Although not as dramatic as the Labour wipeout in Scotland in 2015, in the coming years the party’s showing in Wales in 2019 may take on a similarly historical significance. Unlike in Scotland four years ago, it was not separatism that blew apart Labour’s Welsh strongholds (despite Plaid Cymru’s insistence throughout the campaign that Wales was a “sleeping dragon”). Instead, it was a far more familiar foe — Conservatism.
Predictably, North Wales was the setting for the most dramatic results. Five of the seven Conservative gains came in Leave-voting areas in the north of the country — Wrexham, Ynys Môn, Vale of Clwyd, Clwyd South and Delyn all went blue. Alyn and Deeside was the only Labour constituency to hold on in North Wales. It is not wholly surprising that the Conservatives made inroads in these areas. Throughout the campaign, CCHQ lavished attention on Wrexham, Delyn and the Vale of Clwyd with frequent visits from cabinet members.
Meanwhile Brecon and Radnorshire — which was only won by the Liberal Democrats in a by-election earlier this year — was comfortably taken back by the Tories. Johnson’s other gain was in the south of the country in Bridgend.
Plaid Cymru enjoyed a mixed night. The party neither lost seats nor made gains. In truth, despite noises about the importance of a solid bloc of MPs in Westminster, the party’s leader Adam Price’s attention has always been partially trained on the 2021 Senedd elections. He has won plaudits for his assuredness throughout the campaign and, now that the Labour Party has been weakened in Wales, Plaid Cymru can reasonably expect to mount a serious challenge for power in Cardiff — and continue the fight for independence from there.
But, despite Labour hanging on to vulnerable seats like Gower and Cardiff North, it will be the Conservatives celebrating the loudest in Wales. Perhaps the most indicative seat of all was the Vale of Glamorgan. It was won with some ease by Tory Alun Cairns — a man who had to resign from the cabinet at the start of the campaign for endorsing a candidate who “sabotaged” a rape trial. That Labour could not unseat even Cairns shows what a dismal night it was for the party in Wales.