Wednesday, 4 March 2015

By-election Previews: 5 March 2015

Four by-elections will take place on 5th March, including the first three London local by-elections of the new year.  However, before reaching the Smoke we start in a Essex with a fascinating three-way marginal.

Essex county council
Caused by the death of UKIP councillor Gordon Helm at the age of 75.  A county councillor since 2013, Helm was also UKIP's PPC for Braintree in the forthcoming general election.

"If the curious enquirer will take pick and shovel he will find at any rate one corresponding dualism below the surface. He will find a Bocking water main supplying the houses on the north side and a Braintree water main supplying the south. I rather suspect that the drains are also in duplicate. The total population of Bocking and Braintree is probably little more than thirteen thousand souls altogether, but for that there are two water supplies, two sets of schools, two administrations. To the passing observer the rurality of the Bocking side is indistinguishable from the urbanity of the Braintree side; it is just a little muddier."

That was H G Wells, writing ninety-nine years ago at the height of the Great War about the differences between Braintree and Bocking, and using them to illustrate the difficulty in establishing world peace through a single world state.  Much of Wells' complaints are now dated: Bocking is now an urban suburb of Braintree; Braintree and Bocking were combined under a single council in 1974; the population of the combined town has more than trebled in the intervening century; and the establishment of the European Union, while not going as far as the World State of Wells' imagination, has done much to ensure seventy years of peace in western Europe.  Seen in that context, it becomes ironic that Bocking - that northern suburb divided from Braintree by a Roman road - elected a UKIP county councillor in 2013.

One of the joys of writing this column is finding unintended ironies like that, but of course what may seem ironic in one context could make perfect sense when viewed from another angle.  Like Braintree, Bocking's traditional industry is textiles, specifically silk: the major local employer was Courtaulds, whose founding family were from the area and made many donations to the town, such as Braintree town hall.

Bocking's industrial legacy has left a large Labour vote: Labour had a majority of the division's district councillors until 2003 and still hold three seats out of seven.  At the last district council elections in 2011, of the three wards covering the division Bocking Blackwater was safe Tory, Bocking North (despite a small rural area) was safe Labour and Bocking South was a key marginal: with Blackwater ward being larger than the other two that would normally translate to the county division being a Tory-inclined key marginal.  It hasn't quite worked out like that: Labour narrowly held the division in 2005 thanks to the simultaneous general election; the Tories turned Bocking into a safe division for them in 2009 as the Labour vote reached its nadir; and in 2013 UKIP executed a perfect come-through-the-middle move to beat the Tories by 20 votes and Labour by 114; the shares of the vote (UKIP 33% C 32% Lab 30%) show what a close three-way marginal result this was.  With the local Tory MP having got himself into a sex scandal and speculation that UKIP could have a serious tilt at the Braintree constituency, this will definitely be one to watch ahead of the forthcoming general election.

This is the second local by-election in Essex this year, and the first one saw UKIP lose a seat to Labour in a working-class part of Harlow.  Hoping that doesn't happen this time is UKIP's Michael Ford, who fought Braintree at the last general election.  The Tory candidate is Stephen Canning; in his early twenties, he is a district councillor for Bocking Blackwater ward and a deputy chairman of Conservative Future, and had a cameo role in Made in Chelsea shortly after his election.  Lynn Watson, the last Labour county councillor for Bocking who lost her seat to the Conservatives in 2009, will make a second attempt to get back onto the county council.  Also standing are John Malam of the Green Party and independent candidate Peter Sale.

Parliamentary constituency: Braintree
Braintree council wards: Bocking Blackwater, Bocking North, Bocking South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chelmsford and Braintree
Postcode district: CM7

Stephen Canning (C)
Michael Ford (UKIP)
John Malam (Grn)
Peter Sale (Ind)
Lynn Watson (Lab)

May 2013 result UKIP 1340 C 1320 Lab 1226 Grn 126 LD 91
June 2009 result C 1814 Lab 997 UKIP 859 LD 572 BNP 318 Grn 299
May 2005 result Lab 3231 C 3010 LD 1362 Grn 449

London borough of Brent
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bhiku Patel at the age of 70, while on holiday in India.  He had served Kenton ward since 2010

Northwick Avenue, Kenton
For the first of this week's three London by-elections we travel to Metroland, that quadrant of north-west London which filled up with housing between the wars at the instigation of the Metropolitan Railway.  Over the last few decades this area has seen enormous demographic change, with 44% of the population at the last census having been born outside the UK.  This influx is overwhelmingly from India: 58% of the population is of Asian ethnicity and 36% are Hindu, which makes Kenton one of the top ten Hindu wards in England.  The ward forms a roughly triangular shape to the south of the Kenton Road, with Kenton underground station (Bakerloo and London Overground) at the western corner, Kingsbury station (Jubilee) at the eastern corner and Preston Road (Metropolitan) just off the southern corner.  This is generally a well-off, upwardly-mobile area.

The ward is normally safe Tory at council level, but forms part of the safe Labour constituency of Brent North; Labour came close here in the 2010 borough elections, which coincided with the last general election, and in a February 2011 by-election.  In the 2014 borough elections the Tories polled 51%, to 32% for Labour and 10% for the Green Party; it would seem that the Tories have benefited from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote here.  In 2012 Boris beat Ken here 57-33 but the GLA London member ballot was closer, with 45% for the Conservatives and 38% for Labour.

The Tories have suffered a split on Brent council since the 2014 election, with their Brondesbury Park ward councillors walking off to form a separate group.  However, there is a single Tory candidate for the by-election: Michael Maurice, chairman of the Brent North branch of the party.  The Labour candidate is Vincent Lo, who has worked for a variety of City financial firms and recently went for the Labour parliamentary selection in Holborn and St Pancras; during the campaign he has had to apologise for defamatory leaflets about the Tory candidate.  Also on the ballot paper are Michaela Lichten of the Green Party, who appears to be the only candidate to live in the ward, and former Brent borough councillor Bob Wharton for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Brent North
GLA constituency: Brent and Harrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: HA3, NW9

Michaela Lichten (Grn)
Vincent Lo (Lab)
Michael Maurice (C)
Bob Wharton (LD)

May 2014 result C 1798/1796/1669 Lab 1139/1040/946 Grn 348 LD 221/153/125
Feb 2011 by-election C 1063 Lab 907 Ind 185 LD 179 Grn 75
May 2010 result C 2805/2667/2333 Lab 2218/1832/1799 LD 1013/782/630 Grn 287/265/230
May 2006 result C 1944/1891/1828 Lab 1043/976/779 LD 526/483/369 Grn 276
May 2002 result C 1712/1668/1660 Lab 1042/946/850 LD 276/269/214

2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1636 Ken 946 Ind 92 LD 85 Grn 76 UKIP 27 BNP 12
London member: C 1288 Lab 1082 Grn 143 LD 120 UKIP 98 CPA 45 Alagaratnam 27 BNP 21 EDP 15 TUSC 12 Hayat 7 NF 6 House Party 6

London borough of Camden
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Peter Brayshaw at the age of 67.  Brayshaw had served several terms on Camden council, first being elected in Bloomsbury ward in 1990, then returning to the council by winning a by-election in 2000.  He lost his seat to the Tories in 2006 but returned for St Pancras and Somers Town ward in 2010.  Away from the council he was known as anti-apartheid campaigner and a member of the Local Authority Pension Fund forum.

"It went the half hour as I came through the Polygon"
- Charles Dickens, "The Pickwick Papers"

Entering St Pancras Station
Journey down to London by Overground train from Kenton, or by express train from the north or the Continent, and this is where you will end up: the marvellously-refurbished St Pancras and Kings Cross railway stations are here, while Euston station is just outside the ward boundary.  The census paints an interesting picture of the ward's population, with a diverse population (25% Asian, 14% Black, 31% born outside the EU, 25% Muslim), a large student population (around 19%) and, most tellingly, 61% of households are socially rented, which is one of the top 20 figures in the country.

Somers Town is one of the oldest parts of London, being named after its eighteenth-century landowner Charles Cocks, 1st Lord Somers.  There has been housing here since the 1780s - Mary Wollstonecraft died here in 1797 - but the area went into a social decline in the 1830s as it became a favoured location for labourers building the railway lines down to the Euston Road, and by the late Victorian era Somers Town was one of London's most notorious slums and a favourite subject of Dickens, who briefly lived here.  Many of the slum dwellings were cleared between the wars to be replaced with social housing by the St Pancras House Improvement Society and the London County Council.  The area was a popular location for hospitals: St Pancras hospital is here while 2015 will see the opening of the Francis Crick Institute, a new biomedical research centre opposite St Pancras station and located next door to the British Library.  On the opposite side of St Pancras Station, the former Kings Cross goods yard - once a notorious red-light district - is being developed into a new business area known as Kings Cross Central, which is important enough to have gained its own postcode district (N1C).

This is, obviously, a safe Labour ward and the main interest is usually who comes second.  This was the Lib Dems in 2002 and 2010, but Respect were runners-up in 2006 and the Green Party took over second place last year.  The lead Green candidate in 2010, greatly outpolling her running-mates, was none other than Natalie Bennett who now leads the party nationally, although if her performance in recent interviews is anything to go by she's probably forgotten about standing here five years ago.  In 2014 Labour polled 68% with the Greens, as stated, being best of the rest on 15%; two years earlier Ken beat Boris here 66-22 with Labour polling 62% in the London Member ballot to 13% for the Tories and 12% for the Greens.

Paul Tomlinson is the defending Labour candidate; he is described as having lived in the ward for many years and having links with his local tenants association.  He is opposed by Tina Swasey for the Green Party, Shahin Ahmed for the Tories and Zack Polanski for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Holborn and St Pancras
GLA constituency: Barnet and Camden
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: N1C, NW1

Shahin Ahmed (C)
Zack Polanski (LD)
Tina Swasey (Grn)
Paul Tomlinson (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 2511/2488/2423 Grn 562/526/440 C 368/351/295 LD 245/192/178
May 2010 result Lab 2744/2650/2614 LD 1024/1011/927 Grn 738/467/422 C 721/701/688
May 2006 result Lab 1399/1264/1212 Respect 781 Grn 517/369/213 C 440/429/422 LD 433/332/317 Ind 181
May 2002 result Lab 960/902/865 LD 379/353/349 C 263/259/249 Grn 219/124/116 Socialist Alliance 211

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1791 Boris 605 Grn 172 Ind 84 LD 71 UKIP 55 BNP 46
London member: Lab 1770 C 362 Grn 336 LD 99 UKIP 98 BNP 63 TUSC 42 CPA 23 EDP 21 House Party 18 NF 9 Hayat 5 Alagaratnam 0

London borough of Croydon
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Gerry Ryan on his 57th birthday.  A Selhurst councillor since 1998, Ryan had been the Labour candidate for Croydon Central in the 2010 general election; by profession he was a telecommunications engineer and an official with the Communications Workers Union.  He had been fighting cancer for six years.  Recognising his work, the CWU are to establish an annual award in Ryan's name for the union's best recruiter and negotiator.

Holy Saviour Parish Church, Croydon
Another suburban area of South London, Selhurst is located to the north of Croydon.  Like much of London, this is an area which has seen much demographic change since the Second World War.  The largest ethnic group in the ward is now Black; with 35% this is in the top 20 Black wards in England, and the mixed-race population (9%) is in the top 10 wards in England.  The area is mostly residential and centred on Selhurst railway station on the Brighton line, which is adjacent to a large depot which is the main engineering and maintenance centre for Southern Trains.  At the northern corner of the ward is Selhurst Park, home of the Premier League side Crystal Palace FC.

Croydon's wards are almost all safe for one or other of the main parties, and Selhurst is on the Labour side.  At the most recent election in 2014 Labour polled 52% against a fragmented field, with the Tories second on 14% just ahead of a two-man UKIP slate, whose 13% was one of their better results in London.  In the 2012 GLA elections Ken beat Boris here 64-22, while Labour beat the Tories 64-14 in the London Member poll.

Defending for Labour is David Wood, a father-of-two, governor of a local primary school and son of a former Bishop of Croydon.  The Tories have selected Tirena Gunter, who is bidding to become the only Afro-Caribbean Tory councillor in Croydon.  The UKIP candidate is Annette Reid, and also on the ballot paper are Tracey Hague for the Green Party and the Lib Dems' Geoff Morley.

Parliamentary constituency: Croydon North
GLA constituency: Croydon and Sutton
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: CR0, SE25

Tirena Gunter (C)
Tracey Hague (Grn)
Geoff Morley (LD)
Annette Reid (UKIP)
David Wood (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 2086/2079/1996 C 546/515/471 UKIP 504/396 Grn 341/269/267 LD 240 Ind 128 TUSC 88 Comm 77
May 2010 result Lab 3355/3353/3324 C 1407/1286/1240 LD 1150 Grn 516/515/515 Comm 93
May 2006 result Lab 1652/1597/1452 C 906/893/861 Grn 588 LD 570
May 2002 result Lab 1685/1641/1535 C 597/558/540 LD 367/335/332

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1826 Boris 632 Ind 108 LD 96 Grn 84 UKIP 68 BNP 45
London member: Lab 1834 C 411 Grn 164 UKIP 136 LD 92 CPA 88 BNP 50 TUSC 29 EDP 20 Hayat 20 Alagaratnam 18 NF 8 House Party 8

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

By-election Previews: 12 February 2015

Three by-elections on 12th February 2015:

Cambridgeshire county council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Reynolds at the age of 69, while returning from a holiday in Australia.  One of the longest-serving members of the county council, having been first elected in 1981, Reynolds had been a dedicated public servant for many years, and was also a long-standing guide dog trainer.

Village Hall, Bar Hill
This division follows the line of the A14 to the north-west of Cambridge, starting at Girton on the outskirts of Cambridge and including a series of villages to the south of the road: Dry Drayton, Lolworth, Boxworth are small while Bar Hill itself is by far the largest.  The A14 follows the line of a Roman road - the Via Devana - but the history of the ward is generally much more recent.  Since the Second World War the Cambridge area has essentially absorbed the population of a large new town without building a large new town, but there have been some purpose-built new villages: Bar Hill itself did not exist before 1967, and now has a population of around 4,000.

Girton, an old village just outside Cambridge, is the division's other main population centre: it actually has more registered electors than Bar Hill, but the roll here is swelled by the presence of Girton College.  England's first residential college for women (although now co-educational), Girton is part of Cambridge University and its alumni include the present Queen of Denmark, the political blogger Arianna Huffington and the GP, comedian and writer of Private Eye's "Medicine Balls" column Phil Hammond.  Girton also has one of the UK's largest populations of black squirrels.

Politically Bar Hill is a safe Tory division although the 2005 result just qualified as a Tory/Lib Dem marginal; at the most recent county election in 2013 the Tories had 45% to 22% for UKIP, 14% for Labour and 9% for the Greens, who narrowly pushed the Lib Dems into fifth place.  At district council level Bar Hill ward elected a Lib Dem councillor in 2002 but has been safely Tory since 2006, while Girton is more volatile with both a Tory and an independent district councillor since 2008; the Lib Dems also came close a couple of times before the coalition was established, while the Green Party ran second in Girton ward last year.

Defending for the Tories is Lynda Harford, a South Cambridgeshire district councillor (for Cottenham ward) who describes herself on Twitter as a "Grandma with attitude serving her community".  UKIP have selected Willingham resident Martin Hale, chairman of the party's Cambridge and SE Cambs branch.  Labour's candidate is Alex Smith, from Cambourne; also standing are Claudia Roland for the Green Party (who appears to be the only candidate to live in the division) and Fiona Whelan for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: South Cambridgeshire
South Cambridgeshire district wards: Bar Hill, Girton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode districts: CB3, CB23

Martin Hale (UKIP)
Lynda Harford (C)
Claudia Roland (Grn)
Alex Smith (Lab)
Fiona Whelan (LD)

May 2013 result C 1175 UKIP 570 Lab 352 Grn 242 LD 219 Loony 28
June 2009 result C 1866 LD 540 UKIP 340 Grn 320 Lab 284
May 2005 result C 2266 LD 1808 Lab 870

Harlow borough council, Essex
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Jerry Crawford due to ill-health.

St Mary-at-Latton Church, Harlow
While Cambridgeshire's approach to population growth has mostly been to tack bits onto existing villages and develop a few new ones, Harlow is unambiguously a New Town: it was one of the first New Towns, built in the early 1950s to house families who had been bombed out of London.  One legacy of this history is that the town has the third-highest proportion of social housing of any district in England.  Harlow became an urban district in 1955 and now forms a local government district of its own.

Mark Hall was the first part of the New Town to be completed, and forms two separate residential areas either side of First Avenue, imaginatively named Mark Hall North and Mark Hall South.  In Mark Hall North can be found The Lawn, the UK's first modern residential tower block: built in 1951, it is now a listed building.  To the north of Mark Hall North is Temple Fields, a large industrial area next to the River Stort which includes the ward's railway station, Harlow Mill.

Mark Hall ward has a fascinating recent electoral history and a high councillor attrition rate: this is the ward's third casual vacancy in as many years.  The ward was strongly Lib Dem when it was first drawn up on its present boundaries for the 2002 election, but Labour turned the ward into a Lib Dem/Labour marginal and gained it from the Lib Dems surprisingly easily in 2004.  In the 2006 the outgoing Lib Dem councillor Jane Steer stood for re-election as a Conservative, the Lib Dems regaining her seat in a three-way marginal result with a majority over Labour of just 26 votes, which was cut to 12 votes in a 2007 result where all three parties polled within eleven votes of their 2006 score.  In 2008 the Labour nadir saw them fall to third place and the Lib Dems got their seat back.

In 2010 Mark Hall ward had its fourth consecutive three-way marginal result, but this time Labour were on top by a majority of 31.  After that the Lib Dem collapse saw them lose heaily to Labour in 2011.  The remaining Lib Dem councillor (who by now was also Harlow's last remaining Lib Dem councillor) died shortly before he was due for re-election in 2012, and Labour easily gained his seat.  Safe Labour from then on?  No: there is one more twist in the tale.  One of the Labour councillors resigned before the 2014 election having taken on a new job, and UKIP - who had never contested the ward before - made a shock gain of both seats at the 2014 election, polling 38% to 34% for Labour and 20% for the Tories; the UKIP majorities were 60 and 44 votes.  At county level Mark Hall forms part of the Harlow North division which, like the parliamentary seat as a whole, is a key Labour/Tory marginal.

Defending for UKIP is Mark Gough, a former Tory borough councillor who is also UKIP's PPC for Chelmsford.  Labour's candidate is Danny Purton, a former Harlow council transport officer who fought the ward last year.  The Tory candidate is Jane Steer, a former Lib Dem and then Tory councillor for the ward until 2006.  Also standing are Lesley Rideout for the Lib Dems, a former long-serving councillor who lost her seat in the ward in 2011, and Ware resident Murray Sackwild for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Harlow
Essex county council division: Harlow North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harlow and Bishop's Stortford
Postcode district: CM20

Mark Gough (UKIP)
Danny Purton (Lab)
Lesley Rideout (LD)
Murray Sackwild (Grn)
Jane Steer (C)

May 2014 double vacancy UKIP 662/646 Lab 602/599 C 346/346 LD 137/124
May 2012 result Lab 849 C 440 LD 312
May 2011 result Lab 913 LD 555 C 542
May 2010 result Lab 1145 LD 1114 C 961
May 2008 result LD 744 C 681 Lab 599
May 2007 result LD 752 Lab 740 C 570
May 2006 result LD 761 Lab 735 C 562
June 2004 result Lab 800 LD 584 C 381 Ind 290
May 2003 result LD 598 Lab 510 C 179 Socialist Alliance 48
May 2002 result LD 1098/1091/1075 Lab 791/782/772 C 276/269/255

Shropshire council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Bennett who is moving to Warwick to care for his elderly mother.  Three times Mayor of Oswestry, Bennett had served on the unitary Shropshire council since it was created in 2009.

Oswestry Station
This week's column finishes in the Welsh Marches, an area which specialises in small market towns.  Oswestry is one of the larger towns in the Marches: with a population of 17,000 it is the third-largest town in Shropshire after Telford and Shrewsbury.  But despite its presence in England, Oswestry's cultural and transport links point more towards Wales: it is a border town which changed hands between England and Wales several times, and today is the main service centre for large parts of northern Montgomeryshire and still has a number of Welsh speakers.  The town's football team, The New Saints, are the reigning champions of the Welsh Premier League and a regular fixture in Champions League qualifying.  The town was once the headquarters of the Cambrian Railways, the major railway company in mid-Wales; although no trains run to Oswestry any longer, the station building is still a landmark in the town centre and gave its name to the town's Cambrian ward, one of three former wards of Oswestry district council which are the predecessors of this division.

Electoral contests in eastern Oswestry tend to be between Conservatives and Independents, but these labels are somewhat fluid: Bennett was formerly an independent member of the old Oswestry district council for the former Cabin Lane ward, while Peter Cherrington - who gained Oswestry East's other seat from the Tories at the 2013 election - sat on that council as a Conservative.  In 2013 Cherrington polled 32%, the two-man Tory slate had 30% and a single Labour candidate just missed out with 29%.

Defending for the Tories is Oswestry town councillor John "The Bus" Price, who is endorsed by Cherrington.  Labour have selected Claire Norris.  Also standing are Duncan Kerr for the Green Party and Amanda Woof for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: North Shropshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oswestry
Postcode districts: SY10, SY11

Duncan Kerr (Grn)
Claire Norris (Lab)
John Price (C)
Amanda Woof (LD)

May 2013 result Ind 611 C 584/453 Lab 551 BNP 169
June 2009 result C 963/962 Ind 697 Lab 500 BNP 356

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

By-election Preview: 5 February 2015

One by-election on 5th February 2014:

Derbyshire county council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Walter Burrows at the age of 80.  A former miner who had been at work on the day of the Markham colliery disaster in 1973, Burrows had been a Labour party member for half a century and county councillor for Brimington since 1993.  He served as chairman of Derbyshire county council from 2005 to 2007.

Brimington Social Club
Just to the east of Chesterfield on the main road to Staveley, Brimington is a large village on a hill above the River Rother, with a history which is typical for northern industrial areas. Brimington boomed in the Victorian era following the arrival of the railways and the development of the local coalmining and ironworking industry.  However, Brimington was more of a residential village, with the coalmines and ironworks being concentrated in Staveley to the east and Sheepbridge to the north-west.  Now a satellite of Chesterfield, Brimington has expanded with housing estates in several directions, notably New Brimington to the north-east of the village centre; the county division also includes the village of Brimington Common to the south and Tapton, which is essentially an extension of Chesterfield over the River Rother, to the west.

Although boundary changes in 2013 confuse the issue slightly, the Brimington county division was and is a safe Labour area; at his final re-election in 2013 Burrows polled 69% of the vote, with the Tories finishing second on 11%.  In the last borough election in 2011 all of the two-and-a-half Chesterfield borough wards covering the division became safe Labour, although Brimington South, and Hollingwood and Inkersall (which includes New Brimington) were Lib Dem-held marginals until 2011.

Defending for Labour is Tricia Gilby, who is the only candidate to live in the division.  She is opposed by Lewis Preston for the Tories, John Ahern for the Lib Dems, independent candidate Mick Bagshaw (who was a Lib Dem borough councillor until 2011 and fought the division as a Lib Dem in 2009) and the division's first UKIP candidate, Paul Stone.

Parliamentary constituency: Chesterfield
Chesterfield borough council wards: Brimington North; Brimington South; Hollingwood and Inkersall (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield
Postcode districts: S41, S43

John Ahern (LD)
Mick Bagshaw (Ind)
Tricia Gilby (Lab)
Lewis Preston (C)
Paul Stone (UKIP)

May 2013 result Lab 1857 C 301 LD 250 Ind 175 Ind 119

Thursday, 29 January 2015

By-election Previews: 28/29 January 2015

One by-election on Wednesday 28th January:


West Berkshire council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor David Betts. A former chairman of Purley on Thames parish council, Betts had been a West Berkshire councillor since 2007 and had served as West Berkshire's executive member for highways and transport.

Long Lane, Purley on Thames
Despite Purley's presence within the West Berkshire district, this is where the Reading built-up area ends and the countryside begins; the area of Reading council has never really kept pace with the growth of the town. Purley on Thames itself is a prosperous Reading suburb which suffers regularly from flooding due to its location on the Thames; the ward also includes the Denefield part of Tilehurst parish (also part of the Reading built-up area) together with the smaller villages of Tidmarsh and Sulham to the south-west.

This is a safe Conservative ward on the district council, although West Berkshire has had no local elections since 2011 which makes it difficult to ascertain more recent trends such as the rise of UKIP. In 2011 the Tories led 67-21 over Labour, who took over second place in that election from the Lib Dems.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rick Jones, the chairman of Purley on Thames parish council. He is opposed by Labour's Ian Stevens, Steve Bown for the Lib Dems (who fought the ward in 2007) and the ward's first UKIP candidate, Catherine Anderson.

Parliamentary constituency: Reading West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell
Postcode districts: RG8, RG31

Catherine Anderson (UKIP)
Steve Bown (LD)
Rick Jones (C)
Ian Stevens (Lab)

May 2011 result C 1621/1536 Lab 512/318 LD 282/226
May 2007 result C 1272/1261 LD 278/238 Grn 264 Lab 261
May 2003 result C 577/550 LD 414/376 Grn 194/113 Lab 108

One by-election on Thursday 29th January:


St Albans city council
A double by-election caused by the resignations of Conservative councillors Heidi Allen and Seema Kennedy. Both former councillors have been selected as Conservative parliamentary candidates for the forthcoming general election: Allen is expected to take over the safe seat of South Cambridgeshire, while Kennedy will defend the marginal South Ribble constituency in Lancashire. Both councillors are going before the end of their first term; Kennedy served for less than a year following her election in May 2014.

The Ridgeway, Marshalswick
Like Purley on Thames above, Marshalswick is an area on the edge of a large town which has seen a lot of development since the First World War; in this case the town is St Albans, which has annexed part of Marshalswick from the neighbouring parish of Sandridge. The part of Marshalswick within the St Albans city limits now forms Marshalswick South ward. This heterogeneous ward contains several different demographics: Marshalswick itself is possibly the most affluent area of St Albans, while Bernard's Heath and Sandridge New Town have transformed from Victorian slumland into a bohemian middle-class area. Bernard's Heath was the site of the Second Battle of St Albans, a Lancastrian victory during the Wars of the Roses; many of the ward's street names (Battlefield Road, Lancaster Road, Warwick Road and so on) commemorate the battle.

Election results here have been intriguing. During the last Labour government this was a Lib Dem/Tory marginal ward, but the Lib Dems generally had the edge and the Tories won only once in this period: in 2006 when their Turkish-born candidate Salih Gaygusuz gained the ward by 32 votes, only to lose his seat four years later by 30 votes. Since 2010 the Lib Dem vote has fallen and the ward has turned safe Tory; in 2014 the Tories won with 39% to 23% for Labour, 19% for the Lib Dems and 10% for the Greens, who were just ahead of UKIP. To add to the mix, at county level this ward is paired off with one of the strongest Labour areas of St Albans to produce the three-way marginal St Albans North division, which Labour gained from the Lib Dems in 2013.

Defending for the Conservatives are housing manager Richard Curthoys and hypnotherapist and psychotherapist Steve McKeown. On the Labour slate are Richard Harris and Vivienne Windle. The Lib Dems have reselected Mark Pedroz who fought the ward last year, and he is goined by Elizabeth Needham. The Green slate consists of first choice Jill Mills and second choice Tim Robinson, while UKIP's nominees David Dickson (who fought the ward in 2014) and Michael Hollins complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: St Albans
Hertfordshire county council division: St Albans North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford
Postcode districts: AL1, AL3

Richard Curthoys (C)
David Dickson (UKIP)
Richard Harris (Lab)
Michael Hollins (UKIP)
Steve McKeown (C)
Jill Mills (Grn)
Elizabeth Needham (LD)
Mark Pedroz (LD)
Tim Robinson (Grn)
Vivienne Windle (Lab)

May 2014 result C 972 Lab 573 LD 486 Grn 258 UKIP 232
May 2012 result C 929 LD 651 Lab 441 Grn 188 UKIP 123
May 2011 result C 1433 LD 776 Lab 560 Grn 303
May 2010 result LD 1706 C 1676 Lab 596 Grn 247
May 2008 result LD 1190 C 848 Lab 254 Grn 202
May 2007 result LD 1177 C 843 Lab 270 Grn 172
May 2006 result C 985 LD 953 Lab 343 Grn 251
June 2004 result LD 1193 C 1025 Lab 313
May 2003 result LD 1364 C 858 Lab 338
May 2002 result LD 1353 C 667 Lab 321

Friday, 23 January 2015

By-election Preview: 22 January 2015

Welcome to English Elections as we enter the general election year of 2015.  Your columnist must start with an apology for missing the year's first by-election, a Labour hold in Bolsover, Derbyshire two weeks ago; in my defence, the publicity for the poll was clearly as poor as the turnout.  We get up to speed properly this week with a Tory defence in East Sussex and an SNP defence in Fife, which will be covered on Scottish Elections.


Wealden district council, East Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Anthony Quin.  Quin had served as a Wealden councillor since 1999 after a career in the Royal Marines, from which he retired with the rank of Major.  He served on several committees during his time as a councillor and for some years chaired the regulatory and audit committee.

Crowborough High Street
The largest inland town in East Sussex, Crowborough can be found in the High Weald seven miles south-west of Tunbridge Wells.  The town grew in the mid-Victorian period following the completion of the town's rail link to London; at the time it was promoted as health resort thanks to its relatively high altitude and surrounding forest.  Crowborough lies on the eastern edge of Ashdown Forest, the setting for A A Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and also has literary connections as the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who died here in 1930; Conan Doyle has a statue in the town centre and Crowborough once hosted an annual Sherlock Holmes festival.

The Crowborough West ward is a safe Tory ward where the party are not seriously challenged.  At the most recent election in 2011 the two-person Tory slate polled 73% in a straight fight with a single Labour candidate.  The Tories hold both the county council seats for the town as a whole, with the runner-up spot at the last county elections in 2013 going to an independent who was just ahead of the UKIP slate.

Whoever wins this by-election is likely to be back on the campaign trail immediately in order to seek re-election at May's ordinary election.  Defending in the blue corner is Jeannette Towey, an accredited tennis referee and volunteer at Citizens Advice.  Challenging in the purple corner is Simon Staveley, a manager at an IT company.

Parliamentary constituency: Wealden
East Sussex county council division: Crowborough
ONS Travel to Work Area: Tunbridge Wells
Postcode districts: TN6, TN7

May 2011 result C 1387/1225 Lab 517
May 2007 result C 992/954 LD 336 Lab 192
May 2003 result C 814/812 LD 394 Lab 238

Thursday, 18 December 2014

By-election Previews: 18th December 2014

Winding down for the end of 2014, there are two by-elections in the week before Christmas, both in England.  A further by-election was scheduled in north Wales, but has been held by Plaid Cymru unopposed; that by-election is therefore not being previewed.

Nottinghamshire county council
Caused by the death of Labour county councillor Stella Smedley at the age of 71.  Smedley was the last member still serving from the Nottinghamshire council elected in 1977, and in her 37 years on the county council had held a number of important positions, including as deputy leader from 1981 to 1985; she was also chairman of the council in 1998-99 and was appointed MBE in 2010 for services to the community.

Station Road, Ollerton
This division lies in the heart of the Nottinghamshire coalfield and the Dukeries area, centred on the villages of Ollerton and New Ollerton.  The colliery here is of quite recent vintage, surviving until 1994.  The area has a propensity to earthquakes, but of the physical rather than the political variety: in a preview for a district council by-election here I wrote that 93 earthquakes had been recorded with a few miles' radius of Ollerton in the four months to mid-April 2014, which the British Geological Survey had put down to continuing coalmining in the area.  The week after that by-election took place, I was in a second-hand bookshop which was offering for sale a 1970s-vintage geological survey of the Ollerton area, so clearly this has been a problem for a while.

As stated, Smedley had been the county councillor here for decades.  In 2005 she was re-elected unopposed, but was run close by the Conservatives in the Labour nadir of 2009, before increasing her majority from 6 points to 36 at her final re-election in 2013.  Labour easily won all five district council seats within the division in 2011, gaining two seats from independent councillors, and had no problem holding a district council by-election in Ollerton ward in September this year.  While this is a safe Labour area, the vote shares will be closely watched as an indicator for the forthcoming general election: the division forms part of the key marginal constituency of Sherwood.

Defending for Labour is Mike Pringle, deputy mayor of Ollerton and Boughton and, since winning the September by-election, Newark and Sherwood district councillor for Ollerton ward; he runs a burglar alarm company.  He will be opposed for the vacancy by the Tories' Ben Bradley, UKIP's Colin Hart and the Lib Dems' Marylyn Rayner.

Parliamentary constituency: Sherwood
Newark and Sherwood district council wards: Boughton, Ollerton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield

Ben Bradley (C)
Colin Hart (UKIP)
Michael Pringle (Lab)
Marylyn Rayner (LD)

May 2013 result Lab 1603 C 594 UKIP 549
June 2009 result Lab 1202 C 1042 Ind 716
May 2005 result Lab unopposed

London Borough of Kingston upon Thames
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Howard Jones at the age of 71.  A former Scotland Yard detective, Jones was first elected in 2002 and led the Conservative group on Kingston council from 2006 until the May election, in which he masterminded the Conservatives' return to overall control of Kingston after twenty years of Lib Dem rule.

St James's Parish Church, New Malden
Here we are in south-west London back in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, which is having a rash of local by-elections at the moment: of the twelve previous local by-elections in the Royal Borough since 1996, seven have come since September 2011 and this will be the second poll since the last ordinary election in May.  The St James ward can be found in southern New Malden, centred on the Malden Junction at which the Kingston-Sutton road crosses the Kingston bypass.  New Malden is a commuter area with the interesting feature of a very high Korean population, many of whom work in the City for Korean companies; the Korean diet is such that Tesco sell more fruit and vegetables per customer in New Malden than anywhere else.  Most of the resident Koreans, of course, won't be eligible to vote in this by-election.

After the ward's three seats split between the Tories and Lib Dems in 2002, the Conservatives have pulled away and made this ward safe: in May they polled 38%, to 22% for the Lib Dems, 18% for Labour and 12% for UKIP.  The London Assembly election of 2012 saw the ward's ballot boxes vote 41% for Tories, 26% to Labour and 10% for the Lib Dems, while Boris beat Ken here that year 53-30.

Defending for the Conservatives is Jack Cheetham, a small business owner who is contesting his home ward after narrowly missing out in a Surbiton ward in May.  The Lib Dem candidate is Annette Wookey, while Labour have selected accountant Stephen Dunkling and UKIP's nominee is Ben Roberts, who came fourth in the last Kingston by-election in Tudor ward in October.  The ballot paper is completed by Alex Nelson, standing for the Green Party.

After this week the only remaining Thursday is Christmas Day, so these are the last acts of the 2014 electoral year.  Many thanks to Sid, Doris and anybody else who may have stumbled across this column over the last twelve months: I hope that you were illuminated as to the electoral process in the UK, learned many interesting facts and were amused by the occasional error which may have crept in.  This column now has a well-earned month off, but shall return in time for the first by-election of 2015, which will be held in Crowborough, East Sussex on Thursday 22nd January: until then, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a New Year that's better than the year just gone.

Parliamentary constituency: Kingston and Surbiton
GLA constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Jack Cheetham (C)
Stephen Dunkling (Lab)
Alex Nelson (Grn)
Ben Roberts (UKIP)
Annette Wookey (LD)

May 2014 result C 1250/1188/1082 LD 729/719/696 Lab 598/494/485 UKIP 386/361 Grn 212 BNP 100 TUSC 34
May 2010 result C 2008/1948/1679 LD 1549/1502/1280 Lab 885/516/513 Grn 342 UKIP 259 Christian Peoples Alliance 184
May 2006 result C 1689/1603/1580 LD 773/732/704 Lab 316/301/258 Christian Peoples Alliance 103/83
May 2002 result C 1087/1021/918 LD 937/889/871 Lab 239/180/161 Christian Peoples Alliance 118

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1106 Ken 531 Ind 124 LD 81 UKIP 50 Grn 46 BNP 33
London Members: C 807 Lab 512 LD 199 UKIP 128 Grn 111 CPA 62 BNP 58 Alagaratnam 38 EDP 25 TUSC 11 Hayat 11 House Party 6 NF 5

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

By-election Previews: 11th December 2014

With eleven by-elections to cover this week, there is a certain lack of detail in this week's previews.  Nonetheless, here on English Elections there is a good selection of by-elections.  In the North, Labour are defending a super-safe seat in Widnes; in the Midlands the Tories have a seat to defend in the Nottingham suburbs and there is an independent-held county council seat up for election in Stamford, Lincolnshire; while in the south the Tories have seats to defend in Berkshire and Hampshire plus Labour and Lib Dem defences in Aylesbury.  Welsh Elections takes us to rural Carmarthenshire, and Scottish Elections brings news of polls in the cathedral city of Elgin and at completely the opposite end of the Highlands.  But in a week where the Tories are defending a by-election in the Home Secretary's constituency, we start with a tale of terrorism from a much earlier age...

Sunderland city council, Tyne and Wear
Caused by the resignation of a Labour councillor Neville Padgett, ostensibly on health grounds although he had also been the subject of recent adverse publicity over his council expenses.

"Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An' aa'll tell ye all an aaful story.
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An' aa'll tell ye 'boot the worm."

We come to the New Town of Washington, County Durham, as my grandma (who was born there) always called it.  The Washington East ward consists of several disconnected residential areas overlooking the River Wear on the north side, together with Mount Pleasant on the south side of the river.  In folklore this area was terrorised by the Lambton Worm, as told in a song well-known across the North East.

It says something for how far Labour sunk during the Brown administration that this ward was won by the Tories three times: the 2007 and 2008 ordinary elections and a September 2007 by-election.  Labour have reasserted their dominance since then, and in May's ordinary election UKIP narrowly took over second place from the Tories (Lab 41% UKIP 26% C 25%).

This by-election will be defended for Labour by Tony Taylor, who is opposed by UKIP's Alistair Baxter and the Tories' Hilary Johnson; also standing are Stephen O'Brien for the Lib Dems and Tony Murphy for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Washington and Sunderland West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sunderland

Alistair Baxter (UKIP)
Hilary Johnson (C)
Tony Murphy (Grn)
Stephen O'Brien (LD)
Tony Taylor (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 1254 UKIP 792 C 767 LD 145 TUSC 75
May 2012 result Lab 1721 C 735 UKIP 316 Grn 156 LD 119
May 2011 result Lab 1935 C 1201 UKIP 255 LD 201
May 2010 result Lab 2378 C 1681 LD 990 BNP 240
May 2008 result C 1384 Lab 1291 LD 401 BNP 130
Sept 2007 C 1196 Lab 994 LD 206
May 2007 result C 1245 Lab 1220 LD 441 BNP 195
May 2006 result Lab 1103 C 1005 LD 487 BNP 286
June 2004 result Lab 1445/1360/1284 C 882/727/657 LD 821 BNP 322

Broxtowe borough council, Nottinghamshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Marilyn Hegyi.  A Broxtowe councillor since winning a 2009 by-election, Hegyi's greatest achievement as a councillor was probably to get Toton officially recognised by Royal Mail.

Toton Sidings
This is a middle-class Nottingham suburb, but its demography belies an industrial past: Toton is a railway town and the site of what was once Europe's largest railway marshalling yard, which took in coal from the Nottinghamshire coalfield and sorted it for distribution all over the UK.  The marshalling yard is still there although it's a lot less busy than it used to be, while there is an intriguing possible future development: if High Speed 2 gets off the ground, its East Midlands station could be sited here.

Toton and Chilwell Meadows seems to have a high councillor attrition rate: this is the ward's third by-election in just over five years, and the second by-election in the ward this term.  The last by-election, in March 2012, was a very easy Tory hold, the party polling 48% against evenly divided opposition.  Their candidate to defend this by-election is counsellor (as opposed to Councillor) Mia Kee, who is opposed by Labour's David Patrick and UKIP's Darryl Paxford.

Parliamentary constituency: Broxtowe
Nottinghamshire county council division: Chilwell and Toton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham

Mia Kee (C)
David Patrick (Lab)
Darryl Paxford (UKIP)

March 2012 by-election C 831 Lab 385 LD 300 UKIP 228
May 2011 result C 1529/1491/1413 Lab 926/925/837 LD 377/334/304 UKIP 305
Sep 2009 by-election C 1081 LD 474 Lab 296 BNP 58
May 2007 result C 1394/1315/1301 LD 725/719/669 Lab 411/402/387 BNP 205 UKIP 149
May 2003 result C 1183/1126/1118 Lab 504/490/452 LD 446/358

Halton council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Frank Fraser at the age of 81.  The Mayor of Halton in 2009-10, he was first elected to Halton council in 1997 after a career in the printing industry.

Riverside College, Widnes
Welcome to the dirtiest, ugliest and most depressing town in England (according to the Daily News, writing in 1888).  This is, of course, Widnes, a town called into existence by the Industrial Revolution as the major chemicals town in north-west England.  Back in the 1960s, Paul Simon was so depressed by the town that he wrote a song while waiting for a train out of the place; that song was "Homeward Bound", which eventually reached No 9 in the charts for Simon and Garfunkel.  The Kingsway ward is named after the road which runs south from Widnes railway station towards the town centre.

Politically this is a very safe Labour ward which over the last five years has become super-safe.  The exception to this came in 2010, when Labour messed up their nomination and failed to get on the ballot, resulting in the bizarre sight of the Lib Dems narrowly beating the Green Party for a council seat in Widnes.  The unlucky councillor to lose his seat as a result of the messup was Frank Fraser; not a good way to finish his mayoral year, but he had the consolation of returning to the council a year later without having to fight a contested election.  In 2012 Labour beat the Lib Dems 90-10 in a straight fight; after that experience the Lib Dems didn't defend their seat in the ward when it came up for re-election in May, and Labour gained back a seat they should never have lost by polling 76% in a straight fight with UKIP.

Andrea Wall defends the seat for Labour, against opposition from UKIP's Brad Bradshaw who fought the ward in May, Duncan Harper for the Tories and Paul Meara for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Halton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan

Brad Bradshaw (UKIP)
Duncan Harper (C)
Paul Meara (LD)
Andrea Wall (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 886 UKIP 287
May 2012 result Lab 883 LD 95
May 2011 result Lab unopposed
May 2010 result LD 907 Grn 793 C 480
May 2008 result Lab 570 C 217 Grn 92 LD 87
May 2007 result Lab 663 C 201 Grn 171
May 2006 result Lab 636 C 208 Grn 124
June 2004 result Lab 996/934/861 C 470/429

Lincolnshire county council
Caused by the death of Independent councillor John Hicks at the age of 72.  A retired teacher and keen sportsman, Hicks had served on Lincolnshire county council since 2009.

Masterton Road, Stamford
From one of England's ugliest towns to one of England's prettiest, although Stamford North is not the pretty part of town, consisting of two mostly residential wards on the northern edge of town.  This is a mostly Conservative area with the main opposition coming from independents: in the 2011 district council elections the Tories and independents split the four district council seats in the division equally between them, with some decent scores for Labour.  In the county division, Labour were only 97 votes behind the Tories back on general election day in 2005; Hicks won his seat in 2009, beating the Tories by 42 votes, and made the division safe in 2013.

Hicks was affiliated with the well-organised county council group Lincolnshire Independents, who have nominated Stamford town councillor Max Sawyer to contest the by-election.  The Tory candidate is Matthew Lee, who is a Peterborough city councillor but lives in Stamford.  Also standing are Mark Ashberry for Labour, Harrish Bisnauthsing for the Lib Dems and Robert Foulkes for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Grantham and Stamford
South Kesteven district wards: All Saints, St George's
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

Mark Ashberry (Lab)
Harrish Bisnauthsing (LD)
Robert Foulkes (UKIP)
Matthew Lee (C)
Max Sawyer (LincsInd)

May 2013 result Ind 775 C 517 Lab 343
June 2009 result Ind 786 C 734 LD 439 Lab 324
May 2005 result C 1398 Lab 1301 LD 764 Ind 305

Aylesbury Vale district council, Buckinghamshire
Caused respectively by the resignation of Lib Dem councillor Stuart Jarvis and Labour councillor Michael Beall.

County Hall, Aylesbury
These wards are both urban wards within the Buckinghamshire county town of Aylesbury.  Gatehouse is to the north-west of the town centre, while Southcourt ward lies to the south of the town centre and railway station.  Gatehouse ward includes a large industrial area next to the railway line, while Southcourt is more residential.

Both wards were safe Lib Dem areas in 2003, and a previous by-election in Gatehouse ward in July 2006 was a comfortable Lib Dem hold.  While Gatehouse remains safe for the party (the Lib Dems polled 41% in 2011, with the Tories best of the rest on 23%), they lost a seat to Labour in Southcourt at the 2011 election to give split representation.  However, that was back in 2011; in the 2013 county elections UKIP gained the county divisions covering both wards: in Aylesbury North-West, whose major part is Gatehouse ward, the Kippers had a comfortable lead that year (45%, to 26% for the Lib Dems and 15% for Labour) but Aylesbury South-West, which is based on Southcourt ward was a closer affair (UKIP 35% LD 33% Lab 19%) with UKIP eventually prevailing by a majority of 53 votes.

In the Gatehouse by-election the defending Lib Dem candidate is Anders Christensen.  The Tories have nominated Samantha North, Labour's candidate is Lucio Tangi and UKIP are standing Graham Cadle, while the ballot paper is completed by independent candidate George Entecott and the Greens' Mary Hunt.  In Southcourt the defending Labour candidate is Mark Bateman, who is opposed by the Lib Dems' Peter Agoro, the Tories' Sarah Sproat, UKIP's Brian Adams (who is the local county councillor) and the Greens' Andrew Kulig.

Parliamentary constituency: Aylesbury
Buckinghamshire county council division: Aylesbury North West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Milton Keynes and Aylesbury

Graham Cadle (UKIP)
Anders Christensen (LD)
George Entecott (Ind)
Mary Hunt (Grn)
Samantha North (C)
Lucio Tangi (Lab)

May 2011 result LD 622/580 C 342/288 Lab 279 UKIP 256/233
May 2007 result LD 690/634 C 376/319 UKIP 158
July 2006 by-election LD 559 C 343 Residents Action Party 90
May 2003 result LD 474/439 C 180/160 Lab 160/141 Residents Action Party 83/75

Parliamentary constituency: Aylesbury
Buckinghamshire county council division: Aylesbury South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Milton Keynes and Aylesbury

Brian Adams (UKIP)
Peter Agoro (LD)
Mark Bateman (Lab)
Andrew Kulig (Grn)
Sarah Sproat (C)

May 2011 result LD 539/412 Lab 442/399 C 307/234 UKIP 211/180
May 2007 result LD 703/536 C 298/289 Lab 228/137 UKIP 172
May 2003 result LD 627/456 Ind 271 Lab 222 C 109/95 Residents Action Party 74

New Forest district council, Hampshire
Caused by the death of a Conservative councillor Ann Hickman at the age of 54.  Chairman of Bransgore parish council for seven years, Hickman had sat on New Forest district council since 2011 and was known for campaigning for safer roads.

Carpenters Arms, Bransgore
Hard up against the Dorset boundary, this is a rural ward covering a large chunk of the south-western New Forest.  The main centres of population are Bransgore and Burley themselves, together with the village of Hinton on the A35 Lyndhurst-Christchurch road.

This ward is safely Conservative; in May 2011 the Tories polled 66% with the Lib Dems quite a long way behind in second place.  The ward is part of the safe Tory Lyndhurst county division.

Defending for the Tories is Richard Frampton, a former councillor for this ward back in the dim and distant past who is now chairman of Bransgore parish council and also sits on the New Forest national park authority.  The Lib Dems are not standing a candidate, but Labour's Brian Curwain (from Hinton) and UKIP's Roz Mills (from Bransgore) ensure a contested election.

Parliamentary constituency: New Forest West
Hampshire county council division: Lyndhurst
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bournemouth

Brian Curwain (Lab)
Richard Frampton (C)
Roz Mills (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 1789/1539 LD 536 Lab 386
May 2007 result C 1335/1164 Ind 888 LD 430
May 2003 result C 961/886 Ind 880 LD 678

Windsor and Maidenhead council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Alan Mellins, who had got into hot water for suggesting during a council debate that travellers who refused eviction should be executed.

Maidenhead from the Air
(Cox Green is in the foreground, south of the main road)
This ward is in the Maidenhead half of the Windsor and Maidenhead council area, and essentially is the area immediately to the south of the A404(M) Maidenhead bypass.  While Cox Green is a separate civil parish, this area is effectively a Maidenhead suburb and part of the town's built-up area.

Over the last twelve years Cox Green has swung strongly to the right: from a safe Lib Dem ward in 2003 it turned into a Lib Dem/Tory marginal in 2007 and the Tories made the gains in 2011, beating the Lib Dems by 53% to 32%.

The Tories have gone for youth in this by-election, selecting 21-year-old Ross McWilliams.  The Lib Dem candidate is Cox Green parish councillor Gareth Jones.  Also on the ballot are Labour's Bob Horner, a retired bank manager, and UKIP's Lance Carter, a business owner and qualified football coach.

May 2011 result C 1489/1419/1270 LD 914/850/847 Lab 269/247/225 BNP 142
May 2007 result LD 1019/1000/996 C 905/778/742 BNP 391 Lab 144/122/115
May 2003 result LD 1332/1320/1295 C 529/493/490 Lab 132/121/90

Lance Carter (UKIP)
Robert Horner (Lab)
Gareth Jones (LD)
Ross McWilliams (C)

Parliamentary constituency: Maidenhead
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wycombe and Slough