Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 18:34 UK

Election 2010: Getting round Wales' big constituency

Owain Clarke
BBC News

Generic image of the Brecon Beacons
The constituency stretches around 80 miles north to south, and 40 miles east to west

It's one of the few things that all local candidates agree on. The constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire is big - very big.

Wales' smallest constituency, Cardiff Central, could fit into it 176 times over.

It is the largest seat in Wales - stretching some 80 miles north to south, and 40 miles east to west.

But being the vastest constituency geographically on this side of Offa's Dyke isn't enough for some.

"It's the biggest constituency I believe in England and Wales," claimed Roger Williams the Liberal Democrat candidate. "One or two people would pretend otherwise - but I'm adamant"

Labour candidate Chris Lloyd agrees: "Brecon and Radnorshire is massive."

But it doesn't take long for Mr Lloyd to weave size into a party political point.

"The huge geography presents unique challenges - I was talking to some elderly prospective constituents earlier and they told me they rely on Labour's free bus pass. Elderly people aren't prisoners in their own homes in their own communities any more."

New roads

The Plaid Cymru candidate Janet Davies is also keen to hop on the transport bandwagon

"In rural areas policy needs lateral thinking, with mini buses connecting to shops and social activities, and to longer distance services (such as) the train service," she said.

"To finance this, spending on new roads should be frozen" she argues.

But both candidates would admit that introducing the free bus pass and Welsh transport policies are on the whole the remit of the Welsh Assembly Government, rather than Westminster.

They too, no doubt, would agree that popping on a bus, in any case, isn't always straightforward in a vast rural seat - which also happens to be one of the UK's most sparsely populated.

It's perhaps no surprise then that the transport issue that stirs up most reaction is one that Westminster does have a say about - fuel prices.

In Brecon and Radnorshire you can't avoid the reality that the high price of diesel and petrol is putting sizeable dents in many wallets.

But the UKIP candidate Clive Easton argues that despite the constituency's size, voters will sooner or later have to face up to some harsh realities.

"The peak of oil discovery has passed," said Mr Easton."We're on a down slope. So the brutal fact is oil prices are going to go up whatever happens.

"What we've got to do is come up with a national (UK) energy policy."


But although gripes about fuel may be commonplace - the other main election issues are more difficult to generalise because Brecon and Radnorshire vastness is also responsible for its variety according to Conservative candidate Suzy Davies.

"There is no fixed identity for this constituency," she insists, "if you go to Ystradgynlais, or if you go to Presteigne you'll meet completely different sorts of people - there are many common interests but they're very localised as well.

"But in terms of economic worries and a lack of trust in politics those things are constant."

And doing the best for Brecon and Radnorshire - doesn't only involve clocking up the miles and the fuel bills.

The Liberal Democrat Roger Williams said: "The different priorities between the really rural areas and the old coalmining communities present an unique challenge for any elected representative, but one thing's for sure the constituents here are very tough. And regardless of where they live they'll scrutinise you to the Nth degree."

Whether or not it's true in life is open to debate - but size really does seem to matter in politics - at least in Brecon and Radnorshire.

See a list of the candidates standing in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency

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