Wednesday, 4 November 2015

By-election Preview: 5 November 2015

Torbay council, Devon
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Ruth Pentney at the age of 62, from motor neurone disease.  A Torbay councillor since 2003, Pentney was the election agent for the former Torbay MP Adrian Sanders in his four general election wins from 1997 to 2010, and had held pretty much every available post in the local party.

This ward is an entirely built-up section of Paignton, the middle of the three towns on the shore of Tor Bay.  Clifton-with-Maidenway ward is the landward side of town, a residential ward running from Primley Park at the southern end to Maidenway Road at the northern end.  This is generally a poor area with large levels of part-time working; not unusual demographics for a seaside resort.

The Tory vote has grown here, and from 2003 to 2011 this ward developed from a Lib Dem bastion into a Lib Dem-leaning marginal: in 2011 the Lib Dem slate beat the Tories 37-32, with Labour fighting the ward for the first time and polling 18%, and the two Lib Dem councillors holding majorities of 119 and 59 votes.  In that context the Lib Dems did extremely well to hold on to the ward in May's ordinary election with majorities of 54 and 46; in shares of the vote the Lib Dems had 30%, the Conservatives 29%, UKIP 20% and Labour 12%.

So, a key marginal by-election which might be an indicator of whether the Lib Dems have any strength left in the south-west following the loss of all their MPs from the region in May.  The Lib Dems have served an indicator that they are going all-out to hold this seat by selecting Adrian Sanders, the MP for Torbay from 1997 to May this year and a former Torbay councillor (from 1984 to '86).  The Tories' Richard Barnby tries again after his near-miss in May; he greatly outpolled his running-mate in that election and clearly has a large personal vote.  UKIP's candidate is Anthony Rayner, while Labour have selected Eddie Harris; the Greens' Stephen Pocock completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Torbay
ONS Travel to Work Area: Paignton and Totnes

May 2015 result LD 1162/1154 C 1108/740 UKIP 766 Lab 480 Grn 370/232
May 2011 result LD 859/799 C 740/621 Lab 421/419 Grn 280
May 2007 result LD 942/887 C 704/653 UKIP 305/265 BNP 113
May 2003 result LD 1281/1255 C 566/511

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