Senedd Election 2021: A look at the Clwyd South constituency

In less than three weeks, Wales will decide who the next First Minister will be and which party or parties will be governing in the Senedd for the next five years.

In the second of the series, Wales Decides presenter, Rob Osborne takes a look at the constituency of Clwyd South, speaking to the candidates and the people ahead of the May 6th election.

Clwyd South is a north Wales constituency with a mix of urban and rural communities, including Llangollen, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Bangor on Dee, Ruabon and Johnstown.

It has traditionally been a Labour stronghold with the party winning the constituency seat in every Senedd election. 

The candidate hoping to hold on to that winning streak is the current Senedd member and Minister for the Economy and Transport, Ken Skates.

Ken Skates

Discussing his message for the people of Clwyd South, he said: “Quite simply, we’ve protected lives and safeguarded livelihoods throughout this pandemic and we’re  not through it yet.

"We’ve also got to go through a recovery, and we need to make sure that that recovery sees everybody emerge healthy and with the best employment prospects so that nobody is left behind. “

He also defended the Labour party's record and the way they have handled the pandemic.

“Let’s look at the facts. We’ve got the lowest levels of coronavirus in the UK at the moment because of the decisions that we’ve taken as a government.

"We’ve offered businesses within tourism, hospitality and other sectors the most generous package of support anywhere in the UK - more than £2 billion to safeguard jobs. As the consequence of that, we’ve got an unemployment rate in Wales just a little lower than the UK average.”

The constituency is part of what used to be called ‘the red wall’ - dominant Labour territory. But the Tories won this seat at the last General Election. Can they win it again at the Senedd election?

Barbara Hughes is their candidate and she'll be campaigning for businesses to "go back to normal and building the economy".

Barbara Hughes

She's also very confident that the Conservatives will win the seat again.

She said: “We are going to win this seat. There’s no ifs or buts about that.

"Simon Baynes has been an absolutely wonderful MP in Clwyd South and I’m sure if someone was passing now, they will know him and would have seen him. That’s the sort of person I want to be so people can approach me with all their issues.”

Another candidate that's confident they can win Clwyd South is Llyr Gruffydd from Plaid Cymru.

“I absolutely think I can win this seat," he said.

Llyr Gruffydd

"We’ve seen a change in attitudes and this is a very interesting period. We’ve seen huge changes in political allegiances over the last few years.

"I’m not contemplating losing this seat, because Alun Wyn Jones never talked about what Wales would do if they lost the Six Nations. His focus was solely on winning and that’s exactly where I am as well.” 

His message for the people of Clwyd South is "if you carry on doing what you’ve done in the past then what surprise is it that you keep getting what you got.

"That record is a record of shame as far as I’m concerned and I’d be urging people to choose a new path on the 6th of May by voting Plaid Cymru.”

Other parties standing in this constituency are the Liberal Democrats, Abolish the Welsh Assembly and UKIP.

Leena Farhat

Leena Farhat, standing for the Liberal Democrats said: “I will be campaigning to put recovery first and that is in everything that we do.

"I think that these past few years, not just with Covid but with our economic position and our political position here in Wales, we do need to be recovering.”

Jonathon Harrington

The Abolish candidate, Jonathon Harrington said: “Why would you want to pay for extra administration which could be spent on hip operations, better teachers or better roads. Why would you want to do that when you could use the money better for other things.”

Jeanette Bassford-Barton

Representing UKIP, Jeanette Bassford-Barton said: “If you find out what people want and be the spokesperson for them, you fight for their cause and their reasons. UKIP is a party made up of ordinary people from all walks of life.”

Here is the full list of candidates standing in Clwyd South:

  • Ken Skates, Labour

  • Barbara Hughes, Conservatives

  • Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru

  • Leena Farhat, Liberal Democrats

  • Jeanette Bassford-Barton, UKIP

  • Jonathon Harrington, Abolish the Welsh Assembly

  • Mandy Jones, Reform UK

But what issues are important to the people of Clwyd South?

The most common answers were education, health and the environment.

One person said: “I’ve got three grandchildren and I’m quite keen on the education system and how it works. They’re our future aren’t they.”

Another added: “The health aspect for me personally.”

A third said: “I think the most important thing for me is environmental policies and the long term future. I know the next few years are important but I’m thinking of my children and possibly one day, grandchildren and what planet are they going to inherit.”

One man who is very concerned about the economy is business owner, Neal Duston who runs horse drawn boat trips on the Llangollen canal.

Llangollen is a tourist hotspot but since the pandemic, businesses like Neal's which rely on them have obviously suffered.

Neal Duston

"We were down £500,000 on the year before", he said.

"We welcome what the government did with the furlough which meant we kept many of our staff through the season. We’re happy we’ve got a few grants to help us but we still feel that we’re one of those businesses that suffer.

"We’ve got 35 staff here and we could’ve done with a bit more help from the government and the local council.”

When deciding who to vote for in the upcoming Senedd elections, Neal said that it was key for his business that social distancing would be removed as the current regulations mean that he has to "employ extra staff just to maximise the trips" as they will be "running on about 25% capacity".

You can watch the full programme and catch up with other election programmes here.