Apologies for the lack of an article last week - your regular writer was unfortunately unwell, and your editor was too busy settling into his new day job to stand in. One of these days I might actually clear my to-do list...
Eight by-elections on 16th July 2015, six in England and two in Wales:
Denbighshire county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor James Davies, who is now MP for the Vale of Clwyd after gaining the seat from Labour in May's general election.
Welcome to Sunny Prestatyn, a minor seaside resort on the North Wales coast. The home town of Carol Vorderman and John Prescott, Prestatyn marks the north end of the Clwydian hills and the Offa's Dyke Path, and its wide sandy beach has good views of the North Hoyle offshore wind farm. The Prestatyn East division includes the eastern end of the town and the Pontin's holiday camp, once the venue for qualification rounds for the major snooker tournaments.
The voters of Prestatyn East prefer the blue in their break-building; at the last election in 2012 the Conservatives had 42% of the vote to 29% for Labour and 26% for an independent slate. The Tories have selected William Davies. Carol Holliday stands for Labour. There are two competing independent candidates, Gary Bourne ("Prestatyn Independent") and former Prestatyn town councillor Mike German. Scott Brown, the ward's first Lib Dem candidate this century, completes the ballot paper.
Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Clwyd
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rhyl and Denbigh
May 2012 result C 524/463 Lab 364/341 Ind 322/300 Grn 50
May 2008 result C 847/739 Lab 320
June 2004 result C 620/564 PC 303 Ind 294 Lab 264 Ind 185 PC 141
Wrexham county borough council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Malcolm Taylor.
A few miles north of Wrexham, Llay is a pit village mostly dating from the twentieth century. Llay Main Colliery was at one time Wales' largest colliery and, when it closed in 1966, was the deepest pit in the UK. While the mine has long gone, there is still industry in the area, including a Sharp Electronics factory which until 2013 manufactured solar panels. Both Welsh by-elections this week have a snooker connection: Llay's snooker connection is that Dennis Taylor now lives here.
Llay's local politics is, like snooker, a contest between the white (Independent) and the reds (Labour) - a pattern common to many ex-coalmining areas. The independents were on top here in 2004 and 2008; Malcolm Taylor was elected for the division in 2012 after losing in 2004 by 54 votes and in 2008 by just five votes. In 2012 the Labour slate defeated the two independent councillors 65-35.
Defending for Labour is Pete Evans. There are two independent candidates, David Dodd (who stood here in 2008) and David Broderick. Also standing are Jeanette Bassford-Barton for UKIP, Emlyn Phennah for the Tories and Rob Walsh for the Lib Dems.
Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Wrexham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wrexham and Whitchurch
May 2012 result Lab 825/702 Ind 450/340
May 2008 result Ind 748/563/391 Lab 558/146
June 2004 result Ind 757/611 Lab 557/472