Election '97: Unwelcome in the valleys

WALES

The Tory MP Walter Sweeney has the unenviable distinction of defending Britain's most marginal seat - the Vale of Glamorgan - where a mere 19 votes saw him home in 1992, taking a seat won in spectacular fashion by Labour's John Smith at a by-election in 1989.

The constituency divides neatly into two. Barry, the main town, is a Labour stronghold. The bluer Vale has the air of a detached piece of the Cotswolds populated by Cardiff fat cats and replete with four-by-fours parked outside wine bars in the market town of Cowbridge.

Mr Sweeney remains calm in the face of oncoming nemesis. "My impression is that very few Conservatives have defected," he says. Ten would be enough to see Mr Smith back at Westminster.

Overall Tory prospects in Wales looked dim. In 1992 the party won six of the 38 Welsh seats. Labour took 27, Plaid Cymru 4 and the Liberal Democrats 1. Boundary changes have added two new seats, both likely to be Labour.

Since 1992, it has been downhill all the way, polls suggest, and no Tory seat looks safe. Not even Clwyd West, where boundary changes give Rod Richards - who last year resigned as a junior Welsh Office minister over allegations of an extra-marital affair - a notional majority of 7,313.

Interesting three-way battles are in prospect in Conwy where the Tories are defending a majority over the Liberal Democrats of 995, and Brecon and Radnorshire where speculation is rife over Labour and Liberal Democrat claims that they will be the one to oust the incumbent Tory, Jonathan Evans, whose majority in 1992 was 130. Ceredigion, held by Plaid Cymru's Cynog Dafis who came from fourth place in 1987, to win by 1,893 five years later, is also up for grabs.

The Liberal Democrats' sole Welsh MP, Alex Carlisle, who has represented Montgomery for 14 years, is standing down and although his successor, the Estonian-born Lembit Opik , is expected to hold on, Paddy Ashdown's Welsh troops have a lot to make up following the loss of two seats in the last election.

The contest in Newport East has been enlivened by the presence of Arthur Scargill. The Socialist Labour Party's leader is standing against the former Tory Alan Howarth who crossed the floor to join Labour in 1995. He is by all accounts being well received, not least for what is seen as his courage in making his dramatic switch.

The Tory strategy is aimed at rubbishing Labour's proposed Welsh Assembly. A recent Western Mail poll found only 41 per cent of those questioned supported a Welsh assembly.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine