Peter Rowlands on Tory gains in north and holds for Labour in south
The election result in Wales was similar, if slightly worse for Labour, than the election in the UK. In Wales Labour lost 8% of its previous vote share and six seats out of 28, all to the Tories. However, there was a clear contrast between north and south. In the south seats thought to be vulnerable like Gower, Cardiff North and Newport West were retained, with the loss of only Bridgend. All except one of a group of five Labour-held seats in the north-east fell to the Tories. These seats were in many ways typical of the seats that fell to the Tories in the North and Midlands of Britain. The Tories also took Ynys Mon (Anglesey), a strange three-way marginal.
It is possible that the result in part reflected problems with the local health board, which had been in special measures for some time, and blamed on the Welsh Labour Government.
In the south most of the seats in the old coal valleys were, like those in the north, post-industrial, more depressed than the north and strongly Leave-voting, but although both the Tory and the Brexit Party vote increased substantially in all these seats the strength of the Labour vote was much stronger here than in the north-east, preventing a Tory breakthrough. However, the combined Tory and Brexit Party vote was greater than the Labour vote in Torfaen, as it was in the two Newport seats and Alyn and Deeside, the only Labour seat in the north that the Tories didn’t take.
It was a bad election for Plaid Cymru also, despite mounting interest in Welsh independence. They retained the four seats that they held, but their vote share dropped by about 5%, and they should have taken Ynys Mon, which they hold for the Assembly.
The Lib Dems didn’t do as well as in England, as Wales was more tilted to Leave, and they lost their only seat, Brecon and Radnor, which they had regained in a by-election only three months before.
The next big electoral test in Wales is the election for the Welsh Government in May 2021. The Tories will be looking to take those seats they have recently captured, while Labour and Plaid will obviously fight to at least retain what they have, if not better it. Hopefully the Brexit Party will disappear from the Assembly, where they have been a complete shambles.
Labour must obviously seek to reconnect with the large numbers that deserted it in the Leave-voting areas, as it must in England.
The future is uncertain. A key problem will be the replacement – if that is to happen – of the large amounts of EU aid that Wales receives, which the Tories might not see fit to replicate. And without a favourable trade deal the Welsh economy, because of its higher volume of trade with the EU than the UK as a whole, is particularly vulnerable. It’s likely to be a bumpy ride.