General Election 2010 – Wales (1 of 2)

OK, for a change, and due to an unprecedented lack of popular demand I thought I’d post about something I know something about…….
Scores on the Doors and a map from Wiki below:

Election Results 2010 - Wales

Party       Lab    Con  Ld   PC   Oth
Seats         26     8      3   3      0
Gain             1     5     0   1       0
Loss             5     0     1   0       1
Net             -4     5    -1   1      -1
%             36.2  26.1 20.1 11.3 6.2
+/-           -6.5   4.7 1.7  -1.3   1.3

Start with some basics. The standard model for describing Welsh Political demographic was the Three Wales model developed in the eighties by Dennis Balsom at Aberystwyth.
It posits quite simply that there are three distinct polities in Wales:
i) Y Fro Gymraeg (Welsh speaking Wales in the west of the country).
ii) Welsh Wales – South Wales Valleys & Swansea & the industrial North East – broadly non-Welsh speaking but overwhelmingly Welsh born.
iii) British Wales – the cities of Cardiff and Newport, the Englishries of South Pembrokeshire and the Vale of Glamorgan, The March of Powys and coastal areas of the North with significant English in-migrants.

At the time the dynamic was thus:
i) Plaid Cymru replacing Labour and Lib Dems as the radical voice of Welsh speaking Wales.
ii) Labour dominance with some Plaid competition.
iii) A more English like affair with Lib Dem and Tories competing with Labour (although a higher Labour vote than seats with a similar demographic in England).

Whilst never all encompassing (the late great Merthyr Marxist Gwyn Alf Williams always ascribed the radicalism of Gwynedd to in-migration following the demise of our Scottish kingdom of Rheged in 825AD odd….) the model had real validity at the time. Even as late as 1997, when the extinction of the Welsh nation was avoided by 6,500 votes, you can see the patterns.

Here’s a link to a great site – with a map of the 1997 referendum. British Wales voted No, Welsh speaking and Welsh Wales Yes – and where Welsh Wales and Y Fro meet, at the confluence of the counties of Powys, Neath-Port Talbot and Carmarthenshire, our tallies showed support over 80% in the villages around Ystradgynlais, Cwmllynfell and Brynaman.

There were signs of change before then however. The Industrial dislocation of the Thatcher years changed the nature of the Valleys – some of the Southern areas – Pontypridd, South Caerffili and South Islwyn becoming commuter towns to Cardiff and Newport whilst the North of the Valleys have slumped to some of the worst poverty and sickness levels in Europe. Mass in-migration to the Welsh Speaking heartlands, along with a general westward linguistic boundary shift , began to heavily influence the linguistic patterns of the West – here’s a sad vignette of Aberaeron Town Council conducting meetings in English only.

So what do we have in 2010? In the immediate aftermath Daran Hill almost subscribed to the “40 by-elections on one day” theory. Well we certainly had change with 6 seats changing hands. Montgomery from Lib Dem to Tories (the Lembit effect..), Arfon from (notionally) Labour to Plaid, Blaenau Gwent from Independent to Labour, and four Labour to Tory moves in Carmarthen West, Cardiff North, the Vale of Glamorgan and Aberconwy. That’s an interesting contrast to Scotland where nothing happened.
That’s the background – the next post will try and identify some new patterns…..

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  • drumlins rock

    thanks Dewi, good to see outside our wee box, and see things arent simple elesewhere either! imagine a 4 party split, tut tut.

  • Dewi

    I’d have split out the Greens, UKIP and the BNP if I hadn’t already spent 2 hours trying to make the vote table look sensible……

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Is there any danger of British Wales seceding from the rest of Wales in the event that ye do the right thing or will they accept the democratic will of the Welsh people?

  • “Even as late as 1997, when the extinction of the Welsh nation was avoided by 6,500 votes”

    Really? Was this vote really to halt ‘extinction’? Or was it instead a vote on whether to create a devolved institution with limited powers to legislate and still subject to potential veto from Westminster?

  • That depends if Welsh nationalists would accept the partitioning of Wales to achieve independence for those limited areas that wished it.

    Let’s ask an Irish nationalist and see what they think…

  • Dewi

    I think that would have been the end to be honest Keith. – A separate legislative body at least means we are nation building.

  • Dewi

    Let’s get there first! – but devolution has undoubtedly grown the sense of nationhood throughout Wales,

  • Seymour Major

    As far as the Conservatives were concerned, the General Election was successful in Wales in the sense that the gains maid there were proportionate to the gains made by them in England. This is in sharp contrast to the position in Scotland, where the Conservative vote remained at the low point of the previous election.

    See this graph stored on my blog

    Another difference between Scotland and Wales is the share of the Nationalist vote. In Scotland, the Nationalists are a dominant force. In Wales, they are not.

    I think the term “Nation building” is probably not the right term to describe the new direction of Wales since devolution. Certainly, devolution has strengthened the Welsh identity but there is growing evidence that it has also strengthened the Union.

  • Dewi

    “but there is growing evidence that it has also strengthened the Union.”

  • Seymour Major


    The “growing evidence” is that the opinion poll data (not the unprofessionally obtained data) shows that the numbers desiring independence for Scotland and Wales have remained remarkably stable since devolution 11 years ago. The figures have hovered up and down over medians of about 33% in Scotland and 12% in Wales. Of course, I am happy to concede that more time is needed before this can be said to be firm evidence.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    And if those ‘limited areas’ were eventually to comprise 90%+ of Wales?

  • Greenflag

    Thanks Dewi for an interesting piece on Welsh politics . Looking at the map it seems much more variegated than England for such a small area .

    Seems to me that Labour benefit by maybe 6 seats from the FPTP system . Would say the introduction of PR (Have the Lib Dems forgotten already ) make any difference to the overall result in Wales ? From where I see it only the Tories and Lib Dems would stand to benefit from a change in voting system?

    Plaid seem confined to Welsh speaking areas with not much hope of breaking out to other areas ?

    As for the Welsh ‘nation’ surely the fact that the Welsh language is the strongest of all the Celtic languages in terms of the number of active speakers is itself an indication that the Welsh nation hardly needs full political independence to assure it’s long term future ?

    Ireland’s ‘independence ‘ struggle with a few notable exceptions was led by those whose mother tongue was English . I don’t believe any of the Irish political leaders were ‘native ‘ speakers of Irish although some (Pearse , De Valera, Hyde notably)were fluent in the language .

    There’ll always be an England of course but there’ll always be a Wales too 😉

  • Dewi

    Questions questions!!
    Pure PR would give Lab 14, Tories 12, Libdem 9, Plaid 5
    What is interesting would be the effect of AV which I send would send a few of the Tory / Labour marginals back into the red fold…thus making the results even loss proportional….

    Plaid had a couple of decent results outside Y Fro – 20% odd in Neath, the Rhondda and Cynon Valley and came close in Llanelli with 30% – the results were not great however.

    I disagree – if we’d lost that referendum I think that wouild be it. The only reason that the Welsh language is as strong as it is is that we learnt to read and write before our neighbours and thus had a competative advantage in assimilating in-migrants.

    Isn’t Enda a native Irish speaker?

  • English Republic

    I think that Welsh nation building is a relatively recent phenomenon in the sense that the things which make a nation (a flag, an anthem, a capital city etc.) have only been formally recognised in the relatively recent past. Unlike Ireland and Scotland, Wales (along with Cornwall of course!) were very much incorperated within the English state that pre-dated the 1707 union with Scotland. That strange term “EnglandandWales” is of course a child of that Welsh nation building, as indeed is the “England & Wales Cricket Board”.

    I am inclined to agree with Dewi with regard to the 1997 referendum. Had there been a no vote then the whole thing would have come to a shuddering halt for although Wales would have still had its distinct identity, without an outlet for Welsh political expression that identity would never get beyond the cultural or sporting level as is the case in England today.

    Moving forward to a full legislative parliament is now the next logical step in the process of Welsh nation building with fiscal autonomy and independence the next steps along that road. Where Wales leads England will hopefully follow!