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:
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 – ElectoralGeography.com 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…..