Despite the polling trends, it's the Conservatives who seem to be struggling in post-coalition by-elections and not the Liberal Democrats. Given that the Tories appear to have risen 6 points since the election, and the Lib Dems have lost almost half their support, both parties could be forgiven for being a little bemused about their differing fortunes when voters are actually heading to polling stations. In this week's two top-tier elections Labour trounced the Conservatives in Wolverhampton and the Lib Dems won a Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) ward in which they didn't even field a candidate when the whole Council was elected in 2007. In the one District Council election in Mid Sussex the Tories held the seat, but there was a big swing towards the Liberal Democrats.
We'll start in BANES, where there was a by-election for the Radstock Ward following the death of Independent Councillor Alan Hall. As I noted on Wednesday, the 2007 vote for this ward was quite unusual in that a number of Independent candidates received a majority of the votes, yet only Hall was elected. Last night's result would rest on where these voters would end up, and it would seem a great deal of them headed to the Liberal Democrats. Cllr. Simon Allan came from no-where to win the seat by almost 150 votes. The extra seat for the Lib Dems takes them within four of the Conservatives, who are currently running the Council as a minority administration. The local Tories must be at least slightly worried about next year's full Council election after last night.
Bath & North East Somerset Council
Simon Allen (E)
In Wolverhampton, the Conservatives were always going to struggle to hold Bilston North against Labour. The by-election was trigged due to the death of Cllr. Gill Fellows and it left the Council on a knife edge. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, which formed after May's elections for a third of the Council, held 31 seats out of 60 with Follows. Labour held the other 29, including the other two seats in Bilston North. It is therefore unsurprising that Cllr. Linda Leach managed to win last night, leaving Labour with same amount of Councillors as the coalition. Currently, the Liberal Democrat Mayor has the deciding vote, but with another third of the Council due for re-election next May Wolverhampton is in a state of political flux.
Wolverhampton City Council
Linda Leach (E)
In the only District by-election last night Conservatives suffered a 13% swing to the Liberal Democrats in Haywards Heath – Franklands, Mid Sussex DC. The good news for the blues is that they still held the seat and that most of the increase in the Lib Dem vote came from Labour and an Independent. The Tory vote stood still and the hold means they still enjoy a comfortable majority.
In the Town and Parish elections the Liberal Democrats were the big winners, gaining a seat off the Conservatives on the Crewkerne Town Council (Somerset) and Franklin on the Haywards Heath Town Council (West Sussex). They also gained Keynsham South on the Keynsham Town Council (Somerset) from Labour and the South Ward on the Redruth Town Council (Cornwall) from an Independent. Finally, the Tories gained Bolslowick on the Falmouth Town Council (Cornwall) from an Independent and an Independent was elected unopposed on the St Agnes Parish Council (Cornwall).