Local By-Election Preview : October 17th 2013

Local By-Election Preview : October 17th 2013

Dalston on Carlisle (Con Defence)
Last Local Election: Lab 27, Con 20, Lib Dem 2, Ind 2 (Labour overall majority of 3)
Result in ward over recent electoral cycle:
2010: Con 1,715 (47%), Lib Dem 1,241 (34%), Lab 658 (18%)
2011: Con 1,108 (49%), Lib Dem 500 (22%), Lab 478 (21%), UKIP 170 (8%)
2012: Lib Dem 1,033 (52%), Con 481 (24%), Lab 305 (15%), UKIP 174 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Ruth Alcroft (Lab), Robert Dickinson (UKIP), Michael Gee (Lib Dem), Michael Randall (Con), James Tucker (Green)

Carlisle has been a Conservative / Labour battleground council for quite a while, so to find a Con / Lib Dem battleground ward on the council (with only two Liberal Democrats on the council) is quite the rarity. But, one thing is crystal clear, with the winning candidate in the last electoral cycle getting very close to, or over 50% of the vote, if the opposition want to make headways they are going to have to really attack that Conservative vote and as we have seen in the by-elections since the end of last year UKIP do have the potential to throw a spanner in the works.

Westbourne on Chichester (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 38, Lib Dem 8, Ind 2 (Conservative overall majority of 28)
Result in ward at last election (2011): Conservatives 515 (62%), Liberal Democrats 315 (38%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alicia Denny (UKIP), Mark Dunn (Con), Andrew Emerson (Patria), Thomas French (Green), Phillip MacDougall (Lib Dem)

Local elections are a good way of finding out (without too much expense) if the party that you have founded is able to garner support. Unlike a by-election to Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay or City Hall constituencies, you do not need to lodge a deposit. So when a group of former BNP supporters and candidates felt that they wanted to express their support for the BNP’s policies but not have the stigma of being a BNP supporter, they thought “Let’s start up a new party” and that is precisely what Patria is (a party formed by people who have been BNP supporters and been kicked out of various organisations for that support and are wanting to carry on the BNP’s policies without the stigma of the BNP attached). However, with UKIP and the Greens standing (and with the past record the Greens have of standing in an election specfically to thwart the BNP’s progress), will Patria be able to put forward the idea that you can support the BNP without being called the BNP?

Barnfield on Luton (Lib Dem Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Lab 36, Lib Dem 8, Con 4 (Labour overall majority of 24)
Result in ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats 904, 808
Labour 822, 679
Conservatives 691, 657
Green 171
Candidates duly nominated: Simon Hall (Green), Clive Mead (Lib Dem), Geoff Simons (Con), Francis Steer (Lab)

In the 1970’s, Luton could be relied upon to help project the winner of a general election. In fact it was so reliable that it was used as the base for a Monty Python sketch about general elections where it was reported that “Luton, a normally sensible constituency with a high proportion of sensible voters has gone completely ga-ga!”. Whilst Luton at the local level has not gone to that degree yet, there has been a clear trend towards Labour. In 2003, Labour were the largest party on the council but without an overall majority (Lab 23, Lib Dem 20, Con 4, Ind 1) and in 2007 they gained that majority wiping out the Independent grouping and knocking out three Liberal Democrats as well, but it was 2011 that really did it for Labour making ten gains in total (nine from the Liberal Democrats and one from the Conservatives) and gave them a whopping majority of twenty four and with Labour challenging in this ward and given the Liberal Democrats electoral problems against Labour, you do have a sense that this is likely to be yet another Labour GAIN from Liberal Democrat.

Levens on South Lakeland (Lib Dem defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lib Dem 34, Con 14, Lab 3 (Lib Dem overall majority of 17)
Result in ward over recent electoral cycle:
2011: Lib Dem 667 (56%), Con 472 (39%), Lab 58 (5%)
2012: Lib Dem 635 (56%), Con 458 (40%), Green 45 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Annie Rawlinson (Lib Dem), Brian Rendell (Con)

If Luton is a sensible area for rejecting the Liberal Democrats, then South Lakeland is completely loony. Home of Tim Farron MP (Lib Dem, Westmorland and Lonsdale) who was elected in 2005 and racked up a very impressive pro Lib Dem swing in 2010, South Lakeland has been trending Liberal Democrat for the best part of a decade. Back in 2003, the council was hung with the Liberal Democrats on 23 councillors and the Conservatives on 18. The Liberal Democrats gained control of the council in 2006 (making nine gains on the 2004 results) and have never looked back. Therefore without the influence of either a Labour candidate, Green candidate or indeed a UKIP candidate, the Liberal Democrats should have no trouble at all in holding this one.

Stifford, Clays on Thurrock (Lab Defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lab 25, Con 21, Ind 2, UKIP 1 (Lab overall majority of 1)
Result in ward over recent electoral cycle:
2010: Lab 1,184 (38%), Con 1,108 (35%), UKIP 642 (20%), BNP 249 (8%)
2011: Lab 877 (45%), Con 523 (27%), UKIP 475 (24%), Lib Dem 68 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Clive Broad (UKIP), Kevin Mulroue (Lib Dem), Danny Nicklen (Con), Susan Shinnick (Lab)

It shows how badly Labour were during during the last years of the Blair / Brown administration that Thurrock (at one point only one of three Labour seats in the South of England) at the time of the 2004 local elections was a Conservative controlled council with a majority of seven (Con 28, Lab 19, Ind 2). Labour managed to force the council into No Overall Control in the 2007 local elections, but didn’t gain overall control until 2011 making only six net gains over the course of six local elections. Now with the Thurrock constituency split between Basildon South and Thurrock East and the remainder of Thurrock (both of which elected Conservative MP’s in 2010), you can see that Labour do need a major improvement in their fortunes in this neck of the woods and at the moment they are improving (just very, very slowly).

Sandsfield East on Neath and Port Talbot (Lab Defence)
Result of last election (2012): Lab 52, Plaid 8, Ind 3, Social Democrats 1 (Labour overall majority of 40)
Result of last election in ward (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 1,116, 622 (34%)
Labour 1,041, 879, 750 (53%)
Neath and Port Talbot Ratepayers Association 669 (13%)
Candidates duly nominated: Mike Davies (Lab), Barry Kirk (Rates), Richard Minshull (Con), Keith Suter (UKIP), Daniel Thomas (Plaid)

On the surface Neath and Port Talbot looks like your everyday Labour dominated council. Having seen their majority fall from 38 in the 1995 local elections to just eight in the 2004 local elections, Labour have now established themselves firmly as the dominant party in the Neath and Port Talbot area. But that’s not the really interesting thing about Neath and Port Talbot. The really interesting thing is that in 2012 (some 22 years after their formal dissolution that created the Liberal Democrats) the Social Democrats polled 3% of the vote and won a councillor. And they are not the only slightly strange thing about the council. The candidate duly nominated for the Ratepayers Association would look, at first glance, like a perfectly normal candidate standing to promote the rights of the residents. However, those of us with extended electoral memories will remember his first appearance on the political scene back at the 1992 general election in the Aberavon constituency. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Captain Beany of the Bean Party / New Millennium Bean Party / Beanus party. And this is not his first stab at getting onto the council either. Fresh from his debut in the 1992 general election, he stood in this ward for the former West Glamorgan county council as an Independent (not that it did him much good as he only polled 7%). His next appearance was in the first elections to Neath and Port Talbot in the same ward (just 5% of the vote). In 2004 (now standing under the New Millennium Bean Party) he managed to poll a very impressive 11% (but was still beaten) and in 2008 he polled 7%. However between that election and the 2012 elections, he defected to the Ratepayers and as such (bouyed by a 20% vote share in 2008) managed to poll 13% in 2012, so say what you like about minority candidates just be sure that when Mr. Kirk stands, a little bit of colour always follows.

Harry Hayfield

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