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

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

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

By-election Previews: 12 November 2015

Four local by-elections taking place this week - two covered here and another two covered over on the English Elections blog.

Conwy county borough council, Clwyd
Caused by the resignation of Plaid Cymru councillor Mike Rayner.

Of this week's two Welsh by-elections, one is in the north and one in the south.  We start with the northern one, which covers some beautiful countryside on the eastern side of the Conwy valley.  Eglwysbach, Llanddoged and Tal-y-cafn are the main villages within the ward, but it is probably best known for the beauty spot of Bodnant Garden, a National Trust property known for its Laburnum arch and national collections of magnolia, rhododendron and other plants.

Eglwysbach has a high councillor attrition rate and this is the division's third by-election in ten years.  The division has been held by Plaid with massive majorities since the December 2005 by-election.  Mike Rayner was first elected in the November 2010 by-election, beating the Tories 73-27 in a straight fight; that was the last contested election in Eglwysbach as Rayner was unopposed at the 2012 ordinary election.

Defending for Plaid is Austin Roberts, an Eglwysbach community councillor.  He is opposed only by the Tory candidate, Colwyn Bay town councillor Hazel Meredith.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberconwy
ONS Travel to Work Area: Llandudno and Colwyn Bay

May 2012 result PC unopposed
Nov 2010 by-election PC 386 C 145
May 2008 result PC 591 C 80
Dec 2005 by-election PC 451 C 59 LD 47
June 2004 result Ind 562 Lab 150

Bridgend county borough council, Glamorgan
Caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Della Hughes.

Moving to south Wales, and we are in the Valleys - specifically, the Ogmore valley, which runs southwards to Bridgend and the Bristol Channel.  Ogmore Vale is the second highest of the wards in the valley, and is based on the coalmining village of the same name.  Almost entirely developed since the coming of the railway in 1865, Ogmore Vale and the neighbouring Wyndham are classic coalmining villages which have suffered badly from the closure of Wyndham Colliery in 1983.

Unusually for a coalmining division, Ogmore Vale has had some close results and no councillor here has been re-elected this century.  The division was narrowly won by Plaid in the 2004 election, with a majority of 23 votes of Labour; but Plaid's councillor lost his seat to Labour very convincingly in 2008.  Labour's councillor went on in turn to lose to Della Hughes in 2012 by a majority of 91 votes (55% to 45%).

This by-election has attracted a field of five candidates.  Defending for the independents is Ralph Shepherd, the Labour councillor for this division from 2008 to 2012.  The official Labour candidate is Dhanisha Patel, a legal assistant who according to her LinkedIn works in London. Also standing are Sally Hyde for UKIP, Tim Thomas for Plaid and Jamie Wallis for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Ogmore
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridgend

May 2012 result Ind 505 Lab 414
May 2008 result Lab 724 PC 268
June 2004 result PC 423 Lab 400