Westminster 2015: Ogmore In Focus

Following yesterday’s look at the Bridgend constituency, it’s time to look at the second seat in Bridgend county – Ogmore.

Electoral History

  • Created in 1918 from Mid Glamorganshire and South Glamorganshire constituencies.
  • 1918-1931 – Vernon Hartshore (Lab)
  • 1931-1946 – Edward John Williams (Lab)
  • 1946-1950 – John Evans (Lab)
  • 1950-1979 – Walter Ernest Padley (Lab)
  • 1979-2002 – Raymond Powell (Lab)
  • 2002-2015 – Huw Irranca-Davies (Lab)

Candidates & Profiles
  • Laurie Brophy (Green) – Retired teaching assistant and local campaigner from Pencoed. Probably one of the oldest candidates standing anywhere in the UK at age 82/83.
  • Glenda Davies (UKIP) – Former science teacher and nurse, reportedly from Tondu.
  • Gerald Francis (Lib Dem) – Anti-wind farm campaigner. Stood in Ogmore for the Lib Dems in the 2011 Assembly election.
  • Huw Irranca-Davies (Lab) – Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Wales. Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. First elected in 2002.
  • Jane March (Con) – Conservative councillor for….Brenchley & Horsmonden in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
  • Emma Saunders (TUSC)
  • Cllr. Tim Thomas (Plaid) – Town Councillor for Penprysg (Pencoed). Researcher for Communities First and has previously worked in a family-run business. Chaired the Yes campaign for Bridgend & Ogmore in 2011. Most definitely not UKIP (c/o Glamorgan Gazette).

Profile

Ogmore consists of the northern half of Bridgend county (the Llynfi, Garw and Ogmore Valleys, as well as their confluence around Tondu/Sarn), Pencoed, and the villages of Gilfach Goch, Llanharan, Llanharry and Brynna in neighbouring Rhondda Cynon Taf.With good road and rail links, Pencoed is now a dormitory town of Cardiff and Bridgend. In addition to being home to a major campus for cash-strapped Bridgend College, it’s home to a technology park being developed at the Sony factory. It does feel like the poor relation of the big towns in Bridgend county, with no significant plans for regeneration (although there is a modest one) and hamstrung by access problems caused by the south Wales railway line.

Nearby Llanharan has been earmarked for a major housing development, Parc Llanilid, which has been put forward as an alternative to the defunct Dragon International Studios (aka. “Valleywood”). It’s expected to make a significant contribution to Rhondda Cynon Taf’s housing plans, but the village/town has been promised a bypass for at least two decades to ease traffic, as well as a direct link to the M4.

Maesteg is the second biggest town in Bridgend county and one of the largest towns in the south Wales valleys. Maesteg hasn’t suffered as badly during the recession due to more direct links to the M4 and retains a sizable middle class (similarly to Aberdare, which is probably the best comparison). However, the upper Llynfi Valley area – in particular Caerau – contains some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Wales (Bridgend’s Deprivation Mapped). Maesteg outdoor market has been redeveloped, along with the main high street, in an attempt to revive the town’s fortunes, but the town centre struggles like many others.

There’s a long-running campaign to improve transport links via a half-hourly rail service, but it’s yet to be delivered despite years of promises. Opposition to the proposed/rejected merger between Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan is strongest in the Llynfi Valley – which has close ties to Port Talbot – while Maesteg and the mid-Llynfi valley around Llangynwyd contain the highest concentration of Welsh-speakers in Bridgend county.

The Ogmore and Garw valleys are sometimes considered“the forgotten parts” of Bridgend county due to possessing a semi-rural sparsity. There are ambitions to use the scenery for the community’s benefit through developing mountain biking facilities, but this area is also at the forefront of renewable energy rows, with controversial wind farms developed in and around Gilfach Goch.

Due to large numbers of social housing tenants, Bettws has been hit particularly hard by the “bedroom tax”, while there has been strong local opposition to proposals to close Tynyrheol Primary School in Llangeinor.

The areas of Sarn, Tondu, Aberkenfig and Bryncethin have been dubbed the “Valleys Gateway”. At one end, Cefn Cribwr overlooks the controversial Parc Slip opencast mine, with direct views of Celtic Energy’s handiwork. At the other end, several major housing developments have seen the population in the area grow significantly over the last decade, to the point of nearly becoming an extension of Bridgend town itself. This is putting pressure on local services due to the failure to develop a single “town centre” to provide a focal point for primary health care and retail.

Predictions

This one’s more straightforward than Bridgend.

Ogmore’s one of Labour’s safest seats in the UK, let alone Wales. It would be foolish to suggest any other outcome than Huw Irranca-Davies (MP Report Card) retaining it – the graphic above tells its own story. As you would expect, as a junior shadow cabinet member Huw’s a party loyalist, only rebelling against the party line once during a vote on whether Gibraltarians should vote in any future EU in-out referendum (and that appears to be because he was acting as teller).

All things considered, previous Conservative and Lib Dem performances in Ogmore haven’t been too bad. Various luminaries from both parties have passed through this seat on their way to bigger and better things, including Guto Bebb and Kirsty Williams.

This year will provide a real scrum for second place. The Tories and Lib Dems are bound to take a hit, but UKIP are an unknown quantity. Although I don’t expect UKIP to do as well as in Bridgend, according to various studies, Ogmore is ripe for UKIP : high numbers of poorly-qualified white working classes, who feel disillusioned with mainstream politics and areas of (ironically) low immigration.

The Greens have stood in the seat previously, and even under their former branding of the Ecology Party. They lost their deposit on both occasions, though they managed to get more than 1,000 votes in 1983.

As much as I want Tim Thomas to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Welsh political history, it’s unlikely to happen this time around despite the positive campaign he’s running by all accounts. Plaid have a bit more presence in and around the Llynfi Valley and that’s where most of their campaigning in Bridgend county is concentrated on. The best Plaid have ever done in the constituency is Bleddyn Hancock’s 20.8% in the 2002 by-election, but under normal electoral conditions their best is 14%.

So Plaid normally poll 9-15% in Westminster elections in Ogmore, whilst doing better in the Assembly. I’d expect them to do the same this time around. That might be enough for a perfectly reasonable, but distant, second place.

Owen