Previews: 29 Aug 2019

There are three by-elections on 29th August 2019. Later we shall come to two by-elections in Scotland, one of which is for the Scottish Parliament; but we are living in extraordinary times. After a traumatic few days, this column will now get off the fence and proceed to say what your columnist really thinks.


Radcliffe West

Bury council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Rishi Shori, who is taking up a new job in Birmingham. He had served since winning a by-election in June 2009.

This column has a routine in drafting these Previews. The first draft is done over the weekend, it’s left to brew until Tuesday night, and then (if I still like it) it goes off to Britain Elects on Wednesday. Sometimes, things happen in the interim. The original draft for this week had the big Scottish Parliament by-election in the Shetland Islands up first; but in this column’s opinion the lead story has changed this week.

Let me take you to Ulundi Street in Radcliffe, a Coronation Street of terraces in a cluster of Coronation Streets a few hundred yards west of the old town hall building. In 1948 a 23-year-old man moved to Ulundi Street from Jamaica, with a job offer to play cricket for the local club and a place at university if that didn’t work out.

Radcliffe Cricket Club had pulled off quite the coup in landing this young man’s services. Frank Mortimer Maglinne Worrell had just made his Test debut for the West Indies, and became a star of international cricket as one of the “Three W’s” on the Windies team which toured England in 1950 and won the series 3-1. Worrell played in 51 Tests, becoming the first black player to captain the West Indies, and his Test averages (49.48 in batting and 38.72 in bowling) speak for themselves. He ended up with a knighthood and an appointment to the Jamaican Senate, but didn’t live long to savour those honours: Worrell developed leukaemia, and died in 1967 at the appallingly early age of 42. A few hundred yards away from the house on Ulundi Street which he’d left eleven years earlier, Radcliffe borough council flew the town hall flag at half-mast in Frank Worrell’s memory. There is now a plaque on Worrell’s old house, although it’s almost obscured by a buddleia bush which has taken over the front yard.

These days a young cricketer of Frank Worrell’s talent would have the chance to make his fortune playing in the Indian Premier League or other such competitions. But in 1948 limited-overs cricket was unheard of and opportunities to make a living in the sport were limited. Not so much, though in Lancashire where the clubs of the Lancashire League and the Central Lancashire League (like Radcliffe CC) would pay decent money for a professional – often from overseas – to bolster their team. As late as July 1992 a 21-year-old professional from Queensland called Matthew Hayden was plying his trade for Greenmount Cricket Club just a few miles away from Radcliffe. In one memorable match that season he scored 140 not out to defeat Astley Bridge Cricket Club from Bolton in a cup semi-final, sharing in an unbeaten stand of 236 for the third wicket. (This column’s former patron Ian Warren, with typical Bolton partisanship, still maintains that Hayden was plumb LBW on nought.)

Hayden’s partner in that double-century stand was a 17-year-old apprentice sportsman who went on to benefit from the tide of money which pours into certain corners of a different sport. He had already been the captain of a side which won the FA Youth Cup, and two months after scoring an unbeaten century of his own against Astley Bridge Gary Neville made his senior debut for Manchester United, the first of 400 appearances in a sparkling career for the club. Since retiring from the game Neville has put the substantial amount of money he made from it into a higher education body (University Academy 92), various property developments and a stake in Salford City FC. Five years and four promotions later, Salford City are playing league football.

Gary’s parents Neville and Jean Neville were for many years directors of Bury FC, who aren’t playing league football in a turn of events which reflects badly on everyone involved. For want of the sort of money which Man United or City would spend on a few weeks’ wages for one of their stars, for want of the sort of money which would probably buy you Ulundi Street in Radcliffe, Bury are now out of the game thanks to an abject failure of the Football League’s “fit and proper persons” test, which allowed a man with a string of failed businesses who had never previously been to Bury to take the club and its debts over for a pound. Steve Dale, if there is any justice, will find himself unable to pay his creditors and spend the rest of his life throwing himself upon the mercy of the Department for Work and Pensions. The League, who engineered this week’s appalling turn of events, need to recognise their failure and responsibility; if there is any justice, heads will roll in short order. Neville Neville, whom Bury honoured after his death by naming the main stand at Gigg Lane after him, will presumably be spinning in his grave. And for the fans – of whom I counted myself as one – and the town of Bury? Well, sympathy from other people will only get you so far; but the hit to the town’s pride, to its reputation, to its self-confidence, to its economy from this no-deal crash-out will take some time to become fully apparent.

And this in a town – Bury – which was doing well for itself by Greater Manchester standards. Quite the contrast with nearby Radcliffe. This is a classic Lancashire industrial town that, with the death of the coal, textile and papermaking industries, is now looking for a future and mostly failing to find it. With a population of just under 30,000 Radcliffe is larger than Shetland (which we shall come to later), but the West ward is only a third of it. It comes in three parts.

The southern part of the ward rises steeply from the road bridge over the Irwell along Stand Lane and Outwood Road. The East Lancs Paper Mill was the main landmark here until it was demolished, and the site redeveloped, a few years ago. Radcliffe West comes in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for Judaism, with a Jewish population of around 4.5% which is concentrated in this part of the ward. Also here is the village of Outwood – where my mother grew up – which was once home to a major colliery.

The northern part of the ward, above the derelict Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal, rises slightly less steeply along the Bolton Road. This is part of the Coronation Road Estate and is generally the newest part of the ward as far as housing is concerned. Between the canal and the river the ward skirts Radcliffe town centre but does include its main supermarket, a manufacturing area along the riverside, and a district of Coronation Street-style terraces off School Street which date from the Victorian era. Which brings us back where we started – to Frank Worrell’s old house on Ulundi Street.

That’s the Radcliffe West ward, which Labour have never lost since it was drawn up for the 2004 elections. There have however been some calls, particularly so in a June 2009 by-election at which Rishi Shori was first elected; he had a majority over the Conservatives that year of just nine votes. Coincidentally that by-election was also triggered by a former council leader leaving to take up a new job; in this case the outgoing councillor was Wayne Campbell who was going to work for the local housing association. In 2016 Rishi Shori followed in Campbell’s footsteps by becoming the youngest ever leader of Bury council, and the first person from an ethnic minority to lead any Greater Manchester borough; the voters of Radcliffe West endorsed that by giving him a large majority at his final re-election in 2018.

However, the anti-politics vibe which was such a feature of the May 2019 local elections was at work here as well. Radcliffe has a lot of similarities with Farnworth to the west, in that it’s seen by locals as a forgotten town: a poor relation to the big place up the road. This is a town with 30,000 residents and no secondary school; local teenagers have to commute to Bury, Whitefield or Little Lever to continue their education. Radcliffe’s civic suite, a sleek and versatile brick building which was opened in 1974 by Harold Wilson, was demolished in 2016 and replaced by housing. The town’s swimming baths were demolished in the same year following storm damage and replaced by, well, nothing. The town centre is appalling, with its banks falling over themselves to get out of the place and charity shops struggling to make ends meet. Cast your eyes over that town centre, and the idea of a Test cricketer coming from sunnier climes to Radcliffe to make a living now looks unbelievable.

In Farnworth, as this column has previously related, a localist party called Farnworth and Kearsley First sprang up in early 2018 to meet similar residents’ concerns, and was a runaway success at the ballot box; Farnworth and Kearsley First now holds all three council seats for Farnworth ward. Their success inspired a copycat “Radcliffe First” independent slate to stand in Radcliffe in the May 2019 local elections. The Radcliffe First slate gained Radcliffe East ward from Labour by 66 votes, and finished 80 votes short in Radcliffe West – an encouraging start, particularly given that they missed the party registration deadline meaning that their candidates were on the ballot paper in May as independents. Shares of the vote were 39% for Labour, 36% for Radcliffe First and 15% for the Conservatives.

So this is a difficult defence for Bury Labour. Their candidate is Jamie Walker, who is not yet 24 but is already a former councillor, having lost his seat to the Conservatives in Radcliffe North ward in May. The Radcliffe First candidate is Mike Smith. Young Conservative and public transport worker Jordan Lewis returns to the notice of this column after contesting last year’s Besses ward by-election. Completing the ballot paper are Kingsley Jones for the Lib Dems and Anthony Clough for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode district: M26

Anthony Clough (UKIP)
Kingsley Jones (LD)
Jordan Lewis (C)
Mike Smith (Radcliffe First)
Jamie Walker (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 886 Ind 806 C 350 Grn 152 LD 65
May 2018 result Lab 1283 C 531 Grn 242 LD 64
May 2016 result Lab 1303 C 458 UKIP 438 Grn 83 LD 53
May 2015 result Lab 2164 C 1294 UKIP 968 Grn 195 LD 90
May 2014 result Lab 1361 C 619 Grn 303 LD 62
May 2012 result Lab 1523 C 331 UKIP 275 LD 62
May 2011 result Lab 1901 C 719 LD 97
May 2010 result Lab 1970 C 1345 LD 928 BNP 509
June 2009 by-election Lab 879 C 870 BNP 459 LD 429 EDP 228
May 2008 result Lab 1187 C 727 BNP 484 LD 175 UKIP 89
May 2007 result Lab 1299 C 582 BNP 503 LD 196
May 2006 result Lab 1231 C 709 Ind 301
June 2004 result Lab 1652/1601/1562 C 852/842/821 LD 561


Shetland Islands

Scottish Parliament; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott, who is taking up a new job with Scottish Rugby.

Með lögum skal land byggja
– motto of Shetland

Connoisseurs of August by-elections have enjoyed a vintage 2019, with the Brecon and Radnorshire parliamentary by-election poll at the start of this month and this by-election at the end of it. There can be few more interesting and remote places to go for a by-election than the Shetland islands.

These islands have an old history which – as anyone who has attended Up Helly Aa can attest – isn’t all that Scottish. There are very few trees here, so the islands’ buildings have been made in stone for millennia and prehistoric sites are common. One site, a midden on the south coast of Mainland, has been dated to the fifth millennium BC. Nearby is Jarlshof, at which buildings and objects dating from the 17th century AD back to the middle of the third millennium BC have been excavated. Many of the Jarlshof remains are Norse, dating from when the archipelago was a Viking colony; Harald Fairhair, king of Norway, annexed the islands in AD 875.

Things then got complicated from a governance point of view. According to the sagas, Harald created the title of jarl (earl) of Orkney and Shetland for Rognvald Eysteinsson “the Wise”, and he and his successors as jarl ran the place. The Vikings gave the name Hjaltland to the place; this was originally transliterated into the Latin alphabet using the letter yogh, as Ȝetland, when then mutated into a Z when the yogh fell out of use. It’s from that Z we get the now-archaic form Zetland for the islands and their postcode, ZE.

The jarls of Orkney and Shetland also had extensive holdings on the Scottish mainland, for which they were accountable to the king of Scotland rather than the Norwegian royals, and by the twelfth century the jarls also held the Scottish title of Earl of Caithness. This was bound to result in trouble sooner or later. King Sverre Sigurdsson of Norway brought Orkney and Shetland under direct rule following a rebellion in 1194 by the Øyskjeggs (or “Island Beardies”). The last Norse jarl, Jon Haraldsson, was killed in 1231 – sources differ as to whether he foundered in a shiprewck or was murdered in Thurso – and after that the Earls of Caithness were Scottish noblemen and acted accordingly. This and other issues eventually provoked the Scottish-Norwegian War, whose highlight was a 1263 expedition to Scotland by King Haakon IV of Norway in support of his claims to Shetland, Orkney, the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. The expedition got nowhere, and after Haakon IV’s death in Kirkwall in December 1263 the war eventually petered out with a peace treaty under whose terms the Hebrides and Man were ceded to Scotland.

Orkney and Shetland stayed in Norse hands until 1469, when Margaret of Denmark married King James III of Scotland. Margaret’s father Christian I, king of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, ended up giving the islands to Scotland in lieu of her dowry. From 1472 Orkney and Shetland were represented by one MP in the Scottish Parliament – and later the Westminster Parliament – as a constituency whose boundaries have been unchanged ever since.

By this point Shetland had developed into a major trading post. The Hanseatic League had a presence here, allowing export of the islands’ fish, wool and dairy products to the continent. A new town, Lerwick, was founded as a seaport to trade with the Dutch fishing fleet. However, the Union of England and Scotland in 1707 meant increased tariffs on those goods, which forced the Hansa traders elsewhere and resulted in an economic depression in Shetland. The 1840s potato famine hit Shetland hard, and resulted in a relief plan which did increase the population to nearly 32,000 at the 1861 census. Significant emigration since then means that the islands have never had such a high population since.

The late nineteenth century brought a change in the economy, with the passing of crofting legislation by the Gladstone government to improve the island’s agriculture together with investment in the local fishing industry by the Dutch. That maritime focus meant that Shetland lost over 500 men in the First World War, many of them on the Atlantic convoys. In the Second World War SOE set up a Norwegian naval unit in Scalloway: the resulting “Shetland Bus” made around 200 trips to Norway transporting agents, or for special forces operations. Leif “Shetlands” Larsen, a Norwegian refugee who did 52 of those tours, was the most highly-decorated Allied naval officer of the war.

Today fishing, wool, tourism and agriculture are still major economic sectors in Shetland. The islands are home to Britain’s most northerly veg box scheme. However, the impact of those industries is dwarfed by that of fossil fuels. The sea between Shetland and Norway is Europe’s largest oil field, and Shetland is at the centre of it. Zetland County Council obtained an Act of Parliament in 1974 allowing it to force the various oil companies to build a single terminal to land all this oil; the result was Sullom Voe, which was opened by the Queen in 1981 as the largest oil terminal in Europe. Sullom Voe is still going strong today, and the taxes on its revenues have made the Shetland Islands Council (which took over from Zetland County Council in 1975) very wealthy by local government standards.

A lot of that wealth goes on communication between the islands. The vast majority of Shetland’s population live on the largest island, aptly called Mainland, which is the fifth-largest of the British Isles by area (only Skye, Lewis with Harris, Ireland and Great Britain are larger). There are however fifteen other inhabited islands in the archipelago, from the isolated Fair Isle and Foula to Bressay over the water from Lerwick, Yell, Fetlar and Unst. Out Stack, an uninhabited rock off the north coast of Unst, lies at a latitude of nearly 61 degrees north and is the northernmost of the British Isles. Shetland council sponsors a series of ferries between the islands and air links from Tingwall airport near Lerwick; external flights land and take off from Sumburgh airport at the south end of Mainland, while for those who prefer the slower journey there are overnight ferries to Aberdeen. There also used to be a ferry link to Bergen in Norway, but this ceased some time ago.

Yell, Fetlar, Unst and associated islands form the North Isles ward of Shetland council, which returns three of the council’s 22 members. That ward may be broken up for the next Shetland local elections in 2022 following the passage of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, which allowed electoral wards of fewer than three members where islands are concerned. The Islands (Scotland) Act also provided that official maps which show Shetland and the Scottish mainland now have to show them in the right place, as a reaction to the common practice among mapmakers of putting Shetland in an inset. So don’t do this in future:

The December 2018 electoral register listed 17,670 people eligible to vote in local government and (by extension) Scottish Parliament elections in Shetland. That will be boosted for this by-election thanks to a Yorkshireman called John Hirst, who in 1979 was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Hirst eventually served 25 years in prison thanks to violent behaviour and other offences while inside. Also while inside he launched a series of legal actions against the prison authorities and other people, culminating in a 2005 European Court of Human Rights ruling – Hirst v United Kingdom (No 2) – that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Scottish Government, being cognisant of its responsibilities under human rights law and towards democracy in a way that the UK government is not, has introduced legislation to Holyrood to add prisoners serving sentences of twelve months or less to the Scottish local government electoral register, which should be enough to satisfy the ECHR that something is being done to remedy their ruling. That legislation won’t get through Holyrood in time for this by-election, so an emergency ministerial order has been made to give prisoners from Shetland who meet those criteria the right to register and to cast postal votes in this by-election only. There won’t be many people this applies to, but they will be the first prisoners in the UK who will get to vote in a public election. Scotland has already given 16-year-olds the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections, so the electoral register here is rather wider than would be the case at a Westminster election.

These remote islands have a rather different political culture to the UK mainland. As stated, Orkney and Shetland have together formed a constituency since the fifteenth century, and since the 1832 Reform Act all but three of its MPs have been Liberals or Liberal Democrats. The first exception to that was Thomas Balfour, a Conservative who served for two years from 1835 to 1837. The second was the wonderfully-named Cathcart Wason, a farmer who had previously been elected three times as an independent member of the New Zealand parliament; in 1900 he defeated Liberal MP Leonard Lyell (who had served since 1885) by just 40 votes as a Liberal Unionist candidate.

In 1902 Wason crossed the floor of the Commons to sit with the Liberal opposition (who included among their members his brother Eugene), and resigned in order to seek re-election under his new colours. The local Liberal association – who had already selected London county councillor Thomas Wood as their PPC – refused to endorse him, so Wason stood as an independent Liberal, while the Liberal Unionists tried to hold their seat by selecting sailor and steamship owner Theodore Angier. In the by-election on 18th and 19th November Angier only narrowly saved his deposit, with Wason defeating Wood by 47-39, a majority of 211 votes. Cathcart Wason immediately retook the Liberal whip, and served until 1921.

Wason’s successor didn’t have as long a tenure. Sir Malcolm Smith, elected unopposed in the 1921 election, was from a Shetland crofting family but at this point was a businessman based in the port of Leith, and had served for nine years as the Provost of Leith. In 1921 he had the Coalition government’s coupon, but in the snap general election the following year Smith stood as a National Liberal and lost his seat to the official Liberal candidate, Robert Hamilton, by 625 votes.

Sir Robert Hamilton had made his career in the civil service before entering politics – he had been Chief Justice of the East Africa Protectorate. He was re-elected in 1923 with an increased majority against opposition from a very young Conservative candidate – Bob Boothby, the future broadcaster and gay rights campaigner who at this point was 23 years old and fighting his first election campaign.

Following the Liberal split of 1931, Robert Hamilton joined the Samuel side of the split and entered the National Government as a junior minister in the Colonial Office. He was unopposed in the 1931 Tory landslide, but then left the government and lost his seat in 1935 to the Conservatives’ Basil Neven-Spence.

The last Tory MP for Orkney and Shetland, Neven-Spence came from a prominent Shetland family but had made his name as a military physician. Serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, he was seconded to the Egyptian army after graduating from Edinburgh University in 1911, and served in the Middle East and Darfur during the First Wold War. Retiring from the Army in 1927 with the rank of Major, Neven-Spence had contested Orkney and Shetland in 1929 and was vice-convenor of Zetland county council. He defeated Sir Robert Hamilton in 1935 by the comfortable margin of 2,226.

Neven-Spence was narrowly re-elected in 1945 thanks to a split in the opposition vote. Labour contested the seat for the first time: their candidate, the wonderfully-named Prophet Smith, came third with 30%, a new Liberal candidate finished second with 34%, and Neven-Spence won with 36% and a majority of 329 votes. The new Liberal candidate however returned to contest the 1950 election, and gained the seat easily.

That man was Joseph Grimond, an Old Etonian and barrister who had a long and influential political career. As a big fish in a small pond, Grimond became leader of the Liberal Party in 1956 (succeeding Clement Davies) and led it through the 1959, 1964 and 1966 general elections and back to respectability as a significant political force (in votes if not seats). Jo Grimond was also the party’s interim leader in 1976 after the disgrace of his successor, Jeremy Thorpe. He served as MP for the islands for thirty-three years, rarely being significantly challenged.

Grimond retired to the Lords in 1983, and his old seat was contested by high-profile candidates from the Conservatives and the Scottish National Party. The SNP candidate was the indefatigable Winnie Ewing, who had been an MP twice before and was the MEP for the Highlands and Islands; she would later reconvene the Scottish Parliament as the oldest member of the original Class of 1999. She finished third behind Tory candidate David Myles, who had been MP for Banffshire since 1979 but whose seat had been abolished by boundary changes. Myles finished a rather poor second behind the new Liberal candidate, Jim Wallace.

Wallace was an MP in the mould of Grimond and no less influential. An advocate who had studied law at Cambridge and Edinburgh, Wallace had fought his native Dumfriesshire in the 1979 general election and the South of Scotland in the 1979 European Parliament election. In 1992 Wallace succeeded Malcolm Bruce as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and played a major role in the setting up of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Wallace was elected to the new Parliament in that year as MSP for Orkney, and entered the first Scottish Government – a coalition of Labour and the Liberal Democrats – as deputy first minister. From this position Wallace stepped up twice as acting First Minister, once after the death of Donald Dewar in 2000, the second time a year later after the resignation of Dewar’s successor Henry McLeish. Wallace also had the Justice portfolio from 1999 to 2003, and from 2003 until retiring from the leadership and frontbench in 2005 was the Scottish minister for lifelong learning.

That retirement from the frontline didn’t last for long, though. In 2007 Jim Wallace was translated to the House of Lords and started a new career in Westminster politics. He served throughout the Coalition years as Advocate-General for Scotland, and from 2013 to 2016 was also leader of the Lib Dem group in the upper house.

Wallace had given up his seat in the Commons in 2001 to concentrate on his duties in Holyrood, and passed it on without trouble to yet another solicitor: Alistair Carmichael who has been MP for Orkney and Shetland ever since. During that time Carmichael was seriously challenged only once, when he held off the SNP surge of 2015 to win by 41-38, a majority of 817 votes. The SNP took that result to the Election Court over misleading statements which Carmichael – who had been Scottish secretary during the campaign – made about himself, but lost there as well. Carmichael made the seat safe again in June 2017.

Orkney and Shetland are one constituency at Westminster, but two at Holyrood. The Shetland constituency has only had one MSP since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999. Tavish Scott had been a parliamentary assistant to Jim Wallace before becoming a farmer and Shetland councillor. He had junior roles in the Labour-Lib Dem coalition which ran Holyrood from 1999 to 2007, piloting the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 which changed the electoral system for Scottish local government to proportional representation; and from 2005 to 2007 he was Scottish minister for transport. In 2008 Scott became leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, but resigned after a poor showing in the 2011 Holyrood elections. His final re-election in 2016 was by the large margin of 67-23 over the SNP candidate Danus Skene, Chief of the Clan Skene, who had had the near-miss against Carmichael a year previously. Skene died shortly afterwards, making this the last event in his long and wandering political career – he had been a Labour candidate in both 1974 general elections and had also sought election for the Liberals and Lib Dems in the past.

This Liberal and Lib Dem dominance in Shetland is not seen at elections to the Shetland Islands Council, which are non-partisan affairs. In the May 2017 local elections 32 candidates stood for the 22 seats; 29 of them were independents, there were two Conservative candidates who polled 2.6% in Lerwick North and 4.0% in Shetland North, and the SNP nominated one candidate, Robbie McGregor, who was elected unopposed as one of three councillors for Shetland South. The last time the independents lost a Shetland council seat in a contested election was way back in 2003, when the Lib Dems won the former South Central ward.

Tavish Scott has resigned to take up a new job with Scottish Rugby, provoking a by-election with a long candidate list. At the bottom of that list alphabetically, defending for the Liberal Democrats, is Beatrice Wishart; she is a councillor for Lerwick South ward and depute convenor of the council.

The Scottish National Party, who by all accounts are throwing the kitchen sink at this by-election campaign, have selected Tom Willis who works in the renewable energy sector.

Labour, who finished third here in 2016, have selected Johan Adamson; she is an accountant and works for the local newspaper Shetland Times. Adamson is top of the ballot paper immediately above the Conservative candidate Brydon Goodlad, who works in the building trade.

Two new parties have entered the fray. Stuart Martin, who works in the transport sector, is the UKIP candidate. The Scottish Green Party, who may well struggle in an archipelago with a hard economic dependence on the oil industry, are also fighting the seat for the first time with their candidate Debra Nicolson. And this being Shetland you cannot count out the independent candidates, of whom there are four: Ian Scott (councillor for Shetland Central ward), Michael Stout (former councillor for Lerwick North ward), Peter Tait (standing on a single issue of bringing the monarchy back to Scotland) and Ryan Thomson (councillor for North Isles ward).

Parliamentary constituency: Orkney and Shetland
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shetland
Postcode districts: ZE1, ZE2, ZE3

Johan Adamson (Lab)
Brydon Goodlad (C)
Stuart Martin (UKIP)
Debra Nicolson (Grn)
Ian Scott (Ind)
Michael Stout (Ind)
Peter Tait (Ind)
Ryan Thomson (Ind)
Tom Willis (SNP)
Beatrice Wishart (LD)

May 2016 result LD 7440 SNP 2545 Lab 651 C 405
May 2011 result LD 4462 Ind 2845 SNP 1134 Lab 620 C 330
May 2007 result LD 6531 SNP 1622 C 972 Lab 670
May 2003 result LD 3989 SPN 1729 C 1281 Lab 880 SSP 766
May 1999 result LD 5455 Lab 2241 SNP 1430 C 872


East Kilbride Central North

South Lanarkshire council, Scotland; caused by the death of Sheena Wardhaugh, who had been elected for the SNP but was sitting as an independent councillor. She had served since 2007.

The Shetland by-election to the Scottish Parliament isn’t the only Scottish business this week. We also have a by-election in the Glasgow area to finish with. A few miles to the south of Glasgow, East Kilbride was Scotland’s first New Town, designated in 1947 as overspill for the city; named after a pre-existing village, it’s built around Scotland’s largest indoor shopping mall at its centre with roads radiating from it. Central North, one of the town’s five wards, includes that shopping centre together with the original village and East Kilbride railway station, which was built to serve the village and in consequence is now rather poorly sited.

Central North ward was created in 2007 when, as stated in the previous piece, proportional representation came in for Scottish local elections. In the 2007 and 2012 local elections it elected two councillors each from Labour and the SNP by comfortable margins. Boundary changes for the 2017 elections took a bite out of the ward’s eastern boundary and reduced it from four councillors to three; the SNP topped the poll on the new lines with 42% and won two seats, Labour polled 32% and won one seat, and the Conservatives polled 19% and were rather unlucky to miss out. Good SNP balancing meant that Wardhaugh was the last candidate to be elected, starting 80 votes ahead of the Conservative candidate and finishing 100 votes ahead. As usual, the Ballot Box Scotland blog have crunched the transfers, finding a two-party preferred figure of 54-46 for the SNP over Labour.

Wardhaugh resigned from the SNP within a month of her re-election. She leaves an open seat which, if the SNP can get it back, will shore up the minority nationalist administration in South Lanarkshire. Going into this by-election the SNP have 24 seats, Labour are on 17, the Conservatives have 13, there are six independents, three Liberal Democrats and this vacancy.

This is a Scottish local by-election, so the Alternative Vote and Votes at 16 will apply here. Defending for the SNP is Grant Ferguson, who is profoundly deaf and a British Sign Language user; he works for an IT and business consulting firm. Labour, who are not out of this if they can stay ahead of the Conservatives and pick up Unionist transfers, have selected former social worker and trade unionist Kirsty Williams. The Tory candidate is Graham Fisher. Also standing are Antony Lee for the Scottish Green Party, Paul McGarry for the Lib Dems, David Mackay for UKIP and Stephen McNamara for the Libertarian Party.

Parliamentary constituency: East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
ONS Travel to Work Area: Glasgow
Postcode districts: G74, G75

Grant Ferguson (SNP)
Graham Fisher (C)
Antony Lee (Grn)
David Mackay (UKIP)
Paul McGarry (LD)
Stephen McNamara (Libertarian)
Kirsty Williams (Lab)

May 2017 first preferences SNP 2617 Lab 1958 C 1163 Grn 239 LD 153 Hope Over Fear 69


My apologies for the lack of graphics this week, which is due to issues with my computer. Normal service should hopefully be resumed soon.

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Andrew Teale