In the weeks before the General Election, we provided a region-by-region battleground profile for England and Wales. In light of the result we now revisit these posts to see how things played out, and this week we’re looking at another Tory success story: Wales.
- The Conservatives have every reason to be pleased with this result. Not only did they manage to hold on to ultra-marginal Cardiff North and secure a huge majority whilst taking Brecon and Radnorshire from the Liberal Democrats, but they also managed to take two seats (by the skin of their teeth) from a misdirected and complacent Labour campaign. The result is the highest number of Welsh Conservative MPs since the 1980s. In several other seats the Labour majority remains competitively slender, and the party have promising avenues for future growth.
- This is not how last month was supposed to go. As we suggested in our battleground profile, the LSE had spotted trouble for Welsh Labour, whose strong performances in the early years of the Coalition seemed to be unwinding as the election loomed. Even after successive downward estimates in their expected contribution to Labour’s fightback, the Welsh party fell short, taking only one of two Cardiff seats seen as bankable wins and losing two seats to the Tories. The result has sparked conflict in the party, not least because Carwyn Jones’ kneejerk claim Welsh Labour needed more distance from the main party seems to fly in the face of the fact that the local Conservatives ran against his record in Cardiff Bay as much as on national issues.
- The Liberal Democrats avoided a wipe out, which is about as good a result as they could reasonably have hoped for. They managed to see of the nationalists and maintain a majority of over three thousand, but lost their remaining two seats to the Tories and Labour. In seats they didn’t hold the party essentially disintegrated, often falling behind UKIP and losing their deposit whilst shedding anything from 14 points of their vote share to more than 20. There are a couple of seats where they are the only viable opposition.
- This will have been a disappointing night for Plaid Cymru. Despite Leanne Wood’s national profile being hugely amplified by the TV debates, this served mainly to entrench the party’s three sitting MPs rather than broaden their coalition. The party came closest to a gain in Anglesey, where they fell just 229 votes short of unseating Labour.
- UKIP took a lot of third places in the seats we examine below, usually at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Whilst they aren’t currently in a position to win any Westminster seats here, their performance reinforces the growing expectation that the People’s Army will enter the Welsh Assembly next year.
Targets by party:
(NB These were our own suggestions of potential attack seats for each party – including those officially designated as targets and others where the incumbent had a relatively small majority, or local factors were at play which might have opened the seat to change.)
>Alyn and Deeside: Whilst both of the major parties put on votes here, Labour gained a small amount of ground on the Conservatives: a net increase in their lead by 0.7 points saw extend his majority from just over 2,900 to 3,343.
>Brecon and Radnorshire: The Conservatives must have felt this was their strongest prospect for a Welsh gain, but even on polling day some predictive maps were suggesting the Liberal Democrats would hold on. In the event the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed by almost 18 points, and Christopher Davies was returned with a majority of over five thousand. As in Gower, the Tories ran a candidate with a long history in the area: Davies first fought the attendant Assembly constituency in 2011, and was selected in February 2013.
>Bridgend: An increase in votes for both Labour and the Tories, yet despite falling short of winning the latter cut Madeleine Moon’s majority further to just 1,927. UKIP hoovered up most of a tumbling Lib Dem vote to take third place.
>Clwyd South: Once again the Tories managed to shave Susan Jones’ majority, from 2,834 to 2,402, whilst UKIP took third position.
>Delyn: David Hanson actually managed to increase his majority in this seat, which was Conservative until 1992. However it still stands at only 2,930, compared to 6,644 in 2005, so this seat remains competitive.
>Gower: Despite coming fairly close in 1983, this constituency had never returned a Conservative MP before last month, when Byron Davies squeaked home by just 27 votes. Davies was another selection with strong local experience: he fought Gower in 2010, has represented the area as a regional AM in the Welsh Assembly since 2011, and was selected in 2013. Activists from Team2015 visited the constituency. The loss of Gower, despite such signals from the Tory campaign, has prompted internal recriminations from Welsh Labour.
>Newport West: Paul Flynn didn’t add even a decimal point to his vote share, but the Tories made only infinitesimal progress and his majority is effectively unchanged. Another seat where UKIP have surged into third place, with 15.2 per cent of the vote.
>Vale of Clwyd: Welsh Labour were not expecting to suffer losses, so it must have come as an awful shock to suffer two. James Davies (and it seems that candidates named Davies was the winning Tory strategy here) turned a Labour majority of over 2,500 into a Conservative one of 237 after adding almost four points to his vote share. UKIP took third again, with the Lib Dems losing their deposit.
>Aberconwy: Labour added almost four points to their vote share, yet Guto Bebb added 5.7 and increased his majority from 3,398 to 3,999. Plaid Cymru held on to third place but shed more than six points as the major parties seemed to squeeze the also-rans. As usual, UKIP supplanted the Lib Dems, who shed almost 15 points.
>Arfon: Labour threw an awful lot of resources at this seat, a point which has drawn criticism in the aftermath of the election. Despite this the nationalists added more than two thousand votes to their majority, raising it from 1,455 to a decidedly less competitive 3,580. The Tory vote was squeezed.
>Cardiff Central: This was one of two sure-fire Welsh Labour gains, and the only one they actually got. A Liberal Democrat majority of over 4,500 was turned into a Labour one of almost 5,000 following a 14 point collapse in the Lib Dem share. Again the Tory vote fell, by almost seven points.
>Cardiff North: The other sure-fire Labour gain, the Conservative majority here was only 194 and the incumbent MP, Jonathan Evans, was standing down. In the event Craig Williams was returned with a thumping majority of over 2,000, having added just under five points to the Tory share of the vote. Showing remarkable consistency, the Liberal Democrats shed 14.5 points and lot their deposit.
>Carmarthen East and Dinefwr: The nationalists may not have picked up seats this election, but the increased exposure generated by the TV debates certainly seems to have shored up their existing support: Plaid increased their majority here from 3,481 to 5,599 whilst adding almost three points to their share of the vote. Labour actually fell back by 2.3 points.
>Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South: Simon Hart won this seat in 2010 with a majority of 3,423. This time it was over 6,000, and the Tories added 2.6 points to their vote share whilst Labour shed four. UKIP took third place whilst the Lib Dems shed ten points and placed sixth, behind Plaid and the Greens.
>Preseli Pembrokeshire: Having first captured this seat in 2005 with a majority of just 607 Stephen Crabb, the Welsh Secretary, has since comfortably ensconced himself here. Last month he turned a 2010 majority of 4,605 into one of just under five thousand, despite strong showings by UKIP and an independent seeing both major parties lose out in terms of share of the vote.
>Vale of Glamorgan: At 6,880, Alun Cairns has secured the largest Conservative majority in this constituency since 1983, adding 4.2 points to his share of the vote whilst Labour slipped back. Again, UKIP took third and the Lib Dems lost their deposit.
Liberal Democrats: 0/3
>Montgomeryshire: In the halcyon days of Charles Kennedy’s leadership and the 2005 election, this seat returned the Liberal Democrats (in the inimitable form of Lembit Öpik) to Westminster with a majority of over 7,000. It’s loss in 2010 was one of the night’s big shocks, and this time out Glyn Davies increased his majority from 1,184 to 5,325. The Lib Dems remain the only viable challengers at present, which suggests they will not fade away here.
>Newport East: The party’s national woes, combined with the absence of long-established party candidate Ed Townsend, saw the Lib Dems utterly smashed here: they went from being just 1,650 votes short in 2010 to fourth place behind UKIP, an only a point or so shy of losing their deposit. They lost almost 26 points from the share of the vote.
>Swansea West: Incumbent Geraint Davies will be very pleased with this result, which saw his majority increased from 504 to over 7,000. Labour added almost eight points to their share whilst the Lib Dems lost more than 24, tumbling into fourth position and leaving the Tories, whose vote fractionally increased, in second place.
Plaid Cymru: 0/2
>Ceredigion: In a night that was basically open season on Liberal Democrat MP, this result must have stung. Plaid’s contribution a total Lib Dem wipe out in Wales fell short by over 3,000 votes, despite cutting Mark Williams majority from 8,324 in 2010. Plaid actually lost ground in terms of share of the vote, so the legwork was done by a 14 point fall in the Lib Dem share.
>Ynys Môn: The nationalists fought this one very close: 2010’s Labour majority of 2,461 was slashed to just 229, and Plaid added 4.3 points to their share of the vote. The Tories were squeezed, and UKIP knocked the Lib Dems into fifth place and deposit-losing territory.