Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s dismay at the media blackout over an historic Labour victory in Ramsgate (in which 483 people voted), ward by-elections don’t often attract much attention.
As well as involving tiny numbers and low turnouts, they are frequently driven by highly specific local circumstances. And what seem like dramatic swings can be caused by major parties standing for the first time – or dropping out of the race.
But they can still be intriguing, and last night delivered a clutch of interesting results.
Bishop’s Castle is a small market town in a constituency (Ludlow) held by a Conservative, Philip Dunne. The ward’s voters apparently didn’t have a Labour option last time round – and judging by the results this omission hadn’t been a cause for any great concern.
By contrast the voters in Tupton were clearly keen for a change.
Here the advent of a fresh Lib Dem candidate nearly halved the Labour share of the vote, and resulted in an overall victory. But this is one of those cases where local circumstances may have had a part to play – the previous Labour councillor, Wayne Lilleyman, had stepped down after allegedly biting a teenager on the nose.
However Labour had a good night in Carlisle (Castle Ward):
Here it seems that Corbyn’s leadership tempted former Green supporters to vote Labour, while both Labour and Conservative gained from a decline in support for UKIP.
Another Labour win in Blakelaw (Newcastle), but less convincing this time:
Labour’s support was well down, with the Lib Dems the main beneficiaries.
Puckeridge was one of those results from which it’s difficult to extrapolate anything meaningful, with new candidates from both the Lib Dems and UKIP muddying the waters.
One can only speculate as to which of these new options tempted away both Labour and Conservative voters – though not enough to stop this being a Conservative hold.
Finally there was a mayoral election in Hackney. This was a Labour landslide.
London is of course an area where Labour expects to do well. However turnout was low, and (as with Sadiq Khan’s election) it’s hard to know how much of a straw in the wind this is for a Corbyn-led Labour at a General Election. For Philip Glanville, though I believe he has endorsed neither candidate for the Labour leadership, doesn’t seem to be a Corbynista.