Thursday, 26 November 2015

By-election Preview: 26 November 2015

Nine by-elections on 26th November 2015, five in England, two in Wales and two in Scotland.  In Wales an independent seat in Newport is up for election, as is a Llais Gwynedd seat in the Lleyn.  Your columnist hasn't had a lot of spare time this week, so some of these entries may be slightly abbreviated.

Newport city council
Caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Noel Trigg on health grounds.  Trigg, who is 81 years old, made his name in boxing, holding both Welsh and British titles at amateur level: after National Service in the South Wales Borderers and the Welch Regiment he turned professional and held the Welsh light-heavyweight title from 1956 to 1958, finishing his career with a record of 16 wins (8 by knockout) and 9 losses.  After retiring from boxing he worked as a publican and boxing trainer before entering politics in 1990, sitting on the former Gwent county council and Newport city council.  He served as Mayor of Newport in 2008-9.

One of the themes of this column is that every so often we come across somewhere which claims to be one of the largest housing estates in Europe. This week's claimant is Bettws, a 1960s estate to the north-west of Newport.  Fifty years on from its building, Bettws remains a resolutely working-class area with high levels of unemployment.

As in many working-class wards of south Wales, this is a Labour/Independent fight.  Noel Trigg was elected at the top of the Labour slate in 2004 and had a large personal vote, but his running-mates weren't far ahead of independent candidate Susan Baker.  Baker finished fourth again in 2008, this time as top of the Lib Dem slate, but Labour increased their majority in a poll which had to be postponed to June after one of the original candidates died.  Trigg left the Labour party at the end of his mayoral term in 2009 and was re-elected in 2012 as an independent, bringing with him a running-mate (Keith Whitehead) as Labour lost two seats - the only two seats they lost in Newport that year.

In the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election, one of the ballot boxes for Bettws reportedly had no votes at all.  Let's hope for better in this by-election.  Two independent candidates have come forward to succeed Trigg: they are Janet Cleverly and Jason Jordan.  Glyn Jarvis, the Labour councillors who lost his seat in 2012, is trying to get it back.  Also on the ballot are Paul l'Allier of the Lib Dems, Peter Varley of the Green Party and Lewis Williams of the Tories.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Newport West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newport and Cwmbran

May 2012 result Ind 840/779/534 Lab 616/594/584 Christian Party 158
June 2008 postponed poll Lab 1128/890/789 LD 586/451/408 C 331/260 PC 75/49 Ind 50/40

June 2004 result Lab 1150/754/660 Ind 539/483 C 178 LD 159 PC 156

Gwynedd council
Caused by the death at the age of 66 of Llais Gwynedd councillor Bob Wright, who had served on Gwynedd council since 2008.  A former Dwyfor district councillor (before that council's abolition in 1995) who owned a vehicle repair company, Wright received an MBE in 2008 for nearly forty years' service as a volunteer with the RNLI.  He is believed to have suffered a heart attack while on the Pwllheli lifeboat coming to the aid of a stranded yacht.

Welcome to Pwllheli, the main town and railhead of the Lleyn peninsula, a tourist and sailing centre - if the Manchester bid for the 2000 Olympic Games had gone through, this is where the sailing would have been.  The Pwllheli South ward is based on the promenade, a long, sandy and popular beach with housing mostly developed in the 1890s when the town was expanded.

Pwllheli is the birthplace of Plaid Cymru, but Plaid haven't been doing well here of late: they lost the ward in 2008 to Llais Gwynedd, an anti-Plaid localist party.  Llais held the seat at the most recent election in 2012 by 60-40 in a straight fight with Plaid.

Defending for Llais Gwynedd is tanning salon owner Peta Pollitt, who is up against Alan Williams, the Plaid councillor who lost his seat in 2008 and tried to get back in 2012.  Also on the ballot are independent candidates Michael Parry and

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Dwyfor Meirionnydd
ONS Travel to Work Area: Pwllheli

May 2012 result LlG 374 PC 252
May 2008 result LlG 369 PC 211 C 187
June 2004 result PC unopposed

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