Opinion

What does the evidence show? Your tactical voting guide to the PCC elections

30 Apr 2021 6 minutes Read
The PCC elections can be head-scratching

Ifan Morgan Jones

Pity the poor Police and Crime Commissioner elections – the only set of elections of so little note that they are eclipsed by the Senedd contest, itself routinely ignored by much of the media.

Despite not being the most arresting of electoral contests, these polls are happening on May 6, across Wales and England. So there are four contests going on here in Wales that we can focus on, in Dyfed-Powys, North Wales, South Wales and Gwent police force regions.

Despite being mostly ignored the PCC elections are in some ways slightly superior to both Senedd and Westminster constituency contests because they use the Supplementary Vote system.

This means that you don’t have to think quite as tactically about your vote as you would under a First Past the Post system.

How does the Supplementary Vote system work? You get two votes and you’re able to mark your first and your second choice of candidate in the left and right-hand column respectively.

If one candidate gets over 50% of the vote, then they’ve won anyway in the first round and on first preferences.

If not, the two candidates with the most first-choice votes go through to a second round. In the second count, the second votes of those who supported eliminated candidates are distributed among the two remaining candidates.

This means that if your first choice is knocked out of the race in the first round, your vote will transfer to your second choice, as long as they’re one of the two to make it through to the second round.

Make sense so far?

What this means in practice is that even if you think your first choice of candidate is a bit of a no-hoper, you can sometimes give them your first vote safe in the knowledge that if they don’t make the cut, you have a second chance.

However, if you think there is any danger that the second choice candidate you think has a serious shot at winning will not make the second round at all, it may be worth giving him or her your first vote just to make sure.

It’s also definitely worth thinking tactically about your second vote and giving it to someone who is very likely to make it to the second round – otherwise, it may not count at all.

So, let’s look at what this means in every police force individually:

Dyfed-Powys Police

This is generally thought to be a contest between the incumbent, Plaid Cymru’s Dafydd Llywelyn, and the Conservative challenger, Jon Burns.

Therefore, while you can give your first vote to Labour or the Liberal Democrats if you want to, it’s probably worth giving your second vote to either Plaid or the Conservatives.

Labour came in third place in 2016 and in second place in 2012 (when Plaid Cymru did not stand) so if you choose Plaid Cymru or Conservatives as your first choice they may be a good bet as a second vote.

North Wales Police

This is probably the most hotly contested police region.

Plaid Cymru are the incumbents here, although the current PCC Arfon Jones is stepping down from the role.

Labour came second in 2012 and 2016 so are also a decent bet to go through to the second round.

However, it’s also worth keeping an eye on the Conservatives here. UKIP aren’t standing this time as they did in 2012 and 2016 and a combined UKIP / Tory vote would have put the Tories ahead on the first vote.

This is the Liberal Democrats’ first tilt at the seat too, so it’s hard to predict where their support will end up. The winner of the 2012 contest – Winston Roddick – was a former Lib Dem.

Mark Young is also standing as an independent candidate.

My gut tells me that as the winners in 2012 Plaid Cymru will probably be in the second round so are a decent punt as a second vote, if you don’t give them your first.

I also think that with UKIP out of the picture and with the north of Wales tilting towards the Conservatives since 2016, their candidate could be in with a good shot of making the second round too.

Those who give Plaid their first choice would probably be best off giving the Labour candidate the second, if they want to keep the Conservative candidate out.

South Wales Police

Wales’ former First Minister, Alun Michael, will probably win at a canter here and may not even need second preferences to do it. If you’re a Labour voter you might as well not bother giving anyone your second vote, because you candidate is almost guaranteed to get to the second round anyway.

The contest between Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives for second place in the first round was ridicilously close in 2016 – there were only 19 votes in it. Out of over 70,000 each.

This time, Plaid candidate Nadine Marshall’s personal story could see her through to the second round.

So if you’re a Propel, Lib Dem or Independent voter, one of Plaid or the Tories is probably your best bet for a second vote, if you don’t want Labour to win of course.

Gwent Police

As in South Wales, Labour incumbent Jeff Cuthbert, another former Senedd member, should win this contest with something to spare.

However Independent Ian Johnson won the 2012 contest before his retirement, so Labour aren’t untouchable here.

It’s most likely to be between Labour and the Conservative challenger, Hannah Jarvis, so give your second preference to whoever you think is the stronger competitor.

Beyond that it’s hard to call – Plaid Cymru came a strong third in 2016 but there were only three in the race. As a result, they seem less likely to make it to the second round.

But you can probably afford to give them your first vote and Labour or the Conservatives your second, if so inclined.

Disclaimer

PCC elections have been generally harder to call than normal elections, as there have only been two examples so far, and they take place across wider regions.

Independent candidates also have a much higher success rate than in normal elections. They have already represented two of Wales’ four police force regions.

The above are just educated guesses based on previous elections and some understanding of how voting patterns have shifted overall since the last set of elections in 2016.

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