Labour had an excellent night of local by-election results as they held all four of the seats they were defending and gained another from an Independent. In the other principle authority elections on Thursday the Greens managed to hold Keith Taylor's old seat in Brighton as the group's former leader now enjoys a seat in the European Parliament.
I'll start in Caerphilly where popular Independent Councillor Keith Etheridge stood down for 'personal reasons'. This gave Labour an excellent opportunity of a gain on this competitive council. Caerphilly Council is run by a minority Plaid Cymru/Independent coalition, and a victory for Labour would mean they held 30 of the 73 seats. I suggested that the personal vote of Etheridge meant that Labour were closer than the numbers suggested and they managed to take the seat with a majority of 76. Cllr. Nigel Dix is again representing the Blackwood Ward he narrowly lost in the 2008 election.
There was another vote in Wales yesterday in which Labour were defending the Tredegar Central and West Ward on the Blaenau Gwent County Council. They easily won this seat in 2008 with Peoples Voice, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives all running candidates. Those three parties did not contest this by-election leaving Labour with just one Independent to beat to hold the seat. Cllr. Tony Gregory did this with ease as he received 70.5% of the vote.
In London the Chadwell ward of the Redbridge Borough Council was the most likely of the four Labour held seats to fall to an opposition party. The Liberal Democrats held all three seats in Chadwell during the last term but Labour managed to gain them back this May. It would have taken less than a 2.5% swing for the Lib Dems to retake the seat, which seemed possible considering the by-election was triggered because the recently elected Councillor was disqualified as he was employed as a teacher in the Borough. Labour managed to hold the seat quite comfortably in the end with the Lib Dems slipping behind the Conservatives into third place. Cllr. Wes Streeting was elected with a majority of 220 votes.
The by-election in Barking & Dagenham was also taking place because a newly elected Councillor was disqualified. Cllr. Louise Couling was employed by the Council as a Lollipop Lady and so therefore illegible to stand. Couling resigned from her job to contest the re-run and the voters in the Goresbrook ward elected her a second time in as many months. This is an important victory for Labour considering the concerted effort in the area to defeat the BNP. The extremist party did hold 12 seats on the Barking and Dagenham Council during the last term, including two in Goresbrook, but Labour managed to win all 51 seats in May, as well as both Parliamentary seats.
The final seat Labour were defending on Thursday was in Darlington. The by-election for the Cockerton West Ward was trigged when the newly elected Labour MP Jenny Chapman resigned from her Council seat. They were defending a pretty large majority but they almost lost it the Liberal Democrats. Cllr. Jan Cossins just managed to win the seat with a majority of 41. The Lib Dems currently do not hold many seats on Darlington Borough Council so this will be an encouraging performance ahead of next years full Council election.
In other by-election news, the Greens held onto the Council seat vacated by Keith Taylor MEP. He replaced Caroline Lucas MP after his party's leader won the Greens' first seat in Westminster this May. Cllr. Lizzie Deane easily won the by-election by 936 votes. Finally, the Greens lost a seat on the St Ives Town Council (Cambridgeshire) to an Independent.
Caerphilly County Borough Council
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council
Nigel Dix (E)
Tony Gregory (E)
Redbridge Borough Council
Barking & Dagenham Borough Council
Wes Streeting (E)
Louise Couling (E)
Darlington Borough Council
Brighton & Hove City Council
Jan Cossins (E)
Lizzie Deane (E)