Wednesday, 10 December 2014

By-election Preview: 11th December 2014

With eleven by-elections to cover this week, there is a certain lack of detail in this week's previews.  Welsh Elections takes us to rural Carmarthenshire...

Carmarthenshire county council
Caused by the resignation of independent councillor Dai Thomas, who has represented the area in local government for over fifty years, on health grounds.

Road South West out of Trelech
This deeply rural division is in western Carmarthenshire, generally to the west and north-west of Carmarthen.  Trelech itself lies about ten miles north-west of Carmarthen, and the division runs south from there along the B4299 road to the village of Meidrim, which according to the notice of poll is actually the ward's largest settlement (although only 496 electors are registered there).  It's strongly Welsh-speaking, and did I say deeply rural earlier?

Dai Thomas - "Dai Trelech" as he was known locally - had been the councillor here for an extremely long time, certainly since before the reorganisation of 1974 when Carmarthen Rural District was the local authority.  He was 90 years old at the time of his resignation, and had faced contested elections for his last two terms: at the most recent poll in 2012 he beat Plaid by 50%-34%.

Carmarthenshire council is run by a Labour/Independent coalition, and for the by-election the independent group have nominated Hugh Phillips, from Cwmbach, one of the scattered villages within the division.  Plaid will stand Jean Lewis, from Meidrim, and the Lib Dem candidate is Selwyn Runnett, also from Meidrim.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Mid and West Wales region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Carmarthen and Llandovery

Jean Lewis (PC)
Hugh Phillips (Ind)
Selwyn Runnett (LD)

May 2012 result Ind 471 PC 321 LD 133
May 2008 result Ind 655 PC 305

June 2004 result Ind unopposed

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

By-election Preview: 20 November 2014

There is one Welsh local by-election taking place this week, covered below, along with the Rochester and Strood parliamentary by-election and two other local by-elections in England covered over on the English Elections blog.

Swansea city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Pearleen Sangha following criticism over her attendance.

The Grove, Uplands
This ward lies immediately to the west of Swansea city centre, covering the Uplands area to north and Brynmill on the seafront.  Uplands' Wikipedia entry paints a picture of a bohemian place; Dylan Thomas was born here and other past famous residents include Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis and (er) Michael Heseltine.  Brynmill, on the seafront, has a similar profile but also large numbers of students at Swansea University.

As befits this profile, this four-member ward (there were 23 candidates here in the 2004 election!) was safe Lib Dem during the Noughties, with local Lib Dem leader Peter May finishing at the top of the slate.  May was the Parliamentary candidate for the local seat (Swansea West) in 2010 and finished just 504 votes behind Labour.  Labour gained all four seats in the ward in 2012, but the majority of the fourth Labour candidate over Peter May (who again was at the top of the Lib Dem slate) was just ten votes.

Fran Griffiths is the defending Labour candidate.  The Lib Dems have selected Janet Thomas, one of the four councillors here who lost their seats in May.  Ashley Wakeling will fight the ward for the Greens, who usually perform relatively well here, and Josh Allard for the Conservatives.  Also on the ballot paper are Pat Dwan for the "Independents @ Swansea" group, Rhydian Fitter for Plaid, Ronnie Job for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and, interestingly, Peter May as an independent candidate.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Swansea West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Bay

Josh Allard (C)
Pat Dwan (I@S)
Rhydian Fitter (PC)
Fran Griffiths (Lab)
Ronnie Job (TUSC)
Peter May (Ind)
Janet Thomas (LD)
Ashley Wakeling (Grn)

May 2012 result Lab 1302/1207/1161/1099 LD 1089/975/812/782 Grn 614/465 C 319/313/306/301
May 2008 result LD 1828/1706/1495/1488 Lab 817/792/765/729 C 593/500/472/403 Grn 561/391/346 PC 404 Ind 275/236/165/107
June 2004 result LD 1383/1354/1230/1120 Lab 769/710/692/676 Ind 649 Grn 616/463/376/352 Swansea Ind Alliance 600/493/482 C 507/472 PC 440/436/419/414 Democratic Alliance 83

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

By-election Preview: 30 October 2014

As well as the by-election below, there are five other by-elections taking place this week.  The Police and Crime Commissioner by-election in South Yorkshire along with three other local by-elections are covered over on the English Elections Blog, while one more local by-election is featured on the Scottish Elections blog.

Neath Port Talbot county borough council, Glamorgan
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Mike Davies.  Davies had been a councillor for less than a year, having been elected at a by-election in Octoer 2013.

Housing Estates of Aberavon
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; a replacement is under construction.  One part of the complex which survived the fire is the home ground of the football side Afan Lido FC, who were relegated from the Welsh Premier League last season.  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 ordinary election 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, originally with his one-man "New Millennium Bean Party", then going serious as the candidate of the Neath Port Talbot Residents Association.  In that role Beany - under his real name of Barry Kirk - finished as
 runner-up in last year's by-election, although a wider opposition field meant his percentage score was much reduced.

This time the defending Labour candidate is Matthew Crowley, the son of former Labour councillor Collin Crowley whose death caused last year's by-election.  He faces opposition from two candidates who also appeared in last year's by-election: Keith Suter of UKIP, who must be relieved that Beany isn't here to beat him for a third time, and the Tories' Richard Minshull.

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)

Oct 2013 by-election Lab 718 Neath Port Talbot Res Assoc 222 UKIP 154 PC 69 C 40
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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

By-election Preview: 16 October 2014

Ten local by-elections are taking place on 16 October 2014.  One Welsh Conservative defence is covered here, while the rest will be covered over on the English Elections blog.

Conwy county borough council, North Wales
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor William Knightly at the age of 70, from motor neurone disease.  A former Mayor of Conwy, he was leader of the Conservative group on Conwy council, and shortly before his death was appointed MBE in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to the community in Conwy.  Away from politics, he ran Towyn's funfair and amusement park.

Towyn Funfair
A few weeks back this column covered a by-election in Abergele Pensarn division; this week we move immediately to the east along the North Wales coast to the tiny seaside resort of Towyn.  The only game in town here is tourism, and the demographic is similar to Abergele Pensarn: elderly and English.  In that context, it's surprising that there's no UKIP candidate; the purple party weren't far off winning in Abergele Pensarn.

This division has been safe Tory at each election this century; Knightly was unopposed at his last re-election in 2012.

There will still be a Knightly on the ballot paper in the shape of Laura Knightly, who looks young enough to be William's granddaughter; she worked in the City for a while before moving back to North Wales after being selected as PPC for the Flintshire constituency of Alyn and Deeside.  A crowded field contains four independent candidates: in alphabetical order they are Geoff Corry, Barry Griffiths, David Johnson and Michael Smith.  Labour's Beverley Pickard-Jones completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Clwyd West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rhyl and Denbigh

Geoff Corry (Ind)
Barry Griffiths (Ind)
David Johnson (Ind)
Laura Knightly (C)
Beverley Pickard-Jones (Lab)
Michael Smith (Ind)

May 2012 result C unopposed
May 2008 result C 411 Ind 120 Alliance for Green Socialism 101 BNP 60
June 2004 result C 430 Lab 256 BNP 68

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

By-election preview: 2 October 2014

There are six by-elections on 2nd October.  Five are covered over on the English Elections blog here.  The week's final poll, a Labour defence in the Cardiff suburbs, is previewed below.

Cardiff city council, Glamorgan
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Siobhan Corria, over "culture, attitude and sexism" within the Labour Party.  Corria, who was in her first term on the council, had served for seven months as cabinet member for children's services but stood down from that role in February 2014 after starting a new job.

Lydstep Flats, Gabalfa
This division is in north-western Cardiff, on the opposite bank of the River Taff to Llandaff proper.  Demographically it's an area of two halves; the inner half is the Gabalfa council estate, while the outer half (close to Llandaff railway station) is a more middle-class area.  The division's Wikipedia page contains an interesting conspiracy theory as to how this arrangement came about.

In the 2004 and 2008 elections the division was a closely-fought Lib Dem/Labour battle; the parties split the two seats between them in 2004, while the Lib Dems won both seats in 2008 with 41% to 32% for Labour.  Labour easily gained both seats in the ward at the 2012 election; interestingly the Lib Dems crashed to third behind a new slate of "Llandaff North Independents" led by David Coggans Cogan, a former chairman of Cardiff North Lib Dems who had managed the rare feat of getting expelled from the party for harassing the outgoing councillors.  Although the division is within a key marginal parliamentary constituency (Cardiff North) the Tories are also-rans here.

Susan White is the defending Labour candidate.  Coggins Cogan stands again for the Llandaff North Independents, while former Lib Dem councillor for the ward Ann Rowland-James will try to get her seat back.  Also on the ballot paper are the Tories' Peter Hudson and the ward's first UKIP candidate, Simon Zeigler.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff North
Assembly electoral region: South Wales Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff

David Coggins Cogan (Llandaff North Inds)
Peter Hudson (C)
Ann Rowland-James (LD)
Susan White (Lab)
Simon Zeigler (UKIP)

May 2012 result Lab 1244/1156 Llandaff North Inds 607/507 LD 375/356 C 154 PC 141 Grn 101
May 2008 result LD 976/908 Lab 771/757 C 453/390 PC 195/163
June 2004 result Lab 804/677 LD 755/740 C 355/263 PC 183/179

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

By-election Previews: 31 July 2014

Four by-elections are taking place this week.  Two are covered here, and the other two over on the English Elections blog.

Flintshire county council
Caused by the disqualification of independent councillor Patrick Heesom, for reasons which will be outlined below.

Duke of Lancaster
Viewers of the Open Championship at Hoylake last weekend may have noticed some TV shots over the Dee estuary to the North Wales coastline.  On that coastline is the small port of Mostyn. This was once a ferry port with regular passenger services to Dublin, but since that service ended ten years ago the port has specialised in industrial applications; the wings for new Airbus A380 aircraft are transferred to a France-bound ship here after being floated down the estuary from the Airbus factory in Broughton, while the port has also been a construction base for the windfarms which have been constructed in the Irish Sea over the last decade.  Apart from the port, the coastal strip is mainly occupied by industry (there is also a large bleach factory here, and a plan for an incinerator which has produced a predictably negative response from locals), the North Wales Coast main line and the A548 coastal road, with most of the population living up on the hillside in the villages of Mostyn and Maes Pennant.  Another maritime connection to the division is the former "fun ship" Duke of Lancaster, now laid up in dry dock at Llannerch-y-Mor at the southern end  of the division.  The fun ship's owners closed the ship (which had been used as a bar and arcade) in 2004 after having had enough of repeated long-running legal attacks from the local council.

Long-running legal cases involving the local council seems to be a theme when you examine the circumstances of Patrick Heesom's disqualification.  The original complaint was made in 2009, and the Adjudication Panel for Wales - the relevant tribunal - found that Heesom had bullied, harassed and intimidated three council officers.  The disqualification was made in July 2013 for a period of two-and-a-half years, but the by-election couldn't be held before now because Heesom appealed to the High Court to try to get the decision overturned.  The High Court upheld the Panel's decision but did reduce his suspension to eighteen months.  The extended legal process means that this seat has now been vacant for more than a year.

Heesom had represented Mostyn since 1996, was a former leader of Flintshire council's independent group, and was last re-elected in 2012 - after the bullying and harassment claims became public knowledge - by a 2-to-1 margin over Labour.  All previous contests in the division this century have been straight fights between Heesom and Labour, so there is little information that can be gleaned from previous election results.

With Heesom now definitely out of the picture we can finally get the by-election underway.  David Roney is the new independent candidate; he is a Mostyn community councillor and spokesman for the anti-incinerator campaign group.  The Labour candidate is Pam Banks, from Ffynnongroyw just up the coast.  Also standing are Richard Pendlebury, a software engineer from Flint, for the Conservatives, and building manager Liz Soutter who is the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Delyn
Assembly electoral region: North Wales
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chester and Flint

Pam Banks (Lab)
Richard Pendlebury (C)
David Roney (Ind)
Liz Soutter (UKIP)

May 2012 result Ind 385 Lab 188
May 2008 result Ind 487 Lab 157
June 2004 result Ind 443 Lab 370

Merthyr Tydfil county borough council
Caused by the death of UKIP councillor Neil 'Jock' Greer at the age of 66.  Greer had been a Merthyr councillor since 2008, originally being elected as an independent before joining UKIP in 2009.

Remains of Penydarren Tramway
This tract of housing in the north-east of Merthyr Tydfil has an interesting history.  There was a first-century Roman fort at Penydarren, but the division itself is famous for the Penydarren Ironworks, one of the factories which made Merthyr into a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.  Always ready to try new ideas, the ironworks' owner commissioned Richard Trevithick to build what became one of the world's first steam locomotives; in 1804 "Penydarren" successfully hauled ten tons of iron almost ten miles to Abercynon.  Penydarren House, the home of the ironworks' owners, was the main Government stronghold during the Merthyr Rising.  The works started to redeveloped for housing in the late nineteenth century and Penydarren became Merthyr's "premier middle-class suburb", if it is possible for such a thing to exist in one of the UK's most depressed post-industrial towns.

Nonetheless it is possible to see this middle-class heritage in Penydarren's election results.  Labour have a lock on parliamentary elections in Merthyr, but this dominance doesn't necessarily translate to the local level in which there is a large amount of support for independent candidates; at Labour's low point in 2008 they held just eight of the 33 seats on Merthyr council and topped the poll in only one of the town's eleven divisions.  In 2004 Penydarren returned two independents and one councillor from the now-defunct group People Before Politics, one of whose unsuccessful candidates was Neil Greer.  Greer won election in 2008 as an independent candidate, as stated, with all three seats in that election going to independents.  At the most recent election in 2012 one of the independent councillors (Christopher Davies) stood down, Allan 'Salty' Jones stood for re-election and topped the poll, and Greer was re-elected under his new UKIP colours; Labour gained the division's third seat.

There is no new UKIP candidate to defend Greer's seat, which is therefore up for grabs.  There are two independent candidates on the ballot paper: Clive Barsi was elected as the People Before Politics councillor here in 2004, lost his seat in 2008 and tried unsuccessfully to get it back in 2012, while Kerry Baker Thomas is involved with a local autism support group.  Labour have selected John McCarthy who fought the division in 2012.  The Lib Dems and Tories have also found candidates; they are Robert Griffin and Kimberley Murphy respectively.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
Assembly electoral region: South Wales East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare

Kerry Baker Thomas (Ind)
Clive Barsi (Ind)
Robert Griffin (LD)
John McCarthy (Lab)
Kimberley Murphy (C)

May 2012 result Ind 656/438/315/230 UKIP 588 Lab 569/435/337
May 2008 result Ind 942/715/606/551 Lab 360/345/253
June 2004 result Ind 874/599 People Before Politics 601/517/461 Lab 472/374/353

Thursday, 24 July 2014

By-election Preview: 24 July 2014

Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough council, Glamorgan
Caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Anthony Christopher, at the age of 67.  Leader of the council since 2012 and councillor for Aberaman North for a quarter of a century, Christopher had been suffering from leukaemia for eleven years.

Jubilee Road, Aberaman
High up in the Cynon Valley, Aberaman lies on the western side of the valley and is the first village downstream from Aberdare.  It's a classic South Wales pit community, whose population boomed in the nineteenth century with the development of a coal-mine at Blaengwawr.

The area votes like you'd expect an ex-pit area to vote; strongly Labour.  In the three elections held here so far this century the two Labour candidates have been opposed only by a single Plaid Cymru candidate, who in all cases finished a long way behind.

There will be more choice on the ballot paper this time, although Sheryl Evans, the defending Labour candidate, will obviously start as a strong favourite.  The Plaid candidate this time is Julie Williams, a martial arts coach.  Also standing are Mia Hollsing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Lewis Israel for the Conservatives and independent candidate Andrew Thomas, webmaster of the localist website Aberdare Online.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cynon Valley
Assembly electoral region: South Wales Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare
Postcode district: CF44

Sheryl Evans (Lab)
Mia Hollsing (TUSC)
Lewis Israel (C)
Andrew Thomas (Ind)
Julie Williams (PC)

May 2012 result Lab 900/781 PC 396
May 2008 result Lab 1006/820 PC 521
June 2004 result Lab 1104/940 PC 454

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

By-Election Preview: 24 April 2014

There are four local by-elections taking place this week, rather unusually a lot so close to European and local elections now just four weeks away.  Three contests are covered over on the English Elections blog, and one contest in Caerphilly is covered here.

Caerphilly County Borough Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Diana Ellis.

Chartist Bridge, Blackwood
One of the classic mining towns of the South Welsh Valleys, Blackwood can be found in the Sirhowy valley.  Dating from the early nineteenth century it was originally intended as a model village, but clearly things went badly wrong; by the 1830s the terrible working conditions had led to a thriving Chartist group in the village.  Blackwood was the origin of the so-called Newport Rising of 1839, in which local Chartists marched from Blackwood to Newport in what was intended to be part of a national uprising.  Today the most visible reminder of this is the landmark Chartist Bridge, opened in 2005 over the deep Sirhowy valley; it forms part of a relief road taking traffic away from the town centre and intended to regenerate the area following the collapse of the coal industry.

Over the last decade Blackwood has been an Independent v Labour fight.  The three seats in the division split two to Labour and one to wildly popular independent councillor Kevin Etheridge at the 2004 election, the Independents gaining the two Labour seats in 2008.  Labour got a seat back in a July 2010 by-election, caused by Etheridge's resignation for family reasons, and went on to take the other two seats at the most recent ordinary election in 2012.

Defending for Labour is Allan Rees, whose main competition will come from former Independent councillor Keith Smallman, who lost his seat in 2012.  Also standing are regular Plaid candidate Andrew Farina-Childs, a former Mayor of Blackwood, and the Tories' regular by-election candidate for no-hope Caerphilly wards Cameron Muir-Jones.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Islwyn
Assembly electoral region: South Wales East
ONS Travel to Work Area:
Postcode districts:

May 2012 result Lab 1116/966/946 Ind 833/719 PC 352/253/235 C 182/148/144
July 2010 by-election Lab 545 Ind 469 PC 355 C 170
May 2008 result Ind 1794/962/817 Lab 700/681/513 PC 505/504 C 219/212/197
June 2004 result Ind 1994/418 Lab 751/617/616 PC 312/304/304 C 204/190

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

By-Election Preview: 10 April 2014

Four seats up for election this week.  Three over on the English Elections blog and one here:

Flintshire County Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ted Evans at the age of 76.  Retired after a long career at the local Courtaulds textile factory where he was a T&G steward, Evans had a long career in local government and served three times as Mayor of Flint.

More of Flint High School
  © Copyright Peter Craine and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence
One of four electoral divisions covering the town of Flint, the Trelawny ward is a generally residential area, covering the south of the town along the road to Mold.  It extends beyond the Flint built-up area (such as it is) into the countryside, climbing up the lower slopes of the Clwydian Hills to the misleadingly-named village of Flint Mountain and up to the A55 road, the main highway through North Wales.

The division has returned two Labour councillors at every election this century.  Although the Tories had a near-miss at the 2008 election when they were less than 50 votes short of Labour, the main opposition here generally comes from independent candidates.

Defending for Labour is firefighter Paul Cunningham, the current deputy mayor of Flint who will take on the mayoralty in May.  The runner-up in the 2012 election, independent candidate John Yorke, stands again; he is retired after four decades as a traffic and road safety engineer.  The Conservatives have nominated local government worker Swapna Das, who gives an address some distance away in Broughton, while the UKIP candidate is teashop owner Nigel Williams, from the village of Northop just to the south of the division.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Delyn
Assembly electoral region: North Wales
Postcode districts: CH6, CH7

Paul Cunningham (Lab)
Swapna Das (C)
Nigel Williams (UKIP)
John Yorke (Ind)

May 2012 result Lab 578/570 Ind 303 LD 143
May 2008 result Lab 497/496 C 450 Ind 427
June 2004 result Lab 680/575 Ind 379 LD 256

Friday, 28 March 2014

Defection Watch: Cllr Quits Labour in Cardiff

Cllr Gretta Marshall
Cllr Gretta Marshall (Cardiff, Splott division) has quit the ruling Labour group on the council, saying that there were too few women included in the newly reshuffled cabinet.  Cardiff Labour recently selected a new leader in Cllr Phil Bale who then formed a new cabinet to run the city council, which has already been criticised for including a large number of relatively new and inexperienced councillors.

There have been three by-elections in Cardiff within the last six months.  All were held by Labour, although one in Splott ward itself was fairly narrowly held against a 6.1% swing to the Liberal Democrats.

New council composition -
Labour - 44 (-1)
Lib Dems - 15
Conservative - 7
Independents - 7 (+1)
Plaid Cymru - 2

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Defection Watch: Ceredigion Indy Joins UKIP

Cllr Gethin James
Independent Cllr Gethin James (Ceredigion, Aberporth division) has joined UKIP, making him the third unitary-level UKIP councillor in Wales.  

Ceredigion is currently run by a Plaid Cymru-Independent coalition (including the 'Independents' group and 'The Independent Voice' group, but not the sole 'Non-Party Independent'), and Cllr James had been a member of the council's cabinet for Lifestyle Services and Waste.  However, the Plaid Cymru council leader, Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn, has now sacked James from his cabinet position, saying that Plaid doesn't want a UKIP member in the cabinet.  It is believed that James will still continue to sit as a member of the independent group involved in the coalition, however.

James held his division fairly easily in the last elections in 2012 - he won 61.3% of the vote to Plaid Cymru's 26.7% and the Conservatives' 12%.  UKIP have no electoral history on the council though, so it's hard to tell how his defection will affect his future electoral chances.

New council composition -
Plaid Cymru 19
Independents 15 (-1)
(Independents Group 11 (-1), The Independent Voice 3, Non-Party Independent 1)
Liberal Democrats 7

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

By-Election Preview: 20 February 2014

Cardiff City Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Cerys Furlong, who is concentrating on her role as head of NIACE Dysgu Cymru, a Wales-wide adult learning body.

The Canton, Cardiff
  © Copyright Jaggery and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Treganna in Welsh, Canton goes back to mediaeval times as the site of South Wales' largest market.  There's still a fruit market in the area, but much of the ward was developed in the nineteenth century and became an area associated with immigrants to Cardiff; from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, from the subcontinent in the twentieth century.  The area is also starting to gentrify thanks to its proximity to the centre of Cardiff.  On the other side of the Great Western main line is the village of Leckwith on the left bank of the Ely, known for its sports; the city's athletics stadium is here, as is the Cardiff City Stadium, home of Cardiff City football club.  The Bluebirds are having a bad time on and off the field at the moment in their first Premier League season, with the manager being acrimoniously sacked over the New Year and a recent rebranding having changed the club colours from blue to red.

It might be argued that the club owner, Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan, was only reflecting the area's political orientation in rebranding the club, Canton being a safe Labour division after the party saw off a strong Plaid challenge at the 2008 election.  At the most recent poll in 2012 Labour polled 48% to 19% for Plaid and 16% for the Greens, who had not previously fought the division.  The Lib Dem candidate who finished bottom of the poll here in 2004, Alison Goldsworthy, is one of the alleged victims in the Lord Rennard sexual harassment case.

With Labour also performing well at a by-election last December in the neighbouring Riverside division, they will start as favourites to win the by-election.  Their candidate is Susan Elsmore, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as an independent public policy professional (whatever that means).  Translator Elin Tudur is the Plaid candidate.  The Greens have reselected Jake Griffiths, leader of the Welsh branch of the party and their top candidate here in 2012.  Also standing are Pam Richards for the Tories (who stood here in 2012), Matt Hemsley for the Lib Dems and Steffan Bateman for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff
Postcode districts: CF5, CF11

Steffan Bateman (TUSC)
Susan Elsmore (Lab)
Jake Griffiths (Grn)
Matt Hemsley (LD)
Pam Richards (C)
Elin Tudur (PC)

May 2012 result Lab 2230/2130/2128 PC 910/837/824 Grn 730/564/503 C 505/468/426 LD 118/98/84 Socialist Labour 106 TUSC 90
May 2008 result Lab 1814/1580/1497 PC 1257/1170/1113 C 858/820/813 Grn 515/411/396 LD 361/331/224 Socialist Alternative 158
June 2004 result Lab 1657/1530/1404 PC 982/927/872 C 931/828/817 LD 899/702/687

Thursday, 6 February 2014

By-Election Preview: 6 February 2014

Conwy County Borough Council, North Wales; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Ahmed Jamil.  Jamil, a local doctor and poet who emigrated from Pakistan in 1967, was first elected to Conwy council in 2012 after taking more than 95% of the vote in a November 2011 by-election to Llanfair Talhaiarn community council.

Llanfair Talhaiarn
  © Copyright Dot Potter and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
The population of the Conwy county borough tends to be concentrated on the North Wales coast; in the resorts of Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, and the more downmarket town of Abergele.  This has the effect that the interior is much more sparsely populated.  The Betws yn Rhos division covers the area immediately to the south of Colwyn Bay and Abergele; the communities of Betwn yn Rhos itself, in the hills southwest of Colwyn Bay, and Llanfair Talhaiarn, six miles south of Abergele in the steep-sided Elwy valley.

Rural Wales is the sort of place that has lots of unopposed elections, and independent councillor Ena Wynne was elected by this division without a contest in both 2004 and 2008.  Wynne's retirement in 2012 saw five candidates stand to replace her; Dr Jamil was elected with 43% of the vote, and I'd suspect that most of his votes came from the Llanfair TH end of the division.  Second place was taken by Plaid's Clwyd Roberts, with independent T Bryn Jones, from Betws yn Rhos, coming in third.

Two independents have come forward to replace Jamil: Caroline Evans and Ifor Glyn Lloyd, both of whom are from Betws yn Rhos.  Clwyd Roberts, from the village of Llangernyw outside the ward, stands again for Plaid, while T Bryn Jones stands again, this time with the Conservative nomination.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Clwyd West (North Wales region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Llandudno and Colwyn Bay
Postcode districts: LL16, LL22, LL28, LL29

Caroline Evans (Ind)
Bryn Jones (C)
Ifor Lloyd (Ind)
Clwyd Roberts (PC)

May 2012 result Ind 340 PC 219 Ind 167 Ind 40 Ind 18
May 2008 result Ind unopposed
June 2004 result Ind unopposed