Wrexham - the Red Wall town that went blue, but will it happen again?

Back in December, Wrexham made history - electing the constituency’s first Conservative MP in its 100 year history and Wales’s first Tory woman.

Much has happened since the fall of the so-called Red Wall - the line of traditional Labour stalwart seats stretching across northern England and into Wales.

When polling day came Brexit, a liking for Boris Johnson and a dislike of Jeremy Corbyn were all factors in how people voted. Now we’ve left the European Union and Coronavirus has had a massive impact on the way we live our lives and plunged the UK into the deepest recession in a century, and people's opinions have shifted.

Talking to people on the streets of Wrexham showed how much things have changed. The handling of the Coronavirus pandemic has replaced Brexit as the biggest area of concern for people living there. Boris Johnson’s popularity has waned and people are still making their minds up about Sir Keir Starmer. 

Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson have divided opinion. Credit: House of Commons/Jessica Taylor/PA

But while it’s the Westminster leaders that divided opinion on the streets of Wrexham, the next electoral challenge is for the Welsh Parliament in May. Our latest poll suggests that the constituency may well shift to the Conservatives in that election.

Lesley Griffiths has held the Senedd seat in Wrexham since 2007. She shared an office with Labour MP Ian Lucas until he stood down in December and the seat switched hands to the Conservatives. Speaking to Rob Osborne on Monday night's new look Sharp End, Ms Griffiths said she believed Brexit was a big factor in why the Westminster seat went to the Conservatives.

"I think there was definitely a perception real or not that the Tory government would get Brexit done, and obviously Wrexham voted to leave the European Union back in June 2016 and here we were in December 2019, still talking about it.

"And for those people who had voted for it, unfortunately I think, we hadn’t been able to tell them of the damage, particularly a no-deal Brexit would do and unfortunately I think that was the main reason they voted Conservative.

“Brexit is not the big issue any more, it’s Covid 19 and Covid 19 effects every single person, as does Brexit, but I think people had just got fed up of Brexit and it was viewed as something that won't have an impact. Sadly it will have a major impact."

With the Senedd elections in May, thoughts would usually be turning to campaigning, but coronavirus has changed that.

"It's hard to get into campaign mode. Obviously, I'm very fortunate to be a member of the Welsh Government, as well as constituency work, life has been incredibly hectic over the last few months and campaigning just hasn't been a part of it. But of course, I'm constantly putting out press releases, we have a weekly e-news letter that has predominantly about Covid 19, so people are still seeing me, just not as they are used to."

Lesley Griffiths has been the MS in Wrexham for Labour since 2007. Sarah Atherton won the Westminster seat for the Tories in December. Credit: ITV Wales

Wrexham's first Conservative MP Sarah Atherton has a different name for the 'Red Wall.' She calls it the 'Blue Barricade.' She said she thinks she won in December because people felt they weren't being represented.

"I think they felt their voices weren't being heard, they very much wanted to leave the European Union and collectively I think it was time for a change."

She said it was interesting to hear that people's views of the Prime Minister had changed, but she wanted to change how they think about the Conservatives.

"I've got another four and a half years to turn all these people around. So when they say Boris Johnson, they say 'Sarah, Sarah is our local MP."

You can see more on this story on the first episode of the new series of Sharp End.