Archive for Neil McEvoy


Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , , on May 7, 2011 by telescoper

Well chaps and chapesses, I’m back to base after a very enjoyable break in foreign climes. I won’t bore you with interminable holiday snaps and the like, however. Suffice to say that, although it was good to get away from it all for a bit, it’s also nice to be back to Blighty. I’ve got quite a few things to catch up with on at home, at work, and on the blog, and I’ll try to return to fairly frequent postings now that I’m home.

I thought I’d start with one of the big events that happened while I was away. Not the Royal Wedding, which I successfully avoided completely although I only narrowly escaped seeing some of it on an outdoor  big screen (which I had assumed would be showing some form of sporting contest). Not the killing of Osama Bin Laden, either. Nor even the AV referendum, which went the way I expected. No, I think the first thing I should comment on is the result of the elections to the National  Assembly for Wales which I followed, as best I could, by Twitter and on the net via my Blackberry while I was away. I wasn’t helped by the fact that North Wales decided not even to start counting votes until the morning after Polling Day, thus holding up the final results by half a day. Perhaps that’s because the count was done in Llandudnno, where people generally go to bed about 10pm?

This was the first Senedd election I have had the opportunity to vote in, even though I had to do it postally. For the Welsh Assembly elections, each voter gets two votes. One is cast just as in a General Election, i.e. by picking one candidate for one’s own consituency – in my case Cardiff West. This is a safe Labour seat, previously held by former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and it was no surprise to see the Labour candidate romp home with an increased majority. Of the 60 members of the Welsh Assembly, 40 are elected directly through constituency votes like this.

Incidentally, one of the other candidates in this constituency was Neil McEvoy, standing for Plaid Cymru. McEvoy is currently deputy leader of Cardiff City Council (which is run by a coalition of LibDems and Plaid Cymru councillors) and is an enthusiastic champion of the building of a major road into Bute Park for use by heavy lorries. It might have been better for the people of Cardiff – especially those who appreciate its wonderful green spaces – had Councillor McEvoy been elevated to the Senedd, because that would prevent him doing further damage on behalf of the Council. In the end, though, he trailed in third place in the Welsh Assembly poll so will presumably remain on the Council.

Meanwhile, back at the polls. Voters in the Welsh Assembly elections get another regional vote in addition to their constituency vote, which they can cast for a  closed party list. There are 5 regions in Wales, each of which elects 4 members to the Assembly taking its full complement to 60. The so-called Additional Member system uses the d’Hondt divisor formula to allocate regional AMs in accordance with the following algorithm:

  1. Party list votes are totalled from each of the constituencies making up the region.
  2. These totals are then divided by the number of constituency seats each party has won – plus one.
  3. The party with the highest resulting total elects one Additional Member.
  4. That party’s divisor is then increased by one (because of its victory)
  5.  Step 2 is repeated with the updated number of seats.; again, the highest resulting total wins a seat.
  6. The process is then repeated until all Additional Members are elected.

The aim of the system is to compensate parties which pile up lots votes in constituencies but fail to win many seats there. Under the d’Hondt system, they are much more likely to gain additional regional members. Conversely, parties which do well in constituency elections will do less well in the top-up seats. The idea is that the final outcome is much more proportional than it would be based on constituency votes alone. It’s not perfect, of course. Welsh Labour won precisely 50% of the seats in the Senedd, but with considerably less than 50% of the popular vote.

This system probably sounds quite complicated – especially considering the difficulty many people seem to have had understanding the Alternative Vote, which is much simpler! – but it is actually fairly straightforward to operate. It does, however produce a few unexpected consequences.

In the 2011 Welsh Assembly elections the constituency vote held up very well for the Conservative Party. This was probably helped by a relatively low turnout of just over 40%, because ensuring the core Tory voters turned out for the poll was probably all the campaign strategists needed to do. However, the unexpected success of the Conservatives in the constituency vote led to one notable casualty when the additional members were calculated. The Conservative leader in the Welsh Assembly, a regional member, Nick Bourne, found himself a victim of the party’s own success: he lost his seat, and the Tories now need a new leader.

In summary, Welsh Labour did pretty well, returning 30 out of the total of 60 Assembly Members, up 4 on the last election. The Conservatives, somewhat surprisingly, were up 2 on 14. It was a bad night for Plaid Cymru, who lost four members to end on 11. The Liberal Democrats did poorly in the constituency vote, losing all but one of their seats, but picked up 4 regional members courtesy of d’Hondt. No other parties won any seats.

What happens next? Labour could try to form a minority administration on their own, but it seems more likely that they will try to find a coalition partner. The previous administration involved a combination of Labour and Plaid Cymru, but the latter did so badly in these elections that they may decide that they don’t want to play anymore. That would make the LibDems favourites, although they might be considered a bit toxic after their poor showing elsewhere in the UK. We’ll just have to wait and see what emerges from the discussions (which have presumably already started). I’ll be following it all with particular interest because, amongst other things, there might be important implications for Higher Education in Wales if Labour go it alone or the LibDems replace Plaid in the governing coalition.

There were, of course, elections going on last week throughout the United Kingdom. I haven’t got time to comment on all the results, but fortunately I found this interesting and informative summary of the situation Nationwide