s still a very flawed system and should be chucked out and replaced with STV at the earliest opportunity.

Among its flaws is the fact that, in order to be proportional, regional seats are handed out based on who wins in the constituencies.

But this means that you’re essentially casting your second vote blind because you have no idea how things will turn out in the constituencies beforehand.

To give an example, if the Liberal Democrats win Brecon and Radnorshire in Mid and West Wales, a vote for them on the list is probably a completely wasted one.

If they lose that seat to the Tories, however, they would be in a prime position to pick up a seat on the regional list, and a vote for them would probably be worthwile.

But because we vote in the constituency and on the list at the same time, and the results are announced together, we have no idea whether our regional vote will count when we cast it. So if you want to vote tactically, there’s a certain amount of educated guessing about what will happen in the constituencies involved.

Confused? I am, and I’ve been covering Welsh politics since 2006, so I’m sure most voters are pretty confused too.

A further complication is that any guesses about where to vote tactically is dependent on polls – and polls can be unreliable. In fact, two polls just this week by Opinium and YouGov have told us very different things about the state of the race.

However, there are a few decent guesses we can make about where it’s worth voting tactically, and for who.

South Wales West

Seats: Aberavon, Bridgend, Gower, Neath, Ogmore, Swansea East, and Swansea West.

Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first – it’s entirely pointless voting Labour on the regional list in South West Wales.

Labour have won every constituency here at every election since devolution began. They’re not going to get a list seat under any realistic circumstances.

Therefore a vote for Plaid Cymru or the Conservatives is the most likely to yield results, depending on your own political leanings.

The Conservatives could pick up Gower and Plaid Cymru could pick up Neath, although both victories would as the race stands be considered upsets.

If either do win a constituency seat, Abolish the Assembly could win a seat on the regional list. A vote for the Greens could feasibly stop that as they’re only polling 1% behind Abolish here, according to YouGov.

South Wales Central

Seats: Cardiff Central, Cardiff North, Cardiff South and Penarth, Cardiff West, Cynon Valley, Pontypridd, Rhondda and Vale of Glamorgan.

Like South Wales West this is another region where it’s pointless voting Labour as they completely dominate the constituencies.

They currently hold all but one of the seats – Rhondda, which they may well regain – and would have to lose Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff West and Cardiff Central before a regional seat looks likely.

It’s not going to happen.

With a Conservative win in the Vale of Glamorgan likely, Plaid will probably pick up two regional seats here and the fourth will be between Abolish, the Conservatives and the Greens.

South Wales East

Seats: Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Islwyn, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Monmouth, Newport East, Newport West and Torfaen.

Like the other ‘South Wales’ seats there’s no point voting Labour on the list here because they hold all but one constituencies.

And unlike South Wales Central none of them are really under any kind of threat either. In fact, Labour look just as likely to win a seat – Monmouth – as they are to lose any.

Plaid Cymru might win Blaenau Gwent but that would make no difference to Labour’s zero list seat allocation.

The Conservatives are likely to get two seats here and Plaid another. The fourth seat here is between Plaid, Abolish and the Greens, so vote for whichever you prefer.

North Wales

Seats: Aberconwy, Alyn and Deeside, Arfon, Clwyd South, Clwyd West, Delyn, Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham and Ynys Môn.

The picture is much more complex in the North Wales region as no single party dominates here – Plaid Cymru, Labour and the Conservatives all have their share of seats.

Also, there are no other parties apart from Abolish the Assembly that are seriously challenging on the regional list. In the current YouGov polling, neither the Greens or the Lib Dems look like they have what it takes to beat them.

The best bet here is just to vote who you like – with Aberconwy a Plaid / Conservative marginal and so many Labour / Conservative seats up for grabs in the north-east, there are too many uncertainties here in the constituencies to vote strategically on the list.

Mid and West Wales

Seats: Brecon and Radnorshire, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Llanelli, Montgomeryshire, Preseli Pembrokeshire.

As mentioned in the introduction the big question here is whether the Liberal Democrats keep hold of Brecon and Radnorshire.

If you think the Lib Dems won’t keep hold of their last constituency, then they’re the best bet if you want to deny Abolish the Assembly a seat here.

If you think they will, don’t bother voting for them on the regional list as they’re only polling ~6% across the region so won’t get anything on the list.

In that case, the fourth seat is up for grabs with the Conservatives and the Greens having a credible shot at it.

If you’re a Plaid Cymru supporter and don’t feel confident in Llanelli, give them your list vote to be sure of a regional seat.

If you’re a Labour voter, just vote Labour to maximise the chances of a second or – if Plaid win Llanelli – even a third list seat.

Other parties

This is a tactical voting guide, so I’m here to tell you where your vote is likely to make a difference to the result. Other parties are available, such as UKIP, Reform UK and Propel, but the polls don’t show them having much of an impact.

In the most recent YouGov poll, they were on 1% of the list vote each. Propel at 4% in South Wales Central was the only semi-realistic candidate, although they were polling at about half what you would think they would realistically need to grab a list seat.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote for them, or any of the other parties like Labour in the South Wales seats. You may think that showing your support for a particular party or candidate is more important than changing the result. If so, go for it.

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2 years ago

Ifan Morgan Jones. “Other Parties” no mention of Gwlad, is that because their manifesto is too similar to what Plaid Cymru believed in, in the past!

2 years ago
Reply to  David

The “past” is a vert distant place as far as today’s Plaid is concerned. They have come close to formulating a “Year zero” approach where everything that went before is junked, and all new stances are approved by a thought leadership group to ensure compliance, or solidarity if you prefer that ambiguous term.

Hugh Jordan
Hugh Jordan
2 years ago

I disagree with you about STV. We need a proper PR system like that used in Germany.

Half the seats in the Senedd would be elected by constituency, half by list.

The vote share from the list determines the final breakdown of the Senedd.

Steve Hayes
Steve Hayes
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Jordan

The big failing of list systems is that the ordering of the candidates on the lists tends to be in the hands of party apparatchiks. Since the lists are intrinsically regional or national, local parties are cut out of that decision. For an aspiring MS, it becomes far more important to backstairs crawl and get a high place on your party’s list than to appeal to the voters themselves. In contrast, STV puts the order in the voters’ hands.

Bill Hamblett
Bill Hamblett
2 years ago

I think I may just vote for the PERSON I feel would do the best job and my second vote, may be radical, but it would be on the same basis as my first vote. The tactics do seem to be complex and possibly the same as straight voting in my case

I agree that a refined, updated proportional representation process is needed

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