Two interesting UKIP defences, one against CON the other LAB, in tonight’s local by-elections

Two interesting UKIP defences, one against CON the other LAB, in tonight’s local by-elections

Greystoke and Hesket on Cumbria (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 35, Conservatives 26, Liberal Democrats 16, Independents 7 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 8)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 723 (53%), United Kingdom Independence Party 331 (24%), Liberal Democrats 312 (23%)
Candidates duly nominated: Judith Derbyshire (Lib Dem), Thomas Wentworth (Con)

Cumbria is impossible to get a majority on and part of the reason can be found in the Eden district (where this county ward is located). In 2003, the Independents won 29 seats (out of 38) however since then the Conservatives have started to make an offence and in 2007, they robbed the Independents of their majority, by 2011 were the largest party on the council and in May gained an overall majority taking the Independents down to just 10 members. However, things have not been going all their own way. In that same timescale, the Lib Dems have gone from just four councillors to seven councillors (which may not sound like much, but compared to some of the other councils in Cumbria for example being virtually wiped out in Carlisle from a peak of eight, Eden may have the potential to join South Lakeland as a Lib Dem jewel in Cumbria.

Gorleston St. Andrew (UKIP defence) and Mile Cross (Lab defence) on Norfolk
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 40, United Kingdom Independence Party 15, Labour 14, Liberal Democrats 10, Greens 4, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 3)

Gorleston St. Andrew
Result of ward at last election (2013): United Kingdom Independence Party 874 (37%), Labour 854 (36%), Conservatives 653 (27%)
Candidates duly nominated: Tony Harris (Lib Dem), Paul Myers (UKIP), Robert Plant (Con), Harry Webb (Green), Tony Wright (Lab)

Mile Cross
Result of ward at last election (2013): Labour 913 (45%), Green 435 (21%), United Kingdom Independence Party 397 (19%), Conservative 217 (11%), Liberal Democrats 86 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Chelsea Bales (Con), Tom Dymoke (Lib Dem), Richard Edwards (Green), Michelle Ho (UKIP), Chrissie Rumsby (Lab)

Local elections are always good for a quirky news story. Back in the 1990’s when Nuneaton and Bedworth council had elections every year I can remember the interest generated when a Robin Hood (for the Conservatives) was nominated against a John Waine (for Labour) and the local television news produced a mashup video battle between the Duke (from one of his many films) and Errol Flynn. Well for the electors of Gorleston St. Andrew, they have got a battle royale on their hands this time in the subject of pop music. Do they go for the “Whole Lotta Love” that Led Zepplin generated, or do they offer “Congratulations” to that man with the longest chain of Christmas number ones since the Beatles (Robert Plant being a member of Led Zepplin and Harry Webb being the birth name of Cliff Richard). One thing is certain and that is UKIP will be hoping that for them in Gorleston they won’t be playing “The Crying Game” having lost another seat at a by-election.

Prestatyn East on Denbighshire (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 18, Independents 12, Conservatives 9, Plaid Cymru 7, Liberal Democrats 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 6)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 524, 463 (42%)
Labour 364, 341 (30%)
Independents 322, 300 (26%)
Green 50 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Mike German (Ind), Anton Sampson (Con), Ken Wells (Lab), Jan Williams (Plaid Cymru)

If you had told me, prior to the General Election, that the Conservative councillor for Prestatyn East would stand down from the council having been elected as the Conservative MP for the Vale of Clwyd I would have probably laughed my head off and said “Come off it. The last time the Vale of Clwyd voted Conservative was back when the Conservatives last won a majority on a 42% national vote share. If, as the polls are suggesting, they cannot even breach 40% in the polls, then what hope have they of winning the Vale of Clwyd”. But that is the situation we find ourselves in and for Labour it must be very concerning indeed. In 1997, Vale of Clwyd recorded a Labour share of 53% which had been reduced to just 38% this time. Vale of Clwyd at the Assembly level in the first elections had Labour on 38% and at the last elections in 2011 they were up to 51% all of which poses the question “Is Wales at the Assembly level becoming a Labour heartland whilst at the Westminster level it’s going the other way?”

Llay on Wrexham (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 24, Independents 18, Conservatives 5, Liberal Democrats 4, Plaid Cymru 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 825, 702 (66%)
Independents 450, 340 (34%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jeanette Bassford-Barton (UKIP), David Broderick (Non Party Independent), David Dodd (Ind), Pete Evans (Lab), Emlyn Phennah (Con), Rob Walsh (Lib Dem)

And if Wales is going the other way at the Westminster level, then Wrexham had better watch it. The last time that Wrexham was a marginal was back in 1983 when John Marek won the seat (but only just) so the fact that Wrexham is a marginal again (only needing another 2.8% swing to the Conservatives for them to gain the seat) then here is the seat that will test that theory. Not only does Labour have two sets of Independents to worry about, but also multiple parties who did not contest last time (including UKIP and the Conservatives). If Labour do not win this, then do not be at all suprised if Lesley Griffiths AM announces her intention to stand down at the next Assembly elections in May.

Grove on Kingston upon Thames (Lib Dem defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 18, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 8)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats 1,041, 990, 888 (34%)
Conservatives 960, 958, 906 (31%)
Labour 699, 577, 497 (23%)
Green 404, 384, 366 (13%)
Candidates duly nominated: John Anderson (UKIP), Clare Keogh (Green), Jenny Lewington (Con), Laurie South (Lab), Jon Tolley (Lib Dem)

For the Liberal Democrats, Kingston has been one disaster after another in recent years. They lose control of the council in 2014 and then lose the parliamentary constituency of Kingston and Surbiton (and the Energy Secretary to boot) on a swing of 9% so first impressions say “Con gain, majority of 10”. But as we saw last week sometimes that old Lib Dem magic comes to the fore and perhaps (given the ward’s closeness to Westminster) who is to say that Tim Farron, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, a Lib Dem HOLD here will be seized upon and he will dash down to Grove and announce “The #libdemfightback started on May 8th 2015. Last week it gained us Hampton Wick, this week it allowed us to hold Grove, the Liberal Democrats are back!”

Battle Town on Rother (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 31, Independents 4, Liberal Democrats 2, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 24)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats 1,134, 1,481
Conservatives 1,199
Labour 469
Candidates duly nominated: Kevin Dixon (Lib Dem), Timothy MacPherson (Lab), Hazel Sharman (Con), Tony Smith (UKIP)

But if the Lib Dems are really back, then it places like Rother they need to demonstrate that in. Up until May the Liberal Democrats were the leaders of the offical opposition on the council and, in a position reflecting Westminster, now have little or no influence on the opposition benches at all. Losing by 65 in May must have been very galling for the Lib Dems, but it will not be plain sailing trying to regain that seat, not with UKIP on the prowl.

Rush Green on Tendring (UKIP defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 23, United Kingdom Independence Party 22, Independents 7, Labour 4, Ratepayers 3, Liberal Democrats 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 8)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
United Kingdom Independence Party 870, 751
Conservative 540, 439
Labour 385, 357
Candidates duly nominated: Samantha Atkinson (Lab), Richard Everett (UKIP), William Hones (Ind), Danny Mayzes (Con)

If you can understand the history of Tendring council, then you are a better person than me. Back in 2003, it was a hung council with 25 Conservatives, 13 Liberal Democrats, 11 Labour, 4 Independents, 4 Tendring First and a trio of Ratepayers just for good measure. By 2007, Tendring First were stealing a march on Labour and the Liberal Democrats gaining 14 seats in pretty much equal measure and although there was a slight pause in 2011 that’s when UKIP made their move and in 2015, from a completely standing stand and no doubt bouyed by the election of a certain Douglas Carswell as the first UKIP MP in 2014 won 22 seats relegating Tendring First to the electoral rubbish bin of history) but now comes the challenge for UKIP. Can they actually hold the seats they won? History suggests it’s not going to be promising.

Harry Hayfield

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