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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Scrap for pretty posh city seat
By Vaughan Roderick
BBC Welsh affairs editor

Lisvane, Cardiff (pic: Stephen Phillips)
If you're looking for a taste of Surrey in Wales, Lisvane fits the bill
The popular image of Cardiff for decades was of a working-class Brains and Clark's pie city.

It was where people merrily discussed the fortunes of their beloved Bluebirds in Frank Hennessey accents.

Cardiff North isn't that and it never was. This is posh Cardiff: Hancock's HB, golf club, Blue and Black Cardiff.

It's Cardiff spelt with an "a" not an "e"; the Cardiff where Disraeli's bust on the Cow and Snuffers pub is a symbol of the area's Tory affections.

Not that Cardiff North is anything other than proudly Welsh. The constituency has some of the city's highest concentrations of Welsh speakers, its prosperous well-attended chapels easily outnumber its churches and rugby, not soccer, posts generally adorn its playing fields.

The seat can basically be divided into three parts: the very posh, the quite posh and the not-posh-at-all.

That the Conservatives lost Cardiff North at Westminster in 1997 and failed to win the assembly seat twice was a measure of how far the party had fallen. Another defeat here would be a crushing blow.

The seat can basically be divided into three parts: the very posh, the quite posh and the not-posh-at-all.

The very posh bit is Lisvane, the one seat on Cardiff Council that the Tories held on to even in their darkest hour.

2003 ASSEMBLY RESULT
Sue Essex, Lab: 10,413 (37.5%)
Jonathan Morgan, Con: 9,873 (35.6%)
John Dixon, Lib Dem: 3,474 (12.5%)
Wyn Jones, Plaid Cymru: 2,679 (9.7%)
Donald Houlston, UKIP: 1,295 (4.7%)

This is the Surrey of Wales, complete with million-pound homes, 4x4s and school-runs to Howells and the Cathedral School.

In terms of loyalty this is the Conservative equivalent of Aberavon. If you put up a sheep here with a blue rosette it would win. Provided of course it was a free-range, organic, rare-breed, fair-trade sheep.

Harvesting seats

The quite posh bits of the constituency - Rhiwbina, Whitchurch and Llanishen - have flirted with Labour in the past but have slowly been returning to the Conservative fold at least at local government level.

Every single Conservative member on Cardiff Council is from Cardiff North and Labour has become something of an endangered species in local elections.

Llanishen reservoir (pic: David Mackay)
Llanishen reservoir is one of the area's striking natural features
While the Tories have been harvesting seats in the prosperous parts of the constituency, the Liberal Democrats have been eating into Labour territory in the not-posh-at-all wards of Gabalfa and Llandaff North.

Labour's decline in local government in Cardiff North has been so steep that if one were to judge solely on the basis of the 2004 council results this would appear to be a Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginal rather than a Labour/Conservative one.

That may well be the case in future elections but with Labour having managed to hold the Westminster seat in 2005 this year at least, this remains a scrap between Labour and the Conservatives and - in terms of their long-term recovery - it's one the Conservatives just have to win.

That task is undoubtedly helped by the decision of the well-liked Labour AM and Finance Minister Sue Essex to retire, and by the Conservative regional AM Jonathan Morgan's decision to put his head on the constituency block.

The change in the rules since the last elections means Mr Morgan cannot have the fallback option of being elected via the regional list if he fails to win the constituency seat.

However, the announcement that socialite Sir Dai Llewellyn is to be the UK Independence Party candidate could siphon off some much-needed votes.

Labour's Sophie Howe and the Liberal Democrats Ed Bridges will be hoping their council seats will give them some name-recognition to offset Mr Morgan's high profile.




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