Possibly the most iconic of the Welsh coalfield seats, its name still stirs classic images of the massive industrialization that occurred in South Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course its name lives on in the famous hymn “Cwm Rhondda”, also known as “Bread of Heaven” so beloved by Welsh rugby crowds the world over.
The Rhondda seat consists of two valleys, Rhondda Fawr and Rhondda Fach, the big and little Rhondda valleys respectively. Due to the intense industrialisation that occurred in these valleys, it comes as no surprise that the Rhondda was a fount of political radicalism. The Rhondda Socialist Society was helped to found the Communist Party of Great Britain, and in the 1930’s the level of left wing political radicalism in Maerdy was such that the town was referred to as “Little Moscow” Despite the decline in the coalfield during the latter part of the 20th century, as late as 1979, Annie Powell became Wales’s only Communist Mayor. The longstanding dislike of the Conservatives in the constituency has been fuelled in part by the decision of Winston Churchill as Home Secretary to send troops into Tonypandy in 1910 to confront striking miners.
As befitting a constituency with such a longstanding socialist pedigree, it has been a safe Labour seat since 1885 when William Abraham was elected as a Liberal-Labour” MP. The current incumbent, Chris Bryant was elected in 2001, having replaced the previous Labour MP, Allan Rogers. Like all Valleys seats however, declining turnout has affected the size of winning majorities. Bryant was elected with a majority of 11,553 in 2010, the days of 30,000 plus majorities a distant dream. Plaid Cymru have established themselves as the only significant opposition to Labour in Rhondda, coming a distant second to Labour in Westminster elections. In Welsh Assembly elections however, Plaid caused a major upset by winning the seat in the first set of elections in 1999, Plaid’s Geraint Davies beating the Labour candidate and now MP for Caerphilly, Wayne David by 2,285 votes. In 2003 however normal service was resumed when Labour’s Leighton Andrews took the seat for Labour with a majority of 7,954. Since then however the current Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has created a base of support in the Rhondda which enables her to get elected as a Plaid Cymru AM on the proportional election section for South Wales Central.
The last pit in the Rhondda, Maerdy, closed in December 1990 thus bringing to an end the long history of mining in the Rhondda Valleys. Since then the constituency has reinvented itself as a tourist attraction, playing heavily on its industrial past and its creation of parks and green spaces. Clydach Vale Country Park and the Rhondda Heritage Park are examples of this. Sir Stanley Baker the renowned actor of “Zulu” fame was born in Blaenllechau near Ferndale. The comedian and actor, Paul Whitehouse also hails from Stanleytown near Llanwonno.
2015 General election results
|Rees-Owen, Shelley||Plaid Cymru||8,521||27.02|
|Summers, George||Liberal Democrat||474||1.5|
Labour Majority 7,455 (23.64%) 6.77% swing Labour to Plaid Cymru
Electorate 51,809 Turnout: 31,538 (60.87%)
2011 Assembly election results
|Evans-Fear, Sera||Plaid Cymru||5,911||29.52%|
|Summers, George||Liberal Democrat||497||2.48%|
Turnout: 20,027 (38.12%)
|Labour hold||6,739 majority|
2010 General election results
|Davies, Geraint||Plaid Cymru||5,630||18.1|
|Wasley, Paul||Liberal Democrat||3,309||10.6|
Electorate 51,554 Turnout: 31,072 (60.27%)
Assembly Member – Leighton Andrews
Leighton Andrews (Labour) was elected to the Assembly in May 2003. Born in Cardiff and an avid Blue birds fan, he attended Bangor University where he read English and History and has an MA in History from the University of Sussex. He was a visiting professor at the University of Westminster from 1997 to 2002, and is an honorary professor at Cardiff University. Prior to entering politics he worked for several charities as a parliamentary officer and campaign director, as well as working as a public affairs consultant in the private sector. He was head of public affairs for BBC Wales between 1993 and 1996 and also worked as a lecturer at Cardiff School of Journalism. He is a former board member of Tai Cymru. He currently sits on the Health and Social Care and the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committees of the Assembly. In 2007 joined the Welsh Government as Deputy Minister for Social Justice and Public Service Delivery, with special responsibility for housing issues this was short lived as the One Wales coalition government with Plaid Cymru was formed in July 2007, Leighton was appointed Deputy Minister for Regeneration. In 2009 he was appointed Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning. In May 2011 he became Minister for Education and Skills. He was forced to resign because of his campaign against his own government to retain services in a hospital that served his constituency. His political interests include education, the economy, culture, housing, the media, health and social inclusion.
Member of Parliament – Chris Bryant
Chris Bryant (Labour) was elected in 2001 he is currently the Shadow Minister for Welfare reform. When Labour was in government he was Europe Minister and also Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. He was born in Cardiff was educated in Cheltenham College and at Oxford where he read English in Mansfield College. He then trained to be a priest in the Church of England.
Whilst in University he was a Conservative he joined the Labour Party in 1986 after leaving Oxford. In 1991 Bryant left the ordained ministry, after deciding that being gay and being a priest were incompatible. He then worked for the Labour party and served as a Local Councillor in Hackney. He had his phoned hacked by the News of the World as played a prominent role in the campaign surrounding the phone hacking scandal