Friday, 27 March 2015

By-election Preview: 26 March 2015

Five by-elections on 26th March 2015, four in Scotland and one in Wales:

Vale of Glamorgan county borough council
Caused by the death of councillor Keith Geary who represented the Llantwit First Independents.

Llantwit Major
The third largest town in the Vale (after Barry and Penarth), Llantwit Major is an old town going back into antiquity: there was an Iron Age fort close to the modern beach, the Romans were here, and in the late fourth century the Emperor Theodosius I established a college here: the first known school established in Great Britain, it was named after the Emperor as "Cor Tewdws".  Many well-known Celtic saints attended the college, including St David himself.  As it was attached to a monastery, the school closed as part of the Dissolution; but the town around it survived at essentially the same size until growing substantially after the Second World War, thanks to the development of the large airfield of RAF St Athan just to the east of the town.  The future of the airfield is now uncertain following the withdrawal of the RAF and the cancellation by the Coalition of a plan into a major defence training academy: the current Welsh Governemnt plan is to turn it into a civilian airfield.  One new development which has gone ahead is the reopening of the town's railway station in 2005, with hourly trains to Bridgend and Cardiff.

Together with the neighbouring communities of Llan-maes and St Donats, Llantwit Major forms a four-seat division on the Vale of Glamorgan council.  Those four seats are currently held by a localist slate called the Llantwit First Independents, although in the 2004 and 2008 elections the Tories had one of the seats.  At the most recent election in 2012 the Llantwit First Independents polled 56% of the vote, to 22% for the Tories and 15% for Labour.  Lovers of comical names will appreciate the woman at the bottom of the Conservative slate in the 2004 election: Vera Way.

Defending for the Llantwit First Independents is the serving Mayor of Llantwit Major, Mick Mason, a former serviceman who was posted to St Athan in 1974 and stayed in the area upon retiring from the Forces in 1981.  The Tory and Labour candidates, Tony Bennett and Jack Hawkins respectively, will both be looking for good performances ahead of the general election in May, in which the Vale of Glamorgan will be a key marginal.  Completing the ballot paper is Plaid's Wynford Bellin.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Glamorgan (South Wales Central region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridgend

Wynford Bellin (PC)
Tony Bennett (C)
Jack Hawkins (Lab)
Mick Mason (Llantwit First Ind)

May 2012 result Llantwit First Ind 2068/1603/1490/1327 C 813/759/544/536 Lab 541/502/471/411 PC 269
May 2008 result Llantwit First Ind 1894/1748/1470/1164 C 1291/1127/901/871 Lab 438/400/348/298 PC 270 Ind 262
June 2004 result Ind 1879/1371/1360/957 C 1146/988/744/671 Lab 783/741/706 PC 437

Monday, 23 March 2015

By-election Preview: 19 March 2015

One by-election on 19th March 2015:

Denbighshire county council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Margaret McCarroll at the age of 80.  A supporter of many voluntary organisations, McCarroll had owned a furniture business for many years and twice served as Mayor of Rhyl; she was in her first term on the county council.

Frederick Street, Rhyl
Obvious name alert: this division covers south-western Rhyl, a generally residential area south of the railway line, running from Rhyl railway station to the banks of the Clwyd estuary.  The census paints a picture of a very working-class division, with high levels of social renting, no qualifications, unemployment, sickness and routine occupations: the sort of things which often come up in depressed seaside towns, and Rhyl, whose economy is based on tourism and its beach, most certainly fits that definition.  The North Wales Daily Post reported this week that Rhyl station - on the division's northern boundary - is one of the most violent in Britain, although this may be more of a statistical freak with only twelve such incidents reported there in 2013-14.  At the eastern end of the ward is the Corbett Sports Stadium, home of the Welsh Premier League side Rhyl FC.

Perhaps not surprisingly this is a very safe Labour division.  Not even the deselection of the division's two Labour councillors for the 2012 election could make any dent in the Labour majority: in that election the official Labour slate polled 68%, while the two outgoing Labour councillors stood as an independent slate and came in second with 16%.  The division lies within the Vale of Clwyd constituency, which is a Labour-held marginal at Parliamentary level and safe Labour in the Welsh Assembly.

Defending for Labour is Rhyl town councillor Pete Prendergast.  He will face opposition from independent candidate Diana Hannam, a former Mayor of Rhyl who stood as a Tory candidate in the 2012 elections; the official Tory candidate Melanie Jones; David Dear of the Lib Dems, who stood here in 2012 and polled 6%; and David Wilmot who is the division's first Plaid candidate this century.

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

David Dear (LD)
Diana Hannam (Ind)
Melanie Jones (C)
Pete Prendergast (Lab)
David Wilmot (PC)

May 2012 result Lab 797/647 Ind 184/141 C 116/96 LD 71
May 2008 result Lab 587/532 C 267/266 BNP 138
June 2004 result Lab 599/563 Ind 355