Tuesday, 18 August 2015

By-election Preview: 18 August 2015

One by-election on Tuesday 18th August 2015:

Orkney Islands council
Caused by the death of councillor Alistair Gordon.  A former journalist at the local newspaper The Orcadian and teacher at Kirkwall grammar school, Gordon was first elected to Orkney council in 2003 and was convener of the council's Orkney Manifesto group, which is seeking to improve the islands' governance.

The West Mainland ward is pretty much what it says, a large and mostly empty area of the Orkney Mainland to the north and north-east of Stromness.  This is a land of small agricultural villages, including Orkney's biggest parish (Sandwick, on the west coast), inland Stenness at the southern end of its namesake loch, and Evie and Rendall on the north coast.  West Mainland ward has been inhabited for centuries, as evidenced by the Neolithic archeological sites of Skara Brae, Maes Howe, the standing stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, all of which are within this ward and since 1999 have formed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  While these doubtless attract some intrepid tourists, another draw is the wonderfully-named village of Twatt, in the north of the ward.

Alistair Gordon was first elected in 2003 for the former Firth and Sunnybrae ward, rather narrowly defeating Eoin Scott who later join him on the council at the 2007 election for the new West Mainland ward.  Gordon was the only councillor to be re-elected in 2012, polling 17.5% of the first preferences to finish second out of nine candidates.

Orkney's elections are traditionally non-partisan, and so I have not given previous election results below, but party politics appears to have broken out with a vengeance with this by-election.  Defending for the Orkney Manifesto Group is Rachael King, an art psychotherapist from Sandwick.  In Orkney's first all-female election, Birsay resident Barbara Foulkes stands as an independent, while Sandwick resident Fiona Grahame, who has turned her love of knitting into a business, stands for the Scottish Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Orkney and Shetland
Holyrood constituency: Orkney
ONS Travel to Work Area: Orkney Islands
Postcode districts: KW15, KW16, KW17

Thursday, 13 August 2015

By-election Previews: 13 August 2015

Six by-elections this week in an unusually busy August, with two each in England, Wales and Scotland.  One of the Welsh and both the Scottish polls are caused by newly-elected MPs resigning their council seats.

Falkirk council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor John McNally, who is now the Member of Parliament for Falkirk.  McNally had served on Falkirk council since 2007.

Another two SNP councillors have caused by-elections following their election to Westminster in the SNP surge.  We start in Stirlingshire in the town of Denny, next to the M80 and M876 motorways around seven miles west of Falkirk.  The ward includes several villages in Denny's hinterland such as Dunipace to the north and Banknock, on the Falkirk-Kilsyth road and the Forth and Clyde canal, to the south.  This was an area of heavy engineering, with Denny itself specialising in ironworking and some coalmining in the area.

The SNP did well here in 2007 to come top of the poll, having won none of the four predecessor wards (Banknock, Denny, Denny South and Herbertshire) in 2003 and having run the council from 2003 to 2007 in a coalition with independents.  In a complete clearout of the previous representation, the SNP won two seats that year, with Labour winning one and the final seat going to independent candidate Alex Waddell.  Waddell lost his seat in the 2012 election, but his transfers elected another independent candidate, Brian McCabe, who easily defeated the second Labour candidate to win the final seat.  The first preferences here in 2012 were 39% to the SNP, 31% to Labour and 12% to McCabe.  There are no implications for control of Falkirk council which is run by a Labour-led anti-SNP coalition.

In a four-cornered race the defending SNP candidate is John Garner, a radio engineer from Denny who joined the party during the independence referendum campaign.  Labour have selected Andrew Bell, from Larbert.  Also on the ballot paper are David Grant for the Conservatives and Brian Capaloff for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Falkirk
Holyrood constituency: Falkirk West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Falkirk
Postcode districts: FK4, FK6, G67, G68

May 2012 first preferences SNP 2073 Lab 1632 Ind 622 Ind 411 Ind 387 C 196
May 2007 first preferences SNP 2882 Lab 2482 Ind 991 C 384 Ind 238 SSP 134 Ind 83

North Lanarkshire council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Marion Fellows, who is now the Member of Parliament for Motherwell and Wishaw.  Fellows had served on North Lanarkshire council since 2012.

Overshadowed by its neighbour Motherwell, Wishaw is a Victorian-era town which was incorporated as a burgh in 1855.  It was traditionally a steelworking and coalmining town thanks to its proximity to the former Ravenscraig steelworks, but today services and distribution (Royal Mail's main distribution centre for Scotland is here) are the major employers.  At the centre of town is Wishaw's railway station, located on the Argyle Line with half-hourly trains to Motherwell, Lanark, Glasgow Central and beyond.

The town's industrial legacy added up to a strong Labour vote in those long-gone days before the independence referendum.  Labour easily held all the predecessor wards under first-past-the-post, and comfortably won three of the ward's four seats at the 2007 election, the SNP winning the other.  In the 2012 election the SNP went for two seats, and got them thanks to Labour failing to balance their three candidates.  First preferences in 2012 were 58% to Labour and 34% to the SNP, so the SNP would need a swing of 12% to lead on first preferences and 16% to win in the first round.  Eminently achievable in the current political climate.  There are no implications for control of North Lanarkshire council where Labour have a strong majority.

Defending for SNP is Rosa Zambonini, a single mum from Wishaw who briefly worked as a TV reporter.  Labour's candidate is Peter McDade.  Also standing are the ward's regular Tory candidate Marjory Borthwick, Maria Feeney from the Scottish Socialist Pary, Gerard Neary of the Lib Dems and UKIP's Neil Wilson.

Parliamentary constituency: Motherwell and Wishaw
Holyrood constituency: Motherwell and Wishaw
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lanarkshire
Postcode district: ML2

May 2012 first preferences Lab 3004 SNP 1792 C 412
May 2007 first preferences Lab 4298 SNP 2232 C 761

Thursday, 6 August 2015

By-election Previews: 6 August 2015

It's a Scottish by-election special this week with no fewer than five local by-elections, four of which are in Glasgow.

Glasgow city council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Martin Docherty who is now the Member of Parliament for West Dunbartonshire.

Let's start at the most obvious point: the centre.  Anderson/City is Glasgow's central ward, covering the whole of the city centre on the north bank of the Clyde, together with the Anderston, Finnieston, Kelvingrove and Yorkhill districts to the west of the centre.  Anderston, an independent burgh until it was annexed by Glasgow in 1846, was comprehensively redeveloped in the 1960s thanks to slum clearance and the building of the M8 motorway and Kingston Bridge through the area, a redevelopment which saw the population fall by over 20,000 in twenty years.  Further out of the centre, Finnieston is a former industrial/dockland area now redeveloped into a major leisure and office centre: among other things the SECC, Scotland's largest exhibition centre and a venue for several events in last year's Commonwealth Games, is here.  Away from the riverside is Kelvingrove, part of Glasgow's bohemian West End and home to the Kelvin Hall and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the most-visited museum in the UK outside London.

While the west end may have a bohemian reputation, something which is reflected in a sizeable Green vote, the ward's political character is determined by the tower blocks in Anderston.  In those long-ago days of 2012, the last Glasgow council election, this ward was solidly Labour.  The main surprise came on the SNP side, where the SNP councillor Craig Mackay lost his seat to his running-mate Martin Docherty.  The Green Party councillor Nina Baker was re-elected to the final seat with the help of transfers from Labour and minor parties, defeating Mackay in the final round fairly comfortably.  On first preferences Labour led the SNP 50-30, so the SNP would need a 20-point swing to win in the first round.  Eminently possible, considering the very changed political landscape in Glasgow since 2012; and that the third party in the ward, with just over 10% in 2012, is the pro-independence Scottish Greens.

Defending for the SNP is Eva Bolander, a Swedish-born web designer.  No stranger to marathon struggles is the Labour candidate Katie Ford, whose Twitter describes her as an ultra-marathon cyclist and epilepsy campaigner.  Also standing are Christy Mearns for the Green Party, Ary Jaff for the Conservatives, Gary McLelland for the Lib Dems, Stevie Creighton for the Libertarian Party and Janice MacKay (who gives an address in rural Lanarkshire) for UKIP.

May 2012 first preferences Lab 2674 SNP 1573 Grn 558 C 249 LD 89 Solidarity 89 Pirate Party 46 Glasgow First 20 Britannica 17 (seats: Lab/Lab/SNP/Grn)
May 2007 first preferences Lab 2468 SNP 1632 Grn 880 LD 806 C 486 Solidarity 285 SSP 198 Ind 145 (seats: SNP/Lab/Lab/Grn)

Glasgow city council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Alison Thewliss who is now the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central.

If Anderson/City was the west end of Glasgow, this is the East End.  Here can be found the city's oldest park, Glasgow Green; the Barrowland Ballroom and Market; and Celtic Park, the home of Celtic FC.  With the presence of Celtic Park and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, sport is now a major feature of the ward; however, this is an ex-industrial area and ranks very highly on the indices of multiple deprivation.

Obviously this was a strongly Labour ward in 2012, with Labour leading the SNP 55-30 and winning two seats to the SNP's one, Thewliss defeating her running-mate Alexander Belic in the final round by a rather narrow 106 votes.  Although a large number of parties stood in 2012 the Greens were best of the rest on just 3%, and not a lot of votes split for the last-placed Britannica, a far-right party who polled just nine first preferences.  Not much better was independent candidate Thomas Rannachan, who was second-last with 41 votes on a ticket of opposing Scottish legislation on offensive behaviour at football matches, and didn't do much better in a by-election in Govan ward the following year: confusingly given that electoral pedigree, he is the Labour candidate for this by-election.

Defending for the SNP is Greg Hepburn, formerly communications director for Young Scots for Independence.  Thomas Rannachan, as stated, stands for Labour.  Also on the ballot are Malachy Clarke for the Greens, Thomas Kerr for the Tories, independent candidate Tommy Ramsay, Chris Young of the Liberal Democrats and Karen King for UKIP.

May 2012 first preferences Lab 2487 SNP 1367 Grn 135 Glasgow First 131 C 120 Scottish Unionist Party 109 Ind 71 SSP 43 LD 43 Ind 41 Britannica 9
May 2007 first preferences Lab 2610 SNP 1143 Solidarity 302 C 245 LD 231 Grn 219 Scottish Unionist Party 195 Ind 128 SSP 126

Glasgow city council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Iris Gibson on health grounds.  Gibson was one of the longest serving SNP councillors in Glasgow, having been first elected in 1999 in the years before PR was introduced; she is the mother of SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson, who is convenor of the Scottish Parliament's finance committee.

South of the Clyde now, and we move to an outer residential area on the Paisley Road.  The Craigton ward is based on the areas of Mosspark, Hillington and North and South Cardonald, former villages which boomed in the inter-war years thanks to its good rail and tram links to Glasgow and the opening of a large industrial estate centred on a factory which made engines for Rolls-Royce.  In 1950 Cardonald saw the building of Moss Heights, the first of Glasgow's many tower blocks of high-rise flats.  With over 24,000 electors, Craigton is one of the largest wards in Scotland.

The raw voting figures from 2012 mask the fact that this is in fact one of Glasgow's more pluralistic areas, with Labour having won only two of the predecessor wards at the last FPTP election in 2003: they were Cardonald and North Cardonald, with Mosspark being SNP as stated above and the former Pollok ward, part of which is here, being one of only a handful of wards in Scotland to elect a councillor for Tommy Sheridan's Scottish Socialist Party.  Support for Sheridan also had an effect in the 2007 election in which Labour tried for three seats: Labour failed to balance their candidates and the Solidarity candidate, Ruth Black, got transfers from the Scottish Socialist Party to defeat the third Labour candidate by 148 votes.  Labour played it safe in the 2012 election with only two candidates, resulting in the SNP easily gaining the Solidarity seat: the first preferences were 53-31 to Labour.

Defending for the SNP is Alex Wilson, who is opposed by Labour's Kevin O'Donnell.  Solidarity having thrown in the towel, the ballot paper is completed by Phillip Charles for the Tories, Katie Noble of the Green Party, UKIP's Arthur Thackeray and the Lib Dems' Isabel Nelson.

May 2012 first preferences Lab 4381 SNP 2576 Solidarity 472 C 292 Grn 169 Glasgow First 147 UKIP 86 LD 76
May 2007 first preferences Lab 5313 SNP 2729 Solidarity 1220 C 569 LD 457 Grn 315 Scottish Unionist Party 225 SSP 224

Glasgow city council
Caused by the resignation of Green Party councillor Liam Hainey due to health and family circumstances.

We end our tour of Glasgow in the south of the city.  Langside itself is at the western end of the ward that bears its name, with King's Park at the eastern end and Mount Florida in the middle.  At the ward's geographic centre is Hampden Park, home of the Scotland national football team and venue for the athletics events in the Commonwealth Games last year.  This is one of Glasgow's most desirable wards and very middle class; it once formed the core of the Glasgow Cathcart parliamentary constituency which for many years was a safe Conservative area.

The original Battle of Langside was fought in 1568 and resulted in defeat for Mary, Queen of Scots, who was then exiled to England.  Modern battles are, of course, fought over votes.  In 2007 the ward elected one councillor each from the SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems, who got strong transfers from the Conservatives after the Tory candidate (who had started fourth in the count) was overtaken by the Greens on transfers from Solidarity.  The 2012 result is muddied by a cockup at the count which led to the result being declared without one of the ballot boxes being included, although this did not in the end change the winning candidates.  The SNP topped the poll on first preferences but failed to balance their candidates, and their second candidate was overtaken by the Green Party's Liam Hainey who got transfers from the defeated Lib Dem councillor.

With the Greens only polling 9% here in 2012 there is little chance of them holding their seat.  Instead it'll be a battle between the SNP and Labour, and as stated the SNP were already ahead here in 2012, by 38% to 36%.

Defending for the Green Party is Robert Pollock.  The SNP candidate is Anna Richardson, an antenatal teacher.  Labour have selected Unison officer Eileen Dinning.  Also on the ballot paper are Kyle Thornton for the Tories, Will Millinship for the Lib Dems, Ian Leech for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Cailean Mongan of UKIP.

May 2012 first preferences (corrected) SNP 2582 Lab 2441 Grn 618 C 498 LD 493 TUSC 162 Glasgow First 70
May 2007 first preferences Lab 3075 SNP 2522 LD 1207 C 993 Grn 891 Solidarity 467 SSP 179

South Lanarkshire council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Angela Crawley, who is now the Member of Parliament for Lanark and Hamilton East.

Southern Hamilton here, running 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 ward's other SNP councillor died in 2013 and the SNP lost the by-election to Labour by 52% to 33% - exactly the same scores as in 2012 - so Labour have a chance here to hold all four seats in the ward.

Defending for the SNP is John Ross, a former Hamilton district councillor who has recently retired from running a newsagents.  Labour's candidate is Jim Lee, secretary of the Scottish Co-operative Party.  Also on the ballot paper are Lynne Nailon for the Conservatives (who fought the 2013 by-election), Craig Smith for the Christian Party (fighting the ward for the third time), Donald MacKay for UKIP (who appears to be the husband of the UKIP candidate in the Glasgow Anderston/City by-election), Matthew Cockburn of the Lib Dems, Jane Kane for the Green Party and Andrew McCallum for the Pirate Party.

Oct 2013 by-election Lab 1781 SNP 1120 C 322 Christian 133 UKIP 86
May 2012 first prefs Lab 2775 SNP 1757 C 496 Pensioners 199 Christian 165
May 2007 first prefs Lab 3631 SNP 1791 C 808 Ind 679 LD 427 Grn 188