Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Preview: July 31st 2014

Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Preview: July 31st 2014

Thurmaston on Charnwood (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 33, Labour 16, British National Party 1, Liberal Democrats 1, Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 14)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservative 1,473, 1,399, 1,309
Labour 1,306, 1,153, 1,058
Candidates duly nominated: Hanif Asmal (Con), Chris Canham (British Democrats), Stepgen Denhan (BNP), Tom Prior (UKIP), Ralph Raven (Lab)

On the face of it Charnwood appears to be a Conservative area, however appearances can be deceptive. In 2003, although the Conservatives had the largest number of seats on the council there was no overall majority and it was only the Labour disaster of 2007 that allowed the Conservatives to gain control in that election and unlike the rest of the country in the 2011 local elections, Labour were unable to take advantage of the anti coalition mood by being unable to gain any seats from the Conservatives, so when you add into the mix a new UKIP candidate, the BNP trying to double their representation and a new party given the closeness of the result last time, anything could happen.

Mostyn on Flintshire (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Labour 31, Independents 23, Liberal Democrats 7, Conservatives 7, Plaid Cymru 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 4)
Result of last election in ward (2012): Independent 385 (67%), Labour 188 (33%)
Candidates duly nominated: Pam Banks (Lab), Richard Pendlebury (Con), David Roney (Ind), Liz Soutter (UKIP)

Although seperated by a couple of hundred miles, the by-elections being held today in Flintshire and Merthyr share a rather similar history. In 1995, when Flintshire was reconstituted after being swallowed up by Clwyd following the 1973 county and district restructing, Labour ruled the roost polling 51% of the popular vote and winning an overall majority of 22 and among that Labour majority was the councillor for Mostyn, Cllr. Patrick Hessom who was elected unopposed. In 1999, very little changed in the county, the Labour vote fell by about 3%, the Labour majority fell to 14 and Cllr. Hessom was re-elected, but not for Labour, no, this time he was elected as an Independent with 73% of the vote and an Independent he has remained since then where as Labour had the skids put under them, retaining control of Flintshire in 2004 by just three seats, losing control in 2008 suffering 15 losses, and coming within a whisker of regaining control in 2012. However, in 2013 allegations emerged that Cllr. Hessom was bullying other councillors and after a long investigation, those allegations were proved and Cllr. Hessom was forced to stand down from the council.

Penydarren on Merthyr Tydfil (UKIP defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Labour 23, Independents 7, Merthyr Tydfil Independents 2, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (Labour majority of 13)
Result of last election in ward (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 656, 438, 315 (39%)
UKIP 588 (16%)
Labour 569, 435, 337 (38%)
Non Party Independent 230 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kerry Thomas (Ind), Clive Barsi (Ind), Robert Griffin (Lib Dem), John McCarthy (Lab), Kimberley Murphy (Con)

Merthyr Tydfil also came into existence in 1995 and just like Flintshire was an absolute Labour heartland with Labour winning 65% of the vote and winning 29 of the 33 councillors up for election with Penydarren electing three Labour councillors all heartily beating the Ratepayer candidates. However, in 1999, that all changed. Labour’s vote failed to breach the 50% mark (48%), they lost thirteen seats and lost overall control on the council to the Independents on a 19% swing to them. But despite this Penydarren remained loyal to Labour as only one of the seats changed hands, which makes what happened in 2004 even more staggering. Yes, Labour regained control (but only by one seat) as their vote share slipped again to 42% but the Independents were split between those Independents, the Merthyr Tydfil Independents and “People Before Profit” but in Penydarren Labour’s dominance was ended as the remaining two Labour seats were gained by the Merthyr Tydfil Independents and the Independents but if Labour were experiencing joy at regaining the council it did not last long as in 2008, Labour lost control again but with a disaster of an election. Labour’s vote share was just 37%, they lost nine seats and the Independents and Merthyr Tydfil Independents joined forces to run the council and one of those councillors who found himself in power was Cllr. Greer who had gained a seat from his fellow Merthyr Tydfil Independent in Penydarren. However as the years rolled along, tensions appeared in the coalition and in 2010 Cllr. Greer announced that he was defecting to UKIP and in 2012 stood for his new party and became Wales’ first directly elected UKIP councillor when he held his seat in Penydarren. Since then of course Cllr. James (Aberporth on Ceredigion) has defected to UKIP from Independent and has announced plans to stand for UKIP in the 2016 Assembly elections but personally speaking if UKIP cannot even find a candidate to give them a chance to defend the seat they won in 2012, Cllr. James should start getting a little concerned.

Darwell on Rother (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 27, Liberal Democrats 5, Independents 4, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 16)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,168, 1,016
Green 386
Liberal Democrats 363, 341
Labour 228
Candidates duly nominated: Tracy Dixon (Lib Dem), Suz Evasdaughter (Lab), Eleanor Kirby-Green (Con), Edward Smith (UKIP), Andrew Wedmore (Green)

Rother may border Hastings (a true Con / Lab battleground if ever there was one) but the two councils do not share the same electoral history as Rother is a true blue bastion (25 Conservatives out of 38 in 2003, 28 in 2007 and 27 in 2011) but as we have seen before this is precisely the type of area that UKIP excel in and the Conservatives would do well to remember that in the Euros, Rother voted 39% UKIP to the Conservatives 31%, and with UKIP fielding a candidate for the first time in this ward the potential for a UKIP gain has to be pretty high.

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