The Brecon and Radnorshire 2019 byelection results reveal the outcome of the second-ever British parliamentary recall.
In the first, Peterborough, the Labour Party held their seat by a narrow margin against a Brexit Party surge. Just a short time has passed, but since then, the Prime Minister has changed, the Liberal Democrats leader has changed, and a no-deal Brexit looks more likely than ever.
On 1 August 2019, British political eyes will turn to an interior Welsh constituency to see if the Boris Johnson Conservatives will lose a seat, or if they’ve risen from the ashes.
Background of the Brecon and Radnorshire 2019 Byelection
Christopher Davies represented the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire from 2015 until June 2019. In the year of the Tory majority under David Cameron, he gained this seat off of the Liberal Democrats. 2017 saw him boost his majority to over 8,000 while Tory fortunes faltered elsewhere.
Earlier this year, Davies was at the centre of controversy regarding forged expenses documents and he was ultimately convicted of a crime.1 While Davies was not sentenced to jail, unlike his former colleague Fiona Onasanya who was also recalled, the conviction launched a recall effort in Brecon and Radnorshire.
The recall petition received almost double the required amount of signatures, and Davies was ousted as the member for Brecon and Radnorshire on 21 June 2019.
Powys, the Welsh county in which Brecon and Radnorshire is located, voted 53.7 percent Leave in 2016.2 Davies supported Leave in the referendum.
This constituency has been represented either by the Liberal Democrats (and predecessor Liberals) or Conservatives since 1979. Labour last won there in 1974, both times.
2017 Brecon and Radnorshire Results
Davies jumped to a majority of 8,038 in the snap 2017 election, gaining a swing of over three percent. The Lib Dem vote increased marginally as well while the UKIP vote collapsed.
Brecon and Radnorshire 2019 Byelection Candidates
Chris Davies, the former MP, won selection from the local Conservative association and will stand to reclaim his seat.
The Lib Dems found significant support from other Remain parties in an effort to consolidate the vote. Plaid Cymru, Change UK (formerly The Independent Group), the Green Party, and the Renew Party are all sitting the election out to back Jane Dodds.
Brecon and Radnorshire 2019 Byelection Results
Jane Dodds will be the new Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire in the east of Wales. She won the constituency with a majority of just over 1,400, overturning a majority of 8,000 and getting a swing of 12 percent from the Tories.
The Conservative-DUP working majority in the House of Commons is down to one seat, giving no margin for error with rogue MPs. As for the Liberal Democrats, they are up to 13 MPs and have their first win under Jo Swinson.
Despite the fact that Conservative poll numbers jumped with the election of Boris Johnson — mostly because Brexit Party voters “went home” to the Tories — it was not enough to save them here. Also consider the fact that the Conservatives ran with their former MP who was just convicted of fraud earlier in the year; such a thing must have been unpalatable to a good many voters.
This is an area that voted to Leave in 2016, and consolidating the Remain vote was the best chance the Lib Dems had of winning. This is a traditional Lib Dem vs. Conservative seat, meaning all Labour and Plaid Cmyru could do here was play spoiler. In fact, some may look at this now and say the Brexit Party played spoiler for the Conservatives. Had Labour and the Brexit Party not stood, and those votes had gone to the Lib Dems and Tories respectively, Davies, a noted Eurosceptic, may have won. If anything, some Leave supporters following these results may have more motivation to coalesce behind Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.
There will be two Leave schools of thought on the Brexit Party’s impact in Brecon and Radnorshire. First, that Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party screwed the Conservatives and its Eurosceptic prime minister. The second is that the Conservatives should have embraced the Brexit Party with open arms and by not doing so, they got what was coming to them.
It is of course a great result for the Liberal Democrats. Let’s not say they are “back” at 13 seats in the House of Commons, but they have some clear momentum. They hope to keep that going in the forthcoming Sheffield Hallam by-election either in late 2019 or early 2020. The Lib Dems will be favoured in Nick Clegg’s old seat.
We must also look at what happened to Labour. Not that they were strong here in the first place, but Remain voters abandoned them in droves to help secure the win for Jane Dodds. Regardless, five percent and a distant fourth is a dismal result. Jeremy Corbyn is going to hear it some more from the Labour cheap seats over this result, which further underlies that the Lib Dems are the primary party of Remain in opposition to the Conservatives, while Labour can’t figure out what it wants.
1: “Convicted Tory MP Chris Davies loses seat after recall petition” (by Steven Morris, The Guardian website, published 21 June 2019, accessed 23 July 2019)
2: “EU Referendum Results” (BBC news website, accessed 23 July 2019)