There are three English by-elections taking place today in addition to the two in Gwynedd, Wales. All eyes will be on the Liberal Democrats this week as they attempt to defend two marginal seats against the Conservatives; one in Watford (Hertfordshire) and the other in Shropshire. In turn, the Conservatives are looking to hold a very safe seat in Cherwell (Oxfordshire).
I'll start in Watford where the Liberal Democrats are hoping to hold the marginal Nascot ward. The vacancy was caused by the resignation of Cllr. Andrew Forrest, who was offered a chance to become Head Teacher at his old school in Ireland and took the opportunity. Forrest held his seat in May with a 250 vote margin over the Conservatives, who have run the Lib Dems close here in recent years and hold one seat in the ward.
With the Lib Dems generally bettering their May performance in recent by-elections they should go into this as favourites. Even if they lose this seat they will still enjoy a comfortable majority in Watford with the next partial Council elections due to take place next May.
Jeanette Aron (LD)
Penny Edwards (Con)
Omar Ismail (Lab)
Sally Ivins (Grn)
The Liberal Democrats face a similar battle in Shropshire as they seek to defend another LD/CON marginal following a resignation. The by-election in the Bishop's Castle division is taking place because Cllr. Peter Phillips stood down after almost 40 years of service. Initially elected in 1973 as a Liberal Phillips has weathered ups, downs and mergers but has decided to step aside as he no longer feels he has the 'youthful vigour' to continue.
Phillips' held his seat in 2009 by 113 votes and the Lib Dems have a difficult task holding this against the Conservatives. As the former Councillor appears to have built up a personal vote in the ward they will have to do well to hang on to that in this by-election. However, the Lib Dems did gain a seat in Shropshire from the Tories earlier in the year, and as that victory appeared to be in part due to the unpopularity of the Conservative run Council a hold is certainly not out of the question in this contest.
The Conservatives enjoy a huge majority in Shropshire with the next full Council elections due in 2013.
Bishop's Castle (Shropshire)
Charlotte Barnes (LD)
Georgie Ellis (Con)
Mike Tucker (Grn)
Jean Kingdon (Lab)
The third by-election taking place this week is in a safe Conservative ward in Cherwell. The vacancy in Bicester North has arisen following the death of Cllr. Carole Steward following a long battle with Leukaemia. Given just weeks to live in 2004 Steward defied doctors and had gone on to win two elections since here diagnosis. The most recent in May was by a large margin; a recurring theme for the Conservatives in this ward.
Even if the Conservatives do suffer a shock defeat here today they will still hold a large majority in Cherwell, where the next partial Council elections are due to take place next May.
Bicester North (Cherwell)
Melanie Magee (Con)
Kevin Walsh (Lab)
John Innes (LD)