Friday, 5 July 2019

Will it make a difference?

Whichever decision Plaid took about standing in the Brecon and Radnor by-election was always going to be divisive for the party’s members and supporters.  There have been those arguing in favour of standing and those arguing against; someone was going to be unhappy either way.
Personally, I’m not sure how much difference it will make.  Doing the mathematics of looking at how people voted in the past and adding up the votes for ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ in a way which gives a majority for a particular outcome is easy enough to do; but mathematical theory isn’t the same thing as electoral fact.  It is by no means certain that people who support a party will vote for a different party just because ‘their’ party asks them to.  And when a party has such a low vote in a constituency as Plaid does in Brecon and Radnor, the probability is that a higher proportion of those voters are committed to the party’s fundamental aim than is the case where the party enjoys much wider support.  That means that asking them to vote for a party fiercely opposed to the stated aims of ‘their’ party may turn out to be counterproductive. 
There are a wider range of policy considerations as well.  If I were an elector in the constituency, I’d have serious reservations about voting for a party which is vehemently opposed to Welsh independence and which supports the retention of nuclear weapons, to name just two policy areas – without even starting to think about how honest and trustworthy they are, having seen their approach to campaigning over many years.  (Not for nothing are they widely known as the Fib Dems.)  Whilst it’s clear what the Lib Dems might gain from the decision, the political gains for Plaid are far from clear, and assisting the party which most threatens one of their own seats to regain some of its credibility could turn out to be a colossal mistake.
And yet…  The looming threat of Brexit is an historic turning point, and I can fully understand why any party which is serious about putting Wales first would seek to act in a way which could help to change the direction of travel on such a defining issue.  And changing the way politics in Wales works necessarily requires an occasional bold decision; there’s no gain without an element of risk.  It’s a pity, though, that an outdated and unfit for purpose electoral system doesn’t do more to facilitate a switching of votes by allowing people to place parties and candidates in order of preference rather than requiring one or more different viewpoints to voluntarily remove themselves from the field of battle.
Whether it’s the ‘right’ decision or not remains to be seen – and it will be many years before that becomes clear, because the implications go well beyond the counting of the votes on 1st August.  Those claiming that it’s a massive own goal and those claiming that it’s a defining change in Welsh politics are both speaking too soon and projecting their own preconceptions onto the decision.  I rather suspect that it will turn out to be neither of those and will actually make little difference, more’s the pity.


CapM said...

Your final paragraph sums the situation up.

As you are experienced with election campaigning would the following cunning plan have been possible/ preferable?

Plaid Cymru enter a candidate and so get the free mailing for election leaflets and coverage in newspapers, on radio and TV and at all the hustings that they would be entitled to.
Then PC use the above to inform and promote PC's aims and ideas, encourage PC voters to choose to vote LibDem and provide an explanation as to why PC are making the extraordinary suggestion that their supporters vote for another candidate.

Or is this "cunning" plan really just a cake and eat it plan?

John Dixon said...

It's certainly possible, but how cunning it is is a matter of opinion. I'm quite attracted to the option, but I know that it would involve a not insignificant expense to any party which tried it. There might also (until it's tried we don't know) be a reluctance on the part of broadcasters and hustings organisers to include a party which isn't actually asking for votes.

CapM said...

If it were not for the Brexit issue this by-election would presumably have been fully contested by PC and would have cost PC significantly more than just producing leaflets for the mail shot and getting their candidate to interviews/hustings and possible lost deposit.

Admittedly not having a PC candidate costs the least of all (in £s spent).

Perhaps only the BBC would have a duty to provide coverage to the PC candidate but PC would be a competitor in the race right up until polling day. I suspect the cross media coverage would get PC noticed in B&R and Cymru wide more than from a one off withdrawal event.

CapM said...

PC have decided on a priority but one outcome is that those who really wanted to vote PC have effectively had their vote taken away from them.
There may be a similar future payback from the LibDems that helps PC but I think there is a potential for voters to feel that they are being traded.

Spirit of BME said...

Good post – it could be driven by a simple answer that Plaid Cymru is out of cash.
If they are not, then a question has to be put are they contributing to the Liberal anti-Democratic party to fund the campaign?
I know some of Plaids members there and I agree that most will not vote, the supporters will probably vote for the Brexit party as an act of defiance against the leadership who are so out of touch with rural communities, who they consider is full of “despicables”.

John Dixon said...


"I suspect the cross media coverage would get PC noticed in B&R and Cymru wide more than from a one off withdrawal event." and "...I think there is a potential for voters to feel that they are being traded." I agree with both of those comments. The latter, in particular, highlights one of the dangers of such horse-trading of votes, and as Spirit says, it's the sort of thing which can lead to "an act of defiance" whereby those who feel that their support is being traded can feel motivated to do the opposite of that which is expected of them. That's one of the reasons why I suspect that it will make little difference to the overall result - the small number of Plaid voters may well to scatter in different directions or even (again, as Spirit suggests) not vote.

dafis said...

Was Adam Price just hell bent on making a pro Remain point, or has he been cute enough to secure a quid pro quo ? Like a clear run in Ceredigion ? No, I thought not, the Lib Dems still rate their chances of reclaiming that patch of Wales. So what did he come away with ? Just a warm feeling ? Well he could have got that by running his shower a bit hotter.