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Local By-Election Preview : October 29th 2015 – 3 Con, 2 Lab and 1 Lib Dem defences

October 29th, 2015

Risedale on Barrow in Furness (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 27, Conservative 9 (Labour majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2015) : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,474, 1,361, 1,310 (77%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 438, 348 (23%)
Candidates duly elected: Michael Cassells (Lab), Carole Friend (Con), Colin Rudd (UKIP)

For such a Labour heartland, Barrow and Furness’ constituency results have been, of late, anything but a heartland. At the 1992 general election John Hutton won the seat with a majority of 3,578 (6%) which as a result of the Labour landslide in 1997 rocketed up to nearly 15,000 (30%) and it only slowly started to fall as Labour’s popularity waned and then came the kicker.

The Boundary Commission said that Barrow and Furness should increase it’s land area and that meant taking in land from Westmorland and Lonsdale (a Conservative / Liberal Democrat battleground), in order words let in more Conservative voters and whilst in 2010 the new Labour MP John Woodcock held on with a majority of 5,208 (12%) the introduction of bits of Westmorland and the collapse in the Lib Dem vote meant that in 2015 he only just scraped home with a majority of 795 (2%) meaning that whilst Barrow district will elect Labour councillors forever and a day, Barrow constituency is back into it’s usual pattern of a Conservative / Labour battleground

Shenfield on Brentwood (Lib Dem defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 23, Liberal Democrats 10, Labour 2, Independents 2 (Conservative majority of 9)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Liberal Democrat 892 (44%), Conservative 783 (38%), United Kingdom Independence Party 282 (14%), Labour 81 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Cameron Ball (Lab), Alison Fulcher (Lib Dem), John Hamilton (Green), Jan Pound (Con), Peter Sceats (UKIP)

Since 2003, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been involved in what might be deemed an unruly brawl over this Essex council. First the Lib Dems were the largest party, then the Conservatives gained control and built up a very impressive majority of 19 in 2008 but then the Lib Dems started to make their presence felt and in 2014 (against the national trend) managed to force the council into a state of No Overall Control (helped by the Independents making four gains).

Sadly for the Lib Dems that was a one off as this year the Conservative took back control but in an age of Lib Dems fighting back and as we have seen twice this week threatening to expose the lack of a Conservative majority in the Lords, how long will it be before Brentwood goes back to No Overall Control and Tim Farron is able to travel to Essex after a set of local elections and announce (for the first time in nearly 11 years) “Liberal Democrats : Winning Here”

Congleton East on Cheshire East (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 53, Labour 16, Independents 11, Liberal Democrats 2 (Conservative majority of 24)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 2,969, 2,603, 2,361(39%)
Labour 1,506, 1,438, 1,340 (20%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,290, 1,055 (17%)
Independent 1,067 (14%)
Liberal Democrats 736, 666, 658 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Dawn Allen (UKIP), Geoff Baggott (Con), Robert Boston (Lab), Denis Murphy (Lib Dem)

Cheshire East is rather a strange beast of a council. Created by the merger of Crewe and Nantwich, Congleton and Macclesfield, you would expect it to be a Conservative heartland and yet in some parts of the council, the results are a lot closer than you might think (and this is one of them). I admit that a 9% swing from Con to Lab to gain this ward is a little unlikely, but when you consider that to win Congleton constituency Labour need a 16% swing and to gain Macclesfield a 15% swing, 9% seems very easy in comparison but that’s because there was an Independent polling 14% who is not contesting this by-election which poses the question: “Can UKIP pick up those Independents?” If not, Con hold with a stonking swing from Lab, but if they can, then Lab gain Congleton East?

Euxton North on Chorley (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 31, Conservatives 14, Independents 2 (Labour majority of 15)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 692 (45%), Conservative 570 (37%), United Kingdom Independence Party 289 (19%)
Candidates duly nominated: Tommy Gray (Lab), Alan Platt (Con), Christopher Stuart (UKIP)

I know that being made Deputy Speaker is a great honour and I am sure that he will carry on being Deputy Speaker until he stands down from Parliament, but I miss Lindsay Hoyle popping up every so often in that broad Lancastrian accent and bringing the Government of the day to account but I dare say that the borough of Chorley quite likes have a Deputy Speaker as it’s member of Parliament and if the recent elections in Chorley are anything to go by, the electors of Chorley don’t seem to mind either.

After all, back in 1992 this was a notional Conservative seat and although not as safe as it was when Lindsay Hoyle gained the seat in 1997, the fact that he recorded a Con to Lab swing of 1.78% (when Lancashire as a whole recorded a 1% Con to Lab swing) does suggest that Labour should be fairly confident of holding what is a marginal on the council.

Peterborough West on Peterborough (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 27, Labour 12, Independents 7, Liberal Democrats 4, United Kingdom Independence Party 4, Liberals 3 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,553, 1,482 (42%)
Labour 1,137, 1,050 (31%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 702 (19%)
Liberal Democrats 290 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alex Airey (Green), Lynne Ayres (Con), John Myles (UKIP), Malcolm Pollack (Lib Dem), Mohammed Sabir (Lab)

Peterborough at the general election was a disaster for Labour. They only needed a swing of 5.41% to gain the seat (not impossible given some of the pre-election polls) and what happened? They only managed a 3.37% swing. And yet in 2014, when this ward was last contested Labour came within 4% of winning the popular vote (Con 33%, Lab 29%, UKIP 16%) so what happened? Well, I don’t have a clue but if Labour cannot figure out what happened (and fast) when Peterborough votes next year (when they are defending six seats and were 8% behind the Conservatives in the popular vote) then the Conservatives could well be celebrating a rather unexpected gain in the East of England.

Hellingly on Wealden (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 50, Independents 5 (Conservative majority of 45)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,722, 1,599 (48%)
Liberal Democrats 1,253, 1,145 (35%)
Independent 608 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Paul Soane (Ind), David White (Lib Dem), Alex Willis (Con)

Wealden, in the rolling countryside of East Sussex, has been slowly changing from a council with an effective opposition to a Conservative one party state. Back in 2003, there were 15 Liberal Democrat councillors but every four years that figure declined. They lost three in 2007, nine in 2011 and were wiped out in this year’s local elections.

If ever a Lib Dem fightback was needed it was here and interestingly, we have (for the first time in quite a while) a complete match with the last election (no additional parties, no parties taking a breather) meaning that if the Liberal Democrats do fightback to win a seat here we shall be able to see exactly where that support has come from (and give a clue to potential Liberal Democrat gains across the south coast next year).

Harry Hayfield