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A busy night of local by-elections previewed by Harry Hayfield

July 30th, 2015

Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill (SNP defence) and Kincorth, Nigg and Cove (SNP defence) on City of Aberdeen
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 17, Scottish National Party 15, Liberal Democrats 5, Conservatives 3, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 5)

Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,421, 271 (45%)
Scottish National Party 512, 823 (36%)
Independents 87, 101, 55 (6%)
Liberal Democrats 145 (4%)
Green Party 99 (3%)
National Front 41 (1%)
Candidates duly nominated: Roy Begg (Con), Neil Copland (SNP), Peter Kennedy (Green), Charlie Pirie (Lab), Jonathan Waddell (Lib Dem)

Kincorth, Nigg and Cove
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 291, 1,250 (38%)
Scottish National Party 1,389 (34%)
Independents 471, 120 (15%)
Liberal Democrats 331 (8%)
Conservatives 219 (5%)
Candidates duly nominated: Donna Clark (Lab), Stephen Flynn (SNP), Ken McLeod (Lib Dem), Phillip Sellar (Con), Dan Yeats (Green)

When Aberdeen became a unitary authority in 1999, Labour in Scotland dominated. Of the thirty two local authorities in the country, Labour controlled or ran twenty of them, four were Independent, three were in the hands of the Scottish National Party, the Conservatives had a hand in running East Renfrewshire and the Liberal Democrats a hand in running Aberdeenshire. And Aberdeen was no different, Labour won 30 seats on the new council (and had an overall majority of 10). However, things went south for Labour on the day of the elections to the new Scottish Parliament. They lost control of eight authorities (the biggest upset being Falkirk) and they lost over a hundred seats overall. Aberdeen, however, they held on to and must have fancied their chances of holding again in 2003 but by then the Liberal Democrats were on the advance as they gained outright control of Inverclyde from Labour held their position in Aberdeenshire and became the largest party on East Dunbartonshire and Aberdeen. But by the time of the next elections in 2007, the rules had been shaken up and the Single Transferable Vote had been introduced and across Scotland the effect was devasting to Labour. Labour lost control of eleven of the councils they had run under First Past the Post and were only left with North Lanarkshire and Glasgow. The Liberal Democrats could now claim to run Scotland’s second and third largest cities (Edinburgh and Aberdeen), the SNP broke through in East Dunbartonshire and the Conservatives suddenly found themselves in a position of influence in South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. And although Labour managed to recover some ground in 2012 (gaining Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire), the SNP gained control of Angus and Dundee and had an influence in the running of Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, Stirling, North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire) but as we have seen since the referendum in 2014, the SNP appear to be an unmovable force and when the Scottish councils come up next for election in 2017 it would not suprise me at all if the SNP become the new dominant force in Scottish local government.

North Hykeham Mill on North Kesteven (Lincolnshire Independent defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 28, Lincolnshire Independents 8, Skellingthorpe Independents 2, Hykeham Independents 2, Independent 1, North Kesteven Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 14)
Result of ward at last election (2015) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,478, 1,005 (59%)
Lincolnshire Independent 1,013 (41%)
Candidates duly nominated: Elizabeth Bathory-Porter (Green), John Bishop (Hykeham Independents), Diana Catton (Lib Dem), Mike Clarke (Con), Terence Dooley (Lab)

North Kesteven is a council that seems to believe that unless you are a Conservative or an Independent then you have no reason to be on the council at all. Back in 2003 there were nine non Con and Ind councillors (five Lib Dems and four Labour). The Labour councillors were wiped out in 2007 (going to the Conservatives) and the Lib Dems were wiped out in 2015 (going to the Independents) so what the electors of North Hykeham will do (based on past history) is either split 48% Con and 48% Hykeham Independent or decide that it is better to stick with the existing arrangement and elect another Conservative councillor to join the previous one.

College on Northumberland (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 32, Conservatives 21, Liberal Democrats 11, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Labour 878 (91%), Conservatives 90 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Peter Curtis (UKIP), Chris Galley (Con), Andy McGregor (Lib Dem), Mark Purvis (Lab)

Northumberland has been very interesting in parliamentary terms. Although between 1992 and 2010 it returned two Labour MP’s (Blyth Valley and Wansbeck), one Conservative (Hexham) and one Liberal Democrat (Berwick) it did a great deal of swinging around. In 1992, Labour led by 9% which increased to 24% in 1997 with the Liberal Democrats taking second place. That lead dropped to 15% in 2001 and then to just 6% in 2005 and then in 2010 the Liberal Democrats “won” Northumberland by 2% so 2015 was a literal example of “crashing and burning” as not only did the Lib Dems lose Berwick but their vote share collapsed from 32% across the county to just 12% (ending 3% behind UKIP) and for the first time since 1992, the Conservatives “won” the county by 1% making Northumberland possibly one of only a few counties to have gained from one party to the other via the Liberal Democrats. So the question has to be asked in College with the previous Labour councillor clearly having a massive personal vote, could this provide another Lib Dem fightback moment, could the Conservatives spring a suprise or could UKIP get another foothold in another council with no UKIP seats?

Droitwich East on Wychavon (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 39, Liberal Democrats 5, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (Conservative majority of 33)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,587, 1,201 (44%)
Labour 775 (21%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 724 (20%)
Liberal Democrats 534 (15%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andy Morgan (UKIP), Jacqui O’Reilly (Lab), Rory Robertson (Lib Dem), Karen Tomalin (Con)

Wychavon (the council between Worcester and Redditch) has been trending more and more Conservative with every election. 31 Conservatives in 2003, 35 Conservatives in 2007, 38 Conservatives in 2011 and 39 in May and as such the opposition has been slowly wittled away from 14 in 2003 to just six now, so presumably a Conservative hold is expected but at the same time could it also be another Lib Dem fightback win, a shock Labour gain or a UKIP win? That’s the problem with rural English councils, no one can really tell (but that’s the fun of local by-elections isn’t it really?)