Anything to Learn?

I was asked recently how much I thought we could draw from the 2014 European election results as an indicator of what to expect for this year’s general election. In general, I suggested, not much: I’m distinctly sceptical about using 2014 as an indicator of what to expect for 2015. EP elections are very different things from general elections, and they not only produce very different levels of turnout, but also tend to generate quite different results.

On reflection, though, one thing that the EP results may offer is some (though far from perfect) indication of the relative strength of parties in different areas. We know that there have been some interesting regional patterns in elections in Wales over recent years. To give one example, it was notable that in the 2011 National Assembly election Labour did much better in south Wales than it did further west and north. Were this to be a persisting pattern in might have some relevance for some of the party’s target seats in the general election.

It may, therefore, be of some value (though I wouldn’t want to over-state this) to look at where the various parties did relatively better and worse in 2014.

Below I’ve produced a set of very simple tables: these list the changes in vote share between the 2009 and 2014 European elections that each of the main parties experienced in the 22 Welsh local authority areas. For each party I’ve ordered them from the relatively best to relatively worst result, and above the table indicated their overall change in vote share. I’ve also italicised the local authorities that each party won. I then offer a few words of commentary about each party below their respective table.


Labour (overall 7.9% rise from 2009-14)

Local Authority % change in vote
Torfaen 12.5
Blaenau Gwent 11.6
Cardiff 11.1
Newport 10.7
Bridgend 10.5
Swansea 10.4
Caerphilly 9.6
Neath-Port Talbot 9.4
Flintshire 8.4
Wrexham 8.4
Rhondda Cynon Taf 7.6
Denbighshire 5.9
Pembrokeshire 5.8
Vale of Glamorgan 5.8
Powys 5.6
Merthyr Tydfil 5.3
Carmarthenshire 5.1
Monmouth 5.0
Conwy 4.7
Gwynedd 4.4
Ynys Môn 3.4
Ceredigion 3.3

Overall, Labour had a fairly good European election last year (though perhaps not quite as good as they would have hoped), recovering significant ground from their 2009 nadir. But it’s notable that the eight local authorities where they had their largest increases in vote share were all in south Wales. One of them, third on the list, was Cardiff – which perhaps bodes well for Labour’s chances of winning its two key target seats there. Less positive in this respect are the below-average increases in those local authorities that include the Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan and Aberconwy seats. And it is striking that Labour’s four least favourable results were all in the north and west – including in Ynys Môn, perhaps the most vulnerable parliamentary seat that Labour currently hold.


Conservatives (overall 3.8% fall from 2009-14)

Local Authority % change in vote
Pembrokeshire -1.0
Merthyr Tydfil -1.5
Powys -1.7
Ceredigion -1.9
Monmouthshire -2.1
Conwy -2.1
Blaenau Gwent -2.3
Swansea -2.5
Neath-Port Talbot -2.5
Vale of Glamorgan -2.6
Rhondda Cynon Taf -2.8
Caerphilly -3.4
Carmarthenshire -3.5
Gwynedd -4.5
Bridgend -4.5
Wrexham -5.1
Flintshire -5.2
Newport -5.6
Torfaen -6.1
Cardiff -6.2
Denbighshire -6.4
Ynys Môn -6.9

Having come first in 2009, the Tories unsurprisingly fell back somewhat in the 2014 European election in Wales. But they had notably below-average vote losses in local authorities that include several seats they are defending (Preseli Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan, Aberconwy and Montgomery) as well as their most plausible target seat for 2015 (Brecon & Radnor). The well above average decline in Cardiff is less positive for their chances of holding Cardiff North, however.


Liberal Democrats (overall 6.7% fall from 2009-14)

Local Authority % change in vote
Carmarthenshire -4.1
Ynys Môn -4.2
Denbighshire -4.4
Gwynedd -4.5
Conwy -4.7
Caerphilly -4.9
Blaenau Gwent -5.4
Neath-Port Talbot -5.5
Rhondda Cynon Taf -5.7
Pembrokeshire -6.0
Vale of Glamorgan -6.0
Flintshire -6.7
Bridgend -7.1
Torfaen -7.3
Ceredigion -7.7
Cardiff -8.0
Powys -8.0
Wrexham -8.1
Monmouthshire -8.3
Merthyr Tydfil -8.7
Swansea -9.8
Newport -10.1

The Liberal Democrats, of course, had a horrible European election. Although they were never likely to win a seat, their performance was even worse than most party members could have feared. Moreover, they experienced significantly above-average vote share declines in the three local authorities that contain their current parliamentary seats. Is there really no end to the grim tidings for the Lib-Dems?


Plaid Cymru (overall 3.2% fall from 2009-14)

Local Authority % change in vote
Ynys Môn 0.3
Gwynedd 0.1
Denbighshire -0.1
Powys -0.3
Ceredigion -0.4
Monmouthshire -0.7
Cardiff -1.3
Newport -2.0
Vale of Glamorgan -2.8
Torfaen -3.1
Carmarthenshire -3.6
Flintshire -3.6
Rhondda Cynon Taf -4.0
Swansea -4.1
Merthyr Tydfil -4.5
Bridgend -4.9
Wrexham -4.9
Caerphilly -6.0
Pembrokeshire -6.2
Neath-Port Talbot -6.6
Blaenau Gwent -6.9
Conwy -7.8


Plaid Cymru’s European election performance was hardly fantastic, but it was less poor than they had feared, and they just clung onto their European seat. But it is perhaps encouraging for them that they experienced their relatively strongest performances in local authorities that contain two of their existing seats as well as their two top target seats. The slightly above-average decline in Carmarthenshire is a little less encouraging for their prospects in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr and in Llanelli; however, it is perhaps worth saying that Plaid still came first in this authority.


UKIP (overall 14.8% rise from 2009-14)

Local Authority % change in vote
Merthyr Tydfil 21.3
Wrexham 18.3
Newport 18.1
Caerphilly 17.9
Conwy 17.2
Torfaen 16.8
Bridgend 16.1
Flintshire 15.9
Swansea 15.9
Blaenau Gwent 15.6
Neath-Port Talbot 15.6
Pembrokeshire 15.5
Rhondda Cynon Taf 15.2
Ynys Môn 15.2
Carmarthenshire 13.9
Monmouthshire 13.7
Vale of Glamorgan 13.7
Denbighshire 12.4
Cardiff 11.6
Powys 11.6
Ceredigion 11.0
Gwynedd 10.2

The 2014 European election was, of course, UKIP’s big breakthrough in Wales. Nowhere did their vote share increase by less than 10 percentage points. But if we look at the results above we can perhaps understand why both Labour and the Conservatives in north-east Wales have apparently been experiencing some concerns about UKIP’s challenge there.


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