Saturday, 5 February 2011

Look @: South Wales Central (Part II)

This post looks at the four constituencies in this region that are not in Cardiff. To find the four Cardiff constituencies click here, and to find the list overview click here.




Swing Required

First Elected

GE2010 Result

Cynon Valley

Christine Chapman




LAB Hold

LAB Safe


Jane Davidson




LAB Hold

Lab Lean


Leighton Andrews




LAB Hold

LAB Safe

Vale of Glamorgan

Jane Hutt






Lab Lean

The Rhondda Cynon Taf Council area covers three constituencies; Cynon Valley, Pontypridd and Rhondda. Like the Council, they are dominated by Labour and it's hard to imagine them losing any of them this May.

Christine Chapman has won every assembly election in Cynon Valley and with Labour on the up she is likely to again. The Westminster seat for this constituency is also heavily Labour and both representatives consistently enjoy the support of over half the voters. Despite Labour's dominance this seat was surprisingly close in the first Assembly election in 1999. Plaid Cymru were within 900 votes of a shock gain in an election where Labour seriously under performed in their South Wales heartlands. At Council level Plaid Cymru are Labour's closest challengers and a third of the Councillors elected from this constituency are Welsh Nationalists. Plaid have selected their General Election candidate Dafydd Trystan Davies to contest this seat who managed an 8.6% swing last May. Even if this was repeated in a few months time Labour would comfortably hold this seat, so as it stands Chapman looks pretty safe.

Jane Davidson has been the Pontypridd AM since 1999 but she is standing down at this election. The former Welsh Education Secretary was once tipped to succeed Rhodri Morgan as First Minister but she has decided to pursue a career outside of politics. This leaves Labour with an open seat to defend and the have selected Mick Antoniw as their new candidate. The solicitor experienced a mini-scandal last autumn when the firm he was a director at received an £88,000 fine for financial irregularities, although there was no suggestion the candidate personally profited.

Whether Antoniw will be damaged by the revelations is debatable, and he is going into this contest from a strong position. Although this is another seat where Plaid Cymru ran Labour close in the first Assembly election the reds have since reasserted their dominance. Plaid have also slipped behind the Liberal Democrats in this constituency, largely thanks to their perennial candidate Mike Powell. He first contested the Pontypridd seat for the Lib Dems in 2003 and since then he has done well to position himself as the main challenger to Labour. Last May he was runner up in the General Election, closing the margin to 3000 votes in a seat Labour used receive almost two thirds of the vote. Although Powell himself appears a popular local figure, he was one of only three Liberal Democrats elected in Rhondda Cyonn Taf in 2008. This lack of local support, as well as the expected poor Liberal Democrat performance in general, is likely to prevent Powell from making a serious challenge. Mick Antoniw will be favourite to hold this for Labour.

The shock of the night during the 1999 Assembly election was Labour losing Rhondda to Plaid Cymru. The then Labour MP for this constituency was re-elected in 1997 with 75% of the vote yet Geraint Davies didn't just win the seat for Plaid Cymru, he secured a majority of over 2000 votes. Normality was restored four years later when Leighton Andrews gained the seat for Labour on a 21.4% swing. He has represented Rhondda at Cardiff Bay ever since and he is seeking a third term in May. Plaid have selected local Councillor Sêra Evans-Fear to fight this election but a repeat of their 1999 performance is unlikely. In spite of his party's uninspiring performance at the last election Andrews secured a 6000 vote majority, so he looks pretty safe going into this contest.

The final constituency seat in the South Wales Central region is Vale of Glamorgan, which covers most of the Vale of Glamorgan Council (a few eastern wards fall within the Cardiff South & Penarth constituency). In 2007 the Labour AM Jane Hutt survived quite a scare when the Conservatives came within 83 votes of unseating her. Hutt has held a number of Ministerial positions during her three terms at Cardiff Bay and she is by far the most at risk of the four Labour AM's discussed in this post. The last election wasn't a complete shock as the Tories had come very close to winning this constituency in the first Assembly election. Since their narrow defeat four years ago the Conservatives have taken control of the Council and gained the Westminster on a 6% swing. The only thing they lack is the Assembly seat and they have selected Angela Jones-Evans as their candidate. She contested the Cardiff West seat at the General Election and managed an average swing in the safe Labour seat. Having won with such a small margin last time around Hutt knows she isn't safe, but given Labour's current standing in the polls I think the Tories have probably missed their chance to take this seat.


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