Thursday, 2 April 2015

By-election Preview: 2 April 2015

The General Election is imminent: Parliament is dissolved, the televised debates are under way, and for most of the country the political parties have bigger fish to fry this April than local by-elections.  Nonetheless, three contests have been scheduled for April, the first two of which are this week: both slightly unusual in that one is a Wednesday poll, while the other falls on Maundy Thursday - it's only a few years since electoral law prohibited polling on the Thursday before Easter.  The Thursday poll is in Gwynedd, while on Wednesday a trip to the very southern edge of London awaits us, covered over on English Elections.

As there aren't many by-elections this month, your columnist intends to fill the gap by turning his gaze to the national picture, and putting together a prediction for the general election which you can all laugh at.  Stay tuned.

By-election on 2nd April 2015:

Gwynedd county council
Caused by the death of Plaid Cymru councillor Huw Edwards.  A Gwynedd councillor since 2005 and chairman of the council in 2013, Edwards served three times as Mayor of Caernarfon and spent over 30 years in the Caernarfon Male Voice Chior.

Cae Mur, Caernarfon
This division covers the bits of Caernarfon the tourists don't normally see: it's a residential area in the east of the town, between the Bethel Road and the Llanberis Road, together with a small part of the town centre.  Caernarfon is a bastion of the Welsh language, and the 2011 census found that 86% of the population of Cadnant division were Welsh speakers - one of the highest figures in the whole of Wales.  Other parts of the census figures for the division paint a working-class picture, with relatively high levels of social renting and long-term sickness.

Edwards had been the councillor here since winning a by-election just before Christmas 2005: he had also stood in the 2004 ordinary election as an independent, finishing second.  At his final re-election in 2012 Edwards won 60-40 in a straight fight with Labour.

Defending for Plaid Cymru is Glyn Tomos, who works for the Welsh-language local newspaper Papur Dre.  He is not to be confused with Glyn Thomas, the Labour candidate who fought the division in 2012 and represents the division on Caernarfon town council.  Maria Sarnacki, who finished second to Plaid in a town council by-election here last year, is standing as an independent candidate; Jason Parry, a barber, represents the anti-Plaid regionalist party Llais Gwynedd; and the ballot paper is completed by the Conservatives' David Hibbert, who gives an address in Bangor and is presumably therefore a paper candidate.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Arfon
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bangor, Caernarfon and Llangefni

David Hibbert (C)
Jason Parry (LlG)
Maria Sarnacki (Ind)
Glyn Thomas (Lab)
Glyn Tomos (PC)

May 2012 result PC 397 Lab 268
May 2008 result PC 424 C 120 Lab 118
Dec 2005 by-election PC 250 Lab 155 Ind 80 Ind 51 Ind 32
June 2004 result Ind 427 Ind 260 Lab 79 Ind 73