Labour surge in Wales but all may not be lost for the Conservatives

Labour is staging a dramatic fight back in Wales, according to the latest YouGov polls.

At the start of the General Election campaign, the Conservatives were on course for an historic breakthrough in Wales, potentially even coming first in votes and seats for the first time.

However, in recent weeks there appears to have been a surge in support for Labour, which could undo the early gains won by the Conservatives.

Despite this, the increase in Labour support is not attributed to a decline in those backing the Conservatives – the Tories are still polling at eight percentage points higher than their share of the Welsh vote in 2015. Rather it is due to the declining fortunes of Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, according to Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

If Plaid Cymru does no better than predicted in the latest poll, it will be their worst performance since 1987. But it could be worse for the Liberal Democrats. If they achieve the votes they are predicted, it will be their lowest ever share of the vote.

Welsh flag from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Matthew Wilkinson, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

The Conservatives are predicted to lose the two marginal seats — Gower and the Vale of Clwyd — that they won from Labour in the 2015 election, according to Scully. But the polls are close enough to be within the margin of error.

Gower is the UK’s most marginal seat in the whole General Election. In 2015, Conservative candidate Byron Davies beat his Labour opponent Liz Evans by only 27 votes. The polls indicate the vote will be equally close this time, but potentially in Labour’s favour.

Conservative candidate James Davies won the Vale of Clwyd by a mere 237 votes from Labour’s Chris Ruane. The two candidates are fighting for the seat again and the outcome is predicted to be equally close.

Labour is also predicted to extend its lead over Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives in Ynys Môn, while Plaid Cymru look set to win Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

There is some hope for the Conservatives though. They will be hoping to make gains in places that supported Brexit but are either Labour seats like Bridgend or closely contested between the Conservatives and Labour like Cardiff North.

Another factor that could help the Conservatives is the decline of UKIP in the region. They received 14 per cent of the vote in the last election and were the third largest party. However, they are not fielding candidates in several seats that may turn out to beneficial to the Conservatives.

Delyn and Wrexham were won by Labour in the 2015 election and Arfon was won by Plaid Cymru. All are expected to retain their seats. However, if UKIP supporters vote for the Conservatives it could potentially swing the seat in the Tories’ favour.

The last outcome that may work in the Conservatives’ favour is that polls showing support for Labour largely depend on young voters, according to Scully. He said:

“The Labour advantage among 18-24 year-old voters is running at approximately three-to-one. Of course, such younger voters are often less reliable in terms of turnout, so one of the key factors for Labour in this last week of the campaign will be converting supportive attitudes amongst younger voters into actual votes in the ballot box.”

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