By-Elections – 11th February 2016
Tories suffer worst set of results since the General Election
There were four by elections this week. Labour were defending three very safe seats in safe Labour Westminster constituencies. The fact they were going to hold all three was never in doubt, what was different was that the Conservatives were in second place in all three when the wards were last fought. In recent times Labour have not done well in straight head to heads against the Tories in even safe seats, this week they did with strong swings in Bolton and Coventry with the Tory vote down 11% in Bolton (where UKIP who did not stand last time came second) and 6% in Coventry against last May. There was a small swing to the Tories in Hounslow but that ward was last fought in 2014 where the Tories were starting from a lower base and Labour a higher base, therefore the fact the Labour vote was up 1% there was also a decent result.
The fourth by election was in the Con-Lib Dem marginal of Eastleigh. The ward itself was narrowly Lib Dem on General Election day but to show they could be looking on course to take the seat back they not only needed to hold the seat but needed a swing of around 8%. The swing was actually over 9%, a very good result for the Lib Dems with the Tory vote down 6% in line with the other results. Last week saw a Tory slip and this week appears to have confirmed this week. The full results are below.
MOON OF LIBERTY ELECTION SCOREBOARD
Local By Elections (11th February 2016)
Cranston (Hounslow) – Lab 1264 Con 638 LD 265 UKIP 96 Green 48 – Lab Hold – Swing (May 14) Lab-Con 0.9%
West End North (Eastleigh) – LD 582 Con 315 UKIP 115 Lab 58 Green 28 – LD Hold – Swing (May 15) Con-LD 9.7%
Lower Stoke (Coventry) – Lab:1235 Con 344 UKIP 290 Green 165 LD 124 – Lab Hold – Swing (May 15) Con-Lab 6.7%
Crompton (Bolton) – Lab 1961 UKIP 320 Con 302 LD 117 Green:65 – Lab Hold – Swing (May 15) Con-Lab 9.4%
Projected national UK share (Based on the last 20 local by elections fought by each party)
Con 34.2% Lab 30.6% LD 15.8% UKIP 9.3% SNP 4.5% Green 3.6% – Con lead 3.6%
Conservative – Interesting that there has been a clear drop in support and increase in willingness to use local elections to kick the Government since the fallout from the EU Deal. While the three Labour seats this week were safe Labour seats, next week we may get an idea if the change applies to marginals as well with the Tories defending two seats in the Westminster marginal of Broxtowe, two seats they are unlikely to lose, but similar drops in vote share and swings against them would confirm the apparent sea change is a wider problem. The result in Eastleigh is also a bad one, on that swing they would lose the Westminster seat to the Lib Dems. Plenty to contemplate as the Tory armour is showing chinks for the first time since last May.
Labour – Two strong swings against the Conservatives, albeit in safe seats, may suggest there is some light for Labour looking ahead to May. Their projected vote share is also above 30% for the first time this year and the gap between the Tories and Labour is now the lowest in 2016 as well. Ultimately they still need to prove they can do it in Westminster marginal seats, next week in two Broxtowe contests they get their chance. They don’t have to win them as the Tories are well ahead in both wards, but strong swings along the lines of what they got this week would be a very positive step forward. Can they do it?
Lib Dem – Despite vote falls elsewhere, the Eastleigh result will be a heartening one for Tim Farron and the ‘Lib Dem fightback.’ A result over and above what they would need to win Eastleigh in 2020 makes this the most significant result they have had since last May. Maybe the first true signs they have areas they are ‘winning here’ once again.
UKIP – A mixed bag for UKIP, they move into second place in Bolton, but their vote share fell significantly in Eastleigh and Hounslow. The UKIP performances have been unpredictable so far in 2016 and they are doing much better in national opinion polls than in local contests. They will be a wildcard in May that is still strong enough to do everyone damage, however I would also expect them to fall back significantly in some places as well.
The Numbers – The Conservative lead over Labour has fallen from 4.7% to 3.6% as a result of this weeks result. All the numbers, including the polling numbers, General Election seat projections and EU Referendum polling can be found here.