Wales politics

General election 2019: The view from Ceredigion

Houses on the promenade in Aberystwyth Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ceredigion is the only Plaid-Liberal Democrat marginal seat

Running along the Cardigan Bay coast from the Dyfi estuary to the Teifi, the constituency of Ceredigion is a mixture of agricultural areas and university towns.

Aberystwyth is its biggest town, home to its university and the National Library of Wales, and further south Lampeter houses a campus of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Inland, the area includes Tregaron and Llanddewi Brefi, reaching across the Cambrian Mountains as far as Llyn Brianne and Claerwen Reservoir.

Analysis by Vaughan Roderick, BBC Welsh affairs editor

Image caption Ceredigion runs along the Cardigan Bay coast from the Dyfi estuary to the Teifi

As goes Ceredigion, so goes nowhere much else.

One of the UK's most idiosyncratic seats, Ceredigion is a law unto itself when it comes to elections.

For much of the 20th Century it was a Liberal stronghold even when the Liberal parliamentary party could all fit into a single taxi.

Labour briefly broke that run in the 1960s but since then Ceredigion has developed into a closely fought Plaid Cymru-Liberal Democrat marginal, the only seat in Wales or England where neither of the two largest parties gets much of a look-in.

In 2017 it was Plaid that shaded it with a majority of just over 100 votes and both the pro-remain parties will be slugging it out again, regardless of deals elsewhere.

Don't rule out Labour or the Tories though.

In 2017 both Plaid and the Lib Dems polled under 30% of the vote and the two other parties weren't that far behind.

If, and it's a big if, the Tories managed to attract the support of most of the 48% of Ceredigion voters who voted to leave the EU, it could be enough to see them come through the middle and capture the seat.

One thing is certain though in a seat famous for its poster wars - you won't be allowed to forget there's an election on.

Expert view: Laura McAllister, Cardiff University's Wales Governance Centre

Ceredigion is a unique and fascinating Plaid-Liberal Democrat marginal - the only one - with historically the seat ping-ponging back and forth between the two parties.

Plaid captured it with just 104 votes in 2017 from Mark Williams who had been its MP since 2005.

But this is a different Lib Dem party this time around. Buoyed by its powerfully unequivocal stance on Brexit, and a general boost in the polls, the Lib Dems need just a 0.2% swing to capture the seat.

But we know national events don't always have traction in Ceredigion and we don't know how a patchwork of local factors will play out.

This straight contest between Plaid and the Lib Dems contradicts the remain alliance announced last week with the two most categorically remain parties slugging it out here.

Still, Ceredigion was never going to be part of any deal - it is too valuable to both parties.

It is one of the hardest to predict although if the Lib Dems can't capture Ceredigion, their election ambitions looked likely to be clipped.

If Plaid's Ben Lake loses the seat he's held for just two and a half years, Plaid would need to retain Arfon and win Ynys Mon for the election to be perceived as a success for them.

Image caption Left to right: Aberystwyth agricultural student Dewi Davies and president of the students' union Dhanjeet Ramnatsing

President of Aberystwyth University's students' union Dhanjeet Ramnatsing said his team had been working hard to encourage students to register to vote.

"I think the general election in general is quite an important issue for a lot of students," he told Claire Summers on BBC Radio Wales.

"Eighteen to 24-year-olds are the least likely to register to vote... that doesn't mean the issues don't matter to them, they do…

"Issues around Brexit matter especially to EU students.

"Last time round a lot of young people didn't vote or didn't get the chance to vote… people are paying attention."

Agricultural student Dewi Davies will vote for the first time on 12 December.

He said: It's the only chance that young people get to elect their representatives, it's hugely important."

When asked what was important to farmers, he said: "Its just stability more than anything… we need to know as farmers… what's going to happen in a few months.

"As farmers we need to prepare many months in advance."

'The system isn't working'

Image caption Writer Hannah Engelkamp said she was feeling "tired" ahead of the election

Hannah Engelkamp is a travel and environment writer from the town.

When asked about her thoughts on the election, she said: "I'm feeling a bit tired already… I have moments of hope that radically different things can happen but on the whole - no...

She said big companies moving into the town were having a negative impact on independent traders: "Just a few days ago a much-loved hot bread shop closed which has been there for 30 years…

"The owner was very sad to be closing of course but said Tesco and Marks and Spencer had opened a couple of years ago. If people think that doesn't make a difference then this is proof that it does. "

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