Thursday, 17 July 2014

By-election Previews: 17 July 2014

King's Lynn and West Norfolk borough council
Caused by the resignation of Green Party councillor Lori Allen.

RAF Marham Boundary Fence
The Airfield ward is a large rural ward in western Norfolk, running down to the River Nar on its northern boundary and the River Great Ouse at its western extent.  The airfield of the name is RAF Marham, still a very active airfield with three squadrons of Tornados based here.  The polling district covering the RAF station accounts for around a third of the ward's electors; however, servicemen rarely vote in local elections so a low turnout (even by local by-election standards) can be expected.  Away from the airbase the largest villages in the ward are Marham itself and Runcton Holme, down on the Great Ouse floodplain.

Airfield was very strongly Conservative when the current ward was created in 2003, and the two Tory councillors were re-elected unopposed in 2007.  However, in the 2011 election the Conservatives unaccountably stood only one candidate for the two seats; the beneficiary of this decision was the Green Party's Lori Allen who beat Labour and an independent candidate standing on an anti-incinerator ticket (an incinerator proposed for near King's Lynn has been a highly toxic politicial issue in this district for most of the last decade). Matters got worse for the local Conservatives in the 2013 Norfolk county council elections, in which they lost one of the county divisions covering this ward to UKIP and held UKIP off only narrowly in the other.

Defending for the Green Party is farmer Jonathan Burr.  The Conservative candidate is Geoff Hipperson, borough councillor for this ward until 2011 and chairman of Shouldham parish council.  Maths teacher Sebastian Polhill stands for Labour, and Watlington parish councillor Bob Scully is the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Fincham (part: Runcton Holme, Shouldham Thorpe and Tottenhill parishes); Gayton and Nar Valley (part: Marham, Shouldham and Wormegay parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: King's Lynn and Fakenham

Jonathan Burr (Grn)
Geoff Hipperson (C)
Sebastian Polhill (Lab)
Bob Scully (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 782 Grn 386 Lab 354 Ind 283
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result C 958/847 Lab 442 LD 334

Redditch borough council, Worcestershire
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Dave Small after just two weeks in office.  Small was elected as councillor for this ward on 22nd May this year but was almost immediately expelled from UKIP over racist and homophobic Facebook comments.

Edgeworth Close, Church Hill
Well, that didn't take long.  Less than two months have elapsed since the 2014 ordinary elections and we already have our first vacancy among the councillors elected that day.  This vacancy has occurred in the Church Hill ward, the north-east corner of the new town of Redditch; started in 1975 and one of Redditch's largest developments, Church Hill is described as a social planning experiment, with social housing concentrated in the south of the estate, private housing to the north and services in the centre.

The social mix adds up to a normally-Labour-inclined ward which since 2004 had been lost by the party only once - to the Tories in 2010, by 19 votes after they came 11 votes short in 2008.  The Tory seat was duly lost in May's ordinary election, but not to Labour: to a UKIP candidate who quickly proved to be too much of a racist, loony and closet fruitcake for even UKIP to handle.  Mind, this UKIP performance - a 50-vote majority over Labour - wasn't a one-off: last year the party split with Labour the two county council seats in the local Arrow Valley East division, which had voted Conservative in 2009.

Defending for UKIP is Len Harris, chairman of the local party branch.  The second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-placed candidates from May are all trying again: respectively they are Nina Wood-Ford for Labour, Kathy Haslam for the Tories, Lee Bradley for the Green Party, perennial Lib Dem candidate David Gee and independent Agnieszka Wiecek.  Completing the ballot paper is a second independent candidate, Isabel Armstrong.

Parliamentary constituency: Redditch
Worcestershire county council division: Arrow Valley East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham

May 2014 result UKIP 665 Lab 615 C 433 Grn 80 LD 79 Ind 26 Ind 14
May 2012 double vacancy Lab 883/793 C 466/430 LD 106/102 Grn 90/71 Ind 51/47/41
May 2011 result Lab 992 C 768 LD 205 Grn 139
May 2010 result C 1301 Lab 1282 LD 788 Ind 123 Grn 93
May 2008 result Lab 733 C 722 LD 233 Ind 176
May 2007 result Lab 824 C 690 LD 377
May 2006 result Lab 865 C 626 LD 428
June 2004 result Lab 974/966/909 LD 564/542/528 C 434/422/360

Isabel Armstrong (Ind)
Lee Bradley (Grn)
David Gee (LD)
Len Harris (UKIP)
Kathy Haslam (C)
Agnieszka Wiecek (Ind)
Nina Wood-Ford (Lab)

East Dorset district council
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Don Wallace at the age of 95.  Chairman of the council in 1995/6, Wallace served for 41 years in elected office on East Dorset district council, Dorset county council and Colehill parish council.  After serving in West Africa and Burma during the Second World War, Wallace had a career in personnel management in his native Birmingham and Dorset, and also worked as a university lecturer.

Colehill Library
From one of the shortest-serving councillors in recent times to one of the longest.  Colehill is a village north of Poole about whom nobody seems to have very much to say; the Wikipedia article is long on speculation about what might have happened here in prehistoric times but short on information after about 1500.  The deprivation indices show this area to be very much at the rich end of the spectrum, so I'll take a wild guess and say that there are a fair number of people here who commute to Poole and Bournemouth.

Despite (or perhaps because of) his age, Wallace doesn't appear to have had much of a personal vote and badly trailed his Lib Dem colleague Janet Dover at the May 2011 election in this safe Lib Dem ward.  Dover is also the county councillor for the area and increased her majority in the 2013 county elections; bad news for the local Tories in their quest to regain the marginal parliamentary seat of Mid Dorset and North Poole.

Two Colehill parish councillors will square off in this by-election: in the yellow corner is Lib Dem defender Barry Roberts, while in the blue corner parish council chairman Graeme Smith challenges for the Conservatives.  In the purple corner is UKIP's David Mattocks, who describes himself as a "business broker", whatever that means.  Labour have thrown in the towel, so those are your three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Dorset and North Poole
Dorset county council division: Colehill and Stapehill
ONS Travel to Work Area: Poole

David Mattocks (UKIP)
Barry Roberts (LD)
Graeme Smith (C)

May 2011 result LD 1066/765 C 668/667 Lab 200 UKIP 175
May 2007 result LD 933/805 C 486/447 UKIP 210/205 Lab 83
May 2003 result LD 799/709 C 480/459 Ind 132 Lab 92

Oxford city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Helen O'Hara.

Cowley Road, Oxford
In south-eastern Oxford, Cowley is well-known for motor vehicle manufacturing, with BMW's Mini factory today continuing a tradition going back to the nineteenth century.  One of the nineteenth-century manufacturers in this area was John Allen and Sons, which made agricultural machinery until the 1980s; the site of their factory has been redeveloped into a retail park called the John Allen Centre which lies at the centre of the modern Cowley ward.  Further out of the city is the Oxford Business Park next to the ring road, a modern redevelopment of the old Morris Motors factory; further in is Florence Park, a popular neighbourhood built in the 1920s for Cowley factory workers.

The Cowley factories have a reputation for strong trade unionism, and it's appropriate that the modern Cowley ward is safe for Labour, with the exception of a fluke Lib Dem win in 2006; the Lib Dem councillor who won that year later defected to Labour in whose colours he was re-elected in 2010. Labour also hold the Cowley division of Oxfordshire county council, which includes parts of neighbouring wards.

Defending for Labour is David Henwood, a secondary school teacher and former engineer at the Cowley body plant.  May's election saw a surprise runner-up: an independent candidate campaigning to save the Temple Cowley swimming pool, who appeared on the ballot paper only as "Artwell"; he is back on the campaign trail for this by-election.  Law lecturer Hazel Dawe is the Green Party candidate, while environmental scientist Katharine Harborne stands for the Tories; Nepalese restaurateur Prakash Sharma is the Lib Dem nominee, and completing the ballot paper is UKIP's local party chair and PPC Ian Macdonald.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
Oxfordshire county council division: Cowley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Artwell (Ind)
Hazel Dawe (Grn)
Katharine Harborne (C)
David Henwood (Lab)
Ian Macdonald (UKIP)
Prakash Sharma (LD)

May 2014 result Lab 659 Ind 373 Grn 268 C 186 LD 142
May 2012 result Lab 626 Grn 276 C 196 LD 115
May 2010 result Lab 1264 LD 601 C 506 Grn 385
May 2008 result Lab 692 C 250 LD 224 Grn 180 Ind 91
May 2006 result LD 627 Lab 534 Grn 294 Respect 213
June 2004 result Lab 616 LD 396 Grn 323 C 262
May 2002 result Lab 693/668 LD 392/360 C 210 Grn 157/146

Harrogate borough council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Reg Marsh.

The Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate
This is a ward on the south-eastern outskirts of Harrogate, either side of the A661 road to Wetherby.  While it is primarily residential rather than touristy (as much of Harrogate town centre is), nonetheless the ward receives many visitors each year as it is the location of the Great Yorkshire Showground.  On polling day you can visit an exhibition being put on by Motability; or you can wait two weeks for the Great Northern Needlecraft Show, at which one of the quilt exhibits (the one with the two dragons with intertwined tails) is destined, once the show is over, for your columnist's bed. Thanks Mum!

For years a safe Lib Dem ward, Hookstone ward had been represented by Reg Marsh and his wife Pat since the current ward was created in 2002.  Pat Marsh was re-elected in May in the ward's closest result yet, the Tories cutting the Lib Dem majority to less than 9 points and turning the ward into a marginal.  That swing since 2010 suggests that the Lib Dems may have their work cut out to regain the Harrogate and Knaresborough parliamentary seat at next May's general election; an impression reinforced by the Tories gaining the Harrogate Oatlands county council division (which covers most of this ward) from the Lib Dems in last year's county elections.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Clare Skardon, who fought the safe-Tory Stray ward in May's ordinary elections.  The Tory challenger is Phil Headford, who runs a garden design company.  Also standing are Alan Henderson for UKIP and Pat(ricia) Foxall for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Harrogate and Knaresborough
North Yorkshire county council division: Harrogate Oatlands (part), Harrogate Starbeck (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harrogate and Ripon

Pat Foxall (Lab)
Phil Headford (C)
Alan Henderson (UKIP)
Clare Skardon (LD)

May 2014 result LD 760 C 607 UKIP 291 Lab 128
May 2011 result LD 1153 C 708 Lab 257
May 2010 result LD 2139 C 1150
May 2007 result LD 1202 C 467 BNP 112 Lab 57
May 2006 result LD 1137 C 652 Lab 57
May 2003 result LD 956 C 671 Lab 60
May 2002 result LD 1114/1030 C 645/628 Lab 96

Herefordshire council
Caused by the deaths of Conservative councillors Peter Watts and Roger Hunt respectively.  Watts, who died at the age of 66 after a four-year battle with bone cancer, had served on Herefordshire council since 2003 and was a Ledbury town councillor from 2000 until 2013; a former paratrooper and fireman, he had a key role in encouraging new employment on the site of the former Robertson's jam factory in Ledbury.  Hunt, a four-time Mayor of Leominster, also had a fight with cancer, successfully raising a six-figure sum in 2007 to secure treatment in the USA for a very rare form of spinal cancer; his death came at the age of 68.

Church Lane, Ledbury
Here we have two of the beautiful small market towns which you only seem to get in the Marches.  In the shadow of the Malvern Hills, Ledbury can be found at the south-eastern corner of Herefordshire on the Hereford-Worcester railway line.  The town is noted for its large number of old timber-framed buildings, and has a light industrial base: packaging is manufactured here, while the site of the Robertson's jam factory is now used by Universal Beverages to process fruit for cider producers.

Leominster (pronounced Lemster, for those who weren't aware) is the only major town in northern Herefordshire, located on the main road and railway line through the Marches from Hereford to Shrewsbury.  An ancient religious centre, Leominster was established by the wool trade (wool from local sheep was especially prized) and now, like Ledbury, a large amount of its economy is based on tourism.  In case your columnist hasn't said this before, the Marches are a very beautiful part of the country.

The three-member Ledbury ward covers the whole of the town together with the smaller parishes of Eastnor to the east and Donnington to the south.  It returned an Independent, a Conservative and a Lib Dem councillor in 2003, but the Conservatives swept the ward in 2007 and held it a by-election on general election day in 2010, caused by one of the Conservative councillors being elected to the European Parliament.  At the most recent local election in 2011 the localist political party It's Our County (Herefordshire) split the ward again by taking one of the three Conservative seats.

The Leominster South ward is the south of the town itself together with a few hamlets which lie within the Leominster parish boundary.  In 2003 the two seats split Tory/Labour; the Conservatives gained the Labour seat in 2007 but then lost a by-election to an independent candidate in October 2008.  The Tory and Independent councillors were both re-elected in 2011.

Ledbury's by-election is a three-way fight.  Defending for the Tories is Allen Conway, a town councillor and former Mayor of Ledbury.  The present Mayor of Ledbury, 33-year-old sales manager Terry Widdows, is the It's Our County candidate.  UKIP's nominee is Paul Stanford, a former headteacher who has served in the Royal Navy; he gives an adress eight miles away in Weston Beggard.

In Leominster South the Tory defence is led by Wayne Rosser, community dog warden.  The independent candidate is Angela Pendleton, who ran the gold-medal-winning Leominster in Bloom team.  Nominated for the Green Party is Jenny Bartlett from Leintwardine, who describes herself as a "former mapping specialist"; perhaps she can explain how the new OS Election Maps website is better than the old.  (Hint: it isn't, although your columnist has been informed than an upgrade is in the works which may change that.)  Labour's Emma Pardoe is, like all the candidates previously mentioned, a Leominster town councillor; the odd candidate out in that respect is UKIP's Liz Portman-Lewis.

Parliamentary constituency: North Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford and Leominster

Allen Conway (C)
Paul Stanford (UKIP)
Terry Widdows (It's Our County (Herefordshire))

May 2011 result C 1403/1129/1300 It's Our County (Herefordshire) 1287/1013/809 LD 526/456/437 Lab 481
May 2010 by-election C 2438 LD 1769 Ind 713
May 2007 result C 1393/1331/1255 LD 976/799 Ind 820/255 Grn 693
May 2003 result Ind 1791/1272/982 C 1762/1186/859 LD 1496

Leominster South
Parliamentary constituency: North Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford and Leominster

May 2011 result C 787/427 Ind 660/233 Grn 268/240 Lab 160
Oct 2008 by-election Ind 515 C 397 Grn 200 LD 131
May 2007 result C 827/634 Grn 393 Ind 387 LD 267
May 2003 result C 1082/673 Lab 840/364 Grn 313/291 Ind 305 LD 304

Jennifer Bartlett (Grn)
Emma Pardoe (Lab)
Angela Pendleton (Ind)
Liz Portman-Lewis (UKIP)
Wayne Rosser (C)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

By-Election Previews: 10 July 2014

Five by-elections (four covered here, and one over on the Cornish Elections blog) and one deferred election on 10th July 2014:

Cheshire West and Chester council
Caused respectively by the death and resignation of Labour councillors David Robinson and Amy Mercer-Bailey.  David Robinson, who has died at the age of 67, was a former high school teacher who had been a local councillor on and off for over 30 years; he was Labour's parliamentary candidate for the City of Chester at the 1987 and 1992 general elections, losing to the Conservatives Peter Morrison and Gyles Brandreth respectively.  Mercer-Bailey, who was the youngest member of the council having been elected in 2011 at the age of 19, has taken up a new job which is politically restricted.

The Queen Hotel, Chester
Boughton is the first part of Chester that people see as they emerge from the city's railway station; a rather mixed area east of the ancient city centre and sandwiched between the railway line to the north and the River Dee to the south.

Winnington and Castle ward covers the centre and north of the town of Northwich.  Another Roman town at the confluence of the rivers Weaver and Dane, Northwich's economy has for millennia been based on salt.  The industry still leaves its mark on the town in the form of subsidence as the abandoned salt mines under the town slowly collapse; several lakes (known as "flashes") have been created by the subsidence.  Another legacy of the salt is a thriving chemical industry.

There has only been one election to CWaC council on these boundaries, which suggests that Boughton is safe Labour.  The present ward is the successor to the Boughton ward which existed on the old Chester city council; that ward was also safe Labour, although the Tories came within two points of winning at its final election in 2007.  In 2008 this area was part of the larger City ward, which voted Conservative by four points over Labour.  Winnington and Castle is a safer Labour area.  Its predecessor wards on the former Vale Royal council, Northwich Castle and Northwich Winnington, were both Labour in 2003; Northwich Winnington was actually unopposed at that election but narrowly voted Tory four years later.  The first Cheshire West and Chester council election in 2008 was a disaster for Labour as the Tories won every seat in Northwich, but Labour recovered their losses in 2011.  Both of these wards form part of parliamentary seats held by the Conservatives with small majorities, so Labour will be looking for a good performance here with the next general election less than ten months away.

The Boughton by-election is defended for Labour by Martyn Delaney, secretary of a local community group.  The Conservative candidate is Kate Vaughan.  Also standing are Mark Gant for the Lib Dems, Charles Dodman for UKIP and John McNamara for the Green Party.

Labour's candidate in Winnington and Castle is used to hard knocks; Sam Naylor plays for Northwich rugby club and is the club chairman.  The Tories' Jim Sinar is hoping to join his wife on the council; she sits for the Davenham and Moulton ward south of the town.  Also standing are Alice Chapman for the Lib Dems and Amos Wright for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency:
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chester and Flint
Postcode districts: CH1, CH2, CH3, CH88

Martyn Delaney (Lab)
Charles Dodman (UKIP)
Mark Gant (LD)
John McNamara (Grn)
Kate Vaughan (C)

May 2011 result Lab 960 C 744 LD 139

Winnington and Castle
Parliamentary constituency: Weaver Vale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crewe and Northwich
Postcode districts: CW8, CW9

Alice Chapman (LD)
Sam Naylor (Lab)
Jim Sinar (C)
Amos Wright (UKIP)

May 2011 result Lab 1041/995 C 744/704 LD 205 BNP 151

North Hertfordshire district council
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Green Party candidate Mark Davis.

The Post Office, Pirton
In the last piece of unfinished business from May, we travel to North Hertfordshire.  This ward covers the countryside between Hitchin, Luton and Stevenage; a grouping of nine parishes and eleven villages, the largest of which (with just over 1,000 electors) is Whitwell.  This is a prosperous area, full of commuters to the nearby large towns and, presumably, onwards to London.

North Hertfordshire district's current ward boundaries date from 2007, and this three-councillor ward bears the names of its three single-member predecessors.  All of those wards were safely Conservative, as are both of the Hertfordshire county council divisions which the ward is split between.  No prizes for guessing the political complexion of this ward, which was very safely held at its last election; a by-election on Police and Crime Commissioner election day in November 2012.

The winner of that by-election, Conservative councillor Faye Barnard, is standing for re-election; she lives in the village of Lilley on the edge of Luton.  She is opposed by Colin Rafferty for UKIP, Simon Watson for Labour, Peter Johnson for the Lib Dems and replacement Green candidate Orla Nicholls.

Parliamentary constituency: Hitchin and Harpenden
Hertfordshire county council division: Hitchin Rural (part: Hexton, King's Walden, Lilley, Offley, Pirton and Preston parishes); Knebworth and Codicote (part: Langley, St Ippolyts and St Paul's Walden parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stevenage (most of ward); Luton and Watford (Hexton parish, Lilley parish, part of Offley parish: Cockernhoe)
Postcode districts: LU2, SG4, SG5

Faye Barnard (C)
Peter Johnson (LD)
Orla Nicholls (Grn)
Colin Rafferty (UKIP)
Simon Watson (Lab)

Nov 2012 by-election C 774 UKIP 217 Lab 189 LD 110 Grn 72
May 2012 result C 1230 Lab 325 Grn 213 LD 147
May 2011 result C 1867 Lab 435 LD 285 Grn 215
May 2010 result C 2591 LD 821 Lab 522 Grn 251
May 2008 result C 1705 LD 243 Lab 226 Grn 160
May 2007 result C 1603/1516/1512 LD 503 Grn 486 Lab 391

Torridge district council, Devon
Caused by the resignation of independent councillor Kathy Murdoch.

Bus Shelter, Fairy Cross
Further along the north coast of the West Country can be found the tiny Kenwith ward, which covers three small parishes immediately to the west of Bideford.  The ward is named after Kenwith Castle, an eighteenth-century building in the far north of the ward, near Abbotsham, which now serves as a retirement home.

At its first election in 2003 Kenwith ward elected a councillor from the Community Alliance, a newly-formed independent group, against only independent opposition.  The Community Alliance proved short-lived and their councillor, Hugh Bone, stood for re-election in 2007 as an independent but narrowly lost to the Conservatives.  The Conservatives easily held the ward in 2011 with new candidate Kathy Murdoch; however, she resigned from the party a year later, having fallen out with the Tory leader of the council over him being a freemason.  The county division of which the ward is part (Bideford South and Hartland) has a similarly convoluted recent history, having voted Lib Dem in 2005, Tory in 2009 and UKIP last year.

Two independent candidates have come forward to replace Murdoch: they are Hugh Bone, the district councillor for this ward from 2003 to 2007, and David Gale, an architect from Bideford.  The Tories want their seat back, and have selected Alison Boyle who was the county councillor for the ward from 2009 until losing her seat in 2013.  The Lib Dems, who were second in 2011, have thrown in the towel.  Labour have reselected their 2011 candidate Geoff Hastings.  Completing the ballot paper are the Greens' Simon Mathers and UKIP's Derek Sargent.

Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
Devon county council division: Bideford South and Hartland
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bideford
Postcode district: EX39

Hugh Bone (Ind)
Alison Boyle (C)
David Gale (Ind)
Geoff Hastings (Lab)
Simon Mathers (Grn)
Derek Sargent (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 406 LD 162 Lab 153
May 2007 result C 333 Ind 278
May 2003 result Community Alliance 263 Ind 237

Barnsley metropolitan borough council, South Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Peter Starling at the age of 67.  A Penistone town councillor since the 1980s, Starling was in his first term on the borough council; he was also a school governor and involved with a local dance group.

Market Street, Penistone
High up in the foothills of the Peak District, the town of Penistone can be found eight miles to the west of Barnsley.  Barnsley district's economy is traditionally based on coal-mining; however, while there is some coal under Penistone, the main drivers of the town have historically been its market and the railways. The town was once a major junction on the Great Central main line and there was a depot here for engineering trains.  Closed in the Beeching cuts, the Great Central ran west from Penistone into the Dark Peak, eventually entering the long Woodhead Tunnel at Dunford Bridge.  No trains run through Woodhead any longer; although there was a slightly mad scheme to route a Manchester-Sheffield motorway through the tunnel, it's now owned by the National Grid who have routed high-voltage power lines through it in preference to having to build pylons through the Peak District National Park.  Deprived of the tunnel, Manchester-Sheffield road traffic (and the Tour de France, last weekend) continues to take the Woodhead Pass through the ward before dropping down into Langsett, an accident blackspot whose casualty rate rivals even the Stocksbridge Bypass further towards Sheffield.

Penistone is essentially the only Tory foothold in Barnsley, but West's Conservative vote isn't as strong as that in Penistone East ward (which is essentially all villages).  The Tories won all elections in the ward from 2006 to 2011 (including a July 2006 by-election) fairly easily, but 2012 saw Peter Starling win the ward for Labour at the fifth attempt by a margin of just 52 votes.  The result here in May's ordinary election was even closer with Labour 42 votes ahead of the Tories, who in turn were 82 votes ahead of UKIP.

With UKIP turning the ward into a three-way marginal anything could happen here.  Defending for Labour is Barnsley-based David Griffin.  The other three candidates have all continued in the same roles they performed in May's election: former councillor Andrew Millner, who lost his seat in May, will try to get straight back on the council for the Tories; fish and chip shop owner David Wood stands again for UKIP, and Penistone town councillor Steve Webber is an independent candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Penistone and Stocksbridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnsley
Postcode districts: HD8, HD9, S36

May 2014 result Lab 1015 C 973 UKIP 891 Ind 635
May 2012 result Lab 1389 C 1337 LD 190
May 2011 result C 1836 Lab 1298 Ind 558 BNP 195
May 2010 result C 2871 Lab 2047 BNP 512 Barnsley Ind Group 460
May 2008 result C 1439 Ind 654 BNP 550 Lab 448 Grn 295
May 2007 result C 1451 Ind 912 Lab 562 Grn 307 BNP 303
July 2006 by-election C 897 Lab 558 Grn 328
May 2006 result C 1012 Barnsley Ind Group 808 Lab 763 BNP 399
June 2004 result C 1815/1391/797 Ind 1779 Lab 1194/597/572 BNP 456

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

By-Election Previews: 2/3 July 2014

Two Wednesday by-elections on 2nd July 2014:

Craven district council, and

North Yorkshire county council
Both caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Polly English at the age of 71.  A former Mayor of Skipton, English's passions were foreign travel and dogs; she ran a dog grooming business called Hair of the Dog, and had exhibited at Crufts.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Skipton
Bienvenüe à Skipton.  Bienvenüe au Grand Départ du Tour de France 2014.  Yes, the annual bicycle race around France is coming to Yorkshire for its start this year, and the first stage will pass through the ancient market town of Skipton.  The largest town in the Craven district, Skipton is a thriving market town located on the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool canal.  A castle was built here during Norman times, and the town developed around it; the wide street leading up to the castle is still the location of regular markets.  The nineteenth century brought the canal to Skipton, which became a standard Yorkshire textile town; today the local economy is based on financial services (the large Skipton Building Society is still based here), commuting to the large cities of West Yorkshire (there are frequent electric trains to both Leeds and Bradford) and tourism; as well as the town being a base for the Yorkshire Dales, the amount of Tour-related tat that has been sold here over the last few months is a sight to behold.

One unexpected electoral effect of this year's Tour has been to bump these by-elections to Wednesday rather than the usual Thursday polling day, in order to allow a bit of breathing space (the Tour and associated road closures will bring quite a lot of disruption to the town).  Despite its name, the Skipton West ward covers the south-western corner of the town, around the town's railway station and along the roads towards Clitheroe and Keighley.  The Skipton West county division also takes in Skipton North ward, which covers the town centre, the castle and the residential and industrial areas in the north-west of the town.

Recent electoral races in Skipton West have always been won by the English candidate in yellow; an omen for this year's Tour, perhaps?  Polly and her husband Paul had been the two district councillors for over a decade, having won all contests from 2002 (when the present ward was drawn up) to 2008 in a safe Lib Dem ward which was normally a straight fight with the Conservatives.  The last two district elections have been more interesting; Polly was re-elected in 2011 with a majorty of just seven votes over the Conservatives with Labour and independent candidate Bernard Clarke not far behind; Paul secured re-election in 2012 rather more comfortably ahead of a closely-bunched peloton of Clarke, Labour and the Tories.

Polly English had served as Skipton West's county councillor since at least 2005, when she won easily over the Tories; however, the Lib Dem majority was cut to 3.5 points in the 2009 election with the intervention of Labour and the BNP; the BNP candidate Andrew Brons finished last with 10% of the vote but got the consolation prize of being elected to the European Parliament on the same day.  The 2013 election saw a crowded and fragmented field enabling the Lib Dems to win with just 29% of the vote; an independent candidate came second with 24%, the Tories got 20% and the Green Party and Labour also polled respectably.

In the district by-election Edward Walker will try to hold the seat for the Lib Dems; he is the chairman of the Skipton and Ripon constituency branch of the party.  Independent candidate Bernard Clarke, a retained firefighter and town councillor for the ward, tries again after his runner-up finish two years ago.  The Labour candidate is Peter Madeley, described as a family man who has lived in Skipton for 30 years.  The Conservatives are standing Tim Hudson-Brunt, chairman of the Skipton branch of the Royal Naval Association.  Also standing are Roger Baxandall (the only candidate from outside the town) for UKIP and John Launder for the Green Party.

The county by-election sees Paul English try to replace his wife as Lib Dem county councillor.  He is up against another district councillor, independent Andy Solloway of Skipton South ward, who runs a guitar shop and was runner-up last year, and former district councillor and town councillor Paul Whitaker for the Conservatives.  The Green Party candidate is Claire Nash, a former Leeds city councillor who now lives in the town.  Labour's candidate is forensic parapsychologist Andy Rankine, a former Mayor of Skipton and town councillor for 14 years, who was the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hyndburn in 2010 before defecting.  The UKIP candidate, again Roger Baxandall, completes the ballot paper.

Skipton West (district ward)
Parliamentary constituency: Skipton and Ripon
North Yorkshire county council division: Skipton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Craven
Postcode district: BD23

Roger Baxandall (UKIP)
Bernard Clarke (Ind)
Tim Hudson-Brunt (C)
John Launder (Grn)
Peter Madeley (Lab)
Edward Walker (LD)

May 2012 result LD 379 Ind 228 Lab 218 C 213
May 2011 result LD 311 C 304 Lab 250 Ind 203 Ind 80
May 2008 result LD 592 C 449
May 2007 result LD 629 C 387
May 2003 result LD 473 C 233
May 2002 result LD 589/575 C 279/261

Skipton West (county division)
Parliamentary constituency: Skipton and Ripon
Craven district council wards: Skipton North, Skipton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Craven
Postcode district: BD23

Roger Baxandall (UKIP)
Paul English (LD)
Claire Nash (Grn)
Andy Rankine (Lab)
Andy Solloway (Ind)
Paul Whitaker (C)

May 2013 result LD 572 Ind 471 C 407 Grn 312 Lab 234
June 2009 result LD 956 C 875 Lab 272 BNP 242
May 2005 result LD 1714 C 1162 Ind 639

Six by-elections and two deferred elections on 3rd July 2014:

London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Tower Hamlets First candidate Hifzur Rahman on the eve of polling day.

"A shambles of an election, which would disgrace a banana republic"
- George Galloway, 6th May 2005

Glengall Grove, Cubitt Town
Where do I start with this one?

Perhaps best to start with the location.  This is a riverfront ward covering the north-eastern corner of the Isle of Dogs.  Look over the river to the east and you see the white upturned saucer of the Millennium Dome; look in the opposite direction to the west and the enormous office towers of Canary Wharf dominate the eyeline.  In the middle is Cubitt Town which lies on the eastern shore of the Isle of Dogs; named after an 1860s Lord Mayor of London who did much to turn the Victorian Isle of Dogs into an industrial centre, Cubitt Town is a classic mixed London community in which old-established East End families, immigrants from Bangladesh and East Asia and middle-class Canary Wharf employees live cheek-by-jowl.  Cubitt Town is served by the Crossharbour station on the Lewisham branch of the Docklands Light Railway, while Blackwall itself, further downstream, is served by the DLR's East India station (Blackwall station lies just outside the ward boundary).

From the 2002 election the Dogs were divided into two wards, with Blackwall and Cubitt Town covering the eastern half of the peninsula and Millwall ward covering the western half.  Both wards were safe for Labour, who led the Conservatives by sixteen points in Blackwall and twenty-nine points in Millwall.  Top of the poll in Millwall ward that year was a Labour candidate called Alan Amos, whom people who have been following British politics for a long time might recall as a rather right-wing Tory MP for Hexham from 1987 to 1992.

But by 2002 major demographic change in the peninsula was already afoot.  The driving force behind this is Canary Wharf and the sheer amount of money the London financial markets can generate for the people who play them (or could generate up until it all went sour around 2008 or so).  With Millwall and Cubitt Town being within easy walking distance of the business centre and offering the chance of riverside living at a cheaper price than Wapping or the Surrey Docks, the population of the Isle of Dogs boomed, and it was a middle-class population boom.  The Tories started to take Tower Hamlets seriously, and won a by-election in Millwall ward in 2005.  A year later all six of the Dogs' council seats were in Tory hands, and Millwall - thanks to a 20% swing -  already looked safe, Amos losing his seat (he later reappeared as a Labour councillor in Worcester, or at least he was until a few weeks ago when he resigned from the party and voted in a Tory administration on the hung Worcester city council in exchange for the city's mayoralty).  The 2010 election saw Labour fight back a little bit, and with a much higher turnout thanks to the coincident general election Labour came within 17 votes of taking the final Conservative seat in Blackwall and Cubitt Town.

While all this was going on politics was also happening in the rest of the Tower Hamlets, which despite the presence of Canary Wharf remains a generally poor and heavily immigrant area, as the East End has been for centuries.  Since the seventeenth century the original wave of Huguenot immigrants has been replaced by Irish, Jewish and presently Bangladeshis; the 2002 ward review even named a ward as "Spitalfields and Banglatown".  The two Labour councillors elected in that ward in 2006 were Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman, and a power struggle ensued between them for the leadership of the Labour group and the council.  The power struggle had an ethnic dimension, with most of Rahman's supporters within the Labour group being Bangladeshi and most of the Bangladeshi councillors opposed to him being on the opposite side of the main division in Bangladesh's politics - between Jawaat-e-Islami and the Awami League.  In the meantime the anti-Iraq war party Respect, whose support is overwhelmingly Muslim, had scored a breakthrough to win twelve seats on Tower Hamlets council at the 2006 election, but their council group quickly fell apart and some of their councillors defected to Labour.  Those defections affected the split within the Labour group and enabled Rahman to oust Abbas for the leadership of the council in 2008.

Rahman's administration got a lot of bad press, particularly after he forced the council's chief executive out of his job, and various allegations were made that council funds were being used improperly.  While his administration was going on, the voters of Tower Hamlets got up a petition to install a directly elected mayor for the borough, and this was confirmed in a referendum held simultaneously with the 2010 general and council elections.  With Labour's majority strengthened as a result of the council election, Abbas got the leadership back off Rahman, but both of them then ran for the Labour nomination in the borough's inaugural mayoral election, held in October 2010.  The selection contest was extremely messy, and Abbas ended up with the Labour nomination despite finishing third in the vote, while Rahman ran as an independent.  Rahman won the mayoralty in the first round.  His election as Mayor saw the Labour group on the council split, with Rahmanite councillors walking off to form a substantial group that eventually became "Tower Hamlets First".  In terms of bad press, well, Rahman's mayoralty has continued in the same vein that his leadership did.

The 2011 census found that Millwall had the biggest population of any ward in London and was becoming grossly oversized relative to the average Tower Hamlets ward.  Recognising that a re-warding was needed, the Local Government Boundary Commission stepped in.  The resulting review lopped six seats off the council, reflecting its new mayoral strucutre, but the Isle of Dogs still ended up gaining a seat: the old three-seat Millwall ward was divided into a pair of two-seat wards called Canary Wharf and Island Gardens; covering the southern end of the peninsula, Island Gardens also took in the southern end of Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward.  Despite this, Blackwall and Cubitt Town kept its three seats.  This postponed poll is the first election on these new boundaries, so there is little track record to go on; however, the reaction of the ward's Tory councillors makes clear that the new Blackwall is more Labour-inclined than the old.  One of the outgoing Tory councillors stood down while the other two tried their luck in the new Island Gardens ward.

Few of those watching the TV coverage of the 2005 general election will forget the attack that newly-elected George Galloway gave the Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets over what he saw as a "shambles of an election which would disgrace a banana republic".  God only knows what he would have said had he been present at the black farce which Tower Hamlets Electoral Services served up for us nine years later.  Counting in the Mayoral election started at 9.30am on Friday morning.  Twelve hours later, it was reported that the agents were going through over 2,000 spoilt ballots; shortly afterwards the declaration was suspended after the police put the counting hall into lockdown due to a riot outside.  The mayoral declaration eventually came after 1.30am on Saturday, after which counting started on the council election results.  This got suspended at around 10.45am on Saturday with six wards unfinished, at which point some of the count staff had been there for over 24 hours, because somebody else had booked the hall from noon.

Counting resumed at 2pm on Sunday in parallel with the European election count and it was quickly apparent that things were going wrong.  By 8pm the Deputy Returning Officer for London had turned up wanting to know why the European count was running late, and the delays just kept coming.  At 2.45am Monday the counting team gave up, phoned its European election result through (around two hours after everyone else had finished) and went home.  Bromley South ward was still undeclared; it took until 8.30pm Tuesday for this final declaration to happen, 118-and-a-half hours after polls closed.  Northern Ireland can count a province-wide Single Transferable Vote election, by hand, more quickly than that; and even the normally-supine Electoral Commission have took notice and are trying to work out what the hell happened at the count.

Out of this sustained incompetence, what did we eventually end up with?  Well, the two seats in Island Gardens (which was the penultimate ward to declare, around midnight Sunday) split between Labour and the Conservatives, and the Tories also lost a seat in Canary Wharf ward to Tower Hamlets First.  That would suggest to me that the Tory vote in the Dogs has fallen back since 2010, but whether this benefits Labour or Tower Hamlets First is anybody's guess.  In the wider mayoral election, Rahman was fairly narrowly re-elected; he had a big lead on first preferences but in the run-off almost all the transfers went to the Labour candidate, London Assembly member John Biggs.

However, this isn't going to be the end of the story as a legal challenge (an "election petition") has been brought against the mayoral result alleging electoral fraud by Tower Hamlets First in a variety of ways, together with various breaches of the rules by the Returning Officer or his staff.  The petition has been brought by four Tower Hamlets electors from four different parties.  This will take a few months to reach the court, and English Elections will of course keep an eye on proceedings as they develop.

In the meantime, Tower Hamlets electoral services have the daunting task, given their track record, of conducting a postponed poll in Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward.  The revised candidate list has major changes from the original one and the number of candidates standing for election has increased from twelve to twenty-one.  This section is already far too long and I can do little more than enumerate their names here.   The Conservative slate consists of Christopher Chapman, Geeta Kasanga and newly-nominated Gloria Thienel, outgoing councillor for the previous Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward who is standing for re-election here after being defeated in the new Island Gardens ward; she replaces originally-nominated Christopher Donnelly.  The Labour slate is Dave Chesterton, Anisur Rahman and Candida Ronald.  For Tower Hamlets First, Hifzur Rahman has of course died; Faruk Khan remains on the ballot paper, but Khadar Ismail has been dropped, with he and Hifzur Rahman replaced by Kabir Ahmed and Mohammed Aktaruzzaman.  For the Liberal Democrats, Richard Flowers has been joined by newly-nominated Elaine Bagshaw and Christopher Chapman.  Two more parties that have taken the opportunity to stand a full slate, having had only one candidate originally, are UKIP (Diana Lochner being joined by Anthony Registe and Paul Shea) and the Greens (Katy Guttman and Chris Smith joining up with Mark Lomas).  The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have put up a slate of two (Ellen Kenyon Peers and John Peers) and the ballot paper is completed by Mohammed Rahman, standing as an independent candidate.

So, a fascinating election full of questions.  Who will win out?  Rich or poor?  Tory or Labour?  Tower Hamlets First or the rest?  We just don't know - but let's see if we can get a result within 118 hours this time, please.

Parliamentary constituency: Bow and Poplar
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: E14

Kabir Ahmed (THF)
Mohammed Aktaruzzaman (THF)
Elaine Bagshaw (LD)
Christopher Chapman (C)
Dave Chesterton (Lab)
Stephen Clarke (LD)
Richard Flowers (LD)
Katy Guttmann (Grn)
Geeta Kasanga (C)
Ellen Kenyon Peers (TUSC)
Faruk Khan (THF)
Diana Lochner (UKIP)
Mark Lomas (Grn)
John Peers (TUSC)
Anisur Rahman (Lab)
Mohammed Rahman (Ind)
Anthony Registe (UKIP)
Candida Ronald (Lab)
Paul Shea (UKIP)
Chris Smith (Grn)
Gloria Thienel (C)

No previous results on these boundaries

Colchester borough council, Essex
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Steve Ford at the age of 63.  A former Mayor of Wivenhoe, Ford had served as a Colchester borough councillor since 2004; he worked as a teacher in Clacton-on-Sea and had a passion for sports, political history and philosophy.

Wivenhoe Railway Station
After that last preview, I think I need to get out of London quickly, so let's take the DLR to Stratford for a hop onto the express train to Colchester, changing there for the local train to Wivenhoe.  The small town of Wivenhoe is on the Colne estuary downstream from Colchester, and its history is bound up with the sea; fishing and boat-building are the town's traditional industries.  Wivenhoe developed a line in building racing yachts for the Victorian nobility, and a lot of the crews for those yachts also came from the town; it's said that traditionally most of the Cowes week skippers came from here or the surrounding area.  While boatbuilding in Wivenhoe is no more, the town's maritime heritage is commemorated in the name of the Wivenhoe One boat class, and the Wivenhoe Quay ward which covers the southern three-quarters of the town.

With the decline of the maritime industries, Wivenhoe has become a commuter area thanks to its rail link to Colchester, with a fair number of trains running beyond Colchester as far as London.  Today the main driver of the local economy is the University of Essex, whose campus can be found just north of the town and forms the basis of the town's other district council ward, Wivenhoe Cross.  While relatively few students live in this ward a fair number of the residents are university staff, which has enabled the town's Bohemian reputation (which pre-dated the University) to continue.

In Britain, Bohemian reputations and slightly unexpected voting patterns tend to go hand in hand.  So it is in Wivenhoe, which has an unusually large Labour vote for a town of its size in Essex, and under the present political climate Wivenhoe Quay is a safe Labour ward.  Not that it was always so: at its first election in 2002 Labour won only one of the two seats in the ward, the other going to independent candidate Richard Davies.  Davies was easily re-elected in 2003 but died not long into his term of office, and Steve Ford narrowly won the by-election (in April 2004) for Labour; he was just twelve votes ahead of the Conservatives who were themselves only 33 votes ahead of the Lib Dems.  In the meantime the ward's other Labour councillor had fallen out with the party and stood for re-election in June 2004 as an independent, splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Tories to win easily.  Ford was re-elected in 2007 by just two votes from the Conservatives; his last re-election in 2011 was much more comfortable and Labour followed up by gaining the ward's other seat from the Conservatives at the 2012 district council election.  At county level Wivenhoe Quay is part of the Wivenhoe St Andrew division, which also includes the University of Essex campus and one ward of Colchester proper; this is a safe Labour division, and in 2009 was the only Essex county division to return a Labour councillor.

The gyrations in the ward's election results over the last decade suggest that this is an area where personal votes matter.  The Labour candidate for the by-election is Ros Scott, a local teacher with a background in environmental science.  The Tories are hoping to pick up some personal votes of their own by selecting Peter Hill, who has served several times as Mayor of Wivenhoe and is involved in a number of local societies.  The Greens and Lib Dems have both selected locals who fought the county division last year, Tim Glover and Shaun Broughton respectively.  The other two candidates are from villages on the far side of Colchester; they are Dave Osborn of the "Patriotic Socialist Party" (a new party which fought last month's Newark by-election and polled risibly; judging from a lengthy thread on the Vote UK forum, the party tries to be earnest and serious and comes over as neither), and the ward's first UKIP candidate, local PPC John Pitts.

I am grateful to "East Anglian Lefty" from the Vote UK forum for help with this preview and the next.

Parliamentary constituency: Harwich and North Essex
Essex county council division: Wivenhoe St Andrew
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester
Postcode district: CO7

Shaun Broughton (LD)
Tim Glover (Grn)
Peter Hill (C)
Dave Osborn (PatSoc)
John Pitts (UKIP)
Rosalind Scott (Lab)

May 2012 result Lab 915 C 559 Grn 159 LD 122
May 2011 result Lab 1279 C 573 Grn 217 LD 172
May 2008 result C 678 Lab 518 Grn 513 LD 132
May 2007 result Lab 648 C 646 Grn 366 LD 147
June 2004 result C 629 Ind 476 Lab 322 LD 293
Apr 2004 by-election Lab 626 C 614 LD 581
May 2003 result Ind 488 C 394 Lab 336 Grn 142
May 2002 result Lab 592/523 Ind 567 C 412/399 Grn 231

Tendring district council, Essex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Sarah Candy at the age of 47.  A mother of three and successful businesswoman, Candy was an Essex county councillor for twelve years and a Tendring district councillor since 2003, and had served on the cabinets of both councils.

The Fountain at Mistley
It's become a running theme of this column over the years that every few months we visit somewhere that claims to be the UK's largest village.  This will be an exception to that rule, for Manningtree - a few miles north-east of  Colchester off the road and railway line to Ipswich - claims to be the UK's smallest town.  True, the Manningtree parish is tiny (less than 50 acres of land plus a few acres washed over by the high tide) but that's mainly because the parish boundaries haven't kept pace with the growth of the town which has spilled over into the neighbouring parishes of Lawford (which contains Manningtree's railway station) and Mistley.  Lawford is not part of this ward, but Mistley parish is; the first stop on the Harwich branch line, Mistley is probably best known for its Cold War bunker, now bizarrely being turned into homes.  Inland in this rather awkward ward are the parishes of Little Bentley and Tendring itself; the name of Tendring council came from the ancient Tendring hundred of Essex, and it's a source of debate whether the hundred is named after the village or the village took its name from the hundred.  This ward was once the previously the home of Margaret Thatcher and the Witchfinder General, although not at the same time; I'll leave you to make up your own mind as to whether or not this lack of coincidence was a good thing.

The cumbersomely-named and -drawn Manningtree, Mistley, Little Bentley and Tendring ward has seen the Tories slowly advance over the last decade to take the ward from the Lib Dems; the ward was won by the Lib Dems in 2003, by the Tories in 2011, and the 2007 election saw the parties split the two seats.  The last local election here was to Essex county council in 2013; UKIP ran riot in much of Tendring district, but the Tories held the county division covering this ward (Tendring Rural West) without too much trouble.  Sarah Candy was the previous county councillor but stood down at that election.

All four candidates come from the Manningtree area.  Defending for the Conservatives is Alan Coley, the chairman of Lawford parish council.  Trying to get back on the council after more than a decade away is the Lib Dems' Rosemary Smith, a former chair of Tendring district council.  The UKIP candidate is Mark Cole, chairman of the Harwich and North Essex branch of the party whose Twitter describes him as a hard-working professional.  Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Jo Richardson, a former district councillor in the town of Brightlingsea some miles to the south; she works in Colchester teaching English as a foreign language.

Parliamentary constituency: Harwich and North Essex
Essex county council division: Tendring Rural West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester
Postcode districts: CO7, CO11, CO16

Mark Cole (UKIP)
Alan Coley (C)
Jo Richardson (Lab)
Rosemary Smith (LD)

May 2011 result C 759/724 LD 656/367 Grn 407
May 2007 result C 634/586 LD 600/518 Lab 135/120
May 2003 result LD 547/511 C 438/403 Lab 154

Northamptonshire county council
Caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative councillors Steven Slatter and Catherine Boardman.  Slatter's resignation, after just a year in office, is due to his taking up a new job in London, while Boardman - who was the county council's cabinet member for children and education and was credited with turning around the county's poorly-rated children's services - is concentrating on her farming business.

Entrance to Braunston Marina
These two rural divisions border each other along Northamptonshire's northern boundary.  The Braunston and Crick division runs from the village of Stanford on Avon to the north to Braunston (a junction on the Grand Union Canal) to the south.  It is centred on junction 18 of the M1, the motorway's original northern terminus, and hence its economy is based around distribution; just off junction 18 is the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, at which a large amount of freight is transferred from road to rail and vice versa.  The Notice of Poll shows that Braunston and Crick are the division's largest villages with over 1400 electors each, and around 3800 electors are accounted for by the division's other eight parishes (the smallest of which, Clay Coton and Stanford, muster fewer than 100 electors between them).  However, a significant part of the division - around 2800 electors - is actually located within the town of Daventry.

The Brixworth division covers no fewer than twenty-two parishes to the south of Market Harborough, but 45% of its electors are accounted for by the village of Brixworth itself.  Five miles north of Northampton on the main road to Market Harborough, Brixworth is the home of a Mercedes factory which manufactures engines for three Formula One motor racing teams; cast stone is also a major local employer.  One of the smaller parishes within the division is Naseby, site of the decisive battle of the English Civil War.

Northamptonshire got new division boundaries in 2013 and Daventry district council, within which both these divisions lie, was re-warded in 2012 which makes it difficult to discern trends going back into the past.  The three county divisions covering all or part of this area (Braunston, Brixworth and Uplands) were all very safe Conservative in 2005 and 2009; while Brixworth was held safely by the Tories in 2013 Braunston and Crick turned into a very close three-way fight, the Tories eventually winning with 34% to 31% for UKIP and 30% for Labour.

The Labour vote in Braunston and Crick will come from the south end of the division: Daventry (many of whose residents come from Birmingham overspill developments) has a significant number of Labour voters, while Braunston - anomalously for such a rural village - votes strongly Labour.  In addition, Barby and Kilsby ward - which since 2012 covers Crick - is hard-fought between the Tories and Lib Dems at local level.  To add spice, the part of Daventry within the division forms about half of Abbey North ward, which voted UKIP in May by 13 votes over the Conservatives, Labour again polling well.  In Brixworth division the Tories hold all the district council seats (or did until one of their councillors defected to UKIP), mostly with very large majorities; since 2012 the Tories have easily held two by-elections in Brixworth district ward and a further by-election in the other ward within the division (Welford).

Dealing with the less interesting (on previous form) Brixworth first, the defending Tory candidate is Cecile Irving-Swift, who was very easily re-elected in May as district councillor for Welford ward.  The UKIP candidate is Stephen Pointer, the Conservative defector and winner of the Brixworth district by-election held in November 2012.  Labour have reselected Robert McNally and the Greens have reselected Steve Whiffen, both of whom fought the division in 2013.  Completing the ballot paper is the Lib Dems' Daniel Jones, who gives an address some distance away in Rushden and therefore is likely to be a paper candidate.

Braunston and Crick will be a three-way fight, the Lib Dems having thrown in the towel.  Defending for the Tories is Malcolm Longley, who runs a railway engineering company.  UKIP are standing Eric MacAnndrais, a Daventry town councillor who runs a taxi firm, while Labour have reselected their 2013 candidate and Braunston district councillor Abigail Campbell.

Braunston and Crick
Parliamentary constituency: Daventry
Daventry district council wards: Abbey North (part); Barby and Kilsby; Braunston and Welton; Yelvertoft (part: Clay Coton, Lilbourne, Stanford and Yelvertoft parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rugby (Barby and Kilsby ward and part of Yelvertoft ward), Northampton and Wellingborough (Braunston and Welton ward and part of Abbey North ward)
Postcode districts: CV23, NN6, NN11

Abigail Campbell (Lab)
Malcolm Longley (C)
Eric MacAnndrais (UKIP)

May 2013 result C 1008 UKIP 932 Lab 884 LD 138

Parliamentary constituency: Daventry
Daventry district council wards: Brixworth; Welford; Yelvertoft (part: Cold Ashby, Elkington, Thornby and Winwick parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rugby (part of Yelvertoft ward), Northampton and Wellingborough (Brixworth and Welton wards)
Postcode districts: CV23, LE16, NN6

Cecile Irving-Swift (C)
Daniel Jones (LD)
Robert McNally (Lab)
Stephen Pointer (UKIP)
Stephen Whiffen (Grn)

May 2013 result C 1683 UKIP 826 Lab 436 Grn 221 LD 133

Northampton borough council
Caused by the death of councillor Terry Wire, who was the leader of the Labour group, at the age of 73.  A former firefighter, Wire had served as both Mayor of Northampton and chairman of Northamptonshire county council.

National Lift Tower, Northampton
Staying in Northamptonshire, we move into Northampton itself.  The St James ward lies immediately west of Northampton town centre and railway station along the road towards Daventry, and includes two of the town's most recognisable landmarks: the Sixfields football stadium, home of Northampton Town and (er) Coventry City football clubs, the Franklin's Gardens rugby union stadium, home of Northampton Saints, and the "Northampton Lighthouse" - a tower over 400 feet tall built in the 1980s and used for testing lifts, the National Lift Tower (to give its correct name) is one of the UK's most recently-built listed buildings.

Northampton was comprehensively re-warded in 2011 and the present single-member St James ward bears little relation to the previous two-member ward and single-member county division of that name, which was normally a Labour-Conservative marginal (voting Labour in 2003 and 2005 and  Tory at the 2009 county election) but voted Lib Dem in the 2007 borough election.  The Lib Dems fell back badly in Northampton in 2011 having made a hash of running the council in the preceding four years, and the redrawn St James ward reverted to a close Labour-Tory fight, Labour's Terry Wire - one of the district councillors elected for the old ward in 2003 - winning by 33 votes.  At county level the area is now divided between the divisions of Dallington Spencer (safe Labour) and Sixfields (a three-way marginal which voted Lib Dem in 2013 by 52 votes over the Conservatives).

With ten months to go to the next general election, this is by-election in a Labour/Conservative marginal ward within a Conservative/Labour marginal seat, and is therefore worth watching.  Defending for Labour is Rufia Ashraf, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as an "individual and family services professional".  She is up against Tory candidate Andrew Kilbride, a sales manager for a printing company.  The Lib Dems have nominated Jill Hope, their county councillor for Sixfields division.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's John Howsam, who fought the Northampton North constituency in 2005.

Parliamentary constituency: Northampton South
Northamptonshire county council divisions: Dallington Spencer (part), Sixfields (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton and Wellingborough
Postcode districts: NN1, NN4, NN5

Rufia Ashraf (Lab)
Jill Hope (LD)
John Howsam (UKIP)
Andrew Kilbride (C)

May 2011 result Lab 419 C 386 LD 208 Ind 198

Cheltenham borough council, Gloucestershire
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of independent candidate Mark Daniel.  Daniel was a member of the UK Independence Party and was believed to be standing as an independent due to a problem with his nomination papers.

Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve
Located in the south-east of Cheltenham, the Charlton Park ward is named after the Charlton Park mansion and its estate.  The house itself, now part of a school, goes back to the thirteenth century, but residential development didn't start until 1935, while the estate which forms the main part of the ward dates from the early 1980s.

The current Charlton Park was was drawn up in 2002 and was safe Conservative throughout the later Blair and Brown years.  The May 2010 result marked a departure from this pattern, the general election turnout enabling the Lib Dems to come within four points of the Tories; interestingly, the ward remained marginal at the 2012 election rather than reverting to type.  The Lib Dems hold the local county division (Charlton Park and College) which also includes the strongly Lib Dem College ward.

Although the Lib Dems have a strong majority on Cheltenham council, it's not clear whether their strong performance in 2012 was due to a strong pro-Lib Dem or a strong anti-Tory vote.   This question may well be answered by this postponed poll, which will see the first election in this ward for a decade which is not a straight Tory/Lib Dem fight.  The incumbent Conservative councillor Penny Hall is seeking re-election.  The Lib Dem candidate, fighting the ward for the third time, is Paul Baker; a former borough councillor, Baker has a high local profile as chairman of the local League Two football team Cheltenham Town.  The Labour candidate is John Bride.  This time UKIP have managed to get their candidate succesfully nominated as a UKIP candidate; they are standing university lecturer Justin Dunne.  Another new addition to the ballot paper who wasn't nominated for the original election, Green Party candidate Wayne Spiller, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Cheltenham
Gloucestershire county council division: Charlton Park and College
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cheltenham and Evesham
Postcode districts: GL52, GL53

Paul Baker (LD)
John Bride (Lab)
Justin Dunne (UKIP)
Penny Hall (C)
Wayne Spiller (Grn)

May 2012 result C 898 LD 794
May 2010 result C 1641 LD 1512
May 2008 result C 1285 LD 607
May 2006 result C 1236 LD 693
June 2004 result C 1284 LD 583 Lab 138
May 2002 result C 1179/1109 LD 567/542 Lab 93

Pendle borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor John David due to poor health.  First elected to Pendle council in 1986, David had served as deputy leader of Pendle council, leader of the Lib Dem group and as Mayor of Pendle in 1992/3.

St. Anne's Church, Fence
For the week's final preview it's off to East Lancashire.  Up in the Forest of Pendle, the ward and parish of Old Laund Booth is based on the village of Fence.  While Pendle district is dominated by the towns of Nelson and Colne which have run together and absorbed several neighbouring settlements into the urban sprawl, Fence remains an independent village on the southern slopes of Pendle Hill.  Old Laund Booth parish also includes the smaller village of Wheatley Lane together with part of an industrial estate which has spilled over the parish boundary from Nelson.

David had been the parish's borough councillor for a long time and had a significant personal vote.  He won every election here in the Noughties by a distance, his vote peaking in 2002 at 85% in a straight fight with the Conservatives.  However, David came very close to losing his seat in the 2011 election in which the Conservatives cut his majority to just ten votes.  The Conservatives do better elsewhere in the Pendle West county division, which is safe for them.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Brian Newman, the chairman of Old Laund Booth parish council.  Jill Hartley, the Conservative candidate who came so close in 2011, has been reselected. Another Hartley on the ballot paper is Kieron Hartley of the newly-formed Blue Party, which fought a handful of Pendle wards in May's borough elections.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Michael Waddington.

Parliamentary constituency: Pendle
Lancashire county council division: Pendle West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burnley, Nelson and Colne
Postcode districts: BB9, BB12

Jill Hartley (C)
Kieron Hartley (Blue Party)
Brian Newman (LD)
Michael Waddington (UKIP)

May 2011 result LD 367 C 357 Lab 32
May 2007 result LD 462 C 212 Lab 26
May 2003 result LD 555 C 138
May 2002 result LD 639 C 116

Monday, 23 June 2014

By-election Previews: 26 June 2014

Two polls on 26th June 2014.  These are not strictly by-elections, but the first two of five ordinary local elections which were scheduled for 22nd May but had to be postponed after one of the candidates died between close of nominations and polling.  Both of these polls are in Tory/Labour marginal constituencies, and with the general election less than a year away are worth analysing for that reason alone.

London Borough of Barnet
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Green Party candidate Jessica Yorke.

Colindale Tube Station
This is a twentieth-century outer suburb of London, hard up against the Edgware Road on the west side and the Midland Main Line and M1 motorway on the east side.  The ward has more than its fair share of industry and institutions, thanks to the land here by the end of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth century being available and relatively cheap for a Middlesex location.  Here were successively developed the asylum Colindale Hospital, a government vaccine facility which is still used today, a British Library depository which turned into the UK's major newspaper library (until it closed last year; work to transfer the library to St Pancras is in progress) and several large factories including Frigidaire, which from 1923 sold the UK's first automatic domestic fridges from Colindale.  The following year the Underground came to Colindale with the opening of the Golders Green-Edgware section of what is now the Northern Line, and the population of Colindale boomed.

One regular user of the Underground station in its early years was TE Lawrence (of Arabia), who was stationed at nearby Hendon Aerodrome.  Hendon was one of London's first airfields and the scene of many pioneering aeronautical achievements, including the origin of the UK's first airmail, sent from here to Windsor in 1911 to mark the coronation of George V.  During the First World War the Aerodrome was taken over by the War Office and passed into the hands of the RAF; already outmoded by the time of the Second World War, RAF Hendon closed in the 1960s.  Its site is now occupied by the London branch of the RAF Museum, the Hendon Police College (at which decades of Metropolitan policemen and policewomen have been trained) and the GLC and Barnet council's Grahame Park housing estate, named after the originator of the aerodrome Claude Grahame-White.

Almost all of Colindale ward is in the NW9 (The Hyde) postcode district and the ward includes The Hyde itself; a small corner is covered by NW7 (Mill Hill).  With Grahame Park accounting for around half of the ward's population and most of the rest not that much further up the social scale, this is a safe Labour ward.  The three ordinary council elections since 2002 have all seen Labour win with between 51% and 61%, the Tories in second place on 18-20% and the Lib Dems come in third on 14-19%.  A by-election held in 2005, four weeks before the general election of that year, resulted in a swing to Labour who had their best performance in this sequence, polling 63%.

The GLA elections in 2012 suggest that in the current political climate Labour can aspire to more than 63% in Colindale.  In the Mayoral ballot Ken beat Boris here 63-26 (with Paddick coming third), with Labour beating the Tories the list section of the election 66-15 (UKIP coming third), that lead rising to 74-14 (the Greens in third) in the Barnet and Camden constituency ballot.  One factor in the Labour performance in the constituency ballot will be that the Labour candidate was popular former local MP Andrew Dismore, who narrowly lost his seat at the 2010 election, while the Tory candidate was outgoing assembly member and Barnet councillor Brian Coleman.  There's not enough space here to detail all the controversies which have attached themselves to Coleman over the years (although Wikipedia has a good try); suffice it to say that the 2012 GLA election and last month's Barnet council election (in which he stood for re-election to the council as an independent, having kicked out of the Tory party, and got nowhere) show that by now Coleman has a strongly negative personal vote.

Not that the Barnet Tories needed Coleman in order to create controversy; the Tories gained overall control of the council in the 2006 election and the local administration (after losing a shedload of money in collapsed Icelandic banks) has pursued an aggressively right-wing policy of outsourcing as many council services as possible.  This, and the good Labour performance in the 2012 GLA polls, led to a strong challenge from Labour in the 2014 borough elections which came up narrowly short; while the Conservatives lost six seats and Labour gained eight, once the Colindale poll is completed the Tories will still have a majority of one on the council.

The Labour slate in Colindale consists of long-serving councillor Gill Sergeant, the 2005 by-election winner Zaika Zubairi, and new candidate Nagus Narenthira, replacing one-term councillor Geoff Johnson who is standing down.  The three Conservative candidates are Nneka Akwaeze, Golnar Bokaei and William Nicholson.  Regular Lib Dem candidate Daniel Estermann is joined by Victor Corney and Sabriye Warsame.  Jessica Yorke was originally intended to be a lone Green candidate, but the postponement has enabled the Greens to nominate a full slate of Maggie Curati, Francesco Marasco and Andrew Newby; also in on the act after not being on the original nominations list is UKIP, who stand John Baskin, Khalid Khan and Barry Ryan.

I wouldn't necessarily wait up for the result as election counting in London always seems to take a lot longer than it does everywhere else.  There will be more on that subject in next week's column.

Parliamentary constituency: Hendon
GLA constituency: Barnet and Camden
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: NW7, NW9

Nneka Akwaeze (C)
John Baskin (UKIP)
Golnar Bokaei (C)
Victor Corney (LD)
Maggie Curati (Grn)
Daniel Estermann (LD)
Khalid Khan (UKIP)
Francesco Marasco (Grn)
Nagus Narenthira (Lab)
Andrew Newby (Grn)
Willian Nicholson (C)
Barry Ryan (UKIP)
Gill Sargeant (Lab)
Sabriye Warsame (LD)
Zaika Zubairi (Lab)

May 2010 result Lab 3259/2836/2711 C 1175/1175/1019 LD 1095/898/764 Grn 337/306/276
May 2006 result Lab 1442/1348/1339 C 572/566/414 LD 472/417/403 Grn 312
April 2005 by-election Lab 1154 C 299 LD 220 Grn 73 UKIP 45 Ind 29
May 2002 result Lab 1314/1302/1219 C 376/376/374 LD 294/282/239 Grn 156

2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1710 Boris 700 LD 79 Benita 77 UKIP 58 BNP 54 Grn 50
List: Lab 1810 C 409 UKIP 120 Grn 118 LD 93 BNP 75 CPA 61 TUSC 15 Hayat 15 EDP 14 Alagaratnam 9 NF 8 House Party 6
Constituency: Lab 2021 C 383 Grn 131 UKIP 127 LD 87

Amber Valley borough council, Derbyshire
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Conservative candidate Patricia Watson, the chair of Swanwick parish council.

Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick
Here we have that rarest of things: an ex-pit village which now votes Tory.  Located just to the south of Alfreton, until the 1960s Swanwick was the location of a major colliery, coal having been worked in the area for centuries.  The colliery has now been redeveloped into an industrial estate, and Swanwick's economy is now based on chocolate (Thornton's has a facility on the industrial estate) and conferences at the Hayes, a Victorian country house which housed German and Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War.

The village has good road links to Derby and the main towns in the Amber Valley district (Ripley to the south, Alfreton to the north, Belper to the south-west) and so has turned into a commuter area.  Swanwick forms a two-member ward in Amber Valley district which has voted safely Conservative throughout the past 12 years, Labour normally coming second except when independent candidate George Soudah stands.  Swanwick's presence in the Alfreton county division was probably the reason the Conservatives gained that seat from Labour in the 2009 county elections.  A new county division map introduced for the 2013 combined the Alfreton division with the safe Labour Somercotes division; the resulting two-member division was safely Labour with UKIP and the Tories disputing second place.

For the 2014 election the local Tory party deselected long-serving councillor Allen King in favour of Patricia Watson.  Following Watson's death, the replacement Conservative candidate is David Wilson, who was county councillor for the ward from 2009 to 2013; he lives in Alfreton and unsuccessfully stood for re-election to the county council last year in a Ripley-based division.  Swanwick parish councillor George Soudah is standing; he fought the 2007 and 2011 elections for this ward as an independent, finishing both times as runner-up.  The Labour candidate is Antony Tester, from Ripley.  The Lib Dems are fighting the ward for the first time since 2010 in the shape of Joel Hunt, a county council candidate here last year.  Completing the ballot paper is Swanwick ward's first UKIP candidate - none other than deselected Tory councillor Allen King, standing for re-election.  In the current political climate King's presence for UKIP makes this poll fascinatingly unpredictable, and pretty much everyone (except possibly the Lib Dems) will feel that they have a chance of winning.  This is one to watch.

Parliamentary constituency: Amber Valley
Derbyshire county council division: Alfreton and Somercotes
ONS Travel to Work Area: Derby
Postcode district: DE55

Joel Hunt (LD)
Allen King (UKIP)
George Soudah (Ind)
Antony Tester (Lab)
David Wilson (C)

May 2011 result C 903 Ind 593 Lab 523 BNP 63
May 2010 result C 1610 Lab 983 LD 599
May 2007 result C 719 Ind 634 Lab 284 BNP 135 LD 84
May 2006 result C 983 Lab 389 LD 220
May 2003 result C 733 Lab 411 Ind 167
May 2002 result C 797 Lab 487