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It’s Thursday night and Harry Hayfield’s local by-election preview

March 21st, 2013

Adeyfield West on Dacorum (Lab Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 43, Lib Dem 6, Lab 2 (Conservative majority of 35)

Last Election (2011): Con 1,213 (43%) Lab  1,203 (43%) Lib Dem 413 (15%)

 

There are several councils across the United Kingdom whose names do not give you much of a clue as to where they are in the world. For instance, just where is Babergh in East Anglia, does anyone know where the Vale of the White Horse is, and of course Uttlesford. Dacorum is one of these councils but you can get a sense of it’s general location just from the landslide Conservative win they had in 2011 (clearly somewhere in the south of England). However, as the result in 2011 shows just because a council looks like a safe pair of shoes doesn’t mean that every single ward was a Conservative landslide and as demonstrated last week in Arun and Runnymede, even a rock solid Conservative ward is no garauntee that a Conservative will win the ward (so which this ward electing half the Labour grouping in a good year for Labour it’s safe to say that the real interest will be in who comes second)

 

Gooshays on Havering (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2010): Con 33, Rates 12, Lab 5, Ind 4 (Conservative majority of 12)

Last Election (2010): Lab 5,034 (33%) Con 4,847 (32%) BNP 2,791 (18%) Rates 1,515 (10%) UKIP 944 (6%)

 

Havering has been one of those councils that has been following it’s own little pattern of elections for years. In the 1990 local elections, Labour were the largest party (Lab 25, Con 19, Rates 13, Lib Dem 6) and everyone assumed that with the general election less than two years away the Conservative seats of Upminster, Romford and Hornchurch were a shoe in for Labour, however as we know they all stayed Conservative. So when Labour made an additional six gains to come within a whisker of gaining control (Lab 31, Rates 17, Con 11, Lib Dem 4), the local Conservatives were not that bothered, however at Election 1997 all the Conservative MP’s for Havering were booted out of office on a 16% swing to Labour. However the following year Labour found out what it mean to be in power as they lost seats (Lab 29, Rates 17, Con 14, Lib Dem 3) and when Labour celebrated their fifth anniversary in power, the electors of Havering told Labour where to shove it as they made 20 losses (although the council being reduced in size from 63 seats to 54 seats might have had something to do with that) and left the Conservatives just two seats short of an overall majority. And come the 2006 local elections they did making eight gains and they held on at the 2010 local elections and yet throughout all of this change one party was still there. The Ratepayers, those people who believe that the local electorate should be in charge of local politics not national parties and with national parties all being told to clear off, could this see the resurgence of local politics?

 

Junction on Islington (Lib Dem Defence)

St. George’s on Islington (Lab Defence)

Last Local Election (2010): Lab 35, Lib Dem 13 (Labour majority of 22)

Junction Last Election (2010): Lib Dem 6,378 (40%) Lab 6,115 (38%) Green 1,839 (12%) Con 1,569 (10%)

St. George’s Last Election (2010): Lib Dem 6,916 (42%) Lab 5,558 (34%) Green 2,314 (14%) Con 1,603 (10%)

 

It’s not that often we get two wards in the same local authority holding by-elections on the same day but when we do, we can get a fascinating insight into how an area has changed (and Islington is one of those areas that gives the perfect demonstration of the Labour vs Liberal Democrat battle over the years). In the 1990 local elections, Islington was a Labour heartland with just three Liberal Democrat councillors opposing forty nine Labour councillors (mainly from the fact that Labour managed to mop up the remaining Social Democrat councillors from the 1986 local elections). However, in the 1994 local elections, the Liberal Democrats starting to gain seats (in that election nine from Labour) and the year after Labour’s landslide election year, they gained 14 councillors to force the council into No Overall Control and by the 2002 local elections, they had managed to turn a Labour majority of 46 into a Lib Dem majority of 28 in just twelve years. However, as Newton discovered what goes up must come down and by the 2006 local elections, the Lib Dems lost control (losing 14 councillors) and in 2010 the start of the national swing back to Labour was clear as they lost another eleven councillors. Since then of course, it has got a lot worse for the Liberal Democrats and it would be safe to assume that Junction will elect a Labour councillor.

 

The Stours on North Dorset (Con Defence)

Lodbourne on North Dorset (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 23, Lib Dem 6, Ind 4 (Conservative majority of 13)

The Stours Last Election (2011): Con 552 (68%) Lib Dem 255 (32%)

Lodbourne Last Election (2011): Con 322 (52%) Lib Dem 295 (48%)

 

So to have two local authorities, holding two by-elections on the same day at opposite ends of the Liberal Democrat battleground has to be one of the rarest things around. North Dorset in 2003 was your typical Con / Lib Dem battleground (Con 15, Lib Dem 11, Ind 7) and the 2007 local elections proved that as the Independents made four losses with the Conservatives and Lib Dems taking two each (Con 17, Lib Dem 13, Ind 3). However in the first local elections post the coalition, the Lib Dems got hammered everywhere and in North Dorset that meant losing seven seats with six going to the Conservatives and one to the Independents. However, things have changed and with the Lib Dems having already clocked up two gains against the Conservatives this year (22% swing in Cromer Town and 26% swing in Aldwick East) what is to say that one if not both seats could change hands again (especially if there is a UKIP candidate standing) which given Nigel Farage’s statement this afternoon that UKIP will field a minimum of 632 parliamentary candidates in 2015 and at least 2,000 county council candidates in May does suggest that any idea that UKIP was a here today and gone tomorrow party is not the case.