The polls are open on May 6. Source: Marco Verch Professional Photographer (via. Flickr)
Conservatism, Character and Constitution

The state of play

The people of Wales will go to the polls tomorrow with the end result perhaps being one of the most unpredictable in devolved history writes Sam Tilley.

The last two polls of the campaign have shown that a Labour-Plaid Cymru alliance – whatever form that takes – is the most likely scenario but that as many as eight constituencies might change hands.

But equally having said that, it might be as few as two with this being as unpredictable an election as they come.

It would be very easy for me to proclaim that the Conservatives will win the Vale of Glamorgan, or that Plaid will make gains in Llanelli but in reality Senedd elections are vastly more complex, with many local issues in play.

Add to this the expected rise in turnout, although it would be wise to not get too carried away, but enough that it could throw off polls in the most marginal of seats.

And of course on top of all of this, there are the regional seats in play. Seven UKIP AMs entered the Senedd in 2016 but only one MS left in 2021 – those seats are expected to be divided between the Conservatives, Plaid and newcomers Abolish the Welsh Assembly and add an extra level of complexity to predictions.

So when we ask the question ‘what is a good night for the Welsh Conservatives’, only a fool (or a very brave man) would give you an exact figure. Instead, it is a tad easier to look at the wider trends we are expecting to see.

The 2019 election opened up new battlegrounds in the north of Wales. A good showing this time out would see some of the constituencies that turned blue in 2019 turn blue once again, so all eyes should be on the likes of Wrexham, the Vale of Clwyd and Delyn. A win in any of these seats (or perhaps more than one) would signify that the gains in the general election were not just a one-off protest vote over Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn.

In the south, Labour power is a little more entrenched, but the Welsh Valleys like to throw up a surprise in Welsh elections. In 2007, this took the form of an Independent win in Blaenau Gwent and in 2016, Leanne Wood probably surprised even herself when she took the Rhondda.

Conservative hopes probably rest on the seats like the Vale of Glamorgan – Boris’ visit earlier this week was a clear signal the party expects a good result there. Alluding back to the danger of polls, today’s YouGov offering pointed at Gower changing hands, a marginal perhaps in turns of majority but not expected to really be at risk. More interesting seats to watch include Cardiff North, the last Liberal bastion in Brecon and Radnorshire, and Llanelli, where incumbent Hefin David is looking to hold off Plaid stalwart Helen Mary Jones.

And of course who could forget about the Police and Crime Commissioners elections (!) Although very few people understand what the PCC’s actually do – and who can blame them – Dyfed-Powys might be in play and who knows what will happen in North Wales. With no polls and no real public interest, a Martian could probably win and very few would notice but a Conservative pick up isn’t out of the question.

Having said all of this, if the Conservatives end up coming third behind both Labour and Plaid, it is undoubtedly not a good result.

At the risk of having to eat my own words on Friday, I’d expect the Welsh Conservatives to score the highest amount of seats they’ve ever had in the Senedd – currently 14 in 2011 under Nick Bourne.

If they can scalp one or more of Welsh Labour’s more high-profile politicians (maybe Hannah Blythyn in Delyn or Ken Skates in Clwyd South) and put in solid, if not winning, performances in places like Newport, Cardiff and Alyn and Deeside, it might be a very good night indeed.

Sam Tilley is a Masters student in Cardiff studying broadcast journalism and producer of the ‘Two Questions’ podcast.

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