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
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before