While the national media has been fixated on what could happen in Scotland at the election, next to no attention has been paid to Wales. If the nationalists are on the march in the former, you’d expect there to be a degree of interest in whether they are doing likewise in the latter.
In reality, the reverse is true. I’ve seen almost nothing written about Wales in the national press, and very little about how Plaid Cymru is likely to do at the polls.
A lot of this could be to do with the fact that Plaid Cymru is expected to do very little at the polls. It currently has three seats. When I reviewed the state of play in Wales last August, I wrote that I expected Plaid to hold all its constituencies, but not to make any gains. I wonder now whether even this was optimistic.
ElectionForecast.co.uk currently suggests Plaid is most likely to win just one seat on 7 May, losing its two other seats to Labour. One of them, Arfon, is certainly high on Labour’s target list, and needs a swing of just 2.8% to change hands. Labour’s candidate is Alun Pugh, who was beaten in the seat by Plaid in 2010, and who is no doubt out for revenge.
The other vulnerable seat is Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, which Plaid has held since 2001 and which Labour needs a swing of 4.6% to win.
Clearly, Labour would love to pick up at least one of these seats. The party will be hoping to make as many gains as possible outside Scotland to offset the constituencies it is likely to lose to the SNP. It would be typical of the topsy-turvy nature of this election were Labour to lose ground to one nationalist party at the same time as winning ground at the expense of another.
An opinion poll carried out at the end of January on behalf of Cardiff University suggested a rather different story, however. The poll implied that only three seats in the whole of Wales might change hands – and none of them belonging to Plaid. It predicted that Labour would gain Cardiff North from the Tories and Cardiff Central from the Liberal Democrats, while the Tories would gain Brecon & Radnorshire from the Lib Dems.
Such an outcome would fit more with the likely pattern of voting in England than Scotland, with Labour making a limited advance against both the Tories and Lib Dems, the Tories picking off a number of Lib Dems, and not a great deal else changing.
Plaid would obviously relish a result that left their three seats intact. But it might leave them wondering why they received no boost whatsoever from the performance of their cousins in the SNP, despite all talk of a mutually-benefitting “progressive alliance” between the SNP, Plaid and the Greens.
Update: A brand new poll in Wales has broadly confirmed all of the above, though Roger Scully of Cardiff University has interpreted the figures as suggesting Labour may indeed gain Arfon while Plaid may take the Lib Dem seat of Ceredigion.