Posts on the blog will be sparse for the next couple of weeks, as I am taking some time off to re-charge the psephological batteries. It’s been a busy electoral year, while the next twelve months are unlikely to offer many quiet periods either. So please forgive my slothfulness.
To keep you going while I am away, I thought that at least some of you – and particularly those who are new to the blog – might be interested in my pointing out a few ‘greatest hits’: blog posts over the last year that have occasioned the greatest degree of reader interest. So, in no particular order…
- A short time before the general election, I published a ‘Personal Plea‘ about how we should treat those who end up on the rough end of the voters’ verdict. I stand by every word: sure, people offering themselves as candidates should know what they are getting themselves into, and very few ask for or expect any sympathy. But I still think we should make every effort to treat them with some kindness and understanding.
- Last summer I published this piece on what I called Plaid Cymru’s Strategic Dilemma. The dilemma being that while Plaid has stated a clear strategic electoral goal – challenging Labour dominance of the National Assembly – the path to them achieving or even advancing towards this goal remains far from clear. Challenging Labour hegemony requires Plaid to challenge Labour’s dominance of the south Wales constituency contests. Yet the most obvious path towards immediate electoral gains in 2016 for Plaid would involve targeting resources at seats elsewhere. So should Plaid go for more immediate and apparently achievable gains? Or should it prioritise its long-term objective – with the risk of making no ground at all in 2016?
- More recently, I published a short piece presenting some sadly-neglected data from our 2011 Welsh Election Study. This considered the question ‘How Prejudiced is Wales?’, by looking at attitudes towards various minority groups. Overall, the data showed at least some hostility to many groups – although it also showed many people with positive attitudes to groups that have often been the target of antagonism. I also examined attitudes among supporters of the different parties, and concluded that “all the parties have a significant number of supporters who have some views that the party leaderships would probably be rather uncomfortable with”.
- There was a – to me at least – surprising degree of interest in a post I did on the White Paper on Reforming Local Government. I focussed on the potential electoral implications of reducing the number of councils – and, presumably, councillors, in Wales. In particular, I suggested that the stated ambition of the Minister, Leighton Andrews, for “local Councils [that] are wholly representative of local communities” would be difficult to achieve as long as we continue to use a highly un-representative electoral system for local elections in Wales. I believe the Single Transferable Vote system, now used in both Northern Ireland and Scotland, is far superior to the system used now in Wales – one that, elsewhere, I once suggested is possibly the the Worst Electoral System in the World.
- ‘Support for Welsh Independence Doubles’ was my deliberately misleading title for a post discussing the findings of a BBC/ICM poll in early March. As I discussed in the body of the post, there can be a tendency to over-react to poll findings – as there was to a poll last September which produced an unusually low level of support, on one particular question form, for Welsh independence. A follow-up poll six months later showed support for independence at twice the level previously found. But this was, most likely, simply a reversion to the mean long-term level after an unusually low reading the previous time. Sometimes – quite a lot of the time, actually – the findings of survey research are a little less interesting than they might appear at first glance.
I hope that’s enough to keep you going for the next couple of weeks. I’ll be back in early September, when I’ll begin the new political term by running my annual series of pieces evaluating the Electoral State of the Parties in Wales.