Monday, 11 July 2016

By-election Previews: 14 July 2016

Ten local by-election this week.  Two covered here, six over on the English Elections blog, and another two on the Cornish Elections blog.

Gwynedd council
Caused respectively by the resignations of independent councillor Chris O'Neal and Plaid Cymru councillor Si├ón Gwenllian.  O'Neal, who has served since 2012, resigned after pleading guilty to assaulting an employee of the taxi firm he formerly ran; he also spent part of last year in court being cleared of a blackmail charge.  Gwenllian was first elected in 2008, and is moving on to bigger things after being elected as Plaid Cymru AM for Arfon in this year's Senedd election.

Penrhyn Avenue, Maesgeirchen
North Wales is having a bumper crop of by-elections this month, with a poll in Llandudno last week and a third Gwynedd poll coming up next week.  Marchog division consists entirely of Maesgeirchen, a huge isolated 1930s-era council estate cut off from the city of Bangor by Bangor Mountain.  57% of the households are still socially rented - one of the top 40 figures in England and Wales - and the demographic indicators are as bad as you'd expect from an isolated council estate, with only 28% of the workforce in full-time employment and high scores in every other category for economic activity except "self-employed" and "retired".

Doing better is Y Felinheli, a village on the south bank of the Menai and historically a port; in 1825 a narrow-gauge railway opened connecting the village with the Dinorwic slate quarry in Llanberis, and readers of a certain age might know the village better under the name of Port Dinorwic.  During the Second World War Y Felinheli was a centre for building landing craft, and its harbour is still in use today for pleasure boating and sailing. The village's location midway between Bangor and Caernarfon means there is commuting to both towns, and a number of Bangor University students live here.

Gwenllian never faced a contested election in her eight years on Gwynedd council, having been unopposed in 2008 and 2012.  The last contested election in Y Felinheli was in 2004 with Labour narrowly beating an independent candidate.  Marchog's representation had a clearout in 2012, with the previous Labour and Independent councillors losing their seats to two new independent councillors.

Both by-elections are straight fights.  In Marchog the defending independent candidate Dylan Fernley is challenged by Labour's Luke Tugwell; both candidates give addresses on the estate.  In Y Felinheli the new Plaid candidate is Gareth Griffith, who is opposed by Bangor-based Conservative candidate Andrew Kinsman.

May 2012 result Ind 365/248/76 Lab 218/143
May 2008 result Lab 247/184 Ind 202
June 2004 result Lab 324/172 Ind 303

Y Felinheli
May 2012 result PC unopposed
May 2008 result PC unopposed
June 2004 result Lab 384 Ind 354

Thursday, 7 July 2016

By-election Preview: 7 July 2016

Three local by-elections this week.  One covered here and two over on the English Elections blog.

Conwy county borough council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Jobi Hold.  Hold has been unable to attend meetings of the council due to his job captaining a boat in the oil and gas industry; when on dry land he is now living in Cornwall.

Mostyn Street, Llandudno
It's July, the weather's nice, so let's go to the seaside. Specifically, we're in Llandudno, a town on the North Wales coast which has a long history (there are Bronze Age copper mines on the Great Orme above the town) but whose development really began in earnest in the mid-nineteenth century under the auspices of the landowner, Lord Mostyn.  A major storm in 1859 which damaged the town's pier put paid to early ideas of turning Llandudno into a major Irish Sea port; instead the town developed as a seaside resort and its connection to the railway network in 1858 ensured the town has been filled with holidaymakers ever since. Many people (including your columnist) come for the Victorian weekend each May, in which Mostyn Street - the town's main shopping street, just behind the North Promenade - is turned into a funfair.  The Mostyn family have left their mark on the town in other ways: Oriel Mostyn, endowed by one of the family, is one of the UK's leading galleries of contemporary art; and the present Lord Mostyn, who still owns much of the town, was reported in 2013 to be the 13th-richest person in the UK under the age of 30 (he's over 30 now).

Mostyn's demographics aren't particularly notable, although the workforce tends towards the lower end of the class scale.  This makes it the strongest of Llandudno's five divisions for Labour, although Labour only ran one candidate here in the 2012 election: Jobi Hold topped the poll with around 45%, a long way ahead of a tight three-way race for the other seat which was won by independent candidate Dewi Miles on 26%, seven votes ahead of the leading Conservative candidate and fifteen votes ahead of independent Janet Jones.  Miles gained a Tory seat previously held by Janet Howarth, who had moved to another Conwy division and later briefly served on the Welsh Assembly, losing her seat to UKIP in May's election.

Defending for Labour is Emily Owen, a Bangor University student who works for a local estate agent and spent part of last week completing the Three Peaks challenge, climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis for the benefit of a dog rescue charity.  There are two competing independent candidates, Richard "The Lion" Enston and John Thomas.  The Tory candidate is Greg Robbins, a Llandudno town councillor (and Mayor of Llandudno in 2011-12) who has recently defected to the party from Plaid Cymru.  Also standing are Penelope Appleton for the Lib Dems and John Humberstone, who stood here as an independent in 2012 and came eighth out of nine candidates, for UKIP.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberconwy

May 2012 result Lab 436 Ind 250 C 243/199 Ind 235 LD 131 Ind 72 Ind 38 Ind 33
May 2008 result Lab 331/277 C 304/275 Ind 182 Ind 173 PC 147
June 2004 result Lab 505/504 Ind 224 LD 187/155 Ind 170 C 157/130

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