Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Quarter One Local By-Election Results 2013

Polls have their place, but only actual, real elections quench the psephological thirst of many a politics anorak. Wishing to "give something back" to "the community", I've been tracking local by-election results over the course of this last quarter. You can find them below.


Party
No. Contests
%
Vote
%
Average
Wins
+/-
Conservative
36
97
13,322
21.9
   370
  6
 -7
Labour
33
89
23,033
37.8
   698
18
+3
LibDem
28
76
  7,750
12.7
   277
  8
+4
UKIP
24
65
  5,668
  9.3
   236
  2
+2
SNP*
3

  2,223
  3.6
   741
  0
 -1
Plaid Cymru**
1

       54
  0.1
     54
  0
  0
Green
15
40
  1,929
  3.2
   129
  0
  0
BNP
6
16
     451
  0.7
     75
  0
  0
TUSC
3
  8
     231
  0.4
     77
  0
  0
Independent***
18

  5,243
  8.6
   291
  3
  0
Other****
9

  1,007
  1.6
   112
  0
  0


* Scottish National Party contested all three Scottish local council by-elections.
** Plaid Cymru contested the only Welsh local council by-election.
*** There were occasions where Independent candidates contested the same seats, hence percentage of contests has been left blank.
**** 'Other' parties and organisations likewise clashed.

Overall 60,911 votes were cast over 37 individual local (tier one and tier two) authority contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place.

There are a number of caveats that come with the data.

Firstly, local council by-elections are extremely uneven and can be distorted by elections clustering in safe seats. For example, while Labour won almost half of all the contests this last quarter a good many happened to occur in Labour-supporting areas. Second, comparing one quarter results to another (which I'll be doing anyway in early July) can never be like-for-like precisely because contests take place randomly. Swings in support are likely to reflect the character of the seats up for election than wider patterns. Thirdly, unlike other second order elections (parliamentary by-elections, European elections, normal local authority elections) local concerns can rudely come to the fore and swing an outcome.

With these concerns in mind, I think two solid conclusions can be drawn. There is the net win/loss of council seats. While Labour's results were buoyed by lots of contests in its areas, it still managed a haul of three seats - outpaced only by the Liberal Democrats(!). The Tory decline however saw them lose seats to both parties and UKIP. To perform so poorly while standing in 97 per cent of seats (and only winning six of those elections) could well be indicative of the crisis afflicting the right.

While we're on the topic, let's talk about the strength of party organisation. The fact, for example, that UKIP were able to contest 65 per cent of the seats indicates greater organisational capacity than the other minor parties. But likewise the table also illustrates that the LibDems are not entirely out of the count yet, indicating there is still some distance our MkII Tory Party has to travel before it meaningfully displaces them as the third party in the country. Also, managing only to contest six seats was the BNP. That seems to fit the general consensus that their decline is continuing. Good.

7 comments:

Jim Jepps said...

Thanks for doing this - well worth doing and helps show something I'd noticed - that the Lib Dems are still able to pull off victories.

I suspect they are taking their hardest hits in urban areas where they drew support from labour leaning voters while in the sticks they've been able to win advances. I could be wrong, just a theory.

you're right to be cautious about the randomness of by-elections. Poor old Plaid are probably doing better than this for instance! :)

Evan said...

This is a great little table Phil. What would be great would be to see this distribution of seats on a map...

Phil said...

I noticed yesterday Mike Smithson at Political Betting does something similar, though our results are different. Strange.

A map would be a great idea. Unfortunately I'm no coding whiz, but (if I have time) I will track the constituencies the by-elections are taking place in to see how safe seats match up to the various permutations of marginals.

Also, I think it's likely April might be quite a slow month as local parties and associations across the country will have been trying to roll outstanding by-elections over to next month's county contests.

Jim Jepps said...

There are different ways of measuring previous results if it was a three seat election.

Some use the average (which I think is sensible), some use the highest scoring candidate (which helps factor in "winners" but I think biases the whole thing towards everyone going down).

If your base figures were different there could be a small difference and both of you be right. Or one of you could have added it up wrong :)

Phil said...

I'm sure I didn't add up any wrong! I don't fancy going through all my figures again either. There are only so many hours in the day.

Re: three seaters, I don't recall any of them being up this time.

howard fuller said...

Didn't the TUSC win a by-election somewhere, not that is any indication of a trend!

Phil said...

They did but it was a town council (parish council) by-election against an independent who did no campaigning. Unfortunately for them, their result does not count where local authority votes are concerned.