Whisky to woo voting wizard

Ever fancied playing Peter Snow for an evening? Politics and computer experts at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, have devised an online "swingometer" that allows people to do just that.

Academics at the university's Institute of Welsh Politics have placed a computer program on the internet that will predict which seats will be gained and lost in Wales under certain pre-determined conditions.

Working on the basis of a uniform swing, which has proved a reasonably accurate formula in Wales in the past, the election model will forecast the political landscape of Wales after each of the four main parties are given a certain share of the vote.

Other variables, such as the percentage turnout of voters for each of the parties, can be added to adjust the outcome.

To make it more interesting, the institute has launched a competition inviting people to enter their own predictions on vote shares and turnouts.

The person whose forecast proves to be closest to the actual result will win three bottles of spirits from the Welsh Whisky Company.

Dafydd Trystan, institute director, described the model as "hours of fun for the political anorak".

He said: "It is a model designed for anyone interested in Welsh politics. You can make an informed guess using data we provide or you can make a wild guess."

So far, about 1,000 people have had a go - among them a notable number of parliamentary candidates. Conservative supporters have also been keen to play.

"If they win the competition but the Conservatives lose the election, at least they'll have something to drown their sorrows with," Dr Trystan said.

Predictions should be emailed to: sgc.iwp@aber.ac.uk

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