After the Brexit Party, could the Conservatives crack the Red Wall in South Wales?

17 May

On Friday, our Editor wrote up a list of Labour constituencies in England wherein the Brexit Party got at least ten per cent of the vote at the last election, and that was more than the Labour majority.

But the ‘Red Wall’ extends to Wales too – and in 2016 not only did UKIP win seven seats in the Assembly, but the Province actually voted Leave, to the horrified bafflement of its governing class.

So let’s have a look at the Welsh seats on the same basis as Paul yesterday. As before the format is: name; BP vote; Labour majority; BP vote share, BP position.

If we’re strict about the rule that the Brexit Party vote must exceed the majority, we get only one result:

  • Torfaen: 5,742   3,742   15.4 per cent   3rd

Even here, assigning half the 2019 total for the Brexit Party to the Conservatives doesn’t put the latter over the top – although it does cut Labour’s majority to less than 1,000 votes.

What if we set that side, and admit all the seats where the Brexit Party vote topped ten per cent? That yields another six:

  • Blaenau Gwent: 6,215   8,647   20.6 per cent   2nd
  • Caerphilly: 4,490   6,833   11.2 per cent   4th
  • Cynon Valley: 3,045   8,822   10.1 per cent   3rd
  • Islwyn: 4,834   5,464   14.1 per cent   3rd
  • Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney: 3,604   10,606   11.2 per cent   3rd
  • Rhondda: 3,773   11,440   12.6 per cent   4th

Once again, simply moving half the Brexit Party vote into the Tory column doesn’t see any seats changing hands. But similarly, we suddenly have some closer races. In Islwyn, the Labour majority falls to under 3,000 votes.

For the sake of not missing any potentially interesting seats, let’s expand our range a little and add Aberavon and Llanelli, where it polled over nine per cent, and Ogmore and Neath, where it polled over eight per cent. Here’s what we get:

  • Aberavon: 3,108   10,490   9.8 per cent   3rd
  • Llanelli: 3,605   4,670   9.4 per cent   4th
  • Neath: 3,184   5,637   8.7 per cent   4th
  • Ogmore: 2,991   7,805   8.5 per cent   3rd

One again, we have a seat where the Conservatives picking up half the Brexit Party’s vote would in itself cut the Labour majority to below 3,000, in Llanelli.

A couple of additional points. First, it can’t be assumed that the remaining Labour vote in all these constituencies is solid – in Neath, for example, it more than halved between 2017 and 2019.

Second, the Conservatives could easy pick up more than 50 per cent of the Brexit Party’s vote. Even in last week’s Senedd elections, which as I explained on Wednesday were a mixed bag for the party, it ended up effectively winning five of the seven seats won by UKIP five years before.

Taken together, that means that whilst this doesn’t produce the same tantalising list of potential Tory gains that the English list does, it is possible to see how the re-alignment of British politics could have further to go, and how it could see them start to make previously unthinkable inroads into yet another Labour heartland.

After all, to win even a handful of these would be a dramatic signal of the changing shape of the Tory coalition. After all, when Margaret Thatcher took 14 Welsh seats in 1983 that included three of the four constituencies in Cardiff – and she nearly got the fourth too.

Boris Johnson hit 14 without a single seat in the Welsh capital. And if Torfaen, Islwyn, and Llanelli end up following Gower and become competitive marginals, his path to the Conservatives’ best-ever Welsh performance may yet bypass the city altogether.