Local By-Elections : June 2nd 2016 (Referendum Day -21 days and counting)

Local By-Elections : June 2nd 2016 (Referendum Day -21 days and counting)

Oban North and Lorn (Ind defence, elected as SNP) on Argyll and Bute
Result of council at last election (2012) : Independents 15, Scottish Nationalists 13, Liberal Democrats 4, Conservatives 4 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 421, 807, 125, 361, 222, 58 (55%)
Scottish National Party 410, 707 (31%)
Conservatives 332 (9%)
Liberal Democrats 188 (5%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kieron Green (Ind), David Pollard (Lib Dem), Breege Smith (SNP), Andrew Vennard (Con)

The Returning Officer for the Argyll and Bute council area must really hate his job at the moment. Since the beginning of 2014 he has had to audjudicate over the Scottish Independence Referendum (October 2014), the Westminster General Election (May 2015), the Scottish Parliament Elections (May 2016), the EU Referendum (June 2016) and if that wasn’t enough THREE local by-elections in the same ward.

Yes, that’s right, three out of the four councillors elected for this ward in 2012 have created by-elections in the space of two years! The first one was in July 2014 (Ind GAIN from SNP), then October 2014 (SNP GAIN from Ind) and now this one. I hope, therefore after the referendum that returning officer has some well deserved rest before next year’s local elections.

Dyserth (Con defence) and Denbigh Lower (Ind defence) on Denbighshire
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 18, Independents 12, Conservatives 9, Plaid Cymru 7, Liberal Democrat 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 6)
Result of wards at last election (2012)

Dyserth: Conservative 369 (51%), Labour 275 (38%), Liberal Democrat 84 (12%)
Candidates duly nominated: Hugh Hughes (Con), Richard Jones-Abbas (Lab), David Parry (Ind), Heather Prydderch (Lib Dem), David Williams (Ind), Janice Williams (Plaid)

Denbigh Lower: Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 977, 579, 505, 204(78%)
Plaid Cymru 386 (13%)
Liberal Democrat 138 (5%)
Conservative 118 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: John McGuire (Lab), Lara Pritchard (Con), Rhys Thomas (Plaid), William Williams (Lib Dem), Mark Young (Ind)

Denbighshire is one of the counties where no matter how hard anyone tries, a majority is impossible to manage. In 1995, when the council was created, the Independents had a 8% lead over Labour (which was translated into a one seat lead) and by 1999, that lead has only fallen to 7% but the seat lead increased to five thanks to the creation of the Democratic Alliance for Wales and in 2004 saw the Independent vote lead increase to 15% (and the seat lead to 12) leading everyone to assume that Denbighshire was almost certain to go Independent.

However in 2008, the Conservatives did not read the memo as they polled 33% (+18%) and became the largest party on the council pushing the Independents into second before Labour recovered in 2012 and taking first place. And yet despite all these changes, Denbighshire has been in a state of No Overall Control since day one.

Sherborne Rural (Con defence) on Dorset
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 26, Liberal Democrats 12, Labour 5, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (Conservative majority of 8)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 1,258 (37%), Liberal Democrat 1,168 (34%), United Kingdom Independence Party 746 (22%), Green Party 129 (4%), Labour 85 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Geoff Freeman (Lab), Matthew Hall (Lib Dem), Mary Penfold (Con)

In three weeks time, the people of the United Kingdom will be asked whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union, a referendum that UKIP have been calling for since their foundation. UKIP are involved heavily on the LEAVE side and yet, bearing that in mind, since the general election have lost nine of the twelve seats that they were defending in local by-elections and, to make matters even worse for them, here in a ward where a strong UKIP challenge would make all the difference, they cannot even find a candidate. If LEAVE do win in three weeks time, I do not think it will be UKIP who will be cheering the loudest, it will be those LEAVE campaigners in the Conservative Party as they will have managed to defeat UKIP at their own game.

Lewes Bridge (Lib Dem defence) on Lewes
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 24, Liberal Democrats 11, Green Party 3, Independents 2, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (Conservative majority of 7)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats 905, 641 (28%)
Green Party 677, 410 (21%)
Independent 540 (16%)
Labour 529, 447 (16%)
Conservatives 395, 359 (12%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 240 (7%)
Candidates duly nominated: Roy Burman (Con), Johnny Dennis (Green), Will Elliott (Lib Dem), Richard Hurn (Lab)

It goes to show what a terrible night the general election was for the Liberal Democrats when in Lewes, a constituency they held in 2010 with a majority of 7,647 votes becomes a Conservative GAIN with a majority of 1,083 and in the local elections at the same time, the Greens gain a seat that has been Lib Dem for ages. Since then however, there has been the famed “Lib Dem fightback” which at the locals this year saw the Lib Dems make their first net gain in councillors since 2008, but with only a 3.5% swing needed for the Greens to win a second seat, will there be tactical voting by the Conservatives and Labour (as we saw in a number of seats in Scotland and Wales) to ensure that mainstream parties carry the day.

Barking and Somersham (Con defence) on Mid Suffolk
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 29, Green Party 5, Liberal Democrats 4, Independents 2 (Conservative majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Conservative 542 (42%), Suffolk First 411 (32%), United Kingdom Independence Party 194 (15%), Liberal Democrat 154 (12%)
Candidates duly nominated: Anne Killett (Green), Jemma Lynch (Con), William Marsburg (Lab), Mark Valladares (Lib Dem)

Local Independents have a very patchy track record. Some are very long standing like Llais Gwynedd in Wales (who prevented Plaid Cymru winning overall control of Gwynedd in both 2008 and 2012) and then there are very short lived ones like Llais Ceredigion (which forced a mayoral referendum in 2004 and then vanished shortly thereafter). The Suffolk First Independents first appeared on the scene in 2007 when they contested three wards (and won seats in two of them, one from the Conservatives and one from the Lib Dems). They stood in the same three wards in 2011 and held both their seats but in 2015 fell by the wayside as they only fielded a candidate in the seats they had won in 2011 and lost them both.

Now clearly Suffolk First no longer exist and therefore the question is “Where will their support go?”. If it goes to UKIP (which has happened in the past) then UKIP will cheer their first councillor, if it goes to the Lib Dems, they will cheer winning one of their historical seats back and if it goes to Labour or the Greens they will cheer proving that they can pick up local independent support.

Harry Hayfield

Comments are closed.