The Brexit Election Battleground: Wales

The Brexit Election Battleground: Wales

At the 1997 general election, the Conservatives were wiped out in terms of parliamentary seats in both Wales and Scotland. But unlike Scotland, where the Conservative recovery only began in earnest at last year’s Scottish Parliament elections, the Welsh Tories have made steady advances over the last twenty years, including in 2009 scoring an historic first by topping the poll at that year’s European election in Wales – the first time since 1918 when Labour had failed to win a Welsh election.

At the 2015 general election, Labour won 25 of the 40 seats here, while the Tories gained three, taking their tally to 11, while the Lib Dems lost two of the three seats they were defending. Meanwhile the Welsh nationalists, Plaid Cymru, held their three seats. UKIP came third in terms of the popular vote, ahead of Plaid and the Lib Dems, but being so evenly spread, the party was nowhere near winning any seats. UKIP did, however, gain its first seats in the Welsh Assembly election last year under the PR system used for that election.

At the referendum, it was not insignificant that Wales voted to Leave the EU, by 52.5% to 47.5%, not far off the UK-wide average. This was important as it has enabled Brexiteers to avoid the accusation that Brexit was a mere narrow English interest and has posed a problem for the Welsh political establishment in Labour and Plaid about how to deal with Brexit, while it has given a strong voice to Welsh Tory leader and vocal Brexiteer, Andrew RT Davies, who has written occasionally for BrexitCentral.

Some polling in the earlier stages of this campaign suggested there could be a further Tory surge that could even give the Tories a majority of the seats in Wales. While more recent polling suggests such a prospect now to be more distant, seven Labour seats could fall to the Conservatives on a swing of less than 5%. The fact that UKIP is continuing to put up a candidate in most of those seats could be a source of frustration to the Tories (they are in fact contesting 32 of the 42 seats here), although the drop in UKIP’s overall poll ratings could be a fillip to those donning blue rosettes.

Well-known Brexiteers standing in the region
David Davies (Con, Monmouth)
David Jones (Con, Clwyd West)

MPs seeking re-election who voted against triggering Article 50
Madeleine Moon (Lab, Bridgend)
Mark Williams (Lib Dem, Ceredigion)
Jo Stevens (Lab, Cardiff Central)
Hywel Williams (Plaid Cyrmu, Arfon)
Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cyrmu, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr)
Kevin Brennan (Lab, Cardiff West)
Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff South and Penarth)
Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd)
Geraint Davies (Lab, Swansea West)
Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda)
Owen Smith (Lab, Pontypridd)
Ann Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley)

KEY SEATS TO WATCH

Alyn and Deeside (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 58.1%)
Con: Laura Knightly
Lab: Mark Tami (sitting MP)
LD: Pete Williams
PC: Jacqui Hurst
UKIP: David Griffiths
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 16,540 (40.03%) – Maj 3,343 (8.09%)
Con: 13,197 (31.94%)
UKIP: 7,260 (17.57%)
LD: 1,733 (4.19%)
PC: 1,608 (3.89%)
Green: 976 (2.36%)

At the last couple of Westminster elections, Labour have held this seat with a majority of around 3,000 votes, although UKIP came third in 2015 with more than 7,000 votes. If the Tories can win the support of a sizeable proportion of those Brexit-backing voters, Labour could lose this seat for the first time since its creation in 1983.

Brecon and Radnorshire (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 51.9%)
Con: Chris Davies
Lab: Dan Lodge
LD: James Gibson-Watt
PC: Kate Heneghan
UKIP: Peter Gilbert
Green: No candidate

2015:
Con: 16,453 (41.06%) – Maj: 5,102 (12.73%)
LD: 11,351 (28.33%)
Lab: 5,904 (14.73%)
UKIP: 3,338 (8.33%)
PC: 1,767 (4.41%)
Green: 1,261 (3.15%)

On paper, this is the Lib Dems’ top target seat in Wales at this election and would fall to them on a swing of 6.4%. However, current polling suggests that Brexit-backing Tory MP Chris Davies ought to expect hold the seat he gained in 2015 and make a return to Westminster.

Bridgend (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 50.3%)
Con: Karen Robson
Lab: Madeleine Moon
LD: Jonathan Pratt
PC: Rhys Watkins
UKIP: Alun Williams
Green: No candidate
Ind: Isabel Robson

2015:
Lab: 14,624 (37.07%) – Maj: 1,927 (4.88%)
Con: 12,697 (32.18%)
UKIP: 5,911 (14.98%)
PC: 2,784 (7.06%)
LD: 1,648 (4.18%)
Ind: 763 (1.93%)
Green: 736 (1.87%
TUSC: 118 (0.30%)
Pirate: 106 (0.27%)
NF: 66 (0.17%)

Bridgend was briefly represented in Parliament by a Conservative after the 1983 landslide but sitting Labour MP Madeleine Moon – who actively opposed the triggering of Article 50 – looks extremely vulnerable now. It’s the Tories top target in Wales and if their candidate Karen Robson can eat into the pile of nearly 6,000 votes that UKIP won in 2015, she could yet win the day – which would be embarrassing for Labour’s First Minister in Wales who represents the equivalent seat in the Welsh Assembly.

Cardiff Central (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 32.0%)
Con: Gregory Stafford
Lab: Jo Stevens (sitting MP)
LD: Eluned Parrott
PC: Mark Hooper
UKIP: Sarul-Islam Mohammed
Green: Benjamin Smith

2015:
Lab: 15,462 (40.01%) – Maj: 4,981 (12.89%)
LD: 10,481 (27.12%)
Con: 5,674 (14.68%)
UKIP: 2,499 (6.47%)
Green: 2,461 (6.37%)
PC: 1,925 (4.98%)
TUSC: 110 (0.28%)
Ind: 34 (0.09%)

The Lib Dems held this seat between 2005 and 2015, having come mightily close in 2001. Sitting Labour MP Jo Stevens was appointed shadow solicitor general within eight months of entering Parliament and found herself as Shadow Welsh Secretary by October 2016 – although she quit after just three months in order to oppose the triggering of Article 50, representing as she does the seat with the biggest Remain vote in Wales. It remains to be seen whether or not this will aid her attempt to resist any Lib Dem resurgence.

Cardiff North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 39.2%)
Con: Craig Williams (sitting MP)
Lab: Anna McMorrin
LD: Matthew Hemsley
PC: Steffan Webb
UKIP: Gary Oldfield
Green: No candidate

2015:
Con: 21,709 (42.44%) – Maj: 2,137 (4.18%)
Lab: 19,572 (38.26%)
UKIP: 3,953 (7.73%)
PC: 2,301 (4.50%)
LD: 1,953 (3.82%)
Green: 1,254 (2.45%)
Ch P: 331 (0.65%)
Change: 78 (0.15%)

In the third most Remain-backing constituency in Wales, sitting Tory MP Craig Williams voted in line with the majority of his constituents at the referendum but has since embraced the delivery of Brexit. The seat has seen small majorities for both Labour and the Tories at various points over the last decade or so and Williams will be seeking to tap into the UKIP vote of nearly 4,000 in order to secure his berth for another term.

Clwyd South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 59.9%)
Con: Simon Baynes
Lab: Susan Elan Jones (sitting MP)
LD: Bruce Roberts
PC: Christopher Allen
UKIP: Jeanette Bassford-Barton
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 13,051 (37.22%) – Maj: 2,402 (6.85%)
Con: 10,649 (30.37%)
UKIP: 5,480 (15.63%)
PC: 3,620 (10.32%)
LD: 1,349 (3.85%)
Green: 915 (2.61%)

It is here that Boris Johnson fought his first parliamentary seat in 1997, memorably reporting that “I fought Clwyd South and Clwyd South fought back” as he went down to a Labour majority of nearly 14,000. Despite only minor boundary changes since, that Labour majority has dwindled to less than 2,500 and the Tories seem to have a realistic chance of taking the seat. The fact that UKIP won nearly 5,500 votes last time in an area where six in ten people went on to vote Leave at the referendum suggests that Simon Baynes might yet succeed where the current Foreign Secretary failed.

Delyn (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 54.4%)
Con: Matt Wright
Lab: David Hanson (sitting MP)
LD: Tom Rippeth
PC: Paul Rowlinson
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 15,187 (40.55%) – Maj 2,930 (7.82%)
C: 12,257 (32.72%)
UKIP: 6,150 (16.42%)
PC: 1,803 (4.81%)
LD: 1,380 (3.68%)
Green: 680 (1.82%)

Another North Wales seat which last time saw a hefty UKIP vote of more than 6,000 into which the Tories will be wanting to tap – and helped by the fact that UKIP are not even contesting the seat this time. Labour’s David Hanson has fought the seat at every general election for thirty years, gaining it from the Tories in 1992, but he is certainly under pressure now.

Gower (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 49.3%)
Con: Byron Davies (sitting MP)
Lab: Tonia Antoniazzi
LD: Howard Evans
PC: Harri Roberts
UKIP: Ross Ford
Green: No candidate
Pirate: Jason Winstanley

2015:
Con: 15,862 (37.10%) – Maj: 27 (0.06%)
Lab: 15,835 (37.03%)
UKIP: 4,773 (11.16%)
PC: 3,051 (7.14%)
LD: 1,552 (3.63%)
Green: 1,161 (2.72%)
Loony: 253 (0.59%)
Ind: 168 (0.39%)
TUSC: 103 (0.24%)

Former policeman and ex-Welsh Assembly Member Byron Davies pulled off one of the historic results of election night in 2015 when he gained Gower for the Conservatives – the first time the seat was ever won by a Tory and ending more than 100 years of continuous representation by the Labour Party. It split almost 50-50 at the EU referendum and despite backing Remain, Davies may well hope now to tap into the not inconsiderable UKIP vote to consolidate his hold on the seat.

Newport West (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 53.7%)
Con: Angela Jones-Evans
Lab: Paul Flynn (sitting MP)
LD: Sarah Lockyer
PC: Morgan Bowler-Brown
UKIP: Stan Edwards
Green: Pippa Bartolotti

2015
Lab: 16,633 (41.22%) – Maj: 3,510 (8.70%)
Con: 13,123 (32.53%)
UKIP: 6,134 (15.20%)
PC: 1,604 (3.98%)
LD: 1,581 (3.92%)
Green: 1,272 (3.15%)

Paul Flynn, the Labour MP here since 1987, made history last year as he reputedly became, at 81, the oldest ever member of a shadow cabinet when Jeremy Corbyn made him Shadow Welsh Secretary and Shadow Commons Leader after mass resignations from the Labour frontbench. His hold on the seat today is somewhat precarious, with UKIP having bagged over 15% of the vote in 2015 and a majority voting Leave here at the EU referendum.

Vale of Clwyd (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 56.6%)
Con: James Davies (sitting MP)
Lab: Chris Ruane
LD: Gwyn Williams
PC: David Wyatt
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

2015:
Con: 13,760 (39.02%) – Maj: 237 (0.67%)
Lab: 13,523 (38.35%)
UKIP: 4,577 (12.98%)
PC: 2,486 (7.05%)
LD: 915 (2.59%)

Brexit-backing James Davies won Vale of Clwyd for the Tories in 2015, ending Labour MP Chris Ruane’s 18-year hold on the seat. Ruane is back at this election to try and avenge his defeat, although this time there is no UKIP candidate on the ballot paper in a seat where the party won more than 4,500 votes at the last election. This surely ought to give Davies confidence of increasing his small majority.

Wrexham (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 57.6%)
Con: Andrew Atkinson
Lab: Ian Lucas (sitting MP)
LD: Carole O’Toole
PC: Carrie Harper
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 12,181 (37.23%) – Maj: 1,831 (5.60%)
Con: 10,350 (31.63%)
UKIP: 5,072 (15.50%)
PC: 2,501 (7.64%)
LD: 1,735 (5.30%)
Green: 669 (2.04%)
Ind: 211 (0.64%)

Wrexham is one of those seats which has never elected a Conservative MP but where that duck may be broken at this general election. Labour has retained the seat with increasingly small majorities over the last two decades and UKIP’s decision not to contest a seat where they won more than 5,000 votes in 2015 will surely give succour to Tory candidate Andrew Atkinson in an area where more than 57% of people voted Leave at the referendum. The seat is the Conservatives’ top target seat in North Wales.

Ynys Môn (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 50.9%)
Con: Tomos Davies
Lab: Albert Owen (sitting MP)
LD: Sarah Jackson
PC: leuan Wyn Jones
UKIP: James Turner
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 10,871 (31.13%) – Maj 229 (0.66%)
PC: 10,642 (30.47%)
C: 7,393 (21.17%)
UKIP: 5,121 (14.66%)
LD: 751 (2.15%)
Soc Lab: 148 (0.42%)

Otherwise known as the Isle of Anglesey, this seat is Labour’s most marginal seat in Wales and third most vulnerable in the UK. Yet as an island constituency with its own perspective on politics, over the last century it has been represented by all four major political traditions in Wales at various points. Ieuan Wyn Jones held the seat for Plaid Cymru between 1987 and 2001, at which point (by then also his party’s leader) he stepped down after winning the equivalent seat in the Welsh Assembly, which he held until he stood down in 2013 (serving as Deputy First Minister between 2007 and 2011). Since 2001 the Westminster seat has been held for Labour by Albert Owen, yet he now faces a very competitive contest to hold on as Ieuan Wyn Jones seeks to make a parliamentary comeback.

Estimated Leave votes by constituency have been calculated by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia

Photocredit: Richard Szwejkowski