Wednesday, 20 October 2010

By-Election Preview (21st October)

In addition to the Tower Hamlets Mayoral election, previewed here, there are a number of local council by-elections taking place tomorrow. There are 4 top-tier and 9 District by-elections; yet another busy October night!

The most interesting by-election of the night is the River ward in Medway (Kent). You may be thinking we've already been here since the General Election, and you'd be right. The Conservative who gained the ward from Labour in August almost immediately resigned from his post. David Craggs was told he couldn't be a Councillor and a Special Constable, so he opted for the latter. Whether or not the Tories should have known this before the election is disputed in some quarters, but either way the new by-election is happening. The gain was significant for the Tories as it was the first they'd managed over Labour since the General Election. As an urban area in the south Medway is a key electoral region for Labour as their poor performance in such seats in May played a large part in their defeat. They have now been gifted an opportunity to take the ward back, with the strange circumstances surrounding the vacancy sure to play a part. If Labour do gain this seat tomorrow it won't have much affect on the balance of power in Medway as the Tories have a large majority.

Elsewhere the by-elections appear to be pretty uncompetitive. Each of the three main parties are defending safe wards in top-tier councils, and upsets are unlikely. The Conservatives are defending the Andover South ward on the Hampshire County Council. The by-election is due to the death of Cllr. David Kirk, who was just shy of securing half the vote in 2009. An unlikely gain won't affect the Conservative administration much at all as they have a comfortable majority.

Things are a little more interesting in Welsh County Council of Swansea, where a Liberal Democrat led coalition can ill afford to lose any Councillors. It's the Lib Dems themselves who are defending the Newton ward following the resignation of Susan Waller-Thomas. There nearest competition in 2008 were the Conservatives, but it is Labour who are the main opposition on the Council. In fact, Labour hold more seats than the Liberal Democrats, who are joined by Independents and Plaid Cymru in their coalition. It will take a large swing for the Conservatives to win this, although they'll be aided by the fact more candidates will be standing tomorrow than in the full elections. The Lib Dems will be disappointed if they lost though.

The final top-tier vacancy is to be held for the Manor Castle ward on the Sheffield City Council (South Yorkshire). They by-election was triggered following the death of Labour Cllr. Jan Wilson. The Council is currently run by a minority Liberal Democrat administration, but Labour are not far behind. If they hold this, and they should, then they will have just one less Councillor than the Liberal Democrats. Labour were aided by the defection of a Lib Dem Councillor to them last month, and they look set to take control of Sheffield next May.

Despite the number of District Council by-elections taking place, only a few of them are interesting. Most are taking place in safe Conservatives wards, but there are a couple to keep an eye on. In Oxford, Labour should gain the Barton & Sandhills ward from the Liberal Democrats. In May they comfortably gained a seat in the multi-member ward, having come close in 2007 and 2008. It will be a surprise if the Lib Dems hang on given the national political climate. The only other interesting battle is taking place in Elmbridge (Surrey), when the Conservatives are hoping to gain the St. Georges Hill ward from the St. Georges Hill Independents. The local Independent party managed to win this ward in 2006, 2007 and 2008 but lost to the Tories this May. Although the Conservatives have the advantage of being able to bus activists in to the ward, discounting local parties isn't a smart move considering recent by-election results. The Tories are also defending a ward in Elmbridge - Hersham North.

The Conservatives will face some competition in another Surrey Council, this time for the Capel, Leigh & Newdigate ward in Mole Valley. The Liberal Democrats held the seat in 2006, and they weren't too far behind the Tories in the last two elections. This is certainly the most at risk ward the Conservatives are defending tomorrow. The others are: Ashley Green, Latimer & Chenies, Chiltern DC (Buckinghamshire); Abbey, East Staffordshire DC; Ashwick, Chilcompton & Stratton, Mendip DC (Somerset). The Tories are also sort of defending the Great Missenden ward in Chiltern as the Councillor who has resigned was elected as a Conservative but then sat as an Independent. It will almost certainly be a Tory Gain/Hold. The final by-election taking place tomorrow is for the Harworth ward on the Bassetlaw DC (Nottinghamshire), which will be defended by Labour.

River (Medway)


Andover S (Hampshire)



2010 b/e




John Charles (LAB)




David Drew (CON)


Andrew Mackness (CON)




Len Gates (LD)


Garry Harrison (LD)




Anthony McCabe (UKIP)


Martin Cook (UKIP)




John Newland (LAB)






Steven Keevil (GRN)








Ron Sands (ED)




Newton (Swansea)


Manor Castle (Sheffield)






Simon Arthur (LD)



Terry Fox (LAB)


Miles Thomas (CON)



Robbie Cowbury (LD)







Pam Erasmus (LAB)



Christina Stark (CON)


Rob Lowe (PC)



Graham Wroe (GRN)


Peter Birch (IND)




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