Following on in relatively short order from the similarly sad circumstances of the Linn by-election in Glasgow, this West Lothian vote arose from the passing of a Labour councillor. Ann Davidson had only been elected as councillor for Broxburn, Uphall and Winchburgh for the first time in May, with her late husband having similarly previously been a councillor.
In May, Labour had placed far enough behind the SNP that in like-for-like terms this was effectively an SNP defence. Based on that, and that it’s only been a few months, I thought the SNP had a very slight advantage here.
Councillors and Key Stats
1 Councillor Elected:
Labour: Tony Boyle
Change vs 2022 (notional): Labour Gain from SNP
Change vs vacating: Labour Hold
Turnout: 27.2% (-15.0)
Valid: 4476 (99.5%)
Spoiled: 24 (0.5%)
3 Continuing Councillors:
🟡SNP: Diane Calder
🟡SNP: Janet Campbell
🔵Conservative: Angela Doran-Timson
Labour: Tony Boyle
Lib Dem: Peter Clarke
Green: Chris Cotter
Alba: Debbie Ewen
Independent: Chris Horne
Independent: Steven Laidlaw
Conservative: Douglas Smith
SNP: Thomas Ullathorne
Note: The Scottish Family Party won 1.3% in May.
In actuality, Labour took a lead in first preferences with a weighty swing in their favour. At this point I’d refer to the BBS by-election explainer to say that this isn’t a surprising outcome, even though this had been an SNP lean – it’s relatively easy to overcome a lean, as Labour did here!
We’ll get onto transfers shortly, but this effectively sealed a Labour victory, as it’d only be in wards with very strong Green performances that transfers could favour the SNP to overtake Labour. This is the first properly bruising result for the SNP since May’s elections, with previous swings being less than a single percentage point, whereas here they’re down nearly 7.
Nonetheless, it’s again the Conservatives who came off the worst here, losing more than half of their share. In addition to direct losses to Labour, they can’t have been helped by the presence of their former councillor Chris Horne on the ballot as an Independent, who placed not too far behind in fourth.
The Lib Dems meanwhile held completely steady in share, likely also benefitting from Conservative voters going elsewhere, whilst the other Independent, Steven Laidlaw, managed to narrowly pip the Greens. Similar to the SNP, this is the first negative result for the Greens in a by-election this term, putting them behind the Lib Dems and not that far ahead of Alba. However, Alba again had quite a busy campaign schedule against precisely zero (if Twitter is to believed) for the Greens, and still couldn’t even break past 2%.
As noted earlier, transfers were inevitably going to go Labour’s way in this contest, and sure enough they remained comfortably ahead throughout the process. The SNP’s negative swing by this measure is very slightly less bad than in first preferences, but it’s still a sharp drop, and it gives Labour a bigger lead now than the SNP had in May. For folk on the hunt for actual, meaningful “gains” in electoral terms, this is one!
First Preference History
Results by Polling District
Turning to the detailed data, and this is another by-election with a much redder map than was the case in May. Labour took a lead in almost every district, though with a particular strength in the west of Uphall. The SNP only held onto leads in central and northern Uphall, the latter containing their (and Alba’s) best bit, plus western Winchburgh. The Conservatives meanwhile were strongest in the district that’s right in the middle of the area so I couldn’t, without risking upsetting locals, tell you whether it’s Uphall or Broxburn!
Conservative-turned-Independent Chris Horne had a particularly strong result in western Winchburgh, whilst the Lib Dems did best in the districts that covered the bulk of Broxburn. That leaves the other Independent and the Greens, who both had their highest shares in central Uphall.
Second preference data looks pretty much as you’d expect. Labour are quite split, but the largest chunk goes Lib Dem, who return the flow. SNP and Greens have their usual transfer relationship, though in these kinds of wards it’s often much weaker from the SNP. Conservatives and Horne voters were also most likely to vote Labour, whilst Laidlaw’s voters preferred Horne by plurality, and Alba of course go SNP-wards.
Thanks to West Lothian Council’s continued efficiency in getting election data out there, that wraps this one up very nicely and neatly on the same day as the result! We’ve got one more by-election to go in 2022, next week’s Mid Galloway and Wigtown West, so check back then for further juicy election data.
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