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August is traditionally a quiet month for local authority by-elections. Councillors, activists, election officials and the public tend to like to have a break, and so by-elections are - if at all possible - deferred to a more suitable time.
So there were only six by-elections to principal area authorities (PAA) in August 2008, and here's my round-up of what happened and the significance of the BNP's showing.
Well, their ability to field candidates was up on recent times at 50%; but at three out of six that's hardly significant! On the first Thursday of the month (the 7th) they failed to field candidates in Richmondshire (Yorkshire) and (perhaps more significantly and surprisingly) in Nottingham, but were represented in the slightly odd Maldon North by-election in Essex.
This was a seat previously won by the curiously-named Independent Maldon Democratic Alliance, who did not field a candidate on this occasion. Only one of the major parties stood (the Conservatives), and they were joined by the Greens, BNP and two Independents. With no Labour, Lib Dem or UKIP candidates the BNP might have expected to do rather better than the fourth-placed 12.9% they achieved, finishing behind one of the Independents and with only around half the vote of the Green candidate!
The only by-election on 14th August was in Cilfynydd, deep in the South Wales Valleys. Six candidates, no BNP - a Labour gain from Lib Dem (!). Labour having to regain a seat like this is surprising enough, but even more astonishing was that the Greens, polling just 14 votes, still avoided last place, which went to the Conservatives with 12 (1.6%)!
On the 21st there was a town council election in Wiltshire but no PAA by-elections.
And so to the two by-elections of the 28th August. In Shrewsbury the BNP had a tilt at the Pimhill ward with one Helen Foulkes. [Sources tell me that three of the four recent BNP candidates in the Shrewsbury area have been drawn from the one family, Ms Foulkes included. If true it suggests a narrow membership base.] The BNP website covered this by-election quite extensively, partly because of the candidacy of one Ioan Jones as an Independent despite said Mr Jones having previously stood in the Labour cause. "Are Labour so scared that they are flying under false colours?" asked the BNP. Who cares: Mr Jones ended up with 16 votes, the Conservatives just held off the Lib Dems (341 v 331), and the BNP got just 59 votes (7.9%).
The Rotherham Council by-election has already been mentioned on this site, so I shall try to avoid covering familiar ground. It is worth remembering that this by-election was called by the BNP (i.e. they forced a by-election in the holiday period for whatever reason). Presumably they thought they had a reasonable chance. There is little point calling an election if you are not a significant player. The outcome, however, must have been a bitter disappointment - third place, 19.2% of the vote. Too many votes, and too high a percentage (from our perspective) but well below what they must have been anticipating.
So, a summary for the month. Six by-elections, only one seat changing hands (Lib Dem to Labour). Candidates by party : Conservative 6, Lib Dem 4, Labour 3, BNP 3, Green 2, UKIP 2, Plaid Cymru 1, Independents 5.
BNP - no wins, no second places. Crude average share of the vote 13.3%.
September will be a different matter - 20 by-elections to contest (18 England, 1 Scotland, 1 Wales). On the 4th alone there are two significant BNP interventions, in Melton Mowbray (E Midlands) and Barrow (N West), and a chance to assess how the land lies, and how best to see off the low-life of the racist right.