Briefing: ​Why you should be watching Wales

Of course there are plenty of interesting things about Wales, but one thing that’s particularly interesting right now is its voting patterns – a long-time Labour fortress (having been red since 1922) that voted Leave.

Wales sits on coal and was traditionally heavily industrialised. But in the modern post-mining, post-industrial setting, it has many of the sort of areas that have been sliding away from Labour for some time (just as in similar places in England) and which the parties on the right will be watching closely.

As such, what happens there (such as the all-out local elections four months from today) isn’t just important in its own right, but matters in a wider context too. And happily, a Welsh voting intention poll is imminent, by YouGov for ITV Wales and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre (whose Roger Scully reviewed 2016 in Wales – it’s well worth reading).

The previous instalment in September had a Labour lead of 6, compared to 9.7 points at the 2015 election. YouGov’s GB polls have swung some more to the Conservatives since then, so the forthcoming poll could be even closer…

Chris Cook has had a look at the proposed new Westminster boundaries, and applied the Mackenzie version of the perimeter-versus-area gerrymandering test. He doesn’t find evidence of gerrymandering in the UK, which is what you’d expect given that UK boundaries are drawn by the four independent boundary commissions.

Unfortunately in UK political parlance the word gerrymander (the correct meaning of which is clearly illustrated in Chris’s piece) seems to have been appropriated to mean just about anything objectionable. You could say the word itself has been gerrymandered.

What the government is actually being accused of is malapportionment in respect of the electoral register – I dealt with that here.

The Lib Dems are getting more and more attention following their more positive recent numbers. Jessica Elgot found them feeling very positive in the South West. The thing I like about Jessica’s stuff is that she often actually draws on analysis, including in this case quite a bit from Glen O’Hara at Oxford Brookes

Separately Alistair Carmichael, following on from the Fabian paper discussed yesterday, has used a Telegraph piece to warn of the dangers of the Conservatives being in power for a generation and encouraged Labour moderates to “break away”. I don’t think there’s a surer way to keep the Conservatives in power for a generation than for Labour moderates to break away (see my thoughts on how that could give the Tories a 200-seat majority) but the other types of informal Lib-Lab co-operation he alludes to might be more fruitful (if politically tricky).

And finally, former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers has warned on the security of electronic voting. I’ve always thought that a reasonable compromise between security and efficiency would be to have paper votes, but electronically scanned and sorted. Fast, and with the fallback option of a manual recount if there is any doubt.

Enjoy your PMQs-free Wednesday!

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