Former Prime Minister James Callaghan held the seat for Labour from 1945-1987. He was followed by Alun Michael who increased the party's majority in 1987 and 1992. The constituency includes two very distinct areas, in two local authorities, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
The wards in Cardiff include the traditional working class areas of Butetown, Grangetown and Splott. These sections of the city are home to a multitude of ethnic groups as well as communities whose past is rooted in the Docks and the Steelworks. In the early part of the twentieth century, Cardiff was the biggest coal exporting port in the world. The old docklands has now been reborn as the regenerated Cardiff Bay.
The regeneration of south Cardiff has been spectacular, with the Cardiff Bay Barrage, the building of Wales’ first five-star hotel, and the creation of the cosmopolitan Mermaid Quay café quarter. The basis of the regeneration was the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill for which Alun Michael campaigned for eight years.
These developments have led to an influx of new residents, many of whom have moved into new luxury accommodation, around Cardiff Bay, also home of the National Assembly. Prudential, NCM Insurance and AXA Insurance have headquarters buildings here, and Harry Ramsden's opened their biggest fish and chip restaurant here in 1995! By early 1996 the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation calculated that they had created 10,500 jobs of which 5,500 are permanent.
The Wales Millennium Centre, on Cardiff Bay waterfront, is one of the most exciting cultural initiatives in Europe today. Not only is it the home of the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, it is an international receiving house for opera, ballet, dance and musicals. It also houses seven diverse and exciting cultural organisations under one roof. It has quickly established itself as one of the world’s leading performing arts venues. Alun was instrumental in the setting up of the Wales Millennium Centre.
The suburbs of Rumney, Llanrumney, Trowbridge and St Mellons, in the east of the constituency, are largely residential and have been the focus of a number of housing developments in recent years.
The other half of the constituency in the Vale of Glamorgan also shares views of the Bay, and the Barrage. Penarth has been known as the ‘Garden by the Sea’ since Victorian times. It is politically, as well as socially, more conservative than Cardiff South.
Penarth owes its development to the massive expansion of the local coal industry in the 19th century. Its proximity to Cardiff and its waterfront meant that it was ideally situated to meet the world demand for Welsh coal through the construction of the docks, opened in 1865.
Penarth earned the reputation of "The Garden by the Sea" because of its beautiful parks and open spaces. Penarth boasts a Victorian pier and promenade and is a favourite for tourists during the summer. Furthermore, many of the buildings and features of the town have led to a substantial part being designated as a Conservation Area because of its Victorian/ Edwardian architecture.
Alun has argued for a fresh and confident future for Penarth. He drew together two local authorities to put forward scheme for regenerating the town. In some ways these proposals were before their time, but some of them have now come to fruition.
Llandough is a mainly residential area, adjacent to Penarth and separated from Cardiff by the M4 link road. It is dominated by its hospital.