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Decentralization: An Institutional Strategy of Appeasement
Unformatted Document Text:  18 Intermediate Threat (to Labour) in Wales Garnering an average of only 9.4% of the Welsh vote and 2.5 seats in each election from 1970 to 1997 (see Table 1), the Plaid Cymru (PC) was weaker than its Scottish counterpart. Its threat to the mainstream parties was likewise weaker than that of the SNP, but it was not negligible, specifically for the Labour Party. Data from the British Election Studies from 1974 to 1997 reveal that former Labour Party voters made up the largest percentage of new voters for the Plaid Cymru in any given election. 24 These findings based on admittedly small samples are supported by data from other, more in-depth studies. For instance, the Welsh Election Study of 1979 reports that 20% of 1979 PC voters had supported Labour in the previous election. While this amounted to a loss of only 2.3% of Labour’s October 1974 electorate, the number of voters defecting from Labour to the ethnoterritorial party in 1979 was not matched by a return flow of former Plaid Cymru voters to the Labour Party. In addition, the 1979 survey showed “that considerable potential for more widespread nationalist [Plaid Cymru] support exists, especially among Labour partisans” (Balsom, Madgwick and van Mechelen 1983). Labour’s modest voter defection resulted in the loss of current and potential Westminster seats. In the February and October 1974 elections, the Plaid Cymru won Labour seats – two seats and one seat, respectively – due in part to the transfer of votes from the mainstream party. The ethnoterritorial party occasionally placed second in Labour’s marginally held seats, directly endangering the mainstream party’s hold of the districts. But the most extensive threat posed by the Plaid Cymru to the Labour Party occurred indirectly. In all but two elections between 1970 and 1997, the number of votes PC candidates received in at least one Conservative district 24 The one exception was the 1992 election where, according to the weighted BES sample, the SDP/Liberal Party was the only new party to contribute votes to the PC. Calculations from British Election Study, various years.

Authors: Meguid, Bonnie.
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18
Intermediate Threat (to Labour) in Wales
Garnering an average of only 9.4% of the
Welsh vote and 2.5 seats in each election from 1970 to 1997 (see Table 1), the Plaid Cymru (PC)
was weaker than its Scottish counterpart. Its threat to the mainstream parties was likewise
weaker than that of the SNP, but it was not negligible, specifically for the Labour Party. Data
from the British Election Studies from 1974 to 1997 reveal that former Labour Party voters made
up the largest percentage of new voters for the Plaid Cymru in any given election.
24
These
findings based on admittedly small samples are supported by data from other, more in-depth
studies. For instance, the Welsh Election Study of 1979 reports that 20% of 1979 PC voters had
supported Labour in the previous election. While this amounted to a loss of only 2.3% of
Labour’s October 1974 electorate, the number of voters defecting from Labour to the
ethnoterritorial party in 1979 was not matched by a return flow of former Plaid Cymru voters to
the Labour Party. In addition, the 1979 survey showed “that considerable potential for more
widespread nationalist [Plaid Cymru] support exists, especially among Labour partisans”
(Balsom, Madgwick and van Mechelen 1983).
Labour’s modest voter defection resulted in the loss of current and potential Westminster
seats. In the February and October 1974 elections, the Plaid Cymru won Labour seats – two
seats and one seat, respectively – due in part to the transfer of votes from the mainstream party.
The ethnoterritorial party occasionally placed second in Labour’s marginally held seats, directly
endangering the mainstream party’s hold of the districts. But the most extensive threat posed by
the Plaid Cymru to the Labour Party occurred indirectly. In all but two elections between 1970
and 1997, the number of votes PC candidates received in at least one Conservative district
24
The one exception was the 1992 election where, according to the weighted BES sample, the SDP/Liberal Party
was the only new party to contribute votes to the PC. Calculations from British Election Study, various years.


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