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

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