Wednesday, 10 November 2010

By-Election Preview (11th November)

There will be five by-elections taking place this week and they are an interesting bunch. Four are for top tier Councils and the fifth is a District vacancy. The Conservatives are defending all four top tier seats, and the Liberal Democrats are only standing in one, so it's a bit of a strange week.

I'll start with the exciting race in Moray where anything could happen. There have been two Scottish vacancies since the General Election and both were in fairly solid Labour wards. The vacancy for the Forres ward tomorrow is completely different and it could be an interesting example of how the Additional Vote electoral system works. The vacancy has arisen following the resignation of the Conservative Councillor Iain Young for health reasons and this has not only left a competitive ward up for grabs but a competitive Council too. Young came second in 2007 behind the Scottish Nationalist candidate but he was only 56 first preferences behind. The top two candidates cleared the quota and received more than twice as many first preferences than the Independent eventually elected in third. So, on the face of it this is a two horse race between the SNP and the Conservatives with the former slight favourites to gain the seat. However, the combined first preferences of the four Independent candidates who stood in 2007 was actually more than the SNP's total. If one of the four (completely new) Independents stands out in this election then they could get close, although an Independent win would be a surprise. Another interesting dynamic is that all three potential winners are in power. There is an Independent led coalition in control of Moray with the Tories as the junior party. In addition, the SNP have a majority in Holyrood and there is a Conservative Prime Minister. It seems quite likely that no-one will secure more than a third of the first preferences so we should see AV in action. The result is very important locally as if the SNP win then the IND/CON coalition will no longer have a majority on the 26 seat Council.

In Suffolk there is another by-election taking place with a competitive Independent challenge. The Tower ward elects two Councillors and in 2009 a Conservative and a Green topped the poll. The by-election is taking place following the resignation of Paul Farmer for health reasons. The result was very close with just 200 votes (3%) separating the top three candidates. It was the Independent David Nettleton who narrowly lost out 18 months ago and he's standing again in this by-election. It is sure to be a close battle between Nettleton, the Tories and the Greens and any one of them could come out on top. The Council itself is not very competitive as the Conservatives have a very large majority.

There are less competitive by-elections for two Councils who have already filled vacancies since the General Election. In Walsall there is an outside chance of a Labour gain from the Conservatives. There will be a by-election for the Rushall-Shelfield ward following the death of Conservative Counillor Albert Griffiths. Griffiths won quite comfortably in 2007 and the Tories also won by a comfortable margin in May. However, Labour have managed bigger swings against the Tories than the 9% they require tomorrow, including a gain in a Walsall ward, and there are some major changes to the ballot paper facing the electorate in Rushall-Shelfield. The Liberal Democrats have not put forward a candidate for tomorrow's election despite polling around 18% six months ago. The BNP, who didn't stand in May, have selected a candidate and as they polled 21% in 2007 they shouldn't be ignored. The Tories currently hold 33 of the 60 seats on the Council so they could do with hanging on to this one.

The Isle of Wight hosted the first by-election after the general election and it was won by the Conservatives. Tomorrow they will be defending the Chale, Niton & Whitwell ward following the resignation of William Myatt-Willington for work related reasons. He beat his Liberal Democrat challenger by 61% to 39% in a straight fight in 2009, and there will be a Labour candidate on the ballot tomorrow which should help the Conservatives. They control the Council and this result will not affect that. Finally, there is a by-election in the Hunsdon ward on the East Hertfordshire District Council to replace an Independent Councillor. There is another Independent standing but the Conservatives could pick up the seat if the new unaligned candidate does not pick up the departing Councillors votes.

Forres (Moray)


Tower (Suffolk)






Aaron McLean (SNP)



Stefan Oliver (CON)


Paul McBain (CON)



Pippa Judd (GRN)


Jane Cotton (IND)



David Nettleton (IND)


Lorna Creswell (IND)


Kevin Hind (LAB)


Janet Kennedy (IND)


David Chappell (LD)


Anne Skene (IND)


Andy Anderson (SSC)



Mark Cascarino (LAB)



Fabio Villani (GRN)



Rushall-Shelfield (Walsall)


Chale, etc. (I of Wight)







Lorna Rattigan (CON)




Dave Stewart (CON)


Richard Worrall (LAB)




Malcolm Groves (LD)


N/C (LD)




Josh Cooper (LAB)


Tim Melville (UKIP)








Bill Vaughan (BNP)








Mark Beech (OMRLP)





  1. In Moray, a third of the vote isn't enough. We're electing one Councillor, so it's just regular AV.

  2. Of course one third isn't enough. That's why I was expecting some changes in the order as the stages went on. In the end the candidate who came second by over 200 votes (almost 7%) won! Finally we've have an interesting AV election this year!

    Full rundown of these results will be up this evening.