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The 2014 European Election in Wales

 

The results are now in; the fever pitch of political excitement of the last few days can begin to subside. With it all over (bar a fair bit of shouting), what can we make of it all? I’ll be posting a few pieces over the next couple of weeks, looking at the results in detail. This first post will concentrate on the general results and the main immediate implications that seem to follow from them.

Before I get into that, though, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate our elected representatives here in Wales: Derek Vaughan, Kay Swinburne and Jill Evans on their re-election to the European Parliament, and Nathan Gill who has been elected for the first time. I’d also like to wish them well in representing Wales in the European Union.

Now, onto the results. The table below presents the overall result in Wales: the number of votes cast for each party, the share of the vote (with the change from 2009 in brackets), and the number of seats won.

 

Party

Votes

Share (change from 2009)

MEPs

Labour

206,332

 28.15 (+7.86)

1

UKIP

201,983

27.55 (+14.76)

1

Conservatives

127,742

17.43 (-3.79)

1

Plaid Cymru

111,864

15.26 (-3.25)

1

Greens

32,275

4.52 (-1.04)

0

Liberal Democrats

28,930

3.95 (-6.73)

0

BNP

7,655

1.04 (-4.38)

0

Britain First

6,633

0.90 (n/a)

0

Socialist Labour

4,459

0.61 (-1.20)

0

No2EU

2,803

0.38 (-0.87)

0

Socialist Party of GB

1,384

0.19 (n/a)

0

Turnout = 32.1% (+ 1.7%)

When a more detailed breakdown of the results is available in a user-friendly form I’ll post it here, and in the Election Results section of the blog.

The final Welsh poll had indicated that the allocation of the final two of Wales’ four seats would be very tight. This turned out to be pretty close to the truth; what the poll didn’t quite pick up was how close the race for first place would be. The table below shows the calculations for each ‘round’, with the party winning that seat indicated in bold. (Those of you needing a refresher on the d’Hondt formula used to allocate the seats, please see here). For simplicity, here I have included only the top four parties, as these were the only ones relevant to the allocation of seats. We can see that while Labour won the first seat, and UKIP the second, there were barely more than 4,000 votes in it. The Conservatives then won the third seat, and Plaid the final one. But this final seat was also pretty close: had Plaid won 8,700 votes fewer across the whole of Wales – out of the nearly three-quarters of a million cast – then they would have lost the final seat to Labour.

 

Labour

UKIP

Cons

Plaid

Round 1

206,332

201,983

127,742

111,864

Round 2

103,166

201,983

127,742

111,864

Round 3

103,166

100,991.5

127,742

111,864

Round 4

103,166

100,991.5

63,871

111,864

So what can we make of the parties’ performances? Let’s take them in turn.

Labour will clearly be pleased to have topped the poll once more in Wales; after the upset of 2009 there may be a sense of having returned to something like ‘business as usual’. And yet, as with their result across Britain as a whole, one cannot help but feel that Labour should have done rather better. Labour’s performance in 2009 remains its worst vote share in any Welsh election since World War I. But 2014 was its second worst.

Until the final poll of the campaign, Labour had seemed clearly set to win two seats in Wales (indeed, the figures from the inaugural Welsh Political Barometer poll in December had Labour on course to gain three of the four Welsh MEPs). There are two – not necessarily wholly exclusive – obvious potential explanations for this relative Labour under-perfomance, neither of which are very comforting for the party. The first, which I’ll review in a future blog post, is that YouGov’s polls in Wales have been systematically over-stating Labour support. The second is that much of Labour’s support in Wales in recent years has been pretty soft in nature, and the party was either unable to get these voters to the polls or some of them jumped ship to UKIP for these elections. Overall, these European elections (and last week’s locals in England) certainly don’t suggest that a general election victory for Labour next year is impossible. But nor can we say that Labour is clearly on course for victory: for the party to be confident, rather than merely hopeful, of winning in 2015, they really ought to be doing a bit better than this.

For UKIP this was a truly extraordinary performance, and one which defied both history and the polls. In the last three sets of European elections, Wales had been either the second or third worst ‘region’ in Britain for the party (behind Scotland and, in 1999 and 2009, London). Nor had the polls shown UKIP making much ground until fairly recently, while even the final poll – with fieldwork conducted approximately 8-10 days prior to the elections – showed UKIP in second but still well behind Labour. Moreover, UKIP currently has no Welsh AMs or MPs, and made very little impact at the 2012 Welsh local elections. Yet Wales saw UKIP’s second largest vote share gain from 2009 of anywhere in Britain (only the East Midlands saw a larger UKIP rise in support from five years ago). The reasons for this will need investigating further; for the moment, it looks clear that UKIP has ‘arrived’ in Welsh electoral politics. What may be particularly troubling for the other main parties in Wales is that few of them seem to have seen this UKIP surge coming.

For the Conservatives this was another solid, reasonably satisfactory performance. They retained their Welsh MEP, despite a UKIP surge that some might have expected to cut particularly hard into their vote. The Tories also maintained their position, which they also had in 2004 and 2009, of being ahead of Plaid Cymru. Despite having been in government for more than four years in London, the Conservatives’ support in the polls, and in real elections, has shown an impressive resilience, and it continued to do so last night. As they face up to a general election in less than a year, the Welsh Tories have reason to do so with some optimism; there is little sign that they will gain seats next year, but they have fair prospects of holding most of what they currently have.

For Plaid Cymru, these results will surely be a major relief more than anything. Plaid had looked very likely to lose their seat in the European Parliament for most of the last year. Until the final Barometer survey, all the polls had them some way behind. Plaid’s attempts to fire up their support, and mobilise their voters, seem to have had some success – enough, at least, for them to cling on to the final seat. Coming fourth can hardly be rated as a good result for Plaid. However, we should perhaps remember that, with the singular exception of their 1999 annus mirabilis, Plaid have never performed very strongly in European elections. This year was about holding their ground, ahead of other electoral contests that may offer them better prospects. In that sense, 2014 for Plaid can be seen as ‘job done – just about’.

For the Liberal Democrats, failing to win a seat was a disappointment but not remotely a surprise. The Lib-Dems had failed to win a Welsh MEP in much happier times (1999, 2004 and 2009), so it was never very likely that they would do so in the current, more difficult, political context. What is more concerning to them, in Wales as across the rest of Britain, is the sheer scale of their failure: to win less than 4% of the vote is utterly humiliating, while their performance was abject even in places where the party holds Westminster seats. Given their party’s poor performance across the whole of Britain, and with the next general election less than 12 months away, the signs currently appear very ominous for the Liberal Democrats.

Among the other parties, the Welsh Greens performed respectably, if somewhat less well than their counterparts in both England and Scotland. The BNP lost more than four-fifths of their vote share in Wales from 2009 – something which really couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people. And on the fringes of the left, the Judean People’s Front – sorry, I mean the Socialist Labour Party, managed to edge out the People’s Front of Judea, otherwise known as the Socialist Party of Great Britain; while out among the fringes of Euro-phobia, Britain First scored a similar ‘triumph’ over No2EU.

I’ll be back later in the week with a look at some of the local dynamics of the election in Wales, and at the performance of the pollsters.

Comments

  • Huw Williams

    Diddorol fel arfer! Edrych mlaen i’r un nesa. Any chance in future of stats on whether UKIP voters in Wales self-identify as English/British/Welsh first?

    • Roger Scully

      Dwi’n gobeithio, Huw. Dwued y Gwir, dwi’n gobeithio i gael post gwestai yn fuan gan Rob Ford neu Matt Goodwin, sy wedi sgwennu llyfr newydd adderchog ar UKIP.

  • J.Jones

    I can’t help but think that UKIP is winning the “None of the above” vote in Wales. The concensus amongst the established parties around further devolution and more Welsh in schools is alienating a lot of supporters of both Labour and Tories.

    The idea that ALL parties in Wales can hold a minority viewpoint and support policies that most people in Wales disagree with has been challenged by UKIPs meteoric rise.
    It’s only European elections and they don’t matter but if UKIP become more vociferous in their opposition to further devolution and the unwanted imposition of Welsh medium classes in EM schools they will have significant impact in the Assembly elections.

    • Roger Scully

      I think you are right about the None of the Above point, Jon.

      I find it difficult to agree with much of the rest: it’s neither clear that those are minority viewpoints nor (and this is perhaps most important for now) that they are what motivated people to go and vote UKIP last week.

    • Alwyn ap Huw

      I would have thought that the 70% who didn’t bother to vote are more reflective of the “none of the above” attitude rather than the few who voted for UKIP. The most disappointing aspect of the election is that those representing us in the European Parliament will be doing so after persuading a pathetic 4% to 11% of the electorate to support them.

  • Edmund Schluessel

    Britain First is no “fringe of the left”, they’re ex-BNP neo-fascists.

    • Roger Scully

      Sorry, that was sloppy wording on my part. What comes from trying to write something on two hours sleep. Will amend.

  • Thom Hollick

    Interesting, I particularly didn’t expect the race for first place to be so close. Someone suggested to me that Ukip might be an option for Welsh non-voters who hail from strong Labour family traditions, whose support at the ballot box has lapsed, but are unwilling to vote Tory as it would be an insult to their ancestors? I would be very interested to see polling figures of voters who did not vote Ukip last Thursday but would consider it in the future. Are there any more votes in Wales for them to pick up? In elections with higher turnouts for example?
    Also, are you suggesting that Britain First are on the fringes of the left? As an offshoot of the BNP with a penchant for invading mosques, they are pretty far right, (although certainly fringe for the time being).
    Thanks for crunching the numbers for us!

    • Roger Scully

      Thanks, Thom; Britain First point was just sloppy wording on my point – am about to amend so it says what I wanted it to say.

  • Welsh Borderer

    I don’t think it can be disputed that there is at present a majority in Wales who are either opposed to further devolution (and in my case regret voting for it) or actually want to see the Assembly abolished or it’s powers reduced. The BBC St Davids Day poll showed these groups had over 50% support less than 3 months ago. Many of them will have voted UKIP last week, partly because as JJ said, all 4 of the WG parties favour more devolution. Of course there are other factors at play, but this is I think the reason why UKIP has a distinctive appeal in Wales at the moment. The summary was too kind to Labour – they have produced “1 out of 4” results twice in 18 months ( remember the similar failure in the police elections), at a time when they should be well ahead if they are seriously going to gain seats in Wales at the GE. Labour’s 3rd place in one of the target marginals (The Vale) shows there is a mountain to climb.

  • J. Jones

    I don’t want to get into an argument Roger but I’ll just reiterate what I’m saying; It’s not that there is a majority in favour of ending devolution but it IS that there is a majority that does not want it to go any further and is increasingly annoyed that no one is listening. I actually read a piece by a Labour activist and ex head of a Labour council who found that people on the doorstep were angry with Labour for a perceived obsession with devolution at the expense of “real” issues. I quite agree that voters who would never vote Tory because of their toxic history in Wales will nevertheless vote UKIP knowing little about them except the one perception that they are UNIONIST when no other party will say “this far and no further”.

    It’s quite staggering that UKIP is either the most popular or second most popular party in every county in Wales at the EU elections. It makes no difference whether the county is in the Fro Cymraeg, The Labour Valleys or the Tory East.
    This is the problem with 15 years of “Concensus” politics and dishwater opposition in the Senedd…..a majority is now opposed to some aspects of policy that the four main parties agree on.

    • Roger Scully

      Well, I certainly agree that UKIP’s breakthrough has been staggering. Their performance across the rest of Britain was actually slightly below my expectations, but that in Wales was at least 3% above what I thought was coming. Lots to ponder.

      And thanks, as ever, for your interest in the blog.

  • Ian clarke

    Has anyone tested the correlation by Welsh county between UKIP vote and percent born in England? It would be ironic if, as I expect, it’s the immigrants who are driving it.

  • J Jones

    Mind you, I was just looking at the 2013 British Social attitudes survey and it does subdivide into UK countries to examine attitudes to Immigration. The only problem being that Wales has a small sample.
    Percentage saying Immigration should be reduced:
    Scotland 69%, England 78%, Wales 86%.
    Percentage saying Immigration is bad for the economy:
    Scotland 44%, England 46%, Wales 65%.
    Percentage that saw immigration as undermining indigenous culture:
    Scotland 40%, England 44% Wales 68%

    Looking at these figures you can see why UKIP had a ready audience in Wales.

    • Roger Scully

      Small sample alert – but still an interesting spot, Jon! Wales does have many of the economically ‘left behinds’ that Forf and Goodwin’s book on UKIP suggest form the basis of their growth in support over recent years.

  • J.Jones

    “Has anyone tested the correlation by Welsh county between UKIP vote and percent born in England? It would be ironic if, as I expect, it’s the immigrants who are driving it.”

    I notice that Plaid supporters have made this point repeatedly; ie that voting UKIP is indeed “Un-Welsh” (as claimed by Leanne Wood) and therefore it follows that it wasn’t the Welsh who voted UKIP in such large numbers.

    The first thing to say is that some work has been done to see who it is that supports UKIP. People on the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party for instance, elderly people and people falling into the 2CDE social status classification…that is to say “blue collar” workers with lower educational attainment.
    The problem is that there will be a correlation with these factors which may include a high percentage of people who Identify as English or English/British. People who retire to the coast may be (obviously) elderly, have a lower education than average and have come from a “blue collar” background…they may also be English.

    What you can say with absolute certainty is, Ian, English incomers could not possibly account for the popularity of UKIP in Wales since the UKIP vote share in Wales was Identical to the UKIP vote share in England; Wales 27.55, England 27.49.

    If you want to test your theory just go to the Valleys constituencies with the highest “Welsh” National Identity in Wales and the lowest “English/British” national identity. Did they vote UKIP in large numbers? You bet.

    • Roger Scully

      I agree with most, if not all, of this, Jon. See also my latest post, and the correlations that Ian has run.

  • J.Jones

    I can do a rough comparison for you Ian if I use the total population (not voter age or actual vote) and UKIP total vote as a percentage of population and compare with “Born in England”. Not scientific.
    Lowest % Born in England = Merthyr, 6.4%. UKIP vote as a % of population 6.8%
    Highest % Born in England = Powys, 44.7% UKIP vote as a % of population 7.8%

    6 Local Authorities with the lowest “Born in England” populations UKIP vote as a % of pop. 6.5%

    6 Local Authorities with the highest “Born in England” populations UKIP vote as a % of pop. 7.1%

    It’s not a convincing correlation, particularly when you consider that turnout was very low in the LAs with low percentages of people born in England.

  • Cywiro

    Roger, you might want to ignore misinformation from Jacques Protic including his various aliases such as J,Jones 😉

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