Number of candidates
* There were 17 by-elections in Scotland.
** There were 22 by-elections in Wales.
*** There were 19 Independent clashes in the year's by-elections.
**** See the quarterly round-ups for details of other parties.
Overall 552,015 votes were cast over 319 individual local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. Fractions are rounded to one decimal place for percentages, and the nearest whole number for averages. In all, 99 council seats changed hands. For comparison, you can see 2015's results here.
Across the year, the Conservatives have been this year's big losers. A net loss of 29 seats (while finishing last year up 19) isn't great, but nothing that should have the Tory high command panicking. Meanwhile, as everyone talks up Labour's poor by-election performance it finishes the year with a lead in the popular vote and a net loss of just eight councillors. However, while not worrisome from the standpoint of maintaining the status quo - and with talk of Labour getting crushed between UKIP and the LibDems - it can hardly be said these aren't performances turned in by a party poised to win a general election. Still, there's time yet and the Corbyn leadership deserves a full year without shenanigans and internal warfare. Provided that truce holds we'll have a better idea of the true state of play 12 months hence.
The LibDems continue surging which, in truth, started before the referendum result. However, as noted yesterday, this is on the basis of a relatively thin sliver of voters returning to the party. This is reconfirmed in the year end figures. Their proportion is significantly up while average votes cast per contest remains flat. You could say we're returning to their historical level that was temporarily depressed by their coalition with the Conservatives. As for UKIP, their big slide took place last year. Though not performing as per their golden period, this year's tally indicates a certain stability in their support, as measured by the fractional uptick in support and few net losses. Whether that will continue to be the case remains to be seen. I'm not expecting UKIP to swoop in and hammer Labour in its core areas. Despite the hype, there is no indication of this brewing, and it appears leavers just aren't as motivated by their referendum vote as remainers are. In addition, 2017 sees county council elections. Here, the party did very well in 2013 off the back of the Tory rebellion against equal marriage. Those conditions no longer apply, and provided the government isn't seen to be gratuitously mucking up Brexit negotiations you can expect a lot of those gains to fall, which will knock-on into by-elections too.
Of the other parties? The SNP are still piling up the votes but it feels like their ascendency has peaked. Nothing much going on with by-elections from Plaid Cymru. Three gains is alright, and let's face it, Labour would be much happier had we netted as many. Sundry Independents have done better, which is annoying. And TUSC, well, they stood only in two quarters and improved their result on last year. That said, as they're "resting" in deference to a deal they desperately want to strike with Labour (and are never going to get), I don't see any point including them in the tallies any more - so into 'Others' they go from now on.