2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election
A by-election was held in the UK Parliament constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire (Welsh: Brycheiniog a Sir Faesyfed) on 1 August 2019 after Chris Davies, who had held the seat for the Conservatives since the 2015 general election, was unseated by a recall petition. The by-election was won by Jane Dodds of the Liberal Democrats.
Brecon and Radnorshire constituency
Brecon and Radnorshire constituency within Wales
Richard Livsey, a Liberal standing for the SDP–Liberal Alliance, won the seat in the 1985 Brecon and Radnor by-election and retained it in 1987. He lost it narrowly as a Liberal Democrat MP to the Conservative Jonathan Evans in the 1992 general election. The Liberal Democrats regained the seat in the 1997 election and held it until 2015, when Chris Davies won it for the Conservatives. Davies retained his seat at the 2017 general election with an increased majority of 8,038 over the Liberal Democrat candidate.
A seat with the same name and boundaries exists in the Welsh Assembly. At the time of the by-election, the seat had been represented by Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams continuously from its creation in 1999.
In February 2019, Davies was charged with claiming false expenses, pursuant to the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. He pleaded guilty in March and, in April, was sentenced to a community order of 50 hours unpaid work and a £1,500 fine. Under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, this conviction triggered a recall petition. After receiving notice from the sentencing court, the Speaker of the House of Commons indicated on 24 April 2019 that he would be instructing the constituency's petition officer to begin the recall process. The petition opened on 9 May and remained open for signatures until 20 June 2019. It required 5,303 signatures (10% of eligible voters) to be successful. The Conservative Party were officially registered as campaigners for the petition's failure, while the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Plaid Cymru campaigned for its success.
This petition was successful, receiving 10,005 signatures (19%), significantly in excess of the 10% of constituents required. Davies was removed from the seat, creating a vacancy to be filled at a by-election, in which he was permitted to stand.
The by-election occurred shortly after Boris Johnson won the 2019 Conservative leadership election and became Prime Minister, as well as Jo Swinson taking office after winning the 2019 Liberal Democrats leadership election. The result reduced the working majority of the government (including confidence and supply from the DUP) in the House of Commons to one. This makes him the PM to serve the shortest period before losing a by-election, just 10 days.
The by-election came against the continuing backdrop of Brexit. The constituency lies within the county of Powys, where, at the 2019 European Parliament election, the Brexit Party gained the most votes.
It was the first Westminster by-election to take place in the month of August since the second Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election of 1981.
Candidates and campaign
The by-election was administered by Powys County Council. The deadline for candidate nominations was 5 July, by which time a total of six candidates had registered.
Davies wished to stand for re-election as the Conservative Party candidate and was chosen by the local party. The Liberal Democrat candidate was Jane Dodds, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party candidate was Brecon town councillor Tom Davies. The Brexit Party candidate was retired police chief superintendent Des Parkinson, who previously stood in Montgomeryshire as a UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate for election to the UK parliament in May 2015, to the Welsh Assembly in May 2016, and as Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, also in May 2016.
Dodds, the Liberal Democrat candidate, was also supported by Plaid Cymru, the Greens, Change UK and the Renew Party. Plaid Cymru first indicated that it might not stand a candidate in order to support another party supporting a second referendum on Brexit. Change UK called for an independent joint Remain candidate in a letter to the Liberal Democrats, Plaid and the Greens. Plaid and Change UK subsequently confirmed that they were in talks with other Remain-supporting parties. Plaid Cymru decided not to put up a candidate, and instead to support Dodds. The Green Party also chose not to stand a candidate, in order to "maximise the chances of the candidate most likely to beat the Conservatives and the Brexit Party." The Renew Party likewise chose not to stand a candidate for the same reason.
Shortly after the result of the recall petition was announced, bookmakers made the Liberal Democrats odds-on favourites to win. In the final week before the election, Heidi Allen MP, former leader of Change UK and now sitting with The Independents, came to the constituency to campaign for Dodds. The new Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, visited the constituency four times, but the New Statesman noted that The Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had not, and described the party's campaign infrastructure as "threadbare".
Days before the election, BBC Cymru Wales reported that, in May 2019, the Conservative Party's Brecon and Radnorshire chairman, Peter Weavers, had discussed a pro-Brexit pact with Nathan Gill, a Welsh Brexit Party MEP. Gill dismissed the idea due to Davies' support for the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May's government. Weavers denied the claim.
Only one poll was conducted, with fieldwork taking place from 10 to 18 July. The poll was completed before Johnson and Swinson were elected as leaders of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats respectively. Commenting on the paucity of polling, Britain Elects noted: "Constituency opinion polling isn’t tried much in the UK these days; it’s difficult to get a sample with such a small electorate, and when it was tried on a large scale in advance of the 2015 election it fell victim to the same polling failures that beset that election."
|2019 by-election result||1 Aug 2019||–||39.0%||43.5%||5.3%||0.8%||10.5%||1.1%||0.0%||4.5%|
|Number Cruncher Politics||10–18 Jul 2019||509||28%||43%||8%||1%||20%||1%||0%||15%|
|2017 general election||8 Jun 2017||–||48.6%||29.1%||17.7%||1.4%||N/A||N/A||3.1%||19.5%|
|Liberal Democrats||Jane Dodds||13,826||43.5||+14.4|
|Brexit Party||Des Parkinson||3,331||10.5||N/A|
|Monster Raving Loony||Lady Lily the Pink||334||1.1||N/A|
|Liberal Democrats gain from Conservative||Swing||+12.0|
The result was announced at around 2:20 a.m. on 2 August. In her victory speech, Jane Dodds said she would urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to "stop playing with the future of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit". By failing to secure at least 5% of the votes cast, both the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (1.05%) and the UK Independence Party (0.76%) forfeited their deposits. The 59.6% turnout figure was the highest recorded in a Westminster by-election since Winchester in 1997.
The Liberal Democrat majority was smaller than the number of votes polled by the Brexit Party, leading many commentators to suggest that vote splitting between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party was a significant threat to the party. The Brexit Party did however underperform relative to polls (although they got nearly twice as many votes as the Labour Party and came a clear third), with the BBC suggesting that the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister had helped the Conservatives win back some Brexit Party supporters. Meanwhile, the narrow win for the Lib Dems bolstered support for a "Remain Alliance", but the largest increase in Lib Dem votes appeared to come from those who voted Labour in 2017. The Guardian noted that although Labour had prioritised beating the Conservatives over winning the seat themselves, Labour's result was still "at the lower end of what was credible". The extremely small vote share for UKIP was reported as an embarrassment for the party, and their failure to beat even the Official Monster Raving Loony Party was compared to the May 1990 Bootle election in which David Owen's continuing Social Democratic Party received fewer votes than the Loonys and collapsed shortly after.
|Liberal Democrats||James Gibson-Watt||12,043||29.1||+0.8|
|Plaid Cymru||Kate Heneghan||1,299||3.1||-1.3|
- 2021 Chesham and Amersham by-election
- 2019 Peterborough by-election
- 1985 Brecon and Radnor by-election
- 1939 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election
- List of United Kingdom by-elections
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