Archive for the 'By elections' Category


Brecon & Radnorshire: the by-election that never was?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

There’s a good chance it will be overtaken by a general election

The problem with being spoilt for excitement politically (apart from the complete wreckage of the party system, trust in politics and – who knows – maybe the country itself) is that there’s no time to sit back and appreciate what’s just gone before the next instalment arrives.

While that might be irritating for commentators, it has real practical effects too. The Brecon & Radnorshire recall petition has unseated Chris Davies and is due to lead to a by-election. However, it might well not, precisely because of the intensity of these crises.

When the Peterborough recall petition was successful, the writ for the by-election was moved almost immediately. That might well not happen in Brecon & Radnorshire. For the Tories, one good reason for delay is the simple fact that the Lib Dems are clear favourites to retake a seat they held up until 2015 and hold at Welsh Assembly level, and in so doing, reduce the Tories’ working majority with the not-entirely-reliable DUP to just 3.

Opinion polls suggest the Lib Dems are now polling around two-and-a-half to three times what they achieved at the 2017 general election, while the Tories are down by more than half. These are massive swings: more than enough by themselves to comfortably flip the seat, even before we take into account that by-election swings tend to be around 40% larger than the national polling at the time. Whether that rule-of-thumb still holds given the scale of movement and also the emergence of the Brexit Party is an open question but either way, Boris Johnson (assuming it is he) can expect to start his premiership with a loss, unless he can generate a sizeable honeymoon boost – or unless the election doesn’t happen at all.

There are more publicly-acceptable reasons to delay too though. Even if the writ were moved now, the by-election would be on July 25 or August 1. That’s well into the summer holidays and would potentially be a considerable inconvenience not only for voters but also for the local council running the election, which being in a massive constituency by area presumably has more polling stations than average. For context, the last time a by-election was held as far into the summer holidays as July 25 was back in 1997 (although the Norwich North and Glasgow East ones came very close in 2009 and 2008 respectively). The last by-election in August, outside of the unusual circumstances of Fermanagh & S Tyrone in 1981, was the Birmingham Ladywood one in 1977. Clearly, there’s a long-standing reluctance to schedule them then.

However, if parliament waits until the House returns on September 3 before moving the writ, the by-election wouldn’t be until at least early October, possibly later still.

That, of course, is running directly into the climax of the Brexit debates when Boris will be expected to deliver withdrawal by 31 October, with or without a deal (which means without), and a majority of MPs will be trying to stop him from doing so – a battle which will be played for very high stakes and could easily end up with a Vote of No Confidence and/or a general election, as well as another Article 50 extension or even outright revocation.

As such, there’s a meaningful chance that the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election will never take place – although if it doesn’t, it’ll be the least of our worries.

David Herdson


The Tory booted out of his Brecon & Radnorshire seat by the recall petition plans to stand again for his party in the by-election

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Brecon & Radnorshire 1979-2017 from David Cowling

Leadership finalists BoJo and Hunt said to back the plan

The Tweets above from the of Political Editor, ITV Cymru Wales, are really quite remarkable and suggest the the Tory hierarchy is taking a huge gamble in their defence of the seat where today the incumbent has been recalled.

The recall petition happened because Davies was found guilty of fraud in relation to MP expenses at Southwark Crown Court in April. He was fined £1,500 and ordered to carry out 50 hours of community service.

If indeed both final contenders are backing him in his desire to stand again that, surely, will open the the party to many hostages to fortune. How can they talk about being tough on crime when they give their blessing to someone who has been convicted being the Conservative candidate. It is as though they are saying the courts were wrong.

Hunt is reported to have said “Whatever the rights and wrongs of his expenses claim, I have only ever known Chris Davies as a decent and honest man and a very diligent local MP.”

Corals, Ladbrokes and William Hill have all opened by-election market this afternoon and all make the LDs the 1/5 odds-on favourite.

Mike Smithson



The Brecon & Radnorshire recall petition succeeds and an early by-election test for the new CON leader is in prospect

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Expect it to take place on July 25 or August 1st

So the the B&R recall petition has succeeded though the number signing, 19% was somewhat below the 27% that we saw in Peterborough.

This mean a by-election which is likely to happen at the end of July or in early August – just after the new CON leader takes over.

This is a seat with a long Liberal and LD tradition and Cable’s party will be eager to win it back. It went Tory at GE2015.

The LDs have put a lot of work into gaining support for the petition and, no doubt, Farage’s Brexit party will be looking closely at the seat which voted broadly in line with the UK as a whole in the referendum.

A BXP – LD head to head could be very interesting though I would expect the latter’s ground game to be the more effective.

This is the third time the recall process, introduced during the coalition, has been used. Two have resulted in the incumbent losing his/her seat while the third failed to reach the 10% threshold.

Update – the first betting markets

The petition process was triggered after the the sitting CON MP was convicted of expense fraud.

Mike Smithson





Johnson’s first battle as PM with the BXP looks set to be at Brecon & Radnor within a week of him getting the job

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Farage’s favourite pollster, Survation, has already been active

At 5pm today the six recall petition centres across the B&R constituency will close their doors and late tomorrow morning the sitting CON MP will learn whether or not 10% of those on the electoral roll have signed the petition demanding his recall. If the total tops the required number then the Speaker will be informed formally and a vacancy will be declared.

The petition follows the conviction of the CON MP for expenses fraud – one of the three stated factors in the recall legislation that bring one into effect.

It is expected that the by-election will take place on July 25th or a week later on August 1st. The result of the Tory leadership  election is due in the week of July 22nd so Johnson’s first by-election test be shortly afterwards.

We do know that Survation, which has carried out a lot of constituency polling in the past for Farage, has been running a survey in B&R  no doubt to test the water. The seat was broadly in line with the overall UK result at the Referendum so not as clear cut a leave seat as Peterborough.

Given BXP’s strong Westminster polling position it clearly will want to contest the seat a move that could split the Tory vote and could make the task of LDs, who have been campaigning hard for weeks, a bit easier.

But will Farage want to do something that would undermine arch-Brexiteer Boris so early on in his new job? My guess is that he’s no alternative. BXP needs to fight battles like this and do well in order to keep the momentum going.

The result of the petition is expected tomorrow. The by-election campaigning will start immediately afterwards.

Mike Smithson




To show they’re back in the game the LDs need the Brecon & Radnor recall petition to succeed and to win the ensuing by-election

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

An early by-election test for the new CON leader?

This weekend has seen the last intensive campaigning in the Brecon and Radnor constituency to persuade those on the electoral roll to sign the petition that the sitting MP br recalled. This would create an immediate vacancy and a Westminster by-election would be called.

On Thursday evening the recall petition will be closed and should the 10% threshold be reached then there’ll be a Westminster by-election there – the largest constituency by land area in England and Wales. The petition count is expected to take place on the Friday.

Nobody knows how many have signed over the past weeks and opinion polls are banned.

If the recall happens and follows the Peterborough time-table then we could see a by-election taking place within a week or so of the new CON leader taking over.

What an opportunity for the new leader to demonstrate that their electoral prowess but what a chance for the yellows to give him (and we know now that it will be a him) a bloody nose.

Given the precariousness of the Conservative position in the Commons then losing would be a major blow and could make an early general election more likely. This is because not only will the government be one seat down but its opponents will be one seat up and the government’s majority with DUP support would be down to a single seat.

TMay, who by then will be the former leader, had a pretty good by-election record securing in Copeland the only gain from Labour while in government for nearly three decades.

A ComRes/Telegraph poll that came out earlier in the week pointed to a Johnson led Tory party achieving a 140 seat majority in a general election – a finding that must have helped in the MPs ballot.

If Johnson is leader and this survey, the format of which and presentation in the paper has been widely criticised,  is on the right lines then a CON hold should be a doddle

Brecon and Radnor was won by the LDs at GE1997 and held by the party until the current MP, Christopher Davies gained it for the Tories at GE2015. At GE2017 he retained the seat with a 19.5% majority. The LDs are keen to get it back and are already working hard.

This would be the first by-election since Richmond Park when they are the clear challengers and expect a high octane campaign which is already under way in the effort to get 10% of voters to sign the petition.

Mike Smithson



The Peterborough Chronicle. About that by-election

Friday, June 7th, 2019

What to make of the result? There are lots of hot takes all over the internet.  So here’s a tepid take, with an assortment of observations all jumbled up in a heap.  Make of them what you will.

1) No one really had a handle on what was going on

The Brexit party got backed below 1.2 on Betfair to win the by-election.  They were heavy odds-on favourites, largely it seems off the back of their results in the EU elections. It’s all very well saying that their backers were far too enthusiastic but layers weren’t exactly all that much in evidence either. It turns out nobody knew anything. Remember that when reading all those hot takes. Remember it next time you’re betting too.

2) Especially not Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage turned up triumphantly for the count, only to slip out of a side door once it became apparent that his party had lost. That minor humiliation can be brushed off, but much more concerning for the Brexit party is that they did not have a handle on their own support. The Brexit party’s ground game needs a lot of work.

This is unsurprising for a new party. We saw this at the Newark by-election in 2014, where UKIP transparently had no idea where their voters were. In a first-past-the-post system, knowing who your voters are and getting them out is important.

3) Leave secured 60.9% of the vote in Peterborough in 2016 and only 51% of the vote in Peterborough in 2019

Hat tip to Matthew Goodwin for pointing this out, as linked to above. This implies a 10% swing from Leave to Remain if taken on a naive basis, implying a 58:42 Remain lead nationally at present. That is ahead of most current opinion polls, which show a smaller Remain lead.

Remain optimists will take this at face value and see this as evidence that Britain is turning its back on Brexit.  Leave optimists will argue that this reflects Labour’s superior ground game and the silent majority of voters break heavily in their favour. Or perhaps it is somewhere in the middle. Pick your preference.

4) Leave secured 60.9% of the vote in Peterborough in 2016 and the Brexit party secured 28.9% in 2019

That implies the Brexit party are tallying just under half of the Leave vote, which in turn implies that they are getting somewhere around the 24-25% mark nationally. However, in the special circumstances of a by-election, you would expect a party with momentum to do rather better than their actual polling as voters choose to send a message.  I’d knock quite a few percent off that notional national polling, given that.

5) But Peterborough was not, even though a strongly Leave-voting seat, particularly promising ground for the Brexit party

The excellent analysis by Chaminda Jayanetti linked to above shows that while the Brexit party did well among Leave voters across the country in the EU elections, it did less well in urban, ethnically diverse places and best in southern English suburbs and market towns. It is a party that appeals most of all to affluent reactionaries. They are not particularly in evidence in Peterborough.

The Brexit party are doing well, but their supporters are getting ahead of themselves. Success is performance minus anticipation. On that basis, this was a poor result for the Brexit party. They need to work on both halves of that equation.

6) It was a terrible night for the Conservatives

They have been eclipsed among Leave voters by the Brexit party. The chief mystery is who is voting for them at present. What is it that they have to offer to anyone? Don’t tweet me, please.

7) This was a really good result for Labour

The circumstances of the by-election were sub-optimal, to put it mildly. The previous MP had been ousted after being convicted of a serious criminal offence.  Their new candidate ran into trouble. They faced an opponent with their tails up after success in the EU elections. But they won.

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are crowing and they are right to do so. Yes, their vote share dropped but they increased their majority. It’s about relative performance not absolute performance and this by-election suggests that in some seats at least they are well-placed to benefit from a more fragmented electorate.

8) Reported candidate quality was once again an inverse predictor of success at the by-election

Lisa Forbes, the Labour candidate had odium poured on her for some unsavoury online activity and she had to agree to deepen her understanding of anti-Semitism. The Brexit party candidate received widespread acclaim as a local businessman made good. The Conservative candidate also got good reviews.

It seems that when parties stress the quality of the candidate they are often masking other weaknesses in their offering that are more important to the electorate. That’s something to remember in the future next time a party boasts of their excellent by-election candidate.

Alastair Meeks


Peterborough by-election betting – the final 12 hours

Friday, June 7th, 2019

Chart of Betfair exchange price movements from

Mike Smithson


If the betting markets have this right Peterborough could have its third MP in two years all from different parties

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Brexit party leaflet Peterborough

The Westminster by-election in Peterborough has become an intriguing contest with three and perhaps four possibilities of which party will be the winner.

It was CON until June 2017 when it became a shock LAB gain with the winner losing her seat in May after the first successful use of the new recall procedure.

Now LAB is batting to hold on against Farage’s new Brexit party which came out top in the Euros there on May 23rd.

Although everybody describes it as a Leave seat just under 40% still voted remain in the referendum in July 2016 and, of course, there has been demographic change since.

A big question is over the turnout tomorrow. Will the voters of Peterborough be less inclined to go to the polling stations once again for their second election in a fortnight? If there is a low turnout who will benefit?.

Labour has not been helped by the suggestions of anti-semitism against their candidate and Corbyn’s ambivalence on Brexit.  The Lib Dems are currently riding the crest of a wave  following their successes in the locals at the start of May and in the Euros where they came ahead of both Labour and the Conservatives nationally.

The Brexit Party tactic, as seen in the leaflet at the top, has been to try to split the LAB vote by peeling away some of the remain support to the Lib Dems. When that leaflet cover  was published on Twitter people were suggesting that this was actually a Lib Dem rather than a Brexit party publication

The best bet I can see is the 11/4 currently on offer at Ladbrokes on the LDs  getting 20%-30%. I’m not as confident as I was about the LDs winning London in the Euros a couple of weeks ago – a bet which I know many PBers profited from. Peterborough  is a big ask but the odds make it a value bet.

Mike Smithson