Amidst the drama of prorogations, Party Conferences and yet more Brexit revelations, local authorities across the country held by-elections to fill their empty seats.
September’s polls opened with the Conservatives holding on to their Wainbody ward in Coventry, followed up by a Conservative gain from an Independent on the Eden District Council in Cumbria where Helen Fearon scraped past the Independent candidate by 33 votes. Elsewhere, in Kingston upon Hull Labour candidate, Deanne Fudge secured the seat vacated by her late mother. Other news from the first week of action includes Cllr Colin Evans defecting from Labour to Plaid Cymru (PC) in Carmarthenshire which hands PC an overall majority on the Council, but they will remain in coalition with the Independents.
Following the first week of by-elections, major news erupted in Hartlepool, where a group of 10 Independents on the Council defected to the Brexit Party, and agreed a pact with the 3 sitting Conservatives to create a “Pro-Brexit” coalition announcing they have “put country before party”. Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has reacted saying he is “astonished” by the move and said that these councillors should focus on delivering services instead of “jumping on the Farage bandwagon”.
On the 12th September, voters were in action in the Borough of Rushmoor, where Tom Mitchell helped the Liberal Democrats hold the St. Marks ward. The Conservatives managed to gain another from an Independent- Richard Coleman being elected to the Rutland County Council in the Ryhall and Casterton division. No Independent stood against him, and Mr Coleman eased to success with 55.5% of the vote- the Liberal Democrats coming in 2nd with 24.6%. The Liberal Democrats held on to their seat on Shropshire County Council, Ruth Houghton securing the Bishops Castle division with 71% of the vote- slightly down on her predecessor’s 73% share. The Liberal Democrats also enjoyed a gain from the Conservatives in South Northants, where Mark Allen beat the Tory candidate by 43 votes. The night of the 12th also saw the Conservatives hold on to their Finedon seat in Wellingborough.
A week later saw by-elections where Labour held their seats in North Lanarkshire, LB Hammersmith and Fulham, and Liverpool. The Conservatives retained their Ethandune seat in Wiltshire- Suzanne Wickham taking her late husband’s seat. The Liberal Democrats again gained from the Tories- Derek Perry recording an impressive 11.5% swing on his way to being elected with a plurality.
Asif Masood helped Labour finish the month with their solitary September gain. Masood won the Ickfield seat he had contested in May earlier this year, edging past the Conservative candidate. The Conservatives also closed the month with a gain, taking the Sweyne Park and Grange in Rochford from a Residents’ Association. The Conservatives won with 48% of the vote in a ward in which they have performed strongly over recent years.
Overall, September’s biggest winners have been the Liberal Democrats, winning 4 seats, 2 of which are new and increasing their net vote share by 12% in comparison with August. Despite national uncertainty, the Conservatives’ results at local level remained unaffected, winning 9 seats with no net gain or loss. Labour were down on their share of the vote from 34% in August to 27% in September, but despite this picked up one more seat on the way. Altogether there has been a 6% swing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats.