Tonight’s Local By-Election Preview by Harry Hayfield

October 16th, 2014

Harper Green on Bolton (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 40, Conservatives 15, Liberal Democrats 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 2 (Labour majority of 20)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Labour 744 (52%), Conservative 325 (23%), UKIP 252 (18%), Greens 60 (4%), Liberal Democrats 53 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jeff Armstrong (UKIP), Rebekah Fairhurst (Lib Dem), Susan Haworth (Lab), Joseph Holt (Ind), James Tomkinson (Green), Robert Tyler (Con)

If a week is a long time in politics, then twenty five years must seem like a millennium and yet, however, in those 25 years places like Bolton haven’t changed that much. Back in 1990, Bolton was a Labour controlled council with 43 of the 60 members elected belonging to Labour and they had an overall majority of 26. However, that lack of change masks a great deal. The first big change came in 2003 when Labour lost overall control, and in 2006 all three main parties were pretty much neck and neck (Lab 22, Con 21, Lib Dem 17), but following that election the tide began to swing towards Labour as they gained control again in 2011, and in 2014 the furst UKIP councillors were elected. So no change on the surface over the last quarter of a century or so, but a lot of changes on the ground.

Towyn on Conwy (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Independents 19, Conservatives 13, Plaid Cymru 12, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats 5
Result of ward at last election (2008): Conservatives 411 (59%), Independent 120 (17%), Green 101 (15%), British National Party 60 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Geoff Corry (Ind), Barry Griffiths (Ind), David Johnson (Ind), Laura Knightly (Con), Beverley Pickard-Jones (Lab), Michael Smith (Ind)

There are a number of councils across the UK where it is simply impossible to create an overall majority, most of these places are areas with large number of Independents and Conwy is one of these councils. It’s been around since 1995 (created when Colwyn and Aberconwy were merged) and ever since no one has been able to get a majority on the council. In 1995, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were tied on 18 councillors each (with the Lib Dems having a 3% popular vote lead), in 1999 Labour had the most councillors (18 again), in 2004 the Independents took the lead with 19 seats, then the Conservatives stormed into the lead with 22 seats in 2008, before the Independents reclaimed the lead with 19 again but everytime way, way less than the 31 needed for an overall majority. So no matter what happens in Towyn, nothing is going to happen to change the fact that Conwy will always be a hung council for the rest of it’s days even if it does merge, or is forced to merge, with Denbighshire (Con 30%, Ind 28%, Lab 23%, Plaid 11%, Lib Dem 7%, Green 0%, Others 1%)

Medworth on Fenland (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 34, Independents 4, Liberal Democrast 2 (Conservative majority of 28)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservative 364 (59%), Labour 194 (31%), Liberal Democrats 58 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kathy Dougall (Lab), Andrew Hunt (UKIP), Erbie Murat (Ind), Josephine Radcliffe (Lib Dem), Steve Tierney (Con)

Ah, Fenland, that rural part of eastern Cambridgeshire that just screams rural idyll and Conservative councillors elected with majorities over Independents that would make even grown men cry at the state of local democracy. So what a good thing we have UKIP to keep people on their toes (and with entire justification as well). In the Euros in Fenland, UKIP not only won the local count area (with 47% of the vote) but thanks to a 23% increase in the UKIP vote managed to clock up a 14% swing from Con to UKIP so now that everyone expects UKIP to win all Conservative seats where there is a whopping Conservative majority on the council, for UKIP NOT to win this (or indeed any other seat where the same rules apply) will be seen as a case for reasoning that maybe the UKIP surge is not all it is cracked up to be.

Tudor on Kingston upon Thames (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 18, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 8)
Result of ward at last election (2014) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,617, 1,437, 1,378
Liberal Democrats 701, 698, 554
Green 629
Labour 561, 511, 455
United Kingdom Independence Party 445
Candidates duly nominated: Ryan Coley (Green), Marilyn Mason (Lib Dem), Maria Netley (Con), Chris Priest (Lab), Ben Roberts (UKIP)

For a council with such an imposing name (the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) it is perhaps only fitting that the battle for the council has been a battle royal. In 1990, when my records begin, the council was hung (Con 25, Lib Dem 18, Lab 7), but in 1994 the Lib Dems gained control only for the Conservatives to bring it back to being hung in 1998, the Lib Dems gained it for the second time in three elections in 2002 but again in 2006, the Conservatives made a charge but this time it wasn’t enough and the Lib Dems held on with a majority of 2. Up went the Lib Dem majority in 2010 to 6 but (as sure as night follows day) along came the Conservatives in 2014 and managed to gain overall control for the first time in over 25 years. So who’s going to win this by-election? Well, don’t look at me I haven’t got a clue!

Helmshore on Rossendale (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 24, Conservatives 10, Independents 2 (Labour majority of 12)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservatives 1,167 (58%), Labour 846 (42%)
Candidates duly nominated: Granville Barker (UKIP), Emma Harding (Lab), Tony Haworth (Con)

Rossendale (the core of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, so often mentioned on election night as a key Conservative / Labour battleground constituency) is just as marginal as the constituency it creates. Hung in 2003, it was one of the many Conservative GAINS in 2004 and stayed that way until 2011 when Labour gained it and the result in 2011 proves that, so here’s a good question for the experts pondering the effect of UKIP on Conservative / Labour marginals. Can UKIP help Labour get an 8% swing to gain the seat, or are UKIP just as capable of gaining as many Labour votes as they gain Conservative votes?

Oakham South West (Con Defence) and Whissendine (Ind Defence) on Rutland
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 16, Independents 8, Liberal Democrats 2 (Conservative majority of 6)
Result of wards at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected

Oakham South West
Conservatives 285, 277
Independents 279, 266
Liberal Democrats 178, 131
Non Party Independent 139

Whissendine: Independent 335 (58%), Conservative 247 (42%)

Candidates duly nominated:
Oakham South West: Ben Callaghan (Ind), Richard Clifton (Con), Richard Swift (Lib Dem)
Whissendine: Sam Asplin (Lib Dem), Jonny Baker (Con)

Rutland is the oldest, yet newest, council on the block. Given unitary authority status back in the 1990′s, it re-created England’s smallest county and since 2003 has been Conservative controlled (which explains why Alan Duncan has such a healthy majority in Rutland and Melton) and also explains why the Independents do so well on the council but as with most Indpendents it’s a very personal vote so will the Independent nominated in Oakham South West manage to hold on to the seat and with no Independent defending in Whissendine, where will their votes go? Conservative or Liberal Democrat?

Sheppey Central on Swale (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 32, Labour 13, Liberal Democrats 1, Independents 1 (Conservative majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 911, 871, 838
Labour 664, 618, 557
United Kingdom Independence Party 326
Offical Monster Raving Loony Party 171
Candidates duly nominated: Tina Booth (Con), Alan Henley (Lab), David Jones (UKIP), Mad Mike Young (Loony)

West Thurrock and South Stifford on Thurrock (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 24, Conservatives 22, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,054 (47%), UKIP 760 (34%), Conservatives 340 (15%), Liberal Democrats 73 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Terry Brookes (Lab), Russell Cherry (UKIP), John Rowles (Con)

If local by-elections were treated like movie trailers, these two would have the following: “From Local Election Productions comes “THE BATTLE OF THE EAST”, where the upstarts of UKIP aim to knock both the Conservatives in Swale and Labour in Thurrock into a cocked hat” and with entirely good reason. Swale is next door to Medway (where a certain Mark Reckless will be defending his Conservative majority for UKIP at the end of November) and Thurrock is a seat that Labour are scared witless that UKIP could gain or enable the Conservatives to gain. Of all the by-elections tonight, these are the ones that will be poured over for the rest of the month

Westfield on City of York (Lib Dem defence from Labour defection)
Result of last election to council (2011): Labour 26, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 8, Greens 2, Independent 1 (Labour majority of 5)
Result of last at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,767, 1,642, 1,540
Liberal Democrats 1,401, 1,397, 1,152
Conservative 561
Greens 343, 260, 253
Candidates duly nominated: Jason Brown (Con), Louise Corson (Lab), Sam Kelly (Eng Dems), Judith Morris (UKIP), Andrew Waller (Lib Dem), Alison Webb (Green)

But, Kent and Essex aren’t the only places where defections happen. The City of York seems on the face of it a normal northern city. Lib Dem controlled in 2003, Lib Dem loss to No Overall Control in 2007, Labour gain in 2011, but over the years since that Labour gain there have been just one or two grumblings from Labour and Cllr. James Alexander (Lab, Holgate) and leader of the council has seen his majority shrink so this by-election, ahead of the general election next year, will be very important indeed. Can Labour protect their majority or will the Lib Dems be able to fight back in an area that looked so promising just a few years ago?


Rochester punters unmoved by the CON primary and Cameron visit: UKIP still a 77.5% chance

October 16th, 2014

Is Reckless right to complain about the CON primary?

We are just five weeks away from the Rochester & Strood by-election and today David Cameron visited the area to meet local businesses as well as the two women competing to be the CON candidate.

Last night the Tories staged hustings and voting papers have now gone out by post to every single elector in the constituency, not just Tories, so they can vote by post on who should represent the blue team. It will be next Thursday before the party is able to announce which one has got it.

    Meanwhile a legal argument has started about the status of the primary process and election expenses. Will all or part of the costs have to be set against the overall limit that’s imposed on candidate during elections? The CON argument is that official expenses are triggered once the candidate is chosen. UKIP believe this is unfair because details about the two Tory contenders are included in the mail-pack that has gone out with the ballot forms.

UKIP and Mark Rekless have to be careful about how they handle this. As C4′s Michael Crick writesit’s hard to complain about a move which seemingly makes the process more democratic”.

Meanwhile punters remain unimpressed. UKIP remains a 77.5% chance on Betfair to win.

What will really set the betting alive is a new poll, perhaps from Lord A, in which the candidates are named. That’s probably a couple of weeks off.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The latest round of Lord Ashcroft’s marginals’ polling finds a 5% CON to LAB swing – slightly more than the 3-4% we’ve been seeing in recent national polls

October 16th, 2014

I love this Tweet from Lord A


For the second consecutive day YouGov’s UKIP share moves to a record high

October 16th, 2014

Is this going to fade or are we seeing a permanent change?

The record polling shares continue for UKIP with the latest YouGov daily poll moving up from yesterday’s 18% to 19% this morning. The latest figures have CON on 31% and LAB on 33% a joint main two party aggregate of just 64% which is a record low for this parliament.

Of course the purples are enjoying the aftermath of their by election successes a week ago and as is being widely pointed the SDP was doing this in the early 80s only to fade at GE1983.

What’s clearly driving this is the continuing weakness of the three main parties and the low esteem in which their leaders are regarded. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum and that is how many are seeing politics at the moment.

The upcoming Rochester by election will help keep the UKIP narrative going and as each day goes by we get closer to the general election now only six and a bit months away.

    GE15 will, of course, not be decided on national aggregate vote shares but on the outcomes in 650 separate elections in each of the constituencies fought under first past the post – a fact that makes things very challenging for UKIP.

In these elections you don’t vote for a party or a leader but for an individual to represent your area at Westminster.

The big polling development at this coming general election is the huge number of single seat surveys that are being carried out and another batch from Lord Ashcroft are due to be released later in the day.

Viewing the battle from a single seat perspective rather than national aggregate votes the position of UKIP might look very different. But last week the purples made that critical breakthrough in Clacton and who knows how many MPs they’ll end up with?

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Today’s PMQs in full – the first after conference season

October 15th, 2014


Ipsos-Mori becomes the third pollster in less than a week to show a record high for UKIP

October 15th, 2014

Following on from Survation and YouGov recording their highest ever shares for UKIP, Ipsos-Mori joins the party, and has their highest ever share for UKIP.

Labour will be relieved to be back in the lead, but as with other pollsters, we’re seeing some historically low shares for the Con and Lab combined.

Labour will be alarmed that Ed’s ratings continue to slide, and are perilously close to Nick Clegg’s ratings.

For me the most interesting finding from this polling was this

More of the British public now disagree that voting UKIP in a general election is a wasted vote than agree. Just under half (48%) disagree that a general election vote for UKIP is a wasted vote, compared with 41% who agree. This is a turnaround from earlier this year – last month, prior to the Clacton by-election, 50% thought a UKIP vote was a vote wasted and 41% disagreed; in May, some 57% thought voting UKIP was a wasted vote and just 33% disagreed.

So those expecting the UKIP to fade by the General Election maybe in for a surprise, as people won’t view their UKIP vote as a wasted vote.



UKIP hit a record 18% from YouGov in the latest daily poll

October 15th, 2014

The reverberations from Clacton continue

After the strong UKIP performances in the most recent Survation, Ashcrfot and ICM polls YouGov is reporting this morning that the party is on 18% – the highest ever figure from the firm.

Survation at the weekend had the party on 25% while ICM on Monday saw UKIP move up 5% to 14%. The same day the Ashcroft National Poll had the party on 19% which equalled the previous record share.

So there’s strong polling evidence now that UKIP has, as you’d expect, benefited enormously from the winning its first ever MP at Clacton last week and the coming so close in Heywood.

    The latest YouGov has CON 30%/LAB 34%/LD 8%/UKIP 18%

With the upcoming Rochester by-election on November 20th there’s a strong chance that the party can remain at high levels. Insurgent parties need publicity and by-election successes can keep them in the spotlight.

As I’ve said in previous posts Rochester is by far and away the most important by-election of recent times. Quite simply the Tories have to stop the Farage band-wagon here or else prospects for GE15 will look even bleaker. At the same time a failure by Mark Reckless to hold onto the seat with his new allegiance would be a severe set-back for UKIP.

For those, like me, who love by-elections Rochester and Strood is a contest to savour. My guess is that the next polling will be after the Tory primary has been completed and the survey can name the main candidates.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The key group in Rochester – the women who’ve yet to make up their minds

October 14th, 2014

Will they be more likely to vote for a woman?