Blaenau Gwent by-elections, 2006

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Two by-elections were held for the constituency of Blaenau Gwent in Wales following the death of Member of Parliament and Assembly Member Peter Law on 25 April 2006. As Law was the MP and Assembly Member (AM), his death required by-elections in both the parliamentary seat and the equivalent Welsh Assembly constituency. The two elections polled on the same day, 29 June, as a by-election in Bromley and Chislehurst. A win by the Labour Party in the AM by-election would have restored their majority in the Welsh Assembly, which was lost when Law was expelled from the party.[1]

Law's successors won both seats: the independent Dai Davies won the Westminster seat with a majority of about two and a half thousand. He was the first independent to hold a seat previously occupied by an independent since Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend held The Wrekin in 1920.

Candidates[edit]

Westminster by-election[edit]

The writ for the UK Parliament by-election was moved on 6 June so that it would be held on the same date as the Assembly by-election, (29 June 2006).[2] Labour whips had reportedly pressed for the election to be held on 25 May. The movement of the writ was more complicated because Law sat as an Independent, and therefore the convention that the party of the former member moves the writ cannot apply.[3] According to the precedent (when Denis Canavan resigned his Parliamentary seat at Westminster as an Independent), the whip of the governing party moves the writ.

Maggie Jones, the Labour candidate defeated by Law, wasn't able to stand — because she had been elevated to the House of Lords.[4] There had been speculation about an independent candidate running with the backing of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru,[5] but all three parties decided to contest the election.[1]

It had been reported that prior to Law's death that the Labour Party had decided against selecting their candidate for the next general election with an all-women shortlist.[6] It was the use of such a shortlist for the 2005 general election that led to Law standing as an independent. Labour instead left the selection to the local party.[7] The Labour candidate, Owen Smith, was chosen on 8 May.[8][9] He is a former special adviser and BBC producer who works for a pharmaceutical company.[10]

The Liberal Democrat candidate was Amy Kitcher. The Conservatives stood Margrit Williams, who worked for Sir Malcolm Rifkind.[10] Dai Davies, Peter Law's former agent, stood as an independent with the support of the Blaenau Gwent People's Voice Group.[11]

Despite contesting both the previous Assembly and Parliamentary elections, the United Kingdom Independence Party decided not to stand a candidate, instead calling for a vote for the Blaenau Gwent People's Voice Group - even though the Group does not support withdrawal from the European Union, nor the abolition of the Welsh Assembly, key UKIP policies.[12]

The Conservative fifth place was their worst position in a UK mainland by-election since at least 1945.

Blaenau Gwent House of Commons by-election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent Dai Davies 12,543 46.7 -11.5
Labour Owen Smith 10,055 37.0 +4.7
Plaid Cymru Steffan Lewis 1,755 6.5 +4.1
Liberal Democrat Amy Kitcher 1,477 5.4 +1.1
Conservative Margrit Williams 1,013 3.7 +1.3
Monster Raving Loony Alan "Howling Laud" Hope 318 1.2 N/A
Majority 2,488 9.7 -16.2
Turnout 27,161 50.5 -15.6
Independent hold Swing Independent to Labour

Welsh Assembly by-election[edit]

The Assembly by-election had to be held within twelve weeks of the vacancy arising.[3] It was announced on 11 May 2006 that the Assembly by-election would be held on 29 June 2006.[2]

Labour chose John Hopkins, who had already been selected as their 2007 assembly election candidate, to contest the seat. John Price stood for Plaid Cymru.[1] The Liberal Democrats fielded Steve Bard, a councillor in Abertillery.[8] The Conservative candidate was Jonathan Burns, a Cardiff councillor.[10] Peter Law's widow, Trish Law, stood as an independent backed by the Blaenau Gwent People's Voice Group.[11]

The Green Party fought the Assembly election but did not stand at Westminster.[13]

Blaenau Gwent Welsh Assembly by-election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent Trish Law 13,785 50.3 N/A
Labour John Hopkins 9,321 34.0 -36.2
Liberal Democrat Steve Bard 2,054 7.5 -3.4
Plaid Cymru John Price 1,109 4.0 -5.6
Conservative Jonathan Burns 816 3.0 -2.7
Green John Matthews 302 1.1 N/A
Majority 4,464 16.3 -43.1
Turnout 27,387 49.6% +12.2
Independent gain from Labour Swing Independent to Labour

Electorate and campaign timetables[edit]

The electorate for the constituency is 52,900 as quoted by the Returning Officer's Department of Blaenau Gwent Borough Council on 14 May 2006 (-0.75% on the Westminster election and -0.05% on the Assembly election). The close of nominations for the Assembly constituency was on 2 June and for the Westminster seat 14 June.

Campaigns[edit]

On 27 April 2006, BBC News published allegations by Peter Law's widow that Law had believed he would be in line for a peerage should he decide not to stand in the 2005 general election. The Labour Party denied that a peerage was offered.[7]

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain attempted to build bridges with Law's supporters by apologising for imposing an all-women shortlist and suggesting that those expelled from the Labour Party might be able to rejoin. This apology was rejected by Dai Davies, Peter Law's agent and putative successor, as coming too late and being a cynical ploy to try to win the by-elections.[8]

Opinion Polls[edit]

An opinion poll was conducted by GfK NOP between 24 May and 28 May which asked 1,000 voters in the constituency how they would vote. The results were:

Westminster[edit]

House of Commons seat poll
Party Candidate %
Independent Dai Davies 35%
Liberal Democrat Amy Kitcher 6%
Plaid Cymru Steffan Lewis 6%
Labour Owen Smith 47%
Conservative Margrit Williams 5%

Assembly[edit]

Welsh Assembly seat poll
Party Candidate %
Liberal Democrat Steve Bard 6%
Conservative Jonathan Burns 3%
Labour John Hopkins 40%
Independent Trish Law 43%
Green John Matthews 2%
Plaid Cymru John Price 6%

2005 UK Parliament result[edit]

The 2005 general election result was a gain for Peter Law as an independent candidate.

General Election 2005: Blaenau Gwent
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent Peter Law 20,505 58.2 +58.2
Labour Maggie Jones 11,384 32.3 -39.7
Liberal Democrat Brian Thomas 1,511 4.3 -5.0
Plaid Cymru John Price 843 2.4 -8.8
Conservative Phillip Lee 816 2.4 -5.2
UKIP Peter Osborne 192 0.5 +0.5
Majority 9,121 25.9
Turnout 35,251 66.1 +6.6
Independent gain from Labour Swing +48.9

2003 Welsh Assembly constituency result[edit]

In 2003, Peter Law was re-elected as the Labour Assembly member for the Blaenau Gwent constituency. By announcing that he would stand as an Independent for the parliamentary constituency he expelled himself from the Labour Party (and the Labour Assembly grouping).

Welsh Assembly Election 2003: Blaenau Gwent
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Peter Law 13,884 70.2 +9.4
Liberal Democrat Steve Bard 2,148 10.9 -0.6
Plaid Cymru Rhys Ab Elis 1,889 9.6 -11.6
Conservative Barrie O'Keefe 1,131 5.7 +0.2
UKIP Roger Thomas 719 3.6 +3.6
Majority 11,736 59.4 +18.7
Turnout 19,771 37.4 -10.85

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Double poll looming in Law seat". BBC News. 2006-04-26. Retrieved 2006-04-26. 
  2. ^ a b "Blaenau Gwent election date set". BBC. 2006-05-11. Retrieved 2006-05-11. 
  3. ^ a b Shipton, Martin (2006-04-26). "Outrage at bid for early by-election". Western Mail. Retrieved 2006-04-26. 
  4. ^ "Losing candidate will become peer". BBC News. 2006-04-11. Retrieved 2006-04-26. 
  5. ^ "How to Defeat Blair in the Blaenau Gwent By Election". Iain Dale. 2006-04-25. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  6. ^ "Peter Law, rebel who had a cause". BBC News. 2006-04-25. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  7. ^ a b "MP 'offered peerage' not to stand". BBC News. 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  8. ^ a b c "All-women list apology rejected". BBC News. 2006-05-08. Retrieved 2006-05-08. 
  9. ^ "Viagra-firm lobbyist to stand for Labour in Blaenau Gwent". icWales. 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2006-05-09. 
  10. ^ a b c "Parties pick by-election hopefuls". BBC News. 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2006-05-09. 
  11. ^ a b "Widow gets People's Voice backing". BBC News. 2006-05-16. Retrieved 2006-05-16. 
  12. ^ "UKIP Annnouces that it will not stand in Blaenau Gwent by-election". United Kingdom Independence Party. 2006-05-17. Archived from the original on 2006-09-16. Retrieved 2006-06-09. 
  13. ^ By-Elections

External links[edit]