Plaid Cymru picks general election candidate for new Carmarthen seat
Plaid Cymru has chosen a county councillor to stand in the new seat of Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen at next year’s general election.
Ann Davies, currently the cabinet member for rural affairs, community cohesion and planning policy on Carmarthenshire County Council, will be hoping to become the second woman ever to be elected as a Plaid Westminster MP.
Ms Davies defeated Jordan Griffiths, a senior communications and community engagement officer working for former Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, following a ballot of local party members. We have been told that Ms Davies got 76 votes and Mr Griffiths 40. A third candidate, Elin T Jones, dropped out on the day when the first of two hustings meetings was held. The first meeting took place on November 1 in Llandeilo and the second on November 9 in Carmarthen.
Within the party, there is concern at the low turnout for the selection contest. A source has told us that only 116 out of 530 registered members took part – a turnout of just 21.9%.
The contest has taken place following a traumatic period for Plaid locally. The new seat has come into being following a redrawing of constituency boundaries to reduce the number of MPs elected in Wales from 40 to 32. Most of the new seat is made up of wards currently in the existing seat of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, together with some from the neighbouring seat of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.
Adam Price, MS for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr said: “I am thrilled that Ann has been selected as our candidate here in the new seat of Caerfyrddin. The quality of the contest for the candidacy was incredibly high and that pressure has yielded excellent results for Plaid Cymru in Sir Gar.
“I look forward to giving Ann my full support for the upcoming election campaign, as we look to win what has always been a critical seat for the party. Ann can deliver for Plaid Cymru, for Carmarthenshire, and for Wales.”
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr has been represented since 2010 by Jonathan Edwards, who won the seat at four successive general elections as a Plaid Cymru candidate.
However, during the lockdown period he was suspended by the party after an incident in which he subsequently received a police caution for assaulting his wife.
Initially a party disciplinary panel said he could return to the party after undertaking a domestic violence training programme, but the party’s NEC later overruled the panel and said Mr Edwards should not return to party membership.
He has since sat as an Independent MP and has indicated that he may stand as an Independent candidate in the new seat. If he did so, that would diminish Plaid Cymru’s chances of victory.
Labour has chosen as its candidate Martha O’Neil following a fraught selection contest in which Rob James, who leads the opposition Labour group on the county council, was disqualified after postal ballot papers including his name had already been sent out to members.
Before his exclusion, Cllr James was seen as the favourite to win the nomination. It is understood he was told by Welsh Labour officials that he was removed from the process because of a text message he supposedly sent that he has no recollection of.
The text message is understood to have referred to Deputy Transport Minister Lee Waters, the MS for Llanelli, around the time earlier this year that Carmarthenshire county councillors were debating the issue of second homes.
Cllr James was accused of having texted an unspecified person a message which said: “If you want to cause some trouble today you may want to point out in the second home debate that the MS for Llanelli has two second homes in Carmarthenshire and doesn’t live in either of them.” The councillor has told local party members that he can’t remember having sent such a message. Mr Waters has denied that he has two second homes in Carmarthenshire.
It is understood that Welsh Labour has said it can’t prove that Cllr James sent the message, but that allowing him to continue in the selection process would have risked reputational damage for the party.
When a hustings meeting was held days after his removal from the contest, it had to be abandoned after descending into chaos with members complaining about what they saw as his undemocratic exclusion. A number of party members were subsequently suspended.
A postal ballot resulted in victory for Ms O’Neil, a former policy adviser to the UK Government.
The Conservatives still have a big decision to make about who they will select as their general election candidate. Simon Hart, the Tory chief whip in the House of Commons, currently represents Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.
But while it may seem logical for him to put his name forward for Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen, the neighbouring new seat of Mid Pembrokeshire is seen as arguably more winnable by the Conservatives. Part of the current Preseli Pembrokeshire seat, represented by ex-Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, forms part of Mid Pembrokeshire.
There has been speculation that both Mr Crabb and Mr Hart may seek the party nomination in Mid Pembrokeshire, and that the loser might then seek selection in Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen.
Tory sources have told us that unlike the Labour Party, sitting MPs are not given preferential rights to be the candidate in a new seat following boundary changes. It’s therefore possible that other would-be candidates will put their names forward.
No date has yet been set for the Tory candidate selections in Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen or Mid Pembrokeshire.
At the general election in 2019, Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards won with a majority of 1,809 over the second-placed Tory. The Labour candidate came third.
In Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Conservative MP Simon Hart was re-elected with a majority of 7,745 over Labour. The Plaid Cymru candidate was a distant third.
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