Wednesday, 8 June 2011

By-Election Preview (9th June)

As well as the Belfast West Parliamentary by-election there are 5 local Council vacancies to be filled this Thursday. Two of them are in Scotland, two are in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and the other is in Essex. The Liberal Democrats have a difficult defence in Essex whilst the Conservatives are looking to hold the two London wards. The SNP are defending a safe ward in Falkirk whilst the last, and most unpredictable, by-election is taking place on the Highland Council to replace a Councillor elected as an Independent but who subsequently sat with the SNP group.

We'll start in Essex where the Liberal Democrats are defending the Chelmsford Central ward on the County Council. When you think of Chelmsford, it is perhaps possible that you think of two things. Firstly, the Channel 4 comedy series launched in the channel's infancy (Chelmsford 123) about the Roman town of Retupium and the poor suffering Aulus Paulinus who was sent to the town to oversee the Roman occupation after having compared a Roman Senator's behaviour towards his electorate with that of a pig and it's trough. The second possible connection is the severe scare that the then arts minister Norman Anthony Francis St. John (pronounced Singen) Stevas won the newly created constituency by just 378 votes over the Liberal Alliance candidate Stuart Mole.

As for Chelmsford today, it's a Conservative area however Chelmsford Town is a bit of a Lib Dem heartland with Margaret Hutchon winning the Chelmsford Central ward by almost 500 votes in 2009. It is her somewhat controversial death that has triggered this by-election. After a major operation last year Hutchon was due follow up surgery but it was cancelled on a number of occasions. What's more, she was a non-executive member of the board of directors for the Health Trust responsible for her care.

In the 2009 County Council Elections the three wards that make up Chelmsford voted Lib Dem 44%, Con 33%, Lab 9%, Green 8%, BNP 7%, thus making this by-election on Thursday seem a bit of a two horse race. Since those elections the Conservatives' vote share has increased by 11% in by-election held in wards contested in 2009, with most of that coming at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. If that were to happen tomorrow in Chelmsford Central then the Conservative grouping on Essex would have a new addition, taking its total to 59 on the 75 seat Council.

It's also worth noting that Labour did a lot better in the 2005 election in this ward taking 21% of the vote, possibly due to the General Election turnout. They slumped badly in 2009 but it would indicate there is scope for them to bounce back, which could harm the Liberal Democrats. HH

Chelmsford Central (Essex)

By-Election Candidate


Graham Pooley (LD)


Dick Madden (Con)


N/C (Grn)


Russell Kennedy (Lab)




We have two by-elections on Kensington and Chelsea borough council in London this week. They have been called following the sad deaths of two councillors, Dr. Iain Hanham of Brompton and Andrew Dalton of Queen's Park, who passed away of natural causes within two weeks of each other. It will surprise no one who knows anything about Kensington and Chelsea that the extremely affluent London Borough is very much Conservative dominated. Both these wards are no exception and the Tories achieved more than two thirds of the vote in both wards in 2010 with Brompton being the slightly less Conservative seat.

The Conservative candidate in Brompton is Louis Mosley, the grandson of former British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley! Of course his relation to the former fascist leader is no reason to cast any aspersions on his own views and he is currently a researcher for Rory Stewart MP. In Queen's Park it is Sam Mackover. The Lib Dems are the second party in both seats. According to this local blog the Tory campaign in both seats is being closely monitored, but it is difficult to confirm these details so this information may be untrue.

In Queen's Park UKIP are standing a candidate, David Coburn, who may drag off some of the more right-wing Tory vote. It is hard to tell how much as UKIP have not stood here before, though my gut feeling is that Kensington and Chelsea's extremely middle class populace is probably not likely to be easily drawn towards UKIP's populist image, and certainly not in the sort of numbers to cause any worries to a Conservative Party with such huge majorities.

We do not typically predict local by-election outcomes as one can rarely be certain what's going on locally but it's hard to see the Tories being too worried here. CT

Brompton (Ken. & Chel.)


Queen's Gate (Ken. & Chel.)

By-Election Candidate



By-Election Candidate


Louis Mosley (Con)



Sam Mackover (Con)


Mary Harris (LD)



John Blamey (LD)


Mark Sautter (Lab)



Keith Stirling (Lab)



David Coburn (UKIP)


On to Scotland where there are two by-elections this week. The first is taking place in the three-member Bo'ness and Blackness ward of Falkirk Council after veteran SNP Cllr John Constable passed away.  This will be the second by-election in this seat since the 2007 council elections – the SNP successfully defended their other seat here in 2009 while Labour hold the third seat in the ward.  The SNP had a pretty safe lead in first preferences in both 2007 and 2009 and with the 9% swing from Labour to the SNP (who gained the seat) in the Falkirk East constituency last month, an SNP hold here seems guaranteed.

The council is currently controlled by a Labour/Independent coalition.  Even in the unlikely event that Labour do gain the seat, they will still be short of a majority by one. KK

Falkirk Council











Bo'ness and Blackness

By-Election Candidate


Sandy Turner (SNP)


David Aitchison (Lab)


Lynn Munro (Con)




N/C (Ind)


Gerry Lawton (Ind)


The other by-election is taking place in another three-member ward, Tain and Easter Ross in Highland Council, after SNP Cllr Alan Torrance (elected as an independent) passed away.  Like most of the Highlands, elections here can be highly unpredictable as they are dominated by independent candidates – who won two of the seats here in 2007 with the third seat going to the Liberal Democrats. 

Cllr Torrance joined the SNP at the end of 2007, so the SNP are technically looking to hold here.  The SNP also had a reasonable result in 2007 coming third on first preferences but failing to win a seat. After they gained the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross on a whopping 17% swing here last month, they definitely have a good shot at winning here.

The Council is currently run by a coalition of the Independent Group, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  Council leader Sandy Park's "Independent Group" is the largest on the council, with 24 councillors.  To make things confusing, there are two further groups of independents – the "Independent Members Group" have six councillors and the "Independent Alliance Group" have four.  I don't know which of the independent candidates belong to which of these groups, if any. All part of the fun of Highland politics! KK

Highland Council















Tain & Easter Ross

By-Election Candidate


- (Ind)


Antony Gardner (LD)


Derek Louden (SNP)


Michael Herd (Ind)


N/C (Lab)


N/C (Con)




Fiona Robertson (Ind)


Ruairidh Mackenzie (Ind)



Tom isn't here this week but would like to thank the others for covering the by-elections for him. Join them on twitter tomorrow night for the results when they hear them!

1 comment:

  1. Personally I think it's better to compare results to the previous results rather than taking into account defections. Therefore if the SNP gain the Highland ward I think it should be classified as a gain because the councillor was elected as an independent.