Harry Hayfield’s preview
Camborne, Pendarves on Cornwall (UKIP defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Independents 37, Liberal Democrats 36, Conservatives 31, Labour 8, United Kingdom Independence Party 6, Mebyon Kernow 4, Green Party 1 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 25)
Result of ward at last election (2013): UKIP 340 (32%), Conservative 319 (30%), Mebyon Kernow 211 (20%), Labour 200 (19%)
Candidates duly nominated: Nathan Billings (Lib Dem), Peter Channon (Ind), Val Dalley (Lab), Deborah Fox (Mebynon Kernow), John Herd (Con), Jacqueline Merrick (Green), Michael Pascoe (UKIP)
Cornwall’s been quite the hive of activity in terms of local by-elections since 2013. There have been five in the last two and a bit years and in those by-elections it has been honour even between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats (Con 3, Lib Dem 2) in seats but in terms of votes cast the party taking the hit is clearly UKIP as their vote is down 8% on the elections in 2013. An example of this could be seen in Mabe in July last year where UKIP lost the seat to the Conservatives and ended up in third. As for the Conservative they had a very close squeak as the majority over the Lib Dems was just a single vote, so could this ward (in the heart of the old Falmouth and Camborne constituency) also be a Con / Lib Dem battleground. Well, possibly, it all depends on Mebynon Kernow (the Cornish nationalists). Whilst not having the same degree of an election triumph as the SNP in Scotland, their vote has remained remarkably static compared to the elections in 2013 and a stable nationalist vote is just as tricky to assess as a surging nationalist vote. Will their supporters be tempted to swich to a party they feel can defeat the incumbent (as they did in Illogan) or will they remain loyal and influence the result?
Shotton and South Hetton on Durham (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 94, Independents 9, Liberal Democrats 9, Derwentside Independents 8, Conservatives 4, Spennymoor Independents 1, Wear Valley Independents 1 (Labour majority of 62)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 893, 871 (60%)
Independent 686 (23%)
FAIR 493 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Michael Anderson (Lib Dem), Beaty Bainbridge (Con), Ted Hall (North East Party), Lee-James Harris (UKIP), Alan Liversidge (Lab), Martie Warin (Lib Dem)
For people in support of proportional representation, Durham is a classic example. Labour only polled 52% of the vote in the local elections and yet won 75% of the seats. This is in comparison to the 12% of the vote that went to the Independents and yet only won 7% of the seats. But for those bemoaning the first past the post electoral system, there is an answer and that answer is UKIP. Since their local election surge in 2013, UKIP have proved that in actual and virtual one party states, UKIP poll exceptionally well and by association can turn rock solid areas into a marginal at the blink of an election.
Witney North on West Oxfordshire (Ind defence, elected as Con)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 40, Labour 4, Liberal Democrats 4, Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 31)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 450 (44%), Green Party 286 (28%), Labour 179 (17%), Liberal Democrats 120 (12%)
Candidates duly nominated: Bridgette Hickman (Green), Trevor License (Lab), Carol Reynolds (Con), James Robertshaw (UKIP), Diane West (Lib Dem)
From 2003 until 2011, there was only one direction of travel in West Oxfordshire and that direction was Conservative. In those eight years the Conservatives gained 15 seats and managed to wipe out the Independents (who prior to 2003 had actually run the council) as well as make two gains from the Liberal Democrats and one from Labour. Since then the Conservatives have reversed course but it has not been the Independents making the gains but Labour to such an extent that in 2014 they became the official opposition on the council. However, with both main opposition parties tied on four seats each, it could be argued that the Greens (who polled very well here in 2012) could prove that they are not the only alternative opposition.