Tonight’s by-elections see 2 contests each in Scotland, Wales and England

Tonight’s by-elections see 2 contests each in Scotland, Wales and England

Harry Hayfield’s preview

Crosskeys on Caerphilly (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 50, Plaid Cymru 20, Independent 3 (Labour majority of 27)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 543 (55%), Independent 281 (28%), Plaid Cymru 126 (13%), Conservative 39 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Chris Cook (Plaid), Julian Simmonds (Lab), Joe Smyth (UKIP)

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 suprise in Caerphilly.

Glasbury on Powys (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independent 47, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 9, Labour 6 (Independent majority of 22)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 502 (51%), Independent 299 (30%), Non Party Independent 180 (18%)
Candidates duly nominated: Louise Davies (Green), James Evans (Con), James Gibson-Watts (Lib Dem), David Hood (Ind)

If Caerphilly was boring to the point of yawning, then Powys would send you to sleep! In the last elections as a county council in 1993, a grand total of 63% of the council were elected before a single vote had been cast. The reason for this? Most were elected unopposed or had multiple Independent candidates. Even at the last elections in 2012 of the 72 councillors on Powys, 22 were elected unopposed. Even Glasbury was elected unopposed in 2004 and 2008 so the fact that it was a Conservative gain from Independent with a majority vote means that the Conservatives must be fairly confident of holding on here following the councillor becoming the new MP for Brecon and Radnor, but with nominations now closed could the Conservatives have fallen into a trap of their own making? Now we have a Green candidate (for the first time ever) and a Liberal Democrat candidate (no doubt seeking revenge for the loss of Brecon and Radnor) and as we know in Ceredigion when in 2008, the Liberal Democrats gained Tirmynach from Plaid Cymru (knocking out the Plaid Cymru councillor nominated as the Parliamentary candidate for the 2010 election) when Lib Dems have a mission, they usually complete it.

Denney and Banknock on Falkirk (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 14, SNP 13, Independents 3, Conservatives 2 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 1,502, 571(39%)
Labour 1,189, 443 (30%)
Independents 411, 622, 387 (27%)
Conservatives 196 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andrew Bell (Lab), Brian Capaloff (Green), Paul Garner (SNP), David Grant (Con)

Wishaw on North Lanarkshire (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 41, SNP 26, Independents 2, Cumbernauld Independents 1 (Labour majority of 12)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 932 E, 482, 1,590 (58%)
Scottish National Party 674, 1,118 (34%)
Conservatives 412 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Marjory Borthwick (Con), Maria Feeney (SSP), Peter McDade (Lab), Gerard Neary (Lib Dem), Neil Wilson (UKIP), Rosa Zambonini (SNP)

There is only one way to describe the SNP at the moment and that is a juggernaut. They are pushing Labour aside with such force that I am wondering if, even with the AMS system in Scotland, the SNP perhaps in collaboration with the Greens could reach that holy grail of 86 seats in the Scottish Parliament (67% of all the seats in the Parliament) and there is a track record for this suggestion. In 1999, the SNP polled 672,757 constituency votes and 638,644 regional votes (94.9% regional rentention). In 2003 that figure fell to 87.6%, it went back to 95.4% in 2007 and in 2011 it was 97.1%. This a rate of retention that other parties would sell their mothers to achieve, so with suggestions that the SNP could poll as much as 62% of the constituency vote (1,233,318 assuming a 2011 style turnout) if they were to achieve the dream of a 100% transfer to the regional list then 86 seats along with the Greens is not just possible, it’s very likely and then any request for a second independence referendum could not be ignored by David Cameron.

Pinhoe on Exeter (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 29, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 1 (Labour majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 1,022 (48%), Conservatives 742 (35%), United Kingdom Independence Party 240 (11%), Liberal Democrats 69 (3%), Green Party 68 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: David Harvey (Lab), John Moreman (Green), Geoffrey Payne (Lib Dem), Alison Sheridan (UKIP), David Smith (Ind), Cynthia Thompson (Con)

At the election in the South West, there was a 0.71% swing from Labour to Conservative. That swing, if applied uniformly across the South West, would not have seen any changes for Labour but would have made Plymouth, Moor View highly vulnerable (Con GAIN) and Exeter enter into the “too close to call” class. So the fact that Ben Bradshaw (part of the Labour intake in 1997) not only managed to hold Exeter but saw his majority increase to 7,183 from 2,721 on a 4% swing from Con to Lab, suggests that the Labour Party in Exeter were clearly doing something very right thus making the chances of either the Conservatives or UKIP gaining this seat very small.

Nuneaton, Whitestone on Warwickshire (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 26, Labour 22, Liberal Democrats 9, Green 2, Independent 1, Ratepayers 1, Stratford Independents 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 6)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservatives 1,173 (53%), Labour 697 (31%), Green Party 348 (16%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andrew Chrichton (Lab), Mick Ludford (Green), Jeff Morgan (Con), Alwyn Waine (UKIP)

The Whitestone area of Nuneaton is by far the the strongest of the Conservative wards in the district at the county level. Across Nuneaton as a whole in 2005, Labour had a vote lead of just 26 votes (Lab 4, Con 3) which was completely overturned in 2009 into a Conservative lead of 19% (with one net Con gain) thanks in part to the BNP polling 13% and the Greens 13% but in 2013 although Labour once again polled the majority of votes, they only had a 443 vote lead (with the BNP collapsing to just 2% but the Greens increasing to 19% and picking up Weddington on a 27% swing from Con) suggesting that it could well be the Greens who have the ability to spring a suprise on the Conservatives.

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