Against the run of play

This month’s set of by-elections includes a first, and two potential ‘last hurrahs’.

The contest in Oundle was the first in either of the two new Northamptonshire authorities since their inaugural elections last May – and it produced a suitably memorable result. The victorious Liberal Democrats, mounting one of their fabled ‘pavement politics’ campaigns, achieved a swing from each of their opponents compared with 2021. 

Indeed, the new councillor, Charlie Best, told the local newspaper, with no sense of irony: ‘I will be addressing issues such as… the crumbling pavements’. 

In Cumbria and Somerset, on the other hand, it was a case of seeing out the old rather than seeing in the new. The respective districts of Allerdale, and Somerset West and Taunton, will cease to exist under the county-wide reorganisations planned to take effect from April 2023. 

Indeed, the latter district may have the distinction of being among the shortest-lived councils ever. Somerset West and Taunton was only created in 2019, following a merger of its two eponymous predecessors. 

The Alcombe ward, hard by Butlin’s holiday resort at Minehead, witnessed another Liberal Democrat success, aided perhaps by the disqualification of the previous Independent councillor for non-attendance – something of which voters often take a dim view.      

Not that the Liberal Democrats have had it all their own way. The party had topped the poll in the three-member Wigston Meadowcourt ward in Oadby and Wigston – Liberal Democrat controlled for more than 30 years – at every election since 2011. On this occasion, they suffered the humiliation of losing to the Conservatives by more than 500 votes, on the back of a 27 per cent swing compared with May 2019. 

It seems that the late incumbent had a significant personal vote, but there was controversy too over the council’s recent introduction of town centre parking charges.

Local issues and some low turnouts may also help explain why Labour lost ground in 14 of the 17 recent contests where they fielded a candidate – and the party’s weakest performances were in seemingly rock-solid city wards.

The Evington ward in Leicester, which has a majority South Asian-heritage population, is in the Leicester East parliamentary constituency, where the sitting MP is currently suspended by the Labour Party and is appealing against a criminal conviction that could result in a recall petition. 

Labour did at least retain that seat, which is more than can be said in the case of Manchester’s Ancoats and Beswick ward. The sitting member resigned, blaming a ‘toxic culture’ among her council colleagues, and then disputed the selection procedure that chose her putative successor. The Liberal Democrats were only too happy to fill the void.    

It has become a cliché to assert ‘all politics is local’, but it’s been proven again this month and will doubtless lead to more outcomes ‘against the run of play’ in May’s elections, too. 

local by-elections
Allerdale, Stainburn and Clifton
LAB GAIN FROM IND 9.3% over Con Turnout 21.8%
Bristol, Southmead
LAB HELD
2.8% over Green
Turnout 21.2%
Cotswold, Campden & Vale
CON HELD
12.4% over Lib Dem
Turnout 42.4%
Dacorum, Berkhamsted West
LIB DEM HELD
42.1% over Con
Turnout 31.2%
Dacorum, Boxmoor
LIB DEM HELD
33% over Con
Turnout 32.1%
Dartford, Maypole and Leyton Cross
CON HELD
48.8% over Green
Turnout 24.5%
Dartford, Wilmington, Sutton-At Hone & Hawley
CON HELD
49.3% over Lab
Turnout 24.1%
Eastleigh, Eastleigh Central
LIB DEM HELD
20.5% over Lab
Turnout 23.9%
Kent, Wilmington
CON HELD
38% over Lab
Turnout 23%
Leicester, Evington
LAB HELD
4.4% over Con
Turnout 31.9%
Manchester, Ancoats and Beswick
LIB DEM GAIN FROM LAB
15.3% over Lab
Turnout 17.8%
Mid Suffolk, Thurston
GREEN HELD
34% over Con
Turnout 28.1%
Newark & Sherwood, Collingham
CON GAIN FROM IND
22.2% over Lib Dem
Turnout 37.7%
North East Lincolnshire, Park
CON HELD
7.4% over Lab
Turnout 21.2%
North Northamptonshire, Oundle
LIB DEM GAIN FROM CON
7.3% over Con
Turnout 35.4%
Nottinghamshire, Collingham
IND HELD
35.3% over Con
Turnout 31.4%
Oadby and Wigston, Wigston Meadowcourt
CON GAIN FROM LIB DEM
36.3% over Lib Dem
Turnout 28%
Somerset West and Taunton, Alcombe
LIB DEM GAIN FROM IND
7% over Con
Turnout 25.6%
Tamworth, Spital
CON HELD
9.3% over Ind
Turnout 22.9%
Wealden, Hailsham South
LIB DEM GAIN FROM CON
21.2% over Con
Turnout 23%
West Devon, Tavistock North
CON GAIN FROM IND
4.4% over Lib Dem
Turnout 24%

Author

Previous

Licensing for recovery

Motion for the ocean

Next