Monday, 21 March 2011

A Look @: North Wales (Part II)

This post covers the two Flintshire constituencies along with the two from Wrexham and the Vale of Clwyd. To find the other (Conwy, Anglesey & north Gwynedd) seats in this region click here, and the regional list is here.




Swing Required

First Elected

GE2010 Result

Vale of Clwyd

Ann Jones




LAB Hold

LAB Lean

Clwyd South

Karen Sinclair




LAB Hold

LAB Lean


Lesley Griffiths




LAB Hold

LAB Lean

Alyn & Deeside

Carl Sergeant




LAB Hold

LAB Safe


Sandy Mewies




LAB Hold

LAB Lean

The Vale of Clwyd is the main constituency in Denbighshire, covering the northern wards of the Council area. The other wards are split between the Clwyd West seat, which contains mostly Conwy wards, and the Clwyd South constituency, which is largely in the Wrexham Council area. The Conservatives are the largest party on the Denbighshire Council but they were quite a way short of a majority in 2008. The Council is currently run by an all party administration.

As for the constituency, although the Conservatives dominate Labour at the Council level the latter have been very successful at holding on to the Westminster and Assembly seats. Since the constituency's creation in 1997 Labour have won every single election here, although the Tories came extremely close in 2007 as Ann Jones clung on to her seat by just 92 votes. Given the current polling you have to feel that the Tories missed their chance here and Jones is almost certainly going to win by a bigger margin this time around. She has been helped by the Conservative candidate Ian Gunning controversial comments on the NHS. Gunning said, "No matter what the NHS has had its time because Labour have managed to create a state run economy with the greater proportion now dependent on, rather than contributing to it." A gift-wrapped quote for Jones, and more generally Labour in North Wales, to utilise out of context in a leaflet! Given Labour's current polling this isn't going to make much difference as they were always going to be favourites.

Clwyd South takes in the rural wards of the Wrexham Council area along with the three most southerly wards from Denbighshire. At the Council level Independents are the main representatives in this constituency area holding 11 of the 27 seats. The other 16 are quite evenly split between the four main parties with Labour's just ahead of the others with six Councillors. At constituency level Labour have been dominant, winning every election here since the seat's creation for the 1997 General Election. The also held the preceding constituency in this area for a decade before. With their current standing in the polls it's hard to see them losing this in May.

This will, however, be an open seat at this election. Karen Sinclair has been the Assembly Member for this constituency since 1999 but after a serious cancer scare midway through the last term she has decided not to seek re-election. Labour have selected Ken Skates to defend this 1119 vote majority and he is likely to increase it. Having lagged behind Plaid Cymru in the first two Assembly elections here the Conservatives emerged as the main competition for this constituency in 2007. They have selected the 25 year old local Councillor Paul Rogers to contest this and with just a 2.9% swing required I'm sure he is hopeful of gaining the seat. It will be a tough ask at this election though and Skates should become Clwyd South's new AM.

The Wrexham seat covers the actual town of Wrexham along with a few wards in the north east of the Council area. Interestingly, the Liberal Democrats won the most Council seats in this constituency at the last elections but they are generally uncompetitive when it comes to Westminster and Assembly contests. Labour have dominated Westminster elections in Wrexham since World War I winning every single election. There was a two year period in the early eighties when the SDP held the seat following a defection but normality was resumed in 1983. All this makes the bizarre history of this Assembly seat even stranger…

The then Labour MP John Marek won the first Assembly election in 1999 comfortably, securing half the vote in what was generally a bad night for his party. After standing down as an MP in 2001 to concentrate on his work in the fledgling Assembly, for which he had become the Deputy Presiding Officer, Marek was deselected as Labour's candidate in Wrexham. He lost 84-80 in a selection battle with his former staffer Lesley Griffiths but Marek wasn't going down without a fight. Standing as a candidate for the superbly named 'John Marek Independent Party' (JMIP) the sitting AM managed to defeat the official Labour candidate by just under 1000 votes. He then renamed the party 'Forward Wales' and attempted to broaden the appeal from a one man show to a genuine left wing alternative to Labour. Marek managed to get ex-Labour Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, who is now standing for Plaid Cymru in Caerphilly, on board but despite all this Marek failed to hold his seat in 2007 as Griffiths beat him at the second attempt. Forward Wales was wound up in January last year.

So, Wrexham should get a bit simpler now then? Not a chance! Marek's latest attempt to retake the Wrexham seat has led him into the arms of the Conservative Party! There can't be many politicians to have gone from Labour to a Socialist Party to the Conservatives in that order or, for that matter, stood at each Assembly election for a different party (although it could be argued JMIP and Forward Wales were the same). All this leaves the Assembly race quite interesting. The Marek plus Conservative vote from 2007 easily eclipses Labour's but to assume the combination would pool that support is a bit tenuous. Quite a few of Marek's Forward Wales supporters are unlikely to follow him to the Tories and he may put off a few Conservative votes as well. With a significant Liberal Democrat vote for Labour to harvest they should be favourites to hold on but it seems anything is possible in Wrexham!

The final two constituencies in North Wales are in the Council area of Flintshire. Like many Welsh Councils Independents won a plurality of seats at the 2008 elections but Labour are clearly the strongest political party locally. As they have won every constituency election in Flintshire since 1992 this is not a surprise. Alyn & Deeside, which covers the South East wards of the Council area, is the safer of the two seats for Labour. Carl Sergeant has been the AM here since 2003 and he is the safest Labour incumbent in South Wales. His position has been strengthened by the Conservatives', who have been Labour's nearest challengers in recent years, shooting themselves in the foot. They have had to change their candidate late in the day after their initial pick Richard Lowe got in a spot of bother after making an inappropriate joke about Madeline McCann on Facebook. John Bell was selected as the new Tory candidate in February as he'll struggle to continue his party's momentum in this constituency. Sergeant should be fine.

Delyn, which covers the rest of Flintshire, is a lot tighter than Alyn & Deeside although Labour have still be dominant here since the Welsh Assembly was set up. The have been pushed by the Conservatives in recent years, and as they Tories held the seat until 1992 they are certainly capable of winning a constituency election here. Sandy Mewies, who was first elected in 2003, only just held on at the last election with a majority of 511 votes over the Conservatives. With a small swing required the Tories will be looking for a win and they have selected Matthew Wright as their candidate. However, given the current polling an increased Labour majority is the likely outcome.

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