Following the dramatically reduced Plaid Cymru vote in Ynys Mon this week, a pretty interesting discussion has been going on in comments below this post regarding whether Ieuan Wyn Jones will become vulnerable in his home seat at next year's Assembly elections. After all Plaid's candidate, Dylan Rees, polled a staggering 2,000 votes less than Eurig Wyn did five years ago - whilst the Tory candidate polled 4,000 more votes. Is this purely down to the unpopularity and unsuitability of the Plaid Candidate and the collapse of Peter Roger's vote? Possibly - but Plaid's vote throughout the whole of North Wales was slightly down and even the popular Elfyn Llwyd saw his vote drop by 6%. Perhaps we are witnessing a more fundamental change in North Wales which goes beyond the unpopularity of one candidate.
So what does this mean for Ieuan Wyn Jones at next year's Assembly elections? Firstly lets take a look at the Assembly results in Ynys Môn to date:
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Ieuan Wyn Jones won the inaugural 1999 election with more than 50% of the vote and the Druid remembers the seas of green in Anglesey pubs on the evening of the election. Since then IWJ's majorites have been more muted and hovered around the 10,000 mark - but it has to be noted that the turnout for the Assembly elections has also tumbled since 1999, probably because a lot of voters got bored after the novelty of the first election. Labour's vote has progressively declined at each election, and the Lib Dem vote completely collapsed in 2007. But look at the Conservative figures: up in 2003, and was arguably up again in 2007 and almost neck-and-neck with IWJ's if you add the Tory and Peter Rogers vote together.
Ah, you say, but Peter Rogers draws support from both the Tories and Plaid Cymru so you can't just add them together. Indeed that has always been the assumption (Eurig Wyn blamed his loss in 2005 on Peter Rogers), but lets take a look at this week's results: Despite Peter Rogers' personal vote falling by 2,000 votes it doesn't seem any of them went to Plaid Cymru - meaning that Rogers supporters must be mostly centre-right voters who, for whatever reason, preferred Rogers to the Conservative or UKIP candidates.
So, what will happen if Peter Rogers decides not to stand at next year's Assembly election? All things being equal it looks like the Conservative and Plaid Cymru vote could be very, very close indeed.
But here's the thing - all things won't be equal. In my opinion there will be four factors (three certain, one conjecture) which will make next year's Assembly election much more different than the last two:
- Next year Ieuan Wyn Jones will have to fight his first ever election as an officeholder and member of the Government. He is the First Deputy Minister of a Labour-Plaid coalition and he will have to fight on his record - a much more difficult prospect.
- The coming Assembly powers referendum will raise awareness of the importance of the Assembly and how it has more influence over the everyday lives of Welsh voters then Westminster - accordingly we can expect an increased turn out for next Year's election.
- Here comes the conjecture: suppose a Cameron led coalition or minority government (neither certain yet) decides to drop Cheryl Gillan and appoint Glyn Davies as Welsh Secretary instead. Glyn has just overturned Lembit Opik's 7,000 vote majority in Montgomeryshire and is a naturally charismatic, popular and respected dyed-in-his-roots Welsh (and Welsh speaking) politician. What's more is that he is also widely respected amongst amongst Plaid Cymru supporters (see here). If Glyn Davies was to achieve the same kind of ubiquity in the Welsh media as Peter Hain has in the same role then it would undoubtedly provide a powerful boost to the Conservative vote - especially in constituencies like Anglesey where it appears we are already seeing something of a surge in Conservative support.
- The final point which will set next year's Assembly election apart from previous ones will be by how much Wales will be effected by the Public Sector cuts to come - and to what extent they will be blamed on the incoming Westminster government, whatever shape that takes. Though interestingly if it is a Con-Lib coalition in Westminster and a Lab-Plaid coalition in Cardiff, none of the parties are going to be able to escape some involvement in the cuts.
So, there you are - no predictions, just some conjecture and food for thought for you.