Battleground UK: Jamie Lyons in GlamorganPosted by Jamie at 5 31 PM on Saturday, April 10
Five years ago the Tories didn’t have a single MP in Wales. At this election they are aiming for double figures.
If they are to achieve that, and help sweep David Cameron into Number 10, they must win seats like the Vale of Glamorgan - home to Barry Island, made famous by the hit comedy Gavin and Stacey.
The seaside town has suffered like countless others during the recession.
In January Bosch announced it was closing its nearby car parts factory with the loss of 900 jobs.
A local chemical plant followed weeks later throwing dozens more out of work.
Five shops have closed in the town centre in the last couple of weeks. Proud local traders have pulled down their shutters for good and the high street is now lined with depressing "cash for gold" shops and pound stores.
People here are ready for change. But they are not sure Cameron is the change they want.
Sian Thomas pulls wearily on a cigarette outside the O’Briens pub she runs in the town centre.
"I used to be rock solid Labour," she says.
"But what have Labour done for us? We have lost Bosch and the chemical plant and there are no jobs. But I can’t bring myself to vote Tory. I was brought up filling boxes to send to striking miners. The Tories would take us back to that."
James Duffin agrees. Standing outside the town’s busy Job Centre the 28-year old says: "We need help. I’ve been out of work since 2005. There are no jobs going. I will vote, but I’m not sure who for."
One area of Barry that is holding its head above water is the island, with its rock shops, arcades and amusement park. But it is not Labour who the locals thank.
Andrew Phillips, who owns the real-life arcade where Stacey’s best pal Nessa works, says: "We are doing ok, but it is all down to people coming here to see where Gavin and Stacey live. It’s nothing to do with the government."
Local celebrity Marco Zeraschi says the same. Stacey works in his seafront cafe in the series.
"We need a change. Barry Island is doing well thanks to Gavin and Stacey. But everywhere else is suffering."
The picture is repeated across Wales. In Labour heartlands seats a quarter of the population don’t work, one in three children live in poverty and major employers are pulling out.
But there is little expectation that things will change, whoever wins the election.
Barry market trader Gerrard Watkins sums up the mood of the town.
As he watches customers drift past his handbag stall he says: "It is all about the economy. The problems didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved overnight. But we need a change - even if there is a risk that that change isn’t for the better."