Council by-elections: Labour Senedd election hopes bolstered by Welsh wins

Elliot Chappell
© Peter_Fleming/

Labour has had its hopes bolstered ahead of the Senedd elections, as the party held one seat and gained another in council by-elections representing the last votes before residents head to the polls on May 6th.

South Wales residents took part in three by-elections in Torfaen on Thursday, following the death of independent Raymond Williams and the resignations of Labour’s Neil Waite and the Conservative councillor Raymond Mills.

Voters backed Labour Party candidates in two of the three seats, Abersychan, Cwmyniscoy, and New Inn, in the Torfaen district based on the new town of Cwmbran and the older town of Pontypool in south-east Wales.

The party saw significant swings in both the seats won by its candidates in the vote on Thursday, +21.1 and +21 in wards Abersychan and Cwmyniscoy respectively, while the Tories held the reliably Conservative district of New Inn.

As Andrew Teale has pointed out, Torfaen is historically a safe Labour seat. The constituency is currently represented in Westminster by Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds MP and in the Senedd by Lynne Neagle MS.

Labour has won the Torfaen seat in all Senedd elections since devolution, with Neagle representing the party every time. She is standing again. Her majority after the 2016 vote was 4,498 (42.4%) with UKIP placing second with 22.6%.

Abersychan. Lab GAIN from independent:

Labour gained Abersychan, birthplace of Roy Jenkins in the 1920s, in the by-election this week triggered by the death of Williams. The independent councillor passed away after contracting Covid in December last year.

Labour took 49.8% of the vote, with independent Charlotte Hill placing second with 17.4%. Lyn Clarkson, who also serves on Pontypool community council for Garndiffaith and Varteg ward, will now represent the seat for Labour.

Hill was closely followed by former Labour councillor for the area Wayne Tomlinson (17.3%), who has contested the seat in every election since 1999 and has previously represented the ward as both an independent and Labour councillor.

Late independent councillor Williams was first elected in 2004, lost his seat in 2012 and won in 2017 by securing the last of the area’s three seats with a 200-vote majority over the then second Labour candidate Tomlinson.

LAB: 49.8% (+21.1)
IND (Hill): 17.4% (+17.4)
IND (Tomlinson): 17.3% (+17.3)
CON: 13.6% (+4.0)
PROP: 1.9% (+1.9)

No other Ind(s) (-61.6) as prev (2017).

Cwmyniscoy. Lab HOLD:

Labour held the single-member Cwmyniscoy seat, which until 2008 had seen no contested elections. Neil Waite lost his seat in the 2008 election to People’s Voice – a party associated with Labour-turned-independent AM for Blaenau Gwent Peter Law.

Waite was re-elected in 2012 and won again in 2017, winning against the UKIP candidate with a 12-point margin. John Killick defended the seat for Labour in the election on Thursday, securing 77.1% of the vote. UKIP did not stand a candidate.

Independent hopeful Bridgette Harris came in second behind Labour, taking 14.9% of the vote. Propel, a Welsh nationalist movement led by the former Plaid Cymru MS Neil McEvoy, stood Ben Evans who came in third with 8% of the vote.

Killick currently sits on Pontypool community council as deputy leader. He won a by-election in Pontypool division in 2011 as six independent candidates split the anti-Labour vote, but lost the seat in 2012.

LAB: 77.1% (+21.0)
IND: 14.9% (+14.9)
PROP: 8.0% (+8.0)

No UKIP (-43.9) as prev (2017).

New Inn. Con HOLD:

New Inn, one of two reliable Conservative wards in Torfaen, elected Conservative candidate Keith James to replace resigned Tory councillor Raymond Mills. James took 53.8% of the vote, a slight decrease of -0.9 on the 2017 election.

IT worker Farooq Dastgir was selected as the Labour candidate, who also stood in 2017. The contender saw his vote share fall slightly (-1.7) to 28.9%. The Tories held the seat at the last election, winning against Labour with a 24-point lead.

CON: 53.8% (-0.9)
LAB: 28.9% (-1.7)
IND: 17.3% (+17.3)

No other Ind (-14.7) as prev.

Welsh voters will head to the polls on May 6th for the Senedd elections. A recent survey suggested that this could be the closest contest since devolution, with Labour on course for its worst ever result in the Senedd.

But party insiders are optimistic despite the recent survey. MS Mick Antoniw described the survey to LabourList as a “rogue” poll and predicted “not a great deal of change in terms of the number of Labour seats” in the upcoming vote.

Welsh Labour published its manifesto on Thursday.

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