March 11th is better known as ‘Johnny Appleseed Day’ on the other side of the Atlantic, a celebration of the well-loved nineteenth-century nurseryman who first introduced apple orchards to vast swathes of the American mid-west. On this side of the pond it was a relatively tranquil by-election Thursday, with only two principal council by-elections and a pair of Parish Council results to digest. The two principals resulted in Conservative holds, whilst in the two parish elections reported to ALDC we held one seat and gained the second from Labour.
The by-election in Adeyfield West ward of Dacorum Borough Council in Hertfordshire became fractious with the introduction of a BNP candidate and some highly negative campaigning by the Labour party. Of the three main parties only the Lib Dem campaign succeeded in increasing the proportion of their vote, the defending Conservatives shedding nearly 9% and the Labour vote dropping by over 13%. The presence of the BNP appears to have had the effect of solidifying the soft-Labour support that was showing signs of melting away at the previous County Council elections. Without the additional turnout of Labour supporters catalysed by the BNP, Labour could well have been facing a dramatic collapse. The Lib Dem campaign to ‘end the neglect of Adeyfield’ came in third by around 60 votes, and almost double the vote of the BNP who limped in fourth.
Less competitive was the by-election for the Redwell West ward of Wellingborough District Council in Northamptonshire, where the successful Tory campaign retained the seat with 143 votes more than every other candidate combined. With an English Democrat presence diluting the far-right vote, the BNP found themselves pushed from a previous second into third place. The Liberal Democrat campaign worked with virtually no resources and almost doubled their popular vote. If the 23 votes that went to the Greens had come our way, we could have forced the BNP from second to fifth overnight.
Finally, warm congratulations to the Deborah Crane campaign who have taken a seat from Labour in the Central ward of Lawley and Overdale Parish Council in Telford constituency, and John Kelly, whose team in the Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council election in Country Durham succeeded in fending off a Labour challenge and retaining the seat for the Liberal Democrats.