Local Government by-election report – November 2018

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November saw London start to re-emerge from the by-election waste land that immediately follows a full set of council elections, when the number of deaths and resignations is low. Whilst not quite the first by-elections held in the capital since May, after the Sutton by-election at the very end of October, November saw polls in Newham, Westminster, Ealing, Enfield and Bromley all take place so that a quarter of the by-elections in the month were for councils just in London.

In Newham and Ealing Labour easily held two seats (as expected), both with over 70% of the vote share, whilst in Enfield, Westminster and Bromley the Conservatives held on to seats they had won in May. The Westminster election came as a result of the resignation of the former Deputy Leader of the Council, Sir Robert Davis, but the circumstances surrounding his departure barely dented the Conservative vote with their share decreasing by only 0.4%. This leaves the Conservatives with their 22 seat majority on the Council intact.

In Enfield the Conservatives retained their seat in a marginal ward where the top Labour candidate only lost out in May by 64 votes. The result, perhaps surprisingly, was a swing to the Conservatives with a 13% increase in their vote share and an easy 700 vote win. Finally, for London, in Bromley on 29th November the Conservatives had a comfortable win in Kelsey and Eden Park (not a surprise) by 580 votes to keep their Group at a chunky 50 out of the 60 councillors in the Borough.

Out in the rest of the country, Labour took a seat from the Conservatives in Kirkless on 1st November in the split Denby Dale ward. A small swing in Labour’s favour was enough to give them the seat and increase their majority on the Council to seven.
Harlow in Essex had two Labour held seats up for election following resignations. Bush Fair was marginal whilst Nettleswell safer for Labour. The latter was once again a comfortable win for Labour with the former slightly closer than in 2015 but still an 80 vote gap. The Council remains a seven seat majority for Labour but they have another seat to defend in Toddbrook on 13th December.

On 15th November there were two county council elections in Kent and Oxfordshire, resulting in comfortable holds for the Conservatives and Lib Dems respectively. In Stroud, Labour held Dursely ward on the same day where they and the Conservatives shared 90% of the vote between them despite there being Lib Dem and Green candidates too. Stroud Council remains an interesting rainbow coalition of Labour, Green and Lib Dem with a two-seat majority over 22 Conservatives and two Independents.

On 22nd November, whilst Enfield and Westminster Councils held their by-elections, Windsor and Maidenhead did the same in Datchet. The Conservatives also held this seat, but second place was taken by the interestingly named National Flood Prevention Party who took 23.8% of the vote to beat Labour, Lib Dems and Green Party candidates.

The last Thursday of November saw the new councillor elected in Bromley together with a poll in the Delapre and Briar Hill ward of Northampton (previously a three-way split between Conservative, Labour and Independent) with Labour successfully defending the seat with a 15% increase in their vote share. The Council remains Conservative run. It was due to have a full set of elections in May 2019 until it was announced on 29th November that all council elections in Northamptonshire in 2019 across the seven districts have been postponed for one year to accommodate the current consultation on abolishing the county and district councils in favour of two unitary authorities. If approved, the two new councils will be West Northamptonshire and North Northamptonshire.

In the Welwyn West ward of Welwyn Hatfield, the Conservatives and Lib Dems had large increases in their vote share after an Independent who had previously come close in 2016 didn’t stand. The Conservatives retained a safe lead over the Lib Dems to keep their two seat majority on the council.

On the last Thursday of the month, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire county councils all had by-elections with the Lib Dems having a successful night in holding their two seats in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and gaining the Warwickshire seat from the local Stratford First party.

In the pending lists, the Lib Dems defend a seat in the Wolvercote ward of Oxford on 6th December and Highland Council has a by-election (mentioned last month) in Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh. Highland Council is the UK’s largest council by area and the most northerly on the mainland, covering 11.4% of the landmass of Great Britain and is larger than Wales.

Haringey has an election on 13th December in a ward that should be safe Labour. Labour also defend a seat in Harlow in Essex where there has previously been a large UKIP presence. Also, on the 13th, Dumfries and Galloway have an election in the Dee and Glenkins ward with Conservatives defending. The ward is a three-way split (as is common in Scotland’s PR system) between Conservatives, SNP and Independent with Conservatives the largest party on the council but Labour and SNP running a coalition administration. Still waiting for a date is Warnell ward in Allerdale in Cumbria where Conservatives are defending a seat that Labour did not contest in 2015. But as Labour have 28 of the 56 council seats, a gain for them would give them an outright majority. The Thanet by-election in Margate Central remains unallocated as well. It came about after the Labour councillor who won the seat in February 2017 from UKIP has themselves resigned.

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