Local By-Election Preview : October 23rd 2014

Local By-Election Preview : October 23rd 2014

Oban North and Lorn on Argyll and Bute (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Independents 15, Scottish National Party 13, Conservatives 4, Liberal Democrats 4 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 3)
Result of last election to ward (2014): Scottish National Party 595 (25%), Independent 548 (23%), Labour 526 (22%), Conservatives 445 (18%), Independent 301 (12%).
Candidates duly nominated: Kieron Green (Lab), Stephanie Irvine (Ind), Iain Maclean (SNP), Andrew Vennard (Con)

The SNP will be hoping that the opinion poll rises in the wake of the Scottish referendum (which in some cases project no less than fifteen MP’s at Westminster and another majority at Holywrood) will manage to overturn the problems that they have been having in Scotland of late. So far this year, the SNP have lost three seats in local by-elections (this is in comparsion with Plaid being unchanged and the Greens gaining three) and the last by-election here in July wasn’t that encouraging either.

Rogate on Chichester (Con Defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 27, Liberal Democrats 5, Independents 4, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 16)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservative 990 (91%), Labour 97 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Gillian Keegan (Con), Elena McCloskey (UKIP)

First of all I can completely sympathise with the Labour candidate in 2011. I have stood twice for local elections in Ceredigion and both times got completely hammered. In 2008, I stood in Ciliau Aeron ward and polled 151 votes (19%) compared to the winning Plaid Cymru candidate polling 544 votes (67%) and in 2012, I stood in Llansantffraed against the sitting Independent and polled 141 votes (14%) which as the total poll was 983 votes gives you an idea of the stuffing I recieved. So maybe it is no real suprise that Labour aren’t contesting this ward at this by-election but what it does offer us is the classic question that pollsters have been asking ever since 2013. “What happens in a straight fight between Conservative and UKIP?”.

Burnopfield and Dipton (Derwentside Independents Defence) and Evenwood (Lab Defence) on Durham
Result of last election to council (2013): Labour 94, Independents 9, Liberal Democrats 9, Derwentside Independents 8, Conservatives 4, Spennymoor Independent 1, Wear Valley Independent 1 (Labour majority of 62)
Result of wards at last election (2013)

Burnopfield and Dipton : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 701, 688 (38%)
Derwentside Independents 760, 510 (35%)
Independents 381, 328, 257 (26%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alan Booth (Con), Gill Burnett (Derwentside Independents), Joanne Carr (Lab), Melanie Howd (Green)

Evenwood : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 870, 655 (52%)
Conservatives 529, 362 (31%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 491 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Lee Carnighan (Ind), Ben Casey (UKIP), Stephen Hugill (Con), Greg Robinson (Green), Heather Smith (Lab)

Durham, that rock solid bastion of Labour support in the North East, does have a slight chink in it’s armour and that chink is the Derwentside Independents (who are more than a little miffed at seeing Derwentside simply disappear off the face of the electoral map). When the council disappeared in 2007, Labour only had a majority of three on the council (having lost 9 seats in those elections, eight going to said Derwentside Independents and one to the Liberal Democrats) and were probably very glad indeed to see the council merged with the other authorities in Durham to create the new Durham County Council. Indeed, if you add up the votes and seats in Derwentside, you find that although Labour won 11 of the 21 seats in the former council area, the Derwentside Independents won 8 and that Labour’s score of 49% was only ahead of the Derwentside Independents by a matter of 16% (in other words not the bastion that you might think of when thinking about Durham)

Newnham and Westbury on Forest of Dean (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 19, Labour 17, Independents 11, Liberal Democrats 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 6)
Result of wards at last election (2011): Emboldened denoates elected
Independent 790
Conservatives 606, 196
Greens 318
Labour 256, 171
Candidates duly nominated: Richard Boyles (Con), Peter Foster (UKIP), Ian King (Lib Dem), Sid Phelps (Green), Simon Phelps (Ind), Jenny Shaw (Lab)

Mitcheldean on Gloucestershire (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2013): Conservatives 23, Liberal Democrats 14, Labour 9, United Kingdom Independence Party 3, Independents 2, People against Bureaucracy 1, Green 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Independent 1,152 (36%), Conservatives 772 (24%), United Kingdom Independence Party 612 (19%), Labour 328 (10%), Liberal Democrats 179 (6%), Greens 120 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Malcolm Berry (UKIP), Jackie Fraser (Lab), Sue Henchley (Lib Dem), Ken Power (Green), Brian Robinson (Con), Ian Whitburn (Ind)

When the UKIP breakthrough occured in 2013, Gloucestershire was one of the first areas to experience it when UKIP won three seats on the county. Now, I agree that compared to now when UKIP seem to be winning seats on all manner of local authorities in such numbers as in Essex, three might seem a little disappointing, but it’s where those three were won that was the more intersting fact. The wins were in Blakeney and Bream, Drybrook and Lydbrook and Lydney (and all three were in the Forest of Dean district council area) and if you add up all the votes in that district area, the prospects become even more interesting for UKIP. UKIP polled 6,247 votes (28%) and won 3 seats with Labour second on 5,292 votes (24%) and 2 seats, the Conservatives third on 5,257 votes (24%) and 2 seats and the Independents on 3,055 votes (14%) and 1 seat. Therefore if UKIP can pull this double off (and as we saw in South Tyneside not that long ago, there is a precedent for Independents voting UKIP) then it will mean that Forest of Dean constituency (a traditional Con / Lab battleground) can be added to that list that seems to be ever expanding of UKIP prime targets.

Haywards Heath, Lucastes on Mid Sussex (Con Defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 45, Liberal Democrats 8, Labour 1
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,168, 1,143
Liberal Democrats 551, 499
Greens 390
United Kingdom Independence Party 157
Candidates duly nominated: Nicholas Chapman (Lib Dem), Henry Fowler (Lab), Marc Montgomery (UKIP), Geoffrey Rawlinson (Con)

Folkestone, Harvey West on Shepway (Con Defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 44, Independents 2
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 883, 870
Labour 374, 353
Liberal Democrats 342
Candidates duly nominated: Helen Barker (Con), Jasmine Heywood (Green), Stephen Jardine (UKIP), Nicola Keen Lab), Hugh Robertson-Ritchie (Lib Dem)

UKIP must be rubbing their hands with glee this week. Occasionally they may pick up one, maybe two gains on a good night. This evening could see them walk away with as many as four gains and in Shepway they have previous. Just six weeks ago, they gained Harvey Central in Folkestone on Shepway with a 6% majority in a ward that in 2011 didn’t even have a UKIP candidate, so with four potential gains this week, the small matter of a PCC by-election next week and in a month’s time the Rochester and Strood parliamentary by-election, the other parties need to ask themselves “Is there anything we can do to stop UKIP?” and if they do find an answer, they need to implement it fast as there are now less than two hundred days until the next election (which makes the debate in Parliament today about a possible repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments act very interesting indeed).

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