Wednesday, 4 December 2013

By-election Previews: 5 December 2013

There are eight by-elections this week.  Five are covered over on the English Elections blog, while Labour have a seat to defend in Glasgow, covered on the Scottish Elections blog.  Meanwhile in Wales, there are two seats up for grabs on Cardiff City Council.

Cardiff City Council; caused by the resignations of Labour councillors Phil Hawkins and Luke Holland respectively.

Wilson Street, Splott
  © Copyright Linda Bailey and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Two by-elections in the capital city of Wales.  The Riverside division lies across the River Taff from the Millennium Stadium and Cathays Park.  Much of the actual riverside forms the park of Sophia Gardens, home to Glamorgan cricket club's Test ground, the SWALEC Stadium.  This is an interesting mix of areas; Riverside proper at the south end is an ethnic enclave with large Bangladeshi and Chinese populations, while Pontcanna to the north is a leafy area favoured by the Welsh arts and media establishment (the so-called "crachach") and was once a broadcasting centre for HTV and S4C.

There are also broadcasting links with Splott, the place of birth of the Today and Mastermind presenter John Humphreys and the BBC Radio 2 traffic reporter Lynn Bowles.  South-east of the city centre, Splott was a steelworking centre created by the industrial revolution, and even today almost the entire housing stock is late-Victorian terracing.  The Splott division also includes the severely deprived Tremorfa area, further out of town.

These two divisions have very difficult political complexions.  Splott is a Labour versus Lib Dem battle, the Lib Dems' share of the three seats having fallen from two in 2004 and one in 2008 to nought as a result of the 2012 election, although their vote did not collapse utterly and they are still the clear challengers to Labour in the division.  Riverside, on the other hand, is a Labour versus Plaid battle: the three seats there split 2-1 in Plaid's favour in 2004.  Plaid gained the Labour seat in 2008 but then the tide turned, Labour easily winning a March 2011 by-election and gaining the other two seats in 2012.

Riverside's defending Labour candidate is PCS officer Darren Williams, who got into trouble earlier this year for suggesting on Facebook that Tony Blair should share Margaret Thatcher's coffin.  His main opposition will come from Plaid's Elizabeth Gould.  Aled Crow stands for the Conservatives, Sian Donne for the Lib Dems, Joel Beer for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Simon Zeigler for UKIP, fighting the ward for the first time.

In Splott a major election issue appears to be the proposed closure of the local swimming pool.  The defending Labour candidate is Edward Stubbs, whose main opposition will come from the Lib Dems' Jamie Matthews, a disability charity worker.  The Tories have selected Daniel Mason and Katrine Williams stands for TUSC.  Independent Elys John and UKIP's Brian Morris complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff West
Assembly electoral region: South Wales Central
Postcode district: CF11

Joel Beer (TUSC)
Aled Crow (C)
Sian Donne (LD)
Elizabeth Gould (PC)
Darren Williams (Lab)
Simon Zeigler (UKIP)

May 2012 result Lab 1731/1555/1431 PC 1153/944/940 Grn 294/272/189 C 286/276/263 LD 142/129/122 TUSC 99
March 2011 by-election Lab 1700 PC 1099 C 369 Grn 277 LD 187
May 2008 result PC 1064/1064/991 Lab 786/743/707 C 295/209/206 LD 280/250/235
June 2004 result PC 1448/1408/1248 Lab 1280/1135/1092 LD 693/658/561 Grn 605 C 465

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff South and Penarth
Assembly electoral region: South Wales Central
Postcode district: CF24

Elys John (Ind)
Daniel Mason (C)
Jamie Matthews (LD)
Brian Morris (UKIP)
Edward Stubbs (Lab)
Katrine Williams (TUSC)

May 2012 result Lab 1686/1624/1432 LD 1055/805/775 PC 250/197/167 Grn 157 C 151/137/130 Comm 117 TUSC 105
May 2008 result LD 1490/1211/1149 Lab 1485/1350/1215 C 373/329/292 PC 275/231/212 Comm 127
June 2004 result LD 1474/1215/1181 Lab 1199/1104/1000 Cardiff Citizens 309 Grn 270 C 238/224 PC 207/193/168 ProLife Alliance 134 Socialist Alternative 76/57/52 Comm 56

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

By-Election Preview: 31 October 2013

Only one by-election on Hallowe'en 2013, in Newport.

Newport City Council, Gwent; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ron Jones at the age of 78 after nearly fifty years of almost continuous service as a Newport councillor.

Commercial Road, Newport
  © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
More or less immediately to the south of Newport city centre, Pillgwenlly is Newport's docklands ward and its history and demography has been shaped by the docks.  Legend has it that the name came from the Welsh "Pwll Gwynllyw" ("St Gwynllyw's harbour), Gwynllyw originally being a pirate who was based here.  The development of the docks in Victorian times led to a large amount of immigration, first from England and Ireland, then later from all over the world: the result of this immigration is that Pillgwenlly is now one of the most ethnically diverse wards in Wales.  At the 2011 census 22% of the population were Asian and 6% Black, very high figures in a Welsh context.  Several bridges connect Pill with the eastern bank of the Usk, including the Newport Transporter Bridge, the oldest and largest of the UK's transporter bridges and a symbol of the city.

Ward affected by docks votes Labour!  There's a surprise.  In truth this ward hasn't always been safe for Labour, particularly in the 2008 election when all four of the Welsh parties polled decently here; the fourth-placed Lib Dems were only 130 votes behind the two winning Labour candidates.  The even split in the opposition allowed Labour to hold on that year, and the 2012 result shows a ward which is now very safe for the party. 

A Hallowe'en by-election is a psephological treat.  So where's the trick?  Well, dirty tricks have been provided in abundance by what proved to be a very messy Labour selection: the originally selected candidate, former miner Chris Herriot, was dropped after a video emerged on the internet in which Herriot said he'd be prepared to dance on Margaret Thatcher's grave.  The replacement Labour candidate is Omar Ali, a community worker from the local Somali population.  The Tories have reselected their usual candidate for the ward, convenience store owner Zafar "Tony" Ismail, and Plaid Cymru have followed suit in reselecting local resident and regular candidate Khalilur Rahman.  Completing the ballot paper is the Lib Dem candidate, former minister Paul Halliday who runs a computer repair business in the city.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Newport West (South West Wales region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newport and Cwmbran

Omar Ali (Lab)
Paul Haliday (LD)
Tony Ismail (C)
Khalilur Rahman (PC)

May 2012 result Lab 756/703 C 306 PC 277 LD 150/71
May 2008 result Lab 466/464 C 377/327 PC 375/346 LD 331/278
June 2004 result Lab 673/582 PC 498 Ind 294 LD 233

Monday, 14 October 2013

By-Election Preview: 17 October 2013

Six by-elections will be held on 17th October.  Five contests are covered on the English Elections blog, while Labour are on the defensive in a Port Talbot by-election with several bizarre features.

Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, West Glamorgan; caused by the death of long-serving Labour councillor Collin Crowley.  Crowley had been a councillor for more than forty years, starting in 1972 on the old Port Talbot borough council; he spent most of his working life with British Steel after serving in the Merchant Navy.

Housing estates of Aberavon
  © Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
You might have thought that a rather depressed council estate built on sand dunes behind the Port Talbot seafront wouldn't have many interesting features.  You'd be wrong: in fact this column could turn into an episode of Ripley's Believe it or Not if I'm not careful.

First up, we have the south-west facing Aberavon Beach, once a traditional seaside resort for the population of the Valleys.  Draw a straight line from the beach in the right direction and the first land you hit is in Brazil; with the entire Atlantic ocean to generate waves Aberavon Beach is very popular with Wales' surfers.  For swimmers of a gentler disposition there was the Afan Lido, a leisure centre on the seafront which also hosted a gym and a concert hall until it was destroyed by fire at the end of 2009; Neath Port Talbot council recently gave planning permission for a replacement.  One part of the complex which survived the fire is the home ground of the Welsh premier league football side Afan Lido FC.  Other attempts to prettify the promenade include the "Kite Trail" sculpture by Andrew Rowe, which is claimed to be the largest sculpture in Wales.

Interesting though all these things are, we should attempt to get back on topic and consider the ward itself, the housing estate behind the seafront, which was built in the 1950s to house workers at Port Talbot steelworks and their families.  The first seriously bizarre thing about the ward is its boundary: the ward has a detached part.  This detached part is a roughly circular area less than twenty metres across on land within Port Talbot Docks.  This is private land but essentially empty, with nothing today in the detached part of the ward but grass.  Old maps fail to shed any light on why this detached part exists.  With an area of 0.094 hectares (less than a quarter of an acre) this is the smallest electoral unit in the United Kingdom, or it would be if it was populated.

While the populated part of Sandfields East ward does have the strong Labour vote you might expect from a depressed estate in a place like Port Talbot, this isn't enough for Labour to sweep the board at election time due to the presence of popular and long-serving Independent councillor Lella James, who has topped the poll at every contest in this ward since the turn of the century.  Normally finishing at the other end of the ward's contests (although he did beat an independent candidate in the 2012 election) is the other seriously bizarre thing about this ward, eccentric charity fundraiser and baked bean museum curator Captain Beany ("from the Planet Beanus"), who has been appearing on the area's ballot papers for the last two decades with his one-man "New Millennium Bean Party". 

Mike Davies, defending for Labour, is probably favourite to win to the by-election.  Captain Beany, having wound up the New Millennium Bean Party, will fight his 22nd election campaign as candidate of the Port Talbot Residents Association, fresh from pushing a vacuum cleaner around the Cardiff Half-Marathon course earlier this month in a time of just over four hours; this time he appears on the ballot paper under his real name, Barry Kirk.  Also on the ballot paper are representatives of three parties who have not previously contested the ward: Richard Minshull for the Conservatives, Keith Suter for UKIP (whose record against Beany in this area is played 1, lost 1) and Daniel Thomas for Plaid.

Believe It or Not.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberavon
Assembly electoral region: South Wales West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Bay

Mike Davies (Lab)
Barry Kirk (Port Talbot Res Assoc)
Richard Minshull (C)
Keith Suter (UKIP)
Daniel Thomas (PC)

May 2012 result Ind 1116/622 Lab 1041/879/750 Neath Port Talbot Ind 669
May 2008 result Ind 1251 Lab 921/912/609 Neath Port Talbot Res Assoc 520/472 New Millennium Bean Party 369
June 2004 result Ind 1478 Lab 1010/900/819 New Millennium Bean Party 522

Thursday, 11 July 2013

By-Election Preview: 11 July 2013

We are aware of four by-elections on 11th July.  Three English by-elections are covered on the English Elections blog.  Meanwhile, the Conservatives are on the defensive in Snowdonia.

Conwy County Borough Council, North Wales; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Roberts.

Cottages, Llanbedr-y-cennin
  © Copyright Jonathan Wilkins and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Sometimes your columnist takes advantage of good visibility to climb Winter Hill, near Bolton.  From the summit of Winter Hill four national parks can be seen, including a rather distant Snowdonia to the west-south-west.  Peering through the wind turbines of North Hoyle, off Prestatyn, first the Great Orme can be seen looming out of the Irish Sea, then there is a gap to the left of it before the horizon starts to climb to a series of peaks - the Carneddau.  Snowdon can be seen to the left of the Carneddau, but appears lower down because of its greater distance, so the highest point on the horizon is Snowdonia's second-highest point, the 3495-foot Carnedd Llewelyn. 

Llewelyn's summit lies at the western corner of the Caerhun electoral division, whose western boundary runs north along the ridge of the Carneddau all the way to the outskirts of Conwy.  All of this is, of course, within the Snowdonia National Park.  However, these heights are not settled and the division's population can be found in a series of villages on the western side of the Conwy estuary, from Henryd in the north to Tal-y-bont in the south.  Settlement in this area goes back a long way: the Caer in Caerhûn refers to a fort, and that fort is the Roman fort of Canovium, established around AD 75 to control a crossing of the River Conwy.

Rural Wales is the sort of area where the candidate matters more than the party, and Caerhun division was for many years the personal fiefdom of independent councillor Goronwy Edwards, a former leader of Conwy council.  However, that only applied up until 2012 when he lost his seat to the Conservatives, who had not previously contested the division, by just six votes.

The defending Conservative candidate in the by-election is Neil Bradshaw, a sales representative from Tal-y-bont.  His main opposition will come from Henryd-based Goronwy Edwards, who wants his seat back.  Plaid Cymru have nominated Pered Morris, who gives an address in the Llanrwst area, and the Labour candidate is Siân Peake-Jones, from the hamlet of Rowen at the centre of the division.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberconwy
Assembly electoral region: North Wales
ONS Travel to Work Area: Llandudno and Colwyn Bay

Neil Bradshaw (C)
Goronwy Edwards (Ind)
Pered Morris (PC)
Siân Peake-Jones (Lab)

May 2012 result C 352 Ind 346 PC 168
May 2008 result Ind 492 LD 289
June 2004 result Ind 675 Lab 234

Monday, 8 July 2013

By-Election Result: 4 July 2013

Labour easily held this suburban Swansea ward with no real pressure from any of the other parties.  The Lib Dems only narrowly avoided embarassment, only five votes ahead of the National Front.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

By-Election Preview: 4 July 2013

There are five by-elections on 4 July 2013 with both the major parties in action.  The Conservatives and Labour are both defending seats in England, covered on the English Elections blog.  Meanwhile, Labour has a safe seat to defend in Swansea.

Swansea City Council; caused by the death of the Lord Mayor of Swansea Dennis James at the age of 68, from pancreatic cancer.  First elected to Llansamlet division in 1985, James, a Labour councillor, spent his working life in the construction industry and had a degree in civil engineering from Swansea University.

Bryn Teg
  © Copyright Burgess Von Thunen and licensed
for reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Centred on junction 44 of the M4 motorway, this is a suburban ward to the north-east of Swansea, containing the communities of Llansamlet (south of the motorway) and Birchgrove (north of the motorway).  Llansamlet was a coal-mining area originally, but in 1981 much of the former mining property was designated as the UK's first enterprise zone and has now been extensively redeveloped into Swansea Enterprise Park, Swansea's largest out-of-town shopping area and a major centre for local employment; Morgan Crucible, the Land Registry and Welsh Water are major employers here.  Llansamlet also has a railway station, with trains every two hours to Swansea and Cardiff (no Sunday service).

One of the few remaining four-seat wards in Wales, from 2004 to 2012 the Labour Party held three of the four seats with the fourth going to independent councillor June Evans, who topped the poll at the 2004 election but lost her seat heavily in 2012.  The Liberal Democrats came quite close in a July 2007 by-election, the Swansea East constituency being a target for them at the time, but that was the closest Labour have come to losing this ward to another party.

It's unusual for local by-election candidates to have their own Wikipedia pages, but such is the case for the defending Labour candidate Bob Clay, who was the MP for Sunderland North between 1983 and 1992.  Labour have presumably forgiven Clay, who will join his wife as a ward councillor if elected, for being election agent to Reg Keys in his run against Tony Blair at the 2005 general election.  The Tories are running James Hatton, deputy chairman of Swansea East Conservatives, while the Lib Dems have selected party staffer Samuel Rees.  The ballot paper is completed by Claire Thomas, standing for the National Front.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Swansea East
Assembly region: South Wales West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Bay

Robert Clay (Lab)
James Hatton (C)
Samuel Rees (LD)
Claire Thomas (NF)

May 2012 result Lab 2185/2154/2051/1971 Ind 952 C 354/335/328
May 2008 result Lab 1119/1109/919/877 Ind 912/753/722 BNP 635 PC 616 C 520/511/475/361 LD 411/379
July 2007 by-election Lab 769 LD 581 C 283 BNP 226 Ind 221
June 2004 result Ind 1176 Lab 1063/1062/975/939 PC 770 LD 598 C 566/509/504

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

By-Election Preview: 11 April 2013

More by-election fun this week with three by-elections including a rare Wednesday poll.  Over on the English Elections blog, the Liberal Democrats will hope to get their by-election machine airborne in Luton on Wednesday, while Thursday sees Labour defending a safe ward in Darlington together with a much more unpredictable contest in a previously Independent ward in Pembrokeshire.

Pembrokeshire County Council; caused by the resignation of Independent councillor David Wildman, the cabinet member for adult services and care, who is moving to Wiltshire.

Church at Burton
  © Copyright Colin Bell and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Not to be confused with the famous brewing town in England, the Burton ward of Pembrokeshire covers the rural area to the east and north of Neyland on the north bank of the Cleddau estuary: Benton itself, Rosemarket and associated hamlets.  The eastern end of the ward is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park around the thirteenth-century Benton Castle.  There was once a ferry service connecting the ward with the town of Pembroke Dock on the opposite side of the estuary, but this was replaced in the 1970s by the sleek Cleddau Bridge (although not before the bridge collapsed during construction).

Pembrokeshire is a funny place electorally, dominated by Independents who are often, in practice, anything but, and with lots of wards left uncontested.  Wildman had been a county councillor since 1999 (originally as a Conservative) but last faced a contested election in 2004, when he beat a Liberal Democrat candidate by more than 5 to 1.

Two Independent candidates will battle to replace Wildman.  Jon Harvey, from Pembroke, is campaigning against the current Independent-led administration of the council, while Rob Summons, from Rosemarket, has been endorsed by Wildman.  Also standing are Robin Howells, from the village of Hill Mountain near Burton, for Labour, while Robin Wilson, from just outside the ward in Llangwm, is the Conservative candidate.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Preseli Pembrokeshire
Assembly electoral region: Mid and West Wales
ONS Travel to Work Area: Haverfordwest and Fishguard

May 2012 result Ind unopposed
May 2008 result Ind unopposed
June 2004 result Ind 620 LD 117

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

How Welsh MPs Voted on Same Sex Marriage

The House of Commons yesterday voted by 400 to 175 in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading.

In Wales:

  • 29 MPs voted Yes (72.5%)
  • 10 MPs voted No (25%)
  • 1 MP didn't vote (2.5%)

The following list is how Welsh MPs voted in that division.

Guto BebbConservativeAberconwyNo
Kevin BrennanLabourCardiff WestYes
Chris BryantLabourRhonddaYes
Alun CairnsConservativeVale of GlamorganNo
Martin CatonLabourGowerYes
Ann ClwydLabourCynon ValleyYes
Stephen CrabbConservativePreseli PembrokeshireNo
Wayne DavidLabourCaerphillyYes
David DaviesConservativeMonmouthNo
Geraint DaviesLabourSwansea WestYes
Glyn DaviesConservativeMontgomeryshireNo
Stephen DoughtyLabourCardiff South and PenarthYes
Jonathan EdwardsPlaid CymruCarmarthen East and DinefwrYes
Chris EvansLabourIslwynYes
Jonathan EvansConservativeCardiff NorthNo
Hywel FrancisLabourAberavonYes
Paul FlynnLabourNewport WestYes
Nia GriffithLabourLlanelliYes
Peter HainLabourNeathYes
David HansonLabourDelynYes
Simon HartConservativeCarmarthen West and South PembrokeshireNo
Dai HavardLabourMerthyr Tydfil and RhymneyNo
Huw Irranca-DaviesLabourOgmoreYes
Sian JamesLabourSwansea EastYes
David JonesConservativeClwyd WestNo
Susan JonesLabourClwyd SouthYes
Elfyn LlwydPlaid CymruDwyfor MeirionnyddYes
Ian LucasLabourWrexhamYes
Madeleine MoonLabourBridgendYes
Jessica MordenLabourNewport EastYes
Paul MurphyLabourTorfaenNo
Albert OwenLabourYnys MônYes
Chris RuaneLabourVale of ClwydYes
Nick SmithLabourBlaenau GwentYes
Owen SmithLabourPontypriddYes
Mark TamiLabourAlyn and DeesideYes
Hywel WilliamsPlaid CymruArfonYes
Mark WilliamsLib DemsCeredigionYes
Roger WilliamsLib DemsBrecon and RadnorshireYes
Jenny WillottLib DemsCardiff CentralDidn't Vote

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

By-Election Preview: 31 January 2013

There are two by-elections on Thursday 31st January to round off the month.  One is in the West Midlands and will be dealt with on the English Elections blog; the other is in a safe Labour ward just north of Bridgend.

Bridgend County Borough Council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Labour councillor Pat Penpraze at the age of 69.  Cllr Penpraze had worked as a psychiatric nurse and Unison shop steward, and was first elected to Bridgend council in 2008 after serving for several years on St Brides Minor community council.

A4061 looking north in Bryncoch
  © Copyright Colin Pyle and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is one of those tiny wards that Wales specialises in.  Bryncoch ward is effectively the eastern half of the larger village of Sarn, described as a large housing estate just north of the M4 motorway.  The village's largest employer these days is probably the McArthur Glen designer outlet on the other side of the motorway, a shopping centre specialising in designer brands at discount prices, together with the Sarn Park motorway service area.  Sarn, together with Bryncethin to the north-east, forms the St Brides Minor community.

As stated, Pat Penpraze was first elected to the ward in 2008 after trying unsuccessfully in 2004, losing out by 101 votes to independent councillor Les Phillips; she got her own back in 2008, defeating Phillips by a similar margin thanks to a split in the independent vote.  In 2012 Penpraze faced only token opposition from the Lib Dems and won by almost three to one.

For the by-election Labour have selected Janice Lewis, who is another of the St Brides Minor community councillors for this ward.  Anita Davies is having a go for the Liberal Democrats; she is a Pendre community councillor and was runner-up in last year's county borough election in Pendre ward.  Tim Thomas, who fought Morfa ward in 2012, has been nominated for Plaid Cymru, while two independent candidates are standing, Shawn Cullen and Michael Quick (who stood last year in Brackla ward).

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Ogmore
Assembly electoral region: South Wales West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridgend

Shawn Cullen (Ind)
Anita Davies (LD) (
Janice Lewis (Lab)
Michael Quick (Ind)
Tim Thomas (PC) (@TimThomasPlaid)

May 2012 result Lab 313 LD 109
May 2008 result Lab 258 Ind 151/123
June 2004 result Ind 278 Lab 177 LD 78