Labour’s victory in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West parliamentary by-election ensures that the imminent contests in Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth will be examined for further evidence of a resurgence.
Yet, regular readers of this column know that Labour’s successes in local by-elections have often been tempered by losses. Once again, Labour gain a seat only to lose another.
The gain was in the Lancashire county division of Chorley Rural West, a vacancy caused by the death of Conservative Keith Iddon, who was at the time Chairman of the county council.
He won the newly created division easily in 2017 but Labour closed the gap four years later. The absence of any Green candidate this time around probably helped Labour’s cause.
Iddon had also been elected for Chorley Council in 2021 and his death meant a second vacancy, this time for the borough’s Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South ward. But any prospect of a second Labour win was thwarted by Conservative Debra Platt, who now joins her husband as a fellow councillor for the ward.
Labour’s step backwards occurred in the contest for Colchester’s Highwoods ward.
A double by-election in December 2022 produced a split result with Labour and Liberal Democrats each taking a seat from Independents. The Labour winner then resigned her seat seven months later with the Liberal Democrats capturing the seat at the second attempt.
A similar early resignation might have brought an upset in Tamworth’s Amington ward, where electors will be voting in the parliamentary by-election.
Three months after securing victory, Labour’s Liam Bone, who in a straight fight with the Conservatives won his seat by just 24 votes, was forced to resign because he accepted a civil service post that is politically restricted.
His defeated Conservative opponent in May, Donna Summers, stood again, but crucially so too did Michelle Cook, who had fought and won here as a Conservative in 2019. Cook, standing as an Independent, polled 16 per cent of the vote, enabling Labour to secure the win.
A second Liberal Democrat gain in Milton Keynes was hardly in doubt. The electoral history of Newport Pagnell South ward shows that the 2021 election, which returned Conservative Scot Balazs, was exceptional. Before and since, the ward has elected Liberal Democrats.
Conservative candidates have been having a generally challenging time of late.
In Minster Cliffs, it was the turn of the Swale Independents to inflict the damage. The result last May saw the Conservatives win two of the three seats with the sole Swale Independent topping the poll.
This latest vacancy offered two recently defeated candidates a chance to try their luck again. It was Peter Macdonald who comfortably won the race, with the Conservative edged into third place behind Labour.
There was more than just a vacancy for the Conservatives to defend in North Yorkshire’s Hutton Rudby and Osmotherley, which lies within Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Richmond parliamentary constituency.
The Conservative cause was not helped by the withdrawal of the Labour-nominated candidate, providing a better opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.
However, context matters in this case. At the inaugural election in 2022, the seat was won by the Conservative with a 40 per cent vote share while a candidate with no party description placed second with 29 per cent.
In fact, Bridget Fortune, the winner, and runner-up David Hugill, were both Hambleton-based Conservative councillors, each chasing the same seat. When Fortune resigned, local Conservatives picked Hugill as her replacement.
The relatively high turnout suggests hard campaigns were fought by the two lead protagonists. The win ensures the Conservatives continue to have half the council seats and benefit from the chair’s casting vote.
|Barking and Dagenham, Mayesbrook
13.9% over Con
|Chorley, Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South
9.2% over Lab
LIB DEM GAIN FROM LAB
8.1% over Lab
|Haringey, South Tottenham
52.8% over Con
|Haringey, White Hart Lane
43.2% over Con
12.9% over Lib Dem
14.1% over Lib Dem
|Lancashire, Chorley Rural West
LAB GAIN FROM CON
11.5% over Con
11.6% over Lib Dem
|Liverpool, Fazakerley East
10.8% over Ind
|Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell South
LIB DEM GAIN FROM CON
Turnout 16.5% over Lab
|North Yorkshire, Hutton Rudby and Osmotherley
10.5% over Lib Dem
|South Norfolk, Mulbarton & Stoke Holy Cross
LIB DEM HELD
13.0% over Con
|South Norfolk, South Wymondham
LIB DEM HELD
2.2% over Con
|Swale, Minster Cliffs
SWALE IND GAIN FROM CON
5.1% over Lab
9.2% over Con
|Wolverhampton, Bushbury South and Low Hill
37.1% over Con
- For more detailed analysis of these and other recent by-election results, please view the by-elections spreadsheet.