Riding above the coverage of local MP Hazel Blears’ problems with her Parliamentary allowances, Labour held the Irwell Riverside ward on Salford city council (in her constituency) in a byelection on 21 May. Although the Labour majority fell, the new councillor Matt Mold declared that Hazel Blears had been “nothing but an asset” to his campaign. The new councillor had been one of those who had protested at Conservative leader and Smiths fan David Cameron’s photo opportunity outside Salford Lads Club.
Two other byelections saw easy Conservative holds in safe seats: Cottesmore ward of Rutland county council, and Barton ward of North Lincolnshire council. In the Common Council of the Corporation of London, a byelection to fill the last seat in Bishopsgate ward (vacant due to insufficient nominations in the full council elections in March) saw the return to the council of Archie Galloway, who had served on the Common Council since 1981 until surprisingly losing his seat in March. This byelection was not fought on party lines.
There was considerable confusion on Redbridge borough council this week due to infighting in the Conservative group. Earlier this year, Keith Prince defeated Allan Weinberg in an internal election for the leadership of the group, and was expecting to be voted in as party leader at the council’s annual meeting. However, two Conservative councillors (Brian Waite and Glenn Corfield) were unexpectedly absent through illness, two others resigned from the Conservative group to sit as Independents (Mark Aaron of Mayfield ward and Geoffrey Hinds of Bridge ward), and Robert Whitehall of Mayfield ward attempted to resign his seat by email. As resignations have to be in writing, the Chief Executive has not accepted it. The upshot was that the motion to elect Keith Prince as Leader was defeated by the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, and the council now has no leader. In the interim the old cabinet members continue in office under deputy leader Linda Huggett.
On Rochdale borough council, Brenda Kerslake (Smallbridge and Firgrove ward) has left the Liberal Democrat group to sit as an Independent. Meanwhile Denis Knowles (Seacombe ward) went through with his intimation and joined the Conservative group on Wirral borough council.