Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Look @: South Wales Central (Part I – Cardiff)

This post looks at the four constituencies in Cardiff. To find the other four constituencies click here, and to find the list overview click here.




Swing Required

First Elected

GE2010 Result

Cardiff Central

Jenny Randerson




LD Hold

Too Close

Cardiff North

Jonathan Morgan






Too Close

Cardiff South & Penarth

Lorraine Barrett




LAB Hold

LAB Lean

Cardiff West

Rhodri Morgan




LAB Hold

LAB Lean

Cardiff City Council is quite competitive with no one party gaining a majority in the 2008 elections. Currently it is controlled by a Liberal Democrat/Plaid Cymru coalition, but the Conservatives and Labour have quite significant opposition groups. Interestingly, Labour are the weakest of the three British parties despite holding two Assembly, and Westmister, constituencies in Cardiff. This is probably a reflection of their poor performance in the 2008 local elections. They are also aided by the fact the Lib Dem and Tory vote is concentrated in their respective seats, and both parties struggle to win elections outside their strong areas.

Despite the fact that on paper it is the safest seat in the city, Cardiff Central is sure to be a contest to watch in May. Although the Liberal Democrats secured a large majority in 2007 they go into this election in a much poorer position than they did then. Firstly, their popular incumbent AM Jenny Randerson is not seeking re-election. She announced her decision just after the General Election last year, and she has since entered the House of Lords. The second problem for the Liberal Democrats is that this seat contains a high proportion of students; around a quarter of the electorate. If there is one seat in Wales where the tuition fees rise is going to hurt the Lib Dems then this is it.

It's not all bad news for the Liberal Democrats though as they do have a strong presence in the Constituency. They held the Westminster seat last May and all 19 Councillors elected in wards within this constituency are Lib Dems. Nigel Howells is one of them, and he has been selected to replace Randerson as their candidate. His main challenge will come from the Labour candidate Jenny Rathbone who managed a 1.4% swing towards her party when she contested this seat at the General Election. Although this was largely due to the Conservatives increasing their vote at the expense of the two front runners, it is worth noting Rathbone outperformed her party's national and regional swing. It will be a tall order to win a seat on a 15% swing, especially as the Liberal Democrats will be able forced to concentrate their local efforts on this seat, but the circumstances make it a real possibility. With thirteen weeks to go before the election there's a lot to play for in Cardiff Central.

The Conservatives own mini stronghold in the city is Cardiff North. They hold 14 of the 19 Council seats within this constituency and they gained the Westminster seat from Labour last May, having captured the Assembly seat three years earlier. The Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan has been an ever present at Cardiff Bay having won election for the first two terms as a list AM for South Wales Central. He enjoyed an 8.3% swing in 2007 to secure a constituency seat and as a first term incumbent with handy majority he won't be easy to dislodge. However, Labour haven't given up on Cardiff North and they have selected an extremely strong candidate to attempt to win this seat back. Julie Morgan was the MP for the constituency for 13 years until she was narrowly defeated in last May's General Election. Defending a majority of just 2.6%, she ended up just 194 votes short of an incredible hold considering the national swing against her party. I'll stick my neck out and say Morgan will win ;-).

The other two constituencies in Cardiff generally lean Labour, but other parties have made up ground in recent years. The Cardiff South & Penarth Westminster seat was held by former Prime Minister James Callaghan before the current incumbent, and former Welsh First Secretary, Alun Michael was first elected in 1987. It was therefore no surprise that Lorraine Barrett comfortably won this constituency in the first Welsh Assembly elections, and she has held her seat ever since. Barrett is standing down at this election to become a humanist celebrant leaving an open seat for her opponents to eye up. Labour have selected Vaughan Gething and if he successfully defends this seat for his party he will become the first black AM to be elected to Cardiff Bay (which, indecently, is in this constituency).

The Conservatives are frequently second behind Labour here and a quick look at the Council make-up of Cardiff South & Penarth reveals a distinct political split. The northern half contains wards around the Cardiff seafront, but the seat also includes divisions of the Vale of Glamorgan Council around the town of Penarth. As you might imagine, Labour are strong in the former and the Tories in the latter. Ben Gray is the Conservative candidate hoping to gain this for his party but with Labour likely to recover from their poor 2007 showing he will be up against it. Labour are more likely to increase their majority than lose this one.

This May will be the first time for 24 years Cardiff West will not be represented by Rhodri Morgan. Morgan was the Welsh First Minister for almost ten years before he stood down on his 70th birthday and he is not seeking re-election to the Assembly. As his wife Julie is hoping to become an AM (see above) and plans to spend more time with his family may be on hold! One of Morgan's former special advisors Mark Drakeford has been selected to defend this seat for Labour and the national picture will certainly help him. Although Plaid Cymru hold the most Council seats in this constituency the Conservatives usually win the race for second in Westminster and Assembly elections. Both parties have selected Councillors elected in wards within this constituency to fight this election. Plaid Cymru have chosen Neil McEvoy, who is the leader of their group on the Council, and Craig Williams is standing for the Tories. Drakeford is likely to hold this for Labour.


  1. One caveat to the analysis re Cardiff Central and student disgust with the Lib Dems - tuition fees will not rise in Wales thanks to the Plaid-Labour WAG decision. Despite that, most students will still want to register their disapproval of the Lib Dem u-turn

  2. Yeah, I can see your point there marc. I imagine that might mitigate the issue a bit. But the tuition fee rise won't affect current students anywhere in the UK! IMO, the underlying problem for the Lib Dems is one of trust, especially for younger voters.

  3. The other thing is if it does come up, Labour and Plaid Cymru can just say 'Well the only reason its not affecting the Welsh is because of US'

  4. There is some confusion here. Tuition fees in Wales will be rising. However, the Labour-led Assembly Government will pay for the increase in tuition fees for Welsh students wherever they choose to study.

    Disapproval will come from English students who come to Wales to study, who will have to pay higher fees in future years, and everyone with a sense of fairness who will be angered at the betrayal of pre-election promises by a certain political party...

  5. You've missed the issue of differential turnout in Cardiff Central. Yes, there are a lot of students, but turnout is rather low in the studenty areas, and one surmises that it is chiefly the foreigners who fail to vote in Welsh elections, presumably because they're only here to get drunk for three years and don't really care about our country or our government. The real reason why the Lib Dems are so strong in Cardiff Central is the inclusion of Cyncoed and Penylan wards, which are very middle-to-upper-middle class, strongly anti-Socialist, and have very high turnout indeed: they are why it used to be a Conservative seat, and they are why Labour face an uphill battle to get out enough voters in the other four wards. I would be very surprised indeed if Cardiff Central changed hands, as it would essentially need a swing from Liberal Democrat to Conservative to achieve this.