By Prof Roger Scully
Support for the Labour party in Wales has surged in the last two weeks, while the Conservative momentum in Wales appears to have gone into reverse.
These are the key messages to come out of the new Welsh Political Barometer poll, the very latest measure of where the parties stand in the general election battle.
The first two polls of this campaign showed clear Conservative party leads in Wales, and indicated that the Tories were on course for an historic electoral breakthrough.
Our new poll once again asked people how they would vote in the forthcoming general election. These are the voting intention figures that our poll produced (with changes on the last Barometer poll, conducted earlier this month, indicated in brackets):
Labour: 44% (+9)
Conservatives: 34% (-7)
Plaid Cymru: 9% (-2)
Liberal Democrats: 6% (-1)
UKIP: 5% (+1)
Others: 3% (+1)
The most important change from our previous poll is clearly the resurgence in Labour support. This is broadly in line with the Britain-wide polls, which have generally been showing a narrowing of the gap between the Conservatives and Labour in recent days. But the extent of the Labour rise, and Conservative fall, are rather greater in Wales, and are sufficient to put Labour back into a significant lead in Wales.
Meanwhile, as was seen in our previous poll, the smaller parties continue to be squeezed: Plaid Cymru are down two more points, and the Liberal Democrats a further one, on our last poll two weeks ago.
If we project these results onto Wales using the standard method of computing uniform national swings since the 2015 general election, then our latest poll implies the following overall result.
Our two previous polls had suggested the Conservatives to be on course to win a whole slew of seats from Labour. Things now look very different on these latest figures.
Only a single seat is now projected to change from the 2015 result – with Gower reverting to Labour, after being very narrowly gained by the Conservatives two years ago.
As with both our previous polls, Plaid and the Liberal Democrats are apparently on course to hold the seats they currently have, but to make no gains beyond these.
So what can we make of these latest findings?
While Labour have been making some progress in the Britain-wide polls, it is not on the scale of what we see here in Wales – where the party are fully fourteen points higher than they were in the first poll of the campaign.
We must always allow for the possibility that some polls produce ‘outlier’ estimates of the support for particular parties. But assuming that the findings in our new Welsh poll are correct, they may have been at least partially influenced by the timing of the poll – the fieldwork for which was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the death of Rhodri Morgan. It is possible that there may have been some short-term ‘sympathy’ boost for Labour.
Our new poll was also conducted in the aftermath of the ITV Welsh Leaders’ debate, while much of the fieldwork also occurred in the period after Thursday’s Britain-wide five-party televised debate.
Leanne Wood represented Plaid Cymru in these two events, while the Liberal Democrats and UKIP were also present in both. That the smaller parties continue to make no ground in the campaign will be very disappointing for them, and particularly in the aftermath of the television debates.
Thus far, at least, these debates and the public platform they have provided, do not appear to have given any sort of ‘bounce’ to the smaller parties.
While short-term factors may account for some of what we see in this latest Barometer poll, it does appear that after the extraordinary success of the Conservative party at the beginning of the election campaign, they are losing some ground to Labour.
At least for the moment, Labour seem to be winning the campaign, if not the election as a whole. That is particularly true in Wales. The recent local elections showed the resilience of the Welsh Labour party. A party does not dominate the politics of a nation for nearly a century, as Labour have done in Wales, simply by accident.
Challenged strongly by the Conservatives in this election, Labour seem to be fighting back strongly. There are more than two weeks of campaigning to go, and all to play for. And Labour are still very much in the game.
The poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, had a sample of 1025 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 18-21 May 2017.