Elections in Wales is three today.
Yes, it’s a full three years since this blog was launched on an unsuspecting and defenceless nation; a Wales that hitherto had managed to get by without the periodic online ramblings about its electoral processes by some obscure Cardiff University Prof. (And did you know that he isn’t even from Wales originally? It’s a disgrace). Since the blog was launched, Wales have risen from the 56th ranked men’s football team in the world to their recent exploits. Some may doubt any direct causal link – but I think we know better.
A lot has changed since Elections in Wales began. We’ve had a European election, a general election and a National Assembly election. (Not forgetting the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, much though some of us might wish to). And, of course, we’ve had that referendum.
Not long after the blog was launched, we ran the findings of a new YouGov poll of the political landscape in Wales. Not far short of three years later, we ran the latest YouGov poll in Wales – part of the now regular series of Welsh Political Barometer polls. I thought it might be instructive to reproduce the vote intention figures from those two polls side-by-side. They give some indication of the changes in the political landscape over the past three years.
(Note: In the tables below I only show figures for Westminster and for the National Assembly Constituency vote. Because of changes in question wording for the Assembly regional list vote, the results for those figures are not easily comparable).
|Party||July 2013||July 2016|
National Assembly (Constituency)
|Party||July 2013||July 2016|
In only three years, the electoral landscape in Wales has changed significantly. It’s quite a different world, in electoral terms, compared to just 36 months ago. Let’s summarise the major changes, looking party by party.
Labour have been the big losers in public support over the last three years in Wales. Indeed, we see their support fall by exactly fourteen percentage points for both Westminster and the Assembly across these two polls. Of course Labour do remain in the lead in Wales, and during the period since July 2013 have come first in all three major elections. But their 2014 European election and 2015 general election performances were undoubtedly disappointing for the party. This year’s Assembly election was less so, but largely because the party mounted an effective defensive operation that enabled them to hold all-but-one of their seats despite a significant decline in vote share. And with the on-going problems of the party at Westminster, this may well not be as bad as things get for Labour.
For the Conservatives, the past few years have seen mixed fortunes. They performed respectably at the 2014 European election; did very well in 2015; but had an undoubtedly disappointing Assembly election this year. Across these two polls their support level is completely unchanged in three years, but that apparent stability masks considerable turbulence in their fortunes.
Plaid Cymru are one of the two big gainers in the polls over the last three years. Some of those gains, however, have come only in the last couple of months. The past three years have seen only modest electoral progress by the party: just hanging onto their European seat in 2014; making only modest gains in vote-share, and none in seats, in 2015; and only quite small advances for the Assembly this year. Plaid currently appear fairly buoyant in the polls – but how secure are those gains, and can they translate them into tangible electoral success?
The other major change we have seen in the polls over the last three years in Wales has been the rise of UKIP. In July 2013 they were just beginning to appear to be a significant force in Welsh electoral politics. This rise in support was carried into a remarkable performance at the 2014 European election when they almost beat Labour for first place; a strong performance throughout Wales in 2015; and their first Assembly seats in 2016. The big question for the party now is whether they can sustain this momentum in the face of the achievement (and thus loss) of their principal raison d’etre; the loss of Nigel Farage as party leader; and the election as Assembly group leader of someone who is currently exploring new, subterranean depths of public unpopularity.
For the Liberal Democrats, the polls were bad in 2013. They haven’t improved.