Yesterday’s Parliamentary By-Elections were quite significant. The number of firsts about the result in Copeland have been gone over in fine detail. But in Stoke Central the winning Labour Candidate, Gareth Snell, can point to some records and distinctions that he has achieved. Purely in the interests of balance, I would like to help out. 🙂
Of the 650 MPs currently in the House of Commons, he will have the distinction of being elected on the least votes cast. Snell, in winning with 7853 votes, has removed from bottom place Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan An Iar, who won with just 8662 votes. But this constituency covering the Hebrides has less than half of the Stoke-on-Trent Central electorate. Further, now 94% of sitting MPs are sitting in the House of Commons by virtue of winning with at least twice the numbers votes. In 2015 Tristram Hunt won Stoke Central with just 19.3% of electorate voting for him – the lowest in England. Gareth Snell MP won with just 14.2% of the electorate voting for him, the lowest in Britain. Bottom place was previously held by Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP MP for Belfast South with 14.7% of the electorate voting for him. But in Belfast South six candidates saved their deposit, and seventh placed UKIP just missed out in getting 4.9% of the votes. In Stoke only four candidates saved their deposit and fifth placed Green candidate only got 1.4% of the vote. Whilst in Belfast South the majority was 2.3% of the votes cast, in Stoke Central it was 12.4%.
Another statistic is to look at the runner-ups in the General Election 2015. 560 of the 650 second-placed candidates received more than Gareth Snell’s 7853 votes. On average in GE 2015 the winners on average received and 23634 and the runners up 12121 votes, respectively 3 times and 1.5 times Snell’s mighty vote count. Although there were just 232 Labour MPs elected in 2015, 506 Labour Candidates received more than 7853 votes than Snell received yesterday. In the constituencies where they stood Labour received on average 14813 votes, nearly twice the votes received to win Stoke Central by a considerable margin. Of the 125 Labour candidates who received less votes than Gareth Snell, only 11 achieved the runner-up slot. The rest were lower-placed.
But this was a by-election, where turnout is usually much lower than at General Elections. Yet here Gareth Snell again sets records. You have to go all the way back to 15 July 2004 to find a winning candidate who won a by-election with less votes. That was Labour candidate Liam Byrne became the MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill with just 7451 votes. There have been 44 by-elections in between. Yet back then on average people won by-elections with smaller number of votes.
In the current Parliament winning by-election candidates achieve 50% more votes on average than in the 2001-2005 Parliament. It looks like more people turn out to by-elections now, maybe due to more focussed campaigning by the parties, and the greater national significance of the result than when Labour had large majorities in the House of Commons. Maybe it is due to the fact that less people tend to vote in Labour-held seats than for other parties. Below I show the numbers of by-elections held, splitting the winners into Conservative, Labour and Other.
The Labour Party seem to win by-elections with about 40% more votes than they did in 2001-2005.
Data for the 2015 General Election can be derived from http://www.data.parliament.uk/dataset/general-election-2015