UK by-elections and Spanish election live

Live commentary Friday on the three UK by-elections and Monday for the Spanish election. Also covered: Thai and Alberta, Canada elections.

Live Commentary

4:56pm Tuesday While the Socialists may be able to cobble together a government in the lower house, the PP won 120 of the 208 elected senators, to 72 for the Socialists. FPTP is used for the Senate, and all mainland provinces get four senators regardless of population. Cases of disagreement between the chambers can be resolved if an absolute majority of the lower house is in favour, but that requires 176 votes.

7:51am Monday With 98% counted in Sunday’s Spanish election, the conservative People’s Party has 32.9%, the governing centre-left Socialists 31.8%, the far-right Vox 12.4% and the left-wing Sumar 12.3%. The lead for PP and Vox over the Socialists and Sumar is just 1.2%, far less than expected in pre-election polls.

Seat numbers in the lower house are 136 PP, 122 Socialists, 33 Vox and 31 Sumar. So PP and Vox add to 169 of the 350 seats, not enough for the 176 required for a majority. The Socialists and Sumar add to 153 seats. Regionalists, who are mostly left-wing, will hold the balance of power. There could be a new election needed in Spain.

2:18pm So the overall result is the Tories lose two of the three by-elections by big margins, but hold Uxbridge narrowly. The Tories are about 20 points behind Labour in UK national polls, so this should be expected. The next UK general election is not due until late 2024. I will use this post to comment on the Spanish results on Monday morning.

2:15pm Labour GAINS Selby from the Tories with a massive swing. It’s the biggest vote majority Labour has overturned at a by-election. The Tories won it by over 20,000 votes in 2019.

12:33pm I will be going out for lunch soon.

11:57am So now we’re just waiting for the Selby declaration.

11:55am Lib Dems GAIN Somerton from Tories with HUGE swing and a big new majority.

11:44am Tories HOLD Uxbridge.

11:34am Tories may have won Uxbridge by about 400 votes.

11:15am Friday A recount will be held in Uxbridge. I don’t have information yet as to which side called for it. Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan may be unpopular.

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.

Original post on Thursday July 20

Polls close at 7am Friday AEST for the three UK by-elections in Uxbridge, Selby & Ainsty and Somerton & Frome – all three by-elections are for Conservative-held seats. It’s likely to take at least a few hours to get results of these by-elections. I will be at gym Friday morning, but should get home by 11am, in time for the results.

Uxbridge was former PM Boris Johnson’s seat, and he won it at the December 2019 election by a 52.6-37.6 margin over Labour with 6.3% for the Liberal Democrats. At that 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. 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.

In the lead-up to these by-elections, there has been an internal Labour fight over leader Keir Starmer’s announcement that he would keep the Conservatives’ “two-child benefit limit”. This limits welfare payments to the first two children in a family. It may be a mistake for Starmer to have this fight just before the by-elections.

Right likely to win in Spain

Polls for Sunday’s Spanish election close at 4am Monday AEST. The Congress of Deputies has 350 members elected by proportional representation by region, with a 3% threshold per region. Seats per region are allocated on a population basis. In the Senate, 208 of the 266 seats are elected by First Past the Post (FPTP), with four seats for most regions.

Polling indicates the conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox are leading the centre-left Socialists and left-wing Sumar by single digit margins. Some of the 350 seats in the Congress will go to regionalists, so it could be difficult for the right-wing parties to win the 176 combined seats required for an outright majority. The current heatwave in Spain and in southern Europe has not affected the polling.

Thai and Alberta, Canada elections

At the May 14 Thai election, the left-wing Move Forward won 151 of the 500 lower house seats. They formed a coalition with Pheu Thai (141 seats) and other parties to get 313 votes. But the PM is elected by a combined vote of both parliamentary chambers, and the 250 senators are military appointees. An absolute majority (375 votes) was required. In the July 13 first round, Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat won 324 votes with 182 opposed and 243 abstentions or absentees. As Pita was short of 375, he did not become PM. In a second vote Wednesday, 395 were opposed to Pita and 312 in favour.

At the May 29 election for the Canadian province of Alberta, the governing United Conservative Party (UCP) won 49 of Alberta’s 87 seats, to 38 for the left-wing New Democrats (NDP). In 2015, the NDP won a shock victory in Canada’s most right-wing province owing to a split in the conservative vote and the use of FPTP. At this election, vote shares were 52.6-44.1 to the UCP. The NDP swept all seats in Edmonton and won many in Calgary. Alberta is a case where the left trend in cities is making it easier for the left to win.

75 comments on “UK by-elections and Spanish election live”

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  1. There has to be a really bad joke here about it is about “two heads”.

    The NT electorates are even smaller than the Tasmanian ones and have the lowest turnout too.

    The UK actually has 5 “protected” electorates which are based on geography and not population. They are Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar (AKA Western Isles), Ynys Môn (aka Anglesey) and the two on the Isle of Wight.
    Na h-Eileanan an Iar is only about 20k.

  2. “I just don’t understand why Canada doesn’t drop their adherence to first-past-the-post in their elections. Clearly in their history it has benefited the right wing of their politics, while the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens bicker on the left, the Conservatives just sweep right past them. ”

    Clearly you haven’t been watching their 3 federal elections (and some of the provincial ones) the last 8 years then. Lib majority or Lib-led government every time.

    Or in the decade prior to 2006, which was similar, it’s very much a see-saw.

    Even NDP got >100 seats one year with a good leader and were tipped for government at one point, they just don’t do a good job overall of picking federal leaders – there’s no systemic bias against them.

    At provincial level they not infrequently lead government, although a lot less often than the Libs and the Tories.

    One reason that FPTP in Canada seems to work particularly well is that old allegiances within regions have become very much loosened, with almost nowhere sure of being safe from challenging parties if they take their voters for granted.
    Whereas other countries – with and without FPTP – this decoupling process is a lot slower than Canada overall although allegiances are changing within demographics and party membership is very low so not much loyalty compared to 50 years ago. E.g. UK or Australia, so it’s gradually getting there. . .

  3. “The most interesting thing about the next British election is will labour beat its 1997 result.”

    I don’t think it’s the most interesting thing, but it’s definitely possible. However, at this point I think it is unlikely although some kind of Lab majority is looking ‘nailed on’ at this point.

  4. The Tories were only 10% or less behind Labour until they booted Boris out May-June 2022, quite respectable for mid-term in the UK and especially with relentless negative media coverage of Boris and quite a bit of sniping from even his own side by then.

    Some of his own side never liked him and jumped at the chance; others panicked and sucked in the narrative their opponents wanted them to believe. A few did it for so-called principled reasons.

    Whatever the reasons, they went into freefall. It’s a very inconvenient fact for Rishi Sunak supporters and the old, stale – but clearly still dominant – part of the parliamentary Conservative party. They really work hard to blame Boris for their current polling woes, predicting the triple by-election defeat due to ‘long Boris’ in one case (10/10 for humour although it’s completely wrong).

    The Liz Truss premiership prevented them from recovering again in the polls, which I think they could have done if not for the missteps and if they had reintegrated Boris in the front team at a timely point.
    By the time Sunak become PM, people had largely stopped listening to them. But not only is Sunak boring and uncreative, he’s reaping what he sowed because he’s responsible more than any other individual on his side, for toppling their proven votewinner in places no-one else can reach – and losing 1/2 their traditional supporters on the way. After all, people like to back a winner and without Boris they don’t even look like one.

    Divided parties ALWAYS shoot themselves in the foot sooner or later and precipitate their own downfall, regardless of how well or poorly they are governing.

    Current situation feels very much like the 1993-1997 era of John Major government where the government was boring but actually did ok, but the ensuing 1997 result was already baked in and no-one was listening. Punctuated by sleazy scandals just to ensure they didn’t rise up again.

    History repeats itself by definition.

  5. Uxbridge really is fascinating.

    Swings are meant to exceed current national swing at by-elections.

    See below:

    Current average national swing in polls in GB (from 2019 GE): 15.5% (+11.7% Con to +19.4% Lab)

    Swings in by-elections yesterday against Tories:

    Uxbridge & South Ruislip: 6.7% to Lab (bookies had Lab 88% favourites)
    Selby & Ainsty: 23.1% to Lab (bookies had Lab 85% favourites)
    Somerton & Frome: 29.0% to LD (bookies had LD 94% favourites)

    The last two were as expected.

    I predicted on this site the much smaller swing in Uxbridge in spite of it having the smallest majority by far of the 3 seats, this for 3 different reasons .

    However, although I said there that there was a very very small chance of a hold, I really never expected it – that’s quite impressive, probably thanks 50% to Sadiq Khan Mayor of London, 25% the Tory candidate and campaign run; and 25% Boris for his remaining hold on part of the electorate (although he was sensible enough to keep away from the campaign so it didn’t become ‘marmite’ for his successor and distract from Sadiq Khan).

  6. Uxbridge & Ruislip is obviously more Tory-leaning than London overall but Sadiq Khan suddenly looks more vulnerable for the 2024 London Mayor election.

    If the Tories had already been booted out at national level (unlikely we will have had the GE by then), it could have been really competitive.

    But with them still in power, it will be very uphill in the so-called People’s Socialist Republic of London where Lab typically polls 25% ahead of them London-wide in an average year.

    Maybe a strong independent could emerge who would have a decent chance of a round 2 victory?

  7. Rishi Sunak will be quietly relieved this morning.

    One victory that literally nobody expected, to enable the spin doctors to weave a story out of a bad night and avoid a perception of further freefall.

  8. The Tories will win back Selby and Ainsty at the next election but Lib Dems will definitely keep hold of Somerton and Frome.

    Uxbridge & Ruislip I would have predicted a loss at the GE even if there had not been a by-election. Now there has been a B-E and Tories have held it, I am just not sure what will happen.

    If yesterday was a protest vote against the Labour London leadership relatively single issue on ULEZ, might the GE revert to a general bashing of the incumbent government and the Tories still lose Uxbridge in line with national swing? At this point, I would suspect the latter but it’s just become less certain after the work put in the last few weeks and the result.

  9. I think that if ULEZ was the deciding issue in Uxbridge, it might be a sign that a different approach is need when it comes to environmental issues. The tolerance for “Just Stop Oil” protest etc. seems to be wearing thin over there. Likewise in an economic crisis like they are experiencing, it is awfully hard to get people to spend more money on a new “tax”.

  10. The ULEZ issue, which seems to have saved the Tories in Uxbridge, may have wider ramifications.

    A number of cities have introduced additional charges for vehicles which don’t meet emission standards (usually older vehicles), something I noticed whilst driving in Bristol few days ago.
    I understand some city councils have also introduced charges for driving in the city centre and this has proven unpopular – as the LibDems have found out in a recent Cambridge council by-election.

    These initiatives might help inner urban environmental thinkers but will put out many who live and commute from city fringes.

  11. Boris Johnson started the ULEZ, the Tories continued it with funding in Westminster then their propaganda outlets weaponised it against Labor through a Labor Mayor who was simply working on what the English ‘federal’ government started.

    It’s ‘Get Clover’ in London. And another shocking indictment on the stupidity of Tory voters that they’d be angry enough to vote for the party who started it who also happen to be an incompetent, sleaze ridden, economy destroying government in UK history.

  12. BTSays says:
    Friday, July 21, 2023 at 5:21 pm
    The Tories will win back Selby and Ainsty at the next election but Lib Dems will definitely keep hold of Somerton and Frome

    Not going to happen because neither seat will exist at the next election due to the new boundaries which are in the final process of being approved.!

  13. Ok, the Pain in Spain election.

    PP 136 (+47)
    PSOE 122 (+2)
    Vox 33 (-19)
    Sumar 31 (-7)
    ERC 7 (-6)
    Junts 7 (-1)

    It’s looking like a hung parliament situation. 350 seats in the parliament.


    Xosé Hermida
    Jul 24, 2023 – 02:47 CEST

    Now what? National election leaves Spain in a labyrinth
    The two right-wing parties did not win enough seats to form an absolute majority, and the possibility that the Popular Party and the far-right Vox could make pacts with other parties can be completely ruled out

    Spain election 2023 results: rightwing bloc pulls ahead but remains short of overall majority – as it happened

  15. The Left needs to piece together 23 seats from the regional parties to retain government, which paradoxically would probably be easier for them to get than it would the 7 seats needed by the Right. Regional parties tend to skew Left in Spain, and what’s more regional parties have a visceral historical distrust of the far-Right, with memories of how Franco treated regional claims under the dictatorship still raw. I agree that fresh elections is still the most likely outcome, but Sanchez has proven to be a wily parliamentary negotiator over the last decade, and I’d guess that he’s still reasonably well-placed to stitch together some sort of majority.

  16. Spaniard here.

    It’s impossible for the conservative forces (PP + Vox) to form government. None of the nationalistic parties will give them the votes necessary to make a majority. The nationalistic parties in Catalunya and Basque Country, specially in Catalunya, have suffered a serious set back. ERC, the independentist left party, has lost 13 seats in Barcelona which have gone mostly to the socialists.

    As it is, Sanchez will need a parliamentarian from Junts to abstain to form government. Junts have had an horrendous election, they basically don’t count for anything these days EXCEPT they could have the key for Sanchez to form government. And I say could, because the CERA vote, Spaniards voting overseas like myself, has not been counted yet and that vote always favour progressive forces.

    I think we have another Sanchez government for the next four years.

  17. Asun (Mon 24 July, 5.15pm) is spot on.

    The Socialists (PSOE) have outperformed the polls by some 3 or 4 percent.

    Sánchez will (with about a 90% chance, probably) govern for another 4 years.

    You’ve also got to know a little about Spanish regional and national politics and Spanish history to conclude that Feijóo’s chances of becoming PM are slim indeed – as Asun says above, there is no credible path for the PP to form government – Feijóo’s joyless post-election speech last night said it all, and Vox have lost about a third of their seats.

    It’s funny reading many of the post-election result headlines this morning with variations of “PP wins election but short of majority”… if Sánchez goes on to govern for another four years as is almost certain, what do the PP get for “winning”?

    The end result is remarkably similar to the German federal election of 2005 in which Gerhard Schroeder (after a bad election loss in a regional election called snap elections) outperformed the polls and in the end drew almost level with Angela Merkel’s CDU (but of which the PSOE won’t the same mistake as the SPD and join a grand coalition).

    Sánchez is one of the toughest and cleverest campaigners ever produced by the European centre-left.

  18. “Tories abolished preferential voting for mayoral elections, so now all mayors are elected by FPTP. So very unlikely an indie can win London mayor.”

    I had missed that Adrian. Indeed that makes Khan’s reelection a near certainty assuming he goes ahead and runs.

    The long line up of candidates will split the opposition far too much to win a Lab-leaning city on FPTP.

    If Lab were in gov nationally then FPTP might just favour the Tories for this but not whilst they are in power nationally.

  19. Spain is interesting.

    The media narrative was actually quite poor, implying the right wing of politics were on the cusp of winning when in fact it was always quite close including on final polls a week out from the election.

    When I saw that a key story in the last week was Feijoo’s former friendship with the drug baron – which is simply a replay from his opponents of his other elections going back 15 years, but the first time it’s aired so thoroughly nationally – I really thought the undecideds (at least) would break for PSOE / Sanchez. I’m now wishing I posted it on here.

    However, I would still have been wrong because I thought that PSOE would actually be in front of PP and the combined left (excluding nats) would have more seats than the combined right.

    Whereas it’s the opposite and a great recipe for gridlock and a 2nd election – too early to say who that will favour but Sanchez looks like having the momentum now.

    If Sanchez remains PM that may not be great for Spain in some respects, but I appreciate his clear stance on foreign policy matters such as Ukraine whereas Feijoo is as yet an unknown quantity.

  20. @ChrisC

    “BTSays says:
    Friday, July 21, 2023 at 5:21 pm
    The Tories will win back Selby and Ainsty at the next election but Lib Dems will definitely keep hold of Somerton and Frome

    Not going to happen because neither seat will exist at the next election due to the new boundaries which are in the final process of being approved.!”

    Thanks for pointing that out. I guess the general point remains the same, though perhaps this might mean the Tories have a small chance in the successor seat to Somerton & Frome depending how much of it gets carried across into one seat.

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