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

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