I’m grateful to Nation.Cymru for allowing me to respond to a recent article published earlier this week by Dafydd Trystan, where he predicted that “the fourth list seat across several regions in Wales may well come down to a close fight between Abolish and the Greens”.
I have great respect for Dafydd Trystan, as a former Chair and Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru and someone I’ve campaigned alongside in Cardiff South and Penarth in the past.
But I feel the urgent need to respond to his prediction due to a genuine fear that if people mistakenly believe the Greens have a chance of winning seats on the list and then vote accordingly, the result will be a greater number of Abolish the Assembly representatives being elected to the Senedd than would otherwise be the case.
There are two elements to my rebuttal. Firstly I will show through data analysis that the Greens are nowhere near winning a list seat in any region based on current polling, and that the battle for the fourth seat is a Plaid Cymru v Tory/Abolish contest in every single one.
Secondly, I will explain why I believe that it’s very unlikely that pro-independence Labour supporters will decide to vote Green over Plaid Cymru on the list.
In the interests of transparency, I’ll declare an interest in being a dedicated Plaid Cymru member. In this regard I am also happy to make public the calculations I did in coming to my conclusions.
What the data tells us
There are two sources of data that can be used to ascertain the current state of play in each region ahead of May’s Senedd election.
The first is obviously the result of the last Senedd election, which every pollster uses as a base for making projections for the next election.
The second is the most recent Welsh poll. This is provided by the latest Cardiff University / ITV Wales Barometer from October 2020.
I’m sure many Nation readers enjoy reading Roger Scully’s Elections in Wales blog, where he makes seat projections based on the results of each poll. My method is similar to his and comes to very similar conclusions based on the last poll. But what you don’t get on Mr Scully’s blog is projections about how close (or how far) the contest is in terms of the fourth seat in each region.
In order to gain this understanding, I’ve taken the results of the last poll and used the data to work out the multiplier for how many votes each party is likely to gain or lose in each region. For example, Labour secured 31.5% of the list vote in 2016, but they’re now on 33% on the list. This means I’ll be multiplying their 2016 vote for each region by the long number you get when you divide 33 with 31.5 (using an Excel formula rather than pen and paper!). For an explanation about how the D’Hondt system which the Senedd uses works, click here.
I will now share what the resulted projections are for each region on the basis that Mr Scully was correct in projecting that only one constituency seat will currently change hands, which is the Vale of Glamorgan being taken from Labour by the Tories. This could all change before May of course, especially given that the party campaigns are yet to reach full swing, so this analysis is based purely on the current polling context.
The 2016 contest for top spot in the North Wales region was extremely close between Plaid Cymru and the Tories, ultimately giving the parties one seat each, since the other two were taken by UKIP who had a relatively high regional vote share but no constituencies.
According to the latest data, the Tories look set to take seat 1 with Plaid Cymru taking seat 2. The third looks set to be taken by Abolish with the Tories on course to win the fourth. But the question is: which party is best placed to take that fourth seat away from the Tories (or Abolish if they fail to beat the Tories into third place)?
The answer is clear-cut: it is Plaid Cymru. There is a 5,000 vote difference between Plaid Cymru and the Greens in the challenge for fourth spot. The Greens are nowhere near.
I decided it would be fun to work out which seat the Greens would get if there were an infinite number of list seats. The answer is seat number 20.
In order to gain the fourth list seat the Greens would need over 14,000 votes. They are currently on course to win just 6,385. A vote for the Greens on the North Wales list will be a wasted vote unless they double the 4% they’re currently on nationally.
It is worth noting also that Labour don’t pick up a seat until seat number 7 (because of the high number of constituencies they hold) which means that a Labour vote on the list will not do anything to keep out Abolish, or the Tories either. In a theme that will play out for every region: the best way of beating the right-wing abolitionists on the list is to give Plaid Cymru your second vote, whomever you decide to give your first vote to.
Conclusion: It’s a three-way contest between Plaid Cymru, the Tories and Abolish for seats 3 and 4.
Mid and West
This is the region where the Greens got their biggest share of the vote in 2016 with 3.8%. So are they in with a chance of competing for the fourth seat here as things currently stand? The answer is no.
The Mid and West region is the only one where Labour pick up list seats, and they’re currently on course to retain the two they’ve already got.
My analysis suggests that Abolish will take the third seat comfortably here if the national swing plays out as expected.
The fourth seat is an extremely close battle between the Tories and Plaid Cymru, with the Tories currently set to squeeze it by fewer than 500 regional votes over Plaid Cymru.
Since it seems that it’s now a prerequisite for new Tory candidates to support abolition and that they will have a new candidate since they don’t currently have a list seat here, the best way to prevent an abolitionist being elected is to vote Plaid Cymru. There’s no point in voting for a Tory abolitionist to stop an Abolish abolitionist.
The Greens are over 3,000 votes away from being in contention. With an infinite number of seats, they’d get seat number 8.
I would add that it’s only fair to mention that if the Lib Dems to lose Brecon and Radnorshire, they’d be in the running for seat 4.
Conclusion: A two-way contest between Plaid Cymru and the Tories for seat 4 (becoming a three-way contest with the Lib Dems if they lose Brecon and Radnorshire).
South Wales West
If the constituencies play out in accordance with Roger Scully’s latest projection, Labour would win every seat in this region. This would leave the Tories and Plaid Cymru to pick up two list seats each. But it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.
My analysis shows the Tories taking seats 1 and 3, with Plaid Cymru taking seat 2 comfortably and seat 4 being a head-to-head between Plaid Cymru and Abolish.
Plaid Cymru currently hold the advantage, but it’s not a major one. The Greens again are nowhere to be seen, being 8,000 votes off the mark. They’d pick up seat number 17, if it existed.
Conclusion: Two-way contest between Plaid Cymru and Abolish for seat 4.
South Wales Central
The Tories look set to increase their representation in this region. As well as gaining the Vale of Glamorgan, they currently look set to retain their two list seats as well. While seats 1 and 2 go comfortably to the Tories and Plaid Cymru, it’s much closer for 3 and 4.
As things stand, the Tories take seat 3 with Plaid Cymru just about managing to hold Abolish off for seat 4. It is very close though, with fewer than 1,000 votes in it. Given their high number of constituency seats, Labour don’t come close. But they do come closer than the Greens who are once again trailing by a country mile. They’d get seat number 10 in our parallel humungous-Senedd reality.
Conclusion: A two-way contest between Plaid Cymru and Abolish for seat 4.
South Wales East
Given the fact that Dafydd Trystan’s article included a picture of the Greens’ candidate for South Wales East, you might expect this to be their best chance of winning a seat. You would be very wrong. The Greens wouldn’t pick up a seat here until seat 18.
As things stand it looks like two list seats each for Plaid Cymru and the Tories. However, I will note that seats 3 and 4 looks like being an extremely close four-way contest involving the Brexit Party/Reform UK (assuming that the 2016 UKIP vote is indicative of a 2021 Brexit Party/Reform UK vote).
There are fewer than 1,000 votes between the four parties for seats 3 and 4. Currently, Abolish currently look set to miss out, but Plaid Cymru will need a good vote here to keep them at bay.
Conclusion: A four-way contest for seats 3 and 4 between Plaid Cymru, Tories, Abolish and Brexit Party/Reform UK (although it’s very difficult to say what will happen with regards to the Brexit Party/Reform UK vote)
A Green Surge?
While I’ve definitively proved that the Greens look set to continue their historical trend of not coming close to winning a seat in any region, this is based on current polling that shows them on 4% nation-wide (and yes, that nation being Wales).
But Dafydd Trystan’s prediction is predicated on a big increase in Green support, which would obviously change the dynamic. He says:
“Will the Greens recent unequivocal support for Welsh independence place them in a stronger position than previously to attract ‘second votes’ on the regional list, particularly from Labour voters who are increasingly pro-independence or at the very least indy-curious according to every recent opinion poll?”
This assertion cannot be proven either way in advance of the result, which we’ll hopefully get on Friday May 7, 2021. But there are a number of very good reasons to think that this is very unlikely indeed.
It is inaccurate to state that the Welsh Greens “unequivocally” support independence. All they’ve said is that they’d campaign for independence if a referendum was called. They haven’t committed to pushing for a referendum, while Plaid Cymru has. And let’s not forget that their members voted against becoming an independent Welsh Green Party in 2018, preferring to remain a branch of the England and Wales Green Party. If they don’t even want independence for themselves, why would they prioritise campaigning for independence for Wales?
And if Labour supporters feel strongly enough about independence to vote for another party on the list, why would they opt for a Green Party for whom independence is not a priority when they can make independence a real possibility by voting for Plaid Cymru?
There’s also the fact that Welsh electors generally know that the Greens won’t get elected. They’ve never come close to winning a Senedd seat, and they never will until we reform our electoral arrangements. People know this, they can sense it, and would only think otherwise if they were incorrectly told the opposite. So why waste a vote on them when they can vote for a party that can get elected at the expense of Abolish?
The takeout from all this is abundantly clear. A list vote for Plaid Cymru is the best way of beating abolitionists in May. It’s the best way of keeping fascists out of our Senedd. And it’s the only way of securing an independence referendum for Wales.