Blaenau Gwent is for many people, along with the Rhondda, the one Welsh constituency that sums up the essential nature of the spirit of the former Welsh coalfield. Long renown as “Nye Bevan’s old seat”, and with the area also represented by Michael Foot, the seat has an illustrious political pedigree. It is however true to say that the seat was fashioned out of parts of Bevan’s old Abertillery seat, which were joined with Ebbw Vale to form the Ebbw Vale seat which Michael Foot represented until 1992.
Long a Labour stronghold, in 1983 and 1992 the seat was the safest Labour seat in the UK. In 1992 for example, Llew Smith was elected with 79% of the popular vote and a 30,067 majority. There was however a glitch in Labour’s dominance in the seat, which started in 2005 when Labour’s Peter Law who represented the seat in the Welsh Assembly, and who had resigned from the party in protest at the imposition of an “all female shortlist” during the selection process to succeed Llew Smith who retired as MP in 2005. Law ran as an independent and was elected as MP in a shock win in that year’s General Election, turning a 19,313 Labour majority into a 9,121 Independent majority. Law died in 2006, and in the by-election that followed his election agent, Dai Davies, was elected as an MP for Blaenau Gwent People’s Voice to replace him. Labour’s Nick Smith won the seat back convincingly in the 2010 General Election.
At an Assembly level, Peter Law had held the seat for Labour since its creation 1999. In 2005 after his resignation from the Labour Party Law held the seat as an Independent until his death in 2006. In the resultant by-election his wife, Trisha Law, was elected to replace him as an AM for Blaenau Gwent People‘s Voice. Trisha Law was re-elected to the Assembly in 2007. Trisha Law did not run in 2011 and Labour’s Alun Davies retook the seat comfortably.
The constituency, like many in South Wales was heavily dependent on coal mining and steel making for it’s livelihood, and the decline of these industries has hit the area hard. In 1948 the Ebbw Vale steel works was the biggest steel mill in Europe and produced 600,000 tons of steel a year, indeed the plant was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, such was its importance to the Allied war effort. In 2002 though the plant was finally shut down, with nearly 15,000 jobs having been lost since the 1960’s. The effect of such economic decline has caused severe social problems in the area, with Blaenau Gwent having the highest levels of severe child poverty in Wales. Efforts to regenerate the constituency are ongoing with the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival site being one success story. The area is also exploiting its industrial heritage to the full, with the main towns of Tredegar, Brynmawr and Abertillery all having their own museums.
2015 General election results
|Lewis, Steffan||Plaid Cymru||2,849||8.99|
|Rees, Sam||Liberal Democrat||620||1.96|
Labour Majority 12,703 (40.09%) 5.4% swing Lab to UKIP
Electorate 51,332 Turnout: 31,683 (61.72%)
2011 Assembly election result
|Jones, Darren||Plaid Cymru||1,098||5.43%|
|Blakebrough, Martin||Liberal Democrat||367||1.82%|
Turnout: 20,211 (37.97%)
|Labour gain from Independent||9,120 majority|
2010 General election results
|Davies, Dai||Blaenau Voice||6,458||19.9|
|Davies, Rhodri||Plaid Cymru||1,333||4.1|
|O’Connell, Alyson||Socialist Labour||381||1.2|
Electorate 52,438 Turnout: 32,395(61.78%)
Alun Davies (Labour) was elected in 2011 for Blaenau Gwent. He previously was the regional member for Mid and West Wales from 2007 -2011. He is Minister for Natural Resources and Food until he was sacked in 2014.. Born in Tredegar and went to Aberystwyth University. Unusually he fought the seat of Blaenau Gwent for parliament in 1992 as a Plaid-Green Alliance he then fought Cynon Valley in 1997 again for Plaid Cymru. But by the 2005 general election he had joined Labour and fought Ceredigion for his new party.
In 2011 he became deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Fisheries and European Programmes before promotion to cabinet in 2013 to his current post.
Before entering the Assembly he worked he was a lobbyist first fo Hyder, then as head of Public Affairs for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and became Director of Corporate Affairs for S4C . In 2004 he set up his own public affairs company Bute communications.
Member of Parliament
Nick Smith (Labour) was elected in the seat in the 2010 General election. From 1998 to 2005 he was a councillor in the London Borough of Camden. He worked for the Labour party as an organiser in Wales.
He serves as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs. He also serves as a committee member on the Public Accounts Committee.
He is married with two daughters. He attended Tredegar Comprehensive and Birbeck college, London.