Page last updated at 05:59 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 06:59 UK

Euro-poll warning to Welsh Labour

By Ashok Ahir
Executive editor, politics, BBC Wales

House of Commons
Labour's Welsh MPs face a threat to their Commons seats

Detailed analysis of the European election results in Wales shows that traditional Labour supporters deserted the party across the country.

Examination by BBC Wales of the results in the 40 seats shows 15 with sitting Labour MPs where the party lost.

A repeat at the UK general election suggests the Welsh Labour group at Westminster would be severely cut.

It would mean established figures such as Alun Michael, David Hanson and Nick Ainger would lose their seats.

Currently, Labour has 29 Welsh MPs, Liberal Democrats four, Plaid Cymru and Conservatives three each, and Dai Davies is the lone independent, for Blaenau Gwent.

Labour was well behind in all of the constituencies where it does not have an MP - except for Blaenau Gwent - and in Montgomeryshire it was pushed into sixth place behind UKIP and the Greens.

This means that Labour is facing a monumental electoral task, under threat not only in established marginals such as the Vale of Glamorgan, Llanelli and Ynys Mon, but also in Newport West, Delyn, Gower, Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South, as well as in all of the four seats in the capital.

There would be an incredible Conservative surge if these results were repeated at the general election, which hypothetically, would result in 17 Welsh Tory MPs.

Haverfordwest count
The European results are shown at the count in Haverfordwest Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

There could be even more of them. Alongside localities where they topped the poll, the numbers show that the Tories will now see themselves as being in straight two-way fights with Plaid Cymru for the Aberconwy seat and with Labour in Cardiff West, as well as a three-way fight with Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Swansea West.

Plaid Cymru improved its overall national vote by what it will regard as a disappointing 1.1% on the day that Labour slumped to an historic low. Unlike in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, where the Scottish National Party and Sinn Fein were well ahead in terms of the overall vote (for example, the SNP up 9.4%) Plaid failed to capitalise on Labour's demise.

'Particularly galling'

Seeing the Welsh Conservatives win the popular vote instead has to be particularly galling for Plaid strategists, who were briefing all the way up until the final result that it would come out on top in Wales.

Undoubtedly, some in the party will begin to question whether being in coalition with Labour in the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff is now beginning to cost votes.


Alyn & Deeside, Bridgend, Cardiff North, Cardiff South and Penarth, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South, Clwyd South, Conwy (Aberconwy at the next general election after boundary changes), Delyn

Gower, Llanelli, Newport West, Vale of Clwyd, Vale of Glamorgan, Wrexham, Ynys Mon

The one comfort for Plaid is that it polled well in seats it hopes to win at the next Westminster election, it picked up more votes than Labour in Llanelli and Ynys Mon and was were well ahead of the Lib Dems in Ceredigion - a key target seat.

If this was repeated, and again it's not a guarantee, then Plaid could see its biggest ever delegation of MPs, with six potential winners.

The European election results were particularly bad for the Liberal Democrats, who were completely incapable of capitalising from Labour's failures, only mustering a minuscule 0.2% increase in their vote share on a day when the overall turnout was the second lowest on record.

More worrying for them is the fact that they have fallen behind to the Tories and Plaid Cymru in three out of the four seats they currently hold at Westminster and they face the prospect of having Jenny Willott in Cardiff Central as a sole Welsh Liberal Democrat MP, if current figures are repeated at the next election.

On these results Lembit Opik would be convincingly beaten by the former Tory AM Glyn Davies in Montgomeryshire, Roger Williams in Brecon and Radnorshire would also lose to the Tories and Plaid Cymru would unseat Mark Williams in Ceredigion.

Alyn and Deeside, Brecon and Radnorshire, Bridgend, Cardiff North, Cardiff South and Penarth
Clwyd West, Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South, Clwyd South, Delyn, Gower, Monmouth
Montgomeryshire, Newport West, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Vale of Clwyd, Vale of Glamorgan, Wrexham

The UK Independence Party vote was down on its UK average (12.8% compared to 16.6%) but still better than in 2004 and enough to ensure that John Bufton became UKIP's first elected representative at any level in Wales.

The party polled particularly strongly in Bridgend, Cardiff North, Clwyd West, Delyn, Newport East, Newport West, Montgomeryshire and the Vale of Glamorgan. That gives an indication that the Conservatives will need to appeal to voters who went for UKIP in this election.

The British National Party vote was up 2.5% in a bigger change in share than on a UK level where it went up by 1.3%.

What will concern Labour is that in some of its traditional strongholds, particularly in south Wales, the BNP vote is markedly up. In Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Cynon Valley and Islwyn it had more votes than the Lib Dems and nearly beat them in Welsh Secretary Peter Hain's constituency of Neath. They also polled highly in Newport West, the Rhondda, Swansea East and Torfaen.

'Huge job ahead'

There is a huge job ahead for Labour and its Welsh Assembly Government coalition partners Plaid Cymru. Labour's vote in Wales was down 12%, which was further than anywhere else in its heartlands (down 7% in the North West region, down 8% in Yorkshire & Humber and 9% in the North East region).

A repeat of this kind of polling would see a number of key Welsh ministers losing their seats in the 2011 assembly election, including Counsel General (and potential First Minister) Carwyn Jones in Bridgend, Education Minister Jane Hutt in the Vale of Glamorgan and Heath Minister Edwina Hart in Gower and the Chief Whip, Carl Sergeant in Alyn and Deeside.

Coupled with this the controversial change in the law in 2006 which stopped dual-candidacy in Welsh assembly elections - previously candidates could try for a constituency and a regional Assembly seat at the same time - may yet come back to haunt the Labour Party.

Labour will have to claw back a huge chunk of its share of the national vote in order to pick up regional seats in areas where it loses constituencies. If it fails to do so then there's a real prospect that 2011 will result in a much smaller and a radically different looking Labour team compared to the current crop.

Similarly, for Plaid, a closer look at these results indicates that it appears to be in a strong position to hold onto all its existing assembly seats. However, Plaid's vote is failing to improve significantly elsewhere and without a huge jump in support will struggle to increase the size of its group in Cardiff Bay.

If all of these imponderables were to happen - and again it's an extremely big if - it would mean that the Conservatives were the party in the driving seat after the 2011 poll.

That's not something you could have imagined even a few months ago.

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