Preseli Pembrokeshire

2015 Result:
Conservative: 16383 (40.4%)
Labour: 11414 (28.1%)
Lib Dem: 780 (1.9%)
Plaid Cymru: 2518 (6.2%)
Green: 1452 (3.6%)
UKIP: 4257 (10.5%)
Independent: 3729 (9.2%)
Others: 23 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 4969 (12.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: Wales, Dyfed. Part of Pembrokeshire council area.

Main population centres: Milford Haven, Haverfordwest, Fishguard, St Davids.

Profile: The constituency is named after the old local government district abolished in 1996. It is the most westerly seat in Wales, at the tip of the Pembrokeshire peninsula, and includes the northern (and more Welsh speaking) part of Pembrokeshire and the more English-speaking and influenced area around Milford Haven and Haverfordwest, the two largest towns in Pembrokeshire. Haverfordwest is the commercial and administrative centre for the area while Milford Haven is a major port and a key point in Britain's energy network with its oil refineries and liquid natural gas terminal. The seat also includes the minute ecclesiastical city of St Davids, by far the smallest city in Britain with a population below 2000. Much of the seat is included within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which runs around the rugged cliffs and beaches of the Pembrokeshire.

Politics: Southern Pembrokeshire is very English in its culture and language, long known as "little England beyond Wales", so might be expected to lean Conservative. However, the seat contains only part of southern Pembrokeshire and while the seat has returned Conservative MPs for most of the time since 1970, it is hardly safe, falling to Labour in 1992 rather than the 1997 landslide. At a local level it is largely dominated by independent candidates.

Current MP
STEPHEN CRABB (Conservative) Born 1973, Inverness. Educated at Tasker Milward V.C. School and Bristol University. Former business consultant. First elected as MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire in 2005. Government whip and junior minister at the Welsh office 2012-2014. Secretary of State for Wales since 2014.
Past Results
Con: 16944 (43%)
Lab: 12339 (31%)
LDem: 5759 (15%)
PC: 3654 (9%)
Oth: 906 (2%)
MAJ: 4605 (12%)
Con: 14106 (37%)
Lab: 13499 (35%)
LDem: 4963 (13%)
PC: 4752 (12%)
Oth: 1267 (3%)
MAJ: 607 (2%)
Con: 12260 (33%)
Lab: 15206 (41%)
LDem: 3882 (11%)
PC: 4658 (13%)
Oth: 771 (2%)
MAJ: 2946 (8%)
Con: 11741 (28%)
Lab: 20477 (48%)
LDem: 5527 (13%)
PC: 2683 (6%)
Oth: 1975 (5%)
MAJ: 8736 (21%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
STEPHEN CRABB (Conservative) See above.
PAUL MILLER (Labour) Born Neyland. Educated at Sir Thomas Picton School and Southampton University. Pembrokeshire councillor since 2012.
NICK TREGONING (Liberal Democrat) Constituency manager. Swansea councillor 1999-2012. Contested Gower 2005, Preseli Pembrokeshire 2010, Wales European region 2009 election.
HOWARD LILLYMAN (UKIP) Former university technician.
JOHN OSMOND (Plaid) Writer and journalist.
RODNEY MAILE (New Society of Worth)
CHRIS OVERTON (Independent Save Withybush Save Lives) Consultant obstetrician.
Comments - 181 Responses on “Preseli Pembrokeshire”
  1. Sometimes I think people overstate the effect the Iraq War has had on British politics. Tony Blair did win another election afterwards.

    Rather, it has become the figurehead for what was wrong with the New Labour administration – that what Tony Blair wanted, he invariably got (with the notable exception of adopting the Euro). Iraq was merely the most prominent example of a policy that went against the members, but there were plenty of others that would eventually have reared their ugly heads.

  2. Lab won in 05 but lets not kid ourselves it was a total fluke, the lowest vote share for an overall majority in British electoral history.

  3. Kettering became a very different seat in 1983 as a result of boundary changes. Prior to that it had been comfortably Labour.

  4. I’m fairly sure the pre-83 Kettering would now be comfortably Tory though, if not by quite as much as the current seat.

  5. ‘If you’re looking for middle class seats that Lab won in 97 and 01 but will not win again anytime soon then my own seat (Milton Keynes North) is an example, as is Wellingborough constituency where I lived in until 2011.’

    I wouldn’t really describe either of those seats as middle class – not in bthe conventional sense – certainly not Wellingborough, which is similar to Kettering – post industrial, lower middle class

    You could argue that Labour has actually done better in the more middle class seats they won in 1997 – like Edgbaston, Harrow West, Leeds North East – than they the working class ones – like Basildon, Harlow, Crawley, which now seem well out of their reach

  6. I wouldn’t describe Crawley as out of Labs reach, its 13% majority is difficult to overturn yeah but definitely manageable.

  7. We have to be careful about being too simplistic. Although the Conservative grip over the middle-class has weakened somewhat since 1992 that is at least partly because the middle-class has become bigger and therefore more heterogeneous.

    The Conservatives have undoubtedly gone backwards with middle-class public sector workers, hence their problems in the leafy fringes of the northern and Midlands conurbations. However, their grip on the private sector middle-class looks very strong indeed.

    We also need to remember that Morley & Outwood have changed in recent decades. Whilst no one would confuse them with the Surrey stockbroker belt, they are more prosperous than previously. It’s not just blue collar voters defecting to the Tories- it’s also middle-class people moving in.

  8. My guess would be that Kettering and Wellingborough are now unwinnable for Labour even in a landslide. Blair won both in ’97 by less than 200 votes and both have trended Tory since then.

  9. But Labour did increase its majority in both Kettering and Wellingborough in 2001.

  10. Hmm. Kettering and Wellingborough seem unwinnable at the moment but they also will have in 1992. In a landslide I still think they would at least be close, as improbable as a Labour landslide might seem right now.

    The Milton Keynes seats would also certainly fall in a landslide.

  11. Maybe not… but Labour can’t win a landslide, probably even any majority, without making ground with the type of demographic that live in those constituencies. There aren’t enough Hoves and Ilford Norths to make up for not being able to win in typical medium sized English towns.

  12. Yes, I was just gently pointing out that if they don’t ever win such seats again, it’s not so much because of demographic change but because they never get to be 13% ahead of the Tories in a GE again.

    And to say “never” is quite brave, not that we’ll ever remember you said it by then . . .

  13. There are other seats that survived 97 that would probably fall now in a similar landslide. It’s unsurprising that seats that have shifted demographically and were amongst the biggest stretches for Labour in 1997 are now probably beyond the party, short of some unforeseen realignment.

  14. ‘And to say “never” is quite brave, not that we’ll ever remember you said it by then . . .’

    Very brave indeed

    People need to remember that Labour won’t currently remain at the low ebb they find themselves now

    If they do lose even more seats at the next election – which with Corbyn’s personal ratings and the due boundary shake up is almost inevitable – eventually they will see sense, elect somebody remotely electable and watch the Tories implode – as all parties too after long stints in government

    With the infiltration of the hard Left of the Labour Party, this might take place later rather than sooner, but take place it will and whilst it seems unlikely that down-at-the-heel seats like Kettering and Wellingborough will vote Labour, saying they never will is brave bordering on foolish

  15. I believe that Labour did manage to increase its majority in 2001 in both Kettering and Wellingborough.
    Pre-1983 Kettering included Corby and had fewer rural wards so it was a more natural Labour seat.
    When people look at the 2015 election result perceptions tend to be distorted by Labour’s collapse in Scotland. Their performance in England was not actually that poor and represented a better performance than 2010 and 1992 – never mind 1987 ,1983, 1979 and 1959.

  16. Yes that’s true re those two, as in a lot of unexpected Labour gains in 97..
    Labour did do better in some places in 2015, their problem was so did the Tories.

  17. @Max I recall plenty of people saying Labour could never win another election after 1992, let alone a landslide.

  18. Indeed so – but the strong Tory performance obviously owed a lot more to the LibDem collapse!

  19. In 2015 the Tories benefitted far more from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in England and Wales than Labour and it was that which caught the pollsters by surprise – as they expected it to be the other way rounds

    Whatever losses the Tories made to UKIP, they seemed to make up for them from the Lib Dems – explaining why their share of the vote was almost identical to that in 2010

    Labour clearly got some former Lib Dem voters – they would have had to maintain their share of vote in England and Wales – given how many voters they lost to UKIP

  20. I’ve made this exact point that not only did UKIP hit Lab disproportionately where it hurt (the marginals) but also the collapse of the Lib Dems benefited Lab primarily where it was useless. The Lib Dems who drifted to Lab were primarily found in urban, metropolitan, trendy constituencies with lots of students, young peoples etc and most of these seats were already safely Labour.

    Corbyn’s own constituency is a great example, it was safe in 2010 and the collapse of the Lib Dem vote just doubled his already large majority, not exactly helpful. While in most of the marginals the Lib Dems seemed to break disproportionately for the Tories. I give the example of Warrington South once a three way marginal. Without boring everybody with the exact maths simply put to get the result we got in 2015 the Lib Dem voters simply HAD to break disproportionately for the Tories which in hindsight is pretty obvious looking at the type of people who voted Lib Dem in that constituency once upon a time.

    This is part of the reason I’m so wary about making predictions or accepting anything as inevitable, the two things that were touted last parliament by every pundit in every medium was that UKIP disproportionately hurt the Tories and that the Lib Dem collapse disproportionately helped Labour while in hindsight the reverse looks to be true.

  21. ‘The two things that were touted last parliament by every pundit in every medium was that UKIP disproportionately hurt the Tories and that the Lib Dem collapse disproportionately helped Labour while in hindsight the reverse looks to be true.’


    To be fair Nigel Farage was one of the few people who recognised UKIP’s potential to hurt Labour even harder than the Tories – and a lot of pundits dismissed it as more ‘spin’ but it was one of the most truthful statements he’s made over the past 4-5 years or so

    A lot of people can’t get their head around the idea as it does seem illogical – but then politics often is – as are voters themslves

  22. A brave bet there MPR given that within your lifetime FPTP will almost certainly become a thing of the past (the next hung parliament will see its replacement, probably without a referendum, as the junior party’s (or parties’) condition for going into coalition) and thus the area incorporating those seats will probably elect at least one Labour MP before too long.

  23. Not that brave a bet in my opinion, the way things are going since Brexit £100 probably won’t be worth that much in a few years.

  24. Well Kettering could be won by Labour if it is ever paired with Corby again but that is probably it.

  25. @rivers10 lets not be melodramatic. The economy has had a little bit of a setback and is not in freefall, there is a possibility it could do but it could also bounce back depending how Brexit negotiations go (which I am actually cautiously optimistic about).

  26. Pepps
    I’m only having a little bit of fun but as always I say never say never. I’m more confident of the pound falling to the level I’m jesting about than I am of it returning to its pre Brexit strength though.

  27. Pepps
    I do have to say though hard as it is to tell via an online post do I detect perhaps a wee bit of regret as to how you voted? I do recall you saying you were very munch on the fence right up until the last week.

  28. @rivers10 there would have always been some regret regardless of which way I voted.

  29. First time that Stephen Crabb has spoken since the revelations about his private life, AFAIAA:

    Kind of explains his absence from politics for the last four or five months. In normal circumstances he’d probably have been putting himself about moaning about Brexit like Soubry, Morgan, Clarke etc.

  30. The description for this seat needs changing – all the oil refineries in Milford Haven have now closed down, largely thanks to Gordon Brown.

  31. Don’t think Crabb was ever in the league of rogues you list above, Polltroll.

    Closer to Morgan than the others, I guess.

  32. ‘Don’t think Crabb was ever in the league of rogues you list above’

    He certainly wasn’t

    When originally elected in 2005, Crabb was seen as a socially conservative, right-wing Eurosceptic, whose first public pronouncement was to – albeit understandably – defend the death sentences handed down to two fishermen found guilty of murdering one of his constituents daughters in Thailand

    I’m not sure how he ever became associated with the more moderate wing of the party but most of the backers of his leadership bid were firmly on the Tory Left

  33. What the Brexit story has again shown us is how many of our MPs are simple careerists who will pin their colours to whatever mast they think best serves their personal advancement.

    So today, for example, we have supposed arch-Remainer Grant Shapps suddenly announcing his 100% conversion to Brexit. While before the referendum we had several supposedly eurosceptic MPs eg Javed coming out for Remain for entirely careerist reasons ie wanting to stay firmly lodged in Osborne’s rear end.

    I suspect around 2/3 of MPs would fit into this pattern of being entirely malleable on the supposed big issues.

    This issue even transcends parliament, with the highly intelligent historian Niall Ferguson now announcing he was wrong to oppose Brexit and more or less admitting the main reason he did was that wanted to support Cameron and Osborne.

  34. “who will pin their colours to whatever mast they think best serves their personal advancement”

    “cough” Boris “cough cough” May “cough”

  35. This seat was just featured on Ch4.

    I hadn’t realised Welsh hasn’t been spoken here for over 900 years. No wonder almost 60% voted No in the 1997 Referendum here.

    Also, just spotted the LDs came 7th here!

  36. That is not strictly correct. I grew up in Pembrokeshire in a very English environment. North Pembrokeshire – extending to towns such as Fishguard and St Davids – is quite Welsh and not very different from Cardiganshire. Mid- to South Pembrokeshire is very English and includes Haverfordwest , Milford Haven , Pembroke Dock, Pembroke and Tenby.
    The Preseli seat includes all the Welsh speaking areas as well as Haverfordwest and Milford Haven.

  37. Stephen Crabb will have a real fight on his hands to hold this at the next election, whenever that may be.

  38. If Labour become even the largest party this seat would fall.

  39. Notionally, yes, but it’s quite difficult to get a read on this seat. Labour won it in 1992 but the Tories won it in 2005 – it must be one of relatively few seats that has been held by both Labour and the Tories while those parties were in opposition in the last few decades. It seems to be a seat that does its own thing and only vaguely pays attention to national trends.

    I do wonder whether Mr Crabb’s personal life hampered his performance here. The fact that there was a pretty solid independent candidate in 2015, running on a “save the hospital” platform, who didn’t stand this time around makes it harder to get a read on the true direction of travel in this seat, but it is likely that much of the swing to Labour came from him standing aside this time round.

  40. Even in the context of the overall result I found this one surprising – I had thought the days when Lab were genuinely competitive in this sort of seat in Wales, which would be solidly Con in England, were in the past.

  41. @Polltroll
    ‘ The fact that there was a pretty solid independent candidate in 2015, running on a “save the hospital” platform, who didn’t stand this time around makes it harder to get a read on the true direction of travel in this seat, but it is likely that much of the swing to Labour came from him standing aside this time round.’
    Not quite accurate. The Independent candidate in fact did stand again – though his vote was a much more modest 1200 or so. It may have been the key to Crabb’s survival here.

  42. Is this at all a reverse to the Ashfield result where an Independent if anything may well have allowed Labour to narrowly hold on- or did said candidate also take many votes away from them and the Tories at the same time, or is it not at all comparable?

  43. See my comment upthread about the rundown of the oil refineries here, largely the result of Gordon Brown’s stupid dash for diesel, though the decline has continued since 2010 and perhaps the blame has now shifted more to the Tories. I think this was probably a major factor in Pembrokeshire falling out of love with Labour in 2005, the 2017 result perhaps more a reversion to the norm.

    I used to know Nick Bennett, MP here 1987-92, a little bit, and I suspect his abrasive manner went a long way to unexpectedly losing him the seat in 1992. So Pembrokeshire does have some form in considering personal issues at election time; I doubt Crabb’s personal troubles did him much good.

  44. I have holidayed here a long time ago but didn’t visit all the main towns in the constituency. I get the impression that Haverfordwest is rather volatile & that so is Milford Haven (which I haven’t been to since I was a small child) with Fishguard (and Goodwick joined on to it) more reliably Labour, and St Davids & the villages reliably Tory. Even in the villages though it isn’t uncommon to see surprising amounts of council-built houses (Solva for example) & I suspect that in strong years Labour picks up some surprising votes in some parts of this seat. Perhaps someone could confirm or refute my suggestions.

  45. Fishguard is an empty decrepit ferry port, destroyed by Ryanair, and Milford Haven an oil refining port a mere shadow of what it was. Both major parts of this seat and hardly likely to be naturally good for the Tories. Also many small seaside towns in this seat and such areas are not necessarily the prosperous Tory strongholds they would have been 30 years ago. In conclusion I think I disagree with Jack Sheldon that this would be a solidly Conservative seat were it in England; I think it would be the same as it is here – a marginal with areas of strength for both parties, perhaps somewhere like Hastings might be a fair equivalent.

  46. I don’t know this area at all but if I didn’t know any better I’d have thought there were pockets scattered throughout Preseli Pembrokeshire that could be improving for Labour over time demographically- it’s such a large rural seat there’s bound to be some post-industrial effects in parts that don’t necessarily like the look of the Tories. It’s often described as ‘Little England beyond Wales’ historically is this area of Dyfed, but I don’t by any means believe it’s all one-way traffic towards to the Conservative Party in the long-term here- not anymore.

  47. Pembrokeshire has long shown signs of having an independent streak. Labour narrowly failed to take the seat in 1945 yet managed to win against the prevailing tide in 1950 when Gwilym Lloyd George was defeated by Desmond Donnelly. The latter then held on with relative ease until his break with Labour at the end of the 1960s. Standing as an Independent at the 1970 election he polled nearly 12000 votes and effectively split the Labour vote to enable the Tories to sneak in by 1231. It was universally expected that Labour would regain the seat at the following election , but the new Tory MP – Nicholas Edwards – held on at both 1974 elections and in 1979 obtained a majority of 7500.. Boundary changes in 1983 meant that the county ceased to have a single MP , but the new Pembroke seat was seen throughout the 1980s as being pretty safe for the Tories. It was quite a shock when the Tory Nicholas Bennett lost to Labour’s Nick Ainger in 1992, but following further boundary changes both Pembrokeshire seats were safely Labour in the 1997 lanslide. The Labour majorities fell sharply in 2001 with the Preseli seat going Tory in 2005. Pembrokeshire South & West Carmarthen went Tory in 2010 and still has a majority of over 3000. As this year’s results tend to imply , both constituencies remain very winnable for Labour in a good year.

  48. Am I correct in thinking that the vast rurality/ruralness of both here and CW&SP attributable to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park goes some way to explaining the area’s independent streak in terms of who it elects as its MPs?

  49. Had a look at Electoral Calculus’s attempt to break the result here down into wards. They seem to think that while the Tories outpolled Labour in a minority of wards in Milford Haven & Haverfordwest, and were only slightly behind Labour in Fishguard, Labour managed to outpoll the Tories in St Davids & Solva. Surely that can’t be right – can it?

  50. Barnaby
    “Surely that can’t be right – can it?”

    Probably not but not the first time theirs been some weird predictions from EC especially regarding the more rural Welsh seats with lots of Independent activity.
    I remember a while back the BC’s proposed “Ynys Mon and Arfon” seat was being discussed and EC had it as notionally Plaid. I found this quite surprising since as far as I could tell it took basically all of the Lab voting areas of the Arfon seat and tacked it onto Anglesey. Yet the ward by ward predictions had Plaid massively ahead in the Cearnarfon wards and Lab and Plaid neck and neck in Bangor and thus to get the actual proper result in Arfon they had Lab miles ahead in some very rural, overwhelmingly Welsh speaking wards, this seemed utterly ridiculous to me and since then I’ve treated their Welsh notionals with suspicion.

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