Liberals were involved in both byelections which changed hands on Thursday 8 October. Elissa Robinson was elected as a Liberal Democrat in Penrith West ward of Eden district council, taking the seat previously held by Independent council leader Colin Nineham before his sudden resignation. However on Ryedale district council, the Liberal Party’s Sue Cowan won the Pickering East seat which was previously held by the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Party is a 1988 refoundation of the original party of that name, formed by those who opposed the merger with the Social Democrats.
The remaining local byelections last Thursday were all held by the Conservatives. Alan Lion held on in Grange Hill ward of Epping Forest district council despite a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats, and an increased Labour vote could not prevent Steve Count being elected in March West ward of Fenland district council. Finally Jonathan Glanz won the byelection in the safe West End ward of Westminster city council.
The people of Golders Green ward learned last week that their councillor Chris Harris was on ‘an extended holiday’ in Australasia. Cllr Harris had been elected as a Conservative; when his situation was given publicity, Barnet borough council Conservative leader removed the whip from him, so that he now sits as an Independent.
An even more bizarre set of circumstances in Stoke has led to a party shift. When a caller to Cheshire West and Chester council claiming to be from BBC Radio Stoke gave a bogus name, the phone number traced to Stoke city council where Cheshire West’s chief executive Steve Robinson had previously worked. After an investigation, Labour group leader Mike Barnes (Longton South ward) was suspended from holding office in the party in connection with the incident. Local news website Pits’n’Pots reported that Barnes had admitted impersonating one of their reporters. On Thursday, Barnes resigned from the Labour Party to sit as ‘non-aligned’ on the fragmented Stoke city council.
There are two more conventional defections. Nick Williams, who was elected as a Liberal Democrat from St Michael’s ward to Swale borough council, has joined the Labour group citing opposition to Liberal Democrat policy nationally. On Lambeth borough council, Betty Evans-Jacas who was elected as Labour in Brixton Hill ward has joined the Conservatives.