General Election 2019 UK Politics

General Election 2019: Regional Analysis: Wales

Written by Isaac Browning

At the 2017 General Election, the results for Wales were:

The seats to watch on election night 2019 are: Arfon, Presli Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Aberconwy, Wrexham, Vale of Clwyd, Gower, Vale of Glamorgan and Brecon and Radnorshire.

UR – Unite to Remain


Predicting the outcome of the election in Wales is complicated by the remain alliance that is in place in many constituencies across the country. In seats such as Llanelli, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have opted to stand aside to give Plaid Cymru a clear shot at winning the seat. Reciprocal arrangements have been agreed in seats like Montgomeryshire, where Plaid Cymru have stood down (it should be noted that this only affects 11 of Wales’ 40 seats, so the overall effect is unlikely to be a game-changer this election).

The latest poll from YouGov indicates a Labour lead of 6% over the Conservatives, which represents a swing towards the Conservatives as compared with 2017, when the lead was 15.3%.

In 2017, Labour won a convincing victory in Wales, with nearly half the vote and an overwhelming majority of seats. Though their priority at this election will be consolidating that result, there are several seats they will be targeting this election. First among these is Arfon, won by Plaid Cymru with a margin of a mere 92 votes at the last election. Though this seat is part of the Remain alliance, the Liberal Democrats won just 648 votes, or 2.30% last time, so the effect will be minimal at best. Nestled in the North West of Wales, this seat is unusual in that, despite being a predominantly urban constituency, it has a strong support base for Plaid Cymru. As a general rule of thumb, in Wales, the further West you travel, the stronger the support for Plaid, particularly in rural areas because there are far more Welsh language speakers in these regions. Whereas, in the east, there have been comparatively high levels of English immigration into these areas, making them more likely to be vote for parties such as the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. 

The next Labour target is Presli Pembrokeshire, the seat of former government minister Stephen Crabb. Here, they will face a tougher challenge, as the seat voted 55.7% in favour of leaving the EU back in 2016. That said, despite this fact, Labour were able to achieve a swing of 5.7% against Crabb in 2017, so it is still very difficult to call. This seat somewhat bucks the general trends outlined above, in that, though it is in western Wales, Plaid Cymru have historically performed poorly here. The Liberal Democrats also traditionally struggle, leaving us with a straight shoot-out between the Conservatives and Labour. This will have some influence on tactical voting in the seat, because the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have no chance of winning here, their supporters may be tempted to vote tactically for Labour. However, this effect will be cancelled out to some degree by the absence of the Brexit party. Other seats Labour will campaign keenly in include Aberconwy, Vale of Glamorgan and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire. Achieving a swing of 5% from the Conservatives in these seats would be enough to give Labour five more seats. 

However, Labour also have some defending to do as well. The Conservatives will be particularly hopeful in Wrexham, among other seats. This is due to the relatively high Leave vote in these seats, giving the Conservatives strong hope of winning them back. However, Wrexham has returned a Labour candidate at every election since 1935, so winning it remains a tough ask. On the other hand, with things as they are at the moment, it’s impossible to rule out. Other seats with similar profiles include Delyn, Clwyd South, Alyn and Deeside and Ynys Mon. Though Cardiff North was relatively tight last time, it recorded one of the highest Remain votes in Wales, meaning that it is unlikely to change hands this election.

Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats will be hoping to re-establish themselves to some extent, after losing their solitary seat of Ceredigion to Plaid Cymru last time by just 104 votes. They stand a very good chance of gaining it back, and will fight hard to hold on to Brecon and Radnorshire, won in a by-election earlier this year. The Liberal Democrats do tend to over-perform in such by-elections, so this one will be very interesting to keep an eye on.

Plaid Cymru’s election hangs on the two ultra-marginal defences of Arfon and Ceredigion. The results here will determine whether this is considered successful for them. They can’t realistically hope for any gains, as the only seats where they came second in 2017 were among Labour’s largest majorities in Wales. To win these would require swings of over 20%, which is very difficult to envisage, particularly based on current polling.

In summary, Wales presents us with a straight fight of supremacy, in most seats, between the Conservatives and Labour. Winning these battles could be crucial to the formation of the next parliament. The more minor parties add some variety, but won’t have a great impact on the overall outcome.

About the author

Isaac Browning

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