Readers, the results of yesterday's local by-elections were as follows:
Middlesbrough UA, Ayresome: Labour 414 (59.7%, +14.3%), Conservative 252 (36.3%, +21.7%), Liberal Democrats 15 (2.2%), Green 13 (1.9%).
Middlesbrough UA, Park End & Breckfield: Independent 505 (56.9%, +3.2%), Labour 304 (34.0%, -3.6%), Conservative 59 (6.6%, -2.0%), Green 12 (1.4%), Liberal Democrats 10 (1.1%).
Moray UA, Elgin City North (1st preference votes): Conservative 923 (40.0%, +7.0%), SNP 895 (38.8%, +6.1%), Labour 365 (15.8%, +3.8%), Independent 124 (5.4%). Conservative gain from Independent at stage 3.
North Warwickshire DC, Coleshill South: Conservative 571 (60.1%, +14.2%), Labour 379 (39.9%, +5.3%).
South Oxfordshire DC, Didcot South: Labour 621 (43.2%, +12.7%), Conservative 528 (36.7%, +3.9%), Liberal Democrats 289 (20.1%, +3.4%).
South Oxfordshire DC, Didcot West: Conservative 429 (43.2%, +3.5%), Labour 393 (39.5%, +13.5%), Liberal Democrats 172 (17.3%, +0.8%).
Three Rivers DC, Chorleywood & Maple Cross: Liberal Democrats 1428 (63.7%, +4.6%), Conservative 597 (26.6%, -2.0%), Labour 162 (7.2%, +0.1%), UKIP 28 (1.2%, -4.0%), Green 27 (1.2%).
Across the board, two-horse races were the order of the day, and they say local by-election results often do not follow national trends. The squeeze in many contests was considerable, to the point where parties or independent candidates not competitive in a particular by-election often struggled to obtain more votes than the number of signatures required for a valid nomination (i.e. 10). It bodes well for Labour in the competitive and expanding town of Didcot, where substantial developments in the west of the town will demographically help them, and did help them achieve an 8.5% swing against the Conservatives in the Didcot West by-election, and an 8.3% swing in the Didcot South by-election. Elgin City's by-election marked the only gain (Conservative gain from Independent) this week, marked by a heavy squeeze of the former independent councillor's considerable personal vote by the SNP and the Conservatives.
Passionate human rights campaigner Liu Xiabao sadly died yesterday, aged 61, having spent nearly 25 years of his life in prison simply for standing up for freedom in China, one of the most repressive countries in the world. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his long peaceful struggle for human rights in China and his determination to end the authoritarian single-party rule that dominates China and has done since 1949. He at least got to spend his last few days free after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer the month before his death. For him, we must fight against increasing authoritarianism and oppression wherever it may be, because basic freedoms must be available to everyone, everywhere; without them we cannot be a decent human society.