The Liberal Democrats pulled off a shock in Windsor & Maidenhead on Thursday as they gained a seat from the Conservatives on a huge swing. Neither national coalition partner fared well in Islington though as Labour easily won what was on paper a three way marginal. The interestingly named 'New Wave' Independent Group managed to defend a seat on North Devon Council in the other by-election to take place this week.
We'll start in Berkshire where the Eton & Castle ward for the Windsor & Maidenhead Council was up for grabs following the resignation of Conservative Councillor Liam Maxwell, who had been appointed as a Government advisor. The ward contains Eton College and Windsor Castle; prime territory for the Tories you would imagine. That isn't strictly true as the Liberal Democrats have been competitive here before, holding the seat as recently as 2007.
Just three months ago Maxwell easily beat George Fussey in what was a disastrous night for the Lib Dems locally and nationally. They lost 14 of their 15 Councillors in Windsor & Maidenhead, contributing to their generally poor performance in May's elections. However, Fussey managed to avenge his personal defeat in emphatic style on Thursday as he secured a 21.6% swing from May's election to win by 26 votes. As the ADLC point out the scheduling of the by-election in August may have helped the Liberal Democrats as the Eton students are at home during the holidays. Perhaps more importantly it allowed their candidate to concentrate on the contest as he is a teacher at the college.
Fussey is now the second Liberal Democrat on the Council, which is dominated by the Conservatives. They have a huge majority in Windsor & Maidenhead and the next full Council elections are due to take place in 2015.
Eton & Castle (Windsor & Maidenhead)
George Fussey (E)
Things were a little different for the Liberal Democrats in London as they lost almost 10% for their vote share when they were in prime position to challenge Labour in a by-election for Islington Council. The vacancy in the St Peter's ward arose following the resignation of Labour Councillor Shelly Coupland, who was charged with benefit fraud and stood down to clear her name. In an interesting development her mother, who is also an Islington Councillor, resigned from The Labour Party on the day of the by-election. She cited a lack of support for her daughter's court case as part of the reason behind her decision.
This news didn't appear to harm Labour at the ballot box as Alice Perry stormed to an easy victory in the by-election. She increased her party's vote share by 17.5% from the 2010 election; an impressive feat as Labour did relatively well in the London Borough elections which were held on the same day as the General Election. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives suffered equally large drops in their vote share as the former managed to hang on to second place.
Labour's large majority in Islington has, bizarrely, been cut by one in the wake of Thursday's events thanks to the defection of Coupland senior. They are still firmly in control of the London Borough with the next full Council elections due in 2014.
St Peter's (Islington)
Alice Perry (E)
The other by-election to take place this week rounded off a poor night for the Conservatives as they failed to win back a seat in North Devon they had lost in May. The vacancy in Fremington was caused by the resignation of Cllr. Joanne Bell, who felt she could not continue in the role because of a long term illness. As she quit just two months into her four year term there was certainly potential for the circumstances surrounding the by-election to become an issue during the campaign.
As it was, the 'New Wave Independent Group' held the seat with ease despite a 12.4% swing away from them to the Conservatives. Chris Turner's 193 vote victory brings the New Wave's cohort back up to four. North Devon Council is currently led by the Liberal Democrats in coalition with three Independent groups and the next full Council elections are not due until 2015.
North Devon Council
Chris Turner (E) (NWIG)
Tony Wood (Ind)