Thursday, 2 June 2016

By-election Preview: 2 June 2016

Seven by-elections on 2nd June 2016, one of which is unfinished business from May. One is covered here, two over on the Welsh Elections blog, and four more on the English Elections blog.

Argyll and Bute council
Caused by the resignation of councillor Iain Macdonald due to pressure of business.

Clachan Bridge, 'The Bridge Over the Atlantic'
If once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and thrice is conspiracy, what's four times?  Yes, this column has once again ended up in that beautiful corner of the Scottish Highlands which is served by the town of Oban, for the second by-election of the year, the fourth in two years, and the fifth in five years.  This really is getting beyond a joke, people; as well as all this the electors of Oban North and Lorn have had to be dragged out for the independence referendum in September 2014, the Westminster election in 2015 and the Holyrood election last May, and will be back at the polls later this month for the EU membership referendum.  Consequently, your columnist has described this ward several times before and this time will confine himself to saying that it covers the whole of Oban's hinterland together with the northern third of the town itself.

Iain Macdonald was first elected for this ward in 2012 as an independent candidate, gaining his seat from the Liberal Democrats and beating the second SNP candidate in the final round of counting by less than one vote; the other three seats for the ward went to two other independents and the leading SNP candidate.  The ward's high councillor attrition rate began to assert itself in the summer of 2014 with the resignation of the SNP councillor; with the party's Oban branch having suffered a damaging split (they had unexpectedly lost a by-election in the other Oban ward earlier in 2014) the defending SNP candidate was top in the first round but with less than 25% of the vote, and attracted so few transfers that they failed to make the final round of voting, in which Labour candidate Kieron Green narrowly lost to independent candidate John MacGregor.  MacGregor died just two weeks later, and the SNP got their seat back in the ensuing by-election which was the first to be held after the independence referendum, narrowly beating independent Stephanie Venner in the final round.  As stated, this is the second council by-election here of 2016, with long-serving independent Duncan MacIntyre having retired on health grounds at the start of the year; that by-election, held in February, saw a second SNP gain, beating Kieron Green (this time standing as an independent) 54-46 in the final round.  With Iain Macdonald having defected to the SNP during his term, the Nationalists now had three seats out of four in the ward having had none following the July 2014 by-election.  I hope you're keeping up at the back there, this is interesting stuff.

Macdonald's defection makes it rather difficult to identify a defending candidate for this by-election, particularly given the entertaining mess which is Argyll and Bute council which is nominally ruled by a galaxy of independent groups who appear to keep themselves busy by bickering with each other.  Two veterans of all three by-elections return for a fourth tilt: independent candidate Kieron Green (who had the Labour nomination in both 2014 polls and was runner-up in February) and Conservative candidate Andrew Venner.  The SNP candidate is Breege Smyth, who appears to be a radio producer from North Connel, and the Lib Dems are having a go this time by selecting Isle of Mull resident David Pollard.

Westminster constituency: Argyll and Bute
Holyrood constituency: Argyll and Bute

Feb 2016 by-election SNP 1113 C 609 Ind 608 Grn 300; after transfers SNP 1241 Ind 1048
Oct 2014 by-election SNP 1090 Ind 629 Lab 530 C 415; after transfers SNP 1199 Ind 1080
July 2014 by-election SNP 595 Ind 548 Lab 526 C 445 Ind 301; after transfers Ind 920 Lab 874
May 2012 result SNP 1117 Ind 807 Ind 421 Ind 361 C 332 Ind 222 LD 188 Ind 125 Ind 58
Nov 2011 by-election SNP 1081 C 505 Ind 438 LD 260 Ind 165; after transfers SNP 1179 C 591 Ind 561
May 2007 result SNP 1019 Ind 1005 Ind 779 LD 665 C 387 Ind 200 Ind 188 Ind 176 Ind 140

Thursday, 7 April 2016

By-election Preview: 7 April 2016

Three by-elections on 7th April 2016.  One covered on English Elections, one on Welsh Elections, and one below:

Perth and Kinross council
Caused by the death of Independent councillor Alan Jack at the age of 76.  He had served on Perth and Kinross council since 1999, originally as a Conservative but his final re-election in 2012 was as an independent: that 2012 election was controversial as Jack's campaign went a long way over the election expenses limit, and he was fined £450.

Back Street, Bridge of Earn
For the last electoral test in Scotland before the fifth Scottish Parliament elections in 2016, we are in southern Perthshire in a large rural ward which sprawls immediately to the west and south of Perth.  This is a ward of no towns; the largest settlement is probably Bridge of Earn, a commuter village to the south of Perth, while the Almond part of the ward includes the village of Methven, an away win for the English in 1306 in the days when England and Scotland faced off on the battlefield rather than the rugby field.

Alan Jack's base was in Bridge of Earn which he had represented (as part of the former Earn ward) since 1999.  The present Almond and Earn ward was formed in 2007 and was based on the former Earn ward and Strathalmond ward (based on Methven and voting SNP in 2003) together with parts of the former wards of Abernethy and Glenfarg (C), Auchterarder Mid Earn (C), and Strathord and Logiealmond (LD).  In the 2007 election to the new ward, the first election held under PR, the Tories tried for two out of three seats and polled 46%, but that was short of two quotas and SNP surplus transfers gave the final seat to the Lib Dems' George Hayton, who had previously been councillor for Kinross Town before being displaced by PR.

In 2012 Alan Jack stood for re-election as an independent, the SNP tried for two seats and the Tories settled for one: the first preferences split 41% to the SNP, 30% for the Tories and just 12% for Jack, but Jack capitalised on some less-than-perfect balancing by the SNP to pick up transfers from everybody else and win the final seat by just 14 votes, defeating the outgoing SNP councillor who lost her seat to her running-mate.

There is no defending independent candidate in this by-election so Alan Jack's seat is up for grabs.  In pole position to pick it up, if the first preferences from 2012 are any guide, is the former SNP councillor Wilma Lumsden who lost her seat in 2012.  The Tory candidate is Kathleen Baird, who previously represented part of this ward as councillor for Abernethy and Glenfarg from 2003; in 2007 she transferred to Kinross-shire ward but lost her seat in 2012.  (The Lib Dem candidate whom Baird defeated in 2003 was Danus Skene, whom readers might recall as the losing SNP candidate in Orkney and Shetland last year, although that wasn't even the strangest aspect of his long electoral career.)  Also standing are Dave Mackenzie for Labour, former councillor George Hayton for the Lib Dems and Denise Baykal of UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Ochil and South Perthshire
Holyrood constituency: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1520 C 1112 Ind 444 Lab 369 LD 244
May 2007 first preferences C 2255 SNP 1790 LD 849

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

By-election Preview: 31 March 2016

Five by-elections on 31 March - three covered over on the English Elections blog, one on Welsh Elections, along with one in Scotland covered below.

Dundee city council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Craig Melville as a result of a row over alleged racist and Islamophobic texts.  He had served since winning a by-election in March 2009.

Caird Hall, Dundee
This week's Scottish by-election comes from the centre of Dundee.  Maryfield ward contains Dundee city centre, the Abertay University campus, the end of the Tay Road Bridge and the city's docks, running north from the docks to take in the area around Baxter and Stobsmuir Parks as far as the Kingsway.

Before PR was introduced most of this area was in just two single-member wards: Baxter Park (which was safe SNP) and East Port (an SNP/Labour marginal).  With the introduction of PR in 2007 Maryfield became a three-seat ward with two safe seats for the SNP and one for Labour, the SNP winning the first preferences 51-36 at the most recent election in 2012.

With the general swing to the SNP since 2012 and the good Yes performance in Dundee in the referendum, it's hard to see beyond the SNP's Lynne Short for this by-election.  Labour's Alan Cowan, a Unison and GMB activist will be hoping for a gain which would cut the SNP majority on the city council to one.  Also standing are James Clancy for the Tories, Christopher McIntyre for the Lib Dems, Stuart Fairweather for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Jacob Ellis for the Greens, independent candidate Brian McLeod and UKIP's Calum Walker.

Parliamentary constituencies: Dundee East (part formerly in Baxter Park and East Port wards); Dundee West (part formerly in Stobswell and Tay Bridges wards)
Holyrood constituencies: Dundee City East (most of ward); Dundee City West (city centre)

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1746 Lab 1251 C 249 LD 126 TUSC 62
March 2009 by-election SNP 1550 Lab 1013 LD 354 C 224 SSP 52 Ind 35 Ind 28; after transfers SNP 1620 Lab 1052 LD 455
May 2007 first preferences SNP 2188 Lab 1511 LD 644 C 410 SSP 96 Solidarity 83

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

By-election Preview: 18 February 2016

Nine by-elections on 18th February 2016, seven in England, one in Wales and one in Scotland.

Argyll and Bute council
Caused by the resignation of independent councillor Duncan MacIntyre on health grounds.  He had served on Argyll and Bute council since 1999, originally being elected for the former Ardconnel-Kilmore ward.

Inverliver Bay, Loch Etive
Not again, I hear you cry. Yes, we are back in Oban North and Lorn for the third by-election in two years, and the fourth in five years.  This geographically vast ward with a high councillor attrition rate essentially contains the whole of the hinterland of Oban but only the northern third of the town itself (the other two-thirds of Oban is in a ward with Mull and various other islands).  The ward goes a long way inland along the line of the A85, past Dalmally and as far as Bridge of Orchy; also here are the Benderloch and Appin areas on the north side of Loch Etive, together with the island of Lismore in Loch Linnhe.  As well as tourism, one of the main drivers of the local economy is the hydroelectric power station at Ben Cruachan, knowledge of which once won your columnist a bottle of rare Belgian beer.

The ward was created for the 2007 elections in Scotland which were the first to be held under proportional representation.  In 2003 at the last first-past-the-post election, all four of the predecessor wards (Awe, Oban North, Ardconnel-Kilmore and North Lorn) returned independent councillors.  Two of the independents were re-elected in 2007, including MacIntyre, while one was defeated; the other two seats went to the Lib Dems and the SNP.  The SNP councillor died in 2011 and the SNP held the by-election, polling 44% of the vote; at the decisive stage of the count she had 51% of the vote to 25% for the Tories and 24% for an independent candidate.  In the 2012 election the Lib Dem vote collapsed and their seat went to a third independent, who defeated the second SNP candidate by a margin of less than one vote.

In 2014 Oban had three local by-elections.  The first was held in May (simultaneously with the European elections) in the other Oban ward, and was unexpectedly won by Labour who had not previously contested the area.  For the second, held here in July following the resignation of the SNP councillor, your columnist wrote that "even with Scottish by-elections using the Alternative Vote anything can still happen" and we certainly got an unusual and interesting result.  The SNP topped the poll on first preferences but with less than 25% of the vote, and the nationalist party (whose Oban branch had suffered a damaging split) attracted so few transfers that they failed to make the final round of voting, in which John MacGregor narrowly defeated Labour by 920 votes to 874.

MacGregor's election meant that all four of the ward's seats were now in the hands of independents, but that didn't last long: two weeks later MacGregor was dead, and the SNP got their seat back in the town's third by-election of 2014, Iain MacLean (who had lost the May by-election in Oban South) beating independent candidate Stephanie Irvine, who picked up the lion's share of the transfers, by 1199 votes to 1080 to win Scotland's first election after the independence referendum.

For this third Oban North by-election of the current Argyll and Bute council (which is an entertaining mess, with an initial SNP administration falling apart in 2013 and various independent groups keeping themselves busy bickering with each other) the defending independent candidate is an interesting one: Kieron Green, who was the Labour candidate in both 2014 by-elections and runner-up in the July poll that year.   There is no official Labour candidate.   The SNP have selected Julie McKenzie, an Oban community councillor.  Completing the ballot paper are the Tories' Andrew Venner, who stood in both 2014 by-elections and finished fourth both times; and Pat Tyrrell of the Green Party.

Westminster constituency: Argyll and Bute
Holyrood constituency: Argyll and Bute

Oct 2014 by-election SNP 1090 Ind 629 Lab 530 C 415; after transfers SNP 1199 Ind 1080
July 2014 by-election SNP 595 Ind 548 Lab 526 C 445 Ind 301; after transfers Ind 920 Lab 874
May 2012 result SNP 1117 Ind 807 Ind 421 Ind 361 C 332 Ind 222 LD 188 Ind 125 Ind 58
Nov 2011 by-election SNP 1081 C 505 Ind 438 LD 260 Ind 165; after transfers SNP 1179 C 591 Ind 561
May 2007 result SNP 1019 Ind 1005 Ind 779 LD 665 C 387 Ind 200 Ind 188 Ind 176 Ind 140

Sunday, 17 January 2016

By-election Preview: 21 January 2016

Six by-elections on 21st January 2016.  One Scottish contest being held in Hamilton, with another five down in England covered over on the Election Elections blog, here.

South Lanarkshire council
Caused by the death of Scottish National Party councillor Lynn Adams at the age of 57.  A publican by trade, being landlady of the George in Hamilton, Adams had twice played handball for Scotland and also formerly worked for Motorola.  She had served on South Lanarkshire council since 2012.

Quarry Street, Hamilton
This is Hamilton's town centre ward, just off the M74 motorway and also including the Whitehill area to the north and the Ferniegair area to the south-east.  Here can be found Hamilton Park racecourse, Hamilton Academicals' football ground and Strathclyde Park, formerly the home of the Dukes of Hamilton and still containing their mausoleum, which claims the record for the world's longest echo.  The railway stations at Hamilton Central and Hamilton West (on the Hamilton Circle line) and Chatelherault (on the Larkhall branch) link the ward to Glasgow and Motherwell.  (Moreover, your blog editor worked in this ward for three years after first leaving university, also living in the ward for the last of those years. -Ed)

The introduction of PR for Scottish elections in 2007 enabled the SNP to win a seat here, with Labour winning the other two seats comfortably enough ahead of the Tory candidate Andrew Leitch (who can now be found on the Vote UK forum arguing about Scottish notional election results).  The gap between Labour and the SNP closed in 2012 to 43-40, and Labour held their second seat just 30 votes ahead of the second SNP candidate - who was the councillor elected in 2007, losing his seat to his running-mate Adams.  The general swing from Labour to SNP since 2012 suggests that the Nationalists should have few problems holding this by-election.

Defending for the SNP is Stephanie Callaghan, while Labour have gone for youth in selecting Lyndsay Clelland.  Also standing are James Mackay of the Conservatives, Steven Hannigan of the Green Party and Norman Rae of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Lanark and Hamilton East (most), Rutherglen and Hamilton West (small part)
Holyrood constituency: Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse (most), Uddingston and Bellshill (Whitehill area)

May 2012 first preferences Lab 1831 SNP 1721 C 430 Ind 141 Grn 133
May 2007 first preferences Lab 2556 SNP 1769 C 917 Ind 214 Ind 190

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

By-election Preview: 10 December 2015

Seven local by-elections this week - one taking place in Scotland with six more covered over on the English Elections blog.

South Lanarkshire council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Jim Handibode.  A South Lanarkshire councillor since 1995, and before that a Hamilton district councillor since 1992, Handibode was a former Royal Engineer and veteran of the Borneo confrontation in the mid-1960s; on the council he was Chair of Social Work for many years.

This ward should not be confused with the commercial capital of the African country of Malawi.  There is, of course, a link: Blantyre was the home town of David Livingstone, the African explorer who was the first European to see the Victoria Falls.  His birthplace on the south bank of the Clyde is now a museum, handily located for Blantyre's railway station on the Hamilton Circle line, with regular trains to Hamilton and Glasgow.  Apart from Livingstone, Blantyre is noted for an appalling pit explosion in 1877 which killed 207 men and boys.

Before PR was introduced in 2007 this area was represented by three Labour councillors and one independent, with Handibode representing Coatshill/Low Blantyre ward.  PR enabled the SNP to get in on the act, their candidate John McNamee gaining a seat from Labour and independent Bert Thomson also winning a seat, Labour being represented by Handibode and Hugh Dunsmuir, who topped the poll.  The same four councillors were re-elected in 2012, but this time McNamee was on the Labour slate and Thomson was the SNP candidate, so effectively Labour gained a seat from the independents to split the seats 3-1 Labour-SNP.  In terms of votes, Labour had 54% of the first preferences to 31% for the SNP.

Defending for Labour is Mo Razzaq, a shopowner and businessman, Scottish president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and secretary of the Scottish Grocers Federation.  He is opposed by the SNP candidate, Gerry Chambers.  Also standing are Tory candidate Taylor Muir, Lib Dem Stephen Reid, Sean Baillie of the Scottish Socialist Party and UKIP's Emma Docherty.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Holyrood constituency: Rutherglen (most), Uddingston and Bellshill (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lanarkshire

May 2012 result Lab 2476 SNP 1399 Ind 234 CPA 209 C 176 Ind 40 LD 32
May 2007 result Lab 2707 Ind 1365 SNP 1253 Ind 748 C 327 Ind 52

Thursday, 26 November 2015

By-election Previews: 26 November 2015

Nine by-elections on 26th November 2015, five in England, two in Wales and two in Scotland.  In Scotland the SNP have to defend two seats in the Kingdom of Fife.  Your columnist hasn't had a lot of spare time this week, so some of these entries may be slightly abbreviated.

Fife council
Caused respectively by the resignations of Scottish National Party councillors David Mogg and Douglas Chapman.  Chapman is now the Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife.

Conoisseurs of Fife by-elections have had a vintage year, with these being the fifth and sixth polls of 2015.  Dunfermline North does pretty much what it says on the tin, being the northern third of Dunfermline plus a small rural hinterland.  Rosyth ward covers the whole of that town plus the village of North Queensferry at the northern end of the Forth Bridges - currently two, with a replacement road bridge now under construction.  Rosyth is of course a naval town - the Navy moved out in 1994 but there is still some shipbulding here together with regular freight-only ferries to Zeebrugge in Belgium.

The two wards have fairly similar electoral histories: they both elected one councillor each from Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP in 2007, with Labour gaining the Lib Dem seats in 2012 which was the most recent election here.  In 2012 Labour had 48% in Dunfermline North to 32% for the SNP and 14% for the Lib Dems, while in Rosyth Labour beat the SNP 48-36.  The surge for the SNP since last year's referendum suggests that both these seats are well within their grasp.

Defending for the SNP in Dunfermline North is Ian Ferguson, a hypnotherapist.  The Labour candidate is Joe Long, an exec member of the Scottish Fabians.  On the Lib Dem side, their 2012 candidate James Calder tries again.  Also on the ballot are the Tories' James Reekie, the Greens' Lewis Campbell and UKIP's Chloanne Dodds.

The defending SNP candidate in Rosyth is Sharon Wilson, a publisher and treasurer of the local community council.  She is opposed in the red corner by Labour's Vikki Fairweather, a working mum and occasional boxer.  Also standing are Matthew Hall for the Lib Dems, David Ross of the Tories, UKIP's Colin Mitchelson, Cairinne Macdonald of the Green Party and independent candidate Alastair MacIntyre.

Dunfermline North
Parliamentary constituency: Dunfermline and West Fife
Scottish Parliament constituency: Dunfermline
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dunfermline

May 2012 result Lab 1841 (2 seats) SNP 1204 (1 seat) LD 518 C 253
May 2007 result Lab 1526 (1 seat) LD 1451 (1 seat) SNP 1236 (1 seat) Local Health Concern 690 C 313 Ind 59

Parliamentary constituency: Dunfermline and West Fife
Scottish Parliament constituency: Cowdenbeath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dunfermline

May 2012 result Lab 1843 (2 seats) SNP 1382 (1 seat) LD 275 C 223 UKIP 101 Ind 41
May 2007 result Lab 2035 (1 seat) SNP 1672 (1 seat) LD 1081 (1 seat) C 415