PLAID CYMRU receives a boost today with an exclusive Western Mail poll suggesting a significant swing towards the party and away from Labour in next week’s Welsh Assembly election.
The new poll findings strongly suggest that Rhodri Morgan has no realistic chance of winning a majority, and that there will have to be some form of coalition administration running the Assembly Government.
The poll conducted for the Western Mail by Beaufort Research shows that of those saying they are certain to vote, Labour has the support of 36% in first-past-the-post constituencies, Plaid Cymru 26%, the Conservatives 19%, the Liberal Democrats 13% and Others 7%.
On the regional list vote, Labour has 35%, Plaid 26%, the Conservatives 20%, the Liberal Democrats 12% and Others 7%.
In 2003, Labour won 40% of the constituency votes (37% on regional lists), with Plaid on 21% (20%), the Conservatives on 20% (19%), the Liberal Democrats on 14% (13%) and Others on 5% (12%).
Predicting the number of seats likely to be won by each party is extremely difficult because of the two-tier voting system under which those losing constituency seats can be compensated on regional lists.
But what can be said with growing certainty is that Labour is likely to have several seats fewer than its current tally of 29 out of 60. The doomsday scenario for Labour would be losing so many seats that they were unable to gain a majority even with their presumed favoured coalition partners the Liberal Democrats.
The future of Rhodri Morgan as First Minister would also be in doubt. He has said on several occasions that he would quit if he felt in his bones that Labour had been rejected by the electorate. Yet he has persistently refused to indicate how many seats the party would have to lose for that to be the case.
Meanwhile an NOP poll conducted for ITV Wales also showed a swing to Plaid. The party has apparently gained more support since an earlier poll by the same organisation three weeks ago, which showed the Conservatives in second place.
According to the NOP poll, Labour has 32% support from those certain to vote, Plaid 26%, the Conservatives 19%, the Liberal Democrats 15% and Others 8%. On the regional list, Labour would get 34%, Plaid 24%, the Conservatives 18%, the Liberal Democrats 15% and Others 9%.
Dr Denis Balsom, ITV Wales’ polling expert, predicted that on the basis of the NOP poll, Labour was likely to get 25 AMs, Plaid Cymru 15, the Conservatives 10, the Liberal Democrats eight, with the two Independents, John Marek and Trish Law, retaining their seats.
Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said, “The results of these polls confirm the message we have been getting on the doorstep across Wales – more and more people are tired of Labour and are warming to our message.
“For the first time, many believe we have a realistic chance either of leading an Assembly Government or having a strong influence over it. Our practical policies for making a better Wales are resonating with people across the country.”
Responding to the Western Mail poll, Welsh Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne said, “Both this poll and that for ITV Wales suggests that support for the Labour Party has collapsed.
“But the people of Wales should be under no illusion that it is only the Welsh Conservatives who have categorically ruled out propping up Labour in government after May 3. “What is vitally important is that people are given an alternative to four more years of Labour, not a watered-down version of it.”
Labour had a different reaction, with a spokesman saying, “A Labour majority is clearly within our grasp on the basis of this poll. Voters who want a Labour Government know that they can make that happen by turning out and voting Labour.”
A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said, “This snapshot poll seems to have missed the momentum that has been building during the campaign.
“The NOP poll is closer to our internal polling. The electoral system means that every vote counts. Small increases could mean significant gains in the regional vote.
“There are still a large number of voters undecided, so there’s all to play for in the final week. Our messages of smaller class sizes, more uniformed officers on the beat and healthcare where and when it’s needed is hitting home on the doorstep.
“The story of elections in recent times is that polls tend to miss local factors, as happened in Ceredigion in 2005. That seems to be happening again.”
Beaufort Research conducted 1,028 interviews on behalf of the Western Mail with a representative sample of the Welsh adult population aged 18+.
Interviews were conducted by telephone between April 16 and 23, 2007.
If the polls stand, Labour will take a hammering
IF THE results of our opinion poll are replicated in next week’s election, Labour will have suffered a drubbing worse than the one it got in 1999, when Alun Michael was its leader in Wales, writes Martin Shipton. Rhodri Morgan’s party would be lucky to get 25 of the 60 seats, making it inevitable that a coalition of one kind or another will be running Wales for the next four years. Going further than that in terms of predictions is dangerous, not only because of the way the two-tier election system works, but also because of the local nature of many of the battles.
It certainly seems that ground has shifted since the first poll of the election period was published three weeks ago. At that time the Conservatives were in second place, but now Plaid Cymru has regained the second spot it has held since the Assembly was established.
Labour, meanwhile, continues to concentrate on trying to get out its core vote – an understandable strategy, but one that could backfire if wavering voters feel they are being ignored by the party of government and decide to vote for the candidate most likely to defeat it.