- Focus on Wales
â€œPunterâ€ has asked me to comment on the Welsh constituencies on several occasions. As there are 40 Welsh constituencies, then my comments on the likely outcome at the next election must be brief.
Wales has been a left-wing stronghold since 1885. Firstly, it was monolithically Liberal, and then, after a period of confusion in the Twenties and Thirties, almost as solid for Labour up till 1979. Even in 1931, Labour won no fewer than 18 out of 35 Welsh seats, at a time when the Party had been reduced to 52 seats nationwide. In a typical election, Labour could expect to win around 30 seats in the Principality. That hold was shaken, when the Conservatives performed very well in 1979 and 1983, winning 14 seats to 20 for Labour, but from 1987, Labour recovered its dominance, in most parts of Wales. According to Anthony Wells, in 2005, Labour would have won 30 seats on the new boundaries, the Liberal Democrats 4, Conservatives 3, Plaid Cymru 2, and Peter Law would have won Blaenau Gwent.
Labour will retain a clear majority of Welsh seats at the next election, but may well lose quite a few. Of their seats, 21 look solid to me, namely Aberavon, Alyn & Deeside, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff South, Cardiff West, Clwyd South, Cynon Valley, Delyn, Gower, Islywn, Llanelli, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Newport East, Ogmore, Pontypridd, Rhondda, Swansea East, Torfaen, and Wrexham. The Conservatives have outside chances of taking Vale of Clwyd, and Newport West, where they performed very well in the Assembly election, and the Liberal Democrats have an outside chance of taking Swansea West, but Labour would be heading for a very bad defeat were it to lose those three seats.
Arfon, notionally Labour, but with a sitting Plaid Cymru MP will be an almost certain Labour loss, particularly as Plaid won it easily in the Assembly. Likewise, it is very hard to see the party retaining Aberconwy, where it has a notional lead of only 1,000 over the Conservatives. Remarkably, however, Plaid won this seat in the Assembly. In a general election, however, I would expect anti-Labour voters to choose the Conservatives, rather than Plaid. Cardiff North produced a huge Conservative win in the Assembly, and likewise, must be almost certain to fall. Carmarthern West and South Pembrokeshire was won by the Conservatives at Assembly level, and will produce an extremely tight contest at the next election. Labour have however, held on against the odds, at both Parliamentary and Assembly level, in Vale of Glamorgan, a constituency which would be solidly Conservative if it were located in Southern England. In all likelihood, Labour will retain this, unless there is a strong swing to the Conservatives at the next election. Finally, Ynys Mon will produce yet another nail-biter between Labour and Plaid. If Labourâ€™s support is down overall, compared to 2005, then Plaid will take this.
Among the other parties, Plaid will hold Dwyfor Merionedd and Carmarthern East and Dinefwyr easily. I would also rate them as favourites to regain Ceredigion from the Liberal Democrats, given that it is a majority Welsh-speaking seat, and they won it comfortably in the Assembly. The Conservatives will retain Monmouth easily, and are probably home and dry Clwyd West and Preseli Pembrokeshire, unless things go very badly wrong for them at the next election. The Liberal Democrats will retain Cardiff Central, Brecon & Radnor, and Montgomery, where the inhabitants plainly elect their current MP for his entertainment value. Given that Dai Davies was able to retain Blaenau Gwent in the by-election, and Trish Law was able to win it at Assembly level, he must remain favourite to retain the seats.
Overall then, my prediction for Wales would be Labour 25, Conservative 6, Plaid 5, Liberal Democrat 3, Independent 1.
Last nightâ€™s by-elections were generally good for the Conservatives.
Bridgnorth District – Broseley West: Independent elected unopposed.
Cumbria County – Penrith: Lib Dem 800, Conservative 380, Independent 123, Green 34. Lib Dem hold with a strong swing from the Conservatives.
Great Yarmouth Borough – Nelson: Labour 329, Independent 257, Lib Dem 96, Independent (NF) 49, Green 43 . Labour hold. The Conservatives backed the main independent. The National Front vote collapsed, compared to 2006 and this May.
Harlow District – Little Parndon and Hare Street: Labour 794, Conservative 598, Lib Dem 117 Labour hold.
Harlow District – Toddbrook: Conservative 728, Labour 713, Respect 102, Lib Dem 67. Conservative gain from Labour. This makes the Conservatives the largest party on Harlow District Council, for the first time.
North Devon District – Witheridge: Conservative 448, Lib Dem 318. Conservative hold. The Conservatives won control of North Devon in May, and will be pleased to have held this marginal seat.
Penwith District – Gwinear, Gwithian and Hayle East: Conservative 493, Independent 192, Labour 170 Conservative hold. For some reason, the Liberal Democrats didnâ€™t contest this seat, where they ran close in May.
Sefton Metropolitan Borough – Manor : Conservative 922, Lib Dem 769, Labour 419, BNP 94, Ukip 71. Conservative gain from Labour
Wrexham County Borough – Stansty: Labour 370, Lib Dem 271, Conservative 50, Plaid Cymru 45. Labour gain from Liberal Democrat with a huge swing.
I donâ€™t usually comment on Town Council elections, but one that took place in Waltham Abbey yesterday, was notable for the fact that the BNP came within 18 seats of taking a seat from the Conservatives.
Sean Fear is a London Tory activist and writes a weekly column here.