Election 97

Wales

Wales 92 Wales 97
Wales, one of the three constituent countries of Great Britain, is itself firmly subdivided. Most of the population resides in the southern coastal zone containing the three great cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. Traditionally dominated by coal-mining and the steel industry, this area is solidly Labour. Things are different in the mountainous and agrarian centre and north. To the north west, Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalists, always enjoy their strongest support - the area is strongly Welsh speaking, unlike the South.

In recent years the Conservatives have been increasingly marginalised in Wales, squeezed between Labour, with its strong power bases in the south and north east, Plaid Cymru to the north west and a strong Lib Dem showing to the east. This time, as in Scotland, they were completely wiped out in the principality - a Tory MP is now, inevitably, an English MP.

In the Labour-dominated south, the map turned completely red, as Labour gained their targets of Vale of Glamorgan (their easiest win in the UK), Cardiff North and Preseli Pembrokeshire, plus the tougher nut of Monmouth. They also easily made their northwestern target of Clywd West, going on to gain the new seat of Vale of Clywd and three-way marginal Conwy, where the Lib Dems had some hopes.

The Liberal Democrats' consolation prize was their regaining of Brecon and Radnorshire, which they lost to the Tories last time, when Wales was a disaster zone for the Lib Dems - they were reduced from three seats to one seat, losing Ceredigion to Plaid Cymru, who held it this time. The Plaid cannot have expected any easy gains this time, and so it went, with them holding their largely Welsh-speaking seats in the north west and making a strong showing in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, which is becoming a Labour/Plaid marginal.