Whilst it was an unhappy birthday for Tony Blair, May 6th will surely be remembered from now on as a historic day in British political history. In other parts of the Western world, it was the 18th International No Diet Day defending body-shape diversity and celebrated with a blue ribbon (or a Blue Riband, perhaps). In-keeping with this theme, there was a veritable feast of political contests to enjoy last Thursday – there were 51 principal by-elections reported to ALDC this week. A number of these took place in wards which had scheduled local elections as well and in cases like this it is impossible to tell which of the two elected candidates was elected in the ‘by-’, so today we are covering the 34 seats for which the competition was purely a by-election.
Of those 34 individual by-elections, the headline opposition figures are as follows; the Tories successfully held 15, Labour held 3, and the SNP defended their seat in Strathallan ward in Perth and Kinross. In terms of opposition gains, there were two Conservative gains from Independents, and Labour took one from both Tories and Independents as well as a third from the Liberal Democrats in the Burnley Central East ward of Lancashire County Council, somewhat bucking the trend in Burnley, which now has its first Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament.
Our by-elections account comprised six successful defences, including taking 57% of the vote in the Seaton ward of East Devon District Council, an increase of 16% on 2007 – congratulations to Peter Burrows and the Lib Dem team in Devon for a remarkable achievement. We also posted four gains in principal council by-elections on the 6th, taking a seat from an Independent on Ryedale District Council in North Yorkshire, and three from the Tories; Willerby and Kirk Ella on the East Riding of Yorkshire, Pennsylvania ward in Exeter City, and the Haywards Heath Heath (so good they named it twice…) ward of Mid Sussex District Council. Our best wishes to new Councillor Sue Ng in Mid-Sussex and agent James McCleary who, in addition to fighting the general election, put out weekly ward-wide by-election materials, linked the by-election campaign into their parliamentary blue letters, and put on 35% of new canvass data across Haywards Heath Heath over the course of the campaign. With a 71.5% turnout and a winning margin of 40 votes, the combined Eve of Poll and Good Morning activities may have played a decisive role in getting the ‘shuttleworth’ out in sufficient numbers to edge the victory.
It remains to be seen whether it will be ‘business as usual’ from next week, and what kinds of effects we will be likely to see in upcoming by-elections as a result of joining the Government. With the next local by-election due in Workington on May 20th, it will be an interesting wait. Congratulations to all of our candidates who took part in last Thursday’s elections and the innumerable hard-working election teams who make everything we do possible.
ALDC By-Elections Team