Wednesday, 19 October 2016

My questions about the Witney by-election (and some on the Batley & Spen by-election)

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls for the Witney by-election over in Oxfordshire, caused of course by the resignation of ex-Prime Minister David Cameron.

Despite the fact that Witney is an extremely safe Conservative seat (as was its predecessor, Mid Oxfordshire; before 1974 Witney was in the Banbury constituency), my Green colleagues, as well as the Liberal Democrats have been campaigning hard (meanwhile, Labour and UKIP have been much less visible, and other candidates are only getting online coverage at present), so this will certainly be one to watch, particularly with some poor performances in hustings by Conservative candidate Robert Courts. As for the by-election in Batley & Spen, where out of the five main parties only Labour are standing, little is happening apart from the hardline nationalist English Democrats crowding out the Twitter coverage for that by-election as much as they can and resorting to anything to attack Labour.

Nevertheless, here are my five questions about each by-election:

Witney:

-Could the Conservatives actually lose this by-election, even though the seat appears so safe?
-My Green colleagues saved their deposit in Witney in last year's general election. Can they do it again if they do not win? (NB: This is the first by-election to occur in the UK in a seat where the Green Party saved their deposit.)
-Will substantial campaigning keep the turnout buoyant?
-West Oxfordshire, which the Witney constituency is entirely coterminous with, narrowly voted to remain in June's EU membership referendum. How much difference will the issue of Brexit actually make to the result?
-Which of the 14 candidates will get the wooden spoon award? (NB: Adam Knight is disqualified because by publicly endorsing Liz Leffman, the Liberal Democrats' candidate, during the campaign, he is effectively considered to have withdrawn even though he cannot actually remove his name from the ballot paper under UK electoral law.)

Batley & Spen:

-Labour is virtually guaranteed to win with no other major parties standing, but how large will their margin of victory be?
-Who will finish second?
-How many non-Labour candidates will manage to save their £500 deposit?
-How much will the turnout decrease by given how poor most of the non-Labour candidates are?
-Which of the 10 candidates will get the wooden spoon award?

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