Spotlight on… Wales
Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. This week, Wales.
Wales will be a crucial battleground on Thursday, with a clutch of key Tory-Labour marginals in play and both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats hoping to break through in more Remain-orientated constituencies. The story of the Conservative comeback in Wales is longer and more plodding than that of Scotland but nonetheless is important to understanding the Tories’ return to being an election winning prospect. In 1997, the Conservative Party won no seats whatsoever in Wales, while in 2017 that had gone up to eight. Not a meteoric increase but a significant one when you consider the knife edge result of that election. If the Tories want to get a majority they will need to at the very least protect those seats – ideally, they need to win another three or four.
But Wales is not a Labour-Tory region. Also in play are Plaid (the ‘Party of Wales’) which is pro-Welsh independence and anti-Brexit. Their new leader, Adam Price, is impressive and has had a surefooted campaign. The Lib Dems have also traditionally picked up the odd Welsh seat and they have entered into a ‘Remain Alliance’ with Plaid in some seats, giving each party a free run against incumbent Labour or Tory MPs. The only place where this is likely to make a significant offensive difference (in that a seat may be won, as opposed to defended successfully, because of the pact) is in Ynys Mon, where Plaid are in with a chance of picking up another seat.
2017 Results – Wales
|Party||Seats (change)||2017 vote share||Share change||2017 votes|
|Lib Dems||0 (-1)||4.5%||-2.0||71,000|
|Plaid Cymru||4 (+1)||10.4%||-1.7||164,000|
2019 Projected vote shares
The Conservative Party has caught up with Labour in Welsh polling and this is one region where it does seem as though the ‘get Brexit done’ argument has really resonated with traditional Labour, Leave-inclined voters. YouGov regional polling has the Tories just behind Labour (28% to 29%) which represents a potential collapse in Labour support in Wales. The Lib Dems and Plaid look tied at 12% – an improvement for both parties if they manage to score that on election day.
What does it mean?
As things stand, Welsh Labour are projected – like their comrades in Scotland – to achieve their worst result in one hundred years. That being said, they are very unlikely to see a wipeout in terms of seats in the way that Scottish Labour fears (and has experienced in the recent past). If the Tories don’t pick up at least another three or four seats in Wales, then they are in real trouble.
Seats to watch out for on the night
Using the Lodestone Election Barometer, we have compiled a list of seats for each region that are ones to watch – i.e. particularly marginal or particularly telling about the overall direction of travel on election night. Below are our top picks for Wales.
Ceredigion, Ben Lake
- Total votes cast in 2017: 39,767
- Majority: 104
Ceredigion will be a great measure of how well the Lib Dem campaign has gone – in 2017 Plaid unseated Lib Dem MP Mark Williams by a tiny margin of just 0.3% of the vote. The Lib Dems had been confident of winning back this Remain-leaning seat at the outset of the campaign but recent polling suggests Plaid may hang on. That would be a difficult result for Jo Swinson and would indicate big weaknesses in the Lib Dem approach to this election.
Delyn, David Hanson
- Total votes cast in 2017: 39,418
- Majority: 4,240
David Hanson has been the Labour MP in Delyn since 1992 and was re-elected in the 2017 General Election with a solid 10.8% majority. The constituency narrowly voted to leave in 2016 and in the three years that followed the Tories have targeted Delyn with a strong ‘Leave’ message. The polls are calling this one a ‘toss-up’, which in itself is very bad news for Welsh Labour. If this is a Tory gain on election night, it has gone very wrong for Corbyn’s party in Wales.
Ynys Mon, Albert Owen (standing down at this election)
- Total votes cast in 2017: 37,367
- Majority: 5,259
Ynys Mon is a fiercely independent constituency that has returned a mix of parties over the years and tends to vote on the basis of individual candidates and their campaigns.
Albert Owen, the Labour MP for Ynys Mon stood down at the beginning of this election campaign, having served the constituency for 18 years. His replacement, Mary Roberts has been a resident of Ynys Mon her entire life and praised the work her predecessor had done locally.
However, Labour’s apparent confusion and division regarding a policy on nuclear power may have gone down badly with constituents concerned about local employment in the area, despite their ‘Green New Deal’ promise of offshore energy.
Away from local issues, the constituency was divided over the issue of Europe in 2016, with 50.94% of voters choosing to leave the EU. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have stood aside in a Remain alliance in an attempt to help Plaid go on and secure the seat. How Plaid do will be a litmus test for whether party-led tactical voting pacts have had any effect.
Cardiff North, Anna McMorrin
- Total votes cast in 2017: 52,022
- Majority: 4,174
A traditional bell-weather seat, Cardiff North looks to be a very interesting seat on the night.
Anna McMorrin won this seat for Labour in 2017, but with a tight majority of 8%. The recent polls have Labour ahead in this Remain seat and it may be becoming less marginal. That being said, on any purely arithmetical analysis of where the Tories should be winning, Cardiff North would be high on the Welsh target list. One to watch to see how well Labour’s vote share is holding up in Remain constituencies.