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Regional Seats: It's Complicated

Cathy Owens
Cathy Owens

As a counterpoint to all the articles written with by party activists saying you should definitely vote for their party in every regional list in order to keep another party they don’t like from getting a seat, I thought I would provide an illustrative note on how sometimes saying it’s complicated and not entirely clear is boring but true.

The starting point, of course, is what happened last time. Could a few votes moved to other parties have tipped the scales towards different seat allocations. Of course they could. But how can you tell ahead of time?

Here are some graphics to show what happened last time, and the latest polling. Note that the latest polling, remarkably, is not very different from the 2016 result. What the regional element of this election is all about is the redistribution of the 7 UKIP seats that will definitely change hands on 6th May. 

As a quick reminder, the total number of votes parties receive in the regional vote is divided by the number of constituencies they won in that region (plus one so you are never dividing by zero). It is designed to reward parties that do well across the region but don’t win many first past the post seats, injecting an element of proportionality into the overall result).   

So take a look at South Wales Central, and the 18.3 % figure that the Conservatives have in Round 1 is their regional vote divided by 1: they won 42185 votes on the list, 18.3% of the regional votes cast. Divide that by the 0 constituencies they won in the region plus 1, and you get to 18.3% (we’re using percentages and have rounded them for ease of comprehension).

This 18.3% is the highest percentage in Round 1, and they are therefore allocated the first seat. An extra 1 seat for the Conservatives is added to the division for Round 2, so 18.3% divided by 0 plus 1 plus 1, which comes to 9.2%. In Round 2, UKIP take the next allocated seat with 10.7%. Welcome to the d’Hondt system.

And the context of course, is that Nigel Farage was on the front page of every newspaper and was polling at about 21% UK-wide because of the EU Referendum. So theoretically if their vote had been balanced out geographically, they could have won two seats in every region. Phew.

What else does this tell us? Well if Plaid Cymru had not won the Rhondda, they would have won 2 seats with their 21.0% of the regional vote.

In the latest poll projections, Plaid Cymru have picked up a couple of percentage points and UKIP have fallen off a cliff, so Plaid Cymru are on course to win 2 seats, and will definitely win 2 regional seats if they lose the Rhondda.

The projections suggest the Conservatives pick up the Vale of Glamorgan, and would then only win one seat on the list. But no one is betting against the everlasting Jane Hutt, so they should pick up two seats on the list.

If Jane is toppled, the fourth seat would go to Abolish, only if they really did poll at 7% in this region. This is where the universal swing kicks in. It’s based on Abolish winning 7% across every region. This is the region where the contrarian right underperformed, with UKIP’s worst result in Wales – with only 10.5% compared to 17.8% in South Wales East.

So it is far more likely that Plaid Cymru will win 2 and the Conservatives will win 2. You could argue that this is a region where Plaid Cymru could successfully appeal for Labour supporters to lend them their vote.

The Greens only won 3.4% in this region. It’s shame but their campaign has been nearly invisible in 2021 and their profile has fallen considerably, so I don’t think there is any chance of them winning a regional seat. They would have to double their overall standings in order to pick up a seat, and they were closest in Mid and West Wales, and the maths does not even work for them there.

In South Wales East, there is a significant 17.8% UKIP vote to be redistributed. The Conservatives will likely pick up two seats. Is there enough contrarian right-wing vote in that region for Abolish to pick up a seat? Well if they all voted for the same party, maybe. If Abolish are polling on 7% and this is where UKIP overperformed in 2016, then Mark Reckless could win this seat for Abolish based on the projected constituency wins.

But the UNS seat projector suggests Plaid Cymru would pick up Blaenau Gwent, and that is very unlikely indeed. So they are far more likely to pick up the second seat in the patch, and Abolish would have win 9% to win it.

In 2016, Labour won 8 out of 8 constituencies in South Wales West. Can they do so again? Yes if they can fend of the Conservatives in Gower and Bridgend, which is quite likely.

Plaid Cymru won 2 seats here last time, and it is impossible for them to win three, so this is where the “Vote Plaid Cymru 2ndon the Regional List in All Regions” argument falls over. If you wanted to move the dial away from the right you might suggest that Labour voters vote Liberal Democrat on the list to boost their chances of picking up the fourth seat.

If you are on the other side of the argument, the “vote Conservative instead of wasting your vote on Abolish” actually does work well here.  

Mid Wales is where Labour picks up a couple of regional seats, because they do so badly across the region in the constituencies. They still need to get their vote out to secure the second seat, so again it would be daft to suggest Labour voters should vote for anyone else here.

Again, the UNS seat projector suggests the maths might change with Plaid Cymru picking up Llanelli. My good friend Nerys Evans will be reading this piece to make sure I am not too, how do I put it, ungracious, about Plaid Cymru. Hi Nerys 👋. She’ll be ticked off if I suggest it is anything but too close to call. But I am calling it for Labour.

Plaid Cymru will retain their Mid and West Wales seat but cannot win 2, so maybe they could suggest some of their supporters vote Labour to keep the 2nd seat. Just kidding Nerys.

Liberal Democrats rejoice. If they lose Brecon and Radnorshire they will pick up a regional seat here.

I ran the maths again with Brecon going blue and the results are very different – with Labour only picking up 1 seat, 1 for Plaid Cymru, 1 for the Liberal Democrats and 1 for Abolish.

The UKIP vote in 2016 showed that 11.6% of the people that living in this area, rich with agriculture and fisheries, vote to leave the EU. I’m going to suggest that quite a few of those might have had a rethink, now seeing the potential downside of leaving mutually beneficial unions. The Conservatives should be able to Dyson up some of that naturally blue vote, but they are winning too many constituencies to pick up a regional vote.

In North Wales, suggesting Labour supporters vote Plaid Cymru on the regional list is disingenuous at best. Labour need those votes just in case it goes completely tits up and they need to pick up seats on the list. If the Senedd Election has taken place in May 2020 rather than May 2021, Labour would have lost up to 4 out of the 5 seats they hold in North Wales. Support for the Welsh Government’s handling of C19 has changed that, and Labour are only predicted to lose a possible 2 seats.

The Conservatives will hope their “Don’t waste your vote on Abolish” mantra will cut through here, in order to help them but if they do pick up 2 constituencies, then they lose their North Wales list seat. I’d say that the maths does not work for them, and we are quite likely to see another Abolish member here. Croeso Richard Suchorzewski MS.

I think this could be the tightest margin between Plaid Cymru and Abolish for the 4th seat, but hard to suggest Labour supporters switch, just in case. In fact it is so close for the 4th seat, I predict all four of these parties will be within 1.5% of each other.

These are terribly fine margins, so I am going to come back to my original point about certainty. If you are planning to put out a leaflet saying only we can keep out the ‘fill in the blanks’, you are chancing it in a Lib Dem bar chart sort of way.

And while you cling on to your absolute conviction, I remember Plaid Cymru asking Labour supporters to vote for Neil McEvoy on the South Wales Central List in 2016 and look how that turned out. You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

Coincidentally, lots of very certain political activists will also be currently writing pieces about how we need to change the voting system because it is not proportional enough and fails the electorate because Labour always win more seats. But many of them, maybe a 100% of them, are also furious that people have consistently voted for Labour more than other party since 1999 because they like their leaders and policies. I predict a few more of these pieces are currently in the pipeline for the next few weeks. Enjoy.



For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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