Six council by-elections tonight – 2 CON, 2 LAB, SNP & UKIP defences)

Six council by-elections tonight – 2 CON, 2 LAB, SNP & UKIP defences)

Bushey North (Con defence) on Hertfordshire
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 46, Liberal Democrats 16, Labour 15 (Conservative majority of 15)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 995 (44%), United Kingdom Independence Party 524 (23%), Labour 437 (19%), Liberal Democrats 321 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: David Hey (UKIP), Shailain Shah (Lib Dem), Jane West (Con), Seamus Williams (Lab)

“In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen!” to quote the phrase that Professor Higgins used to teach Miss. Doolittle “the Queen’s English”. Well in 2013, a hurricane certainly did happen, Hurricane Nigel, as UKIP (who in 2009 had only fielded six candidates, but scored an impressive 13% of the vote in those wards) fielded 65 candidates and polled 18% across the whole county (polling 21% in those wards) however despite that they didn’t win any seats on the council. Since then however, UKIP have been plunging, losing 32% of their support since the general election on the last election in that ward and losing six of their eight defences which poses the interesting question “If Hurricane Nigel has now spent itself, where will those UKIP votes in 2013 go?” to which I can answer “Well, with the same parties fielding candidates as did in 2013, we will know exactly where those UKIP votes are going!”

Thatto Heath (Lab defence) on St. Helens
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 42, Conservatives 3, Liberal Democrats 3 (Labour majority of 36)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 1,857 (75%), Green 187 (8%), Conservative 178 (7%), British National Party 136 (6%), Liberal Democrats 124 (5%)
Candidates duly nominated: Nova Charlton (Lab), Damien Clarke (Green), Lisa Mackarell (Con), Alastair Sutcliffe (UKIP)

Local government has a lot of interesting rules and regulations about itself. For instance, you can only stand for a council if you work in that council area or live within three miles of it, but a lesser known rule is the “six month rule” which states that if a councillor dies or resigns six months before the next set of elections where that councillor would have been a candidate, then the election to replace that councillor is tagged on to those elections (which sounds like a perfectly reasonable statement of affairs). However, UKIP in St. Helens were not of that opinion and offered the opinion “The previous councillor died in September last year, therefore there is plenty to time to hold a by-election and then hold the elections in May as per usual” and needless to say that caused a bit of consternation, not least from the leader of the council who dubbed the contest the by-election “that no one would have wished for” and as a result I think it is fair to say that UKIP may well have shot themselves in the foot to such a large degree that any hope they had of winning the seat has now gone completely out of the window.

Hamilton North and East (SNP defence) on South Lanarkshire
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 33, Scottish National Party 28, Conservatives 3, Independents 2, Liberal Democrat 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,037, 794 (43%)
Scottish National Party 776, 945 (41%)
Conservatives 430 (10%)
Green Party 133 (3%)
Independents 141 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Stephanie Callaghan (SNP), Lyndsay Clelland (Lab), Steven Hannigan (Green), James Mackay (Con), Norman Rae (Lib Dem)

If England was hit by Hurricane Nigel in 2013, then Hurricane Nicola was a full blown Category Five storm that wreaked devastation on a scale not seen since the 1950’s in Scotland (when the Conservatives won 30 seats in Scotland on the same vote share that the SNP got in 2015) and unlike Hurricane Nigel, the SNP storm doesn’t seem to be blowing itself out. In the local by-elections since the general election, the SNP vote has doubled compared to last time (2012) and the SNP have won 22 seats (the majority of them being HOLDS) and I simply cannot see any evidence of that SNP surge coming to a grinding halt anytime soon which means that the only question over this ward is “How big will the SNP swing be?”. Given that in those by-elections since the general election the SNP have a lead of 23% over Labour, that would be a swing of 12.5% from Lab to SNP in this ward so anything bigger than that and Hurricane Nicola is still going strong.

Faraday (Lab defence) on Southwark
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 48, Liberal Democrats 13, Conservatives 2 (Labour majority of 35)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,590, 1,567, 1,508 (62%)
Green Party 302, 262, 251 (12%)
Conservatives 245, 216, 210 (10%)
All People’s Party 171, 163, 124 (7%)
Liberal Democrats 163, 139, 106 (6%)
Trade Unionists and Socialists 113 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: David Furze (Con), Nick Hooper (Green), Samantha Jury-Dada (Lab), Alhaji Kanumansa (All People’s Party), Lauren Pemberton-Nelson (Lib Dem), Dean Porter (Ind), Toby Prescott (UKIP)

There haven’t been that many by-elections in London since the general election (which considering that the councils were last elected a year before the general election isn’t perhaps surprising) but what has been surprising is the recovery of the Liberal Democrats in those by-elections. Overall, since the general election the Liberal Democrats are polling 23% of the vote in London (compared to 22% for the Conservatives) and have also managed to pick up a gain in Hampton Wick on Richmond. However the best the Lib Dems can hope for in Southwark (and the rest of central London) are several good second places but a good second place (as the Lib Dems know from experience) can eventually lead to a win (or even more in multi member wards).

Newington (UKIP defence) on Thanet
Result of council at last election (2015): United Kingdom Independence Party 33, Conservatives 18, Labour 4, Independent 1 (United Kingdom Independence Party majority of 10)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
United Kingdom Independence Party 884, 845 (44%)
Labour 728, 713 (36%)
Conservatives 390, 363 (20%)
Candidates duly nominated: Grahame Birchall (Ind), Karen Constantine (Lab), Adam Dark (Con), Ian Driver (Green), Alan Hodder (Ind), Duncan Smithson (UKIP), Jordan Williams (Lib Dem)

There have been plenty of UKIP defences over the last three years and overall UKIP have definitely come out worse. In 2014 they managed to lose five of their eight defences and in 2015 they made seven net losses, however this by-election is UKIP’s biggest test to date (and might explain why Nigel Farage has visited the ward seven times during the campaign) and the reason why? Thanet is the first council ever to elect a majority UKIP administration. Thanet was always going to the main focus for UKIP ever since Nigel Farage announced that he was going to be the candidate in Thanet South and although he lost by some two thousand votes in the constituency, the knock on effect was UKIP polling 33% of the vote across the district (up almost 30% on 2011 elections) and winning 33 seats with both the Conservatives (30% -12% on 2011, 18 seats) and Labour (22% -13% on 2011, 4 seats) coming off the worst because of it. Therefore if UKIP cannot hold a seat here, then the question needs to be asked “Where can UKIP win and hold a seat?”

Crowborough East (Con defence) on Wealden
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 50, Independents 5 (Conservative majority of 45)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,668, 1,526 (65%)
Liberal Democrats 885 (35%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jane Clark (Lib Dem), Phillip Lunn (Con), Linda Scotson (Lab)

Which leaves poor old Wealden. Compared to the SNP domination of Scotland and UKIP question marks over it’s electoral survival in some parts of the country, a three way battle between the mainstream parties could be described as “boring” to which I would say “That might be your view but the electors of Hellingley would beg to differ” as last October the Liberal Democrats gained the ward from the Conservatives on a swing of 32% so just because a ward looks like a foregone conclusion, don’t discount it from making the unbelievable happen

Compiled by Harry Hayfield

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