Friday, 23 June 2017

My analysis of local by-elections from 22 June 2017

Welcome to the first week of post-2017 general election in terms of local by-elections. The results for this week's were as follows:

East Cambridgeshire DC, Soham North: Conservative 423 (59.7%, -4.2%), Liberal Democrats 178 (25.1%, +4.1%), Labour 108 (15.2%, +0.1%). Conservative hold.

Powys UA, Yscir: Conservative 165 (29.8%), Independent Chris Davies 144 (26.0%), Plaid Cymru 101 (18.2%), Green 80 (14.4%), Independent Daniel Evans 62 (11.2%), Independent Steve Evans 2 (0.4%). Conservative win (Yscir had no nominations in 2017 which is why this by-election was held).

Sheffield MBC, Nether Edge & Sharrow: Labour 2641 (45.0%, +6.5%), Green 2509 (42.7%, +8.6%), Liberal Democrats 722 (12.3%, -2.3%). Labour hold; the Conservative candidate failed to hand in their nomination papers on time.

South Gloucestershire UA, Winterbourne: Conservative 873 (47.9%, +0.5%), Labour 615 (33.8%, +17.7%), Liberal Democrats 333 (18.3%, -0.1%). Conservative hold.

Stockton-On-Tees UA, Yarm: Conservative 1179 (50.8%, +3.7%), Independent 677 (29.1%), Labour 394 (17.0%, -3.7%), Liberal Democrats 73 (3.1%). Conservative hold.

These by-elections did not by any means follow the pattern shown at the 2017 general election a fortnight ago, partly due to limited media coverage and the sense of 'Corbyn vs. May' fading away. This allowed the Greens to reduce the Labour majority to 132 in the by-election in Nether Edge and Sharrow, where they already hold one of the seats. Nether Edge and Sharrow's natural Green vote is much stronger than similar wards elsewhere, meaning that the Greens remained competitive when they had lost so much support in cities such as Oxford and Norwich.

Had Yscir been part of a multi-member ward elected by STV (which would be the case if it was in Scotland and not Wales), it would certainly have received at least one nomination for 4 May 2017; its small size was a contributing factor given that most Welsh wards have to be much smaller than English equivalents given the poorer road and rail connections in rural Wales. This also means many councillors have to travel considerable distances for evening meetings making council work difficult in rural Wales (and also in Scotland even with STV instead of FPTP). The arguments for proportional representation of some type, especially at a local level, are practical as well as political.

It was otherwise a slow week, which is testament to the low swings in these by-elections. The sharp Labour surge in Winterbourne is partly due to the absence of UKIP from the ballot paper.

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