Rewarding perseverance

Sometimes, perseverance is rewarded. But as surveys of local election candidates demonstrate, some people become serial standers, willing to fight the good fight with no realistic prospect of victory.

Andrea Gibson, Plaid Cymru’s candidate in the party’s successful bid to unseat Labour in Cardiff’s formerly safe Ely ward, and David Lyons, the Greens’ winner in the race to represent Haddenham & Stone ward in Aylesbury Vale, show the value of ignoring defeat.

Gibson had previously contested her ward in May 2017, finishing bottom of the three-candidate Green slate and received fewer than half the votes of Labour’s third-placed re-elected incumbent.

Despite the reduced turnout, however, she attracted more votes this time, successfully squeezing both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. This is only Plaid’s fourth by-election gain from Labour in the past decade, but a second in Cardiff.

Dogged determination certainly underpins David Lyons’ successful bid in Aylesbury Vale. Evidence of a strong personal vote is found in the 2015 election for the newly created Haddenham & Stone ward. The Conservatives took all three seats, but Lyons finished in fourth place and 400 votes ahead of his fellow Greens.

Two years later, he contested the Bernwood division in Buckinghamshire’s county elections, finishing second with 31 per cent of the vote behind the Conservatives and easily posting the best performance by any Green candidate.

Now, it is third-time lucky as Lyons scooped more than half the votes, seizing the opportunity of there being no Independent and UKIP candidates this time. It is only the Greens’ eleventh gain from the Conservatives since 2010 and the first in more than a year.

A third winner among the previously defeated category of candidates is Labour’s Matt Renyard who secured a seat in Southampton’s Coxford ward. The by-election resulted from the resignation of Keith Morrell, first elected as a Labour councillor but who subsequently left the party over a dispute about spending cuts.

Morrell stood and won as an Independent as recently as 2018, with Renyard in a distant second place. With eight candidates standing in the by-election, however, Renyard’s winning vote share of just 26 per cent on a 25 per cent turnout does not signify strong support among Coxford’s electors.

It is not every defeat that eventually leads to victory, of course. The Conservatives safely defended Stroud’s Berkeley Vale ward despite the efforts of Labour’s Elizabeth Ashton to secure her return to the council. She was defeated by 100 votes in 2016 as four former councillors challenged in the new three-member ward.

At first glance, there is nothing unusual about Labour’s successful defence against three other candidates in Durham’s Wingate division. Closer inspection, however, shows no Conservative candidate. In the more than 2,000 contested by-elections examined for this magazine since 2010, this has happened on only 44 other occasions.

Perhaps, Durham’s Conservative Association might have summoned the tireless Tirena Gunter had she not been otherwise engaged in valiantly fighting the Conservative cause in Croydon – as she has done repeatedly since 2002.

Congratulations to all those elected but let’s hear it also for those who try and try again.


For all the latest by-election results in full, including a spreadsheet of voting statistics, please download the excel spreadsheet.

local by-elections
Aylesbury Vale. Haddenham & Stone
18% over Con
Turnout 32.4%
Cardiff, Ely
2.7% over Lab
Turnout 20%
Croydon, Norbury and Pollards Hill
49.3% over Con
Turnout 25.3%
Durham, Wingate
41.3% over Lib Dem
Turnout 24.2%
Northamptonshire, Oundle
16.2% over Lib Dem
Turnout 36.9%
Southampton, Coxford
5.5% over Con
Turnout 25%
Stroud, Berkeley Vale
15.4% over Lab
Turnout 35.3%

You can view details of Professors Rallings’ and Thrasher’s surveys of local elections candidates at


Skills for tourism

Register proposed for home-schooled pupils