Thursday, 17 March 2011


I've just taken delivery of The Wales Yearbook 2011. It's an invaluable guide to public affairs, including key businesses, in Wales, especially in an election year.

Denis Balsom, the editor, makes a significant point in his introduction to the 2011 Assembly Election section: "In Wales, one assumes that the Assembly election will take precedence amongst the parties and the politicians, but the electorate may well be exposed to greater UK literature and media coverage concerning the Referendum than more local electoral material.

"There may also be a danger that discussion of a preferential voting system, AV, may influence or confuse Welsh electors' participation in our own dual ballot [...] There remains doubt that this system is fully understood, even though this will be the fourth Assembly election fought under these rules. The regional, Party list vote, is not designed to be the voter's second choice, but weeks of discussing preferential voting for the AV referendum may lead voters to use their 'second' vote in such a way." [My emphasis]

Another special factor this year, which affects Liberal Democrats disproportionately (no wonder Labour and the Conservatives were keen to see it in the legislation), is that the names of list candidates will not appear on the ballot paper. So supporters of prominent current AMs such as Peter Black and Eleanor Burnham will need to be reminded by the party of their presence on the list, and that to be certain of a Liberal Democrat AM in their respective areas, they need to put a cross in both Liberal Democrat boxes. This is true even of Mid and West Wales, where there is no guarantee that Wyn Williams will hang on to the seat vacated by Mick Bates - though as a local, Welsh-speaking farmer and businessman, he ticks all the right boxes. Liberal Democrat Liz Evans has a better chance of turning out controversial agriculture minister Elin Jones in Ceredigion than Denis Balsom gives her credit for, but LibDems in mid-Wales should rather be safe than sorry.

In fact, the advice of  "vote twice for the party of your choice" applies to all parties throughout Wales except for Labour in South Wales West and South Wales Central, where so many Labour candidates will be elected to constituencies (Pontypridd and Merthyr notwithstanding) that a vote for the Labour list in these two regions would be wasted. No doubt canny Labour voters will use their list vote tactically to mitigate the possibility of their least favourite party succeeding.

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