Friday, 7 May 2010

And in the cold light of day?

Our result locally was disappointing, of course. Whilst we didn't really expect to win this time (but were bound by the unwritten rule that you can never say that in advance), we really did think that we'd move forward rather than backwards. So what happened?

It has obviously confirmed the trend of the previous six elections in the constituency for the pattern of voting at Assembly level to be markedly different to the pattern of voting for the Westminster seat. Quelle surprise.

It's also shown what an effect money can have on the outcome. I think voters should be more worried than they appear to be about the way in which groups of people with a specific political outcome in mind can influence an election by pouring large sums of money into specific constituencies. Somehow, I doubt that reforming that aspect of the system will be uppermost for any administration which has benefited from it in the election.

The point I made yesterday about there actually being several different movements of voters between parties is one which I would still support. The actual result put some net numbers on those flows – and the negative movements have obviously outweighed the positives. But it is important to understand that the overall result is a net movement, and it is over-simplistic to try and analyse it as a single movement.

For instance, in one interview in the early hours, it was put to me that our vote had collapsed and gone across to the Conservatives. Collapsed is an exaggeration if we do the comparison between 2005 and 2010 (accepting as a given that Assembly voting patterns and Westminster voting patterns are continuing to show a clear difference), but it would also be a gross misreading of the situation to suggest that we lost 1300 votes directly to the Conservatives.

In the first place, we actually lost more than that net figure of 1300 – although I don't know how many more – because we unquestionably also gained some from Labour and Tory alike. And in the second place, those we lost went in at least three different directions – some went to the Tories, some to Labour, and some to the Lib Dems. So, more analysis needed of the ebbs and flows, and no simplistic conclusions to be drawn.

I don't think that there are many who would disagree that the more a UK election focuses on the personalities of the leaders whom the broadcasters decide are potential prime ministers, rather than on the election of constituency MPs, the harder it will be for a party perceived as being a 'minority' party at UK level to compete on a level playing field. The nature of our electoral process has been changed – not by the will of the people or by any due democratic process, but at the behest of the broadcasters and the three establishment parties. An election to choose constituency MPs has become a UK-wide personality contest between three men.

I don't immediately see any way in which that genie can be put back in the bottle, and future Westminster elections seem likely to be fought on the basis that the contest is between three parties all essentially saying very similar things, with any genuine alternative voice effectively excluded. It's going to be very difficult for a party like Plaid to fight that sort of election, but it's an issue to which we are going to have to give some very serious thought.

What happened to the Lib Dem surge? Given that large numbers of people had already voted by post before the surge started melting away, the extent of their failure to make more ground looks a little surprising, even allowing for the fact that our electoral system makes it hard for them to turn a general increase in votes into seats. It'd be interesting to see a correlation between those who were part of that surge and 'likelihood of voting'. It's just a gut feeling, but I wonder whether those most carried along with the surge were also those least likely to turn out and vote.

Finally, what price electoral reform? There was always a danger that, if the Labour and Tory parties succeeded in their strategy of encouraging people to vote against the other rather than for any third or fourth party, we would end up with a parliament unlikely to change a system which kept most seats in the hands of the two parties which have historically benefited most from the current system.

As long as they believe that they can use the system to squeeze out others, why change it? This may turn out to be a premature prediction, but I have a feeling that those who fell for the 'tactical' voting approach may actually have helped to delay change rather than bring it about.


Anonymous said...

My view of this is that Plaid lose out because they don;t seem ever to have much to say about the UK as a whole, and therefore have no actual position on a lot of the policies we're voting about.
I vote Plaid, and I'm frankly amazed that with all the anti-politician anti-Westminster feeling there was, you couldn't win more votes and more seats.
I think there are real problems with the way in which Plaid present themselves. It's almost as if some of them actually want to be irrelevant in Westminster.
I hope that when the party does its post mortem you'll work out why it is that Labour at its lowest ebb can still beat you in Llanelli and Mon, come uncomfortably close in Adam Price's old seat, etc. get thrashed in Ceredigion by a non-entity Lib Dem MP, and drop to 4th in Aberconwy and even in Gwynfor territory.
Deeply disappointing, and bad for the country

Spirit of BME said...

Dear Anonymous,


Anonymous said...

Try to be objective now the campaign is over. You handed your rural vote to Hart with your ridiculous stance on hunting. Every time you attacked him for his pro-hunting views you handed him another 100 votes.

If you think he polled 16k votes with a bit of cash and the support of a few landowners you are completely deluded.

You were beaten by a non-entity of a Lib Dem with a non existent campaign. Admit what went wrong and make sure that Plaid stands candidates who appeal to potential voters and doesn't insult them.

Gareth Orton said...

Well done, Simon Hart.

I didn't vote for you, Mr Dixon. No offence.

John Dixon said...


I always try to be objective, but being objective isn't necessarily the same as agreeing with your own highly subjective view.

If you are a member of Plaid then you are welcome to use the party's democratic processes to seek to influence the choice of candidates to weed out any with whose views on any issue you do not agree.

£85,000 is more than a 'bit of cash'; and if the Tory team didn't believe that using large sums of money to bombard people with letters during the months leading up to the election would have any effect on the outcome, then they wouldn't have done it.

John Dixon said...

Mr Orton,

"I didn't vote for you"

Given some of your previous comments, that is hardly a surprise. But then, since you are not on the electoral register for this constituency - not under that name anyway - you couldn't have done so even if you had wanted to.