Thursday, 30 June 2016

By-election Preview: 30 June 2016

Five local by-elections this week.  Four covered over on the English Elections blog, and one below.

Vale of Glamorgan council
Caused by the death of independent councillor Philip Clarke in a motorcycle accident.  A former commercial pilot, he had served since 2012.

Rhoose and District Social Club, Rhoose
Wales' southernmost mainland division, Rhoose is a large rural electoral unit in the centre of the Vale of Glamorgan.  Rhoose itself, just to the west of Barry, is a fast-growing commuter village for Cardiff with excellent transport links: it is the location for Cardiff Airport which takes up a lot of the division's acreage, and its railway station on the Vale of Glamorgan line reopened in 2005 with the longest name on the National Rail network: the 33-letter "Rhoose Cardiff International Airport".  Also within the ward is the rural community of Llancarfan, which in the sixth century was a clas (ecclesiastical community) associated with St Cadoc.

Philip Clarke had topped the poll in this two-seat division in the 2012 election with 37% of the vote, gaining his seat from the Conservatives whose slate had 34% (the other 30% went to Labour); the Tory loss was an embarrassing one as the councillor who lost his seat was the Leader of the Council, Gordon Kemp.  Clarke had previously fought the division in 2008 as the Plaid Cymru candidate, finishing as a distant runner-up four votes ahead of the Lib Dems' Eluned Parrott; Parrott would go on to be elected to the Welsh Assembly in bizarre circumstances in 2011, being promoted to first on the Lib Dem list for South Wales Central after the original lead candidate turned out to hold an office which disqualified him from membership of the Senedd.

Two independent candidates have come forward to succeed Clarke: Rachel Banner is a long-standing anti-devolution campaigner and was the main spokesperson for the "no" side in the 2011 referendum on giving law-making powers to the Senedd, while Adam Riley is campaigning to stop Vale of Glamorgan council closing Rhoose Library.  Former Vale of Glamorgan council leader Gordon Kemp, having lost his seat in 2012, wants it back and is the Conservative candidate.  The Labour candidate is Graham Loveluck-Edwards, a digital marketing manager, scrapyard director and chairman of Rhoose Runners.  Completing a crowded ballot paper are James Fyfe of the Pirate Party, the Lib Dems' Robin Lynn and the Plaid candidate Ian Perry.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Glamorgan

May 2012 result Ind 882 C 810/727 Lab 713
May 2008 result C 1169/1143 PC 556 LD 552 Lab 520
June 2004 result C 1240/1085 Lab 729

Thursday, 2 June 2016

By-election Previews: 2 June 2016

Seven by-elections on 2nd June 2016, one of which is unfinished business from May. Two are covered here, one over on the Scottish Elections blog, and four more on the English Elections blog.

Denbighshire council
Caused respectively by the deaths of Independent councillor Richard Davies and Conservative councillor Peter Owen.  Davies, a retired PE teacher, was in his first term having originally been elected in 2012.  Owen's political career started on the former Rhuddlan district council although his service on the modern county council only goes back to 2004 (when he was elected as an independent).

Denbigh is an old town: it was a Marcher Lordship in the days when those were important things, and was largely destroyed twice in the fifteenth century (once in the Glyndwr revolt, once in the Wars of the Roses). It's basically for those historical reasons that we now have a county called Denbighshire, whose boundaries have never been particularly fit for purpose even in the current incarnation (the pre-1974 Denbighshire was an enormous sprawl which included Wrexham, and the current Denbighshire council is based in Ruthin).  Today Denbigh is a sleepy market town overlooking the Vale of Clwyd midway between St Asaph and Ruthin, with its main industries (glove-making and the North Wales psychiatric hospital) having died a death in recent years.  The Denbigh Lower ward is one of three covering the town, being the eastern part of Denbigh running down to the River Clwyd.

Further down the Vale of Clwyd is Dyserth, a village just south of Prestatyn tucked under the Clwydian Hills and whose economy was traditionally based on quarrying.

Both of these divisions lie within the marginal constituency of Vale of Clwyd, which is Tory at Westminster but was held by Labour in the Senedd election last month.  However, Denbigh Lower's local politics, as in much of rural Wales, is dominated by independents, with independent councillor John Bartley having a large personal vote.  Davies won his seat in 2012 gaining his seat from Plaid Cymru; he had a 74-vote majority over a third independent candidate.  Previous results for Dyserth suggest that it may be a better indicator of the national picture, with Labour having cut Peter Owen's majority to 51-38 in the 2012 election; Owen had a larger majority in 2008 and was unopposed (as an independent candidate) in 2004.

Both by-elections have attracted a large field.  In Denbigh Lower the defending independent candidate is Mark Young, a chocolatier, who was runner-up in 2012.  Plaid have selected Rhys Thomas.  Also standing are Gwyn Williams for the Lib Dems, Lara Pritchard for the Tories and John McGuire for Labour.  Dyserth will be defended for the Tories by community councillor Andy Hughes, who was the independent runner-up here in 2008; Labour have selected welfare rights manager Richard Jones-Abbas, and also standing are Heather Prydderch for the Lib Dems, independent community councillor Dave Parry, independent David Williams and Plaid's Janice Williams.

Denbigh Lower
Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Clwyd

May 2012 result Ind 977/579/505/204 PC 386 LD 138 C 1118
May 2008 result Ind 993 PC 664 C 471 Lab 261
June 2004 result PC 678 Ind 664/587/477

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Clwyd

May 2012 result C 369 Lab 275 LD 84
May 2008 result C 327 Ind 181 Lab 87 LD 58 PC 56
June 2004 result Ind unopposed

Thursday, 7 April 2016

By-election Preview: 7 April 2016

Three by-elections on 7th April 2016.  One covered on English Elections, one on Scottish Elections, and one below:

Caerphilly county borough council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Colin Durham, citing work commitments.  He had served on Caerphilly council since 2012.

View of Cwmfelinfach
For the last electoral test in Wales before the fifth Welsh Assembly elections in 2016, we are in the lower Sirhowy Valley between Blackwood and Risca.  Ynysddu itself is an early-nineteenth-century mining village typical of the Valleys, and probably best known as the home town of the singer Ricky Valance.  Also within the division are the villages of Cwmfelinfach, the site of Nine Mile Point colliery which saw South Wales' first sit-in industrial action; the twentieth-century village of Wyllie; and Wattsville which gave its name to a Manic Street Preachers song.  Overlooking the valley is the mountain of Mynyddislwyn which once gave its name to a parish covering the whole area as well as to one of the division's famous sons, the Welsh-language poet "Islwyn" (or William Thomas).

In more modern times Islwyn has given its name to a parliamentary constituency which sent Neil Kinnock to Parliament for many years.  Ynysddu's election results have been more mixed with its two Noughties elections being close fights between Labour and Plaid that saw the parties split the division's two seats.  Labour pulled away in the 2012 election to beat Plaid 61-33, both the outgoing councillors polling well ahead of their running-mates.

Defending for Labour is Wattsville resident Philippa Marsden, a member of the Unite national committee, vice-chair of the Islwyn branch of Labour and chair of Newport Harriers athletics club.  Marina Pritchard, the second Plaid candidate here in 2012, tries again.  Also standing are Matthew Kidner for the Lib Dems and Joe Smyth for UKIP.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Islwyn

May 2012 result Lab 719/559 PC 382/224 C 70/57
May 2008 result Lab 572/474 PC 552/411 C 144/99 Ind 112
June 2004 result PC 598/538 Lab 598/576

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

By-election Preview: 31 March 2016

Five by-elections on 31 March - three covered over on the English Elections blog, one on Scottish Elections, along with one in Wales covered below.

Caerphilly county borough council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Gina Bevan, who had served since 2012.

Moriah Street, Rhymney
The last two electoral tests in Wales before the Welsh Assembly elections in May are two local by-elections in the County Borough of Caerphilly.  We shall come back next week for the second one in Ynysddu division, but this week we are in Moriah, the south-eastern ward covering the town of Rhymney high up in the Valleys.  Moriah ward is on the east side of the valley covering much of Rhymney proper together with Abertysswg to the south, a turn-of-the-century village brought into existence by its pit, as with much of the Valleys.  With coalmining extinct in the Rhymney area all the usual problems exist, and Moriah is in the top 25 wards in the country for long-term sickness and disability (14% of the workforce).

The ward is as safe Labour as you might expect for an ex-coalmining area, and at the most recent local elections in 2012 Labour had 47% here to 28% for Plaid and 25% for an independent.

Defending for Labour is David Harse, the leader of Rhymney town council.  Despite their second place Plaid are not contesting this by-election; instead the opposition to Labour comes from independent candidates Peter Bailie and Mervyn Diggle, Nigel Godfrey who has somehow found ten people to nominate him as the Conservative candidate, and Ian Gorman of UKIP.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

May 2012 result Lab 698/543 PC 420 Ind 363
May 2008 result Lab 674/633 Ind 359
Sept 2007 by-election Lab 638 Ind 230
June 2004 result Lab 893/838 PC 273

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

By-election Preview: 18 February 2016

Nine by-elections on 18th February 2016, seven in England, one in Wales and one in Scotland.

Flintshire county council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Amanda Brigg on health grounds.  She was in her first term, having served since 2012.

St James' Church, New Brighton
There are a few New Brightons around the UK, but this is probably the most obscure: a small village just outside Mold on the road to Queensferry.  The division lies at the eastern end of the Mold bypass, and also extends over it to include part of Mynydd Isa, a post-war Buckley suburb.  The ward has a skilled working-class economic profile combined with a high number of retirees.

This is a safe Lib Dem ward, although of the type which tends to vote for the candidate rather than the party.  At the most recent Welsh local election in 2012 the Lib Dems had 45% here to 32% for Labour and 22% for the Tories.  In what's likely to be the last local by-election in North Wales before the Senedd election in May, all the parties will be looking to make a good impression.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Sara Parker, who back in the 1990s was the founding editor of Groove, a Liverpool music magazine; she now runs a community cafe in Mynydd Isa.  The Labour candidate is Linda Pierce, who will be hoping for an improvement on the 21% she polled here in 2004.  The Tories have selected Zulya Taylor, a foreign language teacher.  Also standing is independent candidate John Yorke.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Delyn

May 2012 result LD 469 Lab 334 C 229
May 2008 result LD 676 Ind 373 Lab 92
June 2004 result LD 913 Lab 240

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

By-election Preview: 16 December 2015

One by-election on Wednesday 16th December:

Conwy county borough council, North Wales
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Janet Howarth, who is now a member of the Senedd having taken over Antionette Sandbach's seat following Sandbach's election to Parliament in May.  Howarth had served on Conwy council since 2008, originally for the neighbouring Mostyn ward.

The name "Gogarth" refers to the Welsh name of the Great Orme, that huge limestone headland which dominates the North Welsh coast and the town of Llandudno.  The Great Orme has been populated for a very long time, with copper being mined here during the Bronze Age in workings that were first abandoned around 600 BC.  In mediaeval times the Bishop of Bangor had a palace on the Orme's south-west corner, although a combination of coastal erosion and Owain Glyndwr means that there isn't much of it left.  In Victorian times the town of Llandudno was created at the bottom of the Orme as a seaside resort, with a tramway (Britain's only remaining cable-hauled tramway) and now a cable car connecting the town to the summit, from which there are views as far away as the Lake District and the Isle of Man.

Beautiful as the Orme is, from a psephological perspective the interest lies in the town of Llandudno below it, of which this division is the northern part.  Here can be found part of the town centre along Mostyn Street, the West Parade, the North Parade and the Pier, together with an awful lot of hotels and guest houses.  This part of town has a decent Tory vote of around 30%, which is usually enough to win against divided opposition: not good news for Howarth the first time she fought the ward in 2004, when she was on the Lib Dem slate and came sixth.  In 2012 Tory councillor John Boyle stood down and Howarth did the chicken-run here from the neighbouring Mostyn ward, which is Labour-inclined, prompting the ward's other Tory councillor Margaret Lyon to stand as an independent: Lyon topped the poll with 31% to 27% for the Tories, 24% for Labour and 19% for Plaid Cymru.

Defending for the Tories in this interesting division is Harry Saville, who has recently graduated in International Politics from Aberystwyth and interns with Guto Bebb MP.  Mark Pavey, a heritage consultant, stands as an independent.  The Labour candidate is Llandudno town councillor Deborah Good.  Plaid's Greg Robbins will hope to improve on his sixth-placed finish last time.  Also standing is Roger Boon of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberconwy
ONS Travel to Work Area: Llandudno and Colwyn Bay

May 2012 result Ind 368/212 C 317/248 Lab 279/259 PC 220 Ind 212
May 2008 result C 454/444 Lab 259 PC 248/280 Ind 216 LD 131/92 Ind 107
June 2004 reult C 380/324 Lab 313/154 Ind 296 LD 189/176 Ind 164 Lab 154 Ind 82 Ind 70

Thursday, 26 November 2015

By-election Preview: 26 November 2015

Nine by-elections on 26th November 2015, five in England, two in Wales and two in Scotland.  In Wales an independent seat in Newport is up for election, as is a Llais Gwynedd seat in the Lleyn.  Your columnist hasn't had a lot of spare time this week, so some of these entries may be slightly abbreviated.

Newport city council
Caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Noel Trigg on health grounds.  Trigg, who is 81 years old, made his name in boxing, holding both Welsh and British titles at amateur level: after National Service in the South Wales Borderers and the Welch Regiment he turned professional and held the Welsh light-heavyweight title from 1956 to 1958, finishing his career with a record of 16 wins (8 by knockout) and 9 losses.  After retiring from boxing he worked as a publican and boxing trainer before entering politics in 1990, sitting on the former Gwent county council and Newport city council.  He served as Mayor of Newport in 2008-9.

One of the themes of this column is that every so often we come across somewhere which claims to be one of the largest housing estates in Europe. This week's claimant is Bettws, a 1960s estate to the north-west of Newport.  Fifty years on from its building, Bettws remains a resolutely working-class area with high levels of unemployment.

As in many working-class wards of south Wales, this is a Labour/Independent fight.  Noel Trigg was elected at the top of the Labour slate in 2004 and had a large personal vote, but his running-mates weren't far ahead of independent candidate Susan Baker.  Baker finished fourth again in 2008, this time as top of the Lib Dem slate, but Labour increased their majority in a poll which had to be postponed to June after one of the original candidates died.  Trigg left the Labour party at the end of his mayoral term in 2009 and was re-elected in 2012 as an independent, bringing with him a running-mate (Keith Whitehead) as Labour lost two seats - the only two seats they lost in Newport that year.

In the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election, one of the ballot boxes for Bettws reportedly had no votes at all.  Let's hope for better in this by-election.  Two independent candidates have come forward to succeed Trigg: they are Janet Cleverly and Jason Jordan.  Glyn Jarvis, the Labour councillors who lost his seat in 2012, is trying to get it back.  Also on the ballot are Paul l'Allier of the Lib Dems, Peter Varley of the Green Party and Lewis Williams of the Tories.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Newport West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newport and Cwmbran

May 2012 result Ind 840/779/534 Lab 616/594/584 Christian Party 158
June 2008 postponed poll Lab 1128/890/789 LD 586/451/408 C 331/260 PC 75/49 Ind 50/40

June 2004 result Lab 1150/754/660 Ind 539/483 C 178 LD 159 PC 156

Gwynedd council
Caused by the death at the age of 66 of Llais Gwynedd councillor Bob Wright, who had served on Gwynedd council since 2008.  A former Dwyfor district councillor (before that council's abolition in 1995) who owned a vehicle repair company, Wright received an MBE in 2008 for nearly forty years' service as a volunteer with the RNLI.  He is believed to have suffered a heart attack while on the Pwllheli lifeboat coming to the aid of a stranded yacht.

Welcome to Pwllheli, the main town and railhead of the Lleyn peninsula, a tourist and sailing centre - if the Manchester bid for the 2000 Olympic Games had gone through, this is where the sailing would have been.  The Pwllheli South ward is based on the promenade, a long, sandy and popular beach with housing mostly developed in the 1890s when the town was expanded.

Pwllheli is the birthplace of Plaid Cymru, but Plaid haven't been doing well here of late: they lost the ward in 2008 to Llais Gwynedd, an anti-Plaid localist party.  Llais held the seat at the most recent election in 2012 by 60-40 in a straight fight with Plaid.

Defending for Llais Gwynedd is tanning salon owner Peta Pollitt, who is up against Alan Williams, the Plaid councillor who lost his seat in 2008 and tried to get back in 2012.  Also on the ballot are independent candidates Michael Parry and

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Dwyfor Meirionnydd
ONS Travel to Work Area: Pwllheli

May 2012 result LlG 374 PC 252
May 2008 result LlG 369 PC 211 C 187
June 2004 result PC unopposed