Readers, the results of local by-elections from this week were as follows:
Bath & North East Somerset UA, Walcot (in city of Bath): Liberal Democrats 750 (48.6%, +11.2%), Green 343 (22.2%, +0.4%), Conservative 339 (22.0%, -0.5%), Labour 111 (7.2%, -7.4%).
Aylesbury Vale DC, Elmhurst: Liberal Democrats 785 (63.5%, +37.9%), Labour 151 (12.2%, -10.0%), Conservative 147 (11.9%, -9.3%), UKIP 111 (9.0%, -14.4%), Green 43 (3.5%, -4.2%). Liberal Democrat gain from UKIP.
Calderdale MBC, Hipperholme & Lightcliffe: Conservative 1483 (60.3%, -4.3%), Liberal Democrats 420 (17.1%, +6.8%), Labour 407 (16.5%, -0.6%), Green 150 (6.1%, -2.0%). All changes are since May 2016.
Tendring DC, St James: Con 371 (47.9%, +12.7%), UKIP 174 (22.5%, -16.3%), Labour 116 (15.0%, -1.0%), Liberal Democrats 99 (12.8%), Green 15 (1.9%). Conservative gain from UKIP.
As the county council elections approach (with Statements of Persons Nominated having been released), and with UKIP's collapse evident at the point of close of nominations (the amount of UKIP candidates being nominated has dropped sharply in many counties), the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are both likely to benefit during the next round of local elections, coming up on 4th May ('Super Thursday' as it will feature Scottish and Welsh elections as well, and also the Manchester Gorton by-election, which features 11 candidates).
The Liberal Democrats performed well in all four by-elections, even in Tendring and Calderdale where they had no realistic chance of winning. Although the Green Party did not win the by-election in Walcot, their efforts were enough to push the Conservatives into third place in one of the most politically competitive small cities in Britain; the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Green Party all have at least one councillor in the city of Bath and all have potential in at least some other wards of the city. Tactical voting by Labour saved the day for the Liberal Democrats; the Walcot ward is represented by one Lib Dem and one Conservative councillor and the Green Party nearly won one of the seats themselves in 2015 (they missed winning one of the Walcot seats by only 24 votes, or 0.7%).
The result in Aylesbury Vale is a confirmation of their return as a protest vote in some areas; Aylesbury will be hit badly by the HS2 project if it goes ahead and this prompted in 2015 some localist Conservative voters to vote UKIP, and combined with demographic factors this made Elmhurst ward the most marginal district council ward in the whole of Buckinghamshire. Competitive wards generally have lower swings in by-elections than safe wards, but UKIP's collapse and the Lib Dems' rebound made this a big exception to the rule, with all parties barring the Lib Dems losing large proportions of their 2015 vote share.
UKIP's collapse in St James (part of Clacton-on-Sea) was not surprising; infighting began only months after the once 22-strong UKIP group took office in Tendring and they have been falling apart ever since. Only the rather small swing of 14.5% from UKIP to the Conservatives is that surprising, given that UKIP's only MP, Douglas Carswell, has now left the party and still represents Clacton; meanwhile, their major funder, Arron Banks, has withdrawn funding from the party and is considering standing against Douglas in the next general election, irrespective of incoming boundary changes.
If you have not registered to vote in these upcoming elections, please do ASAP-the deadline is fast approaching.