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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Leaders hit the by-election trail
Market in Blaenau Gwent

The double by-election campaign trail is heating up in Blaenau Gwent as leading figures from three political parties visit the constituency.

Conservative leader David Cameron was first to meet voters on Friday, followed by his Lib Dem counterpart Sir Menzies Campbell, and honorary Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley.

Welsh assembly and parliamentary by-elections will be held on 29 June.

They were caused by the death in April of independent AM and MP Peter Law.

Mr Law overturned a massive Labour majority at the 2005 general election when he quit the party and ran as an independent in protest over women-only shortlists.

David Cameron in Ebbw Vale
The Conservative leader staged a walkabout in Ebbw Vale

Mr Cameron held a 45-minute walkabout around Ebbw Vale market, where he said the Conservatives were offering positive measures on crime, justice and the economy, and were the only party seriously willing to listen to people.

Mr Cameron said painful and difficult decisions had been made in the past on the area's economy, but accused Labour of "slowly putting a foot on the windpipe of Wales" in terms of taxes and regulations.

He also spoke about the row which followed the sentencing of Craig Sweeney, the paedophile jailed for life for abducting a three-year-old girl in Cardiff, and who could be paroled in five years.

Mr Cameron said Tony Blair had nobody to blame but himself for the sentencing situation.

He said: "Labour has had nine years, three big majorities, 54 criminal justice acts and we still get this scandal... they're panicking as it's largely their responsibility".

Here for the long run and not just offering quick fixes
Sir Menzies Campbell on the Liberal Democrats
Later Sir Menzies visited Bryngwyn Primary School in Six Bells, Abertillery, and meet stallholders and shopkeepers at Ebbw Vale market.

Sir Menzies said he understood why Blaenau Gwent voted independent last time, but urged people to vote for his party, which he said "has the policies that most closely meet people's aspirations".

He said Lib Dems campaigned hard on local issues such as closure of local post offices and adequate provision of local health care.

He said his party was "here for the long run and not just offering quick fixes".

Visiting Bryngwyn Primary School, Sir Menzies said the education system could play a big part in helping regenerate the local economy and added: "There are no limits to our ambition"

Mr Wigley, a former Plaid leader, was also visiting Ebbw Vale market and addressing a public meeting at Blaina Community Centre.

Here is an opportunity to get the message across that things must get better
Dafydd Wigley, former Plaid leader

Mr Wigley criticised Labour's record in the constituency and said he had no doubt there would be a protest vote.

"When you consider the level of the problems with regard to training, that 45% of the workforce don't have recognisable skills, and with regards to illness, that you have 28% of households with people who have an illness that is limiting them.

"When you consider the problems with regards to transport, 35% of houses without a private car.

"These are the problems that make Blaenau Gwent one of the most deprived constituencies in the whole of Britain. That is the result of three generations of Labour rule and here is an opportunity to get the message across that things must get better."

Chancellor Gordon Brown was in Blaenau Gwent on Wednesday to support Labour candidates.

Welsh Labour MEP Eluned Morgan said the Conservatives had brought "misery" to Blaenau Gwent.

"The Tories have not changed and this Labour government is still repairing the damage with record investment in education and regeneration," said Ms Morgan.

She also said Sir Menzies "will have to explain to the voters of Blaenau Gwent why his party opposes Labour's tough measures to combat vandalism, intimidation and under-age drinking".

She went on: "I suggest he talks to the same people I have spoken to in Blaenau Gwent who support Labour's campaign to double the number of police community support officers because they are the ones who have to put up with the anti-social behaviour."

Steve Pennell, from Blaenau Gwent People's Voice, said they were not impressed with the visits of the party "big guns".

"It is nice for a big celebrity man like himself to come here, in Blaenau Gwent, but where are they the rest of the year?," he asked.






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