Friday, 28 March 2014

Defection Watch: From Tory to Labour in Dumfries and Galloway

Cllr Graeme Tait
A former Conservative councillor has joined the Labour Party in Dumfries and Galloway.  Cllr Graeme Tait (Annandale North ward) gained his seat from Labour in a by-election in November 2012.  In 2013, he was one of seven councillors in Dumfries and Galloway to quit the Conservative group, forming a new Independent Conservative group and resulting in the collapse of the Conservative-SNP administration and its replacement with a new Labour-SNP administration.  Tait said he chose to join Labour now as he felt its "policies and values" were closer to his own than any other party.

The defection restores the original composition of the ward after the May 2012 election - two Conservatives, one Labour and one SNP councillors.  Labour poll well enough to pretty much guarantee themselves one of the ward's four seats, so Tait could easily defend his seat if he chose to stand again under his new colours.

New council composition -
Labour - 15 (+1)
SNP - 10
Conservatives - 8
Independents - 7
Independent Conservatives - 6 (-1)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

By-Election Preview: 27 March 2014

East Ayrshire Council; caused by the death of SNP councillor Andrew Hershaw at the age of 56.  Hershaw was first elected in 2012 and was in his first term as a councillor.

Knockinlaw Area of Kilmarnock
  © Copyright wfmillar and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
As might be expected, this ward is northern Kilmarnock, a series of residential areas along the roads to Glasgow.  The town of Kilmarnock was called into existence by the Industrial Revolution, with surviving industries in the town including manufacture of valves and railway locomotives; former industries include carpet-making and distilling.  Until 2012, when production was moved elsewhere in Scotland, Kilmarnock's most famous export was the world's best-selling Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker.

The SNP were sufficiently strong here to win all three of the predecessor wards (Altonhill, Hillhead and Longpark; North New Farm Loch and Dean; and Onthank) at the last first-past-the-post election to East Ayrshire in 2003, providing three of their eight councillors.  The introduction of PR in 2007 allowed the SNP to draw level with Labour across the council area, but also enabled Labour to gain representation in this area; the three seats in the new Kilmarnock North ward split two to the SNP and one to Labour in both the 2007 and 2012 elections.  Topping the poll for the SNP in 2007 was Willie Coffey, who on the same day was elected MSP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun; he stood down from the council in 2012 to concentrate on Holyrood and Hershaw inherited his seat; although Hershaw was in last place on first preferences, behind the Tory candidate, the surplus from his running-mate was enough to ensure his election.

It's been quite a long time now since the SNP won a council by-election in Scotland, but with the party polling over 50% of the vote here in both 2007 and 2012 it will take a fair amount for the nationalists to lose this one.  Their candidate is Elaine Cowan, while Scott Thomson stands for Labour.  Also on the ballot paper are the Tories' Ian Grant, standing again from 2012, and Jen Broadhurst for the Scottish Greens.

Westminster constituency: Kilmarnock and Loudoun
Holyrood constituency: Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley (South Scotland region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ayr and Kilmarnock
Postcode district: KA3

Jen Broadhurst (Grn)
Elaine Cowan (SNP)
Ian Grant (C)
Scott Thomson (Lab)

May 2012 result SNP 1738 (2 seats) Lab 1176 (1 seat) C 383
May 2007 result SNP 2504 (2 seats) Lab 1202 (1 seat) C 709 SSP 85

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Defection Watch: Edinburgh SNP Cllr Quits Party

Cllr Jim Orr (Edinburgh, Southside/Newington) has quit the SNP to sit instead as an Independent councillor.  He blamed "far too many internal spats" for feeling unable to continue to work with the SNP though other SNP sources claim that he was "jumping before he was pushed".  Orr was vice-convenor of the city council's transport and environment committee, and known as a eager supporter of cycling, campaigning for more improvements in Edinburgh's cycling infrastructure.

Southside/Newington, like most of Edinburgh's central wards, is extremely marginal with four different parties holding its four seats.  In 2012, the Greens narrowly topped the poll here albeit with only 20% of the first preference votes. Labour were second with 19.8%, Cllr Orr then for the SNP came third with 18.3%, while the Conservatives took the last seat with 16.7%.  The full 2012 result for the ward is available here.  The ward itself is dominated by the student community of the University of Edinburgh, although large numbers of affluent professionals also live in the area.

Edinburgh itself has had a rather unusual Labour-SNP "grand coalition" administration since 2012, whose overall majority still remains.

New council composition -
Labour - 20
SNP - 17 (-1)
Conservative - 11
Green - 6
Lib Dems - 3
Independent - 1 (+1)