Local authority by-elections Q4 2015


party vote share % seats won candidates nett gain
Conservative 26.7 32 77 2
Labour 22.7 17 69 0
Liberal Democrat 15.7 16 65 -1
SNP 12.1 8 11 -1
UKIP 5.8 2 46 -1
Independent 5.0 4 28 -1
Green 4.2 2 46 1
Plaid Cymru 1.8 3 8 1
No description 1.4 3 5 3
Others 4.6 2 20 -3

89 contests in all, and as ever, not likely to be representative of the whole country. However, it is a significant sample, a good snapshot that provides something to mull over.

I am always disappointed when Labour does not field a candidate in every contest. Boast as much as we like about being the biggest party in the UK, bigger than all the others combines some claim (and I doubt) but we rarely best the Tories in contests fought. In fact the struggling Liberal Democrats almost match us in this yardstick. There are, the candidate numbers suggest, still only three truly national parties. Both UKIP and the Greens still have some way to go before they can justifiably make this claim.

David Cameron’s party are still enjoying a post-General Election honeymoon. At some point though, and sooner rather than later, Labour has got to start eating into the Tory councillor base. It is too early to start worrying about no nett gains for us yet, but if this continues through next year then we will have to rethink our strategy.

November and December’s by-election summary

There were forty-two local authority by-elections in the final two months of last year, of which thirteen resulted in seats changing hands.

party vote share % seats won candidates net gain
Conservative 30.5 15 38 1
Labour 24.5 13 37 -5
UKIP 18.8 4 31 3
Liberal Democrat 9.5 3 24 1
Independent 7.0 2 18 -2
SNP 5.9 3 4 2
Green 2.7 0 18 0
Plaid Cymru 1.1 2 3 1
Others 0.2 0 6 -1

Nationalists parties certainly appear to be the flavour of the month(s) with UKIP, SNP and PC making six gains between them. The minus five number against Labour is worrying; there were actually six losses (offset by one gain) – two to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and sole gains for the SNP and an independent.

Otherwise it is a story of no real change.

April’s by-election summary

A dozen contests in April, a far from representative sample but they will be of interest to some.

party vote share % seats won candidates net gain
Conservative 32.7 6 12 -1
Labour 21.0 3 11 0
Liberal Democrat 16.5 2 7 +2
Independent 12.8 1 5 -1
UKIP 11.4 0 7 0
Plaid Cymru 2.8 0 1 0
Green 2.7 0 3 0

The Liberal Democrat candidate in Osbournby (North Kesteven District Council) attracted a mere nine votes – one less than the number of signatures required to stand in the first place.

January in by-elections

There were fourteen seats up for grabs in local authority by-elections in January, and here is a summary of what happened in those contests:

party vote share % seats won candidates net gain
Labour 30.6 5 11 +1
Conservative 22.6 2 11 -6
UKIP 15.4 2 9 +2
Liberal Democrat 12.1 2 10 +1
Independent 10.7 3 3 +2
SNP 6.3 0 2 0
Green 1.8 0 3 0
others 0.2 0 2 0

As always, the caveat is the unrepresentative nature of random by-elections, especially true in such a small sample. However, there is a couple of things that are worthy of noting.

A net loss of six Conservative councillors suggests a tough year ahead for them. As Labour found out (from 1997 through to 2010) being in Government means an erosion of one’s councillor base. This means fewer activists, less exposure in the local media, and generally makes it tougher to win elections.

The Liberal Democrats will take some solace from these numbers – they can still hold onto what they have, and even make the occasional gain. As we head towards the European elections the big question is: will they have any MEPs afterwards?

UKIP have a small but steady lead over the Liberal Democrats and that third spot has been theirs for a few months now.  Expectations are for a good 2014 for them, although their rather colourful collection of candidates makes them susceptible to bad headlines from time to time. I think a big breakthrough is unlikely – I think they are the home of dissent and the protest vote and this only has strength in low turnout elections.  Conservative HQ strategy, IMHO, should be aimed at getting high turnout.

As for Labour, winning more seats and getting more votes than the other parties means it is good news at the moment for us. It remains to be seen whether this can be maintained all the way through to May 2015.

January’s by-election summary

Here is a summary of January’s local elections, ten contests in all.

% votes cast candidates seats won
Conservative 35.2 8 4
Labour 32.8 8 3
Liberal Democrat 12.8 8 3
Independent 6.7 7 0
UKIP 6.7 4 0
Green 3.8 5 0
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 0.8 3 0
others 1.2 3 0