LABOUR AND LIBERALS IN THE GOWER CONSTITUENCY, 1885-1910 STUDIES relating to the rise of Labour in south Wales have understandably placed much emphasis on Keir Hardie's successes in Merthyr's parliamentary elections. Yet the character and events of Merthyr's politics were not typical of Labour's experience in other Welsh constituencies. One constituency in which Labour achieved notable successes at a relatively early stage was Gower, where the style of Labour leadership and the outlook and aims of the working-class electorate differed from those of Merthyr. It would not be unreasonable to claim that the rise of Labour in Gower, rather than in Merthyr, mirrored Labour's experience elsewhere in south Wales. The Gower constituency was created in 1885. It included the attractive peninsula to the south, as well as the townships of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen and Ystalyfera in the north; the Llwchwr river formed its western boundary whilst the eastern boundary by-passed the town of Swansea and ran northwards along the Swansea Valley to Ystalyfera (see map). Although it covered a large area with a scattered electorate, at no point was the constituency more than eighteen miles from the centre of the expanding town of Swansea. Agriculture dominated the economy and society of the Gower peninsula, but the Swansea Valley between Morriston and Ystalyfera had become industrialized by the mid-1880s, as had also the area north-west of Swansea that included the small but growing townships of Gowerton, Gorseinon and Pontardulais. The coal and tinplate industries were establishing themselves in the constituency by 1880 and the workers in these industries were to have a decisive influence on the character of the constituency's parliamentary representation, at least until the 1950s. Gower's first M.P., elected in 1885, was F. A. Yeo, a self-professed Liberal 'Radical', an impressive speaker in the House of Commons and a man genuinely dedicated to Joseph Chamberlain's reformist policies,' which advocated free education, better housing, Church disestablish- ment, security of tenure for farmers, and the granting of increased powers to municipalities in order that they might undertake schemes for the improvement of the living conditions of the majority of town-dwellers. Yeo's credentials were impressive as far as the people of Cambria Daily Leader, 5 March 1888.