How the Minor Parties are Faring
One theme which I have commented upon on several occasions is the increasing vote which is going to minor parties. Most opinion polls show â€œOthersâ€ on 10%+, with Communicate Research giving them more than 15%. I think it unlikely that their share in a general election would be as high as 15%, but that figure is certainly plausible in local elections. In Mayâ€™s London Borough elections, for example, 16% voted for parties other than the big three.
By-elections since May confirm that there is significant support for minor parties. The three minor parties who fight local by-elections most regularly are the Greens, British National Party, and UKIP.
The Greens have fought 27 by-elections since May, and actually managed to win a seat off the Conservatives, in Scarborough, with 27% of the vote. Their average vote share, overall, is 7.4%, which does not sound that high. However, it includes large numbers of seats where they are fielding what are, essentially, paper candidates. There is no reason to doubt that the Greens will continue to gain steadily, in their areas of strength, next May. In fact, I would be very surprised if they fail to take their number of elected councillors above 100.
The British National Party have continued to perform well since May. In 22 contests, they have won an average of 14.8%. This is slightly down on their average vote share in May, but includes large numbers of seats which they are contesting for the first time, and where their vote is low. In ten seats, they have won more than 15% of the vote, and came a close second to the Conservatives, in Bridge Ward, Redbridge, with 33% of the vote. They have recently achieved strong second places in Loughborough and Rotherham.
UKIP have performed reasonably well in the 11 seats which they have contested, winning 10% on average, and taking 21% in one contest in Hartlepool. Their big problem though, is their reluctance to fight seats relentlessly, so that wards where they might win 15-20% in one election, are left ignored in the next. There is considerable potential support for UKIP, particularly from disaffected Conservative voters, which they are failing to exploit.
Last nightâ€™s by-elections produced very mixed results, although Labour will be delighted by their performance in Hyndburn, which continues a run of good results for them in the North West. A colleague of mine has pointed out that all four gains made by Labour, since May, are in the North West.
Richmondshire DC: Gilling West Independent hold; Independent 258, Conservative 142
Wiltshire CC Warminster West. LibDem gain from Independent. LibDem 548 Con 543, Independent 274.
West Wilts DC Warminster West Conservative gain from Independent. Conservative 572 LibDem 448 Ind 332. Taken together, these two results are rather curious. The same ward, contested at different levels, produced different results.
Havant BC, Battins. Lib Dem gain from Conservative. Lib Dem 401,Con 264, Labour 236, Green 55. This is a curious result. The Conservatives won the seat in 2004, and then sank to a very poor third in May, when the seat was won by Labour.
Stratford on Avon DC: Kineton Conservative gain from LibDem. Conservative 712 LibDem 598. A very strong performance from the Conservatives.
Hyndburn BC Rishton. Labour gain from Conservative. Lab 1112 Con 846 LibDem 54. This is a very strong performance from Labour, in a rather well-heeled ward that should be naturally Conservative.
Sean Fear is a London Tory activist and a long-standing contributor to PBC