In 2015 and 2017, we ran a region-by-region overview of the key seats which could decide the general election. We have revived it for 2019, and these battleground profiles run regularly throughout the campaign.
- There are 40 parliamentary constituencies in the principality. Prior to the election 28 were represented by Labour MPs, 7 by Conservative MPs, 4 by Plaid Cymru MPs, and one by a Liberal Democrat MP.
- At the start of the race were grounds to think the Conservatives might make serious gains here. The polls have since narrowed, and the Party would be pleased to walk away with the six gains local activists were predicting at dissolution. There are a lot of possible targets here, but little expectation the Party would ever pick up more than about half on the 12th.
- Labour’s position in Wales is so dominant that there isn’t that much scope for further advancement, and despite their campaign recovery they are still anticipated to lose seats. Nonetheless, there is a small clutch of possible targets.
- The Liberal Democrats used to have one of their safest seats in Wales, but it seems lost to them for the foreseeable. Other than retaining Brecon & Radnor they only really have one plausible target.
- Four MPs is pretty good going for Plaid Cymru and they look likely to stay there, but they will be disappointed that the evidence suggests they are going backwards in Anglesey, their only plausible target.
As in 2015 and 2017, we’ll be taking a region-by-region look at the seats which could change hands. 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 these last few we’ll also look at YouGov’s MRP poll.
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.
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: Alongside Delyn, this is one of two north-eastern seats which always crop up on the Tory radar but never seem to fall. The Party cut the majority to under 3,000 here in 2010 but it has been moving away since then, and the Welsh Conservatives think overturning Labour’s 5,235 majority this time is a very long shot. Yet YouGov’s MRP poll has the contest at a dead heat, and this is one of just a handful Welsh gains which Electoral Calculus currently forecasts for the Tories.
Brecon & Radnorshire: Until 2015 this had been Liberal Democrat until 1997, so the incumbent has a history to draw on as she tries to defend her by-election majority of just 1,425. It also maps with the Assembly constituency, which stubbornly returns the last Lib Dem AM. Furthermore the Conservatives are not running Chris Davies, the former MP, which might help to reduce the role of his expenses scandal on the contest but also reportedly robs them of a popular local candidate with strong knowledge of the constituency. Both YouGov and Electoral Calculus have the Tories winning handsomely – local sources are less bullish.
Bridgend: Hasn’t returned a Conservative MP since the 1983 election, but came close in 2010 and 2015 when the Tories slashed Labour’s majority to just 2,263 and 1,927 respectively. Madeleine Moon extended her lead back to 4,700 at the last election, but those earlier results suggest a strong Tory base to build on with a less disastrous campaign. YouGov have Labour a couple of points ahead, whilst Electoral Calculus have the Tories as the favourites. As the polls stand this one could go either way – it may depend on whether the Brexit Party can win back many of the almost 6,000 UKIP voters here in 2015.
Cardiff North: Until 1997 this was Cardiff’s reliably Conservative seat. Craig Williams took it back by fewer than 200 votes in 2010, built up a majority of just over 2,000 in 2015, and then lost by more than twice that two years ago. The Welsh Party went into this campaign fairly confident about this one, but now the mood is less sunny – gloomy on-the-ground intelligence matches the MRP poll which shows the Conservatives 12 points behind. Perhaps the fact this seat broke 60 per cent for Remain in 2016 is hurting the Party here with their Brexit-focused campaign. The polls will need to turn again to bring this back within reach.
Clwyd South: This has only returned Labour MPs since 1997, but David Cameron cut the majority to under 3,000 votes at both the 2010 and 2015 elections. Once again Labour built up their lead in 2017, but the polls nonetheless suggest that this seat could finally fall. Both YouGov and Electoral Calculus have the Tories just ahead in an incredibly tightly-fought race. With the margins this close it could hinge on where the Brexit Party finds its vote – UKIP took almost 5,500 votes here in 2015, and the seat leans Leave.
Delyn: The counterpart to Alyn & Deeside, a sort of electoral will-o-the-wisp to taunt Tory activists away from other seats. Cameron cut Labour’s majority here to under 3,000 at both his elections, before they built it out to over 4,000 again in 2017. YouGov’s headline finding is ‘Lab Hold’ but they really show it as a dead heat, with both parties on 43 per cent of the vote. Electoral Calculus gives the Conservatives a 40 per cent chance; local sources are quietly resigned to it staying out of reach for yet another election.
Gower: Prior to Byron Davies winning here in 2015, this seat had last returned a non-Labour MP in 1906. Unfortunately his majority of just 27 was always vulnerable and did not withstand the Party’s disastrous 2017 campaign, and Labour are now back with a majority of 3,269. The auguries seem to add up to this one being a long-shot possibility: local campaigners say the ground operation is much stronger than two years ago, YouGov have the Tories a couple of points ahead, and Electoral Calculus gives them a one-in-three shot.
Newport West: Another seat that last went Conservative only at Margaret Thatcher’s high-tide line in 1983, but where the Cameron-era party was competitive – in this instance, running Labour’s majority down to around 3,500 two elections in a row. It is now a much more comfortable 5,658, and as early hopes of a major Welsh breakthrough faltered this seat is one of those which looks to have moved out of reach. But YouGov only has Labour four points ahead, so it isn’t impossible for CCHQ to score an upset here should the winds change.
Vale of Clwyd: Like Gower, this was one the Tories won by only a slender margin in 2015 – in this case, James Davies’ majority was just 237 votes – and then almost inevitably lost again as Theresa May threw away her commanding national lead. Not an obvious pickup based on the overall polling, but not only does YouGov have the Conservatives ahead but local sources are also upbeat, reporting that long-term Labour and even some Plaid voters are coming over due to Brexit. The Tories are also running Davies again, so he will already know the seat and enjoy a local profile.
Wrexham: Hasn’t elected a non-Labour MP since 1935, but was widely expected to fall last time round and compared to some of the other fumbles of that campaign Ian Lucas’ majority of just 1,832 doesn’t look so bad. He has now stood down, depriving Labour of their incumbency advantage, and the Conservatives are hoping to finish the job with a strongly Brexit-focused local campaign. YouGov has them a few points ahead, Electoral Calculus a few points behind.
Ynys Môn: Source of a fine British electoral TV moment: when the Tories won it in 1979 (as Anglesey), David Dimbleby declared it the first time the party had won the seat since… 1722! It subsequently fell to Plaid in 1987 and then Labour in 2001, and remains something of a three-way marginal. A couple of factors favour the Conservatives: long-serving incumbent Albert Owen is standing down; Plaid aren’t running high-profile candidate and former MP Ieuan Wyn Jones; and the Tory candidate is apparently “quite Plaid-y”. YouGov have them seven points clear with the other parties tied for second.
Aberconwy: This seat and its predecessors were reliably Conservative until 1997, and upon its re-creation Guto Bebb took and held it by solid mid-3000s majorities at both the 2010 and 2015 elections. In 2017 Labour cut it to just 635, and taken together with Bebb’s decision to stand down from Parliament and his high-profile row with the Party over Brexit the Opposition have grounds for thinking they would win here. However the revival of Welsh Labour’s fortunes does not yet seem to extend to them gaining seats, and YouGov has the Tories six points ahead.
Arfon: Along with its predecessor Caernarfon, this seat has been held by Plaid Cymru since 1974 and in the Eighties and Nineties seems to have been a safe Nationalist seat. But Labour have been closing the gap since the turn of the millennium and in 2017 put on more than ten points to cut Plaid’s majority to just 92. Electoral Calculus have the Nationalists a few points ahead in a competitive race, whilst YouGov’s MRP projection sees Plaid returning to old form with almost 50 per cent of the vote.
Preseli Pembrokeshire: One of two chances for Welsh Labour to scalp a former Welsh Secretary. Stephen Crabb won this seat back for the Conservatives in 2005 and built up solid mid-4000s majorities in 2010 and 2015 before seeing it cut to 314 two years ago. However, with a better national Tory campaign his fortunes seem to have improved, with all forecasts currently expecting a comfortable Conservative retention.
Vale of Glamorgan: Alun Cairns’ majority is a good but not safe 2,190 in a seat he won for the Conservatives in 2010. He will doubtless have been hurt by being forced to resign as Welsh Secretary over the Ross England affair, but this will also make him a less high-profile scalp and might encourage Labour activists to focus instead on other, more marginal seats. Both YouGov and Electoral Calculus predict the Tories to win more than 50 per cent of the vote here on the 12th.
Ceredigion: This is usually a Plaid/Lib Dem marginal, although both Labour and the Tories also have respectable shares. The Nationalists held it from its re-creation in 1997 until Mark Williams won it for the Lib Dems in 2005, and he then held it – sometimes by very comfortable margins – until 2017. He’s standing again and, having contested the seat at every opportunity since the 2000 by-election, brings almost two decades of local knowledge to bear against first-term Nationalist MP Ben Lake. Despite this, YouGov have Williams at risk of losing second place to the Conservatives, whilst Electoral Calculus actually puts his odds lower than those of either Labour or the Tories in a strange sort of three-way marginal.
Ynys Môn: Prior to the quite recent revival of the Tory vote this was a Plaid/Labour marginal – even as recently as 2015 they cut Labour’s majority to just 229. Yet in 2017 they fell back, losing second place to the Conservatives despite running former MP and Deputy First Minister Wyn Jones, and now both YouGov and Electoral Calculus have them in third. The question is whether this recent Tory spike is a blip or whether the tectonic plates of Anglesey are moving away from the Nationalists.