Friday, 26 May 2017

My analysis of recent local by-elections

'A week is a long time in politics.' -Harold Wilson, UK Prime Minister (Labour) from 1964-70 and again from 1974-76.

The results of what will be the last local by-elections in the UK until the 2017 general election (some by-elections will take place on the same day) were as follows:

King's Lynn & West Norfolk DC, Fairstead: Labour 254 (44.0%, +4.4%), Conservative 189 (32.8%, +4.4%), UKIP 68 (11.6%, -20.2%), Liberal Democrats 66 (11.4%).

South Derbyshire, Woodville: Con 613 (46.3%, +11.9%), Lab 510 (38.5%, +5.4%), UKIP 118 (8.9%, -14.8%), Lib Dem 82 (6.2%, -2.5%).

Enfield LBC, Enfield Lock: Lab 2155 (63.8%, +12.7%), Con 973 (28.8%, +13.3%), Green 104 (3.1%, -6.4%), UKIP 91 (2.7%, -15.0%), Lib Dem 54 (1.6%).

Stockton-On-Tees UA, Newtown: Lab 483 (52.5%, -2.4%), Con 201 (21.8%, +6.3%), No Description 193 (21.0%), Lib Dem 43 (4.7%).

Southend-on-Sea UA, Shoeburyness: Independent 886 (37.1%, +16.2%), Con 830 (34.8%, +10.7%), Lab 381 (16.0%, +6.6%), UKIP 121 (5.1%, -7.2%), Lib Dem 119 (5.0%, +3.0%), Green 48 (2.0%, -0.3%).

(The Conservatives also won a by-election from an Independent in Richmondshire, where they were unopposed.)

As expected, UKIP is fast collapsing locally as it is nationally. What is also occurring is a major squeeze by Labour and the Conservatives against all other parties, including the Greens and Liberal Democrats. Although opinion polls are often unreliable (except for exit polls, and even those are not exactly right), there is no doubt that a strong trend favouring both the Conservatives and Labour, with a squeeze of other parties, is continuing and is unlikely to stop before the polling day, which we are now only 13 days away from.

The Liberal Democrats are failing to make a real recovery and the Greens are struggling to make further headway nationally, which does not bode well for any capture of Bristol West (let alone Sheffield Central, Oxford East etc.) this year. These Labour 'surges' are more likely to attract Remain voters than Leave voters, even though most Labour MPs accepted the triggering of Article 50; however, it is clear that a significant minority of UKIP voters are heading towards Labour again. This will not however be enough to prevent substantial Conservative gains; it is well worth noting that in 1979, the Labour vote share did not drop significantly, and sometimes increased slightly, in some of the seats they lost to the Conservatives due to tactical voting from the Liberals (not to mention a few ex-National Front voters swayed by Margaret Thatcher's stances).

A lot can change in 13 days, though-keep watching, and remember to vote on the day.

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