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Local By-Election Preview : June 5th 2014

June 5th, 2014

Clydesdale South on South Lanarkshire (SNP defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Labour 33, Scottish Nationalists 28, Conservatives 3, Independents 2, Liberal Democrat 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of last election in ward (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 1,625, 313 (42%)
Labour 1,149, 875 (44%)
Conservatives 487 (10%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 199 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Donna Hood (Con), Donald MacKay (UKIP), Gordon Muir (Lab), George Sneddon (SNP), Ruth Thomas (Green)

Prior to the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote in the 2007 local elections, South Lanarkshire was a one party state. In the first elections for the council in 1995 out of the 74 seats up for election just 13 were won by non Labour candidates, the SNP advance in 1999 was generally ignored as although Labour’s seat count fell to 54 from 61, there were also eight fewer seats up for election and in 2003 Labour only lost another four seats (or to put it another way in eight years of elections, Labour had only lost 11 seats where as the council had lost eight overall) so the introduction of STV was a boon to all the other parties and boy, was it!

Labour’s domination of the council came to a crashing end as they won only 30 seats compared to the SNP’s 24 and although in 2012 Labour gained an extra three seats, the SNP gained four seats and made the council a real Lab / SNP battleground so as you can imagine Labour must have a real bee in the bonnet having gained the local count area of South Lanarkshire
from the SNP in the Euros last month however I would make a note of caution. Whilst the Labour vote increased by 7% compared to 2009, the SNP vote was completely static suggesting that like in 2011, Liberal Democrats are continuing to support the SNP where they are not strong and in an election where second, third, fourth and even fifth preferences matter, this is something Labour need to be aware of.

Newark to the Westminster Parliament (Conservative defence)
Result of last election (2010): Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57, Other Parties 28 (Hung Parliament, Conservatives short by 19)
Result of last election in constituency (2010):
Conservatives 27,590 (54%),
Labour 11,438 (22%),
Liberal Democrats 10,246 (20%),
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,954 (4%)
Conservative majority of 16,152 (32%)
Candidates duly nominated: Paul Baggaley (Ind), David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis Party), Nick Brick (Loony), Andy Hayes (Ind), Roger Helmer (UKIP), Robert Jenrick (Con), David Kirwan (Green), Michael Payne (Lab), Dick Rodgers (Stop Commercial Banks Owning Britain’s Money), David Watts (Lib Dem), Lee Woods (Patriotic Socialist Party)

Although the Newark constituency has been around since the beginning of modern electoral history (1950), the Newark of today and the Newark of 1950 are two completely different constituencies. For starters back in the 1950′s, it was a virtual one party state with Labour clocking up majorities of over 7,000 on a regular basis. There was a slight scare for them following the 1955 boundary changes but despite everything the Conservatives threw at the seat, Labour held on sometimes only just as in 1970 (1,220 majority) or sometimes by a landslide as in 1966 (6,489). In fact it was beginning to look as if nothing would shift Newark and then came the 1979 general election

Conservative 27,711 (46% +8% on October 1974)
Labour 25,960 (43% -5% on October 1974)
Liberal 6,773 (11% -4% on October 1974)
Conservative GAIN from Labour with a majority of 1,751 (3%) on a swing of 7% from Labour to Conservative

And when the 1983 boundary changes came in, coupled with a split opposition the Conservatives were home and dry clocking up majorities of over 8,000 at the next three elections, but just as Election 1979 had signalled a sea change for the Conservatives, Election 1997 was Labour’s time to shine

Labour 23,496 (45%),
Conservative 20,480 (39%),
Liberal Democrats 5,960 (11%),
Referendum Party 2,035 (4%)
Labour WIN with a majority of 3,016 (6%)

As part of the Labour landslide, the newly elected MP Fiona Jones took her seat in the Commons as part of the so called “Blair’s Babes”, however things suddenly turned very sour indeed with allegations of expense fraud and in 2000, Fiona Jones was kicked out of the Commons (only to be reinstated on appeal). However the damage was done and in 2001, despite standing again for the seat that she had won, Patrick Mercer claimed sweet revenge for the Conservatives and gained the seat on a 7% swing to the Conservatives (one of only seven across the whole country where the sitting MP was contesting the seat) and since then he was able to turn it into a Conservative stronghold. However as we have seen across the country, UKIP are on the advance but here’s the reason why I think UKIP are about to come a major cropper. Yes, the constituency of Newark is run by Newark and Sherwood council, but it is not made of Newark and Sherwood (as shown in this map).

Newark Parliamentary Constituency

The northern part of the constituency lies in Bassetlaw (a rock solid Labour area that UKIP only narrowly won in the Euros), the middle bit (with the green border) is Newark and Sherwood (UKIP win) and at the bottom is Rushcliffe (home of that most famous former Chancellor Ken Clarke). Is Newark about to burst the UKIP bubble and provide the first Conservative by-election victory whilst in government for a quarter of a century? I think it’s almost certain.

Harry Hayfield