ASSEMBLY ELECTION 2003: Swingometer Turns Red
Byline: News reporters
LABOUR last night found much to celebrate despite widespread concern at the plunge in turn-out.
As the first results came in last night, constituency after constituency registered swings away from Plaid Cymru to-wards Labour. Helen Mary Jones's loss in Llanelli was one of the narrowest defeats. Gaining 9,895 votes, she was beaten by Labour's Catherine Thomas who polled 9,916. Islwyn was one of the shocks of the 1999 Assembly election. It is just the sort of traditional heartland seat Labour had to win back from Plaid if it was to secure an overall majority.
But even Labour could not have expected the 19.1% it secured. Speaking at the count the new AM Mrs James said, ``The people of Islwyn have rejected the nationalist ideology of Plaid Cymru and they have come home to Labour once more and I will make sure they don't regret that.''
A dejected Brian Hancock said it was an ``outstanding result'' for Labour. He saw his vote slashed by 23%.
The turn-out in the seat was 40.3%. He said, ``The people of Islwyn know what I have done for them and they will remember that work,'' he said.
Claiming Ms James was ``just borrowing'' the Assembly seat that he had worked to create he said, ``I'm not gone, I'm just resting.''
Perhaps the greatest surprise of the night in the constituency was the achievement of pub landlord Paul Taylor who polled more votes than both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates.
Standing for the party he created to express his dissatisfaction with the National Assembly, entitled TATA (Tinker Against The Assembly), the licensee of The Cross Oak in Penmaen polled a total of 2,201 votes. It was enough to complete the utter sense of defeat of Conservative Terri-Anne Matthews and Lib-Dem hopeful Huw Price, who polled just 1,848 and 1,268 votes respect-ive
y. Mr Taylor explained that he had taken on the main political parties to represent the apathy people felt after four years of Assembly rule. He claimed he had not knocked on a single door, but won more than 2,000 votes on the strength of public feeling alone. He added, ``It says something that behind me are the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party with their machinery - what does that tell you?''
Labour's Christine Chapman increased her majority in Cynon Valley last night - promoting a claim from a senior Plaid figure that the result was ``a wake-up call for Plaid in the Va
e y s '' Ms Chapman increased her majority over Plaid from 667 in 1999 to 7,157 in yesterday's poll.
Labour repeated the success against Plaid Cymru in Caerph i
The party held the Welsh Assembly seat vacated by former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies.
Mr Davies announced he was quitting politics in March over tabloid allegations about him at a Somerset beauty spot, prompting fears Labour could lose Caerphilly to Plaid Cyr-mu. But former local party chairman Jeff Cuthbert early this morning held the seat for the party, winning 11,893 votes to Plaid's 6,919 - a majority of 4,974.
Labour had won by just 2,861 in 1999's Assembly elections.
The swing to Labour was 4. …