Ceredigion looks set for closest General Election result in a decade

By Chris Betteley in Politics

CEREDIGION looks set for its closest election result in over a decade as voters get set to go to the polls on Thursday.

In 2005, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams surprisingly took the seat from incumbent Simon Thomas of Plaid Cymru by just 219 votes.

A massive majority of 8,324 secured by Mr Williams in 2010 reduced to 3,067 in 2015.

This year, the snap election called for 8 June has left uncertainty, with national polls showing Conservative and Labour both picking up votes from two years ago at the expense of smaller parties in two-party numbers not seen for over 30 years.

In Ceredigion in 2015, the multi-party politics of the UK was reflected as all six candidates retained their deposit, with votes spread around.

However, this time around, modelled polling suggests that as votes move towards Labour and Conservatives, it could give Liberal Democrats’ main challenger Plaid Cymru an opportunity to squeeze through the middle and win the seat.

The Liberal Democrat support, falling nationwide to around eight per cent, is being squeezed in Ceredigion from both the right and the left on separate issues, leaving Mr Williams susceptible to the young Plaid Cymru candidate Ben Lake.

Mr Lake has so far been impressing on the campaign trail, with the Ceredigion Plaid group increasingly confident of an upset.

The Liberal Democrat campaign is understood to be concerned about growing support for the Conservative party - which has attempted to make the campaign a one-issue vote on the need for strong leadership on Brexit - which could erode the Lib Dem’s traditional vote in the county.

Over 18,000 Ceredigion residents voted to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum despite the county’s overall vote to remain, with 3,829 voters putting their cross next to UKIP’s Gethin James in the 2015 vote.

With the collapse of the UKIP vote nationally, and a non-Ceredigion candidate standing for UKIP this time around, a large portion of those votes will likely move to the Conservatives, whose candidate is Ruth Davis.

With the Liberal Democrat position on Brexit, Leave voters in the county will likely be hard pressed to vote that way, further squeezing Mr Williams’ majority.

The Lib Dems will need the vast majority of Remain voters to cast their ballots for them to stay close to the voting level of the 2015 election.

In a county of over 10,000 students, which mostly blamed the Lib Dems in coalition for a U-turn on abolishing £9,000 a year tuition fees, Labour is likely to pick up a large swathe of student votes for its free tuition fee pledge - leaving the Lib Dems staring at a squeeze from the left on that issue.

From 2010 to 2015, the Lib Dems shed 14 per cent of its vote share in Ceredigion, with Plaid failing to capitalise as its share dropped by 0.6 per cent.

A similar drop for the Lib Dems this year would see Mr Williams pick up around 11,500 votes.

This leaves Plaid needing to boost its numbers by around 10 per cent to cause an upset.

Seat projection polling suggests that a victory for any party in Ceredigion is likely to be as close as just one per cent - fewer than 500 votes.

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