Thursday, 7 April 2016

By-election Preview: 7 April 2016

Three by-elections on 7th April 2016.  One covered on English Elections, one on Welsh Elections, and one below:

Perth and Kinross council
Caused by the death of Independent councillor Alan Jack at the age of 76.  He had served on Perth and Kinross council since 1999, originally as a Conservative but his final re-election in 2012 was as an independent: that 2012 election was controversial as Jack's campaign went a long way over the election expenses limit, and he was fined £450.

Back Street, Bridge of Earn
For the last electoral test in Scotland before the fifth Scottish Parliament elections in 2016, we are in southern Perthshire in a large rural ward which sprawls immediately to the west and south of Perth.  This is a ward of no towns; the largest settlement is probably Bridge of Earn, a commuter village to the south of Perth, while the Almond part of the ward includes the village of Methven, an away win for the English in 1306 in the days when England and Scotland faced off on the battlefield rather than the rugby field.

Alan Jack's base was in Bridge of Earn which he had represented (as part of the former Earn ward) since 1999.  The present Almond and Earn ward was formed in 2007 and was based on the former Earn ward and Strathalmond ward (based on Methven and voting SNP in 2003) together with parts of the former wards of Abernethy and Glenfarg (C), Auchterarder Mid Earn (C), and Strathord and Logiealmond (LD).  In the 2007 election to the new ward, the first election held under PR, the Tories tried for two out of three seats and polled 46%, but that was short of two quotas and SNP surplus transfers gave the final seat to the Lib Dems' George Hayton, who had previously been councillor for Kinross Town before being displaced by PR.

In 2012 Alan Jack stood for re-election as an independent, the SNP tried for two seats and the Tories settled for one: the first preferences split 41% to the SNP, 30% for the Tories and just 12% for Jack, but Jack capitalised on some less-than-perfect balancing by the SNP to pick up transfers from everybody else and win the final seat by just 14 votes, defeating the outgoing SNP councillor who lost her seat to her running-mate.

There is no defending independent candidate in this by-election so Alan Jack's seat is up for grabs.  In pole position to pick it up, if the first preferences from 2012 are any guide, is the former SNP councillor Wilma Lumsden who lost her seat in 2012.  The Tory candidate is Kathleen Baird, who previously represented part of this ward as councillor for Abernethy and Glenfarg from 2003; in 2007 she transferred to Kinross-shire ward but lost her seat in 2012.  (The Lib Dem candidate whom Baird defeated in 2003 was Danus Skene, whom readers might recall as the losing SNP candidate in Orkney and Shetland last year, although that wasn't even the strangest aspect of his long electoral career.)  Also standing are Dave Mackenzie for Labour, former councillor George Hayton for the Lib Dems and Denise Baykal of UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Ochil and South Perthshire
Holyrood constituency: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1520 C 1112 Ind 444 Lab 369 LD 244
May 2007 first preferences C 2255 SNP 1790 LD 849