Local Government By-election Report – November 2017
On the 9th November an important by-election in London was held in the Thamesfield ward in Wandsworth. Whilst the ward was an easy Conservative win in 2014, the Labour Party put a lot of effort into the campaign as following the General Election results in June they had a sense Wandsworth might be vulnerable to being taken by them for the first time in 40 years in the full Council elections in May. As it turned out, the Conservative’s fears and Labour’s optimism both proved unfounded, the Conservative vote share reduced by only 0.4% and they won the by-election by 800 votes. Labour did increase their vote share by 10% but virtually all of that came at the expense of the Greens.
Three councils saw the Lib Dems take seats off of the Conservatives on 2nd November. In Sefton, on Merseyside, they took a seat in the split Duke’s ward; Council control remains safely with Labour though, who were a distant third in the by-election for this particular ward.
In Arun, the Lib Dems took another seat from the Conservatives in Aldwick West ward. Previously safe for the Conservatives, the Lib Dems won with a 33.5% jump in their vote share. UKIP did not field a candidate despite gaining over 1,100 votes in 2015 and the bulk of the Lib Dem vote seems to have been generated more by anti-Conservative or anti-main parties and therefore shifted straight across from UKIP to Lib Dem.
In North Devon the Conservatives lost 18% of their vote share to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens. The ward was previously marginal with the resigning councillor only winning their seat in 2015 by 3 votes, so the Conservatives halving their vote share saw them drop into third place. The Conservatives remain the largest party with 18 councillors out of 43.
Also on 2nd November, in Copeland, Labour held a seat in Egremont but only by a narrow 33 votes. They hold the Council 29-18 with 5 Independents but the interesting part was the 20.1% increase in the Conservative vote in the same area as they took the Parliamentary constituency.
In Fareham on 9th November the Lib Dems benefitted again from the collapse of UKIP by taking a seat directly from them and in Waveney in Suffolk on 16th November, it was the Conservatives who benefitted vote-wise from the collapse of UKIP by taking the St Margaret’s ward from Labour.
On 30th November the Lib Dems had a highly successful week with three gains and a hold. In Gosport they took a seat from Labour with 58% of the vote, despite not standing there in the previous elections. In Maidstone the North ward was already split 2 Lib Dems and 1 Conservative but the Lib Dems have now fully taken the ward with a 20% increase in the vote share. With the Lib Dems taking the seat they now become the largest party and their coalition with the Independents is only one seat from a majority.
In Tandridge the Lib Dems comfortably held their seat in a split ward with the collapse of UKIP benefitting them again and in Torridge they gained a seat from a former UKIP turned Independent in a ward split three ways with another Independent and a Green.
Amongst the by-elections still pending is one in Crawley where Labour are defending a seat in a split ward held 2-1 in their favour with the Conservatives. Labour currently lead the Council with 20 seats to the Conservatives’ 17, so a switch of the seat will make the Council a knife edge majority.
In Thanet the Conservatives will defend a seat in a ward split three ways between Conservative, UKIP and an Independent. UKIP have lost their majority through defections and dropped from 33 councillors to 25. They are still the largest group and run the administration so will presumably target this by-election to try and get back closer to full control.