There were two principal local council by-election held on Thursday 21st July. The Tories held one seat and Plaid Cymru held the other. In the only parish or town council by-election results reported to ALDC the Tories took a seat off the Lib Dems.At times in Welsh elections there can be an “anyone but Plaid” mentality from both activists and voters. By-elections naturally encourage a wider field of candidates than usual and this was the case in the Glyder ward of Gwynedd Council and split that vote. This Bangor ward divides into two; a council estate and a largely Welsh speaking area. We canvassed around 95% of the houses but needed to get on more doorsteps in peoples first language. Our candidate was a well-known local figure and Bangor City Councillor. We fought on local issues, notably the terrible state of local roads and pavements. This is a both a frustrating and encouraging result. In May we lost our deposit in the Arfon Welsh Assembly seat that includes this ward, so a huge improvement but frustrating that we fell just 13 votes from victory.
In the very rural Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe ward of Wokingham Unitary Authority in Berkshire, one of the two sitting Tory councillors resigned to cause a by-election. Four days earlier she won a seat in the neighbouring Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead!! She could have resigned in the run up to the May local elections, rather than afterwards. If that had happened, then the by-election could have been run on the same day as the local elections. Strangely we pointed this out to the electors who were none too amused.
Our vote share dropped from the election held on the same day as the general election to a figure comparable to previous local elections. Turnout was below normal for the ward possibly due to the unforecast heavy rain during the afternoon and evening, yet the postal vote turnout was 61%.
Labour and UKIP both did one leaflet to the central parts of the ward, both for the first time. The Greens did nothing. We did two leaflets, some canvassing, target letters to non-Tories in two tranches (postal voters, non-postals). The Tories did full canvass for the first time ever, one leaflet, target letters (postal and non-postal).
This ward, whilst in Wokingham Authority, is in the Maidenhead parliamentary seat and as such had some attention up to the 2005 General Election but had not been high on our priority list. Our aims were thus limited; we maintained our second place, trialled some key messages (which worked well for us) and got everybody helping after the May elections – all achieved.