Wednesday, 29 July 2015

By-election Preview: 30 July 2015

Five by-elections on 30th July 2015.  The SNP will try to hold two seats in Aberdeen after their councillors were elected to Parliament in the recent SNP surge; while on English Elections, three contests will be held in mid-size English towns, two in the Midlands and one in Northumberland.

Aberdeen city council
Caused by the resignations of SNP councillors Kirsty Blackman and Callum McCaig respectively.  They are now MPs for the Aberdeen North and Aberdeen South constituencies.

There is a theme at the moment of by-elections being caused by councillors elected as MPs in the recent general election standing down from their councils and causing by-elections.  The surge for the Scottish National Party in the 2015 general election means that many of these by-elections are concentrated in Scotland: these are the first two by-elections caused by the resignation of newly-elected SNP MPs, and there are about ten more in the pipeline to come through over the next couple of months.  Starting off in Aberdeen: Hilton/Woodside/Stockethill ward is in the north-west of the city between the A90 and A96 roads, while Kincorth/Nigg/Cove is a more suburban area to the south of the Dee along the road to Stonehaven.

Hilton/Stockethill, as the ward was known then (the name was changed in 2013) was drawn up in 2007 to cover first-past-the-post wards which had elected councillors from Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems, and all three parties comfortably won a seat here under PR in 2007.  The Lib Dem vote collapsed here in 2012 and Labour gained their seat: the first preferences that year were 45% for Labour and 36% for the SNP, while the final round suggests a two-party preferred vote that year of 53-47 to Labour.  Kincorth/Loirston (as Kincorth/Nigg/Cove was called before 2013) also elected one each of Labour/SNP/LD in 2007; in 2012 the Lib Dem councillor lost her seat to independent Andrew Finlayson, who picked up transfers from the minor parties to defeat the second Labour candidate fairly easily.  First preference votes here in 2012 were 38% for Labour, 34% for the SNP and 12% for Finlayson, while an AV count on the ballot papers cast gives a Labour win with 50.8%.

With the swing in Scotland to the SNP since 2012, both of these seats are capable of being held.  Defending for the SNP in Hilton/Woodside/Stockethill is Neil Copland, a former city council housing officer.  Labour's candidate is Charles Pirie, a retired BT manager who represented part of this ward on the city council from 1999 to 2003.  Also on the ballot paper are Roy Begg (who gives an address some way out of the city in Inverurie) for the Conservatives, Jonathan Waddell for the Lib Dems and Peter Kennedy for the Green Party.

In Kincorth/Nigg/Cove the defending SNP candidate is Stephen Flynn, Callum McCaig's parliamentary assistant, while Labour's candidate is part-time office worker Donna Clark.  Ken McLeod stands for the Lib Dems, Philip Sellar for the Conservatives and Dan Yeats for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Aberdeen North
Holyrood constituency: Aberdeen Donside (most), Aberdeen Central (part)

May 2012 first preferences Lab 1692 SNP 1335 Ind 101/87/55 C 203 LD 145 Grn 99 NF 41
May 2007 first preferences Lab 2033 SNP 1761 LD 1068 C 329

Parliamentary constituency: Aberdeen South
Holyrood constituency: Aberdeen South and North Kincardine

May 2012 first preferences Lab 1541 SNP 1389 Ind 471/120 LD 331 C 219
May 2007 first preferences Lab 1910 SNP 1883 LD 1429 C 423 Ind 179 Solidarity 58