By Lowri Pitcher
Wales is divided into 40 constituencies of which 28 are held by Labour, 6 are held by the Conservative Party, 4 are represented by Plaid Cymru while one is represented by an Independent and another by the Liberal Democrats.
Of these, 17 constituencies have majorities of over 10,000 votes. This means that they are relatively ‘safe’ seats for the preceding MPs and are quite unlikely to change hands on December 12.
These seats include Cardiff West represented by Labour’s Kevin Brennan who won with a majority of 12,551 in 2017, as well as Stephen Doughty representing the Labour Party in Cardiff South and Penarth who won a 14,864 in 2017.
The Labour Party
The seat which gained the largest majority in Wales is Cardiff Central, the seat encompassing Cardiff University’s Cathays campus including the areas of Cathays and Roath. Labour’s Jo Stevens won with a majority of 17,196 during the last election and the seat has been Labour-held since 2015 when Labour took the seats from the Liberal Democrats who held the seat from 2005.
As well as the three seats mentioned above there are 14 other ‘safe’ seats in Wales represented by Labour. These include Rhondda (13,746 majority), Cynon Valley (13,238 majority), Caerphilly (12,078 majority), Ogmore (13,871 majority), Islwyn ( 11,412 majority), Llanelli (12,024 majority) Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (16,334 majority), Aberavon ( 16,761 majority), Swansea East (13,168 majority), Swansea West (10,598 majority), Neath (12,631 majority), Blaenau Gwent (11,907 majority), Pontypridd (11,448 majority) and Torfaen (10,240 majority).
Despite the 17 ‘safe’ seats, Labour presides over 11 seats with majorities of less than 10,000. Two of the seats with the lowest Labour majorities include Wrexham with a majority of 1,832 and Newport West with a majority of 1,951 following a by-election on 4 April 2019. This by-election saw a swing of -12.7% after the passing of long-standing MP Paul Flynn. The constituency voted to leave the EU and in the recent by-election, UKIP came third after Labour and the Conservatives, however with the Brexit Party standing a candidate, Labour may retain the seat if pro-Brexit voters split between voting Conservative or Brexit Party.
The Conservative Party
The 6 seats held by the Conservative Party before Parliament was dissolved have majorities of less than 10,000. Of these, the two seats with the highest majorities are Montgomeryshire and Monmouthshire which have majorities of 9,285 and 8,206 respectively. With majorities of approximately 3,000 votes are Camarthen West and South Pembrokeshire with a 3,110 majority and Clwyd West with a majority of 3,437. Meanwhile, the constituency of Vale of Glamorgan represented by former Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns, has a majority of 2,190 which could be impacted by Cairns’ recent resignation from Cabinet.
The most marginal seat held by the Conservative Party is Preseli Pembrokeshire held by Stephen Crabb since 2005, currently with a majority of 314. Despite this narrow majority, Crabb had a majority of 4,605 in 2010 and 4,969 in 2015 but saw this fall dramatically in 2017 where the Labour Party in second place saw a swing of +14.5%. The constituency voted to leave the EU in 2016 by 55.32% – 44.68% which may mean that Conservative Leader Boris Johnson’s pledge to leave the EU in January 2020 may win more votes than Labour’s pledge to hold a second referendum. During the European election in May 2019 the Pembrokeshire area pledged 13,768 votes for the Brexit Party with Plaid Cymru in second, the Liberal Democrats in third place, Labour in fourth and the Conservatives in fifth. However, due to the Brexit Party’s decision not to stand in the 317 seats won by the Conservative Party in 2017 there will not be a Brexit Party candidate in this constituency.
Of the four seats held by Plaid Cymru, Westminster leader Liz Saville-Roberts held a 4,850 vote majority in Dwyfor Meirionydd. Jonathan Edwards who became the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in 2010 holds a majority of 3,908. The other two Plaid Cymru MPs represent far more marginal seats. Ben Lake representing Ceredigion only has a majority of 104 with the Liberal Democrats following closely. Meanwhile, Hywel Williams for Arfon has a majority of 92 as Labour saw its share of the votes increase by 10.2% during 2017. However, in Arfon constituents voted very strongly to remain in the EU by a margin of 64.15%-35.85% so Plaid Cymru’s strong remain stance may attract voters.
The only seat to be held by the Liberal Democrats was Brecon and Radnorshire which was taken from the Conservatives during a by-election on 1 August 2019. The Liberal Democrats held the seat from 1997 – 2015 when the Conservatives took the seat and held its majority until the by-election. Jane Dodds, the Liberal Democrat candidate had a majority of 1,425 gaining a total of 13,826 votes. However, the Brexit Party was competing in the by-election and received 3,331 votes while the Conservative Party received 12,401. In this election, the Brexit Party will not be contesting the seat so if the Conservative Party were to receive the Brexit Party supporters’ votes, they could take back the seat once again.
The seat of Aberconwy was won by Guto Bebb in 2010 but after his suspension from the Conservative Party and the announcement that he will be standing down at this election, the Conservatives’ narrow majority of 635 may come under threat. Labour follows in second place and the constituency’s stance on Brexit is also close with 52.2% voting to leave the EU vs 47.8% although with the Brexit Party not contesting, the Conservatives may retain the seat.
In summary, in Wales, there are 17 ‘safe’ seats in Wales, each with a majority of over 10,000 and held by Labour. In each of the other seats and potentially those with larger majorities, factors such as Brexit may prove integral to the result of these seats. With the Brexit Party contesting all Labour-won seats, there is a possibility that the pro-Brexit vote will be diluted between the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party. However, for those Consetvative=won seats, this may strengthen the incumbents’ chances of retaining their seat. Moreso, in Labour heartlands such as the Welsh Valleys, the strong pro-leave viewpoint of many voters may do unprecedented damage to Labour’s hold.