Yesterday's council by election in Westbourne ward on Brighton & Hove Council, was the 53rd and final southern by election of 2011.
In all, Labour won seven of the 53 contests that took place in the south this year, although in nine of those contests we failed to put up a candidate. Two of the victories were in safe Labour seats, but the other five were important gains from both the Conservatives (in Camborne & Redruth, Stroud and Great Yarmouth) and the Liberal Democrats (Bristol North West & Norwich South).
These relatively modest set of gains can be explained by the propensity of the seats that fell vacant to be "safe" for the party which held them: two thirds of the seats contested stayed in the hands of the party that held the seat. Where Labour was second in a seat, we either won it or maintained a second place in the poll. Indeed, in two of our gains we came from 4th and as far back in the field as 5th place to claim victory.
The first by elections of 2012 have already been called, with Labour's Roger Sterry defending a seat on the Forest of Dean BC (Conderford West) and Roma Mills (a former PPC) seeking to gain Batchwood on St Albans DC from the Lib Dems.
In May a number of local authorities will contest local elections, with a number of Labour groups well placed to take control (Reading, Thurrock & Southampton spring to mind). And we shouldn't forget the Police Commissioner elections in November (or the Mayoral ballot planned in Bristol).
All these elections are important, and Southern Front continues to challenge local parties in the South to ensure they contest as many scheduled election contest as possible. It is understood that in "all out" elections this isn's always possible, but there really isn't an excuse when it comes to local by elections. A candidate and ten supporting signatories isn't that much to ask, surely?