Friday, 24 September 2010

Tories and Lib Dems swap seats as Labour continue to rise

Yesterday's by-elections produced a cosy seat swap for the two national coalition parties. The Liberal Democrats gained a seat in Teignbridge from the Conservatives but lost one in North East Derbyshire. As for the two Gateshead vacancies I previewed, Labour easily held both seats with a swing towards them.

The manner in which Labour cruised to victory in Gateshead (Tyne & Wear) is one we are becoming used to seeing since the General Election. Since May they have been capitalising on the fact they are the only main political party not in Government. Their terrible performance in the last few rounds of local elections has also helped as the party recovers ground on the other parties. Last night they were on the defensive in the North East following the election of Cllr. Ian Mears to Parliament and the death of Cllr. Frank Donovan. This had left the wards of Saltwell and Lobley Hill & Bensham vacant, with the latter the most at risk of the two. In the end there was no need to worry as Labour safely held both seats, with swings towards them and away from both the Tories and the Lib Dems. The balance of power on Gateshead Council was not under threat in these elections as Labour enjoy a large majority. But as Chris Mead of The Independent notes, these results will not make comfortable reading for Liberal Democrats in Newcastle ahead of their defence of the City Council next May.

Gateshead Borough Council










Lobley Hill & Bensham



Vote %


Eileen McMaster (E)




Michael Ruddy




Derrick Robson




Val Bond







Vote %


Denise Robson (E)




Laura Turner




Alan Bond




Janet Robson




Although it was business as usual the two top-tier by-elections the District battles threw up some interesting results. The Wellington ward on the Rushmoor (Hampshire) was on paper the most likely to change hands. The Conservatives were defending the seat but both the Liberal Democrats and Labour have challenged them in recent years. Last night's result was a hold for the Tories but the vote totals make interesting reading. The Conservatives vote dropped by over 6% which seemed to transfer to UKIP, who didn't stand earlier this year. But the Liberal Democrats failed to take advantage as they lost support to Labour. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a frequent occurrence, and so a pattern of Labour voters becoming less inclined to tactically vote for the Lib Dems can be established.

The Liberal Democrats also suffered badly in Gosforth Valley, North East Derbyshire District Council where they were pushed to third in a seat they were defending. The Conservatives gained the seat and Labour pipped the Lib Dems into second with a 13% increase in their vote share. Of course, the low turnout makes this result seem more extreme than it actually was. Labour's vote increased by just 27 votes on their top candidate in 2007 and the Tories had 100 actual votes less than when the came second three years ago. The big movement was in the Lib Dem vote total as they were only able to persuade a third of their 2007 voters to back them again. Quite an enthusiasm gap… [I know, I'm watching too much mid-term coverage!]

Last night wasn't all bad news for the Liberal Democrats as they managed a gain on Teignbridge District Council (Devon). They currently run the Council, with help from some Independents, and this gain from the Tories has left them as the largest party going into next years full Council elections. It this case it seems the personal vote for the previous Councillor was quite large and so the absence of his name on the ballot has cost them the seat. In the final by-election last night the Tories comfortably held Heathfield North & Central on the Wealden District Council (East Sussex).

There is also a by-election in Scarborough which took place today. I'll just update this post when the result is known.


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