Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Look @: Mid & West Wales (Part I)

This post looks at the four constituencies within the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Council areas. The other four seats in this region (Powys, Ceredigion and South Gwynedd) are here and the list overview can be found here.




Swing Required

First Elected

GE2010 Result


Carmarthen East & Dinefwr

Rhodri Glyn Thomas




PC Hold

PC Safe


Helen Mary Jones




LAB Hold

PC Lean

Carmarthen W & Pembrokeshire S

Angela Burns







Too Close

Preseli Pembrokeshire

Paul Davies





CON Hold

Too Close

* This was actually Jones' third term as an AM, but they have not been continuously as the constituency representative for Llanelli.

We are moving out of the Labour heartlands in the South into the huge (geographically) region that is Mid & West Wales. Currently the other three parties have clear areas of strength in this region, although with the expected swing towards Labour in this election some are under threat.

Carmarthenshire is fertile territory for Plaid Cymru. They currently hold the two Assembly seats wholly within the County area and they are also the largest group on the Council, although it is currently controlled by an Independent led coalition. Labour are the only other political party with a significant presence here, and they hold one of the two Westminster seats, so they are the likely challengers to Plaid at this election.

Plaid Cymru's Rhodri Glyn Thomas has been AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr since the first Assembly elections in 1999. At the time the Westminster seat was held by Labour but Adam Price changed that in 2001, going on to become Plaid's most prominent spokesman in Parliament. Although Price stood down last May the nationalists still held the seat fairly comfortably, which would suggest Thomas' 8500 majority isn't under any real threat. Thomas had an interesting year at the beginning of the Third Assembly. He became the Minister for Heritage after his party entered into coalition with Labour but a couple of gaffes led to his resignation. First up he announced the wrong winner at the Welsh Book of the Year awards then, barely two weeks later, he walked into a pub smoking a cigar. Not the best fortnight for a prominent Assembly Member to have but then there are plenty of politicians who have done far worse! Labour haven't selected a candidate for this seat yet, which only adds to the sense Thomas is safe.

Llanelli is a much better bet for a Labour gain, as Helen Mary Jones will know from personal experience. Jones narrowly won this seat in the first Assembly elections with a majority of 688 but she lost out in 2003 by the excruciating margin of just 21 votes. Despite the loss Jones was still around Cardiff Bay during the Second Assembly. Given the swing towards Labour that year she did well to keep the race so close, but as she was the lead candidate on Plaid's regional list so she remained an Assembly Member anyway.* With Labour on the up again they will be hoping to retake this seat and they have selected the 70 year old former Councillor Keith Davies as their candidate. Labour have continued to hold the Westminster seat with ease despite Plaid's competitiveness in Assembly elections and current polling suggests that this seat could go either way. However, Plaid have a much stronger presence than Labour at Council level and Jones won over half the vote in 2007. With Plaid's vote is holding up well in current polling I'd make her the favourite at this stage.

Politics in Pembrokeshire is refreshingly competitive with the Council dominated by Independents and both the Assembly seats extremely marginal. Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South, which unsurprisingly includes a few Carmarthenshire wards, produced an extraordinarily close result in 2007 with the top three candidates separated by just 240 votes. Angela Burns came out on top with barely 30% of the vote so the Conservative AM has a tough fight on her hands to hang on to this seat. To win four years ago Burns increased her party's vote by almost 10% in this constituency when it rose by 2.4% nationally so she is clearly a handy campaigner. Furthermore, the Tories gained the Westminster seat from Labour last May, removing the incumbent MP after 18 years in Parliament.

A lot has changed since the General Election and Labour's position in the polls would suggest they should take this seat with ease. They have kept faith with their losing candidate from 2007 Christine Gwyther, who was their AM for this constituency before her defeat. What is notable about Gwyther's victories is that even in the 2003 election, when Labour had a strong result nationally, she still only managed 35% of the vote. This leaves more than enough votes available for Angela Burns to hold this seat, especially if the significant Plaid Cymru vote can be squeezed by the apparent top two. However, the nationalists have sought to prevent this by selecting a well known candidate themselves. Nerys Evans is currently Plaid's sole list AM in this region and she has given up a fairly safe seat to fight for this tight constituency.* The prominent Plaid politician was born in a village within this constituency and so she is certainly a dark horse in this race. Basically, any of the three women could win this seat and for the time being this is staying firmly in the 'Too Close' column!

The Conservatives have another tough battle to hold onto the other Pembrokeshire seat; Preseli Pembrokeshire. In 2007 Paul Davies gained the Assembly seat on an 8.6% swing, which was a result very much in line with the Tory's success in this constituency at the General Election two years before that. With a swing of 5.6% required this seat currently falls to Labour on UNS from the latest polling. They have selected former local Councillor Terry Mills to contest this election but he won't be able to just ride the national swing to victory in this constituency. Like the other Pembrokeshire seat Labour failed to push much above 35% in the first two Assembly elections, when they were enjoyed similar levels of support as the current YouGov polling suggests. As Davies secured 38.6% of the vote in 2007 Mills will probably have to do better than his predecessors to win this seat. Plaid Cymru were only a couple of points behind Labour in third at the last election they should not be totally discounted. They have picked Rhys Sinnett as their candidate but he is a long shot to win the seat. Of the two Pembrokeshire seats the Tories are more likely to hang on to this one, but with 11 weeks I am (again) sitting the fence.

* The practise of running as a constituency candidate as well as on the regional list was halted by the Government of Wales Act 2006. Therefore Nerys Evans cannot enjoy the safety net her Plaid Cymru colleague Helen Mary Jones did in 2003.


  1. Llanelli Labour have shot themselves in the foot. To put a 70 year old candidate in a top Labour target says to the electorate of Llanelli "We know you will come back home to us". That decision could cost Carwyn his overall majority

  2. Its worth looking at the name checks in Peter Hain's speech to Labour conference - Chris Gwyther clearly referenced - but no mention of Terry Mills or Keith Davies.