Harry Hayfield previews today’s Ynys Môn Assembly By-Election

Harry Hayfield previews today’s Ynys Môn Assembly By-Election

It’s been quite a while since we have had an Assembly by-election (in fact well over seven years), but Ynys Môn is a by-election without compare. Firstly, the former member is still with us. Ieuan Wyn Jones may have resigned from the Assembly but as the new chairman of the enterprise zone centred on Menai Bridge, who is to say that once that task has been completed he might decide to come back to the Assembly on the regional list in North Wales and secondly, did you see the result in 2011?

Name of candidate


Votes Cast

% Share

% Change on 2007

Ieuan Wyn Jones

Plaid Cymru




Paul Williams

Welsh Conservatives




Joe Lock

Welsh Labour Party




Rhys Taylor

Welsh Liberal   Democrats




Plaid held the seat but only by 2,937 votes (12%) with a vote share only 2% higher than their 1997 general election score on a swing from Plaid to Lab of 7.5% and since then polls in Wales (albeit rare) have stated that on the constituency vote element of the Assembly Labour are on 48% (6% higher than in 2011) and Plaid are on 18% (1% lower) indicating a swing of 3.5% since 2011 and making Ynys Môn a right, royal battleground of a constituency especially as a Labour GAIN would see Labour’s dream of an overall Assembly majority become a reality!

Or at least that is what you would expect. Living in Wales I am able to get all three major news services, BBC Wales Today, ITV News Wales and Newyddion Naw (the Welsh language news at nine o’clock) and yet from the day that Mr. Wyn Jones resigned until last Thursday there was not a single report about the by-election (bar the standard nominations report). Compare this with the coverage of the Aberdeen, Donside by-election when BBC Reporting Scotland had a daily report from the seat for the last fortnight of the campaign, two Newsnight Scotland reports and a debate on the Sunday Politics Scotland as well as a by-election special. If the turnout in Ynys Môn is less than 24,000 votes cast in 2011 (which was bad for Ynys Môn) then when the campaign is reviewed the media will have some very difficult questions to answer.

It’s not as if Ynys Môn isn’t interesting, it is extremely interesting. Being an island means that it’s constituency boundaries have been unchanged since 1784 (and possibly even longer than that). Modern electoral history starts in 1950 (with the abolition of the university seats) and since then Ynys Môn has been so unpredictable as to make Ceredigion look like Basildon!

At Westminster Ynys Môn was one of the bastions of Welsh liberalism (part of the western flank of Anglesey, Merioneth and Cardiganshire) but as the Liberals waned during the 1950’s so the seat turned to Labour and elected a certain Cledwyn Hughes to the seat who remained as the MP until he decided to retire after nearly thirty years’ service in 1979. That decision (as well as the national swing to Conservative) saw the seat become a Conservative GAIN on a swing of 12% but it was not to last long. Keith Best was found guilty of multiple share applications in the BT share offer and so was forced to stand down before the 1987 general election, an election which saw Plaid Cymru gain the seat and secure Ynys Môn’s place in modern electoral history (the only constituency in the whole of the United Kingdom to have been represented at Westminster by all four mainstream parties in Wales). By the turn of the millennium the Assembly has been established and the MP Ieuan Wyn Jones (now the AM for the seat) announced that he was going to stand down from Westminster to concentrate on the Assembly. At the next election in 2001, Ynys Môn sprung another surprise by electing Albert Owen as the new Labour MP for the seat. However, in the Assembly, Ieuan’s popularity continued to allow Plaid to hold the seat. So does this mean that Ynys Môn’s electoral history is based on the personal vote of a candidate? Well, it certainly looks like it, and given the closeness of the result in 2011, and the swing to Labour since and the retirement of the popular AM, come the morning of August 2nd, I think the Welsh media will have to explain why they did not broadcast the result of the by-election LIVE!

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