The Welsh parliament elections next year are destined to be complicated by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic which could limit the traditional ground campaign; see a move towards increased postal voting and a near infinite number of variables on voter turnout.
The pandemic has proven that Welsh Government holds real power- it has the power to keep us under house arrest and to take away liberties as freely as it likes under the guise of public health. So this election is not the same protest vote election of old, but a cacophony of battles. The inevitable protest vote against the Westminster parties will again play its part as will perceptions of Welsh Government handling of coronavirus; opinions on the likes of Mark Drakeford whose recent PR campaign is a political gamble- as he risks pivoting from being unknown to being unliked. The latter is a far more worrying prospect than the former.
The delicate constitutional politics that has impacted Scotland in recent elections is likely to spill over into Wales for the first time, with three parties vying for the abolish vote, the Conservatives proposing a radical overhaul over business as usual, three parties seeking to abolish the very notion of Britain, the Labour Party representing the bland, boring status quo and the Liberal Democrats…well who knows.
However many of the issues above could all be a distraction- the truth is there is no tangible evidence that Wales’ electorate is any different to that of December 2019. The median Welsh voter is patriotic, Brexit-backing unionist of some shade, fairly socially conservative, economically interventionist, not dissimilar to that of England’s median voter. This is where the nationalists get it wrong- they see the median Welsh voter as this indy-loving, Celtic, EU flag waving liberal who might well be socialist. Welsh Labour is a distinctively Corbynite, pro-EU brand too. The Conservatives need to park their political tanks by the Welsh median voter, and is best-placed to form a manifesto to do so than the others.
The constituency vote could be a predictable affair, albeit again subject to the unpredictable levels of turnout. The regional list dynamic is where some serious political blood-letting could take place. Where does UKIP’s 2016 vote go? Is the UKIP-Brexit Party-Abolish bloc strong enough to win these second votes, and if so is that split going to be costly for the devosceptic parties? Can the Conservative agenda win back those UKIP 2016 votes?
On the Left, can the Welsh Greens take advantage of a Liberal Democrat movement in turmoil? Is it an election too soon for Gwlad or the Welsh National Party to start taking votes off of Plaid Cymru? Or can Welsh Labour consolidate its vote from 2016 and reverse some of the damage of 2019 and benefit from low Tory voter turnout?
With many candidates not yet selected across key seats across the political spectrum, local factors and dynamics may well also be an influence, but in national elections, parties are usually king. But a betting man would probably bank on Westminster politics probably having the biggest say over an election that has little to do with it. How that translates into votes and seats is anyone’s guess.