On 4 April 2019, a by-election will be held at Newport West, the former seat of Labour MP Paul Flynn, who died recently.
Paul Flynn was generally well-regarded, except by the Jew-Zionists, who deplored his principled opposition to Israel and to, in 2013, (the then) H.M. Ambassador to Israel appointed despite being a Jew and admitted Zionist (and so perhaps having dual or conflicted loyalties: see Notes, below). Flynn retweeted my tweets once or twice, I think, when I still had a Twitter account, but also criticized me once. Well, de mortuis nihil nisi bonum, so we’ll say no more of that.
The constituency was created in 1983. It was won that year by the Conservatives, who received 38% of votes cast (Labour 36.6%, Liberal Party 24.2%, and Plaid Cymru 1.2%). That result turned out to be anomalous, in that Paul Flynn won for Labour in 1987 and held the seat until his recent death.
This is a Lab-Con marginal. The Liberal Democrats peaked in 2005 at 17.9% (third place), plateaued at a similar figure in 2010, slumped to 3.9% in 2015 (fifth place) and collapsed further (to 2.2%, again fifth-placed) in 2017.
Plaid Cymru is irrelevant here, peaking at 7.2% in 2001 but usually found at or near the bottom of the poll at under 2% (and sometimes under 1%).
UKIP peaked here in 2015 at 15.2% (third) and again achieved a third place in 2017, but on a miserable 2.5%.
Other candidates have stood occasionally over the years (Green, Referendum Party, BNP and Independents), but are not even marginally significant (BNP 3% in 2010, beating UKIP).
As to the only significant contenders, Labour and Conservative, Labour’s vote peaked in 1997 at 60.5%; its lowest ebb (apart from 1983) was in 2015 (41.2%). So much for the “personal vote”. After Corbyn replaced Miliband as Labour Leader, Labour’s vote increased, in 2017, to 52.3%.
The Conservative Party vote stood lowest in 1997 (24.4%) and highest in 1987 (40.1%). Its 2017 vote, at 39.3%, was the Con best since 1987, though the Con vote has held up above 30% (perhaps surprisingly so) since 2010.
There are several reasons to think that the Labour vote will sink back: a new and untested candidate, the death of a fairly popular longstanding MP, Labour’s perceived pro-mass-immigration stance. Also, the fact that Labour is sending out mixed messages about Brexit in a constituency which voted Leave more heavily than the UK average (nearly 54%). The “Corbyn factor” seems, so far, to have been a positive rather than a negative.
If I were putting money on this, I should probably still back Labour to win, though the Conservative candidate may do well and might just do it. As to the others, they can probably all easily be written off. The interesting side-bet will be how high or low UKIP scores. My guess? Under 5%, anyway (if UKIP stands at all; if not, the Con candidate will be boosted, probably).
The 2016 EU Referendum results were not directly voted for or collated by constituency, and in Wales the vote was arranged by reference to local authority boundaries, in this case designated as “Newport”, not “Newport West”. I have taken the Leave vote relating to Newport West as standing at or about 54%, but other estimates have it as about 56%.
Afterthought, 1 March 2019
Candidates have not yet declared. It is unknown whether any candidates of a broadly “nationalist” character will stand. UKIP is a possible but not inevitable contender. What would be significant would be anyone standing for the “Independent Group” of MPs. That group is not yet registered as a party (and may never be); until it is, it cannot put up candidates under “Independent Group”, but only as “Independent”. Having said that, if a candidate were to be endorsed on TV etc by the rebel MPs as the candidate, in effect, of the Group, then that would have an effect. It would split the Labour vote and almost certainly let in the Conservative candidate, though it is just on the fringe of possibility that, in a 3-way split of main candidates, the (in effect) IG candidate might just win. Hard to see it happening but not totally impossible.
My guess is that the “Independent Group” will not put up a quasi-IG candidate, because
- voters would not know what his/her policy views might be (except pro-EU Remain, which is the minority view in Newport West);
- there would be little time in which to select a candidate and, because of the disorganized way in which IG has been established (step up, Chuka Umunna…), there are no selection procedures in place;
- any IG candidate (in all but name) would be likely to go down in flames, so this is a battle that the IG MPs will probably sidestep.
Update, 4 March 2019
The candidature listing is still open. So far, 6 candidates have declared: Conservative, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Green, and two wild cards, “Renew” and “Abolish the Welsh Assembly”. The obvious non-declarers, so far, are the LibDems, UKIP and anyone adherent to the “Independent Group”. However, as stated, there is still time in which to declare.
Update, 6 March 2019
Update, 9 March 2019
The candidate list is now complete:
- Labour – Ruth Jones
- Conservatives – Matthew Evans
- UKIP – Neil Hamilton
- Plaid Cymru – Jonathan Clark
- Welsh Liberal Democrats – Ryan Jones
- Green Party – Amelia Womack
- Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party – Richard Suchorzewski
- Renew – June Davies
- SDP – Ian McLean
- The For Britain Movement – Hugh Nicklin
- Democrats and Veterans Party – Phillip Taylor
I see no reason to alter my view of the contest as expressed in the blog.
Update, 30 March 2019
I was just considering to what extent, if any, the meltdown of the House of Commons over and around Brexit will affect this by-election. The obvious protest vote would be for UKIP, which as noted above only scored 2.5% in 2017, though it managed 15.2% at its 2015 peak. Both were 3rd places. To win, UKIP has to beat both main System parties. On paper, that is near-impossible, but we are in interesting times.
Update, 2 April 2019
Update, 5 April 2019
The result was that Labour won with nearly 40% of the vote, but less than 38% of those eligible could be bothered to vote. Labour’s candidate was thus endorsed by only about 15% of those eligible.
The Conservatives came a fairly but not very close second. UKIP came third (again). “For Britain Movement” got less than 1% and came right at the bottom of the list of 11 candidates.