Monday, 14 March 2011

A Look @: North Wales (Part I)

This post covers the two Conwy constituencies along with the north Gwynedd seat and the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon). The other seats (Denbighshire, Flintshire & Wrexham) in this region can be found here, and the regional list is here.




Swing Required

First Elected

GE2010 Result


Alun Ffred Jones






PC Safe

Ynys Mons

Ieuan Wyn Jones*




LAB Hold

PC Lean


Gareth Jones






Too Close

Clwyd West

Darren Millar




CON Hold

Too Close

The Arfon constituency covers the northern part of the Gwynedd Council area. The southern constituency, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, is in Mid & West Wales, making Gwynedd one of only two council areas to have their Assembly seats split between top-up regions. Plaid Cymru are the largest group on Gwynedd Council and as no other political party have any real presence in the area the nationalists have been dominant at constituency level in recent years. The Arfon seat was only created for the 2007 election but Plaid also held the Caernarfon constituency since the Assembly was set up in 1999. In addition, they have held the UK Parliamentary seat since 1974 so it's fair to call this one as a pretty safe one for Plaid. Alun Ffred Jones took this seat over from the former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley in 2003 and he is defending a pretty large majority in Assembly terms. Labour are traditionally the runners up in this seat but they do not appear to have selected a candidate yet. They selected Christina Rees as their candidate, who is interestingly the former wife of former Welsh Secretary and current Plaid Cymru candidate in Caerphilly Ron Davies.

One party who have selected, and who will be concentrating hard on this constituency, is Llais Gwynedd (Voice of Gwynedd). The local party won 13 seats on the council in 2008 and they have been quite involved in recent by-elections for the Council. First they held a seat when their Councillor resigning in disgrace, then they lost a seat under less controversial circumstances before gaining a seat from nowhere just a week later! They selected their Council leader Owain Williams to contest this seat in 2009 so although Independents aren't expected to perform as well as they did in 2007 this is one seat where a candidate outside the four main parties could make an impression.

We have touched on the weird and wonderful world of Anglesey politics before, and returning to look at the Assembly seat (Ynys Mon – the Welsh name is used for the constituency title) is a daunting prospect! Thankfully (for me) Plaid Cymru's leader Ieuan Wyn Jones holds the seat, and you don't see party leaders losing their seats that often. This is especially true as Plaid appear to be holding up well in the polls after their term in coalition. Jones was the MP for the island from 1987 until 2001 when he stood down to concentrate on his role in the Assembly. He had taken over as leader from Dafydd Wigley (see above) in 2000 and so this is his third election as the head of his party.

When Jones stood down from his Westminster seat in 2001 Plaid failed to hold it as Labour secured a narrow victory. Despite the nationalists best efforts (they were favourites last year) Labour have held them off, even increasing their majority in 2010. However, Assembly elections are a different kettle of fish. The loss is 2001 shows evidence that Jones enjoys a significant personal vote which did not transfer to the new Parliamentary candidate. Plus, Plaid usually do better in Assembly elections anyway, therefore Jones should be quite confident. So easy Plaid hold? Not quite…

You may have noticed it was an Independent candidate, not Labour, who came second in 2007. This was the former Conservative regional Assembly Member Peter Rogers, who was demoted on the list for the 2003 by his party despite being a sitting AM. Rogers resigned from the Tories and has stood in Anglesey as an Independent in recent elections, taking 23.3% of the vote in 2007. As he is now in his 70s there is a fair chance Rogers might abort his quest to return to Cardiff Bay, although he did stand at last year's General Election. If he doesn't stand the Tories are the likely benefactors as he has been mainly been taking votes away from his former party. If we add the Conservative's and Rogers' vote totals from the last elections Plaid's majority shrinks to just 3%, so with the right candidate this could get close.

As it so happens they might have found him. Paul Williams was selected as the Conservative candidate for his home seat, but he isn't an ordinary candidate. Williams anonymously set up The Druid blog last January and it quickly became on of the most read political blogs in Wales. More importantly, it is seems to be read by everyone in Anglesey! On his selection he revealed himself as The Druid (conveniently the day after the by-election we covered there!) and it will be interesting to see how he fares. As a blogger it would be easy to get carried away and suggest this will be a great advantage for him, but as he built up quite a name for himself before he was linked to the Tory 'brand' he may attract a broad coalition of voters. I'm not convinced it will be enough to unseat Plaid's leader, but it has certainly made this constituency even more interesting that it already was!

Moving on to Conwy and the seats don't get any less competitive. This is hardly surprising considering no party came close to a majority the Council in the 2008 elections. The Conservatives emerged as the largest group then but a rainbow coalition of the other parties formed to take control of Conwy. By-election losses and defections have reduced the Tories to 19 seats, which is four more than Plaid Cymru have as the leaders of the coalition.

Two thirds of Plaid's Councillors in Conwy are elected from wards in the Aberconwy constituency where they currently hold the Assembly seat. However, at 71 their AM Gareth Jones is standing down, which leaves an open seat for the nationalists to defend. Plaid have selected Iwan Huws to contest this election but it won't be an easy task. Both
Labour and the Conservatives will fancy their chances here and this could be a close three way battle to replace Jones. Labour actually held the Conwy seat which preceded this one during the second Assembly after they unseated Jones in 2003 by 72 votes. The boundary changes clearly helped the Conservatives as Labour slipped to third in 2007 when Plaid took the seat back.

Despite winning the Assembly seat twice, and doing well at Council level in the constituency, Plaid have never really competed in the General Election. They came fourth here last May as the Tories comfortably gained the Westminster seat from Labour. The silver lining for Plaid is that the winning Conservative candidate Guto Bebb had been working hard in this constituency and now he is an MP there will be a different name on the ballot paper for this Assembly seat. The Tories will be looking to follow up the Westminster gain by taking the Assembly seat as well and they have charged their Council leader Janet Finch-Saunders with this task.

Having held the both the Westminster and Assembly seats during the noughties it would be rude to discount Labour, however they do start this as outsiders. The boundary changes which came into place before the 2007 Assembly election were not to their advantage and they have had to unexpectedly change their candidate late in the election cycle. They initially picked their General Election candidate Ronnie Hughes but he has suffered a heart attack and has pulled out on doctor's orders. Eifion Wyn Williams is the new Labour candidate and on uniform swing from the January YouGov poll he would be beat Finch-Saunders to second place. With Plaid losing the personal vote of their incumbent, the Tories selecting a seemingly strong candidate, and Labour riding high in the polls this should be a tight one.

Clwyd West covers the eastern area of the Conwy Council and six wards from the centre of Denbighshire. The Conservatives dominate at Council level in the constituency and they currently hold both the Assembly and the Westminster seats. Darren Millar followed up the Tories' gain at the 2005 General Election by winning the Assembly seat two years later. It's not going to be easy to hold this though as 1500 vote majority is well within Labour's reach now they are on the up. Labour have selected Crispin Jones as their candidate and UNS would indicate he is in line to be the next AM for Clwyd West. However, it is worth noting Labour failed to get more than 35% of the vote when they won this seat at the first two Assembly elections and the Tories' support does not appear to be waning. If Millar gets a slight first term incumbency boost then Jones is going to struggle on national swing alone. The reason for the low winning vote shares for this Assembly seat is because of a significant Plaid Cymru presence in the constituency. Plaid have polled around 25% in Assembly elections and their candidate Eifion Lloyd Jones has an outside chance of winning this. With the CON>LAB swing likely to be curtailed in this constituency this is another seat remaining too close for now.


This post ignores the latest YouGov Wales poll so as to keep consistency throughout the original previews.


  1. Pedantry point. Rhondda Cynon Taff is a council that straddles two regions as well. Most of RCT is in South Central but small parts of the Taff Ely district - Gilfach Goch, Lllanharan, Llanharry and Brynna wards - are not in the Pontypridd or Rhondda constituencies as might be expected but in Ogmore which is South West

  2. "Labour are traditionally the runners up in this seat but they do not appear to have selected a candidate yet. "

    Oh, but they have! Christina Rees, a non-practising barrister. She is, quite irrelevantly, ex-wife of Ron Davies, former new Labour SS for Wales and AM for Caerphilly and now the Plaid Cymru assembly candidate for Caerphilly. What larks!

  3. I'm 99% certain I popped a comment on here earlier thanking the first Anon for being right. That's been changed.

    Whilst I'm here, thank's to the second anon for the info!

  4. I'm quietly confident that Labour can take Aberconwey in the Assembly with a convincing majority. There's a pro-Labour buzz in the air here. Eifion Wyn Williams is gaining huge support on the doorstep, and I write this as an experienced campaigner.