Local By-Election Preview : December 11th 2014

Local By-Election Preview : December 11th 2014

South Kintyre on Argyll and Bute (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 15, Scottish National Party 13, Conservatives 4, Liberal Democrats 4 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,133 (46%)
Scottish National Party 203, 415 (25%)
Independents 63, 138, 167 (15%)
Liberal Democrats 351 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: John ARMOUR (SNP), Charlotte HANBURY (Con), Michael KELLY (Lab), Joyce OXBORROW (Lib Dem)

A lot has changed in Argyll and Bute since the council was granted unitary status in 1995. Back then the constituency that the council covered was a Liberal Democrat / Conservative marginal with the SNP not that far behind and whilst today it is still a fairly marginal Liberal Democrat / Conservative battleground at Westminster at Holyrood it’s an SNP heartland and the council has changed a bit as well, in 1995 the Independents ruled the roost with 22 out of the 33 seats won by them but the introduction of STV back in 2007, like other heartlands, soon put a stop to that and it is only three months since Argyll said NO to Scottish independence so will the SNP be able to hold on or will this seat go the way of Oban South in May when Labour gained the seat on a swing of 28%

Gatehouse (Lib Dem defence) and Southcourt (Lab Defence) on Aylesbury Vale
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 38, Liberal Democrats 17, Labour 2, UKIP 2 (Conservative majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected

Liberal Democrats 622, 580
Conservatives 342, 288
Labour 279
United Kingdom Independence Party 256, 233
Candidates duly nominated: Graham CADLE (UKIP), Anders CHRISTENSEN (Lib Dem), George ENTECOTT (Ind), Mary HUNT (Green), Samantha NORTH (Con), Lucio TANGI (Lab)

Liberal Democrats 539, 412
Labour 442, 399
Conservatives 307, 234
United Kingdom Independence Party 211, 180
Candidates duly nominated: Brian ADAMS (UKIP), Peter AGORO (Lib Dem), Mark BATEMAN (Lab), Andrew KULIG (Green), Sarah SPROAT (Con)

The rolling greenery that makes up the Vale of Aylesbury should be a perfect reflection of solid Conservatism, but in 2003 the Conservatives were in a much weaker spot winning control of the council by just 1 seat (Con 30, Lib Dem 25, Ind 4) but as the Liberal Democrats started to weaken in 2007 the Conservatives leapt at the chance and made seven gains (four from the Lib Dems and three from the Independents) and when the Lib Dems fell back again in 2011 everyone assumed it would the Conservatives who would reap the benefit, so you can imagine the suprise when in fact the Conservatives only made one net gain. The real beneficaries were Labour who made their first appearance in the council chamber for at least eight years and UKIP who appeared having never won a seat before and with UKIP on a tear since 2013 who knows what could happen in this part of the world.

Toton and Chilwell Meadows on Broxtowe (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 18, Labour 17, Liberal Democrats 9 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 5)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,529, 1,491, 1,413
Labour 926, 925, 837
Liberal Democrats 377, 334, 304
United Kingdom Independence Party 305
Candidates duly nominated: Mia Rona KEE (Con), David PATRICK (Lab), Darryl PAXFORD (UKIP)

Nick Palmer (who was of course the MP for Broxtowe between 1997 and 2010) and who even based on the less optimistic of the polls published in recent months must be fairly confident of winning back his seat in May, has been no doubt pounding the streets of this ward over the past few weeks and with good reason. Broxtowe council has never really been able to make up it’s mind. Back in 2003, Labour had 15 seats, the Conservatives 14 and the Liberal Democrats 13 seats with a couple of Independents for good measure, by 2007, as Labour lost their shine, they lost seven seats and my word, did the gains go all over the place. Conservatives up 3, Liberal Democrats up 3 and even the BNP made a gain but the council still remained hung and although in 2011 Labour managed to recover their position by winning back all the seats they lost in 2007 and two extra, the Conservatives managed to be on top, but if Labour do gain this ward then they will be in the lead and ahead of next year’s general and local elections Labour would be doing badly indeed if they did not manage to gain the constituency and council.

Trelech on Carmarthenshire (Ind Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Plaid Cymru 28, Labour 23, Independents 22, Llanelli First 1 (No Overall Control, Plaid short by 10)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Independent 471 (51%), Plaid Cymru 321 (35%), Liberal Democrat 133 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jean LEWIS (Plaid), Hugh PHILLIPS (Ind), Selwyn RUNNETT (Lib Dem)

If you think that Broxtowe is hard to get a majority on, try Carmarthenshire on for size! Created in 1995 out of Carmarthen, Dinefwr and Llanelli councils, the first elections had Labour on 46% of the vote, with the Independents on 26% and Plaid Cymru on 13% and so you would assume that Labour would be within a whisker of forming a majority and whilst it is true that they had 38 seats out of the 81 up for election (just 3 short) their aim was thwrted by a combination of Independent (29), Plaid (7) and Others (3) who managed to muster 39 councillors and deny Labour control. Better luck in 1999 eh? Well, Labour only lost 4% of the vote (which considering the disasters it had elsewhere wasn’t too bad) however Plaid increased by 6% and those pesky Independents also rose to 25%. Net result: Labour 28, Independents 26, Plaid 13, another deadlocked council with the Independents and Plaid still on a combined 39. And so it carried on, 2004, Plaid polled the most votes (33%) to Labour’s 31% but the Independents won 32 seats and decided that they should have a go at running the council this time around. 2008 saw Plaid increase to 39% to Labour’s 23% but still those Independents still had 31 seats and effectively ran the show. So you might think that with Plaid winning the most votes for the third time in 2012 (38%) the Independents would finally give way. Au contraire! With 22 seats on the council they still have a say but these days of Independent dominance in Carmarthenshire may be on the way out as not only is the council under threat of being forced into Dyfed (Mark II) by Leighton Andrews, but Independents are a dying breed in Wales as demonstrated by Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys and so it is a strong change that in the next set of locals the Independents may not be able to wield anything like the power they once used to.

Kingsway on Halton (Lab Defence, unopposed in 2011)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 51, Liberal Democrats 3, Conservatives 2 (Labour majority of 46)
Result of ward at last election (2007): Labour 663 (64%), Conservative 201 (19%), Green 171 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Brad BRADSHAW (UKIP), Duncan HARPER (Con), Paul MEARA (Lib Dem), Andrea WALL (Lab)

Whereas Broxtowe and Carmarthenshire have been impossible to create a majority on, in Halton the opposite is true, no one can stop Labour getting a majority. Since 2003, the Labour majority has been climbing and climbing. In 2003, Labour had a majority of 14, which dipped a little to 10 in 2007, but since 2010 the majority has exploded. Labour had a majority of 18 in 2010, then 32 in 2011, 44 in 2012 and now 46 in 2014 making Halton a virtual one party state, prime territory for UKIP to cause some damage.

Stamford North on Lincolnshire (Ind Defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 36, UKIP 16, Labour 12, Lincolnshire Independents 8, Liberal Democrats 3, Independents 2 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Independent 775 (47%), Conservative 517 (32%), Labour 343 (21%)
Candidates duly nominated: Mark ASHBERRY (Lab), Harrish BISNAUTHSING (Lib Dem), Robert FOULKES (UKIP), Matthew LEE (Con), Max SAWYER (Lincolnshire Independents)

When you say Lincolnshire to people, at least two things immediately spring to mind. First is the fact that the county is as flat as a pancake and secondly, the tale of a person who is determined to get one over on the local gamekeepers.

“Success to ev’ry gentleman that lives in Lincolnshire, Success to every poacher that wants to sell a hare, Bad luck to ev’ry gamekeeper that will not sell his deer, Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year!”

And in Lincolnshire, there is not one party trying to get one over on the mainstream parties but two! The first is of course UKIP who in 2013 won 16 seats on the council (forcing it into No Overall Control) but the second are the Lincolnshire Independents (who also managed a bit of a barnstormer) polling 10% and winning 8 seats so with the Independent group not nominating a replacement for Cllr. Hicks we have ourselves a right royal rumble. Do those voters who elected Cllr. Hicks with a majority of 258 (16%) over the Conservatives switch to UKIP (as has been seen with other Independent defences across the country that UKIP have gained) or do they swing behind the Lincolnshire Independents (and allow them to increase their tally as they have done on North Kesteven council where they gained two seats back in June).

Elgin City North on Moray (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 10, Scottish National Party 10, Conservatives 3, Labour 3 (No Overall Control, Ind and SNP short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 596, 515 (43%)
Labour 766 (30%)
Conservatives 448 (18%)
Independents 241 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sandy COOPER (Ind), Morvern FORREST (Green), Craig GRAHAM (Lab), Alex GRIFFITHS (Con), Kirsty Ella REID (SNP), Ramsey URQUHART (UKIP)

Welcome to the slightly bizarre world of STV. A ward where (under the rules of FPTP) the SNP won, but thanks to STV it’s Labour who are defending the seat. Yes, STV can produce that and when you look at the votes cast in Moray you can get the impression of the SNP wondering what the reaction would be if they scrapped STV for local elections in Scotland.

In 2012, the SNP polled 10,124 votes in Moray (just under half the votes) whereas the Independents polled 7,386 votes (about a quarter) and yet both parties ended up with 10 seats each (just under half), the Conservatives polled 4,501 votes and Labour polled 2,351 votes and also ended up with three seats (despite you might think under pure PR the SNP having more seats than the Independents and the Conservatives having more seats than Labour).

So if the SNP did want to get rid of STV in local elections, what could they replace it with. D’Hondt PR perhaps, pure PR (1% votes = 1% seats) or might they even consider the idea of going on a national vote (SNP 32% of the seats, Labour 31% of the seats, Conservatives 13%, Independents 11%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Greens 2%)

Bransgore and Burley on New Forest (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 54, Liberal Democrats 6 (Conservative majority of 48)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,789, 1,539
Liberal Democrats 536
Labour 386
Candidates duly nominated: Brian CURWAIN (Lab), Richard FRAMPTON (Con), Roz MILLS (UKIP)

The New Forest in Hampshire is a typical Conservative bastion and yet it might suprise you to know that in 2003 it wasn’t. Of the 60 councillors elected, 32 were Conservative, 27 were Liberal Democrat and there was an Independent as well giving the Conservatives a majority of just 4. Oh, how things have changed eh?

But as we have seen on so many occasions, this is an area that is ripe for UKIP but with more and more focus on UKIP will they be able to strike in the heart of Conservative terrority or will those opposed to UKIP come out to vote for the person most likely to beat UKIP.

Washington East on Sunderland (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 63, Conservatives 8, Independents 4 (Labour majority of 51)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,254 (41%), UKIP 792 (26%), Conservative 767 (25%), Liberal Democrats 145 (5%), Trade Unionist and Socialist 75 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alistair BAXTER (UKIP), Hilary JOHNSON (Con), Tony MURPHY (Green), Stephen O’BRIEN (Lib Dem), Tony TAYLOR (Lab)

Say what you will about Sunderland being a one party state (63 Labour councillors out of 75) but you have to admire them from an electoral sense. Every election since 1992 Sunderland South has been the first seat to declare and at the next election, Sunderland will be trying for a feat that I cannot imagine as ever been accomplished before, the treble treble. In 2005, the first seats to be declared were Sunderland South, Sunderland North and Houghton and Washington East.

In 2010, it was Houghton and Sunderland South, Washington and Sunderland West followed by Sunderland Central. Given their speed I would be very suprised indeed if anyone managed to come within five minutes of Sunderland doing it again with all three seats declared before any other result comes in. So in that regard, Sunderland, if this result doesn’t come in by 10.30pm this evening I will be shocked.

Cox Green on Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 51, Independents 5, Liberal Democrats 1 (Conservative majority of 45)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,489, 1,419, 1,270
Liberal Democrats 914, 863, 847
Labour 269, 247, 225
British National Party 142
Candidates duly nominated: Lance CARTER (UKIP), Robert HORNER (Lab), Gareth JONES (Lib Dem), Ross McWILLIAMS (Con)

It really is a demonstration of how the Lib Dems have crashed and burned in some parts of the country that Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (a council with a Liberal Democrat majority of 11 in 2003) is now a virtual one party state for the Conservatives and the reason for this crashing and burning? The 2005 general election. In 1997, the constituency of Windsor and Maidenhead was split into it’s two component parts both of which were solid Conservative wins (even with the Labour landslide), however in 2001 the Liberal Democrats made a very big play for Maidenhead and notched up a very impressive 8% swing from Con to Lib Dem and turned it into a marginal which their election win in 2003 seemed to suggest that the Conservatives were in trouble. That’s when the Lib Dems made their mistake.

They announced that they were going to “decapitate” the Conservative front bench. Oliver Letwin (Dorset West), David Davies (Haltemprice), Tim Collins (Westmorland), Theresa May (Maidenhead) and even Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) were all going to go by the wayside at that election and the Liberal Democrats would become the new opposition. That was a bad move as the Conservative moved all their troops into those constituencies and created a buffer as a result they all held their seats with pro Conservative swings (bar Westmorland and Lonsdale) and in Maidenhead there was a 3% swing back to the Conservatives which was reflected in 2007 when the Conservatives gained control of the council and beat the Liberal Democrats into a cocked hat, a process that was accelerated on in 2011 and very nearly produced Lib Dem wipe-out on a council they had controlled just 4 years previously.

Harry Hayfield

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