General Election 2024: What voters want and candidates running in the Caerfyrddin constituency

  • Caerfyrddin

The future of farming, tourism, and help for small businesses are some of the key issues facing voters in Carmarthen.

The new Caerfyrddin constituency in West Wales encompasses an area that takes pride in its history and beautiful landscapes, from former industrial heartlands and market towns to rural communities.

ITV1’s Sharp End met candidates and voters, which will be voting for the first time within the new electoral boundaries.

The ex-mining town of Ammanford is located east of the constituency, with a population of more than 8,000 people. How are they feeling about the upcoming election?

Courtney Davies, who runs the Coco’s Cake House market stall, says the town isn't thriving and there's not enough to keep people in Ammanford.

She said: "Parking is expensive. I think they could do free parking a little bit longer, a couple of hours on the weekend to bring people in, because otherwise shops are just going to die."

The 27-year-old business owner sells baked goods from the market as it's too expensive to have her own premises. "The rent is just extortionate. You're talking £800 maybe a month and that's just the shell of the building, let alone everything else that's got to go on top of it.

"I've started from nothing and I just think that they should encourage people to be putting back in to the community."

"I think they could do free parking a little bit longer... to bring people in, because otherwise shops are just going to die." Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

David Parsons agrees that politicians need to pay attention to smaller towns in their constituencies. "What can they do to make it better for us?" he asked. "I think we just pushed away to the corner all the time, being a smaller town."

The Ammanford voter says he isn't feeling good about the upcoming election.

He said: They’re telling lies. I don't think Tories will get in this town. I voted Tories ever since I was old enough to vote, and not this time. I just don't think we've got the right Prime Minister. He's not doing his job.

"I think he's thinking of himself and his MPs, not thinking of the genuine down to earth people - the working class."

Mr Parsons does not trust politicians and thinks they are "telling lies." Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Labour’s candidate, Martha Angharad O’Neil, was born and raised in Ammanford and hopes to be the community’s voice in Westminster. "I've seen the decline over the past 10 years and we know this area hasn't benefited from from levelling up or anything like that," she said.

"Making sure that the next Government is there listening to local people from Ammanford, from Caerfyrddin as a whole, is incredibly important.

"The issue that comes up, more often than anything else, is certainly the cost of living crisis and the impact that economic instability has on people's lives."

She added: "It's clear that it's not just about making ends meet. It's the mental impact and financial instability it might have on families. It's the impact that it might have in people's education. It's such a multifaceted area."

Ms O’Neil says it's really important that politicians have empathy. "I lost my dad when I was very young, I was 10 and my brother was six."

"I think knowing hardship is something that is really important in politicians so that there is that empathy there and a desire to get change done. That's something certainly that resonates with me and it's something that I would want to carry with me to Parliament."

So why should people vote for her on July 4?

"We need change," Ms O'Neil said, "and the only way we achieve change is by making sure that we get Labour in Number 10, and we do that by electing Labour MPs."

The Workers Party of Great Britain are campaigning in this election as an alternative to Labour, who they feel have strayed far from their left leaning roots.

Caerfyrddin's candidate, Mark Evans, said the party is more tuned to what he calls "traditional Labour."

He added: "The current Labour Party isn't really a Labour Party. It's what I would call Conservative-lite. The Conservatives are not really a Conservative party, they are Labour-lite. There's very little to choose between them.

"As a more left-leaning party, more in tune with traditional Labour Party politics, we are very much in favour of progressive economics. We want a fairer and more equitable country."

Have you heard our podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

In the opposite corner of this vast constituency is the picturesque town of Newcastle Emlyn.

West Wales Reporter Lewis Rhys Jones visited the livestock market to find out what members of the rural community want from their next government.

Farmer Nigel Davies wants more job security. He said: "We want to know that the food that we produce is going to be used by locals and we want to be perhaps valued a little bit more.

The NHS and ambulance response times is also a concern for him, living in a rural area. "If we had an ambulance that perhaps couldn't get to us within one or two hours of us having an accident, we are not going to be here."

Arwel Davies is worried about where the next generation of farmers are going to come from. He said: "Things are in quite a mess where we import almost half the food and it's dropping year by year."

"If we had an ambulance that perhaps couldn't get to us within one or two hours of us having an accident, we are not going to be here." Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

So how could candidates win his vote? "Looking after the people that does an honest day's work - and will to create something, that's all. It's that simple." He added: "After 50 years of farming, I've seen things going downhill and going very difficult."

Plaid Cymru’s candidate is a farmer herself, and this constituency has historic significance for the party. In 1966, Gwynfor Evans, Plaid’s first ever representative in Westminster, was elected in Carmarthen - and candidate Ann Davies hopes to follow in his footsteps.

She said: "60% of this seat is rural. I understand rural Carmarthenshire but I also understand the needs of post-industrial Carmarthenshire as well as Carmarthen town itself. I've worked here on and off all my life."

"It would be the greatest honour for me to be the MP for Caerfyrddin and to follow in the footsteps of the great man, up on the wall, Gwynfor Evans.

"What you get with the Tories, and with Labour, is when they get elected they get sucked into that big machine up in Westminster.

"That doesn't happen to us (Plaid Cymru). We have people who are chosen to represent simply because we live here. We live in our constituencies, we're born and bred here. We know and understand our areas and that's what I'll be fighting for.

"I'll be fighting to have the best deal for the residents of the Caerfyrddin seat. If you want a strong, honest, hardworking person to represent you in Westminster, then I'm your woman."

West Wales Reporter Lewis Rhys Jones visited the livestock market in Newcastle Emlyn. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Simon Hart is the only incumbent in the race and he’s hoping to return to the green benches of the Commons in July. The Conservative and former Welsh secretary has represented Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire since 2010 when he took it from Labour.

But most of his old constituency is not included in the new Caerfyrddin seat, meaning he’s now having to campaign in areas which were previously part of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

"It's a strange arrangement with the new boundaries," he said.

"I'm at roughly a third of the new seat I currently represent, so I'm really looking to make an impact in the other two thirds. It's a little bit further up the road than what I'm used to, but it's an area I've known well worked and lived here for most of my adult life. So, it's nice to have this sort of new refreshed challenge.

"I've got meeting with people later on today about burning local issues around pylons in the Teifi Valley and the Towy Valley. Something like that really unites a community - people who rise up in opposition to what they see as a great act of desecration of some of the most beautiful countryside in Wales and the wider UK."

The Chief Whip and former MP for the now defunct Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat says voters should choose him as he's "tried and tested."

He added: "I've done this for 15 years. Everything that I care about in my life is probably within 15 miles of where we're currently sat. I care about the issues which we've been talking about, deeply.

"I've got a track record. If the people who vote in this area share my values, which I hope they do, whether it's about agriculture, the environment and the jobs, housing, schools, hospitals a few hundred metres from here, then I just hope they will think I'm not going to risk all of that with people that are untried and untested and whose opinions I have never heard before."

In the first half of the last century Carmarthenshire was quite a Liberal stronghold. Those days are now long gone but Nick Beckett is hoping to revive some of that old Welsh Liberal tradition.

"First past the post doesn't always value people's votes," he said, "but we'd urge people to vote Liberal Democrat for a fair deal for Wales because every vote counts, even if it's retrospectively looking at whether or not people have been represented according to vote share.

"It's all to play for here in Caerfyrddin and people need to be heard. They're rightly fed up at the current parties just not listening to them. They're concerned with their own fights and they're not listening to local people. A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for local people and a vote for change."

Pendine has a 7 mile long beach which is enjoyed by swimmers, dog walkers and families alike.

Elaine Mills, who works in the Beach Shack on the seafront, is worried about less tourists visiting Wales.

She said: "We're seeing less people coming into Wales and spending a bit less money. There is a lot of changes going on so people are a bit unsure about what's going to happen at the elections and if anyone can really help us.

"They do need to really focus on the tourism and try and help small businesses. People are saying that car parking costs are going up and they're trying to get rid of some of the public toilets. Lots of these issues do affect tourism and people coming to areas.

"The more facilities there are for people then the better it is. If there is more money invested in facilities like toilets, shops, food places and car parking facilities, people will come."

The new Caerfyrddin constituency in West Wales encompasses an area that takes pride in its history and beautiful landscapes. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The Women's Equality Party is also standing in this election, and Nancy Cole hopes she can offer voters an alternative. "I feel that inequality is deepening and public services are crumbling," she said. "It's really women that are on the front line of this crisis.

"I definitely feel that it's time to do things differently and I'm confident that the Women's Equality Party, and I, have the drive and the imagination to do that."

The new Caerfyrddin constituency was formed by merging most of the old Carmarthen East and Dinefwr seat with the Carmarthenshire portion of the old Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat. At the last general election these were won by Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives respectively.

In total, there will be eight candidates campaigning to win voters over.

Will Beasley will be standing for the Green Party, which is campaigning for bolder action on issues such as climate change and NHS funding. Bernard Holton will be standing for Reform UK which is pitching a tougher approach on immigration and a reduction in taxes. Both were invited to take part in Sharp End's coverage, but neither candidate was available for an interview.

  • You can see more in-depth coverage of the General Election - plus all the latest political discussion - on Sharp End, Mondays, at 10:45pm on ITV1. Catch up with the latest episodes here.