By-elections put parties in the mood for a fight

Party organisers are gearing up for a spate of by-elections in the next few weeks. A death, a resignation and a court decision have left voters in three areas wondering who their future MP will be. Fran Abrams weighs up the odds.

Beckenham Conservatives met the party chairman, Lord Parkinson, last night to discuss the resignation of their MP Piers Merchant, sparking rumours that a replacement could be elected before Christmas.

Although no-one would disclose the meeting, party sources suggested Central Office was keen to call a by-election as soon as possible. Mr Merchant resigned on Tuesday after renewed allegations of an affair with an 18-year-old researcher. The local party association's executive will meet tomorrow to decide its next move.

However, some sources said the Beckenham by-election could be held on 27 November, coinciding with the most likely date for the by-election which must be held in Winchester.

Winchester's new Liberal Democrat MP, Mark Oaten, must defend his seat against its former Conservative incumbent, Gerry Malone, after a court decided that his two-vote victory in May was invalid. Although the election is bound to be close-run, the Liberal Democrats seem relatively confident. As a sitting member Mr Oaten is bound to have gained status and local recognition.

The Paisley by-election, caused by the suicide of the Labour MP Gordon McMaster, will be held on 6 November. Labour sources confirmed last night that the date would be announced this week in the London Gazette, the official channel for the writ to be moved while Parliament is not sitting.

Labour's Paisley candidate will be Douglas Alexander, 30, a former speechwriter for Gordon Brown and the late Labour leader John Smith.

The Tories have selected a local florist, Sheila Laidlaw, 58, to fight the seat, but the real contest will be between Labour and the Scottish National Party candidate, Ian Blackford, 36, a financial analyst.

Mr McMaster regained Paisley South with 21,482 votes at the general election to the SNP's 8,732. The Liberal Democrats had 3,500 and the Conservatives 3,200. Despite the safe nature of the seat, Labour is bound to fear that scandals surrounding the former MP's death could damage its vote. Paul Mack, a controversial councillor accused of spreading rumours about him, is to stand independently.

There were no immediate takers for the Beckenham seat last night, although more than 300 applicants are expected. Former ministers who lost their seats in May were thought to be weighing up the idea, though Chris Patten is said to be busy writing a book and Malcolm Rifkind is said to want a Scottish seat.

Yesterday Michael Portillo again appeared to rule himself out - his friends had said it was too soon - though some cynics said he might allow himself to be persuaded to stand.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick