Ladies and gentlemen, in case you are not already aware, the results from yesterday's local by-elections featuring Green candidates were as follows:
Stroud DC, Valley: Green 291 (42.8%), Labour 230 (33.8%), UKIP 76 (11.2%), Conservative 67 (9.9%), TUSC 16 (2.4%).
Epping Forest DC, Broadley Common, Epping Upland and Nazeing: Con 155 (50.5%), UKIP 122 (39.7%), Green 23 (7.5%), Liberal Democrat 7 (2.3%).
Worthing DC, Castle: UKIP 568 (36.9%), Conservative 485 (31.5%), Lib Dem 242 (15.7%), Lab 197 (12.8%), Green 49 (3.2%).
Although I am pleased we held in the Valley by-election, a ward previously held by current Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato, there was a slight swing against us, partly due to the intervention of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which has split Green votes in the past.
One particularly unfortunate thing is that we did not contest the Wells by-election in Malvern Hills, even though we have two councillors in Malvern Hills and were at the last Malvern Hills District Council elections in 2011 the only opposition in some wards (several wards still went uncontested nevertheless), of which Wells was one. Surprisingly, Labour, who generally do not even bother contesting Malvern Hills' local elections (Malvern Hills consists of Malvern Link and a few large villages, which have no natural Labour base worth noting), contested this particular local by-election. However, they finished last-had we contested this one, we might have been able to win with the Conservatives being split by UKIP.
On an important note, with only nine months to go before the next general election, many have been making predictions on which seats will change hands, and which seats might change hands. I in particular believe the 2015 general election will spring up many surprises, with my fellow Greens more in contention than ever before, with UKIP (unfortunately) still polling well, with Labour performing lacklustrely, and with the Lib Dems in serious decline in most places. Here are some of my thoughts on constituency betting and prediction for the 2015 general election:
Five best Green Party chances for 2015:
Brighton Pavilion (odds of Green hold 10/11): We of course need to hold this seat rather than gain it. I believe that despite the problems Brighton and Hove Greens have been suffering on the council, Caroline Lucas' hard work and dedication will see her home in spite of all the efforts Labour will try to mount on this seat.
Norwich South (odds of Green gain 6/1): Our top target to gain, and we have proven a strong and useful opposition to Labour on Norwich City Council in the last few years. I firmly believe we can win this seat (just about) in 2015, or at least be in place to win it by 2020. At any rate, the Liberal Democrats are practically certain to lose this seat.
Bristol West (odds of Green gain not given): In this year's local elections in Bristol, we notionally topped the poll in Bristol West, have most of our council seats in the boundaries of this seat, and therefore we could score a surprise gain next year, especially with the Liberal Democrats' strength in Bristol having been considerably eroded..
Lewisham Deptford (odds of Green gain 25/1): I know it is a long shot, but we have better chances here than in most British constituencies, and we are also the only opposition to Labour on Lewisham council now. If we could get People Before Profit to help us here, I believe we can win this seat in the future.
Hove (odds of Green gain 33/1): We have built up some surprisingly considerable local strength in Hove (given how genteel and Conservative it used to be), and I believe we can take large numbers of Lib Dem and Labour votes in the traditionally liberal parts of this seat, like Brunswick and Adelaide where we replaced the Lib Dems. I do not believe we will take it now but we might be able to win this seat in 2020.
Five seats where UKIP threat is strongest:
Thanet South (odds of UKIP gain 6/4): Thanet alas has a lot of potential for UKIP-a strong white working class vote that in the past was strongly Conservative-leaning (like most of Kent), a rather older than average population, and a general lack of affluence compared to most of the rest of Kent. Also, it has just been announced after much speculation that UKIP leader Nigel Farage will contest this seat after all-oh dear.
Thurrock (odds of UKIP gain 9/4): A classic example of how much damage UKIP can do to the traditional Labour vote-as well as the traditional Conservative vote, and this was shown in Thurrock's most recent local elections. This is the right-wing equivalent of Norwich South in several ways-some chance of a UKIP gain, some chance of a Labour gain, and virtually no chance of a Conservative hold.
Great Yarmouth (odds of UKIP gain 11/5): Like Thurrock, UKIP performed very well in Great Yarmouth indeed, gaining 10 council seats. Like Thanet, it also has demographics and conditions favourable to UKIP, as do many once prominent ports that have gone into decline.
Great Grimsby (odds of UKIP gain 5/1): Long serving Labour MP Austin Mitchell is now retiring (he is coming up to 80 years of age now,and has served since 1977), and when he held this seat last time he only had a majority of 714 and 32.7% of the votes there to boot. Also, traditional ports have proven rather fertile territory for UKIP recently, and Lincolnshire, rural or urban, has proven ripe pickings for UKIP in local elections.
Rotherham (odds of UKIP gain 4/1): This is the only safe Labour seat out of this five UKIP have a realistic chance of winning-and there are also a lot of ex-BNP votes for UKIP to gain as well. Even though UKIP finished last in this seat in 2010, they still polled well enough to have their deposit returned-this seat has several demographic similarities with Thurrock except for the lack of a strong Conservative vote, which will collapse further in this seat next year.
Five seats the Liberal Democrats could sneak into in 2015:
Watford (odds of Lib Dem gain 5/2): Not only did the Liberal Democrats finish second in Watford in 2010, they also only failed to capture the seat by 1,425 votes. The Liberal Democrats have proven remarkably resilient in Watford, with Mayor Dorothy Thornhill having recently been re-elected with ease. Meanwhile Conservative support in Watford has suffered considerable damage even though this is not a good area for UKIP.
Montgomeryshire (odds of Lib Dem gain 9/4): Had it not been for the negative incumbency of Lembit Opik in 2010, the Liberal Democrats would still have this seat-in the last 130 years, the Liberals/Liberal Democrats only lost this seat once, in 1979 (and they regained it in 1983). UKIP might have some potential here given that this is in the less nationalist east side of Wales, and this is Labour's worst prospect in Wales by far.
Truro and Falmouth (odds of Lib Dem gain 3/1): In my honest opinion, Truro and Falmouth is quite an unfortunate pairing of towns within a Cornish constituency, since Truro is out of step with Falmouth psephologically and demographically. Truro has traditionally been quite strongly Liberal/Lib Dem, and UKIP will probably cause considerable damage to the Conservative vote in this seat.
Ashfield (odds of Lib Dem gain 4/1): There has been much talk of UKIP causing damage to the Labour vote in this former mining community, which could potentially prove useful for Lib Dem candidate Jason Zadrozny, who came just 192 votes short of winning this otherwise safely Labour seat in 2010. However, I believe Labour will hold this seat on balance.
Maidstone & The Weald (odds of Lib Dem gain 7/1): Even though the Liberal Democrats do not control Maidstone council and never have, they have proven more resilient than the Conservatives here at a local level, who lost five councillors and control of the council earlier this year. Maidstone is also pretty weak for Labour by Kentish standards. The current Conservative MP for Maidstone & The Weald, Helen Grant, has also not proven all that effective either, and like most of Kent there is relatively strong UKIP potential, which could all see a surprise Lib Dem gain next year (although only by a very narrow margin if it happens at all!)
Of course, I want to see Green gains and not UKIP or Lib Dem gains in the next general election, but I believe the 2015 general election will spring surprises nevertheless given how fractured British politics is at the moment.