Thursday, 26 May 2016

By-election Previews: 26 May 2016

North Yorkshire county council; and
Hambleton council
Both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tony Hall at the age of 66.  A structural engineer by trade, Hall had dedicated many years of his life to public service: four times Mayor of Northallerton, he joined Hambleton council in 1999 and served in its cabinet from 2006 to 2010; at the time of his death he was vice-chairman of Hambleton council.  Hall had been a North Yorkshire county councillor since 2005, and was the county council's executive member for children's services from 2012 to 2015.

Northallerton Market
Northallerton has been in the news this week, as North Yorkshire county council - based in the town and its largest employer - approved a proposal to carry out fracking in the Ryedale district.  It might seem strange that this small town - population around 16,000 - is the county town of North Yorkshire rather than such larger and more important towns as Scarborough, Harrogate and York itself, but Northallerton became a major town in mediaeval times under the auspices of the Bishops of Durham.  Later the town became a stopping point on the Great North Road from Edinburgh to London, and for the East Coast Main Line, and its location in the centre of the Vale of Mowbray - the wide valley between the Pennines and the North York Moors - meant it became a major agricultural and market centre.  Agriculture and light industry still underpin Northallerton's economy today.

The population figure above is slightly misleading, as the Northallerton urban area has outgrown the parish boundary and much of the built-up area to the south of the railway station - including County Hall - is part of Romanby parish rather than Northallerton proper.  Just to make things even more confusing, there have been recent ward boundary changes in Hambleton which means that the ward and county division boundaries don't match up.  The Northallerton county division covers all of Northallerton parish except for the part of the town centre which was within Northallerton Broomfield ward before 2015; Northallerton South ward covers the town centre and east of the town but not the south of the built-up area so might better have been called Northallerton Central (as the predecessor ward was before 2015).

Tony Hall had a safe county council seat; at his the most recent re-election in 2013 he beat UKIP 52-31.  On the district council, from 2003 to 2015 Hall shared representation of Northallerton Central ward with independent councillor John Coulson.  In 2015 Coulson retired and Hall easily topped the poll in the new Northallerton South ward with an enormous personal vote, polling nearly twice as many votes as his running-mate Huw Jones who finished just four votes behind UKIP for the second seat; shares of the vote were 49% for the Conservatives, 26% for UKIP and 25% for Labour who weren't far off winning a seat themselves.

There's a large degree of crossover between the candidates in these two by-elections.  Defending both seats for the Conservatives is Caroline Dickinson.  UKIP have selected Stephen Place to contest the county by-election, while their candidate in the district poll is Northallerton town councillor Dave Robertson.  The Labour candidate in by-elections is David Tickle.  Completing the ballot papers are Chris Pearson of Yorkshire First, standing in both polls, and the Greens' Michael Chaloner who stands only in the county by-election.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)

May 2013 result C 825 UKIP 489 Lab 259
June 2009 result C 1191 Lab 431
May 2005 result C 1311 Lab 983 Ind 925

Northallerton South
May 2015 result C 1414/758 UKIP 762 Lab 739/654

East Staffordshire council
Caused by the resignation of East Staffordshire's only UKIP councillor Steven Dyche after less than a year on the council.  Dyche was elected in 2015 and served on the council's audit and health scrutiny committees.

Main Street, Stapenhill
Stapenhill is essentially a suburb of Burton upon Trent located on the far side of the river.  Traditionally a brickmaking settlement, Stapenhill's character was greatly changed from the interwar period by the construction of large council estates by Burton Corporation, and this can still be seen in the ward's demography: Burton's economy being based on brewing and manufacturing, the ward has very high levels of routine and semi-routine working; however, unemployment is not particularly high.

This demographic mix creates a Labour ward with UKIP potential in the current political climate.  The BNP had come second in Stapenhill in the 2007 election with 30% of the vote, demonstrating the potential for a radical right-wing party to break through here; and so it came to pass that UKIP did indeed break through in 2015, polling 31% with their single candidate Dyche; the Labour slate topped the poll with 32%, but their third candidate lagged a long way between the two councillors seeking re-election.  The Tories were third, not far behind on 25%. Labour have a lock on the local county division, the badly-drawn Burton Trent which was one of only three seats the party won in the 2009 county elections; in 2013 Labour had 47% to 29% for UKIP and 19% for the Tories.

Defending UKIP's toehold on East Staffordshire council is Sally Green, who was runner-up here in the 2013 county elections.  Labour want their seat back, and have selected their Burton party secretary Craig Jones who is still in his twenties.  The Tory candidate is Michael Teasel, secretary of the Staffordshire Regimental Association.  Also standing are Thomas Hadley of the Green Party, Stapenhill parish councillor Susan Paxton - the only candidate to give an address in the ward - standing as an independent, and former district councillor Hugh Warner for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Burton
Staffordshire county council division: Burton Trent

May 2015 result Lab 1251/1235/865 UKIP 1228 C 963/819/714 Grn 488
May 2011 result Lab 913/891/825 C 584/487/474 BNP 342 Ind 269
May 2007 result Lab 962/707/685 BNP 592 C 473/468/400
Sept 2005 by-election Lab 624 C 268 UKIP 45
May 2003 result Lab 1436/1180/1139 C 585/569/518

Thursday, 19 May 2016

By-election Preview: 19 May 2016

Merton council, South London
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Maxi Martin.  A councillor for St Helier ward since 1998, Martin had been Mayor of Merton in 2003-04 and had served since 2010 as Merton's cabinet member for children's services.

St Helier Hospital
With the May elections now safely out of the way for another year, the local by-election calendar resumes this week with a single contest in South London.  We're in the St Helier estate here, one of several 1930s "cottage" housing estates built on garden-city principles by the London County Council; in this case 40,000 people were homed by 1936 on what had previously been lavender fields between the village of Morden and the town of Carshalton.  The estate straddles what is now the border between Merton and Sutton boroughs, and confusingly both boroughs have a St Helier ward; this is the Merton one.  At the centre of this ward lies St Helier railway station, opened in 1930 to serve the estate on what is now the Sutton Loop line, while the northern end of the ward is better served by the London Underground's southernmost station, Morden on the Northern Line.  The name of the estate, incidentally, is in honour of the former London County Council alderman Baroness St Helier.

The demographics of St Helier ward bear all the usual London hallmarks of a diverse population, and also show high levels of social renting and long-term unemployment.  This is, as you might expect from those statistics, a working-class area and a safe Labour ward.  In the 2014 local elections the Labour slate polled 59% of the vote here, with UKIP's 20% best of the rest despite their candidate, Andre Lampitt, having been disowned by the party during the campaign for racist tweets.  Two weeks ago London was at the polls for the Mayor and Assembly elections; Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes 45-33, while the list votes split 48% for Labour, 23% for the Tories and 10% for UKIP (the ward breakdowns for the Mayor and Assembly elections don't include postal votes, so these figures aren't directly comparable with 2014).

Defending for Labour is Jerome Neil, a co-founder of a multimedia company and the only candidate to give a Morden address.  Continuing the theme of UKIP candidates here with distinctly dubious tweets is Richard Hilton, a former Tory councillor (Lower Morden ward, 2010-14) who fought the local parliamentary seat in last year's general election and got into trouble then for a tweet saying that "Jihadi John" should have killed himself; he gives an address over 70 miles away in Newbury, Berkshire.  Also standing are Susan Edwards for the Conservatives, Asif Ashraf for the Lib Dems and John Barraball for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Mitcham and Morden

May 2014 result Lab 2010/1916/1673 UKIP 663 C 505/435/421 LD 203
May 2010 result Lab 2385/2206/2185 C 1373/1189/1161 LD 762 BNP 426/358
May 2006 result Lab 1347/1246/1196 C 974/931/778 BNP 599 Ind 583 LD 430
May 2002 result Lab 958/947/840 C 532/519/509 LD 324 BNP 302 Grn 192/178 UKIP 164

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1222 C 907 UKIP 188 Grn 112 LD 94 Britain First 50 Respect 47 Women's Equality 35 CISTA 32 Ind 26 BNP 23 One Love 7
List: Lab 1335 C 638 UKIP 286 Grn 134 LD 114 Women's Equality 67 Britain First 63 Respect 45 CPA 33 BNP 26 Animal Welfare 23 House Party 10

Thursday, 14 April 2016

By-election Preview: 14 April 2016

Three by-elections this week, the final contests before the full elections take place in May.  Two are covered over on the Cornish Elections blog, and the other one below:

Taunton Deane district council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Christopher Appleby in order to join the police.  He had served only since May last year.

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, Taunton
For a town some distance from the sea, it's curious that Taunton Halcon ward's largest employer is the UK Hydrographic Office, a government-owned organisation which produces Admiralty charts, tide tables and other nautical and astronomical publications for the benefit of the Royal Navy and sailors all over the world.  The Hydrographic Office is in the most unfashionable part of Somerset's county town; Halcon ward lies in eastern Taunton running to the M5 motorway at junction 25, and is a deprived working-class area.  The ward has one of the highest rates of part-time working in England and Wales (19.3%) and its census figures also stick out for high levels of semi-routine work, low qualifications, social renting and children.

Most areas with this sort of demographic profile vote strongly Labour, but Labour are not organised here (their stronghold on Taunton Deane council is in the small but politically radical town of Wellington).  Instead the Lib Dems perform strongly in Halcon and held all the district and county council seats until 2015 when the Tories nicked one of the three district council seats with a majority of just two votes; the votes last year were 40% for the Lib Dems, 36% for the Tories and 24% for the Green Party, although the Green share may be affected by the Tories not running a full slate and there being no Labour or UKIP candidates.  The local Lib Dems seem to have trouble holding on to their district councillors: this is the third local by-election here caused by the resignation of a Lib Dem councillor in as many years.

Defending for the Lib Dems is twenty-something Chris Booth, the organiser for the Taunton Deane branch of the Lib Dems.  The Tories have also gone for youth in reselecting Livvi Grant, their unsuccessful candidate here last year, who is a researcher for Taunton Deane's Tory MP Rebecca Pow.  Continuing the young-candidate theme is Craig Rossiter, the youth officer for the local branch of the Green Party.  Completing the ballot paper are Robert Bainbridge for UKIP and Kieran Canham for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Taunton Deane
Somerset county council division: Taunton East (most), Taunton South (part)

May 2015 result LD 1012/1001/889 C 891/851 Grn 605
Oct 2013 by-election LD 282 UKIP 172 C 165 Lab 146
May 2013 by-election LD 457 UKIP 295 C 179 Lab 159 Grn 78
May 2011 result LD 694/539/529 C 475 Lab 420
May 2007 result LD 804/709/679 C 372/354/326 Lab 154

Thursday, 7 April 2016

By-election Preview: 7 April 2016

Three by-elections on 7th April 2016.  One covered on Scottish Elections, one on Welsh Elections, and one below:

East Riding of Yorkshire council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Stephen Lane at the age of 67.  A farmer for more than 30 years, Lane had been an East Riding councillor since 2007, and had served as vice-chairman of the western area planning, and environment and regeneration scrutiny committees.

George Street, Pocklington
The East Riding has some peculiarly large wards for such a generally rural area, and some rather wonderfully-named wards of which Pocklington Provincial is perhaps the most baroque.  Pocklington is a market town off the main road from York to Hull, lying at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds.  Its greatest prosperity came in the early Middle Ages; the Domesday survey found it was the largest settlement in Yorkshire after York, and the town thrived as a trading centre for wool.  The Industrial Revolution passed the town by and Pocklington's economy is now based on agriculture (notably of rapeseed and sugar beet) and commuting to the major Yorkshire cities.  The ward itself contains six other parishes to the west and north-west of the town along the east bank of the Derwent, running as far as Stamford Bridge, a village on the Derwent known for the September 1066 battle in which King Harald Hardrada of Norway was killed and the Viking Age in Britain came to a end.

Since 2003 this sprawling ward has traditionally been a fight between the Conservatives and an independent slate which won two of the ward's three seats in 2003.  The independents lost their seats to the Tories in 2007 and gave up in 2015, when the Tories had 44% to 20% for the Labour slate and 19% for a single UKIP candidate.

Defending for the Conservatives is Paul West, a Pocklington town councillor who was Mayor of Pocklington in 2014-15.  Labour have gone for youth in selecting A-level student Lucie Spadone who, unusually for an S, is top of the ballot paper.  The UKIP candidate is Neil Tate who gives an address thirty miles away in Bridlington, and self-employed painter and decorator Andy Strangeway completes the ballot paper as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: East Yorkshire

May 2015 result C 4542/4426/4118 Lab 2054/2040/1997 UKIP 2001 LD 1684
May 2011 result C 2228/2186/1933 East Yorks Ind 1698/1623/1356 Lab 940/766/678 LD 754
May 2007 result C 2243/2176/1916 Ind 1683/1243 LD 863/614 Lab 730/496
May 2003 result Ind 2261/2052/1171 C 1369/1123/1055 Lab 819 LD 542

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

By-election Previews: 31 March 2016

Fifty years ago today Harold Wilson won his landslide, his biggest majority of 96 coming in the 1966 general election.  These days Wilson's Labour successors aren't doing quite so well, and they have few prospects of a gain among this week's by-elections although they should hold a safe seat in the South Wales Valleys (covered on Welsh Elections).  Over on Scottish Elections the SNP should have little trouble holding a seat in one of the strongest pro-independence areas of Scotland, while in England the Tories and Lib Dems both have seats to defend in the Yorkshire Dales.  But we start this week with an open seat in UKIP's strongest area of the country...

Essex county council
Caused by the disqualification of Tendring First councillor Pierre Oxley, after he pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for one year.  As the chairman of Clacton Sports Club, Oxley had forged invoices to persuade his own council, Sport England and the Big Lottery Fund to pay out grants of £95,000 for capital work which was never carried out, Oxley instead using the money to meet the club's running costs.  The court heard that Oxley, a former cabinet member on Tendring district council, had not personally profited from the fraud.

Beach Huts, Holland-on-Sea
It's after Easter, the weather's foul, so it must be time for a trip to the seaside.  The Clacton East division covers the eastern end of the Clacton seafront, including the suburb of Holland-on-Sea, together with the Great Clacton area to the north of the town centre.  This is retirement ghettoland and economically depressed, and as such perfect conditions to elect a UKIP MP, which Clacton as a whole has done twice in the last two years.

But dig down into this corner of Carswell-land and it all starts to get a bit more confusing.  Pierre Oxley was first elected to Essex county council from this division in 2005, winning easily as a Conservative candidate.  By 2009 he had defected to Tendring First, one of several competing localist groups in this obscure corner of Essex, and stood for re-election under his new colours, losing 43-26 to the new Conservative candidate Linda Mead; a third-place 12% for the BNP that year was an early demonstration that there is a populist right-wing vote here.  In the 2013 county election Oxley improved his vote to 34%, and that was enough to regain his seat as the Tory vote was split by UKIP, the Tories taking second place 27-25.  That was of course, before the Clacton by-election which resulted in Britain's first UKIP MP elected as such.

A look at the district council results for 2015 only serves to confuse the issue: of the four Tendring wards within the division, two are dominated by the Holland-on-Sea Residents Association, St Marys ward (covering Great Clacton) voted UKIP, and St Pauls ward (the part of the seafront nearest the town centre) split UKIP/Tory in 2015, but the UKIP councillor for that ward has decided to emigrate and a by-election for that seat is pending.  Overall UKIP came in second to the Tories in the 2015 Tendring council elections; in an inspired move, the Tendring Tories offered UKIP a coalition deal and Tendring UKIP promptly split over whether to accept it. Those councillors who ended up in the administration were expelled from the UKIP group which has since suffered further defections and problems.

Although Tendring First still exist as an elected force (they have a district councillor) they are not defending this seat which is up for grabs.  The Tory candidate Richard Bleach, whose Twitter profile disclaims "All views my own, normally moronic", stood for the district council last year.  UKIP's candidate is Ben Smith, who gives an address some distance away in Brightlingsea.  Labour have selected Christopher Bird, the Lib Dems Rain Welham-Cobb and the Holland-on-Sea Residents Association have entered the fray, selecting Colin Sargeant.

Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Tendring district council wards: Haven, St Bartholomews, St Marys, St Pauls

May 2013 result Tendring First 1528 C 1194 UKIP 1106 Lab 477 LD 77 Grn 70
June 2009 result C 2270 Tendring First 1361 BNP 626 Lab 508 Grn 325 LD 238
May 2005 result C 4330 Lab 2427 LD 1206 Grn 263 Community Representatives Party 207

Craven district council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Andy Quinn at the age of 65.  He had served as a councillor since 2002 and was chairman of Craven council in 2011/12.  Away from the council he had taught carpentry and joinery at the former Keighley College following a career in the military, and right up to his death was working as a lecturer and a health and safety consultant.

The Elm Tree Inn, Embsay
England's other two by-elections this week both take place in the Yorkshire Dales.  We start with Embsay, a village just to the north-east of Skipton best known for steam; it is the western terminus of the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, a preserved line linking the village with (surprisingly) Bolton Abbey.  The ward also includes the village of Eastby and part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Embsay-with-Eastby ward goes all the way back to the founding electoral arrangements of Craven district council in 1973 and only minor changes have been made since then (consequential on changes to the parish boundary).  It has been held by the Conservatives continuously since 1979 and was regularly uncontested in the 1980s and 1990s.  Quinn's final re-election came in May last year when he beat Labour 59-22.  The Tories also hold the local county council seat (Mid Craven).

Defending for the Tories is Trevor Kent, a retired baker and electrician.  He is opposed by an independent candidate, the Embsay-wth-Eastby parish council chairman Brian Shuttleworth.

Parliamentary constituency: Skipton and Ripon
North Yorkshire county council division: Mid Craven

May 2015 result C 677 Lab 249 Grn 221
May 2011 result C 496 Lab 217 LD 93
May 2007 result C 409 LD 236
May 2003 result C 404 Ind 199
May 2002 result C unopposed
May 1999 result C 521 LD 158
May 1995 result C unopposed
May 1991 result C unopposed
May 1987 result C unopposed
May 1983 result C 471 All 321
May 1979 result C unopposed
May 1976 result Ind 446 C 362
May 1973 result Ind 468 C 288

Richmondshire district council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor John Robinson at the age of 63.  A fireman for 32 years, he had served on Richmond town council since 2003 and Richmondshire district council since 2007; he was Mayor of Richmond in 2007/8.

Frenchgate, Richmond
For our second Dales by-election of the week we move from Airedale to Swaledale and the town of Richmond.  Just outside the National Park, Richmond is a town whose greatest prosperity came before the Industrial Revolution as it was the marketplace for Swaledale wool and Arkengarthdale lead.  Today its economy is based on tourism and the military, and despite its relative isolation the town is still important enough to give its name to a parliamentary constituency.  The Richmond Central ward is rather misnamed; while it is the central of the three wards covering the town it only contains the eastern edge of the well-preserved town centre, which is mostly in Richmond West ward.

Richmond Central ward had elected two Liberal Democrats at every election this century but always with small majorities - John Robinson's majority was 15 votes in 2007 and 22 votes in 2011.  In that context the Lib Dem performance at the most recent election in 2015 - where they had 49% to 30% for the Tories and 22% for the Green Party - was impressive, although it remains to be seen how much of that was due to personalities in this tiny local government district.  Going up to county level only serves to confuse the issue, as the town's former Lib Dem county councillor was easily re-elected in 2013 under the label "Save the Friarage Hospital" and was not opposed by the Lib Dems that time.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Philip Knowles, a marketing consultant who last year fought his home ward (Newsham with Eppleby) and got nowhere.  The Tories have selected Nathalie Carter.  Anna Jackson stands for the Green Party, and Richmondshire Independents candidate Lorraine Hodgson completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)
North Yorkshire county council division: Richmond

May 2015 result LD 673/610 C 411/409 Grn 298
May 2011 result LD 428/421 C 399/269 Ind 215
May 2007 result LD 493/480 C 465
May 2003 result LD 480/381 Richmondshire Independent Group 368 C 323

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

By-election Previews: 24 March 2016

Three by-elections on Thursday 24th March 2016:

Allerdale council, Cumbria
Caused respectively by the resignation of Conservative councillor Colin Sharpe and the death of Labour councillor Bill Bacon.  Bacon had served since 2007, Sharpe only since May 2015.

British Steel Mill, Moss Bay (in 1981)
Steel, steel, steel.  While Cumbria is probably most associated today with the Lake District and tourism, its coastal towns are surprisingly industrial.  Barrow was built on shipbuilding, Whitehaven on mining, Workington on steel.  Immediately to the south of Workington lies the Cumbrian iron ore field, which was known for its very-high-quality haematite; when Sir Henry Bessemer invented his new process for mass-producing mild steel, which required very-high-quality haematite, Workington was a natural place to produce it, and Moss Bay became the location of the first large-scale steelworks in the world, securing the town's future.  Associated industries included British Steel's engineering arm, production of railway rails (Workington rails were said to hold the world together) and bus and train manufacture - all now gone, and a Google search for Moss Bay steel now results in a scrapyard.  The collapse of the steel industry brought all the usual problems, and the location here of the British Cattle Movement Service (a BSE-era government agency) has done little to alleviate the town's depression, although the nuclear site at Sellafield does provide some employment for the area.

The present Moss Bay ward was created in 1999 and lies at the southern end of Workington, containing the Moss Bay and Salterbeck areas along the Solway Road.  Its demographics are about as working-class as you can get: Moss Bay is in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for White British population (98.5%), social renting (53% of households), no qualifications (43%), semi-routine employment (24%) and routine employment (27%, this figure being the fifteenth highest in England and Wales).  It is as Labour-voting as you might expect from that introduction, and in all five previous elections Labour have been guaranteed at least one of the three seats due to insufficient opposition candidates.  The runner-up spot in all elections up to 2011 was held by independent candidate and former Workington town councillor John Bracken, who missed out by just two votes in 2007 but was more easily beaten 61-39 in 2011.  Bracken gave up in 2015 and Labour were unopposed here that year.  The last contested elections in the area were therefore the 2013 Cumbria county council elections, in which the ward was split between two divisions: Labour held off an independent candidate in Moss Bay and Moorclose division by just 20 votes, while Harrington division (which includes Salterbeck) is independent-held.  The losing independent candidate for Moss Bay took the result to the election court, basically because he was unhappy that the returning officer did not offer him a recount, and lost there as well.  From 2001 to 2009 the ward had the same boundaries as the former Moss Bay county division, and results for that county division are included in the table below.

Rather different is Dalton ward, which is a rural ward covering the Dean and Greysouthen (pronounced Greysoon) parishes to the south-west of Cockermouth.  This was traditionally a coalmining area, but mining ceased in Greysouthen in 1886 and since then the area has become more traditionally rural and commuter, although just as White British as Moss Bay and with a notably large population of 45- to 64-year-olds (37%).  Dalton ward was created in 2001 and has been won by the Tories at every election since then with the exception of 2011, when the incumbent Tory councillor stood for re-election as an independent and the Tories did not oppose him.  Dalton ward was uncontested in 2003 and 2007, but had an unusually wide (for Allerdale) choice of candidates at the most recent election in 2015, the Tories winning with 48% to 21% for the Lib Dems and 16% for the Green Party.  The Tories also hold the local county division (Cockermouth South).

The Dalton by-election has an even wider choice this time of five candidates.  The defending Tory candidate is Mike Johnson, who lives in Maryport and fought a Maryport ward last year.  Despite their second-place finish here last year the Lib Dems are not standing again; however, the Greens are in the shape of Felicity "Flic" Crowley, a retired schoolteacher from Cockermouth.  The UKIP candidate is Eric Atkinson, one of two candidates to live in the ward; the other is Labour candidate Ross Hayman, the husband of the Workington MP Sue Hayman.  Completing the ballot paper is independent candidate Marion Fitzgerald, an anti-windfarm campaigner who won a by-election to Allerdale council in June 2013 (from Boltons ward) but lost her seat last year.

Moss Bay has a three-strong field.  The defending Labour candidate is Frank Johnston, who controversially failed to be elected to Workington town council in 2015 due to a messup at the count, but does seem to be a town councillor now so presumably this has been sorted out.  He is up against the Tories' Louise Donnelly and UKIP's Bob Hardon, a former Allerdale councillor (Stainburn ward, 2007-2011) who fought Moss Bay as the Tory candidate in the 2005 county council elections.

Parliamentary constituency: Copeland
Cumbria county council division: Cockermouth South

May 2015 result C 510 LD 226 Grn 168 UKIP 153
May 2011 result Ind 456 Lab 167 Grn 97
May 2007 result C unopposed
November 2005 by-election C 220 Lab 83
May 2003 result C unopposed
May 1999 result C 305 Lab 122

Moss Bay
Parliamentary constituency: Workington
Cumbria county council division: Moss Bay and Moorclose (part); Harrington (part)

May 2015 result 3 Lab unopposed
May 2011 result Lab 620/596/572 Ind 395
June 2009 county council result Lab 411 Ind 277 BNP 130 LD 104 C 77
May 2007 result Lab 507/439/432 Ind 430
May 2005 county council result Lab 1172 C 316
May 2003 result Lab 613/531/485 Ind 228 LD 173
June 2001 county council result Lab 1555 LD 389
May 1999 result Lab 629/627/555 Ind 339

Kettering council, Northamptonshire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Terry Freer, who had served since 1976, in order to spend more time with his family.

Kettering General Hospital
St Peter's ward can be simply described as Kettering town west of the railway line.  This is a generally residential ward, although a large amount of its area is taken up by Kettering General Hospital, the main acute hospital for northern Northamptonshire, and the Kettering Business Park whose proximity to the A14 bypass has attracted a number of distribution companies on which Kettering's economy now relies, the traditional boot and shoe industry having gone into decline.  Also here are the out-of-town Kettering Conference Centre, the home of the English national volleyball teams.  This is a middle-class part of town with notably high employment, the town's thriving distribution industry combining with some commuting to London which is only an hour away by train.

That middle-class profile creates a Tory-voting ward, and Terry Freer with his ward colleague Mary Malin had represented this ward continuously since 1983, rarely being seriously challenged.  At the most recent election in 2015 they polled 40% to 25% for a single Labour candidate and 18% for a single UKIP candidate.  County-level contests here are more interesting, as St Peter's ward is combined with the safe-Labour William Knibb ward to produce a key marginal which narrowly went Labour in the 2013 county elections.

Defending for the Conservatives is Ian Jelley, whose name regular readers of this column might recognise from the 4th June 2015 election which covered the postponed Kettering council poll in the key marginal Rothwell ward; in that election Jelley lost his seat to his running-mate Karl Sumpter, having served one term as ward councillor for Rothwell.  He should have a safer berth here.  Labour have selected the wonderfully-named Eugene Dalton-Ruark, a Unite member who works in the distribution industry.  The UKIP candidate is Kevin Sills, a Desborough town councillor who was top of the English Democrats' East Midlands list in the 2014 Euro-elections.  Also standing are Kirsty Berry of the Greens, the only returning candidate from the 2015 local election here, and Mel Gosliga of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Kettering
Northamptonshire county council division: Northall

May 2015 result C 1230/1038 Lab 768 UKIP 563 Grn 501
May 2011 result C 922/861 Lab 458/432 EDP 233
May 2007 result C 923/896 Lab 404/365

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

By-election Previews: 17 March 2016

Three local by-election on 17 March 2016:

Broadland district council, Norfolk
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jo Cottingham who has moved away from the area.  Cottingham was first elected for Aylsham ward in 2004 and was deputy leader of Broadland council until 2012; she resigned in 2013 following a complaint about her conduct, but returned to the council in 2015.

Thatched Shelter, Aylsham
We start this week on the River Bure, nine miles north of Norwich.  Aylsham was an important town in mediaeval times, a major centre for the linen and worsted industry.  Thanks to its location about halfway between Norfolk and Cromer, the town became a stop on the coaching route between them, and the coaching Black Boys Inn is one of the town's oldest buildings.  Still a local market town and agricultural centre, Aylsham was one of the first British members of the Cittaslow or "Slow City" movement.  As well as the town, the Aylsham ward includes the parishes of Burgh and Tuttington to the east, Marsham to the south, and Oulton and Blickling to the north; Blickling is a major tourist attraction thanks to the Jacobean stately home Blickling Hall, a former home of the Boleyn family.

As you might have guessed from the introduction, this by-election is a repeat of one previously fought in 2013.  This is a closely-fought Lib Dem vs Conservative ward and neither party has held a full slate of councillors at any point since the ward was created in 2004.  In 2004 the Lib Dems won two seats to the Tories' one; the Tories gained a second seat in 2007, but lost in the 2013 by-election after Cottingham's first resignation.  The May 2015 result marked a return to the status quo ante, with Cottingham top of the poll and the Lib Dem by-election winner Steve Riley coming a poor sixth; in terms of votes the Tory slate had 32%, the Lib Dems 31% and a single Labour candidate polled 22%.  The Lib Dems hold the local county council seat, increasing their majority over the Tories in 2013 partly thanks to UKIP splitting the Tory vote.

This repeat by-election is a fight between the three main parties.  Defending for the Tories is their losing candidate from 2015, Hal Turkmen, who is the only candidate to give an address in the ward.  The Lib Dem by-election winner from 2013, Steve Riley, wants his seat back; he gives an address at RAF Coltishall.  Completing the ballot paper is Labour's candidate Christopher Jenner.

Parliamentary constituency: Broadland
Norfolk county council division: Aylsham

May 2015 result C 1588/1513/1125 LD 1521/1065/926 Lab 1082 UKIP 719/658
July 2013 by-election LD 688 C 501 Lab 181
May 2011 result C 1336/1253/1010 LD 1182/846/752 Lab 542/471 Grn 446
May 2007 result LD 1137/1067/1024 C 1124/1082/1027 Lab 246/230/199
June 2004 result LD 918/907/845 C 854/822/797 Lab 719/461/421

North Kesteven district council, Lincolnshire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Geoffrey Whittle at the age of 92.

Church Street, Digby
One of the oldest local councillors in England, Whittle may also have been the last local councillor to have served in the Second World War; he spent 19 years in the Royal Air Force followed by 26 years in the NAAFI, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for navigating his damaged and burning Lancaster back to Britain during a September 1943 operation over Hannover.  On Whittle's final retirement from the Forces in 1988 he took up local politics, being elected to East Hampshire district council in 1991 and serving as its chairman in 2000-01.  In 2007 Whittle transferred to North Kesteven district council, and one of his final public appearances was at the unveiling of the International Bomber Command Centre just outside Lincoln in October last year, along with 310 other surviving veterans of Bomber Command.

It's particularly appropriate that a person with such a strong association to the RAF as Geoffrey Whittle should have ended up as the local councillor for RAF Cranwell, the home of the Royal Air Force College which trains new RAF officers.  Also based here are the Central Flying School, which trains RAF flying instructors, two of the RAF's three military bands and a number of Air Force headquarters and admin divisions.  All this adds up to a population of around 3,000 for Cranwell as a whole, dwarfing the village of Ashby de la Launde and the ward's other five parishes, all of them villages off the A15 Sleaford-Lincoln road; however, voter registration and turnout among the military tends to be very poor, so the villages will punch above their weight when it comes to the actual election.

Whittle only had a majority of 16 votes over the Lib Dems when was he first elected to this then new ward in 2007, but the Tory slate here was unopposed in 2011 and in 2015 crushed a single independent candidate 67-33.  Things are less safe for the Tories at county council level, where this ward forms two-thirds of the Ruskington and Cranwell division which the Tories held in 2013, three points ahead of UKIP.

Interestingly, that independent candidate crushed by the Tory slate in 2015, Luke Mitchell, is the defending Conservative candidate for this by-election.  He is up against Steve Clegg of the Lincolnshire Independents, a well-organised group who hold eight seats on the county council, and Clare Newton of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Ruskington and Cranwell

May 2015 result C 1789/1504 Ind 871
May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
May 2007 result C 734/586 LD 570 BNP 297

Redcar and Cleveland council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Peter Spencer at the age of 80.  A qualified accountant, Spencer had been involved in local politics since the 1960s and had represented Hutton ward since 1999; in 2005-6 he was Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland.

Roseberry Topping
The Teesside press reported this month about the recent death of Keith Heaviside of Great Ayton, who had climbed the nearby 1049-foot hill of Roseberry Topping 6,100 times during his life.  Anybody who knows Teesside knows why he kept going up there - it's an attractive hill, a miniature Matterhorn, and a fantastic viewpoint.  Its summit lies within the Hutton ward of Redcar and Cleveland, which is the western of the three wards covering the town of Guisborough.  Traditionally a market town for the local area, Guisborough became prosperous during the Industrial Revolution as a centre of Cleveland ironstone mining; one of the people who became rich from that, ironfounder and Liberal MP Sir Joseph Pease, built the Gothic revival Hutton Hall here as his country seat.  Today Guisborough is a commuter town for the Teesside conurbation, with many of its residents working in the chemical industry and attracted by the town's location on the edge of the North York Moors national park.

With that commuter economic profile comes a Tory-voting electoral profile, and this ward is safe Conservative.  At the most recent election in 2015 the Tory slate beat Labour here 54-29.

Defending for the Tories is Caroline Jackson, who is up against Labour's Ian Taylor, the Lib Dems' Graeme Kidd, UKIP's Harry Lilleker and independent George Tinsley.

Parliamentary constituency: Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

May 2015 result C 1997/1963/1792 Lab 1071/950/856 LD 643
May 2011 result C 1562/1532/1367 Lab 940/717/622 LD 672
May 2007 result C 1646/1620/1478 Lab 681
May 2003 result C 1835/1816/1708 LD 847/791/767 Lab 613/605