Buckie ward had gone uncontested in May, with three candidates standing for the three seats available. This led to the rather comedic situation of a Lib Dem, clearly intended as a paper candidate, making it onto the council when they wouldn’t otherwise have had a hope in hell. Unfortunately, as that was a completely unintended result, the councillor in question simply wasn’t able to balance his pre-existing job with his new role. This prompted an early resignation and thus by-election, as well as some needlessly cruel responses from local press and other parties.
As the ward didn’t vote in May, it lacked the baseline most other wards would have for predictions. However, based on 2017 results in the ward, 2022 results in the rest of Moray, and the general state of politics at the moment, I’d reckoned the SNP were favourites. Indeed, had they stood two candidates in May as would have been sensible, I believe they’d have elected both.
Councillors and Key Stats
🟡SNP: John Stuart
Change vs 2022 (predicted May result if contested): SNP hold
Change vs vacating: SNP gain from Lib Dem
Valid: 2395 (99.5%)
Spoiled: 13 (0.5%)
🔵Conservative: Tim Eagle
🔴Labour: Keighly Goudie
⚪Independent: Neil Houlden
🟡SNP: John Stuart
🟠Lib Dem: Les Tarr
Quite a lot of vindication here for my assessments. Firstly, before even talking about the winner, look at that paltry Lib Dem share – just 2.8% of the vote. You could fairly argue that may be impacted by the circumstances of the by-election, but it clearly wouldn’t have been much better in the first place. That puts further emphasis on my point that it really was the freak accident of an uncontested ward that handed them a seat in May.
The SNP were within touching distance of the 50% mark and thus being elected on first preferences alone. Placing only 1.1% short, it was to all intents and purposes mathematically impossible they wouldn’t go on to win in later rounds. It’s also a high enough share that we can be pretty confident it would have translated to two seats in May.
Whilst the Conservatives also did very well, if it’d been a two each case for them and the SNP in May, they’d have been too far behind even with transfers to make up the difference for a second, as they were here to take the sole seat. Labour just made it into double digits, a respectable share for them in a ward they hadn’t contested for 15 years, whilst the Independent candidate was practically invisible.
Turning to transfers, although the SNP’s victory was an inevitability, it still had to go down to an SNP-Conservative head-to-head to reach the quota, given how few votes the Independent and Lib Dems had to transfer and where they went. Although the Conservatives narrowed the gap very slightly after Lib Dem and Labour transfers, the SNP still saw themselves elected with a lead quite comfortably into double figures.
Unfortunately, Moray opted to do this one by hand rather than machine. I imagine that’s a cheaper option, but from a BBS perspective it’s a missed opportunity for some detailed data that would have been extremely helpful given the lack of vote in May. With a hand count, we can’t get either results by polling district nor the direct second preferences. Indeed, the only thing we can look at in this section them is a comparison with previous elections in the ward.
First Preference History
Looking at those votes over time, for the SNP this is their second-best performance in the ward, beaten only by their absolute steamrollering of the competition in the 2015 by-election. For the Conservatives it’s actually their best share in the ward’s history – but with about 20% of the vote for an Independent in 2017 going spare, and the fact by-elections are typically more favourable to Conservative vote shares, it’s perhaps not as strong as they’d have liked.
That wraps up Buckie, but we’ve got two more by-elections to look forward to this month, both of which are due on the 17th. The more electorally exciting one will be Glasgow’s Linn ward, where Labour are narrow favourites to hold a seat lost with the shock death of their former group leader. Shetland West, with apologies, will be somewhat less exciting, as it seems almost like a foregone conclusion that May’s runner-up Independent will see off Green and SNP candidates.
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