Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Defection Watch - Former Leicester Labour Whip Quits Party

Cllr Barbara Potter
Cllr Barbara Potter (Humberstone and Hamilton ward) has quit the Labour group on Leicester City Council.  Potter was the group's chief whip from 2010 until 2013 when she was ousted after complaints of "her style not going down well" with the other councillors.  During 2013, she was also banned from a city school, had a restraining order put on her by her ex-partner, and was charged with perverting the course of justice.

The controversial councillor was originally elected in 2007 after years of campaigning on a variety issues on behalf of her local community, which led to being invited to Downing Street in 2006 to discuss laws on how to tackle crime.  Her ward elected one Conservative and two Labour councillors in 2007, and then three Labour councillors in 2011.  Both times, she had the highest personal vote of the Labour councillors elected.

Last week, Potter announced her intention to contest the 2015 elections in Leicester as an Independent after the local Labour Party refused to re-select her.  She said that her Labour colleagues were trying to oppose her because she was more of "an activist, not a politician".   The new Labour chief whip simply said in reply that if Potter left the party, she ought to hold a by-election now rather than wait until 2015.

The odds of her being re-elected as an Independent will certainly be against her considering the overwhelming strength of the Labour Party in Leicester - in the last all-out elections in 2011, they won 52 of the 54 seats.

New council composition -
Labour - 51 (-1)
Conservative - 1
Independent - 1 (+1)
Liberal Democrats - 1

Defection Watch - Mayor of Havering Joins UKIP

Cllr Eric Munday
The Mayor of the London Borough of Havering has defected from the Conservatives to UKIP just weeks ahead of the London-wide all-out elections.  The Mayor, Cllr Eric Munday (Squirrels Heath ward), was also joined by Cllrs Peter Gardner (Hylands ward) and Lynden Thorpe (Squirrels Heath) in this most recent wave of defections.  This brings the total size of the UKIP group on Havering Council to seven, and also deprives the Conservative administration of its majority.

Havering is a UKIP target going into May's elections.  Their presence on the council began with an unexpected by-election victory in Gooshays ward on 21 March last year, as they built momentum to their major national breakthrough in the local elections in May.  Three Conservative councillors then defected en masse to UKIP last July, followed by another three now.  Most of these defections seem to be the result of deselections by the Conservatives, although with momentum in the borough shifting behind UKIP, they may now in fact be more likely to hold their seats as UKIP candidates.

Havering is traditionally a Tory stronghold, with the main opposition coming from a variety of local reisdents groups.  Hylands ward was relatively marginal in 2010 with the Conservatives taking 39.1% to the Residents' 26.4%, and UKIP further behind on 12.2%. Squirrel's Heath in 2010 was much more safely Conservative with the party taking 62.9% over second-placed Labour's 19.9%, with no UKIP candidate.  With every seat up for election in May, there's all to play for, and UKIP could potentially gain control of the council outright.

New council composition -
Conservatives - 26 (-3)
Residents' Group - 12
UKIP - 7 (+3)
Labour - 5
Independent Residents' Group - 3
Vacant - 1

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

By-Election Previews: 10 April 2014

Four seats up for election this week.  One over on the Welsh Elections blog and three here:

BELLE VUE
Cumbria County Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ian Stockdale at the age of 74.  A stalwart of Carlisle Labour for more than forty years, Stockdale had served as a Carlisle city and Cumbria county councillor at various times since the 1970s, including as Mayor of Carlisle in 1984-85.  At the time of his death he was chairman of the county council's development control and regulation committee.

Hutton Way shops
  © Copyright Rose and Trev Clough and licensed for
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Belle Vue is Carlisle's western end, along the B5307 road out towards Silloth and along the left bank of the River Eden.  This is a socially divided division which follows the usual pattern of neighbourhoods closer to the city centre being more deprived than the housing further out, although here the differences between the better- and worse-off ends are more stark than usual.

The Belle Vue division has almost the same boundaries as the Carlisle city ward of the same name - the 2013 county council boundary review removed a single street from the division, resulting in the unusual situation of the county division being smaller than the corresponding city ward.  Carlisle city's thirds electoral system means that the city goes to the polls every year; from the combined city and county results we can see that Belle Vue became a closely-fought Labour/Conservative area in the later Blair and Brown years, although Labour always had the edge and the Tories were only able to win here twice: once at their high-water mark in 2008 plus a fluke gain in a county council by-election on European election day in 1999, in which the Tory majority was just six votes.  Ian Stockdale was the city councillor defeated by the Tories in 2008, but he came back to win the county division the following year.  Since 2010 Labour have progressively pulled away from the Conservatives here, easily regaining the Conservative city council seat in 2012.

Defending for Labour is the Mayoress of Carlisle Christine Bowditch, a retired teacher and long-serving chair of the Carlisle branch of MENCAP.  The Tory candidate is Nigel Christian from the village of Scotby east of the city, who formerly worked for the county council as manager of the waste team.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's John Stanyer, the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Carlisle constituency.

Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Carlisle city council ward: Belle Vue (part)
Postcode district: CA2

Christine Bowditch (Lab)
Nigel Christian (C)
John Stanyer (UKIP)

May 2013 result Lab 760 C 393


COAL ASTON
North East Derbyshire District Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mike Emmens.  A district councillor since 1999 and leader of Dronfield town council until 2012, Emmens was described as a family man known for many years of political, charitable and community works.

Houses on Wilson Road
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The village of Coal Aston can be found on high ground on the eastern edge of Dronfield; residents here have good views north over Sheffield or west over Dronfield.  Politically part of Dronfield, essentially this a Sheffield commuter area, and as such very desirable; compare and contrast with the deprived council estates just inside the city limits to the north.

In recent times Coal Aston ward has voted like a commuter area by displaying strong Conservative support, although the party only stood one candidate for the two seats in the 2003 election - perhaps indicating relatively weak organisation - and the result of the most recent election in 2011 suggests that the Labour threat hasn't yet been seen off.  Boundary changes mean that there isn't much county-level elections can tell us: the vast majority of the ward was transferred last year from the former Dronfield North county division (Labour in 2005 with Mike Emmens 4.5 points behind, Tory in 2009 with a 10-point lead) into the new Eckington and Killamarsh division, which is dominated by the Labour-voting villages of those names and consequently was an easy Labour win, UKIP finishing as runners-up ahead of the Conservatives.

John Allsop defends for the Conservatives; he served one term as the local county councillor from 2009 but didn't seek re-election last year.  The Labour candidate is bank manager David Cheetham, who was once the youngest-ever Mayor of Dronfield.  The ward's first UKIP candidate is Charles Watson, the UKIP runner-up in last year's county elections; he is from the village of Ridgeway a couple of miles to the east and, with the local Lib Dems not standing, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Eckington and Killamarsh (except for a small part of the ward in Dronfield East division)
Postcode district: S18

John Allsop (C)
David Cheetham (Lab)
Charles Watson (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 730/680 Lab 546/543 LD 198
May 2007 result C 569/514 Lab 378/341 LD 221/220
May 2003 result C 484 Lab 439/418


WANTAGE CHARLTON
Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire; caused by the disqualification of former Conservative councillor John Morgan who has been convicted of theft.  The jury at Oxford Crown Court found him guilty of stealing £154,000 from an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease; it's understood that Morgan gambled the money away.  Morgan, who resigned from the council's Conservative group after being convicted, is now serving a five-year prison sentence.

Market Place, Wantage
  © Copyright Nick MacNeill and licensed for
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An ancient town in the centre of the Vale of White Horse, Wantage is still probably best known as the birthplace of King Alfred the Great; it appears under the name "Alfredston" in Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" and in poetry by Betjeman, who lived here for many years.  The Wantage Charlton ward covers the central business district together with the east and south of the town.

The town's Wikipedia entry has a NIMBY overtone, complaining about large housing developments in the town, and it is noticeable that the number of votes cast in this ward has been increasing over the years.  It's not clear whether that has particularly benefited any party in what is a Tory/Lib Dem fight: the three seats split 2C/1LD in the 2003 election, while the Lib Dems gained a seat at the 2007 election - the one in which they won two-thirds of the seats on Vale of White Horse council despite polling fewer votes than the Conservatives.  The Conservatives pulled away slightly in the 2011 election to win a clean sweep of the three seats, but by-elections in circumstances like this often generate a huge swing against the defending party so the 11-point Tory lead might not be enough for them to hold on.

For this by-election the Conservatives have pulled off the coup of selecting Julia Reynolds, a former Lib Dem district councillor for this ward who served from 2004 to 2007 as Mayor of Wantage.  Another former Mayor of Wantage, local British Legion branch chairman Jim Sibbald, is the official Lib Dem candidate.  Also standing are Nathan Sparkes for Labour and Kevin Harris for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Wantage
Oxfordshire county council division: Grove and Wantage
Postcode district: OX12

Kevin Harris (Grn)
Julia Reynolds (C)
Jim Sibbald (LD)
Nathan Sparkes (Lab)

May 2011 result C 1235/1178/1131 LD 940/754/714 Lab 442/428
May 2007 result LD 1089/1018/831 C 961/892/873 Lab 273/225/220
May 2003 result C 800/670/657 LD 727/595/593 Lab 229/226 Grn 205

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Defection Watch: Wolverhampton Lib Dem Leader Joins UKIP

Cllr Malcolm Gwinnett
The leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Wolverhampton City Council has defected to UKIP.  Cllr Malcolm Gwinnett (Spring Vale ward) was first elected in 1990, and has previously served as the Mayor of Wolverhampton, but was de-selected apparently after requesting a delay in the reselection procedure to allow for him to wait to hear back the results of a medical examination, which the Lib Dems refused.

He also accused the Lib Dems of having become out of touch with local people on issues such as immigration and the High Speed 2 railway project.

Gwinnett becomes the first UKIP councillor in Wolverhampton, in a ward which has elected the council's only Lib Dems in the last few years.  By 2012, it had become fairly marginal with the Lib Dems holding by 48.4% to Labour's 40.1%.  There was no UKIP candidate in this ward in 2012, and Wolverhampton has generally been a weaker council area for them, compared to the likes of neighbouring Dudley.  Nevertheless, Gwinnett has said he plans to defend his seat as a UKIP candidate next month.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

By-Election Preview: 3 April 2014

Just one by-election on 3rd April.

BLACKO AND HIGHERFORD
Pendle Borough Council, Lancashire; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Shelagh Derwent who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.  Derwent has reportedly moved to Dorset to be near her family, and stood down from Lancashire County Council at the 2013 elections.

Gisburn Road, Blacko
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The village of Blacko can be found at the point where the towns in the Lancashire Calder valley end and the hills begin.  Blacko parish itself only has a population of around 600 and much of its area is moorland; a notable landmark is Stansfield or Blacko Tower on the hill above the village, which commands views across the Pendle district.  Although Blacko is a Lancashire village, the moorland behind Blacko Tower was originally part of Yorkshire (the detached part of Brogden parish) and didn't become part of Blacko parish until 1987.  At the bottom of the hill is the village of Higherford, a Barrowford suburb on the other side of Pendle Water and part of the Barrowford parish.  The two parts of the ward are linked together by the A682 Barrowford-Long Preston road, which was described by the European road safety group EuroRAP in 2007 as the UK's most dangerous road, and you can see why if you drive it; it's laid out like a racetrack with sharp corners in long twisty sections, long relatively straight sections which tempt high speeds into those long twisty sections, hidden junctions with little visibility, gradients which are steeper than you think (particularly in Blacko village) and a mix of high- and low-speed traffic which encourages dubious overtaking decisions.

In electoral terms this is a very safe and very boring Conservative ward.  Derwent had been the local councillor since before the modern ward was created in 2002, and polled 79.8% of the vote at both of her most recent re-elections in 2007 and 2011.  Her vote peaked in 2003 at 84.4%.  The ward is also part of a safe Conservative county council division (Pendle East).

Defending for the Conservatives is Noel McEvoy, a qualified football referee.  His opposition comes from Labour's Robert Oliver, who is vice-chairman of Barrowford parish council; the Lib Dems' Darren Reynolds, a former Burnley councillor who fought this ward in 2007; and UKIP's first candidate for the ward, Mick Waddington.

Parliamentary constituency: Pendle
Lancashire county council division: Pendle East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burnley, Nelson and Colne

Noel McEvoy (C)
Robert Oliver (Lab)
Darren Reynolds (LD)
Mick Waddington (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 583 Lab 148
May 2007 result C 566 Lab 80 LD 63
May 2003 result C 552 Lab 62 LD 40
May 2002 result C 569 Lab 67 LD 60

Friday, 28 March 2014

Defection Watch: Lewes, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Harborough

A few defections have occured in the past few days.

Cllr James Page
Firstly, Cllr James Page (Lewes DC, East Saltdean and Telscombe Cliffs) has defected from Conservative to the Liberal Democrats.  Page was the leader of the council since May 2012, but ousted last month.

The three-member ward is safely Conservative, although Page's high profile presumably gives him something of a personal vote should he choose to stand for election again when his seat is up in 2015.  His defection means that the Conservative and Lib Dem groups on the council are now tied for the position of largest party with 19 seats each, with UKIP and an Independent holding the balance of power.

New council composition -
Conservative - 19 (-1)
Lib Dems - 19 (+1)
UKIP - 2
Independent - 1

Meanwhile, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, not one but two Lib Dem councillors from the same ward have defected to Labour.  Cllr Billy Welsh and Cllr Simon White (both Madeley ward) attacked the Lib Dems for failing to deal with what they called the ongoing cost of living crisis, and said they were joining Labour who offered a solution to it.

Madeley is a historically Lib Dem ward, although Labour gained the seat up for grabs here in 2011 only to then lose it back to the previous Lib Dem Cllr in a 2012 by-election.  There hasn't been a normal election here since 2011 though, so Labour still look to be in a strong position to hold their two new seats here.

New council composition -
Labour - 36 (+2)
Conservative - 15
Lib Dems - 8 (-2)
Independent - 1

Cllr Colin Golding
Finally, in Harborough, Cllr Colin Golding (Broughton Astley, Broughton ward) has quit the Conservative group, criticising its leadership.  He said that the leadership of the council failed to meet his "personal standards" and as such he could no longer support the local Conservative organisation.

Harborough is a safely Conservative council, and in the Broughton Astley, Broughton ward, Golding defeated Labour in a straight fight in 2011 with 624 votes to 251.

New council composition -
Conservative - 25 (-1)
Lib Dems - 9
Independents - 3 (+1)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

By-Election Previews: 27 March 2014

CHALGROVE AND WATLINGTON
Oxfordshire County Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative county councillor Caroline Newton.

High Street, Watlington
  © Copyright David Kemp and licensed for
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This large county division comes down from the Chiltern escarpment onto the flat plains of Oxfordshire.  Viewers of the TV programme "The Vicar of Dibley" will be familiar with the Stokenchurch cutting, in which the M40 motorway breaks out of the Chilterns on the way to Oxford and Birmingham; the motorway runs along the division's north-eastern boundary.  Despite the order of the names, the main town in the division is Watlington, a twee place at the bottom of the escarpment whose narrow streets have never entirely reconciled themselves to the realities of modern traffic.

Watlington is, of course, a very safe Tory area and outvotes Chalgrove, which at district council level is Lib Dem.  In 2013 (the only election so far on the current division boundaries) the Tories were a long way ahead of a fairly evenly divided opposition here.

Defending for the Tories is Stephen Harrod, chairman of Great Milton parish council and district councillor for Great Milton ward, part of which lies in this division.  The Lib Dem candidate is Susan Cooper, who fought Benson ward at the last district council election; the Labour candidate is Chalgrove parish councillor and wheelchair user Paul Collins.  Also standing are Colin Tudge (from Oxford) for the Green Party and Gavin Laird Craig (from Thame) for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Henley
South Oxfordshire district wards: Benson (part), Chalgrove, Great Milton (part), Watlington
ONS Travel to Work Areas: Oxford (part), Reading and Bracknell (part)
Postcode districts: HP14, OX9, OX10, OX33, OX44, OX49, RG9

Paul Collins (Lab)
Susan Cooper (LD)
Stephen Harrod (C)
Gavin Laird Craig (UKIP)
Colin Tudge (Grn)

May 2013 result C 1508 LD 465 Lab 330 Grn 310


GEDLING
Gedling Borough Council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Gordon Tunnicliffe due to ill-health.

Main Road Gedling
  © Copyright Tom Courtney and licensed for
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Gedling is one of the contenders for the smallest places to have a district and parliamentary constituency named after them (see also Sefton).  The Gedling district is based on the north-eastern Nottingham suburbs of Arnold and Carlton, with Gedling itself being a former pit village which is now indistinguishable on the ground from Carlton and the Nottingham built-up area.

A safe Lib Dem ward throughout the Noughties, Gedling became interesting at the most recent election in 2011 when Labour, capitalising on a strong swing in the greater Nottingham area, came from a poor third at the previous election to take two of the ward's three seats, Gordon Tunnicliffe beating the alphabet to be the only Lib Dem survivor.  The Conservatives also increased their vote and were not far off winning a seat themselves, making this ward an interesting three-way marginal.  The ward is a small part of the very large two-seat county division of Carlton East, which Labour made safe in last year's county elections after the 2009 election split the two seats between Labour and the Tories, but a Lib Dem gain from Labour in a September 2011 by-election in the neighbouring Phoenix ward shows that the yellow machine in the area is still in working order.  This will be a fascinating contest.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Maggie Dunkin, one of the councillors for this ward who lost her seat in
2011.  Lynda Pearson, a UNISON organiser, hopes to complete the set of Labour councillors in this ward.  The Tories have selected James Faulconbridge, their candidate in the 2011 Phoenix by-election and chairman of the local Conservative association.  Completing the ballot paper is hospitality consultant Claude-Francois Loi, who is the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Gedling
Nottingham county council division: Carlton East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode districts: NG3, NG4

Maggie Dunkin (LD)
James Faulconbridge (C)
Claude-Francois Loi (UKIP)
Lynda Pearson (Lab)

May 2011 result Lab 856/855/759 LD 788/724/711 C 706/677/677 Grn 143/127/121
May 2007 result LD 1115/1041/985 C 634/622/619 Lab 409/393/348 Grn 165 UKIP 102
May 2003 result LD 1067/1060/970 C 508/489/461 Lab 317/303/269


ST. ANNE'S
Sunderland City Council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Lisa Smiles following a conviction for benefit fraud.

A Long Road
  © Copyright Brian Abbott and licensed for
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On the south bank of the River Wear and to the west of the A19 road, the St Anne's ward covers the Pennywell and South Hylton districts of the city.  Pennywell is Sunderland's largest council estate, street after street of 1940s and 1950s semis, while South Hylton is a rather isolated former industrial village (there is only one road in and out) which today is the southern terminus of the Tyne and Wear Metro system, which links the village with Sunderland city centre and the Newcastle conurbation beyond.

The ward votes pretty much like you'd expect a ward in the north of England consisting predominantly of council housing to vote - very safe Labour.  The Tories usually run second (except in 2010 when they were beaten to the runner-up spot by the Lib Dems, who now poll derisory scores here).  During the later years of the last Labour government there was a consistent BNP vote here, although the party never did better than third place; in 2007 there were two rival far-right candidates who polled 11% of the vote each.

Defending for Labour is Jacqui Gallagher, a UNISON rep who for many years worked for the city council in children's services.  The Tory candidate is Gulf War veteran Tony Morrissey, a former leader of the council's Tory group who lost his seat in Barnes ward two years ago.  The Green Party candidate is musician and University of Sunderland student Emily Blyth who, as a South Hylton resident, is the only candidate to live in the ward, and the ballot paper is completed by UKIP's Aileen Casey, a youth worker.  Sunderland's legendarily-quick counting team should ensure that we're not waiting too long for the result on Thursday night.

Parliamentary constituency: Washington and Sunderland West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sunderland
Postcode district: SR4

Emily Blyth (Grn)
Aileen Casey (UKIP)
Jacqui Gallagher (Lab)
Tony Morrissey (C)

May 2012 result Lab 1743 C 339 Grn 268 LD 69
May 2011 result Lab 1908 C 436 Grn 238 LD 90
May 2010 result Lab 2263 LD 781 C 656 Grn 151
May 2008 result Lab 1089 C 528 BNP 415 LD 371
May 2007 result Lab 1172 C 399 BNP 260 N9S 257 LD 238
May 2006 result Lab 977 C 440 LD 368 BNP 362
June 2004 result Lab 1300/1252/1189 C 593/508 BNP 490
 
ST. JOHNS
Fylde Borough Council, Lancashire; caused by the death of the Deputy Mayor of Fylde, Kath Harper, who was a councillor representing the Fylde Ratepayers Association.

Preston Road, Lytham
  © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for
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This ward covers the south-eastern end of the Blackpool built-up area, the point on the north bank of the Ribble estuary where Lytham ends and fields and saltmarsh begin on the road to Preston.  The town of Lytham is essentially a retirement area underpinned by tourism, either to the Blackpool conurbation itself or associated with the Open Championship golf course in St. Annes.  Out of season, the main driver for the local economy is the aerospace factory at nearby Warton Aerodrome which assembles Eurofighter Typhoons; many of the workers at the factory live in Lytham.

The St Johns ward is essentially a fight at local level betwen Tories and the local Ratepayers Association, although the Ratepayers don't have the organisation to put up more than one candidate at a time (and in 2011 their candidate appeared on the ballot paper as an Independent for some reason).  The wider Lytham county division is safely Conservative, UKIP running second last year.

The defending Ratepayers candidate is Mark Bamforth, a local postmaster.  Retiree Brenda Blackshaw will hope to take back for the Conservatives the seat they lost to the Ratepayers in 2007.  Also standing are the Lib Dems' Carol Gilligan, who fought the local county seat last year, the Green Party's anti-fracking campaigner Bob Dennett and UKIP's Timothy Wood.

Parliamentary constituency: Fylde
Lancashire county council division: Lytham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackpool
Postcode district: FY8

Mark Bamforth (Fylde Ratepayers Assoc)
Brenda Blackshaw (C)
Bob Dennett (Grn)
Carol Gilligan (LD)
Timothy Wood (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 771/717/672 Ind 704 LD 424
May 2007 result C 612/547/471 Fylde Ratepayers Assoc 596 Lab 289
May 2003 result C 709/485/474 Fylde Ratepayers Assoc 388 Lab 337

STONE
Dartford Borough Council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor and former parliamentary candidate John Adams.

Bluewater
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Draw up a list of things that men living in southern Essex hate, and it's a fair bet that fairly high up the list would be the Bluewater shopping centre (where the wife and/or girlfriend spends your hard-earned money) and the tolls on the Dartford Crossing (which you have to pay to get to the place where the wife and/or girlfriend spends your hard-earned money).  If you recognise yourself from this description, you might not want to read any further, for Stone ward includes them both.  Named after a village on the road from Dartford to Gravesend, most of the acreage of this ward is industrial, whether it's the Dartford Tunnel, the Queen Elizabeth II bridge and their southern approaches; the various factories that dominate the riverside; the shopping centre itself (located in a former chalk quarry and the UK's fourth-largest shopping centre); or the Thames Europort on the bank of the estuary, which handles sea-going freight traffic.  London commuters here are served by Stone Crossing railway station, with regular services to and from Charing Cross.

This ward has been trending at district level to the Tories: safe Labour in 2003 with the party polling 65% of the vote, Labour held onto the three seats only marginally in 2007 and the Tories managed to nick one of the Labour seats at the most recent election in 2011.  In the 2013 county elections Labour narrowly failed to regain the local county seat (Dartford East) which they had lost to the Tories in 2009.  The most recent by-election in Dartford, in the neighbouring Swanscombe ward last December, was a Labour gain, but that was with less than 30% of the vote and by a majority of just one vote over the local Residents Association, so there's little which can be read into that.

I'm not sure if demographic change has been at work here (the number of votes cast in the ward has been steadily rising), but going from 65% with your party in government to losing seats in the ward eight years later while in opposition does not look like a good performance.  Taken in that context, this by-election is much more competitive than it probably should be at this point of the electoral cycle.  The defending Labour candidate is Catherine Stafford, who at the last election in 2011 fought her home ward, the hopeless-for-Labour Longfield, New Barn and Southfleet.  The Conservatives have selected Stephanie Thredgle, vice-chairman of Stone parish council, and completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Jim Moore.

Parliamentary constituency: Dartford
Kent county council division: Dartford East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: DA2, DA9

Jim Moore (UKIP)
Catherine Stafford (Lab)
Stephanie Thredgle (C)

May 2011 result C 713/588/544 Lab 642/609/560 EDP 192
May 2007 result Lab 570/566/555 C 482/454/418 EDP 177
May 2003 result Lab 601/540/517 C 223/197/191 UKIP 100