Sunday, 21 March 2010

BlogMenai, Hung Parliaments and Statistical Gobbledegook

Mandy Rice-Davies: "Well he would, wouldn't he?"

BlogMenai has taken issue with the Druid's recent post analysing Plaid Cymru's claims that in the event of a hung parliament they could hold real influence. In my post I relied on the polling data available on the non-partisan poll aggregating site and concluded that, in the event of a hung parliament with the Conservatives the largest party but short of an absolute majority, there is very, very little likelihood that the Conservatives would ever need to rely on Plaid Cymru votes - thus contradicting Plaid's central argument to voters in the run up to the General Election. You can read it all here.

BlogMenai - an openly Plaid Cymru supporting blog - completely dismisses the Druid's conclusions ("well he would, wouldn't he?" as Mandy Rice-Davies might have said) and goes on to claim that I rely on statistical gobbledegook and that the case I made is false for the following reasons:
  1. I have used polls selectively to support my point and ignored those which don't fit in with my preferred conclusion; and
  2. that I have used outdated polls.
To prove his point, BlogMenai then lists the results of a number of polls (without any attribution) which show a much smaller gap between the Conservatives and Labour than an aggregate of the polls of the month ending March 4th on which my post relied (my post was made on March 9th). BlogMenai then goes on to state - again without any supporting evidence - that some of the polls he lists point to Labour being able to form a coalition government with the support of just SNP and Plaid Cymru alone without needing the Lib Dems at all.

My reply

BlogMenai is certainly right to say that the polls have tightened but I'm afraid the claim that I somehow 'cherry picked' only those polls which supported my argument is patently false. The Druid wrote the post on March 9th, in response to a letter by Dylan Rees in the Daily Post the previous day, and based it on the non-partisan polls aggregator which on the day of writing was aggregating polls for the month ending March 4th ( is only updated once or twice a month). Now aggregates ALL the polls over the stated period so BlogMenai's claim that I somehow maliciously chose only those polls which supported my argument is so obviously false to be laughable.

But its worse than that. Whilst accusing your humble Druid of only selecting polls which support his argument, BlogMenai then goes on to (a) disregard the results of Angus Reid polls because (he claims) they are "untested in the UK" and "give Labour a much, much lower share than other conventional pollsters" and (b) makes his unfounded conclusions on the basis on a selection of polls of his choosing - the very definition of selecting polls to suit one's argument. This is particularly ironic considering BlogMenai piously concludes his post by saying that although he may be biased towards Plaid Cymru he would never stoop so low as to use statistics selectively to make a point. Really? It doesn't look that way.

That said BlogMenai is right to say that the polls are tightening so lets crunch the numbers again using the latest aggregated numbers from - those for the period February 5th to March 18th (although I'm sure our cherry-picking friend BlogMenai will complain once again that they aren't recent enough or that a selection of polls chosen by himself show an even smaller Conservative lead):

So with these more recent polls, predicts exactly the same number of seats for Plaid and the SNP as previously:

Plaid Cymru - 5 seats
SNP - 7 seats

Therefore between them Plaid and SNP are still likely to control a block of just 12 seats. Labour, based on's same calculations would win 262 seats - i.e. 64 seats short of an absolute majority. In this case Labour would need the support of the Lib Dems (53 seats) and both Plaid and SNP (12 seats) together just to get a majority of just one seat. Doesn't sound anything like BlogMenai's glib statement that Labour can form a coalition government with the support of just SNP and Plaid Cymru alone, does it? (Incidentally, BlogMenai also fails to explain how exactly Plaid Cymru and the SNP will be able to work together on reforming the Barnett Fomula when even Plaid's Dafydd Wigley has noted that they would be working at cross purposes and would need to hold separate negotiations with the Tories. You didn't mention that point in your critique of my post, did you, BlogMenai. Didn't it fit in with your argument perhaps?)

Anyway, returning to the figures for a moment: the Conservatives (302 seats) are still able to form a coalition with just the Lib Dems (53 seats) - giving them a comfortable majority of 29 seats (whether they call it a formal coalition or not). So still no need for Plaid's votes and still no extra influence for Plaid in Westminster.

The Druid's political allegiance

BlogMenai's criticisms don't stop there however. He goes on to say that the Druid must be a Tory because I only attack Labour and Plaid Cymru. I don't know how many times I have to write this but the Conservatives have not had any influence over Anglesey since 1997 -- 13 years ago. What's the point of attacking them? What I'm concerned with is the CURRENT state of Anglesey and those who bear political responsibility for it NOW. And, like it or not, the facts are:

  • Ynys Môn has now been represented by Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones as either MP or AM for the past 23 years
  • The UK has had a Labour government in Westminster since 1997 and Ynys Môn has had a Labour MP in the shape of Albert Owen since 2001
  • The Welsh Assembly has been governed by Labour since 1999 until the emergence of a Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition in 2007

Therefore, BlogMenai, the truth is that Ynys Môn has been administered at some level by Labour and Plaid Cymru for almost quarter a century, yet you think that as an Anglesey resident I should somehow be directing my fire on the Conservatives for the Island's woes? Anglesey is now officially the poorest county in the UK - the very definition of political failure - and BlogMenai's partiality to Plaid Cymru is obviously blinding him to the conclusion that Ieuan Wyn Jones HAS FAILED the residents of Anglesey.

The Druid's Challenge to BlogMenai

Anyway, the polls will no doubt continue to change between now and the general election so I will continue to crunch the poll numbers once a month and if it ever gets to a point were statistically the polls point to Plaid Cymru having any real influence I will plainly write so here. Furthermore if following the election there emerges a Labour coalition with just Plaid Cymru and the SNP - as BlogMenai predicts - then I'll eat my 'wisg las'. If on the other hand such a coalition fails to materialise then I look forward to a full apology from BlogMenai. Okay?

Finally my message to BlogMenai readers is this: if you want to read about the world as Plaid Cymru would dearly like it to be - go ahead and read BlogMenai; if, however, you want to read about the world as it really is, read the Druid.

UPDATE (23 March): BlogMenai has now responded to this post and you can read his reply (in Welsh) here. My response is coming soon...


Anonymous said...

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard the saying " I am voting for Plaid because I am voting for my country", One might as well have a
put a green rosette o sheep and wondered lost in the hills for the last 23 years for all good they have done for Wales !

Un o Fôn

menaiblog said...

Thanks for the detailed response.

I'll come back to some of your points later in the week when I'll have a bit of time to go through your post in detail.

One quick point I'd like to clear up though - you rightly note that I didn't attribute the polls. They were each poll reported on by for the month of March up to the day of my post.


The Druid of Anglesey said...

Menaiblog - Thanks to you too for your reply. I look forward to your response.

Anonymous said...

The Druid is not a Tory but a Rogers supporter who, like his mentor, is here to spoil Plaid's vote. Good luck to him, but let's have some honesty eh?

Anonymous said...

The one thing I would say about Electoral Calculus is that they do not allow for changes in the Nationalist vote - you will notice it is exactly the same as in 2005. I think this is due to the small size of Scotland/Wales samples in UK-wide polls. Any gain they predict is because of a change in LAB/LIB/CON share. Strictly speaking, they should lump them in with the "Others". I would have said it is an inexact figure as a result.

Personally, I have yet to see any poll that would allow Labour to be the largest party, let alone able to form a government with the SNP/Plaid alone. In every poll for the last three years, they have been behind. Even if they were only 2 points behind, the likeliest outcome is that they would have fewer MPs than the Conservatives - certainly far fewer than Lib/Cons combined, and does anyone seriously think the LibDems would take a coalition that excluded them lying down?

The current average lead of the Conservatives is over 5 points. If they have that lead on election day, this will all be moot anyway because they will either have a majority or be so close they can govern alone in the absence of Sinn Fein.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Doctor Huw - thanks for your comment. I agree that there are some problems with's handling of Plaid's support (and also the fact that they use the not always accurate Uniform National Swing model to predict seats) but in my opinion it provided the best non-partisan predictions for all the Parties on which to base my post.

Anonymous said...

The indifference on the Island, people don't care, Plaid and the fools called Labour, who have no idea what the actual people want.

We live in hard times, the waste of opportunity, the corruption that flows from the seams of the Council Offices, and yet no one cares.
We have elected clowns, who have made this Island into the laughing stock of Wales, the politicians don't want to hear the truth, the people are getting angry, we can expect more poverty and anger, because the people feel betrayed, the Welsh are led by the nose by the nasty smelling politicians who are picked to represent us, we don't want Plaid, we don't want Labour, we want an honest man to lead us out of this mess, and to cast a light on the evil that we call a Council, for that reason, we all know the man for the job is Peter Rodgers.

But, Dylan and Ieuan and Albert, they're all good men! you bleat like the little lost lamb, yes they are good men, good for nothing, all they have ever done is stand back and watch good Welsh families being sold out and wiped out, both physically and mentally, the call for justice is louder than the call for these fools to represent us again, Our call is for an inquiry into the abuses of human rights in Anglesey, by this evil council, and an inquiry into the condoning of these crimes by the two fools, Plaid and Labour's representatives on this Island.

Peter, would you honestly ask the Welsh Assembly for an inquiry into the human rights abuses by Anglesey Council against the Anglesey 2?
I predict that Plaid and Labour and Menai blog will ignore that question.

Harry said...

Bore Da Druid,
I agree Plaid Cymru and Labour have decimated Wales. People are misconceived to think that they are voting for Wales when they vote Plaid Cymru. Those people in Gwynedd (Llais Gwynedd) showed that beating Plaid Cymru can be done in their own heartland and Dafydd iwan and the leader of the Council lost their seats as a result.

Let's kick Plaid Cymru and Labour out as both have failed Wales - dismally.

Anonymous said...

Pnawn Da pawb.
Interesting, healthy political debate, which I have only just discovered...keep it up !
Since our aim is to improve and promote Ynys Mon economically and socially, who deserves our vote for Westminster....?
And secondly, what should the populace do about our dismally failed point saying vote them out, as they have a habit of bouncing back, like bad pennies ! There are many truly good councillors.....but the bad ones are beyond contempt.

Anonymous said...

Are we prepared to name and shame the bad ones ??
Blin o Fon

Anonymous said...

Yes !
1. Top of the rotten tree is Schofield, but he is so brazen, he has no shame.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Dear All - thanks for your comments on the council, please see my latest post on what can be done to sort out the current mess:
I'd love to hear your comments.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all you suggest.
Transparency is needed as to what/who they represent, unlike the unhealthy fog that is the present.
I have also long advocated that no councillor should serve more than 2 terms, and in any event should retire at say 65 or 70.
That would eradicate much of the cancer that afflicts this Council !
Blin o Fon !

richard sletzer said...

Plaid Cymru's customary kneejerk reaction to unfavourable poll data is always hilarious.

They've been disputing figures that don't suit them for years. Back in 1979 they kicked up a huge fuss when the BBC revealed a poll conducted by Denis Balsom of Aberystwyth University which showed conclusively that the overwhelming majority of Welsh people were totally against devolution and the settling up of a Welsh Assembly.

Plaid Cymru promptly claimed the poll was fixed and the BBC had been wrong to commission it.

When the results of the actual referendum backed those of the poll and showed the real strength of public opinion against devolution ( 956,330 voted No compared with only 243,048 Yes) Plaid were totally poleaxed.