The 10 key seats to watch in Wales at the General Election
Ifan Morgan Jones
Over the next three and a half weeks until Election Day, we will be looking in more detail at some of the key electoral battlegrounds in Wales.
But to get us started, here is an overview of some of the most interesting and most critical seats in Wales that will give us a key insight into how the parties are going to perform on a national and UK level…
If we look at the polls this is one seat that the Liberal Democrats should be able to put in the ‘gain’ column without too much difficulty.
They require only a 0.13% swing, or 104 votes, to take this seat which was won so unexpectedly by Plaid Cymru candidate Ben Lake in 2017.
Given that the Liberal Democrats are a good 6% up in the polls on 2017 at the moment, the former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams should on paper be victorious.
However, Ceredigion is something of a political micro-climate. The Liberal Democrats here aren’t the cosmopolitan, Remain party of the ‘Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats’ brand. Their vote is more rural and conservative, particularly in the south of the county.
This constituency will ultimately come down to a battle of popularity between new MP Ben Lake and the previous MP Mark Williams.
It really is too close to call, but it’s hard to overstate to what extent Ben Lake is liked in Ceredigion. Since his election in 2017, he has been everywhere. So, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he does upset the polls and keep hold of his seat.
The Labour party campaign could play a key role here as well. There was a feeling in 2017 that a stronger than usual Labour campaign by Dinah Mullholland split the Liberal Democrat vote.
2.) Ynys Môn
As in Ceredigion, Ynys Môn has its own political micro-climate. What happens beyond the shores of the island seem not to trouble it too much – it will make its own mind up based on the candidates available.
It has been held by the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and Labour over the past decades and the only pattern seems to be that once the island chooses an MP they stick with him or her.
Albert Owen who has represented Ynys Môn for the Labour party since 2001 is standing down this time after five elections and so the seat is up for grabs once more.
A week ago one may have been tempted to nudge Ynys Mon into the Conservative column, given the island’s changing demographics, the pro-Brexit vote, and the Tories’ growing poll lead.
However, with the mess over the selection of the Conservative candidate and subsequent choice of someone of no links to the island, Plaid Cymru’s Aled ap Dafydd is now the bookies’ favourite.
But who knows? The result is likely to be razor-thin between all three parties and could go either way.
North-east Wales is a key battleground in this election and if Boris Johnson wants to win a majority winning Wrexham should be like taking candy from a baby.
The Conservatives only need a 2.61% swing here. This urban seat will also be one of the first in Wales to declare around 1am and should set the tone for the rest of the night.
Labour also have a new candidate, Mary Wimbury, after previous MP Ian Lucas decided to step down after two decades. Could the loss of Lucas’ personal vote make this an easier win for Conservative candidate Sarah Atherton?
Wrexham is one seat that is almost guaranteed to change, and if it doesn’t then Boris Johnson is looking at a very long night, a hung parliament and years of deadlock afterwards – if he is still PM of course.
4.) Vale of Clwyd
The Conservatives are expected to lose 20 or so seats to the resurgent Lib Dems and SNP. Therefore to get a majority Boris Johnson needs to win some 30 seats from the Labour party.
Around 2.30am in the morning we will get the result of the Vale of Clwyd, which is target seat number 29 for the Conservatives to take from the Labour party.
If they have taken this seat with a swing of 3.07% or 2,379 votes then Boris Johnson will likely to have not gobbled up the north-east of Wales like a kid in a candy store but will be on his way to at least a majority. If he wins here with a large swing of 10% or so he will be heading for a comfortable majority.
However, if Labour MP Chris Ruane can hold on, life will be rather more difficult for the PM. Former MP James Davies, who won the seat for the Conservatives in 2015, is standing once more.
5.) Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
Of course, the possibility remains that between now and 12 December we could see a reversal at the polls and Labour could edge ahead.
If Labour are going to win a majority in the House of Commons they need to win around 64 seats. What is seat 64 on their target list?
Why, it’s Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South, a seat they could win with a swing of 3.68% or 3,110 votes.
If Labour take Carmarthen West from current MP Simon Hart at around 4am, or even come close to doing so, Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn is a distinct possibility.
But if as currently predicted the Conservative with this seat with an increased majority, expect Corbyn’s resignation in the morning.
While a Labour majority does seem unlikely, denying the Conservative party one isn’t entirely off the cards.
Labour need just a 0.99% swing or 635 votes to win Aberconwy, where the previous MP Guto Bebb has decided to stand down over his party’s handling of Brexit and given way to candidate Robin Millar.
By 3am we should have some idea whether Labour have managed to take this seat. If they have done so by even a tight margin, then we’re almost back where we started.
Plaid Cymru won 3,170 votes here last time and whether their vote stays intact or goes to Labour could also be key in deciding the outcome.
7.) Brecon and Radnorshire
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds won this seat from the Conservatives in a by-election only three and a half months ago.
Whether the Lib Dems can count this election as a success will depend a lot on whether they can win seats like Brecon and Radnorshire where they do not hold them and retain them where they do.
At the moment, it doesn’t look entirely hopeful for them, with both the Conservatives and Labour rising in the opinion polls since the election was called earlier this month.
The Conservatives need a 2.25% swing to take this seat back. If the Lib Dems can hold on to it, it will have been a good night for them.
If not they may have well pick up 10 or so seats in the South East of England and London but the picture overall will be more mixed, and they may well be back with no MPs in Wales.
This seat is part of the Unite to Remain coalition in Wales, with Plaid and Greens backing the Lib Dems, and this will be a key test of whether it has worked or not.
8.) Cardiff North
This is going to be an extremely interesting seat to follow because it will be a key indicator of what impact Brexit is likely to have on this General Election.
Historically this has been a key bell-weather seat and with only a 4.01% swing required it’s one that Boris Johnson should be winning quite easily if he wants a stable majority government.
And yet Cardiff is a strongly Remain city, and the Conservatives did very poorly there in the EU elections. Could their support for Brexit act as a break on their hopes here?
The Conservatives are favourites here but only by odds of 8/11, so a Labour win for incumbent Anna McMorrin who has impressed since being elected wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
9.) Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
‘How on earth can Merthyr Tydfil be an interesting seat?’ I hear you cry. Labour have been winning here since Keir Hardy threw his cloth cap into the ring in 1900.
The answer to that is that this is one of the only seats in Wales, and perhaps the UK, where Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will consider themselves anything close to serious challengers.
Nigel Farage has visited the south-east valleys semi-regularly of late and held a big rally in Merthyr Tydfil in May.
OK, they’re only 14/1 with the bookies to win. But if the Brexit Party have any hope of becoming a permanent feature of British politics, they should at least be beating the Conservatives into second place here.
It will be interesting to watch the Plaid Cymru vote in Merthyr Tydfil as well following the 5,000-person independence march in September. Will the increased visibility of the independence campaign move the dial for them at all?
10.) The Vale of Glamorgan
Former Secretary of State Alun Cairns’ seat is another one that on the fact of it should not be up for grabs.
Labour would require a 2.04% swing to take it and the current polls suggest the Conservative will increase their majority.
However, there are two factors that suggest that Labour winning this seat is doable. The first is that Alun Cairns has been at the centre of a large amount of high-profile controversy over the last few weeks and there was a lot of pressure on him to stand aside as a candidate.
Secondly, this seat is part of the Unite to Remain Alliance and Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have stood aside here to give the Greens a free run.
Realistically however one would expect a substantial amount of that vote to transfer to the Labour party who only need a 2.04% swing, or 2,109 votes, to unseat Cairns.
The polls suggest that Cairns will hang on by the skin of his teeth. However, this could be one shock result that it may be worth staying up until 4am for.
The results of the above constituencies should give us a good idea of whether election night can be considered a success for all the main parties.
There are a few others that will be worth keeping an eye on, however. They include Arfon, where Plaid Cymru are defending a narrow lead against the Labour party, but where they are expected to hold out with a slightly increased majority this time.
Clwyd South, Alyn and Deeside, and Delyn in the north-east are also key Conservative target seats expected to flip on the day, while Labour could also lose Gower and Bridgend in the south.
If the Liberal Democrats have a very good night it may be worth keeping an eye on Montgomeryshire as well, which would be winnable with a slightly bigger swing (13.31%) than that seen at the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.
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