Saturday, 15 May 2010

The REAL reason for Plaid's poor election results (hint: its wasn't because of the Leaders Debates)

After months of confident talk by Plaid Cymru that they were on the verge of taking their biggest ever haul of seats at a general election, there was much shock at the actual lacklustre results - not least in top target seat Ynys Môn. Since the general election however, I have lost count how many times I have read the following kind of explanation for this dismal performance:

"Plaid's absence from the leaders' debates was of course the biggest single factor in their opinion poll rating dipping from a record high 14% before the debates, to 9% after."
"There may have been other things that went wrong for Plaid at the election but it's hard to fault their campaign, and Ieuan Wyn Jones was judged to have performed "well" throughout the debates."

This was posted just yesterday on the Welsh Rambings site and seems pretty much representative of the 'received wisdom' on 'what went wrong'.

Only problem is I don't think its true - at least not in North Wales. Why? Lets take a look at what the North Wales voting intention polls actually showed:

click to enlarge

As you can see the first 'Leaders Debates' was held on the 15th April 2010 - but according to the North Wales polls, Plaid Cymru's support had already dropped from a high of 17% in January to just 10% in March - a full month and a half before the first debate was even broadcast! In fact - contrary to Plaid's 'received wisdom' - the polling evidence clearly shows that in North Wales it was Labour and the Tories which suffered from the debates, not Plaid Cymru. Considering that Plaid's vote actually increased a few points to 13% at the election you could even make the case that they benefitted from not being included.

So what conclusions can we make? Well, despite Welsh Rambings' assertion above, perhaps their campaign wasn't faultless after all. The question I would ask is why did Plaid's support plummet from a high of 17% in January to 10% in March - what happened during that period?

I still think that this announcement on January 18th (just days after the January poll) was Plaid's single biggest mistake:

Plaid's pledge to raise the state pension by a staggering 30% - although an admirable policy aim in itself - was hugely cynical politicking. As I wrote at the time:

Sounds great - all Plaid Cymru needs to do is win 324 seats in the General Election to obtain a majority and then they can implement this election pledge. Oh, wait, Plaid only actually contests 40 seats - so on top of winning every seat in Wales they'll also need to win another 284 seats elsewhere in the country… that could prove tricky so its a good job that responsibility for Pensions has been devolved to the Welsh Assembly where Plaid Cymru is currently in a coalition government with Labour - otherwise they could never implement this election pledge. Oh, wait - that hasn't happened either.
This is politics at its most cynical. Plaid Cymru have made an election pledge to Wales' pensioners which they know they have absolutely no chance whatsoever to implement. In the business world this is called 'fraud' - as an ex-solicitor I'd have thought Ieuan Wyn Jones would know something about that. 
Rather than bribing voters with empty promises, far better that Plaid spent some time thinking about pledges they can actually deliver.

By indulging in this kind of 'fantasy politics' Plaid Cymru presented itself not as a responsible political party, but as party which would say anything to get votes. Furthermore my personal view is that Plaid paid dearly for this stupidity in the polls.

I'm sure that this post will generate a heap of abuse - but I think the sooner Plaid Cymru stop kidding themselves that the sole reason they did so badly was because of their exclusion from the Leaders Debates, the sooner they can find the real reasons for their dismal performance.
UPDATE: It is also well worth reading Prof. Dylan Jones-Evans' post on Plaid's performance in the general election.


Anonymous said...

I thought they fought a platform of an immediate end to world conflict, eradication of illness and food for all.

This is another example of African politics, voter bribery with outlandish and unrealistic promises.

I'm not anti-Plaid, but have noticed them doing this over the years and it has the reverse effect to that desired.

Pensioners aren't that stupid.

stats man said...

I agree, Plaid Cymru leadership need to stop making lame excuses.

However they do represent electorate and their views (those who voted for them) count. Democracy is about respect of opposing views, as wisely argued by our Prime Minister David Cameron.

oh, come off it... said...

What's the margin of error on those figures for North Wales?

Are you seriously suggesting that a Western Mail article in January had more impact than the leadership debates in the election period on how people voted?

Prometheuswrites said...

@ oh, come off it
Not the article, just the promise.
30% increase on the spending of biggest area of government expediture arouses skepticism of ability to keep said promise AND balance the books.

Effect on polls depends on total media coverage of the claim, not just the Western Mail.

IWJ did engage in leadership TV debate - in Wales, just as A.Salmon did in Scotland

If it's 'The Lothian Question' in Scotland what is it in Wales?

Amlwch man said...

The delusions of Plaid bloggers would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that the party that they back are actually sharing power in Cardiff Bay.

Welsh Ramblings is a classic case.

Let's consider some of his recent 'ramblings"

"The reality is that Plaid were forced to fight the election on a minor regional platform. They got the same exposure as UKIP and the Greens. On one BBC broadcast they had to share a slot with the BNP. How can they possibly compete with the London-based parties on the back of UKIP-level coverage?"

Perhaps it's because they were only contesting 40 seats would be the answer in a UK election. The BBC bent over backwards to give them publicity on national news - Helen Mary Jones - must have been on the BBC as often as Nigel Farage.

Here is another classic from Mr Ramblings

"The likely result in Aberconwy is completely up in the air, but these splits can't be doing the Tories any good. If Plaid continue to conduct their own campaign with dignity they could pull off one of the upsets of the Westminster election."

Yes, they did pull off one of the upsets of the election, by coming 4th when all the Plaid bloggers were predicting a win.

and of course, the classic line

"New leaflets have emerged in the marginal Ceredigion seat where Lib Dem MP Mark Williams is by all accounts fighting for his life against Plaid".

Yes, that's why he got an 8300 majority and Plaid's vote dropped by 7.6 per cent.

The problem with Plaid bloggers is that they are so myopic about their own party and its prospects that they just cannot be taken seriously anymore.

oh, come off it said...

Plaid's pension policy would in total cost the same as the Lib Dems plans to raise the income tax threshold, except that Plaid were only going to phase it in - a cost of around £3bn pa at the start and easily funded. Hardly worth you jumping up and down about it.

If you're sceptical about balancing books, then why not wonder how the Lib Dems planned to introduce a £17bn tax giveaway and massively cut the deficit at the same time. That would be interesting to watch but typical of the way they turn in both directions at the same time.

Do you really think that the Welsh or Scottish debates cut as much ice with the public as the UK ones? More fool you if you believe that.

Perhaps because total media coverage of politics has more effect on the polls than one Western Mail article...

The Druid of Anglesey said...

oh come off it -

Firstly, it may suit the purposes of your argument to portray Plaid's pension pledge as a single Western Mail article, but we all know that this was Plaid's flagship policy (along with demanding £300m more cash from Westminster) for the general election.

Secondly, there is no point saying that it would cost the same as such-and-such Lib Dem proposal. I am not calling the pensions pledge cynical because of the costings (though I notice it was later revised to apply to only the over 80s), I'm calling it cynical because Plaid knew full well they could make any promise they like and not have to worry about actually implementing it as they only field 40 candidates. Thats the difference between the Lib Dems and Plaid - the Lib Dems field candidates in all 600+ constituencies.

Anonymous said...

The arrogant self confidence of the Plaidophiles was truly amazing to witness. There is however an intrinsic problem with a seperatist party contesting seats in a Union. Plaid and SNP both decline to take part in debates on subjects which are devolved. They are therefore only semi taking part in the governance of the UK.

When it suits Plaid they trumpet the mantra that they are the party of Wales (Not the UK). Nevertheless when Westminster elections come round they want to be elected. This is a bigger hypocrisy than any outlandish promise of jam Tomorrow which they might make.

My personal opinion is that it was the high profile of IWJ himself that cost Plaid votes. He is not only lacking in charisma he has an air of petulant victimhood, which of course is the cherished perpetual stance of his party. It isn't attractive to have some insignificant little man whining on about how hard done by his "Communities" are.

Can anyone imagine the damage that would have been done to the image of Wales if IWJ had appeared on the same stage as the other political leaders but standing on a box or with a smaller lectern?

At least we were saved that humiliation.

Anonymous said...

We have always believed that a Vote for Plaid was a wasted vote, they have managed to turn this Country, sorry Island, and set it on it's course jobs, no future, the Plaid Cymru manifesto could had been written down on a back of a stamp, pointless and a waste of time, we need Plaid Cymru to move over and bring in a more extreme means of Governing the WELSH NATION...............

Anonymous said...

I agree. But Plaid could re-launch with a snappy new slogan, maybe;

"Middle class Welsh speaking xenophobes of the world unite..."

Anonymous said...



Little Brother

Gareth said...

" "Middle class Welsh speaking xenophobes of the world unite..." "


So you're trying to say that a laregely Socialist party, is for middle class Welsh Speakers? Yeah, I suppose the majority of Welsh Speakers in Mon and Arfon are middle class now are they?

Why don't you say what you really think about Welsh speakers?

Anonymous said...

People who move to Wales should remember Welsh is the first language of many people who live here, and they have every right to insist they speak it.

It can take many years for an English person to grasp this simple fact. Speaking as one myself.

I used to think Plaid were a kind of green communist party, but now I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

"Welsh language playwright Gareth Miles once memorably described (Plaid Cymru)as "a small and nervous party of the Welsh middle class."

He was right of course. Plaid Voters are asset rich farming famillies, Teachers, Council Office workers, Solicitors and people for whom the ability to speak Welsh fluently is a meal ticket. Granted Plaid puts out a Left of centre manifesto but in North and West Wales as long as dedication to the Language and safeguarding "Our Communities from English incomers" is a prominent part of it, it wouldn't matter if their manifesto was to the right of Ghengis Khan. A donkey wearing a daff. and with a leak up it's arse would get the Plaid vote as long as it brayed in Welsh.

Anon 11:23 First language Welsh speakers have every right to speak their preferred langage. They form 10% of the population of Wales and their chosen language is promoted by the Welsh Language Board and its use protected by law.

What Welsh speakers DO NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO is to be UNDERSTOOD by anyone they speak to. To demand that people for whom ENGLISH is their first language should learn Welsh in order to SERVE the Welsh speaking Minority is an infringement of THEIR Human Rights.

Wait for it..... " IF you don't want to hear Welsh Go back where you came from"

Anonymous said...

Plenty of Holyhead born don't speak Welsh. I often wonder how they fit in. They haven't got anywhwere to go back to.

Anonymous said...

I once saw a poll run by the Welsh Language board that showed that 43% of Welsh speakers believed that Non-Welsh speakers who were born in Wales were not AS Welsh as Welsh Speakers born in Wales.

So Contempt for 88% of the population.

Anonymous said...

"Plenty of Holyhead born don't speak Welsh. I often wonder how they fit in. They haven't got anywhwere to go back to"

Exactly and I used to get fed up with people telling me that I should be ashamed of not speaking the language, as I've got older I just don't care and say no I'm not, another thing that annoyed me was when I explained that I didn't speak the language the person would insist on speaking welsh to me, now I just walk away.
My Father could speak Welsh but wouldn't as he said he couldn't speak it properly as it was "home made", littered with English words so if he couldn't speak it properly then he wouldn't bother, I wonder how many Welsh speakers can actually read and write in the language, it would be interesting to find out.
That's the reason I wouldn't support Plaid as I fear more and more would be done through the medium of Welsh isolating a lot of people including myself

Anonymous said...

I have every sympathy Anon 13:02

An indication of how many people are able to fully function through the medium of Welsh and who wish to do so can be gleaned from the 2001 census.

Enumerators went from door to door offering either Welsh or English versions of the Census form. 1,720,000 forms were handed out and of those, 43,800 Welsh versions were returned. 2.54% of all households had someone who could fill in a form in Welsh and wished to do so in preference to English.

The Welsh Language "Industry" is a bully in Wales. Every Non-welsh speaker is supposed to apologise for not being able to speak Welsh. Government in the Assembly is terrified of being branded "Anti-Welsh" by Plaid and their off shoot Cymdeithas Yr Iaith. As a result we have people like "Gareth" above who thinks that any criticism of the outrageous behaviour of the language elite can be deflected by accusing someone with "Hating Welsh" or "Hating Welsh speakers".

It's OK to say I don't speak Welsh and I don't care. It's also alright to pull back the fig leaf of "Saving the language" to reveal the unpleasantness beneath.

oh, come off it said...

@The Druid of Anglesey

1. No response to the question about the margin of error for the North Wales crosstabs in the YouGov survey then?

Shall we just agree that it's pretty large and makes your tables meaningless.

As that's the basis for your claim that Plaid suffered a significant drop in support before the leadership debates then perhaps you'd like to re-assess that claim.

2. The Lib Dem comparison was to make the point that Plaid's pension policy was no sort of unattainable promise. It was costed and far more realistic than that of the Lib Dems.

If Plaid were being cynical then they could say anything in their manifesto. They didn't. They made small, carefully costed promises that would have figured in negotiations and will, in any case, be pursued by the MPs elected. That's not being cynical, that's being as honest as you can get when it comes to implementing policy.

Just to remind,

pensions policy = change of less than 0.5% in UK expenditure, paid for by harmonising CGT with income tax.

additional £300m for Wales = identified deficit in Welsh budget by independent report, 0.05% of UK expenditure.

Hardly pie in the sky, is it?

Your argument that Plaid shouldn't say anything because they might not be in a position to do it is bonkers. No point in them having elections in Northern Ireland then.

3. The reference to the WM article is because it's the one that you quote. But are you seriously suggesting that a few pieces on Plaid Cymru pensions policy had more effect than 4 and a half hours of leadership debates and acres of press coverage before and afterwards? And led to a 30% drop in Plaid support several months later but at the same time as the leadership debates.

Oh, come off it...

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Oh come off it

1. I didn't respond to your query regarding the margin of error of the polls because theres no point arguing about it. With the exception of the last poll conducted days before the election (which was reasonably accurate), neither you nor I could prove that the other polls were accurate or not. However, whatever the margin of error, Plaid consistently polled around 16-17% in Nov '09 and Jan '10 and then consistently polled at 10% from Mar '10 onwards. However you want to argue it, there was a drop in Plaid support between Jan and March.

2. Again I never said Plaid's pensions pledge was 'cynical' because of the cost of the pledge - yet you keep bringing it up the costings comparison with the Lib Dem tax threshold policy. You are attacking a straw man you put up yourself.

"They made small, carefully costed promises" - really? Why then was the pensions pledge later revised to only apply to those over 80 years of age? Not so carefully costed then perhaps.

"Your argument that Plaid shouldn't say anything because they might not be in a position to do it is bonkers. No point in them having elections in Northern Ireland then."

In my original post I suggested that Plaid restricted their election pledges to devolved powers - rather than making rather silly national pledges that they could never possibly implement. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

3. Yes.

Anonymous said...

With regards Plaid and the language. I have always been told Plaid are there for both Wlesh and English, is that correct ?

Anonymous said...

Well when I went to see IWJ about something, he started speaking welsh to me when he realised I couldn't speak it I was out of his office in 5 minutes and never heard from him again, so to my mind they're not

Anonymous said...

Anon 15:51 If you believe that Plaid are there for Welsh and English equally in Ynys Mon you are really gullible. I've had dealings with IWJ.

Welsh Ramblings said...

Didn't take long for a Plaid analysis to descend into an anti-Welsh diatribe did it?

This non-Welsh speaking blogger is far from impressed

Also unimpressive is the way Druid uses a tiny and disputed north Wales sample whereas my analysis was based on a nationwide poll.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't take long for a Plaid analysis to descend into an anti-Welsh diatribe did it?

No not anti welsh at all, everyone has the right to speak their own language just don't impose it on others if they don't want or can't speak it

La Pasionaria said...

You really attract some English xenophobes to this blog Druid, I reckon all of UKIP's vote on the Island are contributors. You'll get a reputation as a Little Englander yourself.

Anonymous said...

Have you read all of the comments? Some are from Welsh born English speakers.

How can they be xenophobic against their own countrymen??? or women.

Address them first please.

There are idiots everywhere; don't use them as an excuse to avoid the issue.

Welsh Ramblings said...

They could be from anyone. There's no accountability.

They condemn themselves with their own words. The thread is full of bitterness and spite with barely a constructive word. Nobody is really interested in Plaid's fortunes (except perhaps the author) they just want to vent bile against the Welsh language and against the party.

There is even a statement that Ieuan Wyn Jones, a man who has served Ynys Mon as both an AM and MP, a government Minister and Deputy First Minister of our nation, refused to address someone in the English language when he realised they could not speak Welsh. Think about what is being said for a moment. Jones has presided over meetings in the English language in public.

It's complete nonsense that undermines the Druid's blog, as moronic comments once did on my blog. It barely deserves a reply but when my blog is linked to I usually try to reply.

Nooka said...

Welsh Ramblings: You may have a point with your first paragraph. Your second paragraph , I think, misses the point. What I understood the post at 16.01 to be saying was that IWJ was dismissive (for whatever reason, though perceived to be because of lack of fluency in Welsh) not that he refused to speak English.

Nooka the Pedant

Anonymous said...

I found IWJ to be dismissive of a complaint that I brought to his attention, not because of language issues but I suspect because of who I was complaining about. IWJ's attitude changed markedly when the name of the person i was levelling a complaint about was mentioned.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Ramblings: apologies for a late reply, I've been away.

"Didn't take long for a Plaid analysis to descend into an anti-Welsh diatribe did it?"

I don't see the point in censoring opinions/deleting comments unless they are exceptionally offensive or derogatory - of which I occasionally receive a few both anti-English and anti-Welsh. I think its better for everyone to acknowledge that there are people out there living in Wales who have strongly held views one way or the other.

"Also unimpressive is the way Druid uses a tiny and disputed north Wales sample whereas my analysis was based on a nationwide poll."

I qualified my post several times by saying I didn't think your hypothesis was true in North Wales. I think that's fair enough; the Druid mainly confines himself to Anglesey and North Wales matters.

"They condemn themselves with their own words. The thread is full of bitterness and spite with barely a constructive word. Nobody is really interested in Plaid's fortunes (except perhaps the author) they just want to vent bile against the Welsh language and against the party."

For my part I am interested in Plaid's fortunes because I would prefer the 'Party of Wales' & half coalition partner in Cardiff Bay to produce better thought out policies. I will add that I particularly enjoy reading John Dixon's blog and think that he is an absolute asset to Plaid.

"It's complete nonsense that undermines the Druid's blog, as moronic comments once did on my blog. It barely deserves a reply but when my blog is linked to I usually try to reply."

Again, I don't think censoring opinion is the way forward.

Anonymous said...


I didn't say that he refused to speak to me in English what I said was that when he realised I wasn't a welsh speaker he was dismissive and couldn't be bothered, which is true.
For the record I was born and brought up on Anglesey and have never moved away, been here over 50 years now, am I a lesser person because I don't speak Welsh, I don't think so

Anonymous said...

Welsh Rumblings chooses to misrepresent fact repeatedly in order to justify his position. A sober, objective reading does not support Rumblings increasingly hostile and bilious posts.

Plaid Crashed and burned. Get over it. Move On.

Anonymous said...

Plaid are finished as a political force in welsh politics.The new english coalition is set up to be the most unpopular government for the last 50 years,but their extremism will result in the Welsh embracing the Labour party and not Plaid.
The reason is quite simple,Plaid in power have done little other than to emulate New labour.Plaid now consists of a whole raft of career politicians who present as just another boring political party.They have failed to stimulate the welsh imagination,and have also proven by their avid support of the badger cull that they are willing servants of the farming lobby.Plaid has become right of centre,and on many policies far right of centre.How can they possibly say the represent the people of wales.


Anonymous said...

Jim is correct although the left of centre stance of Plaid was always only a way into the Labour fortress of South wales and the valleys.
Plaid can only shrink in its heartlands because its cultural conservatism alienates too many of the people.

By stabbing their coalition partners in the back so often Plaid may have shot themselves in the foot. I see a return to strength for Labour whilst Plaid, who only a short while ago refused to reject the possibility of an alliance with the Tories in Westminster, are going to pay the price for their squalid manoeuverings.

Anonymous said...

It seems that Welsh Grumblings is upset about something. Personally I think that the Druid already deletes too many posts. Granted some are intemperate and some have contained racist language that I have'nt seen since the early sixties but that indicates a type of person and a strongly held belief.

Where do you draw the line? If you are a Tory (as the Blue Druid is) do you remove trenchant anti Tory posts? If you are a Plaidophile do you remove all posts that indicate a dislike amongst some people for Culture and Language Nationalism?

Come one, come all I say.

Anonymous said...

How many extremists are well-balanced individuals? By definition they are not.

Give them a voice, but don't let them shout the place down.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 12:54 - I never remove post for their political alignment - only those which are overly derogatory or offensive as I don't think they helpful in generating discussion. I also would prefer not to have to delete any.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of Plaid, I have always been told the party is there for Wales and encompases Wels, English and the speakers of other languages.

I think NOT SO!

After the election count in Llangefni, at the time the candidates spoke from the platform, Dylan Rees used not one word of English or any language other than Welsh. I have often met Mr. Rees and on first impressions found him OK but sadly he will now never attract my vote.


Anonymous said...

At last a bit of sense

if that saves £250,000 a year how much could be saved by not producing everything in English and Welsh

Anonymous said...

The answer, Anon 17:35, is that we will never know the answer. Niether the WAG nor any other public service organisation keeps a count of the cost of bilingualism although, where translation is subcontracted, there may be a cost recorded for accountancy purposes.

Bilingual provision of services is a legal requirement of the 1993 Welsh language act and therefore not an "added" or separate requirement but a necessary part of the service.

You may ask what would happen if the requirement for Welsh language services continued to dwindle so that the small demand experienced now became almost non existent.

The answer to that is.... no difference. There is no way back from a Welsh language scheme that aims to provide services or run organisations "Through the medium of Welsh".

Anonymous said...

A comment from Dylan Rees about 15.51 above would be appreciated