- There are 40 Parliamentary constituencies in Wales. At dissolution Labour held 25, the Conservatives 11, Plaid Cymru three, and the Liberal Democrats one.
- Wales was a strong region for the Tories last time, holding ultra-marginal Cardiff North and picking up three seats, reaching the party’s highest total since the 1980s. Now some quite extraordinary polling suggests they’re actually in the lead and could pick up six or even ten more, a genuine earthquake.
- Scotland having fallen, Wales has been the last part of the so-called ‘Celtic fringe’ which helped provide Labour’s Westminster majorities. Last year’s ill-run campaign managed to lose two seats to the Conservatives by tiny margins, but if the Tory tide indicated in the polling is real they’ll likely be fighting an almost purely defensive election no matter how well run their campaign. We’ve listed their two 2015 losses, which were very close-run things, as targets.
- Once home to some of the party’s safest seats, the Lib Dems have been lucky to avoid an actual wipe-out. They’ll be fending off the nationalists in their remaining seat whilst targeting only a handful more, most likely Cardiff Central.
- The last general election was a disappointing one for Plaid Cymru, who failed to translate the much higher exposure enjoyed by their leader into any gains in seats. Leanne Wood’s decision not to stand in a key target probably tells you want you need to know about the state of their campaign, but current polling suggests they are set to take a seat off Labour.
As in 2015, we’ll be taking a region-by-region look at the seats which could change hands and offering our suggested lists of target seats for each party.
These lists aren’t predictions of gains: rather, they’re just seats which we think could be competitive. They might be official party targets, have a small majority, or be subject to other factors which could leave them open to change.
Amongst the resources we’ll be using to steer us through these murky waters are Electoral Calculus, UK Polling Report, Number Cruncher Politics, and Election Polling, whilst all Leave vote share estimations are from Chris Hanretty’s very helpful constituency-by-constituency charts.
For Wales-specific stuff we’ll be drawing on the excellent work of Professor Roger Scully and may also look at Welsh Assembly election results, although these aren’t always a clear guide as the Tories underperform at Cardiff Bay compared to Westminster and consistent turnout differences mean that they are almost fought with different electorates.
We’re also keeping an eye on the work of many other pollsters, psephologists, and analysts, some of whom our assistant editor has collated onto a Twitter list.
Battleground Rating: 9/10
Targets by party:
(NB These are our own suggestions of potential attack seats for each party – including those officially designated as targets and others where the incumbent has a relatively small majority, or local factors are at play which may open the seat to change.)
Alyn & Deeside: This has been Labour since its creation in 1983, but looks like one of the Conservatives’ better prospects in Wales with a Labour majority of just 3,343. This is slightly bigger than it was going into the 2015 election, when this seat appeared on a leaked list of Tory ‘non-targets’, but the very different polling situation should make them more confident this time, not least with almost 7,000 UKIP votes to squeeze in a seat which went 58 per cent Leave (est.). Electoral Calculus tips a gain in the 39th-most marginal Tory target seat.
Bridgend: With a majority of less than 2,000, Labour incumbent Madeleine Moon is defending what Election Polling ranks as (on paper) the 20th seat on the Conservative attack sheet. Bridgend has only previously gone Tory during Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 landslide, but Electoral Calculus predicts it to do so this time – a particularly stinging result for Labour as their First Minister, Carwyn Jones, holds the seat in the Welsh Assembly. This seat is estimated to have voted narrowly to Leave, which may help the Conservative candidate woo UKIP’s almost 6,000 2015 voters.
Cardiff South & Penarth: A breakthrough in Cardiff would suggest that the Conservatives are on track for a very good night in Wales indeed. The Labour majority here stands at almost 7,500, but it was only 4,709 after the 2010 election and between them UKIP added almost 5,300 votes to their share. Electoral Calculus thinks Labour will hold on but gives the Tories a four-in-ten chance of an upset in a seat which has never gone Conservative and used to have James Callaghan for an MP.
Cardiff West: This is 76th on the Tories’ paper battleground, but like its southern neighbour it’s a seat where a very strong 2015 showing for UKIP turned Labour’s vaguely competitive majority of 4,750 into a much safer-looking 6,789. This seat has gone Conservative once before, in 1983, and although Electoral Calculus tips a narrow Labour hold they suggest the Tories have a 42 per cent chance of winning here. At 44 per cent, this is estimated as the most Leave seat in Cardiff too.
Clwyd South: The Conservatives have run Labour fairly close in this seat since Susan Elan Jones succeeded Martyn Jones as MP in 2010. After the last election her majority stood at just under 2,500, and with Leave estimated to have picked up 60 per cent of the vote in this seat the Tories may be hopeful of picking up some of UKIP’s almost 5,500 voters from two years ago. Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative gain, and it would likely be an ill omen for the party if they missed out here.
Delyn: Although it last elected a Tory MP in 1987, this may be one of the best Conservative prospects in Wales: in 2015 they managed to only shed a couple of percentage points despite UKIP putting on an extra 14.6 (the seat is estimated to have voted 54 per cent Leave), and at a shade under 3,000 Labour’s majority is one of the narrowest they face. Electoral Calculus predict a Conservative gain.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd: As we explained at greater length in our initial report on the new Welsh polling, this is an outside chance of an upset. Plaid’s majority stands at a healthy 5,261, yet the seat is estimated to have voted 47 per cent Leave. The stars would need to align right for the Tories here: wooing the 3,000 voters who picked UKIP in 2015 and making inroads into the Leave-voting share of Labour’s 3,900 whilst hoping a Lib Dem revival erodes the nationalist lead. Electoral Calculus tips a Plaid hold with just over a one-in-three chance of a Conservative upset.
Newport East: Here the Conservatives have profited from the collapse of the Lib Dems, who were second-placed until the last election. Labour’s majority of just over 4,700 would usually look fairly safe, but at this election Electoral Calculus predicts a real knife-edge battle (with the Tories’ noses in front). The seat voted 59 per cent Leave (est.), so the Conservatives will need to win over both UKIP’s almost 6,500 voters from the last election and Leave-inclined Labour voters. A Lib Dem revival that took some of Labour’s more ardently Remain voters would help too.
Newport West: A much better Conservative prospect than its eastern neighbour, Paul Flynn’s majority stood at just over 3,500 after the last election, the Tories holding position despite a 12-point increase in UKIP’s share of the vote. This seat is estimated to have been slightly less pro-Leave than Newport East, but Electoral Calculus still predicts a Conservative gain with more than 50 per cent probability.
Torfaen: This is another of those outside chances. Hanretty estimates that this seat went 61 per cent Leave, which may make it more vulnerable than its 8,000 Labour majority would indicate – indeed in 2015 the Tories managed to gain ground on Labour despite an almost 17-point increase in the UKIP share. As in Dwyfor Meirionnydd the Conservatives would need to secure most of UKIP’s 7,200 voters and make inroads into Labour Leavers – Electoral Calculus gives them a 35 per cent chance of pulling it off.
Wrexham: Despite having not returned a Conservative MP since 1918 (although they only fell 424 votes short in 1983), this is one of the party’s top targets this time. The collapse of the Lib Dems leaves the Tories the clear challenger, and Ian Lucas’ majority has been whittled down to just over 1,800. If the Tory candidate can win over some of UKIP’s 5,000 voters, or Leave voters who previously backed Lucas (Hanretty estimates that Wrexham went 58 per cent Leave) they should get over the top for the first time in a century or more. Electoral Calculus thinks they will.
Ynys Môn: This provided a wonderful bit of British election trivia in 1979, when David Dimbleby pointed out that the Tories had picked it up for the first time since 1722. This seat, which was formerly known as Anglesey, is a three-way fight between the Labour incumbent, Plaid Cymru, and the Tories. On present polling the nationalists look set to take it (they cut Labour’s majority to just 229 in 2015, and are running a high-profile candidate in Ieuan Wyn Jones. However, the Conservatives could pull it off: they are only about 3,000 votes behind the two front-runners, and in 2015 UKIP took more tha 5,000 votes. In a seat estimated to have backed withdrawal from the EU, there may be a coalition there to put the Tories over the line. Oddly, Electoral Calculus predicts a Plaid gain with its headline but gives the Tories the best odds – indicating a close fight, if nothing else.
Gower: The most marginal Labour target in the country – Tory incumbent Byron Davies’ majority is just 27 votes – this was such an unexpected loss two years ago that Labour HQ had to hand-write it onto their battle-board. This time Electoral Calculus predicts a much more comfortable Conservative hold, with Davies reaping the advantages of incumbency and perhaps benefiting from the unwinding of UKIP’s 2015 vote, which in 2015 was almost 5,000 votes here.
Vale of Clwyd: Another unexpected defeat at the last election with another very narrow Conservative majority, this time of just 237 votes. Former MP Chris Ruane is hoping to win back Labour’s fourth-most marginal target, but Electoral Calculus gives Dr James Davies, the incumbent, a two-in-three chance of holding on. Once again, a strong UKIP vote will likely unwind to the Tories’ advantage in a seat estimated to have voted Leave.
Cardiff Central: Although the seats they have lost to the Conservatives in 2010 and 2015 (Montgomeryshire and Brecon & Radnorshire) used to be some of the party’s safest, it’s against Labour that the Lib Dems have the best chance to increase their tally of Welsh MPs. The party won this in 2005 and held it in 2010 before Labour regained it in 2015, but the Lib Dems will be hoping that their message cuts through in a seat estimated to have gone two-thirds Remain. Electoral Calculus doesn’t fancy their chances in what is on paper their 25th target.
Ceredigion: The Lib Dems took this from Plaid by just 219 votes in 2005, but even during 2015’s turkey shoot the nationalists fell more than 3,000 votes short of regaining a seat they had previously held since a shock gain in 1992. (It will doubtless add insult to injury that the incumbent, Mark Williams, is or was apparently the first non-Welsh-speaking MP for the seat since 1892.) That the Assembly seat is solidly Plaid illustrates how the nationalists’ suffer from the higher turnout in Westminster contests. Electoral Calculus thinks he’ll hold on again, and it seems unlikely that the nationalists have a better chance now than they did two years ago.
Rhondda: At the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections Leanne Wood, the nationalist leader, managed to wrest this seat from Leighton Andrews, a former minister in Labour’s Cardiff Bay administration. After a rather public display of indecision she has decided not to contest the Westminster seat, which supports reports that Plaid don’t expect great things from this election. Chris Bryant’s majority of just under 7,500 looks solid, and although proportionally Wood pulled off a bigger upset to win the Assembly seat the extra voters at Westminster elections don’t tend to favour Plaid (as you might expect of people who tune out devolution).
Ynys Môn: After failing to increase their Westminster caucus in 2015, this looks like the nationalists’ best opportunity to do it. They’re running Ieuan Wyn Jones, a former Plaid leader who represented the island in the Assembly between 1999 and 2013. Current polling suggests they’re on course for victory, although as mentioned above Electoral Calculus’ rather confused prediction suggests the Conservatives may yet pip Plaid to the post.