During February, in the Eastern Region, there were five byelections for District Councils. The Liberal Democrats won one seat from the Conservatives in an area which will be a LibDem target in a Parliamentary Election
Local byelections usually have low turnout and local factors may have a strong influence on the result, so these results may not be a good guide to national sentiment. However, although little has changed in the control of Councils, and the Conservatives continue to dominate almost everywhere, there does appear to be a rise in the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats.
Here there were two byelections, and in both, the Liberal Democrats made significant gains.
South Cambridgeshire District surrounds the city of Cambridge (which is Labour controlled, with Liberal Democrat opposition). The Council is Liberal Democrat controlled.
In a general election, this constituency will be a Liberal Democrat target seat. The sitting Conservative MP (Anthony Browne) has a majority of only 2,904, and in 2019, the combined Labour and Liberal Democrat vote share was 54 percent.
Duxford – LibDem gain
Duxford is to the south of the District, bordering Essex. The Liberal Democrats took the seat from Conservatives with 60 percent of the vote (up by 26 percent).
Whittlesford – Con hold
Whittlesford lies between Duxford and Cambridge. The Conservatives held the seat with 55 percent of the vote, but the Liberal Democrats saw their vote share rise by 30 percent.
Thurston – Green hold
Thurston is a large village in the centre of Suffolk, in the Bury St Edmunds constituency. Mid Suffolk has a hung Council, with a very strong Green presence. The administration is led by 16 Conservatives and one Independent, opposed by 16 Greens and 5 Liberal Democrats. Decisions rest on the casting vote of the Conservative Chair.
Bury St Edmunds is a very safe Conservative constituency, and the sitting MP (Jo Churchill) has a majority of 24,988. However, the constituency is likely to be seriously reshaped by the current boundary review.
The Greens held the seat, with a bigger vote, and a bigger vote share (up from 40 to 64 percent). All other parties saw their vote fall.
St Peter’s – Con hold
The Ward includes Canvey Island in the Thames Estuary, and an area of the mainland to the North. Since 2018, Conservatives have controlled the Council, with 20 of the 41 seats. The opposition is divided between two distinct groups of independents.
This is a safe Conservative constituency. Rebecca Harris has a majority of 26,634. In the past, UKIP were strong in the constituency (until their UKIP MP was convicted of electoral fraud).
Conservatives held the seat, with an unchanged 45 percent of the vote. The vacancy was caused by the death of a Conservative member who had served for 38 years. Turnout, and votes, for all parties was substantially higher than at the last election.
Wickham Bishops and Woodham – Con hold
This is a rural Essex ward, between Maldon and Witham. The District Council is controlled by Independents, following a split in the Conservative party.
This is in Witham, another safe Conservative seat, where the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has a majority of 24,082.
Conservatives held the seat, but their vote share fell from 65 to 55 percent. Turnout was very low (half that of 2019).
Further details of local byelections can be found on the Britain Elects Website.