Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Harry Hayfield on Neath South

Further to Andrew Teale's regular by-election preview posted earlier in the week, this report was kindly provided by Welsh elections expert and Llansantffraed Community Cllr Harry Hayfield.

To describe Neath South as a true Labour heartland would be to dismiss the Ratepayers of Neath and Port Talbot credit where credit is due.

The ward was first contested back in 1976 as part of the then Neath District Council when it elected six members (four of whom were Ratepayers and two of whom were Labour). In those first elections, Lsbour polled 47% of the vote, the Ratepayers 35%, Plaid Cymru 14% and the Communists 4%. The next elections were not held until 1983 by which time Labour's dominance of the South Wales minefield was complete. Labour won the now reduced ward's three councillors with 60% of the vote, the Ratepayers won 33% of the vote and the newly formed SDP polled 7%.

In the 1987 local elections, the Ratepayers seemed to have died a death as only the Alliance stood against Labour, so it should come as no suprise to hear that Labour held their seats and polled 85% against the Alliance's 15%. A trend continued in 1991 when Labour polled 80% against the Social Democrats 20% following the ending of the Alliance and the formation of the Liberal Democrats.

The 1995 local elections marked the first under the new authority of Neath and Port Talbot and the only change in the ward was the loss of a councillor. Labour polled 86% and won both seats whilst the Liberal Democrats polled just 14% and to show their domiance in the ward was complete, Labour won both seats in 1999 without a contest.

However in the 2004 local elections, the Ratepayers came back with a vengeance. Yes, Labour held both seats but the vote shares showed what a scare they had given Labour. Labour polled 48% to the Ratepayers 38% (with the Liberal Democrats polling 8% and a Green 6%) and suddenly Labour's domiance in the ward looked to be under threat. In 2008, when nominations closed it was a straight battle between Labour and the Ratepayers. Could the Ratepayers claim a scalp in a ward that had voted for Labour by spades? In the end they couldn't as Labour polled 60% of the vote to the Ratepayer's 40% and in 2012 the Ratepayer's vote collapsed to just 19% as Labour's domiance came to the fore again polling 67% with Plaid Cymru in third on 15%.

Harry Hayfield

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

By-Election Preview: 6 December 2012

This post is by Andrew Teale, our resident expert in local by-elections.  Read his full introduction here on the English Elections blog.

The last electoral test in Wales this year is a council by-election in a safe Labour ward in Neath.


Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Labour councillor Mal Gunter.  Mr Gunter had served in local government since 1987, including a year as Mayor of Neath Port Talbot in 2008/9, and had a 37-year career at BP in Llandarcy.

Neath Abbey
  © Copyright Mick Lobb and
licensed for reuse under this 

Creative Commons Licence.
One of the things Neath is rather famous for among electoral geeks is its misnamed electoral divisions.  The four wards covering the Neath community are called Cimla (pronounced Kim-la), Neath North, Neath South and Neath East, which looks rather uncontentious until you look at a map and realise that Neath East is actually the furthest west of the four.  Neath South is rather misnamed as well, as it contains a large part of Cimla including Cimla Hospital, being largely a residential ward going up the Cimla Road.

Neath South is a Labour ward as you would expect, with the runners-up at the last three elections coming from the Neath Port Talbot Independent Party (formerly the Residents Association) who were fairly close in 2004 but have faded away since then.

The new Labour candidate is 28-year-old Andrew Jenkins, a Swansea University politics graduate from up the valley in Resolven, who narrowly lost out on election in Bryncoch South ward in May.  The Neath Port Talbot Independents, Plaid and the Tories are not standing after being badly burnt here in May, but the Liberal Democrats have ensured a contest by selecting another young candidate, Charlotte Cross from Cimla.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Neath
Assembly electoral region: South Wales West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Bay

Charlotte Cross (LD)
Andrew Jenkins (Lab) (@Jenkins_Voice)

May 2012 result Lab 718/665 Neath Port Talbot Ind 207/190 PC 153 C 146
May 2008 result Lab 700/663 Neath Port Talbot Res Assoc 469/441
June 2004 result Lab 557/549 Neath Port Talbot Res Assoc 439/433 LD 184 Grn 129

Friday, 31 August 2012

Labour Comfortably Hold Bettws As Greens Slide

Labour have easily held their seat in Bettws ward of Bridgend Council after a by-election on Thursday 30th August.  The Labour vote rose slightly in a turnout that was significantly up on the May local elections.

Eighteen-year old independent candidate Catherine Jones came second, capturing most of the opposition vote.  The Greens collapsed from 23.7% in May when they were the sole opposition to Labour to just 2.6%

The Conservatives also contested the seat for the first time, polling just twelve votes.

The most notable outcome of the result was the considerable increase in turnout, in reverse of what we usually observe in local by-elections.  Labour have been given much of the credit for this, running a highly visible campaign throughout the election campaign.  The presence of a Conservative candidate this time is also postulated as motivating more Labour voters to turn out to the polls.

Full results and news coverage is available on the Bettws by-election page.