Page last updated at 04:13 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 05:13 UK

Welsh Liberal Democrats suffer setbacks

Conservative Glyn Davies consoles Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire
Conservative Glyn Davies consoles Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire

Liberal Democrats have had a poor night in Wales, losing Lembit Opik, one of their best known MPs, and failing to gain target seats.

The party had hopes of success in Swansea West, Newport East and Wrexham, but Labour held them all.

But they fought off a Plaid Cymru challenge in Ceredigion, where Mark Williams held his seat, and Jenny Willott retained Cardiff Central.

The Lib Dems also retained Brecon and Radnorshire.

They were hoping to make advances, particularly after the success of leader Nick Clegg in the televised debates.

A Welsh Lib Dem spokesperson said a "substantial increase " in Ceredigion was matched by significant swings to the party in former Labour heartland seats.

"Holding Brecon & Radnorshire and Cardiff Central comfortably, the party ran a very close second in Swansea West and Newport East following hard-fought campaigns, with swings of nearly six per dent and over eight per cent espectively," they added.

While we are happy that our share of the popular vote increased from 2005, we are convinced that the electoral system is unfair and needs reforming
Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman

"A Lib Dem surge in the Valleys seats of Merthyr Tydfil and Pontypridd (swings of 17% and 13%) has positioned the party to win there in next year's assembly election. With a strong swing to the party in Wrexham as well, there are clear Labour-Lib Dem battleground seats in 2011.

"While we are happy that our share of the popular vote increased from 2005, we are convinced that the electoral system is unfair and needs reforming.

"The Montgomeryshire result was, of course, disappointing.

"A close contest between two personalities swung decisively in the last few days. A constituency with a strong Liberal tradition, we will work hard to convince the people of Montgomeryshire that this flirtation with the Tories will not last."

'Difficult to deal with'

The defeat of Mr Opik in Montgomeryshire was probably the biggest blow, meaning the Lib Dems lost their grip on the three seats in mid Wales.

He gave the party a high profile with his frequent appearances on chat shows and in the gossip columns.

However, in his speech after the declaration, he thanked his constituents for their patience "at those times when I have been difficult to deal with.'

Mike German, the former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats reacted to the defeat in Newport East by saying the mountain was "too far to climb".

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