Monday, 11 July 2016

By-election Previews: 14 July 2016

Ten local by-election this week.  Two covered here, six over on the English Elections blog, and another two on the Cornish Elections blog.

Gwynedd council
Caused respectively by the resignations of independent councillor Chris O'Neal and Plaid Cymru councillor Si├ón Gwenllian.  O'Neal, who has served since 2012, resigned after pleading guilty to assaulting an employee of the taxi firm he formerly ran; he also spent part of last year in court being cleared of a blackmail charge.  Gwenllian was first elected in 2008, and is moving on to bigger things after being elected as Plaid Cymru AM for Arfon in this year's Senedd election.

Penrhyn Avenue, Maesgeirchen
North Wales is having a bumper crop of by-elections this month, with a poll in Llandudno last week and a third Gwynedd poll coming up next week.  Marchog division consists entirely of Maesgeirchen, a huge isolated 1930s-era council estate cut off from the city of Bangor by Bangor Mountain.  57% of the households are still socially rented - one of the top 40 figures in England and Wales - and the demographic indicators are as bad as you'd expect from an isolated council estate, with only 28% of the workforce in full-time employment and high scores in every other category for economic activity except "self-employed" and "retired".

Doing better is Y Felinheli, a village on the south bank of the Menai and historically a port; in 1825 a narrow-gauge railway opened connecting the village with the Dinorwic slate quarry in Llanberis, and readers of a certain age might know the village better under the name of Port Dinorwic.  During the Second World War Y Felinheli was a centre for building landing craft, and its harbour is still in use today for pleasure boating and sailing. The village's location midway between Bangor and Caernarfon means there is commuting to both towns, and a number of Bangor University students live here.

Gwenllian never faced a contested election in her eight years on Gwynedd council, having been unopposed in 2008 and 2012.  The last contested election in Y Felinheli was in 2004 with Labour narrowly beating an independent candidate.  Marchog's representation had a clearout in 2012, with the previous Labour and Independent councillors losing their seats to two new independent councillors.

Both by-elections are straight fights.  In Marchog the defending independent candidate Dylan Fernley is challenged by Labour's Luke Tugwell; both candidates give addresses on the estate.  In Y Felinheli the new Plaid candidate is Gareth Griffith, who is opposed by Bangor-based Conservative candidate Andrew Kinsman.

May 2012 result Ind 365/248/76 Lab 218/143
May 2008 result Lab 247/184 Ind 202
June 2004 result Lab 324/172 Ind 303

Y Felinheli
May 2012 result PC unopposed
May 2008 result PC unopposed
June 2004 result Lab 384 Ind 354

Thursday, 7 July 2016

By-election Preview: 7 July 2016

Three local by-elections this week.  One covered here and two over on the English Elections blog.

Conwy county borough council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Jobi Hold.  Hold has been unable to attend meetings of the council due to his job captaining a boat in the oil and gas industry; when on dry land he is now living in Cornwall.

Mostyn Street, Llandudno
It's July, the weather's nice, so let's go to the seaside. Specifically, we're in Llandudno, a town on the North Wales coast which has a long history (there are Bronze Age copper mines on the Great Orme above the town) but whose development really began in earnest in the mid-nineteenth century under the auspices of the landowner, Lord Mostyn.  A major storm in 1859 which damaged the town's pier put paid to early ideas of turning Llandudno into a major Irish Sea port; instead the town developed as a seaside resort and its connection to the railway network in 1858 ensured the town has been filled with holidaymakers ever since. Many people (including your columnist) come for the Victorian weekend each May, in which Mostyn Street - the town's main shopping street, just behind the North Promenade - is turned into a funfair.  The Mostyn family have left their mark on the town in other ways: Oriel Mostyn, endowed by one of the family, is one of the UK's leading galleries of contemporary art; and the present Lord Mostyn, who still owns much of the town, was reported in 2013 to be the 13th-richest person in the UK under the age of 30 (he's over 30 now).

Mostyn's demographics aren't particularly notable, although the workforce tends towards the lower end of the class scale.  This makes it the strongest of Llandudno's five divisions for Labour, although Labour only ran one candidate here in the 2012 election: Jobi Hold topped the poll with around 45%, a long way ahead of a tight three-way race for the other seat which was won by independent candidate Dewi Miles on 26%, seven votes ahead of the leading Conservative candidate and fifteen votes ahead of independent Janet Jones.  Miles gained a Tory seat previously held by Janet Howarth, who had moved to another Conwy division and later briefly served on the Welsh Assembly, losing her seat to UKIP in May's election.

Defending for Labour is Emily Owen, a Bangor University student who works for a local estate agent and spent part of last week completing the Three Peaks challenge, climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis for the benefit of a dog rescue charity.  There are two competing independent candidates, Richard "The Lion" Enston and John Thomas.  The Tory candidate is Greg Robbins, a Llandudno town councillor (and Mayor of Llandudno in 2011-12) who has recently defected to the party from Plaid Cymru.  Also standing are Penelope Appleton for the Lib Dems and John Humberstone, who stood here as an independent in 2012 and came eighth out of nine candidates, for UKIP.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberconwy

May 2012 result Lab 436 Ind 250 C 243/199 Ind 235 LD 131 Ind 72 Ind 38 Ind 33
May 2008 result Lab 331/277 C 304/275 Ind 182 Ind 173 PC 147
June 2004 result Lab 505/504 Ind 224 LD 187/155 Ind 170 C 157/130