Labour’s newly elected Councillor Gurdev Singh Hayre will probably be the last to succeed in a council by-election for quite some time.
The election on 19 March in Coventry’s Upper Stoke ward went ahead as planned although others scheduled for that date were suspended, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Understandably, perhaps, the contest received little public attention with fewer than one in 10 electors turning out to vote.
However, the recent pattern of success for candidates standing as Independents or for locally-based parties continues.
One of the more impressive upsets was caused by Ken Dobson as he broke Labour’s near-monopoly of Manchester City Council. His previous experiences in seeking election saw him contesting as a Liberal and as an Independent.
In the 2018 election, he won just 18 per cent of the votes in Clayton and Openshaw, with the slate of Labour winners receiving 60 per cent. Undaunted, he tried again last May, and finished just 12 votes behind. He becomes the only Independent on the council alongside just three Liberal Democrats.
The Ashford Independents registered more by-election success, after Trish Cornish took Park Farm North from the Conservatives, winning 60 per cent of the votes. The Independent group has some form in the area, winning a predecessor ward in 2003, but had not contested this ward last May.
The vacancy was caused by the resignation of Conservative Joanna Gideon. She had only recently won the seat before seizing the opportunity of the snap December General Election to be selected for and winning the Stoke-on-Trent Central parliamentary constituency. She is one of two former councillors swapping roles on council benches for the Westminster variety in this set of by-election results.
There was a strong list of Independents contesting Wrexham’s Gwersyllt North ward. Among the eight contestants there were three Independents, one a current community councillor, another a former councillor, hoping to join a council where Independents often thrive.
But it was another local community councillor, Phil Rees, standing for Plaid Cymru, who won after polling just over a third of votes cast.
The Liberal Democrats continue to have success in South Cambridgeshire where the party caused an upset when new boundaries were introduced for the 2018 elections. On that occasion the party ambushed the Conservatives, winning 27 of the 45 available seats.
One of the few Conservative survivors of that battle, Peter Topping, resigned both his district council Whittlesford ward and his Duxford county division. He himself was no stranger to competition with the Liberal Democrats, having unseated the party in his path to becoming a dual councillor.
The Liberal Democrats chose to contest only the by-election for the Duxford division with its candidate, Peter McDonald, already the incumbent in the smaller district council ward of the same name.
Further Liberal Democrat success was evident in Stratford’s Welford-on-Avon ward. The vacancy arose following the death of Frederick Barnes who had once been elected for the party but had left and been elected more recently as an Independent. His former party had subsequently not challenged him at the ballot box, however, suggesting that Liberal Democrat voters in the area had continued to support Barnes.
A third victory eluded the party by just 14 votes in Wiltshire’s Till & Wylye Valley ward. A rare Tuesday poll was brought about by the resignation of Conservative Darren Henry who won in 2017 by a margin of 211 votes.
A former parliamentary candidate, he seized another opportunity to become an MP last year, winning selection for the marginal Broxtowe constituency where the incumbent Conservative Anna Soubry was one of several dissidents forming a new party, Change UK. Henry won the election with Soubry finishing a distant third.
In future editions, we will be taking the opportunity of the absence of by-elections to uncover some of the facts and figures contained in the results from more than 10,000 of these contests recorded since the early 1980s.
For example, the low turnout in Upper Stoke mentioned earlier did not set a record. The eight candidates that contested in Wrexham are by no means the largest number to appear on the ballot paper. And the nine votes received by the last-placed candidate in that same election set no new record….
|Ashford, Park Farm North
IND GAIN FROM CON
32.2% over Con Turnout 22.1%
9.2% over Con Turnout 21.4%
LIB DEM GAIN FROM CON
19.2% over Con Turnout 32.5%
|Cheshire East, Crewe South
18.1% over Con Turnout 20.1%
|Coventry, Upper Stoke
23.9% over Con Turnout 9.2%
|Hillingdon, Hillingdon East
45.3% over Lab Turnout 22.2%
|Manchester, Clayton and Openshaw
IND GAIN FROM LAB
4.3% over Lab Turnout 19.7%
|South Cambridgeshire, Whittlesford
10.4% over Lab Turnout 35.7%
|South Somerset, Parrett
LIB DEM HELD
30.2% over Con Turnout 36.7%
LIB DEM GAIN FROM IND
13.8% over Con Turnout 32.1%
|Wiltshire, Till and Wylye Valley
1.1% over Lib Dem Turnout 35.6%
|Wrexham, Gwersyllt North
PLAID CYMRU GAIN FROM IND
19.7% over Lab Turnout 25.6%