Wednesday, 18 November 2015

By-elections Preview: 19 November 2015

There are seven by-elections on 19th November 2015, of which three are in Wales and four in England, covered on the English Elections blog.  In Wales there are two seats up for election in Gwynedd, with Plaid Cymru and the localist Llais Gwynedd defending one each, together with a Labour defence in Carmarthenshire.

Gwynedd county council
Caused respectively by the resignations of Plaid Cymru councillor Eddie Dogan and Llais Gwynedd councillor Llywarch Jones.  Dogan was Bangor's longest-serving local councillor, having first been elected to Bangor city council in 1972.  He had represented Dewi ward continuously since 1978, originally on the former Arfon district council.  Along the way he served twice as Mayor of Bangor, was made a Freeman of the city and was given a Bene Morente award signed by Pope John Paul II.  Originally a Labour councillor who defected to Plaid Cymru in 2005, he is retiring on health grounds.  Jones had served on Gwynedd council since 2012.

Starting with Llanaelhaearn, a small village in the north of the Lleyn peninsula.  This is a religious settlement associated with Saints Aelhaiarn and Beuno, and St Aelhaearn's well in the village was a stop on the traditional pilgrimage route to Bardsey Island; however, the presence of a Latin gravestone in the churchyard bearing the name of an Aliortus of Elmet, a pre-Anglo Saxon kingdom covering what is now the West Riding of Yorkshire, suggests that the site may have been significant before Beuno's time.

Dewi, on the other hand, is an urban ward of southern Bangor, covering the Coed Mawr area and extending along the Caernarfon Road as far as the A55 bypass.  This is generally where Bangor's out-of-town shopping is.  The main demographic feature of the ward is a large student population, reflecting that Bangor is a university city.

Eddie Dogan's successor has a lot to live up to.  Dogan had large majorities in his last three re-elections, finishing his electoral career in 2012 by beating the Labour candidate 57-35.  Plaid have nominated Gareth Roberts to replace him.  The Labour candidate is Eirian Roberts, chair of the Coed Mawr Glanadda community group.  Also standing is Andrew Joyce of the Lib Dems.

Llanaelhaearn has a more interesting electoral history.  Plaid were unopposed here in 2004, but in 2008 lost the seat to independent candidate Dafydd Roberts by six votes in a three-way marginal result.  In 2012 Roberts stood down and Llais Gwynedd, an anti-Plaid localist group, convincingly gained the seat by beating another independent candidate 50-34.  The defending Llais candidate is Wynne Thomas Issac, who is opposed by independent Eric Cullen and Plaid's Aled Wyn Jones.

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

May 2012 result PC 254 Lab 154 LD 35
May 2008 result PC 332 Lab 124
June 2004 result Lab 364 PC 135 LD 38

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

May 2012 result Llais Gwynedd 353 Ind 238 PC 85 Ind 32
May 2008 result Ind 248 PC 242 Llais Gwynedd 179
June 2004 result PC unopposed

Carmarthenshire county council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Keith Davies.  A retired supermarket manager, Davies had served as a county councillor since 2012 and served for three years on the council's executive board with responsibility for education and children.

For the week's final Welsh by-election we travel to Carmarthen Bay and the town of Kidwelly.  Kidwelly is an old town, and its strategic location at the mouth of the River Gwendraeth led to the building of a castle by the Normans.  The present castle was commissioned by Edward I, but the Glyndwr rebellion meant it was not completed until 1422.  Kidwelly had some brickworking and tinworking during the Industrial Revolution, but all that remains of this today is an industrial museum.  The town is connected to the outside world by the Swansea to Carmarthen railway line, on which it is a request stop.

Keith Davies (not to be confused with the Llanelli AM of the same name) was first elected in 2008, defeating the previous independent councillor Gwilym Jones.  At his last re-election in 2012 he increased his majority, polling 44% to 23% for People First (a local Plaid Cymru splinter group) and 19% for independent candidate Fran Burke-Lloyd.

Labour's candidate to hold the by-election is Ryan Thomas, a 27-year-old former deputy mayor of Kidwelly, who was recently cleared of drunkenly groping a 19-year-old woman at last year's mayor-making ceremony.  The People First candidate is Stephen Bowen, who runs a taxi and minibus company.  Two independent candidates are standing: Fran Burke-Lloyd tries again after her third-place finish, while Vivian Summers is also nominated.  Also on the ballot paper are Stephen Davies of the Conservatives and Dilwyn Jones of Plaid Cymru.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Llanelli
ONS Travel to Work Area: Carmarthen and Llandovery

May 2012 result Lab 571 People First 300 Ind 238 Ind 177
May 2008 result Lab 429 Ind 330 PC 217 Ind 163 Carmarthenshire Ratepayers Association 79 Ind 26 Ind 21
June 2004 result Ind 664 Ind 440 Lab 144

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