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.[1][2] The by-election was won by Jane Dodds of the Liberal Democrats.

2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election
 2017 1 August 2019 2019 

Brecon and Radnorshire constituency
  First party Second party
 
Candidate Jane Dodds Chris Davies
Party Liberal Democrats Conservative
Popular vote 13,826 12,401
Percentage 43.46 38.98
Swing 14.4% 9.6%

  Third party Fourth party
 
Candidate Des Parkinson Tom Davies
Party Brexit Party Labour
Popular vote 3,331 1,680
Percentage 10.5 5.3
Swing N/A 12.4%

Brecon and Radnorshire constituency within Wales

MP before election

Chris Davies
Conservative

Elected MP

Jane Dodds
Liberal Democrats

Background


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.[3] 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.[4]

In February 2019, Davies was charged with claiming false expenses, pursuant to the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.[5] He pleaded guilty in March[6][7] and, in April, was sentenced to a community order of 50 hours unpaid work and a £1,500 fine.[8] Under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, this conviction triggered a recall petition.[9] 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.[8] The petition opened on 9 May and remained open for signatures until 20 June 2019.[9] It required 5,303 signatures (10% of eligible voters) to be successful.[10][11] The Conservative Party were officially registered as campaigners for the petition's failure,[12] while the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Plaid Cymru campaigned for its success.[13][14][15]

This petition was successful, receiving 10,005 signatures (19%), significantly in excess of the 10% of constituents required.[16] Davies was removed from the seat,[17] 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,[18] 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.[17][19][lower-alpha 1] 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.[20]

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.[21]

Davies wished to stand for re-election as the Conservative Party candidate and was chosen by the local party.[22] The Liberal Democrat candidate was Jane Dodds, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party candidate was Brecon town councillor Tom Davies.[1] The Brexit Party candidate was retired police chief superintendent Des Parkinson,[23] 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,[24] and as Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, also in May 2016.[25]

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.[3] Change UK called for an independent joint Remain candidate in a letter to the Liberal Democrats, Plaid and the Greens.[26] Plaid and Change UK subsequently confirmed that they were in talks with other Remain-supporting parties.[27] Plaid Cymru decided not to put up a candidate, and instead to support Dodds.[28] 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."[29] The Renew Party likewise chose not to stand a candidate for the same reason.[30]

Shortly after the result of the recall petition was announced, bookmakers made the Liberal Democrats odds-on favourites to win.[3] 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.[31] 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".[32]

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.[33]

Opinion polling


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."[34]

The poll, by Number Cruncher Politics, was the first UK by-election poll to be conducted entirely online.[35][36]

Pollster/client(s) Date(s)
conducted
Sample
size
Con Lib Dem Lab UKIP Brexit MRLP Other Lead
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%

Result


2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election[37][38]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds 13,826 43.5 +14.4
Conservative Christopher Davies 12,401 39.0 -9.6
Brexit Party Des Parkinson 3,331 10.5 N/A
Labour Tom Davies 1,680 5.3 -12.4
Monster Raving Loony Lady Lily the Pink 334 1.1 N/A
UKIP Liz Phillips 242 0.8 -0.6
Majority 1,425 4.5 N/A
Turnout 31,814 59.7 -17.2
Registered electors
Liberal Democrats gain from Conservative Swing +12.0

The result was announced at around 2:20 a.m. on 2 August.[39] 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".[40] 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.[41][37] The 59.6% turnout figure was the highest recorded in a Westminster by-election since Winchester in 1997.[37]

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.[42][43] 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.[43] Meanwhile, the narrow win for the Lib Dems bolstered support for a "Remain Alliance",[43] 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".[42] 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.[44][45]

Previous result


General election 2017: Brecon and Radnorshire[46][47]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Christopher Davies 20,081 48.6 +7.5
Liberal Democrats James Gibson-Watt 12,043 29.1 +0.8
Labour Dan Lodge 7,335 17.7 +3.0
Plaid Cymru Kate Heneghan 1,299 3.1 -1.3
UKIP Peter Gilbert 576 1.4 -6.9
Majority 8,038 19.5 +6.7
Turnout 41,334 76.9 +3.1
Registered electors 56,010
Conservative hold Swing +3.4

See also


Notes


  1. Calculations of the government's majority vary slightly. This value considers Charlie Elphicke, who had the Conservative whip withdrawn on 22 July 2019, to be an opposition MP

References


  1. "MP Chris Davies unseated after petition triggers by-election". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  2. "Brecon & Radnorshire parliamentary constituency - Election 2017". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  3. "Convicted Tory MP Chris Davies booted from Brecon and Radnorshire seat after recall petition passes". PoliticsHome.com. 21 June 2019.
  4. "Lib Dem leader Williams steps down". 6 May 2016 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  5. Conservative MP Christopher Davies charged over 'false expenses claims' Evening Standard
  6. "False expenses claim MP could lose seat". BBC News. 25 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  7. Tory MP Christopher Davies admits expenses fraud The Guardian
  8. "Recall petition for convicted MP confirmed". BBC News. 24 April 2019.
  9. "Convicted Tory MP's recall petition opens". BBC News. 9 May 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  10. "These are the details of the Chris Davies recall petition". Brecon & Radnor Express. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  11. "MP's recall petition opens on 9 May". BBC News. 25 April 2019. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  12. "ACCREDITATION NOTICE FOR A REGISTERED PARTY" (PDF). powys.gov.uk. 30 April 2019.
  13. "ACCREDITATION NOTICE FOR A REGISTERED PARTY" (PDF). powys.gov.uk. 8 May 2019.
  14. "ACCREDITATION NOTICE FOR A REGISTERED PARTY" (PDF). powys.gov.uk. 9 May 2019.
  15. "Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales leaflet". ElectionLeaflets.org.
  16. "Welsh Tory MP unseated after petition". BBC News. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  17. Castle, Stephen (1 August 2019). "Boris Johnson Loses First Election Test Against an Anti-Brexit Alliance". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  18. "The Brecon by-election could be the first real test for Boris Johnson". Coffee House. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  19. "What is the government's working majority in parliament?". New Statesman. 22 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  20. "Petition unseats Tory MP Chris Davies". 21 June 2019 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  21. "Powys County Council - Find out about upcoming elections". en.powys.gov.uk.
  22. "Former Tory MP will fight to regain seat". 23 June 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  23. "Brecon and Radnorshire by-election Brexit Party candidate named". BBC News. 30 June 2019.
  24. "Montgomeryshire - Welsh Assembly constituency - Election 2016". BBC News. 6 May 2016.
  25. "Police and crime commissioner elections: Dyfed-Powys". BBC News. 8 May 2016.
  26. Change UK - The Independent Group (21 June 2019). "NEW: @ForChange_Now has today called for an independent joint #Remain candidate in the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election in a letter to @LibDems @TheGreenParty & @Plaid_Cymru". Twitter.
  27. "Plaid in Brecon by-election pact talks". BBC News. 24 June 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  28. Mason, Chris (4 July 2019). "Remain parties team up for Brecon and Radnorshire by-election". BBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  29. Hancock, Barry (28 June 2019). "Brecon and Radnorshire By-election: Green Party not contesting seat". The County Times. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  30. "Great news for Remain unity: Renew is standing aside in the Brecon by-election". www.newstatesman.com.
  31. "New Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has been in Brecon". Brecon & Radnor Express.
  32. "Heidi Allen joins the Liberal Democrats*". www.newstatesman.com.
  33. Williams, James (29 July 2019). "Tories 'discussed' Brexit Party by-election pact" via www.bbc.co.uk.
  34. "Previews: 01 Aug 2019". Britain Elects.
  35. Singh, Matt (20 July 2019). "Polling small areas online". Number Cruncher Politics. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  36. Masters, Anthony B. (30 July 2019). "The Value of Survey Information". Medium. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  37. "Brecon and Radnorshire by-election: Lib Dems beat Conservatives". BBC News. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  38. "Brecon and Radnorshire by-election: Six candidates confirmed". talkradio.co.uk.
  39. "Close player As it happened: Lib Dems win by-election". BBC News. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  40. "Lib Dems win Brecon and Radnorshire by-election". BBC News. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  41. Colson, Thomas (2 August 2019). "Five things we learned from the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election". Business Insider. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  42. Sabbagh, Dan (2 August 2019). "Byelection defeat highlights Brexit urgency for Johnson". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  43. Saull, Peter (2 August 2019). "Brecon and Radnorshire by-election: What does it tell us?". Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  44. Forrest, Adam (2 August 2019). "Brecon and Radnorshire by-election result: Ukip beaten by Monster Raving Loony party". The Independent. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  45. Read, Jonathon (2 August 2019). "Monster Raving Loony Party 'finishes off' UKIP by beating them in by-election". The New European. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  46. "Statement of Persons Nominated and Notice of Poll" (PDF). Powys County Council. 11 May 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 December 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  47. "Brecon and Radnorshire Parliamentary constituency". Election 2017 Results. BBC. Retrieved 3 January 2020.