Local elections

Latest by-election results: big wins for the small parties

A feast of council by-elections this week.

There were a total of 12 contests on Thursday, taking place across England, Scotland and Wales.

Plus there’s an extra result left over from last week, thanks to a rare example of a by-election taking place on a Friday.

I’ll start with the gains, which were were all made by smaller parties.

The SNP took a seat from Labour on Moray council:

Moray by-election result

The result represents a swing of 4.8% from Labour to the SNP. It’s the kind of outcome that Labour will fear is a portent of what could happen at the general election, but which will give the SNP an enormous confidence boost.

Even more striking was the SNP’s performance in a separate contest for Argyll & Bute council, where the party held its seat but with an increased majority and an enormous 34.8% swing from the Conservatives.  

In Wales the nationalists also did well. Plaid Cymru took a seat from an independent on Carmathenshire council, while enjoying a 18.5% swing from the Liberal Democrats:

Carmarthenshire by-election result

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives fielded a candidate.

Ukip made a gain on Thursday, but at the expense of an independent on Lincolnshire county council:

Lincolnshire by-election result

Ukip had not even stood in this seat in previous local elections.

The last of Thursday’s gains brought cheer for the Liberal Democrats, who took a seat from Labour on Aylesbury council:

Aylesbury by-election result

The swing here was 10.5% from Labour to the Lib Dems.

While the Conservatives failed to make any advances in this week’s contests, they will be relieved that – unlike Labour – they did not lose any seats. The remainder of Thursday’s results were all holds for the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems:

  • Labour held a seat on Halton borough council, where it enjoyed a tiny 0.1% swing from Ukip. It also held seats on Sunderland and West Lancashire councils.
  • The Conservatives held a seat on New Forest district council, and also managed a 10.4% swing from Labour who came third. Ukip came second.
  • The Tories also held seats on Windsor & Maidenhead and Broxtowe councils.
  • Besides gaining a seat from Labour in Aylesbury, the Liberal Democrats held a second seat on the council, though Ukip were just 28 votes behind.

Finally, there was a by-election last Friday (5 December) for a seat on Adur council. The Tories held it comfortably. I haven’t been able to find a reason for the contest taking place on a Friday rather than the conventional Thursday.

The Press Association has done its usual analysis and, using nine comparable results from this week’s by-elections, finds a suggested 1.9% nationwide Tory lead over Labour.

A calculation based on four wards fought both times by the three major Westminster parties gives a line-up of Conservatives 36.8%, Labour 36.0% and Liberal Democrats 12.2%.


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