The picture across Wales varies dramatically and although there is certainly some disillusionment with Labour, this is not translating into votes for any of the other parties.
As a regional candidate I get to taste the political air across North Wales and I’m predicting a few surprise outcomes.
First of all, turnout for Labour in the past two Assembly elections was low and my assessment is that disgruntled Labour voters who intend to stay at home on May 3rd probably failed to vote in 2003.
Consequently, Labour’s vote will not fall by much.
Support for the Tories has increased, but my impression is this due to a desire to hurt Labour. Here in Wales the Cameron effect is non-existent and any rise in the Tory vote should not be seen as a positive endorsement of the party.
Plaid Cymru have the problem of reaching out beyond those who speak Welsh as a first language. My guess is that without the language issue, their support might have been in the 30s instead of languishing in the
low 20s. In contrast to the SNP (for whom a native Scottish dialect has never been an election issue) Plaid Cymru’s appeal will always be limited to those who speak Welsh fluently.
Finally, I see the Liberal Democrat vote in North Wales struggling to reach 10 per cent. Because disgruntled Labour voters will stay at home instead of switching their votes, the Liberal Democrats will not benefit from the Iraq effect this time around.
Turnout in Alyn and Deeside back in 2003 was shamefully low – less than 25 per cent. This time it will be different. I predict a significant increase in Labour’s safest seat in the North and I’m also sticking my
neck out over the result. I reckon Carl Sargeant will be the only Labour AM to increase both the size and proportion of Labour’s vote.
Similarly, Wrexham is looking like a Labour gain. Independent John Marek has worked hard on the Polish vote, but at the expense of his core supporter. He sent out literature in English and Polish, yet the
number of Poles on the electoral register is said to be just 200.
Elsewhere in North Wales I see Labour losing a couple of seats, probably to the Tories.
My forecast is that Labour in Wales will not do as badly as the national polls suggest. We’ll fall to 27 (down two) whereas the Tories will gain a handful. The effect of the regional top-up system will offset some of Labour’s losses and limit the success of the Conservatives. Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats will barely move, so a coalition could yet be avoided if Rhodri has the courage to continue with minority rule.