Can Plaid Cymru gain ground in Labour’s south-eastern fortresses?
One thing Plaid Cymru will be looking for as the General Election results come in on Friday morning is any sign of a rise in support in the industrial and post-industrial communities of south east Wales.
Much of this area has been a Labour fortress for over a hundred years, but it’s also an area where Plaid Cymru must gain ground if they have any realistic hope of forming a Welsh Government after the 2021 Senedd election.
Aberavon is one of Labour’s safest seats in the UK, where they have won with a majority of 33% or more every year since the end of the second world war, while Plaid Cymru has barely won 10% at best.
But despite Labour’s dominance, Plaid Cymru’s candidate in the seat, Nigel Hunt, said he was feeling optimistic about his position in the run-up up to the election.
“We are running a very positive campaign with a focus on the issues that I believe are the most important to Aberavon people,” he said.
“I’m from the local area myself – unlike the other party candidates – and am therefore confident that we are looking at the right things. I’m under no illusion however about the scale of the task.”
Stephen Kinnock has held the seat in Aberavon since the 2015 general election and is a familiar face around the area, but many do not see him as a local man in the same way as they do his Plaid Cymru opponent.
Nigel Hunt said he believes that his work as a councillor in the area puts him in a strong position to gain ground in the election. When it was proposed that a prison be built in Port Talbot, Mr Hunt was a key figure in the opposition of the project and, along with others, successfully campaigned to have the plans scrapped.
His support in the Port Talbot area stems from his roots as a local man. He runs the popular business, San Portablo, who specialise in Port Talbot and Wales themed t-shirts.
Speaking about the biggest issues that need to be tackled in Aberavon, he referred to the lack of funding given to Wales in general:
“We are underfunded by Westminster by hundreds of millions of pounds,” he said, referring to the Barnett formula; “Fair funding” needs to be given, he said, “not just for Aberavon but for Wales more generally.”
Changing people’s thought process at elections from Labour v Conservative to how Wales is treated by Westminster is key to Plaid Cymru’s political goals.
One issue the party hopes will turn voters’ heads is independence. In a speech in Bangor in the Arfon constituency last week, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said that a “majority of 18-24 year-olds are supporting Welsh independence”.
“There’s definitely a shift happening I’ve noticed as I’ve been campaigning around Wales,” whereby traditionally Labour supporters were starting to change the way they voted, he said.
“Solutions to Wales’ problems will never come from Westminster. There never will be an irreversible shift of power,” he said.
“But politics shouldn’t be about managing our problems; it should be about solutions.”
He also stated that the people of the UK are beginning to “lose their faith in politics,” and that Plaid’s role is to “restore that faith”.
Part of that was tackling high poverty rates in Wales, a problem that was “at the heart of our politics” and would help the country progress.
And while Mr Kinnock is heavily favoured by odds of 1/33 to retain his seat in Aberavon, the Plaid Cymru party remains confident in their ability to break new ground.
Adam Price said that “Nigel (Hunt) has a lot of support in the area”.