Thursday, 8 October 2015

By-election Preview: 7 October 2015

Cardiff city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Cecilia Love.  Love, whose resignation came for a combination of family reasons and poor attendance at council meetings, had served as a councillor since 2012.

There's a lot of rugby on at the moment, and Wales have been doing very well in the present World Cup.  They do have the advantage (like, er, England) of playing some of their games in their home venue, the large Millennium Stadium on the banks of the River Taff.  The Riverside division is the other side of the river from the Millennium Stadium, with much of the actual riverside forming the park of Sophia Gardens, home to Glamorgan cricket club's Test ground, the SSE SWALEC Stadium.  This is an interesting mix of areas.  At the northern end is Pontcanna, a leafy area favoured by the Welsh arts and media establishment (the so-called "crachach") which once hosted TV studios for HTV and S4C.  At the southern end is Riverside proper, an ethnic enclave with large Bangladeshi and Chinese populations - Love herself was a single mum from a Far Eastern background.

The England cricket team played a Test match at Sophia Gardens here in July, in which Joe Root was the star of an unexpectedly one-sided first Ashes test.  Like England cricket, this column seems to be returning to Riverside division on a very frequent basis, for the councillor attrition rate is high: this is the division's third by-election in five years.  This division is a Labour versus Plaid battle: the three seats split 2-1 in Plaid's favour in 2004 and Plaid gained the Labour seat in 2008, but since then the tide has turned: the March 2011 by-election was a big win for Labour, and they followed up by easily gaining the two remaining Plaid seats in 2012.  The most recent by-election, held in December 2013, saw Labour win with 50% and Plaid second on 35%, almost no swing since 2012.  To add to the division's interesting features, the number of votes was unusually low in 2008 and there was speculation at the time that the counting team might have missed a ballot box.  Even more interest can be added by noting that the ruling Labour group on Cardiff city council is in a state of civil war, and the council leader won re-election this year by just one vote - Love's vote.  There could be some interesting consequences from this by-election.

Defending for Labour is Caro Wild, a former rugby league coach who is now a campaigner on cycling and discrimination.  His main opposition will come from Ruksana Begum of Plaid, who are on a bit of a high in Cardiff after nearly winning the most recent city by-election in an even more crachach division than this one; however, that was in a commuter village, the opponent was the Tories and the Plaid candidate there had some name recognition as Dafydd Wigley's son.  Also on the ballot are Sean Driscoll for the Tories, Gareth Bennett for UKIP, Steffan Bateman for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, former Only Connect contestant Gwilym Owen for the Liberal Democrats and Hannah Pudner of the Green Party.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff West
Assembly electoral region: South Wales Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff

Dec 2013 by-election Lab 1120 PC 773 C 107 UKIP 97 TUSC 70 LD 58
May 2012 result Lab 1731/1555/1431 PC 1153/944/940 Grn 294/272/189 C 286/276/263 LD 142/129/122 TUSC 99
March 2011 by-election Lab 1700 PC 1099 C 369 Grn 277 LD 187
May 2008 result PC 1064/1064/991 Lab 786/743/707 C 295/209/206 LD 280/250/235
June 2004 result PC 1448/1408/1248 Lab 1280/1135/1092 LD 693/658/561 Grn 605 C 465