I very much hope that all of you lovely blog readers have enjoyed a few days’ rest over the glorious Easter long weekend.
As you know, psephology never rests, and I have been spending some of the last few days thinking about the European Parliament elections that, it appears, we are now likely to get in late May. More on that to follow in various blog posts soon.
In the meantime, my friend Harry Hayfield (@HarryHayfield on Twitter) has been in touch with an update on local council by-elections in Wales in the two years since the 2017 local elections. Across the twenty-two principal local authorities in Wales, there have been – Harry informs me – eleven by-elections since May 2017. (This total, and the numbers below, do not include town and parish councils). In these eleven by-elections, the number of votes and seats won by each of the parties have been as follows:
Independent candidates: 3,314 votes (30%, +7% on 2017) winning 4 seats (+2 on 2017)
Labour: 3,142 votes (28% -7% on 2017) winning 2 seats (-3 on 2017)
Plaid Cymru: 2,277 votes (20% +3% on 2017) winning 3 seats (+1 on 2017)
Conservatives: 2,015 votes (18% +5% on 2017) winning 2 seats (unchanged on 2017)
Liberal Democrats: 237 votes (2% -5% on 2017) winning 0 seats (unchanged on 2017)
Green Party: 95 votes (1% unchanged on 2017) winning 0 seats (unchanged on 2017)
UKIP: 33 votes (0%) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
We should clearly be cautious about drawing conclusions from a relatively small number of by-elections. It is also the case that parties do not stand in all contests. But that is, in itself, telling. And these figures do suggest a few conclusions that can be drawn. They attest to the continued strength of the independent tradition in Welsh local government.
The results also reinforce that there are now only three major parties in Welsh local government. Of those parties, Labour remain the largest. But their votes in the ballot box, just as with their opinion poll rating, is now clearly in retreat. Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives show some evidence of advance; no other parties have played a significant role.
Harry – to whose dedicated tracking of local by-elections we are all greatly indebted – also informs me that there are three by-elections pending for seats on principal local authorities. These are the following:
Morfa Nefyn on Gwynedd (Plaid defence), to be held on May 23rd
Resolven on Neath and Port Talbot (Labour defence), to be held on May 23rd
Llanbadarn Fawr, Sulien on Ceredigion (Plaid defence), yet to be scheduled.
UPDATE: Harry has helpfully provided, in a comment, a detailed listing of all the seat changes. To make sure that it reaches a wider audience, I think it is worth listing all of them in full:
Gurnos on Merthyr Tydfil (Ind GAIN from Lab) on a swing of 3.5% from Lab to Ind
Gwynfi on Neath and Port Talbot (Ind GAIN from Lab) on a swing of 35% from Lab to Ind
Pembroke, St. Mary’s North on Pembrokeshire (Ind GAIN from Con) on a swing of 32.5% from Con to Ind
Yscir on Powys (Con GAIN from Ind) on a 22% swing from Ind to Con
Ely on Cardiff (Plaid GAIN from Lab) on a 12.5% from Lab to Plaid
Cyfartha on Merthyr Tydfil (Ind GAIN from Merthyr Tydfil Independents) on a swing of 36% from Merthyr Tydfil Independents to Independent