Ynys Môn – the UK’s most unpredictable battleground seat?
Anyone who tells you they know which party will win Ynys Môn at next week’s General Election is best ignored.
Although Plaid Cymru’s Aled ap Dafydd remains a marginal favourites with the bookies, Ladbrokes Politics has described it as the hardest seat in the UK to pick a winner.
Aled ap Dafydd is up against Labour’s Mary Roberts and the Conservatives’ Virginia Crosbie and no one would be surprised to see either elected in the early hours of 13 December.
MPs from all three parties have held the seat since 1979, when it was won by the Conservatives’ Keith Best, then Plaid Cymru’s Ieuan Wyn Jones in 1987, and then Labour’s Albert Owen in 2001.
This time, however, the Liberal Democrats have stepped down their candidate as part of the Remain Alliance and have thrown their weight behind Plaid Cymru.
Despite Anglesey voting Leave by a marginal 50.9% in the EU Referendum, Aled ap Dafydd said that the island’s future would be best served by remaining in the EU.
Plaid Cymru was the best choice for those who wanted another referendum after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had said he would remain neutral on the matter, he said.
“I’m standing in Anglesey because I believe the residents there deserve better,” he said. “If people want to keep the Tories out, then they have to vote for Plaid Cymru.
“If people do the same thing over and over again, then they’ll get the same result. Which means if they elect a Tory or a Labour party representative, then they won’t be able to deal with the underlying problems facing Ynys Môn and facing Wales as a whole.
“I’m a passionate European. We know the Labour Party has said they’d want to go back to Brussels, re-negotiate a deal, have a special conference, and then put whatever their recommendation is back to the people.
“But we know that Jeremy Corbyn has said he’ll remain neutral. So he’s not showing any leadership on one of the biggest issues of our times.”
The candidate, who was a journalist at the BBC for 20 years, said that it’s now clear that the people of Anglesey had changed their minds on Brexit and deserve another chance to vote.
“Wales is a net exporter to the EU,” he said. “Two-Thirds of all our exports go to the European single market. EU funding is worth over £2 billion a year to Wales. That’s £230 per head for the population. So, £230 for every person living in Ynys Mon.
“EU Funding also makes up more than 80% of Welsh farmers incomes and we have a rural economy on Anglesey.
“It started with the people – it should end with the people. The Westminster Parliament has been in paralysis. The Prime Minister has not been able to command a sufficient majority – and the chaotic Labour opposition has been too weak to challenge him.
“So the only way, because it’s a possibility again that we will get a hung Parliament, the only way we’re going to solve the Brexit chaos is to have a Peoples Vote. A general election isn’t going to solve it.”
Mary Roberts however thinks that Labour can keep hold of the seat, despite the polls showing a drop in support for her party since the 2017 election.
She points to her experience of having to move away from the island to find work as to why she wants the island to stay red.
“I’m from Anglese. I’ve lived here. I love the island, I feel passionate about it,” she said. “I think like a lot of young people on the island I had to move away for work after university which is frustrating.
“We need to have more high-quality jobs and opportunities for young people so that they can stay on the island if they wish to do so. We’re losing a lot of talent I think because the jobs aren’t there.
“I think politics needs to work for people, and at present that’s not happening – and I’ve seen that first hand in my campaign work. I want to make a real difference to the way politics is delivered. Both on Ynys Môn and in our country as well.
“I think we need to develop higher-skilled jobs on the island. The jobs that people can progress into and progress onwards. So that their earning capacity goes up.
“I think we need to be encouraging more business and industry into the island – ones that support high quality high skilled jobs. I think we need to be seeing more social housing and affordable housing on the island.”
“I think people are working but the housing here is so expensive that people can’t afford to either rent or buy a house and actually that’s a real issue on the island.”
The NHS was another key issue for her. While Labour runs the NHS in Wales, she said it wasn’t getting the funds it neeed from the Conservative government at Westminster.
“Particularly because we’ve got an older population and we really need those services here,” she said. “That’s another priority for me – in making sure we do have the GPs and the dentists and healthcare professionals that we need on the island.”
On the issue of Wylfa Newydd, the idea of having a nuclear power plant on the Island, the candidate didn’t rule out he possibility given how much it would help the island.
“We’ve got a climate crisis going on and we need to address that,” she said. “We need to be maintaining security of energy supply and we need to do it in as carbon-neutral way as possible.
“I think nuclear is a key way that we can maintain our security of energy and also there’s the jobs issue on Anglesey. It supports thousands of jobs. And again – it’s those highly skilled, good quality jobs which we need to see more of on Anglesey.”
Mary Roberts said that despite her party leader’s neutral stance that she too would be campaigning for Remain in a second referendum if one happens.
“I supported remain in 2016 and I still support remain. I fully support Labour’s position about having a referendum.” she said.
“I support the Labour position of negotiating a Brexit deal and letting the public decide.”
Unfortunately, the Conservative candidate ruled out the possibility of an interview with Nation.Cymru and instead sent a statement.
Virginia Crosbie says her grandfather was a miner in Merthyr Tydfil and her father want to school in Monmouth and also worked on Wylfa.
She was the first person in her family to go to university and studied Microbiology, before working in the pharmaceutical industry.
Over the last four years, she’s been teaching maths to disadvantaged adults, and worked in Westminster leading campaigns for gender balance.
“If elected we will move our family home to Ynys Môn and I will commit to learning Welsh,” she said.
“For too long, Ynys Môn has been let down by Labour and Plaid Cymru. This beautiful island is not realising its huge potential because of years of inaction and neglect.
“And now, both parties want to ignore your choice to leave the EU – the biggest democratic decision we’ve ever made.
“Plaid Cymru want to ignore your vote entirely and Labour want you to change your mind. The Brexit Party can’t form a Government to deliver Brexit. A vote for anyone other than the Conservatives will result in no Brexit, years more delay and higher taxes with Jeremy Corbyn.
“While Ynys Môn has suffered unprecedented job losses and a GP crisis, the Welsh Assembly, supported by Plaid, has prioritised becoming bigger, even debating the Assembly’s name.
“I will tackle the health crisis and improve the well-being of the island’s residents by backing green projects like Lôn Las Môn and the 2025 Island Games which promotes active travel and lifestyles.
“With a 3rd Menai crossing now uncertain, I am the only candidate with a focus for growth who will champion projects like Wylfa Newydd in Westminster to deliver high skilled jobs and kick-start the island’s economy again.
“If elected, I’ll give Ynys Môn a voice in Westminster – fighting to secure jobs, lower taxes and increase the investment desperately needed. It’s time for a fresh start on Ynys Môn.”
The Plaid Cymru candidate Aled ap Dafydd said that he did agree with the other candidates lack of skilled jobs on the island.
“The median gross weekly earning of full time employees in 2018 was £498 – earnings grew in all local authorities across the region compared with 2017 exceptin Anglesey where earnings decreased by 4.3% or £20.10 – so there is a particular problem in terms of high skilled and well paid jobs in Anglesey,” he said.
“That’s why Plaid Cymru has already said that when we form the next Welsh Government – we’ll base our national energy company in Ynys Môn, providing those high skilled well-paid jobs.
“And you will have seen our manifesto where we put a heavy focus on a green jobs revolution – to try and get the hourly wage in Ynys Môn up to the level it should be.”
On the matter of Wylfa Newydd, Mr ap Dafydd didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t deliver, and says he’s been discussing a plan B.
“If the plans come back, and it’s possible they will be back on a smaller scale, we’d have to look at the economic benefits,” he said.
“And no doubt – there would be economic benefits – and no doubt there would be economic benefits in terms of providing high skilled well-paid jobs.
“The Labour party say they’d deliver Wylfa B, but they haven’t said how, by when? How they’d fund it? Would the underwrite the whole project? And that’s a question they also need to answer.
“We have a period now of stagnation and the pressing issue for Ynys Môn is to have high skilled well-paid jobs now. That’s why I’ve been talking about the possibility of enticing companies to Ynys Môn by giving them a financial incentive – so – as an example, they wouldn’t have to pay the national insurance contributions of employees. We need to be thinking about solutions and providing answers to the problem.”
Aled ap Dafydd said he also believes that the people in Ynys Môn are being let down after Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board was put into special measures in June 2015.
“Although a devolved issue, we’re hearing over and over again that people are dissatisfied with the health service they’re getting currently. Not because of the hard work of doctors and nurses, but because of the Labour mismanagement of the health service in Wales which has led to Betsi Cadwaladr being in special measures now for nearly five years,” he said.
“And we also know that what we’re having, particularly in Ynys Môn, is a Labour candidate who has a manifesto of things that the Labour party in Wales could already be implementing.
“One prime example being zero-hour contracts which is on her leaflet. It’s something that Plaid Cymru’s tabled seven times as a motion in the Assembly – to ban zero-hour contracts – and the Labour Party has voted seven times against.”