John Osmond reports on today’s poll which suggests coalition talks will be imminent following the Assembly election

April 15th, 2011

ITV Wales latest Yougov poll on the Welsh general election, published this afternoon, produces some glacial shifts in the pattern of voting that leaves us almost exactly where we were when the survey last reported a fortnight ago (see tables below). Labour is up two points, to 49 per cent on the constituency vote. However, Plaid Cymru is also up two points on the regional vote. In our complex Additional Member voting system, when a party gains in the first constituency vote, it is less likely to improve in the second list vote, especially if a competing party is gaining ground there.

However, the truth is that the change over the last few weeks has been within the polling margin of error. There has been no game changer – though it will be interesting to see if there is any more in-depth information to emerge around the intentions of those ‘certain to vote’. But, more or less, we are where we were, with Labour straining towards that elusive majority of seats but with it being still improbable that it will achieve a workable majority that could survive the five years of the next Assembly term.

All of which takes us back to the coalition debate. A joker in the pack here could be the Green Party. If they were to gain a List seat, say in South Wales Central where their Welsh leader Jake Griffiths is standing, that might tip Labour into an overall majority of seats.

However, Labour’s Carwyn Jones is unlikely to be satisfied with a such a tiny majority that that implies. To really read the future from the perspective of the second week of campaigning, go to the Manifestos. All have now been launched, with the latest by the Welsh Conservatives this afternoon. We shall be providing a detailed policy analysis of their contents, comparing one with another, in the coming week, showing where the potential alignments occur. However, a first glance suggests that there will be plenty for the parties to agree about if, as seems increasingly likely, they are forced to chew over a coalition deal after 5 May.

In particular, both the Labour and Conservative Manifestos are more detailed and serious electoral statements than either party have produced for Wales ever before.  This is another expression of the devolution dividend. And it is a fascinating exercise to see where policy ideas are coalescing. For instance, all parties are now signed up to electrification of the Valleys railway network to produce the kind of metro light rail system that the IWA called for in its report A Metro for Wales’ Capital City region earlier this year.

But a quick glance at today’s Conservative manifesto reveals some cultural and constitutional eye catching ideas, that leap out of the page in the direction of Plaid Cymru. Welsh Conservatives now want to:

“Work towards one million Welsh speakers by 2031 and 1.5 million by 2051 in a truly bilingual Wales.”

Conservatives also want to move forward on the constitutional front in ways that Welsh Labour are either silent or much more reticent about. For example, “Welsh Conservatives believe that the legal jurisdiction needs to be made more distinct and partly accountable to the National Assembly”. So if was in office the party would:

“Publish a White Paper on the legal jurisdiction of Wales.”

Labour’s manifesto, published yesterday, commits to, “Continue to press the UK Government for reform of the Barnett Formula to ensure farer funding for Wales”. However, Labour immediately adds, “We will not seek powers to vary income tax.” Compare that with today’s Welsh Conservative commitment to:

“Work with the UK government to take forward discussions on all aspects of the Holtham reports on fair and accountable funding for Wales, including taxation.”

I fancy a few bargaining chips are being proffered towards Plaid Cymru here.

Yougov ITV poll: Constituency vote

Poll/date Labour Con Plaid Lib Dem Others
May 2007

Election

32

22

22

15

8

ITV Yougov

Jan 2011

45

21

21

7

6

ITV Yougov

4-8 March

48

20

19

7

7

ITV Yougov

28-30 March

47

21

17

8

6

Mmg:Clarity

W Mail

4-5 April

50.8

20.3

16.7

7.6

4.6

ITV Yougov

12-14 April

49

20

17

8

6

Yougov ITV poll: Regional List vote

Poll/date Labour Con Plaid Lib Dem Others
May 2007

Election

30

22

21

12

8

ITV Yougov

Jan 2011

41

20

21

8

4

ITV Yougov

4-8 March

45

20

18

5

2

ITV Yougov

28-30 March

45

20

16

8

2

ITV Yougov

12-14 April

44

20

18

8

4

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John Osmond is Director of the IWA.

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