UK by-elections and Spanish election minus eight to 11 days

Three UK by-elections in Conservative-held seats on July 20, and right expected to win July 23 Spanish election. Also covered: New Zealand polls and Greek election results.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Boris Johnson resigned from the UK House of Commons on June 9. In this June 21 article for The Conversation that was mainly about Donald Trump’s post-indictment US polls, I said Johnson resigned as he would have been forced out by a recall petition after an unfavourable report from the privileges committee.

Johnson won his former seat of Uxbridge at the December 2019 election by a 52.6-37.6 margin over Labour with 6.3% for the Liberal Democrats. By-elections will occur in Uxbridge and two other Conservative-held seats on July 20: Selby & Ainsty and Somerton & Frome. In Selby, MP Nigel Adams resigned in protest at Johnson’s ouster. In Somerton, MP David Warburton resigned owing to allegations of sexual harassment.

At the 2019 election, the Conservatives won Somerton by 55.8-26.2 over the Lib Dems with 12.9% Labour and 5.1% Greens. They won Selby by 60.3-24.6 over Labour with 8.6% Lib Dems. These large seat wins were from overall vote shares at the 2019 election of 43.6% Conservative, 32.1% Labour and 11.6% Lib Dems.

In national polls, Labour currently has about a 20-point lead over the Conservatives, in contrast to the 11.5-point Conservative win in 2019. Labour’s lead has increased since Johnson’s resignation. Seat polls give Labour an eight-point lead in Uxbridge and a 12-point lead in Selby. The Lib Dems had huge swings in their favour at by-elections earlier this term.  These by-elections will be the first since February, and the first in a Conservative-held seat since June 2022 (when they lost two seats).

Right likely to win Spanish election

At the July 23 Spanish election, all 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 208 of the 266 seats in the Senate will be up for election. In the Congress, proportional representation (PR) by region is used with a 3% threshold for each region. Higher-population regions are assigned more seats, so Madrid has 37 seats. This system favours larger parties over the results using national PR. The Senate is elected using First Past the Post, with each mainland region getting four seats and islands one to three seats.

At the November 2019 election, the centre-left Socialists formed a governing coalition with the left-wing Podemos that was supported by regionalists. Podemos is running at this election as Sumar. Polling indicates the conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox are leading the Socialists and Sumar by single digit margins.

A win for the right in Spain would make it the second major European country to fall to the right after Italy last year. And in Germany the far-right AfD has been surging in the polls recently after the centre-left SPD, Greens and pro-business FDP formed a government following the September 2021 election. The next German election is due by October 2025.

NZ election: October 14

New Zealand uses national PR to elect its 120 parliamentarians with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member seat. With three months until the October 14 election, current polling suggests that the conservative National and right-wing ACT are leading the governing Labour and the Greens. While the left parties had a boost in support after Chris Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as Labour leader and PM in January, that boost has faded. The Māori party are potential kingmakers with a recent Morgan poll giving them a record 7%, and they can avoid the 5% threshold by winning a Māori-only seat.

Second Greek election another disaster for left

After no party won a majority in the May Greek election, a second election was held June 25. National PR with a 3% threshold was used, but with a bonus seat system that had been removed at the May election. The conservative governing New Democracy (ND) won 40.6% (down 0.2% from May), the left-wing Syriza 17.8% (down 2.2%), the centre-left PASOK 11.8% (up 0.4%) and the Communists 7.7% (up 0.5%). Three far-right parties cleared the 3% threshold.

Twenty bonus seats were awarded to the party winning the most votes and one bonus seat per half a percent between 25% and 40%. ND won 50 bonus seats and 158 total seats out of 300, enough for a majority. Syriza won 47 seats, PASOK 32, the Communists 21 and three far-right parties won a combined 34 seats.

11 comments on “UK by-elections and Spanish election minus eight to 11 days”

  1. Thanks once again Adrian.

    * NZ – do you have the latest polling figures in full?

    * UK – Conservative will lose all 3 by-elections 20 July, Somerton & Frome (NB it’s ‘Somerton’ not ‘Somerset’ – although the seat is in the county of Somerset!) to the Lib Dems and the other 2 to Labour.

    Paradoxically, Uxbridge in Greater London will have the smallest swing of the 3 by some way – and even a very, very small outside chance of a shock hold although the margin is much lower than the other 2 seats. This is partly due to a feeling amongst some locals that Boris was hounded out (i.e. sympathy vote); partly relief by other Tory voters who didn’t like Boris at having a ‘normal’ candidate; and, above all, hatred for Sadiq Khan’s (Mayor of London) ULEZ emissions charging scheme proposed. This latter is likely to cost working families dear and notably, the Labour candidate for Uxbridge has come out against it and Keir Starmer is also busy flip-flopping again due to this.

    * Germany – footnote really. Greens there are basically centrist, very different in character to Greens elsewhere in much of the Western world.
    They are (thankfully) less dovish on Russia and China than the SDP, and in many ways attract socially liberal CDU voters as much as anything – which is why they will probably continue to cop poor results in regional elections now CDU are in opposition and they themselves are associated with all governing positions.

    * Spain – interesting, it’s actually much closer than news headlines imply. Though with PM Sanchez losing the bad-tempered debate with his key rival, undecideds may break more strongly for the PP leading to a clearer result in the opposition’s favour.

  2. Greece – shouldn’t ND have won 51 bonus seats based on the system you describe?

    25-40.6% = 31 x 0.5% (with 0.1% over) for 31 bonus seats to add to the 20 ‘largest party’ bonus.

  3. The rightward, nationalist, nativist drift of the world continues…… mostly courtesy of old, white, poorly educated people.

    One term of a Blairite, centre-right, “left-of-Sauron” Starmer Labour administration notwithstanding.

  4. A by-election is being held in Somerton & Frome. Not SOMERSET. Although this constituency does happen to be in the county of Somerset.

  5. Still amazes me the power of propaganda, who could look at the US and UK’s disastrous right & far-right governments and think “yeah, we need that in our country”.

  6. Sorry for confusing Somerset with Somerton. Fixed now.

    BT, you can see all the NZ polls at the Wikipedia link in my article.

    In Greece, I think the first bonus seat is awarded at 25.5%, then two at 26% and so on up to 30 at 40%.

  7. Further to BTSays comment about Uxbridge.

    The main reason the swing is likely to be smaller than the in the other by-elections is that the tory vote was already at a very low ebb in strongly anti Brexit London. It hasn’t got much further to fall.
    Uxbridge is a traditionally safe area for the conservatives, hence Johnson chose to stand there in 2015. His majority of 24% was slashed in the post Brexit elections of 2017 and even 2019(where the tories won a nationwide landslide).

    Not sure why BTsays didn’t mention this.

    Also, on ULEZ. It is clearly unpopular in some quarters, notably in the tory dominated press, but polling suggests that a majority of Londoners not only support it but also support it’s further expansion.
    Note also that London mayor Sadiq Khan is very unpopular in the same quarters, yet he has been elected comfortably twice by the London electorate.

  8. Khan is to Tories what Clover is to the LNP. They hate them because they don’t control them, and the aren’t stuffed shirt baby boomer white conservatives.

  9. Chris Bull

    That’s not correct re Uxbridge trend.

    Of course the majority fell in 2017 when there was a swing against the Tories nationally anyway; and
    Uxbridge is within Greater London where they did particularly badly.

    However, Boris increased his vote share by 1.8% in 2019 and overall majority by 4.2%. Lower than the nationwide swing but not immensely so, and certainly not a reduction in Boris’s majority as you state.

    ULEZ – when was the last poll conducted? Labour are split down the middle on the issue and it’s got a lot more salience recently. Even before it was hot national news, heavily Labour-leaning London was only had a bare majority in favour. I think you’re behind the times. Why else would Labour’s candidate in Uxbridge oppose it?

    FWIW, I stand by my comments as to the reasons why Uxbridge & South Ruislip will have a lower swing than the other seats. Apologies if they’re not very convenient reasons for some people.

  10. Other international news: Alberta (Canada) had a provincial election in May. The province is notorious for literally never electing left-wing governments, until 2015 when a severely divided right put the NDP in for a term largely due to vote-splitting. The PCs and Wildrose (the two major right-wing parties) merged into the United Conservative Party and won a big majority in 2019.

    Skip to 2023. The NDP swept Edmonton and won a majority of seats in Calgary (the two biggest cities), with the UCP winning 52.6 – 44.0, 47 seats to 38. Those are primary votes – no other party cracked 1%, so the fact they use FPTP didn’t affect the result much.

    The next term should be interesting – the UCP have already lost one premier before completing a term, and they’ve managed to lose one MP to the crossbench before the election was even held (candidate for a super-safe seat, too late to get taken off the ballot), thanks to a comment about trans kids which you can google yourself as long as you’re not eating. Alberta might finally have a coherent two-party system.

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