Thursday, 27 November 2014

By-election Previews: 27th November 2014

There are twelve by-elections on 27th November.  Nine will be covered in English Elections and three in Scottish Elections.  In Scotland there is a poll to the non-partisan Orkney islands council, while the SNP have chances to take a seat in northern Aberdeenshire off the Tories and a seat in Midlothian from Labour.

Orkney Islands council
Caused by the resignation of independent councillor Jack Moodie due to "lack of motivation and enthusiasm".

Kirkwall Harbour from the Cathedral
Up to the remote northern isles.  The Kirkwall West and Orphir ward is a combined rural-urban ward: Orphir is a rural parish at the south-western corner of Orkney Mainland.  The ward has a long coastline on the northern edge of Scapa Flow, and also includes the western half of the Orkney Islands' capital, Kirkwall, including the Balfour Hospital, Orkney's main NHS hospital where most Orcadians begin and end their lives.

Orkney's elections are essentially non-partisan.  Jack Moodie had been elected at the top of the poll at the first STV election in 2007, polling almost twice the quota in this four-seat ward, and had also topped the poll in 2012 with 476 first preference votes (31%).

There are four candidates competing for Moodie's seat.  First in alphabetical order is Laurence Leonard, who fought the ward in 2012 and came a poor sixth out of eleven candiates with just 42 first preferences; a builder and Kirkwall community councillor, he made the news a few years ago by threatening to kill two police officers with a non-existent nail gun, for which he was sentenced to 18 months' probation.  Lorraine McBrearty is a singer from Kirkwall, who had a Patsy Cline tribute show at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.  Leslie Manson has recently retired after a 37-year career with the council, latterly as a long-serving director of education; he was gazetted MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to Scottish education and the community in Orkney.  Last on the ballot paper is Gillian Skuse, chair of Orkney Health and Care and non-exec director of NHS Orkney.

Westminster and Holyrood constituency: Orkney and Shetland (Highlands and Islands region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Orkney Islands

Laurence Leonard (Ind)
Lorraine McBrearty (Ind)
Leslie Manson (Ind)
Gillian Skuse (Ind)

2012 first preferences Ind 1480 SNP 50 (seats: Ind 4)
2007 first preferences Ind 1576 (seats: Ind 4)

Midlothian council
Caused by the resignation of Peter Boyes, who was elected as Labour but had left the party and was sitting as an independent.

New bridge for the Borders Railway
This is a slightly awkwardly-shaped division, running southeast from the Sheriffhall roundabout (scene of many a traffic jam on the Edinburgh bypass) around the south of Dalkeith to include several villages along the A68 Edinbugh-Carter Bar road.  The principal settlements in the ward are Eskbank, the southern part of Dalkeith and Mayfield, a 1950s development for colliery workers at Newtongrange and Easthouses; Easthouses also lies within the ward and effetively has merged into Mayfield.

The first proportional representation election here in 2007 was neck-and-neck between the SNP and Labour on first preferences, with the Lib Dems winning the final seat easily thanks to a combination of the SNP only standing one candidate and Labour failing to balance their vote between two candidates.  The Lib Dem councillor then defected to Labour and stood for re-election in 2012 on the Labour slate.  The SNP were clearly ahead on first preferences in 2012 (polling 43% to 36% for Labour) and with no official Lib Dem candidate had a chance of winning two out of three; however, another failure by Labour to balance their candidates saw the second Labour candidate (the ex-Lib Dem) eliminated, and Labour and Conservative transfers elected independent candidate Peter Devink to the final seat with a majority of 19 votes over the second SNP candidate.  With the SNP riding high in the polls they now have an opportunity to take a second seat in the ward for the first time.  Midlothian council is currently run by a coalition of the SNP and Devink which has half the seats, and if the SNP gain this by-election the administration will have a majority on the council.

Defending for Labour is Kenny Young, a former press officer for Ed Miliband.  The SNP candidate is Colin Cassidy, who fought Dalkeith ward in 2012.  Robert Hogg, the secretary of Mayfield and Easthouses community council, is standing as an independent.  Also on the ballot paper are Andrew Hardie for the Conservatives, Euan Davidson for the Lib Dems and Bill Kerr-Smith for the Scottish Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Midlothian
Holyrood constituency: Midlothian North and Musselburgh (Lothian region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Edinburgh

Colin Cassidy (SNP)
Euan Davidson (LD)
Andrew Hardie (C)
Robert Hogg (Ind)
Bill Kerr-Smith (Grn)
Kenny Young (Lab)

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1777 Lab 1478 Ind 461 C 379 TUSC 52 (seats: SNP 1 Lab 1 Ind 1)
May 2007 first preferences SNP 1988 Lab 1974 LD 831 C 812 Solidarity 82 SSP 63 (seats: SNP 1 Lab 1 LD 1)

Aberdeenshire council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Duncan, who had served on Aberdeenshire council since winning a by-election in 2002.

Macduff from the War Memorial
We finish this week with a large rural ward in the north-east of Scotland.  Troup runs along the north coast of Aberdeenshire from Banff to Fraserburgh without including either town; the name comes from Troup Head, a promontory roughly halfway in between those towns.  The ward's only town is Macduff, named not after the king of Scotland and Shakespeare character but after James Duff, the second Earl of Fife, who constructed the town's harbour in the late eighteenth century; it is the last place in the UK where deepwater fishing boats are built out of wood.  Outside Macduff the ward is miles and miles of tiny villages.

Since 2007 the ward has had three councillors, split one each between the SNP, the Tories and an independent.  The SNP polled 47% here in 2007 and would have been in with a chance of two seats if they had run two candidates; as it was, their single councillor died less than a year into his term, resulting in a by-election in May 2008 which the SNP won in the first round with 63% of the vote.  However, the SNP vote delined to 40% in 2012, independent candidates polling 31% and the Conservatives 21%.  That suggests that the Conservatives are unlikely to hold the seat, although this likely loss won't affect the situtation on Aberdeenshire council: the SNP are the largest party but the administration is an anti-SNP coalition with a secure majority.

The defending Tory candidate is Iain Taylor, a farmer.  The SNP are standing Ross Cassie, a driving examiner and PCS union rep from Macduff.  There are two independent candidates, Philip Mitchell and Alan Still; for Mitchell I shall simply refer you to his stream-of-consciousness conspiracy-theory-and-hyphen-laden election leaflet, while Still is a director of Deveronvale FC and president of the Aberdeenshire and District FA.  Also standing are Labour candidate Alan Duffill, a solicitor from Macduff who fought the ward in 2012; Ann Bell for the Lib Dems; and Darren Duncan for the Scottish Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Banff and Buchan
Holyrood constituency: Banffshire and Buchan Coast
ONS Travel to Work Area: Banff (part); Fraserburgh (part)

Ann Bell (LD)
Ross Cassie (SNP)
Alan Duffill (Lab)
Darren Duncan (Grn)
Philip Mitchell (Ind)
Alan Still (Ind)
Iain Taylor (C)

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1128 Ind 880 C 593 Lab 185 LD 56 (seats: SNP 1 C 1 Ind 1)
May 2008 by-election SNP 1721 C 515 LD 503
May 2007 first preferences SNP 1798 C 914 Ind 770 LD 286 (seats: SNP 1 C 1 Ind 1)