Keir Starmer campaigns in marginal Welsh seat on day before general election

Keir Starmer has paid Wales a visit on the day before a general election which could bring seismic political change across the UK. The Labour leader was in the Carmarthenshire town of Whitland on Wednesday morning. This part of Wales has been served by a Conservative MP since 2010, as Simon Hart represented the constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

However, since the boundaries were redrawn, the town of Whitland now falls within the new Caerfyrddin constituency, and Mr Starmer sees it as a key seat to win on his way to what he hopes is an overall majority in Thursday’s general election. On Wednesday he spoke in front of a large crowd of supporters and alongside Martha Angharad O’Neil, the Labour candidate for Caerfyrddin.

Others stood alongside and just behind the Labour leader as he spoke at West Regwm Farm events venue included First Minster Vaughan Gething, Labour MPs Chris Bryant, Nia Griffith and Stephen Kinnock, and former Wales rugby captain and British and Irish Lion Ken Owens. To get the latest Carmarthenshire stories sent directly to you for free, click here.

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Addressing the crowd and members of both broadcast and written press from all over the UK, Mr Starmer said: “We’ve got a confident message about change. We have had 14 years of chaos and division and failure, and we have a chance tomorrow to bring that to an end. This is an incredible opportunity for change across the UK and an opportunity for every household in Wales.”

Martha Angharad O’Neil, who is hoping to become one of the youngest MPs in Westminster if she wins Thursday’s vote, told the crowd: “I was very lucky to grow up under a Labour government in Westminster and in the Senedd. What I am really looking forward to is having an opportunity to work together, to make sure that we are breaking down barriers for people right across the UK. The UK desperately needs change.”

Sir Keir Starmer enters the room to cheers from his supporters -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
Sir Keir Starmer enters the room to cheers from his supporters -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
He addressed the crowd before taking questions from the media -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
He addressed the crowd before taking questions from the media -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
Those in attendance inside a packed events venue in Whitland included former Wales rugby captain Ken Owens and First Minister Vaughan Gething -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
Those in attendance inside a packed events venue in Whitland included former Wales rugby captain Ken Owens and First Minister Vaughan Gething -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne

Mr Starmer took time to speak to local media who had gathered at the events venue, and was asked about a tumultuous few months for Labour in Wales, which have included a row over donations given to Vaughan Gething - you can read more about that here - and the First Minister losing a vote of no confidence in the Senedd.

Mr Starmer was asked why people in Wales should vote for his party when their faith in the leader of Welsh Labour has clearly dwindled - a recent poll showed that only 18% of people “strongly approved” of Mr Gething as First Minister - and he spoke about how a close working relationship between governments in Westminster and in the Senedd can only benefit issues affecting people in Wales, especially the ongoing uncertainty regarding jobs in Port Talbot with the impending closure of two blast furnaces. You can read the latest on that here.

“We’ve run a very positive campaign here in Wales, with the First Minister leading that,” said Mr Starmer. “We launched it together a few weeks ago and here we are at the close of the campaign together. I would say to every voter in Wales, if you want change in Westminster, you have to vote for it, and it is a game-changer because it means that we will have a Labour government in Westminster working with a Labour government here, absolutely intent on delivering for Wales.

"You got a small glimpse of that the other day because the First Minister’s first instinct when he heard about the developments at Tata Steel was to get hold of me and say ‘how can we do whatever is necessary to preserve those jobs and to ensure that we have a future for steel here in Wales?' That’s the First Minister I know, and it’s a glimpse of the way in which we would work together” When pressed on whether he would continue to fully back Mr Gething if he becomes Prime Minister on Friday, Mr Starmer said: “Absolutely. One of the first things we will do is continue to work together on Tata Steel. My focus is on how I work with the First Minister from day one on delivering for Wales.”

Mr Starmer speaks to a vast congregation of the national press -Credit:Getty Images
Mr Starmer speaks to a vast congregation of the national press -Credit:Getty Images
Even those too young to vote turned out to show their support -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
Even those too young to vote turned out to show their support -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
Labour candidate for Caerfyrddin Martha Angharad O’Neill addresses the crowd next to Sir Keir Starmer -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
Labour candidate for Caerfyrddin Martha Angharad O’Neill addresses the crowd next to Sir Keir Starmer -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne

When Whitland was previously part of the now-defunct parliamentary seat of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, it was represented by a Conservative MP, as too was the seat of Preseli Pembrokeshire further west, while Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, along with Ceredigion, have been represented in Westminster by Plaid Cymru in recent years. With that in mind, Mr Starmer was asked why he thinks it is important for Labour to have an MP in Wales west of Llanelli for the first time since 2010.

“It’s very important for two reasons,” he replied. “One, mathematically, so that we can have a strong government in Westminster with a mandate for change. Secondly, I want to be, if I’m elected into government, the Prime Minister for the whole of the UK, working with Wales, and the stronger the representation here the better it will be to do that collective work.

"I want voters to think they can vote for change in Westminster but they can also vote for better delivery in Wales because they’ll have a Westminster government not holding up delivery or trying to undermine it. I appreciate we haven’t won in some of the areas that we’re campaigning in in the past but I want to persuade people that this time they can put their trust and confidence in a Labour party in Westminster, and what they’ll get from me is an absolute assurance that from day one I will work with the First Minister to deliver for Wales.”

After speaking to the press in Whitland, Mr Starmer was whisked away in a waiting car heading north to the Midlands and later onto Scotland, as the non-stop campaigning continues for all parties up until polling day on Thursday. In the Caerfyrddin seat, as well as Labour candidate Martha Angharad O’Neil, the other candidates hoping to become an MP in the early hours of Friday morning are: Will Beasley (Green Party), Nick Beckett (Lib Dem), Nancy Cole (Women’s Equality Party), Ann Davies (Plaid Cymru), David Mark Evans (Workers Party of Britain), Simon Hart (Conservative), and Bernard Holton (Reform UK).

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