Four LAB defences and one LD one in tonight’s local by-elections

Four LAB defences and one LD one in tonight’s local by-elections

Harry Hayfield’s review

Mill Hill on Blackburn with Darwen (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 47, Conservatives 14, Liberal Democrats 3 (Labour majority of 30)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 967 (66%), Conservatives 264 (18%), Liberal Democrat 220 (15%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alan Dean (Lib Dem), Michael Longbottom (UKIP), Carl Nuttall (Lab), Helen Tolley (Con)

Blackburn, home of the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was always supposed to be a rock solid Labour council, however thanks to the introduction of Darwen (part of the always marginal Rossendale and Darwen constituency) by 2007, Labour actually managed to lose control of the council and reached their nadir in 2008 when they only managed to win 27 seats out of 64. However from 2010 onwards Labour recovered their ground overtaking their 2004 score in 2011 and reaching a peak in 2014 with 48 councillors out of 64 but with a net loss in May and the Conservatives making two net gains is the tide turning against Labour again?

New Tredegar on Caerphilly (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 50, Plaid Cymru 20, Independents 3 (Labour majority of 27)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 965, 744 (83%)
Independent 362 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Mark Evans (Lab), Ian Gorman (UKIP), Robert Lea (Con)

The natural assumption of most people to Caerphilly would be “Yawn, Labour hold, next council please!” but to disregard Caerphilly would be most unkind as this council has actually been very surprising since it’s creation in 1995. Admittedly those first elections were as predictable as ever. Labour 56 councillors out of 68 with a 63% vote share but then things “turned on a dime” in 1999. Not only did Plaid Cymru manage to win Islwyn in the Assembly elections but as the local elections were held on the same day, Plaid did what many thought to be impossible. They won control of their first council in the South Wales valleys polling 45% of the vote and winning 39 councillors. This shocked Labour so much that one of the first actions of the 1999 – 2003 Assembly was a rule that local elections and Assembly elections would never be held on the same day ever again. And so having regained Islwyn in 2003, Labour regained Caerphilly in 2004 and vowed never to mention 1999 again. However, the electors of Caerphilly didn’t get the memo as in 2008 Labour lost control again and although they were the largest party Plaid sprang at the chance and combining their 32 councillors with the nine Independents elected Labour were knocked out of power for the second time in fifteen years. Of course normal service was resumed in 2012 but never count out Plaid from springing a surprise in Caerphilly. Of course, that won’t happen in this by-election but with UKIP coming second at the general election (Islwyn 20% vote, Caerphilly 19% vote) could UKIP manage to break through and actually win a Welsh local by-election?

Long Ditton on Elmbridge (Lib Dem defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 33, Ratepayers 19, Liberal Democrats 7, Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 6)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Liberal Democrat 916 (47%), Conservatives 888 (45%), Labour 151 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Susannah Cunningham (UKIP), Hugh Evans (Con), Laura Harmour (Green), Neil Houston (Lib Dem)

For years, the result of the local elections in Elmbridge was a foregone conclusion. The electors, who were quite content to elect a Conservative MP at Westminster decided to “cock a snook” at the establishment by electing a council with a majority of councillors who were (to quote Despard from the comic opera “Ruddigore) “pure and blameless ratepayers”. However in 2006, things started to change as the Ratepayers lost control of the council and in 2008, the Conservatives gained control and since then, apart from a slight blip in 2012, the number of Conservative councillors has been going up and the number of Ratepayers has been going down. But, could UKIP (who have a past record of winning local Independent votes) become the new Ratepayers on the council?

Croft Baker on North East Lincolnshire (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 20, Conservatives 10, United Kingdom Independence Party 9, Liberal Democrats 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Labour 2,056 (40%), Conservatives 1,370 (27%), United Kingdom Independence Party 1,202 (23%), Liberal Democrat 220 (4%), Green 202 (4%), Trade Unionist and Socialist 95 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: William Barker (Green), John Critchley (UKIP), Annie Darby (Lab), Hayden Dawkins (Con), Roy Horobin (Lib Dem), Dave Mitchell (TUSC)

North East Lincolnshire since 2003 has been the tale of the United Kingdom. In 2003, halfway between the Labour landslide of 2001 and the Labour third term of 2005, North East Lincolnshire was undecided with the Conservatives in the lead, but it was Labour that was breathing down their necks, it was the Liberal Democrats and as Labour rule continued, it was they who took the lead reaching a peak of 20 councillors out of 42 (just two short of an overall majority and cementing the claim that in the north, they were the true opposition to Labour). However, 2010 put paid to that as Labour made six gains (five of which came from the Lib Dems) and started a rout that Lib Dems of late have been all to aware of. In 2011, Labour became the largest party and in 2012 gained overall control and it would have stayed like that. However in 2014, UKIP reared up and made seven net gains (four from Lab, two from Con and one from the Lib Dems) and in May made another net gain (also from Labour) so with a surging UKIP to worry about and this ward not exactly the safest ward on the council, do Labour have to campaign like billy-oh?

Harrow Road on Westminster (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 44, Labour 16 (Conservative majority of 28)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,788, 1,493, 1,415 (58%)
Conservative 546, 406, 349 (18%)
Green Party 464 (15%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 308 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Wilford Augustus (Con), Tim Roca (Lab), Robert Stephenson (UKIP)

Improbable though it sounds, the heart of London does indeed elect Labour councillors. When Westminster was created in 1964, there were 19 of them. They came within a whisker of being wiped out in 1968 when the Conservatives made 14 net gains on the council but had managed to storm back to 23 councillors in 1971 before slipping back to where they started in 1978. The 1980’s were a strange time for Westminster Labour compared to the rest of London. Yes in 1982, they lost four seats, but then in 1986 they gained seven (at the same time that they managed to lose control of Tower Hamlets), but between 1990 and 2010 there was only one story for Westminster Labour and that story was “net losses” as they fell from 27 councillors in 1986 to just 12 in 2010 (so to make four net gains in 2014 was actually something of a triumph) but whichever way you look at it, there is very little chance that the heart of London will ever be anything but a Conservative heartland.

Harry Hayfield

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