Plaid has the edge in Anglesey race

Owain ap Gareth looks at the runners and riders in the forthcoming Assembly by-election on Ynys Môn

To examine the prospects for the forthcoming Anglesey by-election for the National Assembly is to look through a glass darkly. In the first place by-elections are notoriously volatile, especially so in a place like Môn where at least three parties are in contention, which is not to rule out the prospect of a strong independent candidate if Peter Rogers, a former Conservative AM for the island, chooses to throw his hat in the ring again.

Moreover, taking into account the Police Commissioner elections in November, this will be the third time in a year that Môn has gone to the polls. Voters tend to respond badly if they think they’ve been called to participate in an election on a whim, or without good reason.  Plaid Cymru must be hoping that Ieuan Wyn Jones’ decision to vacate the seat in order to head up the new Bangor Science Park will not be regarded as in either of those categories.

Table 1 below provides results of the UK and Welsh general elections in Anglesey since 1987, with the winning percentage share of the vote highlighted in each case:

Table 1: Share of the vote Anglesey Welsh General and UK General Elections

Plaid Labour Conservative
2011 Assembly 41.40% 26.20% 29.20%
2010 Westminster 26.20% 33.40% 22.50%
2007 Assembly 39.70% 17.40% 13%
2005 Westminster 31.10% 34.60% 11%
2003 Assembly 37.40% 23.80% 28.50%
2001 Westminster 32.60% 35% 22.50%
1999 Assembly 52.60% 22.90% 19.20%
1997 Westminster 39.50% 33.20% 21.50%
1992 Westminster 37.10% 23.50% 34.60%
1987 Westminster 43.20% 16.90% 33.20%

We should probably begin by disregarding the 1999 result as an aberration since it was the most spectacular election result that Plaid Cymru have ever achieved in Anglesey, one they have not been close to equalling since. But looking at the 2011 result, on what was a good night for Labour nationally across Wales, it is striking that Labour came third in Ynys Môn, behind the Conservatives, themselves a pretty long way away from Plaid Cymru.

Nevertheless, to give the other parties some succour, all the Plaid victories listed in the Table were made with Ieuan Wyn Jones as the candidate. The loss of votes between the General Elections of 1997 and 2001 can be interpreted as a crude indicator of the loss of Ieuan Wyn Jones’ personal following, with Plaid losing 7 per cent of the vote and the seat.

A similar performance to that of 2001 would bring the Plaid vote down to 34.5 per cent. An optimistic interpretation for the other parties is that Ieuan Wyn Jones has increased his personal vote since 2003 by 4 per cent and that this, too, is up for grabs.

The fact that Anglesey voters tend to vote for individuals as much as parties can be seen in the Conservatives’ bad performance in 2005 and 2007 where Peter Rodgers stood as an independent and took a big chunk of their vote. They will be hoping that neither Rodgers nor UKIP stand in this election.

This leads us to the council elections in May. In some ways they provide a good basis for comparison. Turnout is similar to the Assembly elections – this May it was at a relatively healthy 50.5 per cent, easily within the range of the 48.6 per cent turnout for the Assembly election in 2011 and the 51.8 per cent in 2007. Of course, what happens at a council election does not mirror other elections, especially given the number of Independents. At the same time, however, it can give us an idea of the direction of parties’ support.

Table 2 gives results for the May 2013 local elections:

Table 2: Anglesey Local Authority election results in May 2013

Party Number and % of seats 2013 Vote 2013
Independents 14 (46.6%) 32.1%
Plaid Cymru 12 (40%) 32.2%
Labour 3 (10%) 17.2%
Liberal Democrats 1 (3.3%) 5.2%
UKIP 0 (0%) 7.4%
Conservatives 0 (0%) 5.8%

It was a good election for Plaid Cymru.  Plaid Cymru doubled their share of seats on the previous election, and were within a few votes of capturing two more. By contrast both Welsh Labour and the Welsh Conservatives had poor results and will have been disappointed they didn’t perform better. While Labour raised its vote share from 12.5% to 17%, it went backwards in seats. For the Welsh Conservatives it was a very bad election. Despite fielding a record high of 15 candidates the party was wiped from the map, losing its two councillors and finishing sixth behind UKIP.

On the basis of these trends, it seems that the wind is in Plaid Cymru’s sails. However, there is an important qualification. The Independents managed stubbornly to hold on, retaining the largest number of seats. Their vote share was a virtual tie with Plaid Cymru.

As such, the hope for Labour and the Conservatives is that there are still a lot of votes to play for, and that the Anglesey tradition of voting for individual candidates is alive and well.

Nevertheless, given the trends in the council election Plaid Cymru must be the favourite. Moreover, a strong public profile is helpful for a candidate in a short election period. On this front Plaid Cymru plainly had its ducks in a row by lining up former BBC television journalist Rhun ap Iorwerth, a native of Anglesey, and then selecting him last week in short order. On this front the other parties have been playing catch up.

Labour have chosen Tal Michael, son of former Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael who also briefly served as First Secretary in the National Assembly in the first term before he lost a vote of confidence. Michael has north Wales links – he is former chief executive of the North Wales Police Authority and fought (unsuccessfully) for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner. However, he was brought up in the south and does not have ap Iorwerth’s Anglesey connections

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have chosen Steven Churchman, a Gwynedd councilor, but if there is one prediction it is not hard to make about this contest it is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats will struggle to make an impression. The Conservatives and UKIP have yet to announce their candidates.

With the by-election now less than a month away, on 1 August, makes it difficult for other candidates to build a profile with which to challenge Plaid’s lead. The early election date also makes it difficult for other parties to organise effectively behind a candidate. Welsh Labour have the added problem of division in their ranks with John Chorlton, the party’s chairman on the island, complaining that he failed to make the four person shortlist and declaring that he is now considering his position with the party as a result.

This looks like being a  race for Plaid to lose. It has the advantages not only of being in first with its (high profile) candidate, but also a better organisation across most of the island. In addition voter fatigue may depress turn out which is likely to help Plaid which also has a track record in getting its vote out.

Putting all these factors together I would expect Plaid Cymru to hold on to the seat. However, in the case of such an individual seat as Ynys Môn it is prudent to cushion oneself against any hostages to fortune. As Hubert H. Humphrey, the Democrat who lost spectacularly to Nixon in the 1968 Presidential election in America put it: “The difference between hearsay and prophecy is often one of sequence. Hearsay often turns out to have been prophecy.”

Owain Llyr ap Gareth is Campaigns and Research Officer with the Electoral Reform Society Wales

26 thoughts on “Plaid has the edge in Anglesey race

  1. Yesterday I tweeted Tal Michael to ask if he would disclose how much the UK Labour Party are contributing to his election campaign and how much Welsh Labour are contributing. If, as is being suggested the total is around £100,000 straight from UK Labour coffers that shows the extent to which the Senedd is being used by Labour as a regional assembly of England as opposed to the National Assembly of Wales.

    In return for the branding and the money the so-called Welsh Labour Party follow orders directly from Milliband and co. which makes the Welsh Government nothing more than a puppet regime in charge of a puppet state.

    Of course, he could just tell us the real figures so we know for certain.

  2. It’s too simplistic to view the Plaid loss of the Westminster seat in 2001 as a result of IWJ’s personal following drifting away. There were other forces at play. The chosen candidate did not meet with the approval of the local party faithful and there was a certain arrogance in sending Plaid activists from Ynys Mon to Conwy to canvas on the grounds that Ynys Mon was a “Certainty”.

    On this occasion local Plaid are wholeheartedly in favour of Rhun ap Iorwerth and are positive of a good result after a determined local election campaign. In fact the Plaid following is fairly static… but they do all go to vote. It’s still the case that many followers of other paerties on the island are indifferent to Assembly elections but in any case the non-Plaid vote is split fairly evenly. Even Labour supporters are less than enamoured of the Welsh Assembly’s success in running Wales. Who can blame them?

  3. Jon Jones really is the Lionel Messi of trolls, you have to hand it to him. Pure genius.

    The campaign has hardly begun, not all candidates have been chosen, an opinion poll has hardly scraped the sides of the Daily Post, and he sends his wrecking ball in to undermine the result before a vote has even been counted…


    “Supporters of the Conservatives, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP on Ynys Mon are indifferent to Assembly elections”

    “Labour supporters on Ynys Mon do not like the Welsh Assembly”


    “Only Plaid supporters are interested and vote, therefore the result is not reflective of ‘real’ opinion”

    When will this angry silent majority rise up and throw off the shackles of their devolved oppression I wonder Jon? Lock up your daughters Anglesey, the Beaumaris mob is on its way…

  4. For what it’s worth… I think it will be interesting to see who Labour send up to Ynys Mon next weekend and the following one to campaign. If they don’t send up the big UK guns, I suspect it’s because they want to distance themselves from defeat. If they go all out for a party-sponsored victory and still lose it’s worse than losing without too much effort which they can always put down to (party) incumbency, media candidate, ‘mid-term’ apathy, ‘Welsh stuff’, etc..

    If they go for it and lose, it’s a UK media disaster…

  5. The only issue that can be certain is that Anglesey as a whole is not a Y Fro County and the only reason Plaid enjoys relatively strong ‘political position’ on the Island is that Labour and Tories almost always split the bulk of remaining votes, and therefore Plaid gets elected.

    Furthermore, on average the turnout is around 50% in most elections and the absent electorate are highly unlikely to be Plaid people, but as Jon Jones points out Plaid supporters do turn out, so unless this changes in August we can’t really complain if we get a minority party to represent us.

    Of course, this is the reality of the ‘first pass the post’ takes all and UK as a whole has failed to be inspired by proportional representation as shown in the referendum.

    Realities aside, Plaid was never capable of realising that they do not have support of the vast majority of people living on the Island and consistently push the Y Fro dogma that is driving Anglesey and for that matter the rest of Wales into the oblivion. Let’s hope Anglesey people will turn out in force but not holding my breath!

  6. Any bookies giving odds on UKIP coming third – or even second?

    But what if we had a REAL ‘scrap the Assembly’ candidate now that UKIP have handed that batten over to – errr – nobody at all? If anybody was in any doubt that UKIP have sold out on their anti-devo following then these comments from Farage can’t leave them in any doubt at all… And such great timing in the run up to a by-election – you really couldn’t make it up!

    Now the ‘none of the above’ anti-devo voters have even more reasons to stay at home!

    Anybody out there in the mood for forming a real anti-devolution/minimum government Party ready for next time?

  7. The Lionel Messi of Trolls? It could just be that I state the obvious:-
    General Election 2010 Voter turnout in Anglesey 34,444. Plaid vote 9,029.
    Assembly Election 2011 Voter turnout 24,069. Plaid vote 9,969.

    So overall 10,375 voters who were engaged enough to vote in the GE couldn’t be bothered for the Assembly….but 940 Plaid supporters were more keen to vote in the Assembly than the GE. But you know Phil, I’m happy for you to read it any-old-way you please.
    UKIP have thrown their het into the ring now so that just leaves the Conservatives……perhaps Paul Williams? Whatever, their vote will be split. Labour has its stronghold in Holyhead and there seems to be some kerfuffle about Chorlton not being on the short list so we won’t get a united front there. It’s hard to see Plaid losing really…unless they come all-over arrogant again.

  8. Hi Jacques. Didn’t you stand to become one of the Aethwy ward councillors at the recent Council elections in Môn? Wasn’t your campaign similar to your comments above and elsewhere online i.e Plaid Cymru, Welsh speakers, Welsh language, Welsh identity – anything Welsh really – are “driving Anglesey and for that matter the rest of Wales into the oblivion”? How much support did you get from the good people of Ynys Môn for your anti-Welsh views? Maybe a visit to Ynys Môn’s website will refresh your memory? Answer = Bottom out of 11 candidates with 3% of the vote. The 3 Plaid councillors received 42% of the vote between them. Turnout was 50%. I’m sure the other 50% would have all voted for you though!

  9. ” Even Labour supporters are less than enamoured of the Welsh Assembly’s success in running Wales. Who can blame them?”

    We’ve had 14 years of uninterrupted Labour rule in Wales. If labour supporters feel less than enamoured with their success then why do they continue to vote for them?

  10. Interesting observation Hedd Gwynfor and yes you are right Tory, Labour and myself ended last with 3% of the vote, but my campaign wasn’t anti Welsh as you suggest but based on realities of the situation Anglesey is in… Anglesey people voted for people who promised to deal with seagull nuisance, dodgy pavements, relentless Plaid campaign to ‘kill off independents’ and so on, whilst I concentrated upon the abysmal track record of the Anglesey’s Council and unsustainable national politics. Perhaps I used a wrong approach but ‘we are where we are’. However, I think you missed the main point of my earlier post which is that whenever Plaid gets elected on Anglesey irrespective if it’s in General, Assembly or Council election 80% of Anglesey people end up with no political representation!

  11. Omitted to make another and highly relevant point in my earlier reply to Hedd Gwynfor, which is the shameful role of Welsh media during Anglesey Council’s Elections.

    Not long before the election I had two interviews with BBC Wales (Bangor) upon their request and on both occasions my views and thoughts were only broadcast in the Welsh language programmes and were highly distorted on issues that were strictly aimed for English speaking audiences.

    Third interview with BBC Wales (Cardiff) and again on their request was cancelled at the last minute with no explanation – I see this as unacceptable censorship and truly sad for a so called public organisation to be afraid of a robust and frank debate on Welsh language issues in the public domain.

    The newsprint media were just as bad and my request to them to open up a debate prior to elections on a range of issues relevant to Anglesey were snubbed contrary to the initial promise I got from some of the editors.

    Perhaps the Anglesey election outcome could have been different throughout Anglesey if the media was open, fair and honest!?

  12. That’s right, Jacques, keep telling yourself you’d have had more votes if it hadn’t been for those bigots in the media. Personally, I take the view that the less people know about you the more likely they are to vote for you.

  13. Jacques Protic: “Not long before the election I had two interviews with BBC Wales… Third interview with BBC Wales… was cancelled at the last minute with no explanation – I see this as unacceptable censorship”

    Hang on. You had two interviews with a national radio station (and nearly a third) in the run-up to a local election, and you consider yourself hard done by? Most local election candidates don’t even get an interview with their local newspaper or radio! Maybe BBC Wales decided you had too much (rather than too little) exposure.

  14. Well Eds? I’ve just read a nice little hate fest from Plaid supporters….the question is just what has any of it to do with the Ynys Mon By-Election?
    It seems to me that you have lost sight of the theme perhaps. I would note that when you publish a piece from Royston Jones attacking some other poster you are giving a voice to a man whose anti-English blog attracted the attention of the police and which was closed down by Google.

  15. Mr Protic is to be congratulated. 3% is jolly good considering the popularity of his arguments in Ynys Mon and Wales as a whole.

  16. I question whether ‘Jon Jones’ exists. I believe it may be one of the many aliases used by Jacques Protic. My Jac o’ the North blog was indeed closed down by Google, probably after a complaint, but it never “attracted the attention” of the police. Unless of course Jacques Protic is telling us he reported me? Maybe he can give us the details of this police interest?

  17. Royston Jones or Jack O’ North or whatever other names you may have, I can categorically state that anything I have to say I use my genuine identity contrary to many ‘bloggers’ on this site and elsewhere.

    Furthermore, friends made me aware of what was nothing other than libellous and slanderous accusations published on your site about me and perhaps others, but I did nothing about it as I saw it as sad and irrelevant and I’m sure most thinking people would have felt the same, therefore I can’t help you to understand why Google deemed your web site as unacceptable.

    Whilst there were instances when I needed police protection and these were as a direct result of intimidating phone calls etc but, I never complained about anyone specific and left it to the police to do their job as they deemed appropriate – A FACT.

    Even on this thread, you and other Welsh nationalists are distorting factual information and other than satisfying your warped egos I can’t think that anyone with intellect would support your stance.

    People like me, Jon Jones and many others are not ‘Anti Welsh’ but people who value freedom of choices and who believe Wales can only prosper if the WAG recognises the fact that Welsh language and its culture can never be imposed by force, state dictate and the state dogma and we want absolute freedom for people of Wales to live their lives through either of the languages with no state interference.

    For my part I want to see the end to forced Welsh language imposition in education and public employment as continuation of this folly is damaging Wales economically and socially – Think about it or if you still disagree please explain what is your objection to people being free to chose which ever language they want to live their lives through and for English speakers to have English medium education for their children in schools who base teacher appointments upon merit and without the ‘essential ‘Welsh speaking staff’?

    Finally regarding my failed attempt to get on Anglesey Council you should note that 8 out of 10 people who sponsored my election attempt were Welsh speakers and people who know me well. These people and many others in my community are genuine Welsh patriots who also value being British and who are at ease with anyone who doesn’t speak their language – in other words they believe in an inclusive and a fair society, a premise that is not held by WAG, BBC Wales and others who support your stance.

  18. At 12.00 we will find out who is standing for Yns Mon. To date, nobody opposed to devolution has gathered enough support to be considered for the seat. Perhaps there is a difference between the world of the blogs and the world outside.

  19. Nathan Gill UKIPS candidate on Ynys Mon says he would like to ensure there are jobs for the island’s youth and also the future of the Welsh language. Looks like another source of hope for Jon Jones dashed. Over to you my friend.

  20. I know that it’s boring David but I will be voting Labour as usual….yes I know that Tal Michael is less than inspiring but there is no party that represents any of my views more closely. I take your point though (I think it was your point) that UKIP must be profoundly stupid to turn their backs on two policies that would gain them a respectable vote share; anti devolution (staying true to the “United” in UKIP) and the popular freedom of choice with relation to Welsh in Education (a majority position according to opinion polls).

    Still, there’s no accounting for just how misguided politicians can be and UKIP seem to be a particularly indisciplined and volatile bunch.

  21. @ Jacques Protic

    There is no such thing as absolute freedom.

    By depriving the public sector of bilingual workers, you are depriving the Welsh speaker of their right to speak Welsh in all aspects of their lives.

    There is something deeply suspicious about a culture that regards “having” to deal with others who speak a different language as an infringement on their liberty.

    Nobody can be forced to speak a language if they do not wish to.

    As an English-only speaker, you are not a victim.

  22. @Jaques- do you have any figures which show how the language is directly affecting Wales economically? By that I mean an actual numerical breakdown of how it is exactly doing that. I will venture to posit that you have no such proof, because no such figures exist. They do not exist because no such effect exists. And if you want to live in a country where schools use only one language, I suggest you move to a monolingual one, of which there are about a handful around the world. If the situation is that unbearable for you, might I suggest kindly that you move back to your ideal English-only utopia, where ever it is you came from?

  23. The anglophobic party will win because they will make a play the welsh language issue and tell people it will die without copious amounts of money thrown at it.

    The language will die but its death isn’t imminent yet and no amount of money can save it so leave them to it.

  24. Mo Patel/ Jon Jones/ Jon Drakeford/ J Protic/ Belowthelandsker,

    If the language is about to die and Welsh nationhood is also on it’s last legs, then why are you expending so much energy fighting them. Can you just stick to one name please?

  25. @ David, how correct you are. It is such a dying waste of time that they spend hours a week complaining of its actual existence. How ironic. But yet how sad as well.

  26. this is descending into farce ‘dave’/’ben’. When you resort to claiming that other posters are using multiple names it’s clear you’re losing whatever is left of the debate. There are a number of people here who have raised very fair points, but have been immediately met with slurs of ‘anti-welsh’ and ‘bigot’ in attempt to poor smoke over the issue. That is not a tactic that will win out in the end…. freedom of speach always wins the day on this particular rock in the Atlantic.

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