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Heyhouses By-election - July 2012: Results

Snippets and the Vic: June 2012The by-election in Heyhouses ward was held today, and we're able to bring readers first sight of the results and our take on the implications this result might have for the future.

We mostly saw a clean and friendly campaign conducted by all candidates, with little or no evidence of the dirty tricks that can sometimes arise.

We did hear there were vastly different levels of input from candidates.

We heard that Ian Roberts was away on a pre-booked holiday when the election was called, and didn't appear until a day or so before the actual election - he seems to have relied on colleagues in the Green Party to deliver leaflets for him.

So far as we can see, Integrity UK didn't canvas or distribute leaflets. They relied instead on their name and former campaigns to set out their credentials.

The Conservatives were - as expected - out in force, but reports reaching counterbalance Towers suggested they were not quite a strong as we've known them before, although their telephone canvassing seems to have been much more prevalent this time.

Lib Dems gave their usual performance, but in our view, the hardest worker of the campaign was undoubtedly the independent Palmira Stafford who, as an individual, put out thee leaflets (including one on the day before polling which is hard to effect without a party organisation and lots of volunteers behind you), and who personally canvassed houses and flats in Heyhouses on almost every available day up to the election.

We heard nothing about the UKIP candidate, and are unclear whether, like Integrity UK, he was reliant on the name of the party to engender support.


The canvassing, voting and counting is now over and the HEYHOUSES NEW ELECTED COUNCILLOR IS:   Barbara Nash with 401 votes




DICKSON, Bill (UKIP) 147
GILLIGAN, Carol Josephine (Liberal Democrat) 163
NASH, Barbara Ann  (Conservative) 401
ROBERTS, Ian Stanley  (Green Party) 150
STAFFORD, Palmira (Independent) 313
WHITEHEAD, Bill (Integrity UK) 25

  So what are the implications, and what does this result mean?

Well, the turnout was quite respectable at around 31% (well, it was quite respectable for a by-election) so no one can suggest it is a freak result because of a low turnout.

We'd say the result reflects three things. Firstly it reflects how well the candidate or the brand is recognised and loved. (We call this the beans effect. If someone says beans, most people say Heinz. Personal recognition or brand / party identity is a key factor in getting elected). The second factor is the effort put into the campaign, and that absolutely shows up in the results.

Mrs Nash is a seasoned campaigner and has conducted herself and her campaign well. It also shows that the Conservatives, whilst they need to be wary, are probably less threatened than some thought.

The third factor was undoubtedly the size of the field. That will have helped the Conservatives considerably - (it has split the non-conservative vote). Had the Greens, or Lib Dems not stood, it's quite likely that the result would have gone in Palmira Stafford's favour.

As we said in the introduction (which was written before the result was known), the effort put in by Mrs Stafford has delivered a significant result for her. It was her first time of standing and she has achieved double the votes given to national parties other than the Conservatives.

It's also evident that those who have not canvassed 'on the knocker' have paid the electoral price.

We're quite surprised at the Lib Dem vote. We know Carol Gilligan and her supporters will have worked hard, and we suspect it's probably the poor national support that the Lib Dems are enjoying in coalition that have kept her result in Heyhouses so low. UKIP can, with some justification, now claim to be vying with them for third party status on the national stage if this result is anything to go by.

It will also have been noticed within Conservative circles that  UKIP did little by way of canvassing, but nevertheless appears to have taken a significant number of votes from the Heyhouses Conservatives. So the Conservatives were/are right to be concerned about their traditional supporters and voters defecting to UKIP.

The result also suggests that whilst concern about shale gas exploration is increasing, it has not yet reached a critical mass that is sufficient to propel the Greens close to electoral victory.

So what of the implications for FBC? Well, as far as the overall situation of the Council there is no change. A Conservative has replaced a Conservative. The majorities remain as they were.

We said before the election we'd thought this result might be seen as something of a litmus-test on David Eaves' leadership and whether he would remain as Leader, or spend more time with his family. We suspect he will be at least partially assured by the result, but he will be aware of the pincer movement around his party. It's a satisfactory result rather than a brilliant one, but it's probably enough to keep him in place..

So we think the chances of Princess Karen taking the Council Leadership are no stronger today than they were yesterday, and that might well focus her attention more closely on the County Elections next year. And that, in turn, might cause problems for the present incumbent of the St Annes South County Council ward.

One way or the other, we're convinced we're not done with by-elections anytime soon.

Dated:  5 July 2012


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