Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 12:59 UK

Same issues, but a different view on election in Wales

Betsan Powys
By Betsan Powys
BBC Wales political editor

Houses of Parliament
Devolution of power from Westminster changes the general election focus

This is a general election for the United Kingdom parliament: forget what goes on in Cardiff Bay.

This is about how Wales' 40 Westminster seats will help decide who enters Downing Street as the prime minister of the UK.

So, for Wales see England?

Certainly not. The political battleground is different here and though the issues that will be debated over the coming weeks might be the same, they won't always be seen from the same perspective.

The health service? Schools? Rural affairs? They're devolved issues. No matter who wins the general election, Westminster's writ doesn't run in Wales with regard to your local hospital, your child's school.

Number one issue

You might want to know what candidates in your constituency have to say on public services but be aware that for all the specific pledges parties may make on waiting lists or home care, decisions on devolved issues will be taken this side of the border.

The number one issue? No question in Wales, as elsewhere in the UK: it will be the economy and public spending.

In a country that has a higher proportion of the workforce than most in the public sector, what parties have to say on the doorsteps about the balance between cutting public spending versus cutting public services versus cutting taxes will be crucial in Wales.

The polls suggest the race to No 10 will be a close-run thing, so let's hone in on straight Labour-Tory fights.

The Conservatives will hope to take Cardiff North and the Vale of Glamorgan. In their sights too are a swathe of key seats in north east Wales from the Vale of Clwyd and Delyn to Clwyd South.

Both parties are honing in on the north east as critical to who walks into No 10.

If we lose Delyn on the night, admits one key figure in the Labour campaign, then we lose the election.

Changed boundaries

If we hang on to Delyn, that Labour voice says, we've held off a straight Cameron victory.

Look west to Aberconwy, a seat that on paper is the easiest Labour scalp to take. It is one of many in Wales where the boundaries have changed and where more than two parties have gained support in the past.

Held by Plaid Cymru in the assembly and by Labour in Westminster it's now a Tory target. Just like Ynys Mon and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, it's a seat where tactical voting might play a part.

Plaid would love to retake Ynys Mon. It is taking on Labour in Llanelli, and the Liberal Democrats in Ceredigion, where it was ousted at the last election.

The Liberal Democrats, in turn, face pressure from the Conservatives in Montgomeryshire and Brecon and Radnorshire. Losses there could be balanced if they post victories in Swansea West and Newport East, where some bookies fancy their chances.

Like Plaid, the Lib Dems will have more than one eye on the performance of the big two parties.

If it is a close thing, then Nick Clegg and Ieuan Wyn Jones will hope to broker a deal with the largest party and gain political ground long after the votes have been counted.

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