Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Plaid Cymru: Drop in the polls

The latest ITV Wales/YouGov survey shows a further drop in the poll for Plaid Cymru. They drop another 2 percentage points in the polls. 

The fieldwork for the poll was done after Plaid's conference. It is usual for parties to have a bounce immediately after their conferences this doesn't seem to have happened for Plaid Cymru. 

A downward trend is the last thing a party wants as they approach a general election. They have fallen 4 percentage points since January and 5 percentage points since the last Assembly election.

A similar drop is also shown in the regional list.These figures make some of their existing seats very vulnerable.

Their senior partners in Government continue to do well. Labour are on 47 pre cent. They have been in the high 40's most of the year and is a considerable improvement on the last Assembly election were they only got 32 percent. These figures point to them gaining a majority of members and opens up the prospect of them being able to govern alone after May. 

The Conservatives continue to hover around the lower 20s, a figure that broadly reflects their traditional vote in Wales. But on these figures they are likely to overtake Plaid Cymru as the second largest party and would give them the status of their leader being Leader of the Opposition.

Liberal Democrats continue to be in single figures and if these figures were replicated on election day they can expect a drop from their current six Assembly Members. It even makes their leader Kirsty Williams vulnerable in her  Brecon and Radnor heartland.


It is likely that this poll reflects more the voters reaction to what is happening in Westminster than any action or non-action by the parties in Wales. Consequently, Labour are seen as the alternative to the Conservative led coalition in Westminster and have benefited from the current antipathy to the UK government. The Liberal Democrats have been particularly punished by the Welsh electorate for what is seen as a betrayal of their radical tradition in propping up the Tories.

Plaid Cymru must be particularly worried because they always do well when Labour form the government in Westminster and the converse is also true - a situation likely to be the case for the next five years at least. 

Of course, election campaigns can shift  opinions. But In Wales parties suffer the disadvantage that many people receive their news from a media that give little or no coverage to Welsh politics. So undoubtedly, the campaign that is about to be embarked on, suffers from this disadvantage. The effect will probably mean the campaign will only have a marginal influence if at all on many Welsh voters, so they will vote if vote they do on their attitudes to the Westminster Parliament rather than the Assembly and its work.

The poll results are published below.

ITV Wales/YouGov The sample was 1117, the fieldwork 28th to 30th March. We released the figures on our 13.55 news bulletin.  

                                          May 2007    Jan 2011   4-8 March 2011   28-30 March 2011
Constituency vote

Labour                                32%             45%           48%                 47%

Conservative                       22%             21%           20%                 21%

Plaid Cymru                        22%              21%          19%                  17%

Lib Dem                             15%                7%            7%                    8%

Others                                 8%                6%            7%                    6% 

Regional vote

Labour                                30%               41%          45%                 45% 

Conservative                       22%               20%          20%                 20%

Plaid Cymru                         21%               21%          18%                16%

Lib Dem                              12%                 8%            5%                  8%

UKIP                                    4%                 4%            5%                  6%

Green                                   4%                  2%           4%                  2%

Others                                  8%                  4%           2%                  2% 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Who do you want as top dog?

In the latest ITVWales/Yougov survey on which of the current party leaders would make the best first minister Carwyn Jones for Labour topped the poll. He scored 28 per cent.

His current partner in the coalition government Ieuan Wyn Jones, the leader of Plaid Cymru had a score of 8 per cent.

Nick Bourne the Conservative Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly got 5 per cent and bottom of the scoring table was Kirsty Williams with a miserable 3 per cent.

But what must cause some worry to them all is the fact that 55 per cent of those surveyed just didn't know. Not a great confidence boost to any of our 'leading' politicians.

Perhaps the figures might change after a month of them pressing the flesh leading up to the May election.

Whether they change for the better who knows, for as the old saying goes familiarity breeds ....

Or should we read from the polls anybody but these.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Budget 2011

George Osborne in introducing his budget said that last year’s budget was “about rescuing the nation’s finances, and paying for the mistakes of the past.” But this one was about reforming the nation’s economy or as he put it “on the route from rescue to reform.” 
But as predicted in yesterday’s blog  the economic conditions did not provide him with a launchpad for anything but a neutral budget.
The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted that the  annual growth forecast for 2011 has been revised downwards to 1.7% from 2.1%. and it is this low growth rate that is causing the Chancellor difficulties. But he clutched onto the fig leaf that “the OBR point out that the effect, in their words, ‘creates scope for slightly stronger growth in later years’ than previously forecast.”
 But as Ed Milliband was quick to point out the growth target in the UK is predicted downwards for the next three years.
The other problem pinpointed yesterday was the problem on inflation.The OBR now expect inflation to remain between 4 and 5% for most of this year before dropping next year. 
And whilst the Bank of England again decided today to not change interest rates by a vote of 6 to 3 this situation is not likeIy to be maintained for to long.  
Although the Chancellor again confirmed that the inflation target for the Monetary Policy Committee will remain at 2%, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index. So for a while yet,we can expect many more letters from Merv to George apologising for not meeting this particular target. 
On taxation, he said “They should be simple to understand and easy to comply with. And our tax system should be fair, reward work, support aspiration and ask the most from those who can most afford it.”
He announced that the Government would consult on merging the operation of National Insurance and Income Tax. But he reassured pensioners that he was  not proposing to extend National Insurance to them. “Our purpose is not to increase taxes, it is to simplify them.”
But in order to encourage enterprise he announced corporation tax would be reducedby 2%. And that it will continue to fall by 1% in each of the following three years – taking the corporate tax rate right down to 23%.
He promised help to first time buyers in England, “So I can announce that – from the proceeds of this year’s bank levy – we will fund a £250 million commitment to first-time buyers.A new shared equity scheme, First Buy, will be available for first-time buyers who want to purchase a newly built property, but who cannot afford the high deposits.” This will not apply to Wales. But there is already a similar scheme in place and of course there will be an increase in the Welsh budget under the Barnett formula.
He also announced 21 new Enterprise Zones in England, where businesses “will get up to 100% discount on rates, new superfast broadband and the potential to use enhanced capital allowances in zones where there is a strong focus on manufacturing.”
As these matters are devolved he will open discussions with the Assembly to see how Wales can similarly benefit from such schemes.
He also confirmed “that from April next year the personal tax allowance will increase by a further £630, to £8,105. That’s another real increase of £48 extra per year, or £126 in cash .” 
Smokers will again face an increase in tobacco duty.  Rates will increase by 2 per cent above inflation.
But like all Chancellor’s he kept back a little nugget for the tail end of his speech. And this year’s special offer was on petrol prices. He cancelled the 4p fuel duty rise that was due and ”I am today cutting fuel duty by 1 penny per litre.This will take effect in petrol stations from 6pm tonight.”
Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary flagged up that Wales would receive an additional £65 million as a result of the Budget. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

No change budget predicted

CPI inflation 4.4%, RPI inflation 5.5%

This is a graph showing Annual inflation rates - 12 month percentage change
Annual inflation rates - 12 month percentage change

Inflation continues in its upward spiral. The CPI annual inflation – the Government’s target measure – was 4.4 per cent in February, up from 4.0 per cent in January and is the highest point reached in 28 months. This will put pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates. 

The inflation target set by government is 2 per cent and this has caused Mervyn King to put pen to paper to explain to the Chancellor the reason why the target is not being met. 
That pen will again be out as a result of today's figures, explaining that domestic heating costs, soaring oil prices and clothing and footwear where prices, overall, rose by 3.6 per cent following the January sales, all contributed to the inflation target being exceeded.

Whilst only three members of the Bank's nine strong monetary policy committee voted for an interest rate hike to damp down on price rises last month it is unlikely that they will remain in the minority for much longer. Higher interest rates are coming sooner rather than later.

The RPI index, which is the measure of cost of living used in striking a wage bargain
was also 5.5 per cent in February, up from 5.1 per cent in January. So not much doubt what the  benchmark for the pay deals  will be this next year.

But if this wasn't bad enough for young George, the Office of National Statistics dealt him another blow.  They produced the latest figure on public sector net borrowing.  This figure was £10.3 billion, a figure a lot higher than that expected by his friends in the City. they were expecting the figure to be nearer £8 billion.

In the light of these two set of economic indicators, what then can we expect from the Chancellor in his budget tomorrow?

The figures gives him little scope to prepare  a goody bag for us all. There will be very little in the coffers for budget giveaways. 

The budget will be a very cautious package, what he gives with one hand, he will take with another.

His fiscal stand will have to be tough if he is to prevent too large an increase in interest rates in the months to come. 

For his dilemma is this. If the private sector is to expand, and it needs to expand to mop up the increased unemployment caused by cuts in the public sector, he must maintain low interest rates. But the inflation figures make this much more difficult to achieve.

So tomorrow's budget can be summed up in those immortal words of Frankie Howard, "Woe, woe and thrice woe."

Monday, 14 March 2011

Orderly disengagement

“There needs to be an orderly disengagement, if I can put it that way. We understand that as parties.” So says Carwyn Jones, First Minister.
And the ‘orderly disengagement’ he is referring to is how to break up the blissful coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru  that has ruled Wales these last four years.
But like every divorce, although the partners may want an amicable separation, there are always forces at work that mitigate against such a solution.
This separation is no exception. There are those that would introduce acrimony.
In this case its our shadow Secretary of State acting like the mother of the groom that says ‘she was never good enough for you son.’
The words Peter Hain uses are different but the sentiment is the same, “It is difficult, I think, in the long-term to justify having a Deputy First Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government as ineffective as Ieuan Wyn Jones.”  
In other words, - Carwyn Jones don’t think you can patch up your relationship with Plaid Cymru after May,  the Labour party won’t tolerate it.
Now, clearly, if polls are to be believed the elections will go well for Labour. They may even have a majority. But because of the electoral system that majority will be small, one, possibly two.

The question is would any leader want to run an administration for four or even possibly a five year period with such a wafer thin majority. The answer is surely, no.
Carwyn Jones and I guess many if not all the Labour Assembly members recognize that in all likelihood a deal will have to be done with an opposition party to secure stable government. 

There are only two choices Plaid Cymru or Peter Hain’s old party the Liberal Democrats. Which makes the most likely bedfellows?

A party that is already co-habiting elsewhere with Labour’s class enemy or a party that delivered without to much acrimony many of Labour’s manifesto commitments.

It’s not rocket science to work out which way it will go. I know it , you know it and so does Peter Hain.

The intriguing question is why has he decided in the last few weeks to put his tanks on Carwyn Jones’s lawn?  

Does he hope that such posturing will endear him to his parliamentary colleagues? For he needs their support to muster those crucial votes needed to see him elected to the shadow cabinet in his own right.

For then and only then can he shed the cumbersome burden of shadow Welsh Secretary a post after last week’s referendum that is pretty meaningless.

In any stand-off between Carwyn Jones and Peter Hain surely the money must be on the only Labour leader that holds office in the UK, all be it with his little helpers in Plaid Cymru.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Latest Poll results

Labour have increased their lead in the ITVWales/YouGov post. They have increased their lead by 3 percentage points from January. The poll taken since the historic devolution poll of last week show Labour getting a bounce from those results.

Plaid Cymru must be disappointed with their 19 per cent score. They have again fallen behind the Conservatives who are on 20 per cent.

Plaid Cymru who insisted that a referendum on more law making powers should be taken before the May Assembly elections are not seemingly been rewarded by the electorate for their stance.

Peter Hain the shadow Secretary of State was quick off the mark to claim credit for Labour's improvement at the expense of Plaid and an indirect dig at Carwyn Jones.

As he claimed in his tweet
"YouGov poll this wk: Lab+3 PC-2 So much for those who thought attacking Plaid would backfire.On the contrary, it’s hurting them and helping us."

Labour since last Friday's referendum have been pushing the line that there is no longer a role for Plaid Cymru now that the Assembly has law making powers. Plaid Cymru will have to address this issue in order to mitigate potential losses in May's elections.

Plaid Cymru have always tended to do better when Labour are doing badly and it looks as if the reverse is also true and Plaid are suffering because of the rise in the UK vote for Labour.

The single figure poll ratings continue for the Liberal Democrats who are been challenged by UKIP and the Greens. Their decision to go into bed with the Conservatives at Westminster is clearly causing the Welsh electorate to turn their backs on them.

The Liberal Democrats seem to be doing a great deal worse in Wales than in the UK as a whole where YouGov's poll for the Sun show the following top line figures of CON 36%, LAB 42%, Lib Dem 9%.

Seat Prediction
Translating these results into seats carries the usual health warning. But Labour would almost certainly have an overall majority on these figures with a healthy 33 mainly at Plaid's expense. Plaid Cymru would go down to 10 from the 15 seats they won last time[ although they only have 14 now because of a defection to the Conservatives]

The Conservatives would go up two to 14.

The Liberal Democrats on this poll would likely lose all their list seats but may hold their constituency seats. If they lost a constituency the swings and roundabout effect would mean that they would make it up on the list. But their representation in the Assembly could be halved from 6 to 3. 

Other pollster's prediction
Dr Denis Balsom's predictions for ITV Wales differ from the above. He has Labour  32 (26), Conservatives 13 (12), Plaid Cymru 11(15), Liberal Democrats 3 (6) and either UKIP or the Greens winning a regional list seat(1)
The number in brackets is the number of seats each party held after the last Assembly elections in May 2007. 
The (1) indicates a seat held by Independant  Trish Law. But with her standing down the seat of Blaenau Gwent is likely to revert back to Labour.

ITV's results are published below 
in full.

                                           May 2007         Jan 2011         March 2011
Constituency vote

Labour                                          32%                 45%                  48%

Conservative                                 22%                 21%                  20% 

Plaid Cymru                                  22%                 21%                  19%

Lib Dem                                       15%                   7%                     7%

Others                                           8%                   6%                     7% 

Regional vote

Labour                                         30%                  41%                   45%

Conservative                                22%                  20%                   20%

Plaid Cymru                                 21%                   21%                  18%

Lib Dem                                       12%                    8%                    5%

UKIP                                             4%                    4%                    5%

Green                                            4%                    2%                    4%

Others                                           8%                     4%                   2%

Friday, 4 March 2011

Referendum rights a wrong

The referendum put’s right a wrong committed by the Labour Party on the people of Wales in 1995. For it was in that year the ruling clique of the Labour Party turned the conclusions of Labour policy commission on devolution on its head.

The Labour Commission collected evidence throughout Wales and the vast majority of the submissions received wanted the devolved body to make laws. This view was reflected in the final draft of the Commission’s report.

But, alas, the final report did not  contain the policy. Why?

The Commission was swamped with representatives sent from the party leaders office and the shadow home secretary’s office  to water down the report. So Messrs. Blair and Straw got their way and the spineless Wales Labour executive went along with these changes.

So Scotland got a real law making Parliament and Wales got its toothless Assembly.

It has taken a Commission by Lord Richard and a Convention run by Sir Emyr Jones Parry and an other Act of Parliament and now an unnecessary second referendum to give the Welsh people what they should have  been on the table and voted on fourteen years ago in the 1997 referendum.

But now that these powers have finally been granted it is an opportunity for the parties in their manifestos next May to inspire with creative proposals as to how they will change Wales for the better.

The new settlement means that the Cardiff Bay politician can no longer blame Westminster. There is no hiding place. Law making rests firmly with the Assembly and they will be judged solely on their merits.

But does this all mean the end of the constitutional wrangling between Westminster and Wales? Not a bit of it.

There is still the vexed question of how Wales will should be funded. Scotland is moving ahead with new powers over their own finances. What about Wales? Will the Barnett formula be finally be scrapped and a new settlement that is more favorable to Wales’s needs emerge?

And what about other areas such as criminal justice and energy. How long will it be before the Assembly campaigns for power over these to be devolved? Will the agenda of Lloyd George and Keir Hardy of real Home rule be the next call to arms. We shall see.

For certain this referendum was a vote to put right what the Welsh people were cheated of on the ‘90s. The next generation will have their own ideas of what they want for Wales and the political institutions will have to change to reflect these aspirations.
Below are the results as published by the Electoral Commission

Local voting areaYes    No
Blaenau Gwent11,869   5,366
Bridgend25,063  11,736
Caerphilly28,431  15,751
Cardiff53,427  33,606
Carmarthenshire42,979  17,712
Ceredigion16,505   8,412
Conwy18,368  12,390
Denbighshire15,793    9,742
Flintshire21,119  12,913
Gwynedd28,200    8,891
Isle of Anglesey14,011    7,620
Merthyr Tydfil9,136    4,132
Monmouthshire12,381   12,701
Neath Port Talbot29,957   11,079
Newport15,983   13,204
Pembrokeshire19,600   16,050
Powys21,072   19,730
Rhondda Cynon Taff43,051   17,834
Swansea38,496   22,409
Torfaen14,655    8,688
Vale of Glamorgan19,430   17,551
Wrexham17,606     9,863

Back to map

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

How will they vote?

All the polls indicate that the ‘yes’ side  are heading for a decisive win when Wales votes tomorrow.

The latest poll conducted by ITV Wales/YouGov indicates that six out of every ten of the Welsh electorate are set to vote for a change in the way Welsh laws are passed. 
If the polls are right, voters no longer want Westminster interfering in the Welsh law making process. They want the Assembly to have sole charge of law making areas such as health, housing and education.
All four parties represented in the Assembly have been campaigning for these new powers. This unusual degree of unanimity between the parties seems to have gone down well with the voters. 
The ‘yes’ side has increased its poll ratings as the campaign was conducted. The gap between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ has remained static since there has been a regular test of opinions.
When the don’t knows and those not intending voting are taken out of the results the ‘yes’ side 
steam ahead. The number of those that are unsure or don’t intend voting has halved since January. 
There  still remains a worry by the “yes’ side that the commanding lead they have in the polls might make some complacent and decide not to turn out to vote on the day.

Details of the poll are produced below.

Results of poll carried out 24th February to 1st March 2011. Sample size: 
(compared with January’s poll and the poll carried out for Y Byd ar Bedwar 21-23 February. Figures are weighted for likelihood to vote).
If there were to be a referendum tomorrow on giving the National Assembly for Wales increased law-making powers, how would you vote?
                                Jan 26th        Feb 23rd              March 2nd 
Yes                              49%                 58%                 61%
No                                26%                 29%                 28%
Don’t Know/                 26%                 13%                 12%
Wouldn’t Vote   
With Don’t Know/Won’t vote excluded:
                               Feb 23rd           March 2nd 
Yes                         67%                      69%
No                           33%                      31%