Thursday, 24 February 2011

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

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




Swing Required

First Elected

GE2010 Result

Brecon & Radnorshire

Kirsty Williams*




LD Hold

LD Lean


Mick Bates






Too Close


Elin Jones




LD Hold

PC Lean

Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Dafydd Elis-Thomas




PC Hold

PC Safe

The Liberal Democrats main area of strength in Wales is in the County of Powys, however their grip appears to be slipping as the Conservatives have made up ground in recent years. Like many Councils in Wales Powys is dominated by Independents and the handful of seats the established parties hold in this County are in the northern constituency; Brecon & Radnorshire. The Liberal Democrats far outnumber the other three with 12 of the 29 Councillors elected here and the hold both the Westminster and Assembly seats. Kirsty Williams was first elected in 1999 and in 2008 she became leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, defeating the Cardiff Central AM Jenny Randerson soundly to become the first female leader in Wales. The Conservatives are the usually runners-up here and they have selected Chris Davies to take on Williams. He'll have his work cut out though because if the Liberal Democrats win just one constituency seat, which is quite possible, it will be this one.

Looking at the Council results within the Montgomeryshire constituency to help analyse how this Assembly seat will break is largely pointless given that almost all of the wards are held by Independents. A glace at the previous General Election results however reveals a sustained period of Liberal dominance as they clung onto this seat even at their lowest ebb. Only twice since World War II has this constituency not been held by the Lib Dems (and their previous incarnations); 1979 and… 2010. In an election night lacking drama the eccentric Lib Dem Lembit Opik losing his seat was possibly the biggest shock, although seemingly not to those he represented. The Opik factor was almost certainly the key reason for that loss but unfortunately for the Lib Dems they are in danger of losing the Assembly seat as well due to the antics of their incumbent.

Mick Bates was a respected AM who indented to stand down at this election after serving three terms. However, since his decision Bates has attracted quite a lot of press for all the wrong reasons. After enjoying himself a little too much on a night out in Cardiff last year he fell/was pushed down a flight of stairs. Bates doesn't actually recall what happened, but a court has found him guilty of physically and verbally assaulting the NHS staff who came to his aid. The £5000 he has been fined is not the best end to a career but considering eyewitnesses thought that Bates was dead following his initial fall it could have been worse. The incident has certainly taken the shine of Bates' seemingly strong record as an AM, and combined with Opik's demise the Liberal Democrat brand here has suffered quite a bit. Wyn Williams has been selected as the Lib Dem candidate and considering they struggle to hold open seats at the best of times he faces a difficult task. The Conservatives sense a golden opportunity to do the double here following last year's success and they have chosen local Councillor Russell George as their candidate. George probably has the upper hand in this but, as Mr. Opik vouch, Montgomeryshire isn't the easiest to call. It's staying in the Too Close column for the time being.

On Ceredigion Council Plaid are the largest party, although an Independent led coalition is currently in control.
The Ceredigion constituency, which covers the entire Council area, is one of the few in Wales where the Assembly and Westminster seats were won by different parties at the last elections for each. Elin Jones has been the Plaid Cymru AM here since the inaugural election in 1999, however in 2005 the Liberal Democrats gained the Parliamentary seat and they held it again last May. In the May Mark Williams took over half the vote to comfortably, which was a slight surprise as the race was expected to be close. Williams' win in 2010 represented a 34% increase in the Lib Dem vote here since 1997, although as they had been strong in this seat historically their potential vote was out there. The Lib Dems have enjoyed a similar rise in their Assembly vote as they've improved from fourth in 1999 to within striking distance of Jones. They have selected local Councillor Elizabeth Evans as their candidate for this election but unfortunately for her national events seem likely to halt the Lib Dem march. It will be tough to overturn a 4000 vote majority at their current polling, especially as Jones is a seemingly popular AM.

The final seat in the Mid & West Wales region is Dwyfor Meirionnydd, which covers the south of Gwynedd. Gwynedd is the only Council area which has its (two) constituencies split between two regions, which is a bit awkward when you're trying to analyse them region by region! To be fair, the Council results aren't much help as Gwynedd is dominated by Nationalists and Independents. Plaid Cymru also dominate at constituency level, holding the Assembly seat since 1999 and the Westminster seat (give or take a few boundary reviews) since 1974. The Parliamentary seat is held by Plaid's leader at Westminster Elfyn Llwyd, who took over from the current AM Dafydd Elis-Thomas in 1983. Elis-Thomas put himself forward as Plaid's candidate here for the inaugural Assembly election and cruised to victory. He has enjoyed comfortably majorities ever since and it seems inconceivable that he will lose his seat in May. The Conservatives came second here in 2007 and they have selected their General Election candidate Simon Baynes to contest this Assembly seat. The Powys Councillor boosted his party's vote share by 8% last May, but even if he repeats that feat in 2 months time Elis-Thomas will still easily hold this for Plaid.


  1. Actually, the incident with Mick Bates took place in mid January in Cardiff NOT during the Spring Conference, which was held in Swansea.

  2. Cheers Peter. I have to say I was confused on the location details. Would I be right in saying Williams found out at the Spring Conference?

  3. Colleagues

    I wouldn't say that Gwynedd is dominated by Independents, NOC, but PC largest party. Current composition according to the Council website is Ind 16; LD 5; Lab 4, Voice of Gwynedd 13; PC 35; Unaffiliated 2

  4. To say that Elin "Jones is a seemingly popular AM" does not take into account the remarkably polarising argument in the Ceredigion constituency of badger culling and Bovine TB. Ever since Plaid gained the seat in 1992, it has FAILED to follow national trends. To even make a projection based on non local knowledge is asking for a boot in the face. Ceredigion's politics is unique and will remain unique.

  5. To be honest Dafydd, I have no idea why I had that in my notes! All I can say is there is a very close relationship between how tired I am when I write a post and how many mistakes are in the blooming thing! :-(

    As for Elin being popular Harry, not many politicians in this country secure a majority of votes...she was just shy in 2007. I was unaware of the badger issue. I am aware Ceredigion is fairly idiosyncratic, hence leaving it as lean despite the fact current UNS give Plaid a 15% majority (approx) for Plaid. The local knowledge is greatly appreciated!

  6. Harry is right on two counts. One that the issue of badger culling will be a factor for some, but more importantly that Ceredigion is unique - the personalities/ profile of sitting members / candidates have a very significant impact on the result.

    I think that accounted for the Lib Dem confidence in 2010 and explains the Plaid confidence this time round.

  7. Surely Brecon and Radnorshire is the SOUTHERN constituency? (given that I live near Swansea and can be in the constituency in 15 minutes ;-))


  8. I disagree with Ceredigion. I'm on the streets and Elin Jones is unpopular.
    The Lib Dem should get a 3000 majority. Using last years GE result as a benchmark.