Week to go before Cardiff South and Penarth by-election

By Daniel Davies
BBC Wales news website political reporter

  • Published

Candidates for the Cardiff South and Penarth parliamentary by-election are entering the final week of campaigning.

Voters go to the polls next Thursday to choose a successor to former Labour MP Alun Michael.

The man who was Wales' first secretary after devolution in 1999 is quitting the seat he has held in parliament for 25 years.

He has stepped down to stand in the election for South Wales police and crime commissioner on the same day.

It is a diverse constituency that includes inner-city neighbourhoods such as Butetown and Grangetown, upmarket parts of Penarth and the heavily redeveloped waterfront around Cardiff Bay.

Image caption,
Cardiff South and Penarth is the biggest constituency in Wales

It is also Wales' biggest constituency in terms of the size of the electorate, with around 78,000 voters.

Labour is riding high in national opinion polls, so it should be confident of retaining the constituency.

Since its creation in 1983, when the local MP was former Prime Minister James Callaghan, no other party has held the seat.

In fact, Labour's representation of southern Cardiff has been unbroken since Mr Callaghan was first elected as an MP in 1945.

Big issues

Mr Michael won with a majority of more than 4,700 over his Conservative rival at the 2010 general election.

Labour candidate Stephen Doughty says he is confident, but not complacent about keeping the seat.

"We've been out every day since I was selected in the middle of July meeting people, travelling the whole length and breadth of the constituency and I'm certainly taking the approach that you can't take anything for granted," he said.

Dissatisfaction with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster is bringing voters back to Labour, he added.

But devolution allows plenty of opportunity for political parties to trash each other's records.

If people tell him they are unhappy with the NHS, Tory candidate Craig Williams is happy to remind them that the health service is the responsibility of the Labour Welsh government.

Although jobs and the economy are the big issues, he says devolution makes it easier for him to fight this mid-term by-election.

He says: "We've got the National Assembly here where Labour are still in charge and they are still in charge of a lot of issues that people really care about.

Knock on doors

"They are still in charge of health, they are still in charge of education, and there's not exactly glowing results coming out of Wales."

Bablin Molik, the Lib Dem candidate, said the by-election has been an opportunity for her party to knock on doors and overcome negativity about the UK coalition government.

She said: "The government are on the right path as a coalition. We haven't gone from one extreme to the other.

"To some extent Lib Dems have held the Tories back from going to the other extreme after taking over from a Labour government for 13 years, and we've also delivered some of our key pledges during the 2010 election."

Plaid Cymru candidate Luke Nicholas says there is concern about turnout as the by-election falls on the same day as the police commissioner elections.

But he hopes the timing, and the novelty of campaigning in late autumn, will not stop him getting across a message that his party is making ground in this part of the world.

He said: "I'm going to try to win the seat, but also I hope in trying to do that, and in running a really good campaign, I can also sow some seeds for the future and show that in the future Plaid Cymru is going to be a major party in the south of Wales and in urban Wales, places like Cardiff and Penarth."

The eight candidates for the by-election on November 15 are:

  • Stephen Doughty (Labour)
  • Robert Griffiths (Communist)
  • Andrew Jordan (Socialist Labour)
  • Bablin Molik (Liberal Democrat)
  • Luke Nicholas (Plaid Cymru)
  • Anthony Slaughter (Green)
  • Craig Williams (Conservative)
  • Simon Zeigler (UKIP)

Mr Michael is contesting the election for police and crime commissioner for the South Wales police area alongside Michael Baker (independent), Caroline Jones (Conservative) and Tony Verderame (independent).