General Election preview: Cardiff North

by Jackie_South on March 4, 2015

Cardiff North iconAs a belated nod to St David’s Day, we turn to Wales for our latest post in the series looking at constituencies that could change hands in this year’s general election

When the Conservatives won Cardiff North from Labour in the last general election, it came as no surprise to most observers. Indeed, the only surprise was the narrowness of the victory: this was after all a seat that had Conservative MPs for 48 of the 65 years since its creation and had no Labour councillors at the time.

In the circumstances, a Conservative majority of only 194 votes (0.4%) in 2010 was actually a good result for Labour.

Cardiff North 2010 chart

The Constituency

Geographically, the constituency sits between the central parts of the Welsh capital and the M4. Cardiff North is the most middle class constituency in Wales: 76% of electors are owner-occupiers. Indeed, the Conservative Party’s Welsh headquarters is in Cardiff Gate, in the north east of the seat.

There are some more working class areas in the south of the seat, in Gabalfa ward and particularly on the Gabalfa Estate, which confusingly is in Llandaff North ward next door. But much more is in the middle-class Cardiff suburbs – areas such as Heath, Llanishen, Whitchurch and Rhiwbina. Further out are villages such as Lisvane and Tongwynlais (home to the castle of Castell Coch, overlooking the entrance to the Welsh Valleys). Out to the east, separate from the rest of the constituency, are the suburb of Pontprennau and the village of Old St. Mellons.

Cardiff North map

(click the map, then click it again in the new page for a closer view)

In some ways, Cardiff North is the Welsh equivalent of Sheffield Hallam: a very middle-class urban seat that votes a bit to the left of its demographics thanks to a strong student (13% of the electorate) and academic demographic.

According to Electoral Calculus, the lead for either the Conservative or Labour in each ward in the 2010 general election were as shown below.

Cardiff N 2010 margins map

However, I would treat the Rhiwbina figures with some caution: these are likely to have been distorted by their methodology which maps against the 2008 local election results, where independents took 55% of the vote. Other sources suggest that Rhiwbina is probably more Conservative than average for the constituency. The map below shows the councillors elected in the 2008 elections across the constituency: 13 Conservatives, 5 Liberal Democrats and 3 Independents, in Rhiwbina. And no Labour councillors, despite the Labour Party polling the second highest aggregate vote across the constituency in those elections.

Cardiff N 2008 result map

Past elections

Cardiff North was a Conservative constituency from its creation in 1950 until Harold Wilson’s Labour landslide in 1966. The Tories regained it at the next election in 1970 and held on until Labour’s next landslide victory in 1997, when Julie Morgan (wife of Rhodri Morgan, then MP for Cardiff West and later First Minister of Wales) won the seat. She held on until she was defeated by Tory Jonathan Evans in 2010.

The chart below shows the votes for each party since 1983 (the boundaries were significantly different before then but changes since have been fairly minor).

Cardiff N 83-10 results


Or, for those of you who prefer percentages:

Cardiff N 83-10 percents

Cardiff North has one electoral claim to fame: in 2005 Catherine Taylor-Dawson, the Rainbow Dream Ticket Party candidate, received the lowest vote ever in a UK election – a solitary 1 vote.

Jonathan Evans, a staunch anti-abortionist, had previously been in Parliament before his 2010 triumph, as MP for Brecon and Radnor between 1992 and 1997, and was later a Member of the European Parliament. But he has decided to throw in the towel this May, passing the blue baton on to Craig Williams, a city councillor for Pentyrch ward, just outside the constituency.

Julie Morgan has also called it a day, and local teacher Mari Williams (from Rhiwbina) will stand for Labour this time. Elin Walker Jones, a councillor in Gwynedd, will stand for Plaid Cymru, and Mormon and former Tory researcher Ethan Wilkinson is running for UKIP. Ruth Osner is running for the Greens and Shaun Jenkins for “Alter Change” (whatever that is). The Liberal Democrats appear to have yet to select anyone (no worries, plenty of time…).

Local elections

Labour staged a dramatic comeback in Cardiff’s local elections in 2012: winning eleven council seats across Cardiff North and taking control of the city council from the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives lost eight seats (down to five) whilst the Liberal Democrats lost three (down to two).  The three Rhiwbina independents easily held on.

Cardiff N 2012 result map

In every ward, there was a swing from Conservatives to Labour, from 6% in still solidly Conservative Lisvane ward to 14% in neighbouring Llanishen. Across Cardiff North, the average swing from Conservative to Labour was 11% in 2012.

The chart below compares the 2008 and 2012 results, excluding the votes for independent candidates.

Cardiff North 08 to 12 LE chart

Perhaps the most meteoric result was for Labour’s Phil Bale in Llanishen ward: he had only joined the Labour Party two years before, whilst living in London. That trajectory for Bale has continued: less than two years later, he became Leader of the council.

Election prospects

2012 was a good year for Labour in local elections, but those results do look encouraging for Labour. They were ahead of the Tories in every ward in the constituency except Lisvane (albeit by only a handful in Rhiwbina).

Cardiff N 2012 margins map

Labour may have slipped back a little since then, but their 6% edge will not have entirely vanished. Remember, Labour took 11% more of the vote in the 2010 general election than in the 2008 locals. The 2012 election showed a clear shift of votes from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to Labour, and it is likely that the local election results in this seat would closely match the Westminster result.

The chart below compares the 2010 general election result with the aggregate votes from the 2012 locals (again, screening out the independent vote in the latter to aid the comparison).

Cardiff North 10 to 12 chart


Labour gain.

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