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Local By-Election Preview: April 24th 2014

April 24th, 2014

Blackwood on Caerphilly (Labour Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Labour 50, Plaid Cymru 20, Independents 3 (Labour majority of 27)
Result of last election in ward (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,116, 966, 946 (51%)
Independents 833, 719 (26%)
Plaid Cymru 352, 253, 235 (14%)
Conservatives 182, 148, 144 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andrew Farina-Childs (Plaid Cymru), Cameron Muir-Jones (Con), Allan Rees (Lab), Keith Smallman (Ind)

When Caerphilly was created it seems to be another example of a Labour fiefdom for life and in 1995 that was confirmed as Labour polled 63% of the vote and won 56 out of the 68 councillors. So the fact that just four years later Plaid Cymru topped the poll across the authority (45%) on a swing from Lab to Plaid of 19% and gained controlled with a majority of 5 (30 Plaid gains vs 28 Labour losses) came as such a shock to the system that the Assembly ruled (as part of the Labour / Liberal Democrat coalition) that local elections and Assembly elections would never coincide ever again. So when the next elections came around in 2004, Labour were able to fire every salvo at retaking control and take control they did (polling 48% of the vote and having an overall majority of 5). However by 2008, Plaid were again on the advance and took top spot (41%) and forced the council into a literal tie (Plaid 32, Lab 32, Ind 9). Of course despite being a battleground between two opposition parties at Westminster, nothing could prevent the Labour landslide of 2012 but Caerphilly still remains the only council in the Wales South East electoral region that can be truly described as a Labour / Plaid Cymru battleground

Sutton on East Cambridgeshire (Conservative Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 25, Liberal Democrats 10, Independents 4 (Conservative majority of 11)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 593, 554
Labour 379
Liberal Democrats 305, 165
Candidates duly nominated: Daniel Divine (UKIP), Lorna Dupre (Lib Dem), Jane Frances (Lab), Neil Hitchin (Con)

Unbelievable as it may sound, back in 2003, East Cambridgeshire was under Liberal Democrat minority control. In those elections (held in the immediate aftermath of the second Gulf war) the Liberal Democrats were the leading party in forty nine local authorities. In this day and age Liberal Democrats must wish those days were to come back as at the last elections to those same councils a mere eight years later, that figure had crashed to just twelve (and East Cambridgeshire was one of those losses). So when you see that in 2011, Labour managed to outpoll both Liberal Democrat candidates you must think that the Liberal Democrats have no hope of winning this by-election, however with UKIP entering the fray (and given that on average UKIP at the first attempt in a ward take half the Conservative vote) could we have the strange situation of an anti European party allowing a pro European party to gain a seat?

Horncastle on East Lindsey (Conservative defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 30, Independents 18, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats 2 (No Overall Control, Conservatives and Opposition tied)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,145
Liberal Democrats 1,089, 594
Independents 747, 720
Labour 376, 345, 316
Candidates duly nominated: Richard Avison (Con), Mike Beecham (UKIP), David Roark (Ind)

East Lindsey may never had had a majority in it’s elections since 2003, but that does not mean it is a council with a boring history. In 2003, the Independents were the largest grouping on the council (26 members to the Conservatives 15) whilst all the while the parliamentary constituency of Louth and Horncastle elected Sir Peter Tapsell with landslide majorities. However in 2004, the Conservatives got a shock at the European Elections. The Conservatives won East Lindsey at the local level but only by 1,570 votes over UKIP (a result reflected at the 2005 general election when UKIP polled 8% of the vote from a standing start). Despite this at the local level in 2007, the Conservative made a staggering 13 gains (mostly at the expense of Labour and the Liberal Democrats) in order to become the largest party on the council, a trend that continued in 2009 (when there was a UKIP to Con swing in the Euros) and the 2011 elections when the Conservatives gained seats again. However with no Lib Dem candidate in this by-election and a UKIP candidate for the first time, will the proximity to the Euros allow UKIP to continue their recent domination of eastern Lincolnshire elections?

Osbournby on North Kesteven (Independent defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 27, Independents 13, Liberal Democrats 3 (Conservative majority of 11)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Independent 661 (70%), Conservative 289 (30%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kate Cook (Con), Fay Cooper (Lincolnshire Independents), Robert Greetham (Lab), Tony Richardson (Lib Dem)

When a popular Independent councillor does not stand again (either through retirement, death or resignation), the voters who voted for that councillor can split in any number of directions as I discovered in 2008 when the sitting Independent councillor for Ciliau Aeron stood down and I stood in the elections for the Lib Dems. Cllr. Thomas polled 50% of the vote in 2004 and looking at the change in 2008, we can determine that UKIP gained 8% of that total, I gained 38% of that total and the other 54% went to Plaid Cymru (allowing them to win the seat) and I expect something similar to happen here, however will the inclusion of a Lincolnshire Independent (whose party polled 10% in the county council election last year and won 8 seats) convince Independent voters that there is no need to break their recent Independent streak?

Harry Hayfield