Readers, the results of yesterday's local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:
Aberdeenshire UA, Troup: (1st preference votes): SNP 1159 (46.1%, +6.4%), Conservative 574 (22.8%, +1.9%), Independent S 391 (15.5%), Liberal Democrat 141 (5.6%, +3.6%), Labour 140 (5.6%, -0.9%), Green 68 (2.4%), Independent M 43 (1.7%).
Midlothian UA, Midlothian East: Lab 1294 (32.9%, -2.7%), SNP 1260 (32.1%, -10.8%), Ind 780 (19.8%), Con 331 (8.4%, -0.7%), Green 197 (5.0%), Lib Dem 68 (1.7%)
Oxford CC, Blackbird Leys: Lab 509 (75.7%, +8.4%), UKIP 91 (13.5%, -7.0%), Con 27 (4.0%, -1.6%), Green 21 (3.1%, -1.4%), TUSC 13 (1.9%), Lib Dem 11 (1.7%, -0.4%)
Oxford CC, Northfield Brook: Lab 401 (70.6%, -1.0%), Con 65 (11.4%, +0.0%), Green 50 (8.8%, -2.5%), TUSC 34 (6.0%), Lib Dem 18 (3.2%, -2.5%)
Oxfordshire CC, The Leys: Lab 879 (71.0%, -10.5%), UKIP 168 (13.6%), Con 77 (6.2%, -1.4%), Green 57 (4.6%, -2.8%), Lib Dem 30 (2.4%, -1.0%), TUSC 27 (2.2%).
Despite the very strong showing of the SNP in current opinion polls, this has not necessarily translated into increased support in local elections where STV is used and not FPTP (at least not by much). In STV, tactical voting can be even more problematic than under FPTP, as Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, and Dail elections in the Republic of Ireland, show. In the Midlothian local by-election, the Independent probably advocated that his supporters use their higher preferences to vote Labour to stop the SNP winning; there is enough SNP strength in rural Aberdeenshire to obviate this, usually.
Back in Oxfordshire, my view that the Socialists (the Socialist Party is the largest component of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) sometimes hold the Green Party back has sadly been proved once again-our vote shares, which should have increased in Labour wards as safely as Blackbird Leys and Northfield Brook, where left of Labour potential also exists, have actually gone down partly due to TUSC's intervention. Although as usual they did not poll well they at least managed to come ahead of the hapless Liberal Democrats in the city council by-elections (they also managed this in the Charville by-election in Hillingdon, where we Greens sadly did not stand), and only come three votes behind them in the county council by-election. Strangely, the county council by-election featured a swing from Labour to UKIP, but the city council by-election in Blackbird Leys (UKIP did not stand in Northfield Brook) actually featured a swing from UKIP to Labour!
Out of the by-elections without Green Party candidates, the most notable (at least for psephologists) is Bridlington Central & Old Town in East Yorkshire-UKIP has just taken one of the only two remaining council seats in Britain that was held by the continuing Social Democratic Party (SDP), which formed in late 1990 after David Owen wound up the old SDP following its disastrous performance at the first Bootle by-election of 1990; in that by-election the old SDP finished with less than half the votes of the Monster Raving Loony Party's then leader, Screaming Lord Sutch. The continuing SDP did not even stand a candidate in the by-election following the death of former Bridlington Mayor Ray Allerston, even though they put forward two candidates for the two seats of that ward in the last local elections for East Yorkshire Unitary Authority in 2011. I wonder what the continuing SDP's only remaining district councillor, Tony Taylor (he represents Aberavon ward on Neath Port Talbot UA for the SDP), is thinking now. Speaking of dying local parties, the Idle Toad, which once was active in Lancashire, has now been wound up and deregistered.
I would finally like to pay tribute to the novelist Phyllis Dorothy James (later Baroness James), aka PD James, who sadly died at the age of 92 recently. I will remember her not only for her detective thrillers, but more importantly her dystopian novel, Children of Men, (set in a future where human fertility has ceased completely due to male sperm counts plummeting to zero) which I quite enjoyed reading a few years ago.