Friday, 10 February 2017

My analysis of by-elections from 9/2/17 plus a postcard from Liechtenstein

Readers, the results of local by-elections from yesterday were as follows:

Corby BC, Kingswood & Hazel Leys: Labour 610 (64.6%, +9.2%), Conservative 252 (26.2%, +14.0%), Green 82 (8.7%, -0.5%).

Cotswold DC, Fairford North: Liberal Democrats 610 (68.1%, +40.2%), Conservative 270 (30.1%, -20.9%), Green 16 (1.8%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Fylde DC, St John's: Fylde Ratepayers 564 (60.8%, +19.1%), Conservative 278 (30.0%, +5.1%), Labour 45 (4.9%, -10.1%), Green 40 (4.3%).

North Norfolk DC, Waterside: Liberal Democrats 649 (55.1%, +30.5%), Conservative 410 (34.8%, -4.7%), UKIP 77 (6.5%, -14.8%), Labour 41 (3.5%, -5.0%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Tendring DC, Great & Little Oakley: UKIP 210 (36.8%, +14.1%), Conservative 171 (29.1%, +1.4%), Labour 117 (19.9%, +5.5%), Liberal Democrats 83 (14.1%). UKIP gain from Independent.

And one particular town council by-election:

Prescot TC, Prescot East: Green 270 (44.9%), Liberal Democrats 211 (35.4%, +6.4%), Labour 138.(19.7%, -51.3%). Green gain from Labour.

This particular result unsurprisingly celebrated by fellow Greens like myself across England and Wales, given how we managed to elect the first ever Green councillor anywhere in the borough of Knowsley (even if at town council level rather than district level) on a 48.1% swing, and how rock-solidly Labour nearly every part of Knowsley is, Prescot being the notable exception (although our seat on Prescot town council is in fact the only non-Labour seat on said town council) having elected 3 Liberal Democrats last year in Prescot East. However, with fewer electors, it is usually easier (or harder, or impossible, depending on demographics) for town council seats to change hands, although local issues have a far greater impact in town/parish elections than in district elections in practice. Opposition to planned developments on the Knowsley greenbelt between Prescot and neighbouring St Helens proved decisive to a Green victory.

Within the district council by-elections, most of them were caused by disqualification of the sitting councillor for not attending enough meetings (under the Local Government Act, councillors must attend at least one meeting every six months or be disqualified from office). Interestingly, even though the Fylde Ratepayers candidate in St John's was the same councillor who had recently been disqualified for that specific reason, this had no bearing in the end as he was re-elected with a much increased majority, which is likely to do with the unpopularity of the Conservatives in many parts of Fylde due to fracking (an Independent anti-fracking candidate, Mike Hill, achieved 11.9% of the vote in the Fylde constituency in 2015). The absence of UKIP in the by-election of Kingswood & Hazel Leys (the most solidly Labour part of the rock-solidly Labour town of Corby) helped both the Conservatives and Labour but not the Greens, which can be expected of industrial towns like Corby where UKIP had (and still have) high hopes. The Liberal Democrats proved that the Brexit bill and the Brexit issue is just a sideshow when it comes to local campaigning, as their spectacular wins of prosperous Fairford North in the Cotswolds (pro-Remain) and the villages of Waterside (in pro-Leave North Norfolk) showed, with UKIP collapsing heavily in the latter. UKIP made up for this with their gain of Great & Little Oakleys, their first local by-election gain in months, although this likely only happened in the absence of a suitable Independent candidate (or any for that matter!). Like in Thanet, UKIP is falling apart piece by piece in Tendring, since only 12 of their 2015 cohort of 22 remain in Tendring's UKIP group.

Four days ago, the small principality of Liechtenstein became the first nation this year to hold Parliamentary elections. This is particularly notable since Liechtenstein has only 19,806 registered electors, fewer than even Na h-Eileanan an lar in Scotland, and therefore only has 25 seats to go around. The high threshold of 8% makes challenges from newcomers very difficult. The two major parties, the Progressive Citizens' Party (FBP) and the Patriotic Union (VU), got less popular than last time, as expected, but this resulted in only one seat changing hands, from the FBP to The Independents list (DU). The Free list, the most progressive party in Liechtenstein, also improved their vote share, by 1.5%, but it did not garner them extra seats. No other parties contested this election, not surprising given how few eligible voters there are in Liechtenstein (which also only has 37,400 people, full stop).

Next month come two important elections: the Dutch general election and the snap Northern Ireland Assembly election, both of which now have had their candidate lists finalised.

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