The 2017 Election Briefing - Wales

This series of briefings will cover the elections to be held across England, Scotland and Wales on 04 May, 2017.

There will be elections to much of the English shire authorities, the principal authorities of Scotland and Wales, the six mayoral contests in England and the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster.

This part, of three, covers Wales.

Welsh Authorities

There will be 1,254 seats up for grabs on all 22 authorities of Wales. This is unlike 2012 when the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon) was not up for election.

When analysing the coming results for Wales and what it might mean in a general election, it needs to be noted that in local elections independents play a major role. 24 per cent of the Welsh seats up for election this year for instance are held by independent candidates, higher than the share for the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru put together.

It also needs noting that a woeful number of these council seats in 2012 went uncontested, with a repeat in the more rural parts of the country likely this year. 98 seats in 2012 saw the candidate elected unopposed.

Labour will be defending the lion’s share of seats this year, at 46 per cent (581 seats). Plaid Cymru will be defending the second largest number (party-wise), at 14 per cent (170). The Conservatives 8 per cent (104), and the Liberal Democrats 6 per cent (73). UKIP’s performance in 2012, a time before their ‘surge’ to the teens in the opinion polls, was negligible. They won just two seats and as far as I’m aware have already lost both of them in a defection and council by-election.


Of the 22 councils, just 10 are majority run – all of which by Labour in the nation’s south. Were you to judge authorities based on largest party, however, Labour are the largest in 13 of the 22, Plaid Cymru 5 of the 22, independent groupings in 3 of the 22, and the Tories only one: Monmouthshire. Until 2012, though, the Tories had majorities in Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan. Plaid Cymru also previously had a majority in Gwynedd.

Map: Authorities up for election

Red indicates a Labour majority; grey an authority with no overall control.

It may be the case, though, that hung authorities will be run either by groupings of independents, a party in the minority, or a coalition between parties.

After netting over 200 seats in 2012 and gaining overall control of eight additional authorities, Labour seems to have hit its ceiling in Wales, with the only way being down.

Cardiff will be one to watch. The Tories, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru are all in contention to make gains in the city this year. While doubtful Labour are on course to lose the 33 seats they netted here in 2012, seat losses, regardless, are likely. Council by-elections in the city do show opposition parties are on a pretty successful war footing. 

If the Conservatives fancy a good night, they should expect to retake overall control of Monmouthshire and build on their numbers in Denbighshire, Conwy and Wrexham. The Vale of Glamorgan was Tory until 2012, but their collapse from 25 seats to just 11 in that election may seem a step too far for the blues to retake this time round.

I expect Plaid Cymru are targeting Gwynedd in the hope of re-taking the authority, but the strength of the local opposition in the area, Llais Gwynedd, may just deny them that desire. Local council by-elections in Gwynedd do suggest the local party is active (as in they’re… standing for election) though in decline, but we should wait to see whether they still have the organisation to put up a decent number of candidates before coming to conclusions here.

Following Leanne Wood’s constituency win in last year’s assembly elections, we should expect Rhondda Cynon Taf to produce some gains for Plaid, but it can’t be said for sure how much of Mrs Wood’s win was personal or partisan.

Ceredigion seems likely to go Plaid made with gains from independents, but a Lib Dem resurgence may offset a couple of these.

Gains for UKIP seem limited, but my knowledge of where their organisation is strong, relatively speaking, suggests we could see some surprises in Caerphilly and Torfaen. Then again, their national decline in the polls does raise the question as to whether they will win any seats in Wales at all.

The prominence of independents in Welsh local politics, as written earlier, is not to be dismissed, and their representation in some authorities such as Merthyr Tydfil and Flintshire, which in general elections would be some of UKIP’s stronger areas, may actually deny the purples the opportunity for gains. The presence of independents as the domineering blocs on Powys and Pembrokeshire councils will likely prevail this year.

Table: Council compositions as of the 2012 and 2013 local elections

Blaenau Gwent03300090
Merthyr Tydfil02300172
Neath Port Talbot05208031
Rhondda Cynon Taf16019040
Vale of Glamorgan112206134
Isle of Anglesey031120140

Map: Authorities up for election

Red indicates an authority with Labour the largest party; green Plaid Cymru; blue the Tories and pink an independent grouping.

Hung authorities can produce interesting coalitions. Norfolk in 2013 for instance saw the council run by a rainbow coalition of Labour, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP!

Polls will be open on 04 May from 0700hrs to 2200hrs. Results will be filtered through as the night progresses and the day after. If you would like to help with providing election results to our sheets on the night, do get in touch!

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#IndyRef 2.0

It’s more likely than not that the Scottish people will go to the polls in a second referendum on independence. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated a preference for it to be held between the Autumn of 2018 and Spring of 2019, but Theresa May responded that ‘now is not the time’. This response may provoke a jump in support for Yes in the polls, as is anticipated by Downing Street, but whether that alone will be sustainable to put support for independence ahead is yet to be seen.

So, what’s the state of Scottish opinion right now?

Firstly, many a comment has been made online about whether there is indeed public backing for a second referendum from the Scottish people. A BMG poll (23 – 27 Feb) asked voters whether they support or oppose a referendum ‘prior to the Brexit negotiations being concluded’. It found 39% in support, 49% opposed. A Survation poll (08 – 13 Mar) asked voters whether they ‘support or oppose Scotland having another independence referendum before the UK leaves the European Union’. A plurality of Scots were found to be in opposition.

On a second referendum before Brexit:

A Panelbase poll (08 – 13 Feb), which tried to gain detailed preferences shows a split public. 32 per cent indicated a preference for one to be held before Brexit, 19 per cent for one after, 25 per cent not for another 20 years, and 24 per cent never.

Preference for timing of second independence referendum:

Panelbase also asked voters for their preference on the position Scotland should be in, irrespective of the EU referendum result. A majority were found to be in support of membership of the United Kingdom, though split on EU membership. 26 per cent supported UK and EU membership and 27 per cent just UK membership. 41 per cent were found to be in favour of independence, split between 10 per cent holding a preference for out of the EU and 31 per cent in.

Preference for the position of Scotland:

The poll then went on to ask: ‘Since the Brexit vote, it’s no longer possible for Scotland to remain in both the UK and the EU. Which of the three other options is your preference?’

Preference for the position of Scotland:

Here, when prompting Brexit, a plurality of voters were found to be in favour of independence, at 48 per cent – an increase of seven points on the earlier question. A preference for the United Kingdom fell from 53 per cent to 43 per cent.

When asking the same respondents the standard IndyRef question, however (‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’), Panelbase found support (Yes) at 44 per cent, No 51 per cent with 5 per cent undecided. A more recent Panelbase poll (13 – 17 Mar) found Yes 42 per cent, No 53 per cent.

The motivation to vote Yes for the sake of EU membership does seem at present to be minimal. This may change as time goes on with the prospect of Brexit ever the more real in the minds of the voter, but we cannot be certain.

Ipsos Mori (24 Feb – 06 Mar) found 48 per cent saying Scotland should be a full EU member, 27 per cent to have just full access to the single market and 17 per cent neither of the two. A report by ScotCen (surveyed July – December 2016) shows that, despite 46 per cent of Scots preferring independence to devolution or no parliament – a new high in their series – euroscepticism is, also, on the rise.

Finally, when just plainly asking Scots how they intend to vote in a referendum on independence, four of the last five polls, when including undecided voters, found a lead for No.

Scottish independence voting intentions:

*The YouGov survey does not include 16-17 year olds.

Interesting times.