Election 2017: The Key Welsh Seats


Most of this work was done before the latest Welsh poll, which suggests that – as I said a few weeks ago – we could be in for a very boring night in Wales on June 8th.


There’ll inevitably be more twists and turns before then – and the result will probably be closer than the polls suggest – but now’s the time to look at the key seats in Wales.


Just to underline just how dramatically the political map of Wales was/is expected to change, constituencies whose names are rarely mentioned as changing hands are now in play alongside some of the more permanently marginal seats – probably because of the expected sharp decline in the UKIP vote as they jump to the Conservatives.

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by party; incumbent MPs are in italics.

Brecon & Radnor

 

  • Chris Davies (Con)
  • Dan Lodge (Lab)
  • Cllr. James Gibson-Watt (Lib Dem)
  • Kate Heneghan (Plaid)
  • Peter Gilbert (UKIP)


The modern history of this massive constituency has seen it jump between the Conservatives and Lib Dems. The Conservatives, after more then 20 years of trying, finally re-took the seat in 2015. The strength of the Tory vote here will probably help determine whether they’re going to have an OK night, a good night or a great night.

As it’s the seat of Kirsty Williams AM (who managed to hold it in the Assembly elections last year), it’s going to be high up the list of Lib Dem targets. It had previously been hinted that Kirsty was looking to swap Cardiff for Westminster, but after becoming Education Secretary that idea’s kaput.

Maybe if she didn’t have that tying her down she would’ve run and probably could’ve won. The Lib Dems have a big mountain to climb, regardless.

Bridgend

 

  • Karen Robson (Con)
  • Cllr. Isabel Robson (Ind)
  • Madeline Moon (Lab)
  • Jonathan Pratt (Lib Dem)
  • Rhys Watkins (Plaid)
  • Alun Williams (UKIP)


I’ll have more on this in the next few fortnight (obviously), but this is probably the Conservative’s best chance of taking Bridgend in a long time.

The Tories won Bridgend after the seat was created in 1983, though they lost it in 1987 with Labour retaining it ever since. Labour have slowly lost their grip on the seat, with their vote share declining to the point where Madeline Moon’s majority was under 2,000 votes in 2015. If, as expected, a large proportion of those who voted UKIP last time around jump to the Conservatives it should be a relatively easy gain for the Tories – easier said than done, for a marginal seat the campaign has been pretty poor generally.

Cardiff Central

 

  • Gregory Stafford (Con)
  • Ben Smith (Green)
  • Jo Stephens (Lab)
  • Eluned Parrott (Lib Dem)
  • Cllr. Mark Hooper (Plaid)
  • Mohammed Sarul Islam (UKIP)


Since the 1990s the seat has traditionally been a Labour-Lib Dem marginal, with the Lib Dems eventually taking it in 2005 and holding it for two terms – probably due to the large student vote.

That student vote has since come back to haunt the Lib Dems, but they’ll be working hard to get the seat back, hoping that Cardiff’s strong Remain vote and party’s pro-EU stance will bolster them. After their (somewhat surprising) failure to retake the seat in the Assembly elections last year, combined with unexpectedly poor local election results in May, this may be an uphill struggle for them.

I can see Labour holding the seat by a slim margin because I don’t think the Lib Dem recovery’s quite there yet. Although the Conservatives have held the seat in the past, you wouldn’t expect the Conservatives to be in with a shot here, but they could see a big jump in their vote.

Delyn

 

  • Cllr. Matt Wright (Con)
  • David Hanson (Lab)
  • Tom Rippeth (Lib Dem)
  • Paul Rowlinson (Plaid)


David Hanson has represented Delyn since 1992, but that unbroken record’s now under serious threat, again because of the UKIP jump. The Tories finished under 3,000 votes behind in 2015, while UKIP picked up more than 6,000 votes. With UKIP not even standing, it’s highly likely most those votes are going to go straight to the Conservatives and hand them the seat.

Gower

 

  • Byron Davies (Con)
  • Tonia Antoniazzi (Lab)
  • Howard Evans (Lib Dem)
  • Jason Winstanley (Pirate)
  • Harri Roberts (Plaid)
  • Ross Ford (UKIP)


Won by just 27 votes in 2015, this Labour-Conservative marginal will probably be Labour’s best, if not only chance, of taking a seat from another party in Wales. Due to the tight margin, the campaign on the ground has reportedly been “dirty”; I always take claims like that with a pinch of salt, but to threaten a former police officer is beyond stupid.

The Conservative’s Byron Davies has established himself as a popular MP – even if he was an underwhelming AM – and I’d expect him to increase his majority (which won’t exactly be difficult), though recent polls hint that it’s going to be too close to call again.

Llanelli

 

  • Stephen Davies (Con)
  • Nia Griffith (Lab)
  • Rory Daniels (Lib Dem)
  • Mari Arthur (Plaid)
  • Ken Rees (UKIP)


In the Assembly it’s usually a very close race between Labour and Plaid, but at Westminster Labour have held the seat since 1922. Plaid have slipped back in the last few Westminster elections and after the strong showing Labour produced in Llanelli wards in the local elections, I would say the odds favour Nia Griffith – but there’s always the chance of an upset.

Newport West

 

  • Angela Jones-Evans (Con)
  • Pippa Bartolotti (Green)
  • Paul Flynn (Lab)
  • Sarah Lockyer (Lib Dem)
  • Morgan Bowler-Brown (Plaid)
  • Stan Edwards (UKIP)


Likely to be high up the list of Conservative target seats, but the Tories have done their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by imposing a candidate on the local party (as they did in Bridgend). You would think Paul Flynn has enough of a personal vote to hold on, but as an arch-Corbynite someone who’s featured on a Corbyn front bench, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Might be worth a flutter on a Tory gain, particularly if the result mirrors 1983 – but I suspect it’ll be very, very close Labour hold, which would be a good result for them.

Wrexham

 

  • Cllr. Andrew Atkinson (Con)
  • Ian Lucas (Lab)
  • Cllr. Carole O’Toole (Lib Dem)
  • Cllr. Carrie Harper (Plaid)


Has been Labour since 1929, but like other seats in north Wales the signs are looking ominous. Their majority is under 2,000 votes and the short running list (particularly the lack of a UKIP candidate) should place the advantage firmly in the Conservative’s court.

Ynys Môn

 

  • Tomos Davies (Con)
  • Albert Owen(Lab)
  • Sarah Jackson (Lib Dem)
  • Ieuan Wyn Jones (Plaid)
  • James Turner (UKIP)


Personality usually matters a lot in Anglesey elections, but incumbents have historically done well here with the Westminster seat failing to change hands from a sitting MP since 1951: advantage Albert.

Plaid were just 229 votes away from victory in 2015, but now former Deputy First Minister (and MP for the island) Ieuan Wyn Jones is seeking a front line political comeback. You’ve got to say he’s the favourite at the moment and based on internal party expectations and polling it would be a surprise if Plaid didn’t take the seat – but that wouldn’t be the first or last time Plaid failed to live up to expectations.

And it’s by no means a two-way fight. It’s actually a three-way fight due to the likely outcome of UKIP voters jumping en masse to the Conservatives. If the Tory vote holds up and at least 3/5thof 2015’s UKIP went their way, the Conservatives could take the seat.

Others to watch:

Blaenau Gwent – Although it’s a relatively safe Labour seat, the people of Blaenau Gwent have a recent history of being independently-minded when it comes to choosing their politicians. Independents took control of the council recently, while Nigel Copner’s very, very strong performance for Plaid Cymru in the Assembly election last year, which nearly caused an upset, will be looked to be built upon.

Neath
– An otherwise safe Labour seat, but Christina Rees has turned out to be an uninspiring MP and Shadow Welsh Secretary who’s probably been thrust onto front line politics before her time. I don’t think Labour will lose the seat, but Plaid did very well in Neath constituency wards in the local elections. It could be closer than many would otherwise expect.

Newport East – See Newport West. If 1983 is going to be the benchmark, then there’s a strong possibility Labour could lose both Newport seats to the Tories, though Jessica Morden has a larger majority than Paul Flynn.

Rhondda
– There was a lot of early speculation over whether Leanne Wood would run for the seat. In the end she said no, but it was wrong for her to entertain the idea as it’s not sending out the right message on the status of the Senedd. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem to hit the local election results earlier this month which were very strong for Plaid. Local elections aren’t Westminster elections and as glorious as it would be to see Chris Bryant booted out of Westminster, I don’t think Plaid should get their hopes up (….though I said the same thing last year).