Swing against the party establishment

In 17 by-elections, the Conservative vote share fell by an average of nine percentage points. Labour’s vote is more varied – sometimes a modest increase or decrease – but overall a fall of five points. Labour’s poor by-election performance is unusual for the Opposition party at this stage of a Parliament.

Two by-elections in Durham capture the electoral mood. In Shildon and Dene Valley, there was a Liberal Democrat gain from Labour. One month before the 2017 General Election, Labour won all three seats but the margin between its third-placed candidate and James Huntington, the Liberal Democrats’ closest pursuer, was just 200 votes. His victory this time followed a doubling of vote share, with the Conservative and Labour shares both declining.

A second Durham contest saw Independent Ian Geldard gain the seat left vacant by Geoff Darkes’ resignation from the Spennymoor Independents group. In 2017, this group captured all three seats, with Geldard relegated to fifth place. Earlier this year, Geldard resigned from Labour, citing Brexit and the party’s failures in Opposition. Eight candidates, including three Independents and a representative from the Spennymoor group, gave electors variety but Geldard was re-elected by 68 votes.

Three further Independent gains – two from Conservative and one from Labour – provide further evidence of the swing against the party establishment.

In Kent, the Swale Independents candidate, Jason Clinch, captured the Conservative seat of Sittingbourne North with 36 per cent of the votes cast. The group did not contest the seat in 2017 but now has a representative on the county authority, augmenting its 10 district council seats. The defending party’s vote share fell by 23 percentage points, allowing Labour to edge into second place, despite a drop in its vote too.

Surrey’s Haslemere division saw a quick return to the county council for Nikki Barton after she stood down prior to the 2017 election. Her previous winning margin was just 20 votes, but this by-election victory was rather more decisive – a 1,500 vote margin over the heavily defeated Conservatives.

The death of long-serving Labour councillor Des Davies resulted in a contest for Neath Port Talbot’s Resolven division. Historically, the seat has featured a contest between Labour and Plaid Cymru but this vacancy was fought by five candidates. It was local Independent and political novice Dean Lewis who topped the poll with six in 10 votes cast, with Labour’s vote falling by 16 percentage points.

local by-elections
Cambridgeshire, Trumpington
LIB DEM HELD
20.6% over Lab
Turnout 37%
Craven, Upper Wharfedale
CON HELD
40% over Green
Turnout 51.3%
Durham, Shildon and Dene Valley
LIB DEM GAIN FROM LAB
19.4% over Lab
Turnout 31.2%

Durham, Spennymoor
IND GAIN FROM SP IND
2.6% over Lab
Turnout 29.9%

Kent, Northfleet and Gravesend West
LAB HELD
15.3% over Con
Turnout 29%

Kent, Sittingbourne North
SWALE IND GAIN FROM CON
3.7% over Lab
Turnout 27%

Gloucestershire, Churchdown
LIB DEM HELD
20.2% over Con
Turnout 34.5%

Gosport, Brockhurst
LIB DEM HELD
28.9% over Con
Turnout 25.6%

Havering, Cranham
RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION HELD
59.6% over Green
Turnout 35.7%

Lewisham, Evelyn
LAB HELD
30.7% over Green
Turnout 25.2%

Lewisham, Whitefoot
LAB HELD
32.3% over Lib Dem
Turnout 24.8%

Neath Port Talbot, Resolven
IND GAIN FROM LAB
34.7% over Lab
Turnout 60.3%

Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Maer & Whitmore
CON HELD
73.3% over Lib Dem
Turnout 37%

Northumberland, Holywell
LAB HELD
25.5% over Con
Turnout 41.3%

Shropshire, Belle Vue
LAB HELD
15.6% over Lib Dem
Turnout 39.4%

Surrey, Haslemere
IND GAIN FROM CON
36.8% over Con
Turnout 42.9%

West Sussex, Northgate and West Green
LAB HELD
17.2% over Con
Turnout 30.2%
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