How Britain voted: Welsh Nationalists - Labour not welcome in the valleys

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The Independent Online
PLAID CYMRU made dramatic inroads into Labour heartlands in the valleys as traditional Labour voters delivered a massive snub to Tony Blair.

They either stayed at home in their droves or switched in huge numbers to Plaid Cymru, arguably the most successful party in yesterday's elections for the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and local councils throughout England and Wales.

Senior Labour figures contended that the slump in support among Welsh voters was simply prompted by "mid-term blues", but most observers argue that it was a reaction to Mr Blair's New Labour philosophy and his decision to "parachute in" Alun Michael as leader of the party in Wales.

Overall, Plaid Cymru recorded its best-ever result, attracting almost 30 per cent of the "first-past-the-post" vote, compared with 9.9 per cent in the general election in 1997 and winning 17 seats in the 60-strong assembly. A running battle over whether Plaid was a "separatist" party seemed to have little impact on its performance at the polls.

The most dramatic results of all were Plaid's victories in Islwyn, Rhondda and Llanelli, all previously rock-solid Labour seats.

At Islwyn, Neil Kinnock's former constituency, the nationalists' vote rose by a huge 35.7 per cent, which propelled Plaid from fourth to first place. In Rhondda, Wayne David, Euro MP and Mr Blair's favourite to become leader of the Assembly if Mr Michael lost, was beaten into second place, falling victim to a swing of 35.4 per cent towards Plaid. In North Wales, Plaid quadrupled its vote to take Conwy from Labour. Other swings towards the nationalists among industrial seats in the south were: Cynon Valley 31.9 per cent, Neath 27.6 per cent and Pontypridd 26.8 per cent.

Peter Hain, the Labour campaign manager, who said his party needed to "reorganise", argued that Plaid Cymru's success was more to do with a protest against Labour than true support for "separatism".