Local By-Election Preview: September 18th 2014 (Referendum Day)

Local By-Election Preview: September 18th 2014 (Referendum Day)

Abergele, Pensarn on Conwy (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 19, Conservatives 13, Plaid Cymru 12, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats 5 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 14)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 407 (55%), Independent 186 (25%), Conservative 145 (20%)
Candidates duly nominated: Barry Griffiths (Ind), Val Parker (Ind), John Pitt (Con), Michael Smith (Ind), Rick Stubbs (Lab), Ken Sudlow (Ind), Sarah Wardlaw (UKIP)

Conwy is one of these councils were the political spectrum is so well covered that is it virtually impossible for anyone to gain an overall majority. When the council was formed in 1995 Labour and the Liberal Democrats tied for the most seats (18 seats each) with the Liberal Democrats polling the most votes which of course would have put them in a very positive mood ahead of the 1997 general election considering that they were just 995 votes behind the Conservatives in the Conwy constituency. Sadly for the Liberal Democrats it was Labour who had the momentum at that election and gained the seat recording a majority over the Lib Dems of 1,596 and although in the 1999 local elections Labour pulled ahead of the Lib Dems everything still suggested that Conwy was a right old battleground. However at the 2001 general election, the 1999 Assembly elections had come into play with the shock result that Conwy (a traditional Con / Lab, Con / Lib Dem and Lab / Lib Dem battleground seat for the past century or so) had elected a Plaid Cymru AM and as a result the Plaid vote shot up 10% with the Lib Dem vote collapsing 15% thus ensuring that the Lib Dems would take no further active interest in the seat. And that trend has continued to this day to such an extent that Aberconwy is now a three way marginal and Conwy council is a four way battleground, so when you have four Independents and a UKIP contesting a by-election, if you thought that the Scottish referendum was hard to call, this is simply impossible to call!

Crook on Durham (Ind Defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 94, Independents 19, Liberal Democrats 9, Conservatives 4 (Labour majority of 62)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 771, 630, 594
Labour 719, 691, 642
Wear Valley Independents 559, 476, 450
Liberal Democrats 161, 144, 124
Greens 123, 89, 88
Candidates duly nominated: Alan Booth (Con), David English (Lib Dem), Betty Hopson (UKIP), Tony Simpson (Ind), Maureen Stanton (Lab)

If Conwy is impossible to call, Durham is easy to call. Labour, Labour and yep, you’ve guessed it, Labour again. However, not all Durham is Labour and the former Wear Valley council area had an actual opposition. In 2003 Labour’s majority of 10 was against the Lib Dems on 9 and the Independents on 6 and when Labour lost control of Wear Valley in 2007 Labour lost 6 seats, the Lib Dems gained 7 and the Independents only lost one. However when the new Durham was created, the Wear Valley was most upset at the loss of their area and the Wear Valley Independents were born (who over the last few years have managed to produce one or two suprises) however at this by-election it’s the plain old Independents who are hoping to see off the Labour challenge (but perhaps those Wear Valley Independents would be willing to help them in their efforts)

Quarry and Risinghurst on Oxford (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 33, Liberal Democrats 8, Greens 6, Independent 1 (Lab majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 848 (49%), Liberal Democrats 411 (24%), Greens 76 (4%), UKIP 69 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Julia Gasper (English Democrats), Katharine Harborne (Con), Chewe Munkonge (Lab), Roz Smith (Lib Dem), Liz Taylor (Green)

The gleaming spires of Oxford has hidden a battle between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens as to who is best able to challenge Labour and the reason for this is that Oxford is a Conservative free zone. Hang on? Is it me or am I suffering from a distinct impression of deja vu (he says wondering if he’s in a Monty Python sketch). Well, to a certain degree yes, after all this is the second Oxford by-election in less than a month but with the Greens only on 4% last time, this time I think we can say with absolute authority that Labour should be able to hold this one.

And then of course there’s the small matter of the referendum on the issue of Scottish Independence and with the polls all over the place (to quote Bob McKenzie from the 1970 general election) “one or two of them will be on the chopping block tomorrow”. At the two extremes of recent days we had Panelbase on Sunday saying YES lead of 8% through ICM saying NO lead of 2% to YouGov first saying YES by 2% and then saying NO by 8%. The only thing we can say with complete confidence is that whatever happens there is a very strong chance that a new Scottish turnout record will be set. The previous record was set at the February 1974 general election when 78.86% of the Scottish electorate voted. I would not be at all surprised if the turnout breaches at least 80% (and maybe if things go exceedingly well 85%).

Abergele, Pensarn on Conwy (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 160 (26% -19%), Independent (Smith) 134 (22%), UKIP 129 (21%), Independent (Sudlow) 74 (12%), Independent (Griffiths) 56 (9%), Conservative 54 (9% -11%), Independent (Parker) 10 (2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 26 (4%)
Total Independent vote: 274 (44% +19%)
Swing from Labour to Independents of 19%

Crook on Durham (Ind Defence)
Result: Labour 753 (47%), UKIP 339 (21%), Liberal Democrats 233 (14%), Independent 193 (12%), Conservative 90 (6%)
Labour GAIN from Independent with a majority of 414 (26%)

Quarry and Risinghurst on Oxford (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 782 (42% -7%), Liberal Democrats 615 (33% +9%), Conservatives 222 (12%), Green 186 (10% +6%), Eng Dems 43 (2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 167 (9%) on a swing of 8% from Labour to Liberal Democrats

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