With the general election now just over half a year away, with the SNP in the process of selecting PPCs, and with PPC selections in Northern Irish constituencies well under way, it is time to look at predictions for nationalist parties in the UK (SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Sinn Fein, and Mebyon Kernow) and their best shots at gains next year.
Five best shots for the SNP (okay, on current polling, the SNP will win a lot more than 5 extra seats, but these seats should be no problem for them):
1. Gordon (odds of SNP win 8/13): A lot of seats in which the SNP are second place are held by Labour-Gordon is a clear exception and in fact has very poor prospects for Labour. There has been speculation recently that SNP leader, Alex Salmond, plans a return to Westminster, and Gordon includes Alex's Scottish Parliament seat of Aberdeenshire East (the Westminster equivalent was merged into Gordon in 1983). With its long-serving Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce retiring, an SNP gain looks likely.
2. Dundee West (odds of SNP win 6/4): The SNP already hold Dundee East, and even the less nationalist seat of Dundee West holds good prospects for the SNP thanks to Dundee council area overall giving a 'Yes' vote last month. A 10% swing is needed, but with Labour having betrayed so many Scottish voters by siding with the ConDems in the successful 'No' campaign, and with Scottish Labour in a bit of disarray, the SNP can win here if they try.
3. Argyll & Bute (odds of SNP win 11/10): When this seat was just Argyll before 1983, the SNP briefly gained an MP. Although the SNP only polled fourth here in 2010, it was good fourth as they were only 5,700 votes behind current Lib Dem MP Alan Reid in a competitive four-way contest, so the SNP have one of their best chances here. Both the Lib Dems and Conservatives are polling poorly in Scotland (the Lib Dems especially so!) and Labour do not have a strong enough local base in this rural constituency to actually win.
4. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey (odds of SNP win 5/4): This seat is notoriously held by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. It would be a very nice (electoral) scalp if the SNP won this seat, even though Danny polled more than twice as many votes as SNP candidate John Finnie did in 2010. If the SNP can get Labour voters to tactically support the SNP in this often-competitive seat, a narrow if notable win is possible.
5. Ochil & South Perthshire (odds of SNP win not known at this time): On paper, this is the SNP's top target, and Labour currently holds this seat. It also includes Clackmannanshire, where there will undoubtedly be a significant Lab-SNP swing which will also occur in Glasgow, Dundee, and many traditional Labour strongholds in Lanarkshire.
Five best shots for Plaid Cymru:
1. Arfon (odds of Plaid Cymru hold 5/6): The old seat of Caernarfon ,which was replaced by Arfon in 2010, was actually safe for Plaid Cymru. However, Labour is more competitive in Arfon, which was actually a notional gain by Plaid Cymru from Labour. Its current MP, Hywel Williams, is nevertheless actually a decent MP who unlike most Labour MPs sides with the real opposition in the House of Commons (i.e. Green MP Caroline Lucas plus all MPs from SNP/PC, and Respect MP George Galloway when he can be bothered to show up).
2. Ceredigion (odds of Plaid Cymru win 7/4): Plaid Cymru held this seat from 1992 to 2005, but had a significant swing from them to the Lib Dems in 2010. I hope they can win it back, though. The student electorate will recognise that Plaid Cymru do actually present a real difference to the LibLabCons, and neither Labour nor the Conservatives are in play here at all. It may be wise for Wales Green Party to back Plaid's PPC, Mike Parker, for tactical reasons, despite our good potential.
3. Ynys Mon (good chance of Plaid Cymru win): This is Plaid's top target to win (from Labour), and in a by-election for the equivalent Welsh Assembly seat last year they increased their hold decisively over Labour. Meanwhile, this is the worst seat for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and UKIP will undermine the Conservatives significantly-this is one of a handful of Welsh seats where UKIP can poll respectably.
4. Aberconwy (odds of Plaid win 20/1): This is actually quite competitive, and Guto Bebb, this seat's Conservative MP, has not exactly done himself any favours, especially with that debacle with one of his constituents! Plaid Cymru may have come fourth here in 2010 but they are not far behind the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, or Labour-and the Lib Dem protest vote may end up going to Plaid.
5. Llanelli (at least an outside chance of a Plaid Cymru win): Labour have held Llanelli continuously since 1922, but Plaid Cymru are in a strong second place here. They have also on two occasions won the equivalent Welsh Assembly seat; they only lost that in 2011 by 80 votes, and because of an Independent candidate which split the Plaid vote. With the right candidate, and some help from tactical voting, Plaid can just about win Llanelli.
As for nationalists in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein could potentially win Belfast North next year, extinguish the unionist presence in Belfast at a Westminster level, and ensure that the nationalists, not the unionists, have a majority of Northern Irish Westminster seats for the very first time (they currently have 8, the unionists have 9, and the Alliance Party has 1). I of course support the Green Party in all of Britain, but we sadly cannot win everywhere. In Scotland, our best chances will be where the SNP is not able to gain sufficient traction to win (e.g. in Edinburgh; the Scottish Green Party saved their only deposit in Edinburgh East back in 2010), and in Wales we have generally contested seats where Plaid Cymru is not in contention (e.g. in Cardiff). Meanwhile, it would currently take a miracle for Mebyon Kernow to elect an MP, especially as it is clear that the 2005 MK-Green pact in Cornwall will not be repeated this year (it was not in 2010 either).