Thursday, 9 September 2010

By-Election Preview: (9th September)

Although tonight's main event will be joint hosted by Exeter and Norwich City Councils, there is a pretty interesting undercard of by-elections to keep an eye out for. There are four top-tier vacancies to be filled using two different electoral systems. If you're wondering how AV works then the by-election in Edinburgh is the place to look. The other three are taking place in Middlesbrough, Poole (Dorset) and Cumbria. Excluding Exeter and Norwich there is one more District vacancy up for grabs tonight as well as two Town Council by-elections.

We'll start in Scotland where there is a by-election for the Liberton/Gilmerton ward on the Edinburgh City Council. The reason for the vacancy is that the sitting Labour Councillor is the newly elected Ian Murray MP. Murray narrowly held the Edinburgh South constituency for Labour in May and has subsequently resigned from his Council duties. Councillors in Scotland are elected by the Single Transferable Vote electoral system, which essentially becomes AV when there is only one vacancy to fill. And given the competitiveness of this ward this election could be a much better example of how the electoral system works than Labour's Leadership contest.

In 2007 the SNP candidate won just over a quarter of the first preferences to 'win' the vote. Labour fielded two candidates who were elected second and third, both receiving slightly under 20% of the first preferences. Furthermore, the Conservative candidate and the Liberal Democrat both received around a 15% of the first preferences each, with the latter overtaking the former to snatch the last seat. If all this was repeated tonight then the winner of the first preferences is by no means certain of winning the seat, but in reality Labour are likely to receive around the combined total of their 2007 candidates and so they should stay ahead with the second preferences. STV does not lend itself to majority rule and so it probably won't be a surprise to hear that a coalition is in control of the Council. It's between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP and they currently only command a majority because of this vacancy. The combined group holds 29 of the 58 seats a gain for either party tonight would be significant. The next full Council elections take place in 2012.

Back to the boring FPTP elections now, and the pick of the rest is the Ayresome ward for the Middlesbrough Borough Council. Barbara Dunne narrowly won her seat as an Independent in 2007 when the top four candidates for this two seat ward were separated by just 8 votes. She pushed Labour's second candidate into third place but then subsequently joined Labour anyway. Dunne has now resigned for personal reasons and there is just 8 months left of the term. The Council is controlled by Labour who have 28 of the 48 seats. Their opposition is very much divided as the second biggest group is the Middlesbrough Independent Members Association with just 7 Councillors. So although there is a chance Labour may lose the seat to the Independent candidate they will still enjoy a comfortable majority until next May.

In Poole, the Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Plummer has resigned from his Newtown seat to devote more time to the 'Buy British' campaign. He leaves a safe ward for his party to defend so there is unlikely to be any change to the balance of power in the Council. This is another Council due for full elections next May and they are likely to be competitive. The Conservatives currently control Poole with 23 of the 42 seats, but the Lib Dems aren't far behind with 17 (if they hold tonight). The final top tier by-election is in Cumbria where the death of Conservative Cllr. Jim Buchanan has left a vacancy in the Aspatria and Wharrels ward. However, only the Greens are opposing the Tories in today's election so they are almost certain to hold onto this safe ward. The Conservatives are the largest group on the Council with 38 of the 84 seats and lead the cross party coalition in control of Cumbria. The next full elections are due in 2013.

The other elections taking place today are as follows: Kilnhouse, Flyde Borough Council (Lancashire); Middlestone AND Spennymore, Spennymore Town Council (Durham).

Lib/Gilm (Edinburgh)


Ayresome (M'boro)






Bill Cook (LAB)



Stephen Cass (LAB)


Richard Lewis (SNP)



Bill Hawthorne (IND)


Stephanie Murray (CON)



James Ruddock (CON)


John Knox (LD)



Peter McColl (GRN)



Asp & Whar (Cumbria)

Mev Brown (IND)





Colin Fox (SSP)



Mike Johnson (CON)


N/C (Solidarity)





Philip Hunt (Pirate Party)



N/C (LD)



Helen Graham (GRN)


Newtown (Poole)






Jo Clements (LD)



Tony Reeves (CON)



Jason Sanderson (LAB)



Diana Butler (UKIP)



William Kimmet (BNP)




  1. Edit: Vote share in Edinburgh has been edited to show the combined total of Labour 1st preference in 2007, not just their leading candiates. First time covering an STV election...!

  2. william kimmet (bnp) is to stand again in poole town by-election