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Politics

First Welsh poll of year shows ‘Boris Bounce’

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PROFESSOR Roger Awan Scully writes: As the UK stands on the verge of leaving the European Union, voters are currently rewarding the man who has led them to this point, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His Conservative Party is at historic levels of support in Wales, and potentially on course for a major breakthrough at the next devolved election. There are the key messages to emerge from the first Welsh Political Barometer poll of 2020, the first since the general election.
Our new poll, as is typically the case, asked about voting intentions for both Westminster and the National Assembly. For the first time, though, and in light of the recent legislation that has given 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in devolved elections in Wales, our sample included a representative number from that age group; they are not included in the vote intention estimates for a general election discussed below, but they are included in the estimates for the Assembly.

First, Westminster. After the strong Conservative performance in December and the further boost they have had in post-election polls conducted across Britain, it is no surprise to see the Tories doing well in our latest poll. Here are the numbers (with changes on our last pre-election Barometer poll, conducted in early December, in brackets):

Conservatives: 41% (+4)
Labour: 36% (-4)
Plaid Cymru: 13% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Brexit Party: 3% (-2)
Greens: 2% (+1)
Others: 1 (no change)

These are historically good figures for the Conservatives in Wales. Their 41 percent support equals the highest rating they have obtained in general election voting intention this century. Labour, by contrast, see their support slip since the general election. Plaid Cymru will be reasonably pleased with a modest rise in their support; all other parties, however, are at very low levels of support.

What might such support levels for the parties mean in terms of parliamentary seats? Using the standard method, of projecting the swings since the last general election indicated by this poll uniformly across Wales, gives us the following outcome in terms of seats (with projected changes from the December result in brackets):

Labour: 18 (-4)
Conservatives: 18 (+4)
Plaid Cymru: 4 (no change)

In short, this poll projects the Conservative to retain all six seats that they gained from Labour at the general election, and on top of that to gain four more ones: Alyn and Deeside, Gower, Newport East and Newport West. All other seats are projected to be won by the party that was victorious in December.

But it is not only changes at Westminster that are suggested by our new poll.

As well as Westminster, we also asked once again about voting intentions for both the constituency and the regional ballots in a devolved election. Here are the figures for the constituency ballot (with shifts in support since our December Barometer poll once again in brackets):

Conservatives: 35% (+4)
Labour: 33% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-2)
Brexit Party: 4% (-3)
Greens: 3% (no change)
Others: 1% (no change)

These numbers (which include figures for 16 and 17-year-old voters, something that marginally reduces the Conservative lead) show that the current post-election boost to Conservative fortunes is not just confined to Westminster. The 35 percent support reported for the Conservatives is actually their highest ever reported vote intention for the constituency vote in an Assembly election. If we again assume uniform national swings since the last National Assembly election our new Barometer poll projects the Tories to gain eight constituency seats from Labour: these are (in order of current marginality) the Vale of Glamorgan, the Vale of Clwyd, Gower, Wrexham, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, Newport West, and Delyn). There are no other projected constituency seat changes.

For the regional list vote, the new Barometer poll produced the following results (with changes since our December poll once again in brackets):

Conservatives: 32% (+4)
Labour: 32% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (no change)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Greens: 3% (-1)
Brexit Party: 3% (-4)
Others: 5% (+1)

These regional vote figures once more have the Welsh Conservatives equalling their best-ever showing, from early May 2017. Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and once more assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Assembly’s regional list seats:
Regions:

North Wales: 3 Labour, 1 Plaid
Mid and West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 Conservative
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
These figures therefore generate the following overall projected result for the National Assembly:
Labour: 24 seats (19 constituency, 5 regional)
Conservatives: 22 seats (14 constituency, 8 regional)
Plaid Cymru: 13 seats (6 constituencies, 7 regional)
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency)

Since the inaugural election to the National Assembly in 1999, Labour has always much been the largest party in the chamber. Our new poll indicates that, around fifteen months from the next devolved election in Wales, we are currently on course for a rather different type of politics in what will soon to be known as Senedd Cymru/the Welsh Parliament.
Overall, our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll suggests that these are good times in which to be a Welsh Conservative. Indeed, those times have never been better: on all three vote intention measures, the party is equalling or exceeding the best ratings they have ever scored before. But if nothing else, the last few years in politics should have taught us to take nothing for granted. Last May the Welsh Tories scored only 6.5 percent of the vote in the European elections; now they are buoyant. Within another few months, who knows where things will be?

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News

Town Council re-directs funds to food bank

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Ammanford Town Council has taken a decision to donate £1500 to their local food bank. The decision was taken to re-allocate funding from their events budget in light of the current Covid-19 crisis. This re-allocation will support the local food bank in maintaining their operations as they provide support to some of the most highly affected members of the community during these unprecedented times. Starting with a donation of £500, the council has made further subsequent donations, now totalling £1500.

Town Council Mayor, Julia Bell said:

I’m extremely proud of our decision as a town council, and of our fantastic volunteers. This is one of several projects the town council is running to support the community. We thank everyone for doing their absolute best in some very difficult circumstances.

Mr Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr said:

“This decision by the Ammanford Town Council is highly commendable. The Covid-19 crisis is multiplying the financial pressures that face the more vulnerable in society, and the foodbank will play an essential role in the coming weeks and months”

For further information contact Jonathan Edwards MP on edwardsjab2@parliament.uk 07534984376

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Opinion: The Big Question Facing Kier Starmer – Jonathan Edwards

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In the midst of the Coronavirus crisis the election victory of Sir Kier Starmer as Labour Leader didn’t achieve the column inches one would normally expect.  As is customary, I would like to wish Kier well in his role.  I can not claim to know him as a person having only conversed on a few occasions, however I have respect for his debating ability, his considered tone and his eye for detail.  I consider him a serious politician.

The challenges he faces are enormous of course.   Labour have now lost four Westminster elections on the bounce.  His decision making must quickly shift from efforts to unify his party to the far more important task of presenting a credible challenge to the Conservative party at the next Westminster election.

Labour has a defining choice to make, and this decision will have far reaching consequences for all political parties operating in the British State.  On the one hand, Labour could revert to its usual tribal inward-looking tendencies.  However, essentially this would mean writing off the next election as a part of a wider rebuilding strategy aimed at the 2029 election.  A stark admission as it would mean Labour having been out of power at Westminster level for twenty years at best.

Alternatively, Kier Starmer could acknowledge that Labour on their own will not be able to challenge the Tories for power at the next Westminster election.  This path would then require Starmer reaching out to all the other opposition parties in Westminster apart from the DUP.  I am talking about more than just coordination of parliamentary activity in Westminster.  In a first past the post electoral system we are talking about the need for non-aggression pacts, and a joint programme of government.  I would go as far as to suggest that the government itself would need to be a unity administration delivering on the agreed programme.

Parliamentary boundary changes makes the task even more pressing.  Whatever one thinks of his opportunistic politics, Boris Johnson has succeeded in unifying the right of the political spectrum.   However, the centre and left have a host of parties vying for support.  In a political system based for two horse races, the end result is brutal as we saw in December.

What sort of programme could Plaid Cymru, SNP, Green, Liberals, SDLP, Alliance and Labour unite around?  There would be little difficulty in agreeing a progressive economic and social policy platform.  A proportional voting system would be a must to enable all parties to compete equally in subsequent elections.  The big challenge for me seems to be the constitutional question when it comes to Scotland and Wales.   For Plaid Cymru and the SNP there would need to be a commitment for a fully Confederal system leaving only foreign affairs, defence, and macro-economic policy reserved – the sort of settlement promised by Cameron and Brown on the eve of the Scottish independence poll.  This should be supported with House of Lords reform into an elected Senate of the Nations of the British State.   Both Wales and Scotland would also require the statutory right to hold independence referenda at time of their own choosing.  This should be uncontroversial as it is the policy of the Labour Welsh Government.

This is the very simple choice facing the new leader of the Labour party.  Does he want to be Prime Minister, or effectively a plumber performing a re-patching job on a tired and insular party.

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Community

Council to consider new regional relationship for school improvement

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Executive Board will meet next week to discuss the authority’s future as part of the regional school improvement consortium ERW (Educational Regional Workforce).

The council, along with authorities in Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea, has been a part of the consortium since it was established in 2014.

However, the Executive Board could decide to withdraw from the consortium to support a new arrangement for school improvement services based on the footprint of the Swansea Bay Region.

Neath Port Talbot Council has already served notice to withdraw.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, has recognised the many positive achievements of the consortium in recent years, but said it was right to discuss what was best for Carmarthenshire going forward.

“ERW has achieved many positive things, however it is fair to say that it has also navigated through some difficult times with changes in political and managerial leadership,” he said. “The large geographical area of the ERW footprint has added to these challenges.

“We truly value working with our neighbours, but it is timely to review the regional arrangements and potentially look to realign with other partnerships across the Swansea Bay City Region which could have bigger benefits for Carmarthenshire’s children and young people.”

The Executive Board will meet on March 16 (2020) to review the authority’s position, but has promised to work with partners to ensure a seamless and robust transition should members decide to withdraw.

Cllr Glynog Davies, the council’s Executive Board Member for education and children’s services, added: “We are committed to working in partnership and across local authority boundaries where this delivers benefits for our communities.

“It’s right to acknowledge the significant progress of ERW over the last 12 months, in terms of staffing and organisation, but we must be confident that we are providing the very best support for our schools and it’s timely to look at how this can best be achieved.”

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