Green by-election win in Bristol makes history 

Following the recent resignation of the Bristol City Council Liberal Democrat councillor for Hotwells and Harbourside, a by-election was held yesterday (2.2.23). Behind the headline result, there are some key trends and issues to consider for the Bristol development industry which we’ve explained below. Hotwells and Harbourside ward covers an expanse of city centre Bristol, including Brandon Hill, Anchor Road, Canon’s Marsh (the old docklands), and up to the Cumberland Basin.

The result summary

With the 2021 result in brackets.

Green537 votes, 43% vote share (+11%) 
Lib Dem511, 40.9% (+7.6%)
Labour153, 12.2% (-13.1%)
Conservative34, 2.7% (-6.6%) 
Independent14 (1.1%) (New)
Turnout32.4% (-12.99%)

Green candidate Patrick McAllister has defeated the Lib Dem candidate and former Bristol West MP, Stephen Williams. On a low turnout at 32%, the seat was on a knife-edge, with strong Green support coming mainly at the expense of Labour, whose voting percentage more than halved. At City Hall, the Greens are now the largest party holding 25 seats to Labour’s 24, however, there is no impact on the committee or regulatory planning special positions.

JBP Election Results Analysis

  • Symbolic victory for the Greens…but no change in power – With the Bristol Mayor holding all executive decision-making powers, this victory is largely symbolic for the Greens as they become the largest party on Bristol City Council for the first time ever. However, this has little impact on how the council will run daily. On regulatory planning decision-making, we understand that the current state-of-play also continues with both Development Control Committees remaining at 3 Green, 3 Labour, 2 Tories, and 1 Lib Dem
  • May 2024 build-up begins – After encouraging council by-elections, both here and in Southmead last year, the Greens will be hoping to use this as a springboard. They can now further expand their reach and try to get as close as possible to an outright majority on the council that will use the new Committee system. But how much further can the Greens expand into suburbia? Their efforts must now be concerted in Bristol’s outer fringe, like Brislington, Hengrove, and Frome Vale, during all-out council elections while defending their previous gains in May 2024 to secure outright control of the new council.
  • Labour woes continue in urban Bristol – With the Lib-Dems/ Greens gearing up their campaign based on the by-election being a two-horse race, the Labour vote was always likely to be squeezed. The Greens will be hoping to convert local election successes last night and in former Labour strongholds, like Easton, into parliamentary victory in the Bristol West (due to be renamed Bristol Central following a parliamentary boundary review) constituency. 
  • Lib-Dem decline continues – This will be the first time since Bristol City Council was formed in 1995 that the Bristol West parliamentary constituency is without any Lib Dem council representation in a national seat that Stephen Williams won in 2005 and held in 2010. They are reduced to 5 councillors in an authority they controlled a decade ago.

Electoral food for thought

General election hope for Labour – The Conservative Government may help win Labour back a majority on Bristol City Council in May 2024. All Labour parliamentary candidates have secured results in Bristol ranging from ‘comfortable’ to ‘thumping’ in 2017 and 2019. Should the next General Election coincide with the next Bristol Local Elections, this may help Labour consolidate (and recover) its support (and seats) in many wards across the city as votes go red nationally and, possibly, also locally.  

Want to know more about what’s next in 2024?

The JBP Team would be delighted to talk to you about elections and their impact on the development industry. Get in touch with us for more insight and how we can assist you with your projects, and delivering your messages to local politicians.

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