Readers, the results of local by-elections from this week were as follows:
Blackpool UA, Warwick: Conservative 728 (54.8%, +17.5%), Labour 468 (35.2%, +6.3%), UKIP 75 (5.6%, -13.4%), Liberal Democrats 57 (4.3%, -2.8%).
Breckland DC, Saham Toney: Conservative 305 (48.1%, -2.7%), Liberal Democrats 105 (15.1%), Independent 104 (14.9%), UKIP 80 (11.5%, -20.1%), Labour 72 (10.3%).
Newcastle-upon-Tyne MBC, South Heaton: Labour 768 (46.8%, -11.8%) Green 444 (27.1%, +1.7%), Liberal Democrats 260 (15.9%, +11.5%), UKIP 88 (5.4%, -1.5%) Conservative 80 (4.9%, +0.2%). All changes are since May 2016.
South Ribble DC, Walton le Dale East: Conservative 359 (49.4%, -5.1%), Labour 262 (36.0%, -9.4%), Liberal Democrats 106 (14.6%).
There may only have been four British local by-elections this week, but together they can paint a good picture of what is happening politically within Britain between the five largest parties. In rural areas which are normally solidly Conservative, UKIP is fast ceasing to be a viable protest vote in any fashion and the Liberal Democrats, Greens, and Independents (depending on the rural area in question) are moving in. It was therefore unfortunate that the Green Party did not stand in the Saham Toney by-election, because there are many environmentally-inclined rural voters out there, as the Greens show in Stroud, Malvern Hills, Herefordshire etc. on a regular basis. Good news for the Green Party did come in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with their well-known candidate Andrew Gray managing to make headway against Labour even though he still did not win. The Liberal Democrats hit the Labour vote hard but also inadvertently obstructed the Greens in their efforts. Meanwhile, Labour are once again slipping back in key small-town marginal seats, as shown by them falling back in Walton le Dale East with the Lib Dems' intervention doing more damage to Labour than to the Conservatives (the proportion of vote share lost, as well as actual vote share decrease, must be accounted for). UKIP is also collapsing in coastal towns and cities where it has previously had surprisingly good results, usually to the benefit of the Conservatives more than Labour. This will prove in future a particularly critical factor not only in Blackpool, but also Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Southampton along the south coast; all three of those cities are marginal between Labour and the Conservatives.