Wednesday, 23 October 2013

By-Election Previews: 24 October 2013

Ten by-elections are to be held on 24th October 2013.  Eight are covered on the English Elections blog, while a Labour seat in Dunfermline and an SNP seat in Hamilton are up for election.

Fife Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Mike Rumney.  Rumney, who had served as a councillor since 1995, was chairman of the council's Dunfermline area committee.

  © Copyright Paul McIlroy and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This by-election will be combined with the Scottish Parliamentary by-election for the Dunfermline constituency, which is caused by SNP MSP Bill Walker resigning after being found guilty of 23 charges of domestic assault against three ex-wives.

This ward covers the sort of area you'd expect from the name, a generally residential and light industrial area hard up against the M90 and A823(M) motorways to the east and south of the town.  Effectively capital of Scotland for much of the mediaeval period, Dunfermline's fortunes revived in the early eighteenth century when a linen industry was established in the town.  Today Dunfermline's economy is based on the service sector: BSkyB is the town's largest employer, with Amazon also having a major distribution centre here.  Many of the town's residents commute over the Forth Bridges to Edinburgh; Dunfermline South ward includes Rosyth railway station which has a frequent rail service to Waverley.  With its attractive location, lots of housebuilding has taken place in this ward over the last decade or two.

For many years Dunfermline and by-elections will evoke memories of the 2006 Dunfermline and West Fife parliamentary by-election, which saw a shock Lib Dem gain from Labour despite being held during the interregnum after the resignation of Charles Kennedy.  One of the major issues during that campaign was the tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, which have since been abolished by the SNP administration at Holyrood.  In truth the result shouldn't have been such a shock as the Lib Dems had proven strength in Dunfermline at Fife council level, having won three of the five wards wholly or partly in this area at the 2003 council election (the last one to be held under first-past-the-post).  Under proportional representation, the 2007 election saw the Lib Dems come out on top in the ward's first preferences, with Labour less than four points behind, and win two seats with Labour and the SNP sharing the other two.  The Lib Dem vote collapsed at the 2012 election
 from 35% to 21%; seeing this result coming after the 2011 Holyrood elections, the Lib Dems gave up their second seat by standing only one candidate.  Labour picked up the gain.  The Lib Dems still led on first preferences in the two Pitcorthie ballot boxes, Labour leading everywhere else.

This by-election will be held under the Alternative Vote as with all Scottish local by-elections, and with Labour polling 43% of the first preferences last year they will be heavily favoured to hold their seat.  Their candidate is Billy Pollock, a civil servant working for the MoD in Rosyth.  The SNP candidate Helen Cannon-Todd, from Dalgety Bay, is campaigning against the proposed closure of Pitcorthie primary school.  Robin Munro, a fraud officer in the finance industry, is standing for the Liberal Democrats.  The Tory candidate David Ross (not to be confused with the Depute Leader of Fife council, a Labour councillor with the same name) is blind and works for a local blind people's charity.  Angela Dixon, the Green candidate here last year, tries again, and Cowdenbeath-based Judith Rideout stands for UKIP.

Westminster constituency: Dunfermline and West Fife
Holyrood constituency: Dunfermline (Mid Scotland and Fife region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dunfermline

Helen Cannon-Todd (SNP)
Angela Dixon (Grn)
Robin Munro (LD)
Billy Pollock (Lab)
Judith Rideout (UKIP)
David Ross (C)

May 2012 first prefs Lab 2465 (2 seats) SNP 1540 (1 seat) LD 1190 (1 seat) C 370 Grn 206
May 2007 first prefs LD 2443 (2 seats) Lab 2184 (1 seat) SNP 1583 (1 seat) C 515 Grn 231


South Lanarkshire Council; caused by the death of SNP councillor Bobby Lawson at the age of 73.  A retired salesman who had also had a career in the Navy, Lawson had served on the council since 2007 following an earlier short-lived term after winning a council by-election in the late 1990s.

Entering Hamilton from the South
  © Copyright G Laird and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Again, this ward is pretty much what it says on the tin, covering southern Hamilton from the edge of the town centre along the road to Strathaven to the edge of the built-up area.  This is a strong Labour area and before the introduction of PR Labour held all four of the predecessor wards, although in the 2003 election they only just beat Lawson in Silvertonhill ward (covering the Silvertonhill, Low Waters and Eddlewood areas above Eddlewood Glen, connected by Silvertonhill Avenue).  In the two elections since proportional representation was introduced Labour have had the votes to elect three out of the four councillors but never stood more than two candidates; this has resulted in the Tories winning a surprise seat at the 2007 election with just 11% of the vote, and the SNP winning a second seat at the 2012 election to split the ward's representation 2/2.  The SNP led in the ward's largest ballot box at Chatelherault Primary School, which would cover
 much of the old Silvertonhill ward.

In 2012 Labour polled 52% of the first preferences to 33% for the SNP, who will have their work cut out to hold the seat.  They have selected 20-year-old activist Josh Wilson, who got in trouble in the run-up to last year's council elections for tweeting offensive things to a Celebrity Big Brother contestant.  Labour have selected Stuart Gallacher.  Also standing are Lynne Nailon for the Conservatives, Craig Smith for the Scottish Christian Party (who finished last here last year) and East Kilbride resident Josh Richardson for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutherglen and Hamilton West (western part), Lanark and Hamilton East (eastern part)
Holyrood constituency: Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse

May 2012 first prefs Lab 2775 (2 seats) SNP 1757 (2 seats) C 496 Pensioners 199 Chr 165
May 2007 first prefs Lab 3631 (2 seats) SNP 1791 (1 seat) C 808 (1 seat) Ind 679 LD 427 Grn 188

Stuart Gallacher (Lab)
Lynne Nailon (C)
Josh Richardson (UKIP)
Craig Smith (Chr)
Josh Wilson (SNP)

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