NOTE: This by-election was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and may be re-scheduled again at short notice.
(This is also the first time for doing preview posts in this new format – please send feedback if any parts of it end up presenting weird!)
Currently holding on to its 12th of November date without further delay, we’re keeping to east coast cities for earl November by-elections. SNP Councillor Ian Campbell, who was freshly elected in 2017, resigned his seat in the Craigentinny/Duddingston ward due to poor health.
Craigentinny/Duddingston is one of Edinburgh’s 17 wards, with 4 councillors elected at a normal election. Located in the city’s east end, in addition to Craigentinny, the ward incorporates areas including Restalrig, Lochend, Meadowbank, Piershill, Willowbrae and Northfield. Interestingly, my location data puts the Duddingston label outside the boundaries of the current ward. I’m just a Glaswegian with poor Edinburgh geography though, so I don’t know how much of Duddingston therefore lies outside the ward carrying the name.
For the Scottish Parliament, the ward lies within the Edinburgh Eastern constituency. Labour held the original Edinburgh East and Musselburgh seat until 2007, when the SNP won it, and they’ve held the successor seat since. For the UK Parliament it’s in Edinburgh East, which in various forms was Labour for decades until the SNP’s landslide in 2015.
Boundaries and Recent Election History
Finally, a ward in this batch of by-elections that has boundary changes! The original 2007 version had a big chunk more of Duddingston itself within the boundaries, but was missing a chunk to the west of Sunnybank. This version only elected 3 councillors, going one each to Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems in 2007. In 2012, Labour took a seat from the Lib Dems to give them a double.
With the new boundaries and an extra seat in 2017, the ward ended up highly diverse, with one apiece from the SNP, Conservatives, Labour and Greens. This was in spite of the SNP having nearly enough votes for two councillors, coming about 5.4% closer to a second quota in terms of first preferences than the Greens started at. However, transfers were Green-favourable, ending up 110 votes ahead at the final count.
As an exciting new BBS feature, we can use the depth of detail available from the machine count in 2017 to see how party support broke down across polling districts. Note that the polling district votes are only the in-person ballots. Postal voters will also live in those districts and thus the overall result in a given district won’t be quite as in the chart, but rather than try and apportion postals to districts, I’m leaving them as the standalone pile they show up as in the data.
Though the SNP had the lead in the ward overall, they didn’t quite make a clean sweep of the polling districts. The area around Craigentinny itself was most favourable to the Conservatives, and they also weren’t very far behind in what I believe is the westernmost portion of Duddingston. Though lacking a lead in any district, Labour were strongest around Lochend and Restalrig, whilst the Green centre of support was around Meadowbank.
A solid seven candidates are contesting this by-election, with an Independent and a Libertarian candidate joining the usual Holyrood 5. Of that broad field, the only candidate that stood anywhere in the Council in 2017 was the Libertarian, Tam Laird, who also stood in last year’s Leith Walk by-election. Conservative candidate Eleanor Price stood for her party in Edinburgh East in December’s snap election, whilst the Greens’ Ben Parker stood in Edinburgh South West. Full list of candidates:
Elaine Ford (Liberal Democrat)
Margaret Arma Graham (Labour)
Tam Laird (Libertarian)
Andrew McDonald (Independent)
Ben Parker (Green)
Eleanor Price (Conservative)
Ethan Young (SNP)
2017 Re-Calculation and Prediction
As ever, to get the best comparison between the original vote and a single seat by-election, we need to dig a bit deeper and re-calculate a result for electing a single councillor. The top chart shows the first preferences in 2017, transfer flows are in the bottom chart. Remember that in a single seat election under STV, a candidate needs 50%+1 of the valid votes cast (a quota) to win.
Stage 7 (final head-to-head stage);
SNP - 4527 (42.6%)
Labour - 3992 (37.6%)
Non-Transfer - 2111 (19.9%)
The SNP would have won in 2017 if it was a single councillor, coming out a relatively narrow 5% ahead of Labour. Although the latter start very slightly behind the Conservatives, the accumulation of Lib Dem and especially Green votes tips them into second by stage 6. If Labour had dropped out instead, it’d have been SNP 47.6% vs Conservative 30.4%, a much wider gap. Given Labour have been struggling for the past while, I’d say that gives the SNP a firm edge, as if Labour drop even a little bit and come behind the Conservatives, transfers here are very unlikely to lean blue.
Call: Likely SNP