Thursday, 27 November 2014

By-election Previews: 27th November 2014

There are twelve by-elections on 27th November.  Nine will be covered in English Elections and three in Scottish Elections.  In Scotland there is a poll to the non-partisan Orkney islands council, while the SNP have chances to take a seat in northern Aberdeenshire off the Tories and a seat in Midlothian from Labour.  In England, Labour have three very safe seats to defend in one of the most notorious housing estates in Oxfordshire.  There are some interesting marginal wards up for election in rural Leicestershire and urban Middlesex, and a safe Tory defence in Huntingdonshire.   But we start in the East Riding with three by-elections: the Tories are defending two and the other seat is vacated by a party which you might have thought was long dead...

East Riding council
Caused by the deaths, respectively, of continuing SDP councillor Ray Allerston and Conservative councillors Doreen Engall and Angela Ibson.

Bridlington Old Town
Ray Allerston, who has died at the age of 80, is a former farmer and driver whose local government career started in 1987 on the now-abolished East Yorkshire district council; he had also served on Bridlington town council since its inception in 2000 and was Mayor of Bridlington in 2007-8.  Doreen Engall, whose death came at the age of 90, had an even longer local government career, beginning in 1976 on Holme-upon-Spalding Moor parish council; she was twice Mayor of the former Boothferry borough council, had served on the former Humberside county council and was a former chairman of Humberside Fire Authority (twice) and East Riding council.  Engall's long local government career was recognised in the 2013 Birthday Honours in which she was gazetted MBE.  Angela Ibson died at 70 while waiting for heart bypass surgery; she had served on East Riding council since 2007.

One county, three very different wards.  Starting off in Bridlington, the largest town in the East Riding, where the first thing you notice is that the SDP are the defending party.  Do not adjust your calendar.  We are definitely in November 2014; it's just that Bridlington is the last stronghold of the continuing SDP, still going twenty-four years after the second Bootle by-election of 1990 caused the national party to be wound up.  The rather misnamed Central and Old Town ward is nowhere near the seafront, consisting instead of Bridlington's north-west corner (the Old Town area) together with three rural parishes: Boynton, Grimdale, and Bempton on the north coast of Flamborough Head.  Its elections since 2003 have been dominated by Allerston who had a large personal vote, and the other parties often ran short slates in order that he was effectively unopposed; in 2011 the two non-SDP seats were shared by the Tories and Labour, making this ward a rare three-way split.

Howdenshire is a large and very rural ward aross the River Ouse from Goole, containing five railway stations, including the junction at Gilberdyke, and the North Cave junction where the M62 Transpennine motorway runs out of steam several miles short of Hull.  It's traditionally been a safe Tory ward, but a by-election in May 2013 (caused by one of the other Tory councillors becoming deputy police and crime commissioner for Humberside) saw UKIP poll 35% and turn the ward into a Tory/UKIP marginal.

Different yet again is Willerby and Kirk Ella ward, an affluent suburb of Hull which has not yet been annexed by the city.  This was a Tory/Lib Dem marginal during the last Labour administration; the Lib Dems narrowly won all three seats in 2003.  The Tories gained the ward from the Lib Dems in 2007 but then lost a seat in a farcical by-election on general election day in 2010 after messing up their nomination and failing to get on the ballot: the by-election ended up as a straight fight between the Lib Dems and Labour with the Lib Dems winning by 4:1.  The Tories pulled away in 2011 and made the ward safe.

In what may represent the final death of the continuing SDP, they have not nominated a candidate to replace Ray Allerston, so Bridlington Central and Old Town is an open seat.  The Tories have nominated John Copsey, the deputy Mayor of Bridlington.  There is no Labour candidate even though they hold one of the council seats in the ward; however, Liam Dealtry, one of the three independent candidates, was on the Labour slate here in 2011.  The other independents are Terry Dixon, who was Mayor of Bridlington in 2013-14, and Neil Tate, while town councillor Malcolm Milns completes the balot paper for UKIP.

Three candidates have been nominated for Howdenshire: Nigel Wilkinson, a business advisor from Newland near Goole, for the Conservatives; Beverley resident Clive Waddington for UKIP; and Cottingham resident Danny Marten, who fought the parliamentary seat (Haltemprice and Howden) in 2010, for Labour.

Willerby and Kirk Ella is also a three way fight involving the same parties.  Local campaigner Mick Burchill defends for the Tories.  The Lib Dems appear to have thrown in the towel.   Labour's candidate is Daniel Palmer and UKIP's is Robert Skinner.

Bridlington Central and Old Town
Parliamentary constituency: East Yorkshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridlington and Driffield

John Copsey (C)
Liam Dealtry (Ind)
Terry Dixon (Ind)
Malcolm Milns (UKIP)
Neil Tate (Ind)

May 2011 result SDP 1167/497 C 903/685 Lab 864/644 LD 173
May 2007 result SDP 1404/709 C 982 BNP 554 LD 435 Lab 413
May 2003 result SDP 1491/1394 Lab 466/332 C 442/396 Ind 295 LD 120/112

Parliamentary constituency: Haltemprice and Howden
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hull (part), York (part)

Danny Marten (Lab)
Clive Waddington (UKIP)
Nigel Wilkinson (C)

May 2013 by-election C 1573 UKIP 1260 Lab 563 LD 212
May 2011 result C 2640/2347/2212 Ind 1013/326 East Yorkshire Inds 925 Lab 915/811/754 LD 421/386/353
May 2007 result C 2638/2631/2507 LD 1282/784/720 Ind 1109/592 Lab 363/345
May 2003 result C 2023/2001/1993 LD 1494/1474/1389 Lab 360 Ind 291

Willerby and Kirk Ella
Parliamentary constituency: Haltemprice and Howden
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hull

Mike Burchill (C)
Daniel Palmer (Lab)
Robert Skinner (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 2300/2163/2039 LD 1476/1443/1324 Lab 801/705/682 EDP 403/387/318
May 2010 by-election LD 5107 Lab 1298
May 2007 result C 2626/2551/2550 LD 2227/2160/2115 Lab 259/207/205
May 2003 result LD 2114/1991/1972 C 1961/1901/1733 Ind 578 Lab 313/288

Melton district council, Leicestershire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Trevor Moncrieff at the age of 66.  Moncrieff was in his first term as district councillor for Asfordby, and had served as leader of the Labour group on Melton council.

Main Street, Asfordby
This ward covers the village of Asfordby, just to the west of Melton Mowbray on the north bank of the River Wreake.  It's a surprisingly industrial village, with a modern deep coal pit having operated here in the 1980s and 1990s, and today it's known for the Old Dalby Test Track; located on the route of the old railway line from Melton to Nottingham, this is a private railway used by London Underground and the UK's train companies for testing new train designs.

The industrial legacy is reflected in the fact that Labour are the best-organised party here, although they lost the ward's two seats in 2007 to a Tory candidate (who was in fact one of the outgoing Labour councillors) and an independent.  Labour regained the Independent seat at the 2011 election, the Tory councillor being re-elected at the top of the poll.  While this ward is most definitely marginal, the wider Asfordby county division (which covers a huge swathe of countryside to the west of Melton) voted 79% Tory in 2013 in a straight fight with Labour, and this gives you a taste of the wider nature of Melton council and the local parliamentary seat (Rutland and Melton).

The defending Labour candidate is Michael Blase, a design engineer from Melton Mowbray.  The Tories, bidding to hold two seats in the ward for the first time this century, have nominated Ronnie de Burle who has lived in Asfordby for 45 years.  Completing the ballot paper is the ward's first UKIP candidate, Sacha Barnes.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
Leicestershire county council division: Asfordby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

Sacha Barnes (UKIP)
Michael Blase (Lab)
Ronnie de Burle (C)

May 2011 result C 470 Lab 420/394 Ind 342
May 2007 result C 448 Ind 383 Lab 378/237
May 2003 result Lab 431/396 Ind 269 C 217

Oxford city council; and
Oxfordshire county council
Caused by the resignations of Labour councillors Val Smith, who was county councillor for Leys and city councillor for Blackbird Leys, due to ill-health; and Steve Curran, city councillor for Northfield Brook, who has resigned in order to stand for the county council by-election.  Val Smith is the wife of Andrew Smith, the Labour MP for Oxford East.

Evenlode Tower, Blackbird Leys
What is going on in Oxford at the moment?  These are the fourth, fifth and sixth council by-elections in the city since July.

The Leys county division can be found at the very south-east corner of Oxford.  It covers the parish of Blackbird Leys, named after the 1950s and 1960s housing estate of the same name which has become notorious for its deprivation and high crime rate.  Newly drawn for the 2013 county elections, Leys division covers two wards of Oxford city council: Blackbird Leys itself, and Northfield Brook, which covers the area to the south-west of the division around the stream of the same name.

During most of the Noughties, this strongly left-wing ward was closely fought between Labour and the Independent Working Class Association, who won one of the two seats in Northfield Brook at the 2002 election.  In 2004 the IWCA held that seat and gained Blackbird Leys ward, and they gained the second seatin Northfield Brook from Labour in 2006; in the interim Labour held by-elections in both wards in 2005.  Labour regained the IWCA seats in 2008 (in Blackbird Leys) and in 2010 and 2012 (in Northfield Brook), and the IWCA now appear to have folded as an electoral force.  In their absence Labour polled 82% of the vote in Leys in the 2013 county election, and in the 2012 city council elections Labour had 85% in Blackbird Leys and 74% in Northfield Brook.  In 2014 Northfield Brook was the safer Labour ward because UKIP fought Blackbird Leys and polled 21%.  Val Smith's resignation gave the ruling Conservatives half the seats on Oxfordshire county council, and in the unlikely event of a Tory gain in the county by-election they will have a majority.  There are no implications for control of Oxford city council, where Labour have a large majority.

The Leys county division is defended, as stated above, by Labour's Steve Curran, who gained Northfield Brook ward from the IWCA in 2012.  He is opposed by Samuel Burgess (C), Ann Duncan (Grn), Lesley Mallinder (LD), James Morbin (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and Dave Slater (UKIP).

Curran leaves behind a city council seat in Northfield Brook which Sian Taylor (Lab), an NHS nurse of 30 years' service, is favourite to win against opposition from Gary Dixon (C), Ann Duncan (Grn), Michael Tait (LD) and James Morbin (TUSC).  In the Blackbird Leys by-election Labour's Linda Smith, the wife of prominent left-wing blogger and former Labour NEC member Luke Akehurst, seeks to return to local government having recently moved to Oxford after twelve years as a Hackney councillor in London; she takes on Dave Slater (UKIP), Berk Bektas (C), Elizabeth McHale (Grn), Lesley Mallinder (LD) and Stella Collier (TUSC).

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Samuel Burgess (C)
Steve Curran (Lab)
Ann Duncan (Grn)
Lesley Mallinder (LD)
James Morbin (TUSC)
Dave Slater (UKIP)

May 2013 result Lab 1249 C 116 Grn 114 LD 53

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

Berk Bektas (C)
Stella Collier (TUSC)
Lesley Mallinder (LD)
Elizabeth McHale (Grn)Riverside, St Neots
Dave Slater (UKIP)
Linda Smith (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 642 UKIP 196 C 54 Grn 43 LD 19
May 2012 result Lab 737 C 54 Grn 40 LD 32
May 2010 result Lab 1510 C 299 LD 270 Grn 93
May 2008 result Lab 647 IWCA 417 C 79 Grn 28 LD 20
May 2006 result Lab 579 IWCA 519 LD 69 Grn 29
May 2005 by-election Lab 969 IWCA 566 C 176 LD 172 Grn 54
June 2004 result IWCA 494 Lab 415 LD 92 C 91 Grn 36
May 2002 result Lab 633/438 IWCA 197 C 111 LD 34/19 SocAll 33 Grn 22/18

Northfield Brook
Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
Oxfordshire county council division: Leys
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Gary Dixon (C)
Ann Duncan (Grn)
James Morbin (TUSC)
Michael Tait (LD)
Sian Taylor (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 700 C 112 Grn 111 LD 55
May 2012 result Lab 564 Grn 73 LD 68 C 61
May 2010 result Lab 1264 LD 503 C 419 Grn 140
May 2008 result IWCA 537 Lab 471 C 78 LD 56 Grn 44
May 2006 result IWCA 620 Lab 502 LD 91 Grn 62
July 2005 by-election Lab 592 IWCA 300 LD 141 C 31 Grn 19
June 2004 result IWCA 555 Lab 439 C 90 LD 89 Grn 61
May 2002 result Lab 406/308 IWCA 354/328 LD 70/59 Grn 44/38

London borough of Hillingdon, North London
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor David Horne due to ill-health.  Horne was a long-serving councillor but had only returned to Hillingdon council in May, having lost his seat for this ward in 2006.

Hewens Road, Hayes End
This ward is in suburban northern Hayes, to the north of the Uxbridge Road; it includes the Hayes End and Hillingdon Heath areas, and is named after Charville Lane in the north of the ward.  At the centre of the ward can be found the headquarters of United Biscuits, owner of brands including Jacob's and McVities, which was sold this month to a Turkish company.  United Biscuits' internal radio launched the careers of some well-known DJs including Dale Winton, and indeed Hayes has many links to film and entertainment generally; scenes for the recent horror film World War Z were filmed in this ward.  I hasten to add that the ward is not populated by zombies.

This is a socially divided ward, with Hayes End being more upmarket than the rest of the area; other highlights from the 2011 census show that this was in the top 100 most Sikh wards in England and only just outside the top 100 for Hindus.  The social division comes through in the ward's election results in which this is a crucial Labour/Tory marginal.  Labour won all three seats in 2002; the Tories gained two seats in 2006; the 2010 split remained 1 Labour and 2 Conservative; while Labour (David Horne) knocked one of the Conservatives out by 14 votes in last May's ordinary election to make the split 2 Labour and 1 Conservative.  At the last GLA elections in 2012 Boris beat Ken 50-39 in the ward's ballot boxes, but in the list vote Labour were on top with 42%, to 35% for the Tories and 8% for UKIP.  There does appear to be a populist right-wing vote in the ward; the BNP were in third place here in 2010 and last May UKIP polled 22% of the vote.  With the Kippers riding high in the polls this may be one to watch; there are not many wards in Greater London which are as favourable for them.  There are no implications for control of Hillingdon council, which has a large Conservative majority, while the local parliamentary seat (Hayes and Harlington) is safe for Labour.

Defending for Labour is John Oswell, a former long-serving councillor for Pinkwell ward in Hayes who stood down from the council in 2010; in May he fought the similarly-marginal Yiewsley ward.  The Tories have selected former Mayor of Hillindgon Mary O'Connor, who lost her seat in this ward in May's ordinary election by just 14 votes.  UKIP have reselected their May candidate Cliff Dixon; also the chair of Hillingdon UKIP and PPC for Hayes and Harlington, Dixon atracted some adverse publicity last year over alleged links to the English Defence League.  Also on the ballot are Wally Kennedy for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Paul McKeown for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Hayes and Harlington
GLA constituency: Ealing and Hillingdon
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Cliff Dixon (UKIP)
Wally Kennedy (TUSC)
Paul McKeown (LD)
Mary O'Connor (C)
John Oswell (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 1572/1368/1276 C 1409/1354/1201 UKIP 1004 Grn 381 TUSC 132
May 2010 result Lab 2479/2223/2176 C 2336/2296/2127 BNP 618 LD 541/527/444
May 2006 result C 1565/1376/1256 Lab 1426/1329/1320 LD 556/425
May 2002 result Lab 1391/1344/1297 C 1087/1082/1027 BNP 301 LD 244/203/168 Grn 168

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1215 Ken 945 UKIP 97 BNP 57 Ind 51 LD 47 Grn 38
London Member: Lab 1039 C 856 UKIP 196 BNP 96 LD 71 Grn 67 EDP 51 CPA 46 NF 27 Alagaratnam 13 Hayat 8 TUSC 7 House Party 2

Huntingdonshire district council, Cambridgeshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Paula Longford.

Riverside, St Neots
This ward covers the town centre and north-east of St Neots.  Named after St Neots Priory, an early Norman Benedictine foundation, this is a mediaeval town which has grown rapidly since the Second World War thanks to its location on the Great North Road and the East Coast Main Line, which led to the development of London overspill housing in the town.  The population growth is such that St Neots has overtaken Huntingdon to become Cambridgeshire's largest town (as opposed to city, which Cambridge and Peterborough both are).  The Priory Park ward is centred on St Neots railway station, and includes the Love's Farm housing estate to the east of the station.

The present Priory Park ward was created in 2004, in which year it elected two Conservatives with a comfortable majority over the Lib Dems.  However, the Lib Dems gained the two seats in the ward at the 2006 and 2007 elections, defeating Longford in 2007 by a majority of just 16 votes.  The Lib Dem strentgh then disappeared as suddenly as it had come, and the Tories got their seats back in 2010 and 2011; there was no Lib Dem candidate in May and UKIP took over second place, polling 27% to 48% for the Tories and 15% for Labour.

The defending Tory candidate is town councillor Ian Gardener.  UKIP's Carol Gamby has been reselected after fighting the ward in May, and Labour's Angela Hogan completes the ballot paper.  Whoever wins this by-election will be straight back on the campaign trail, as they will be up for re-election in May.

Parliamentary constituency: Huntingdon
Cambridgeshire county council division: Little Paxton and St Neots North (part: west of ECML); Buckden, Gransden and The Offords (part: east of ECML)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huntingdon

Carol Gamby (UKIP)
Ian Gardener (C)
Angela Hogan (Lab)

May 2014 result C 1048 UKIP 580 Lab 321 Grn 215
May 2011 result C 1204 LD 582 Lab 371
May 2010 result C 1625 LD 1322 Lab 341
May 2007 result LD 742 C 726 Lab 96
May 2006 result LD 870 C 619 Lab 124
June 2004 result C 930/878 LD 550/528 Lab 178

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

By-election Previews: Rochester and Strood/20th November 2014

As well as the headline parliamentary by-election in Rochester and Strood this week, three local by-elections are also taking place. One is covered over on the Welsh Elections blog while the other two are below - including one in Medway within the Rochester and Strood constituency.

House of Commons and Medway Council, Kent
Caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative MP Mark Reckless and Conservative councillor Chris Irvine in order to seek re-election as UKIP candidates.

High Street, Rochester
Your columnist likes Rochester.  It's an attractive town on the east bank of the River Medway, with an old cathedral, a long, attractive and well-preserved High Street, a high-quality quiz organised each July by Ken Owen and held at the Vines United Reformed Church, and one of the longest histories of any town in England.  Lovers of second-hand books are recommended to look into Baggins' shop on the High Street, which advertises itself as England's largest secondhand bookshop; if you fancy eating out then the Grandma Thai restaurant, also on the High Street, is recommended.

Rochester is the lowest point at which the Medway can be bridged, and the Romans were the first to do so as part of Watling Street, the main road from the Kent Ports to Londinium.  In AD 604 Rochester became England's second bishopric.  The modern cathedral and Rochester Castle date from the Norman period, and the castle saw action during the Rebellion of 1088 (in which it was the headquarters for Robert Curthose), the two Barons' Wars of the thirteenth century, and most recently the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.  After 1381 the importance of Rochester Castle declined and the town's military focus switched from land to sea: Elizabeth I established a Royal Dockyard at Chatham which for many years was one of the UK's most important naval bases.

On the far side of Rochester Bridge can be found the satellite town of Strood, probably best known for the Strood Tunnel which was built in the 1800s to take the Thames and Medway Canal, and was the UK's second-longest canal tunnel.  It is now a railway tunnel used by the North Kent line, which runs from Charing Cross to Rochester via Dartford, and now also by Southeastern's high speed trains from St Pancras via Gravesend.

Charles Dickens knew Rochester well and many of his novels were set in the area.  However, we have turn to Ian Fleming for an indication of more modern problems with the area, specifically Rochester Bridge which was a major bottleneck on the main road from London to the Kent Ports.  The James Bond novel Goldfinger, written in 1959, talks of the inevitable traffic jams in Strood.  Four years later, the M2 motorway - one of the oldest of Britain's motorways - opened, taking through traffic out of the Medway Towns via a new Medway Viaduct.  Further improvement work in the early 2000s means that there are now three Medway Viaducts: two for the M2 and one for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Away from the two towns, the Rochester and Strood constituency includes the villages of Cuxton and Halling to the south of Strood, and the Hoo Peninsula, which terminates in the industrial Isle of Grain, at which can be found the UK's third-largest container port and an large natural gas terminal; the oil-fired Grain Power Station is now being demolished.  One future development for Grain which looks unlikely to happen is a new Thames Estuary airport, as suggested a few years ago; one future development for the peninsula which has a better chance is a development of 5,000 houses at Lodge Hill, which is opposed by the defending Tory-turned-UKIP candidate in the council by-election.

The constituency based on Rochester has for many years been a crucial Tory/Labour marginal.  In the inter-war years Rochester formed part of the Chatham constituency, which was contested by none other than Hugh Gaitskell for Labour in 1935; he lost 59-41 to the new Tory candidate, radio pioneer Leonard Plugge.  Plugge served one term before losing his seat 55-45 in 1945 to the trade unionist Mayor of Walthamstow, Arthur Bottomley.  Serving as a junior minister in the Attlee government and moving in 1950 to the new Rochester and Chatham constituency, Bottomley survived a series of knife-edge results (his majority over the Tories was 477 in the 1950 election and 847 a year later) before finally losing his seat in 1959 to the Tories' Julian Critchley, who had a majority of 1,023.  Bottomley later returned to the Commons for a safe Labour seat in Middlesbrough; his parliamentary career peaked during the first Wilson administration, in which he was Commonwealth Secretary and had to deal with the fallout from Rhodesia's UDI.

Critchley served only one term as MP for Rochester and Chatham, losing in 1964 to Labour's Anne Kerr, an actress and TV interviewer.  The Labour majority in 1964 was 1,013, and a rematch between Kerr and Critchley in 1966 saw Kerr's majority increase to 2,246.  (Critchley later resurfaced in parliament as MP for Aldershot, where he had a long career on the Tory backbenches.)  Kerr, a campaigner on human rights issues, came to prominence in 1968 when she was arrested at the Democratic convention in Chicago and beaten by the police.  She lost badly in 1970 to the new Tory candidate, Peggy Fenner.

Fenner was appointed by Heath to a junior position in the Ministry of Agriculture, and held it until the Heath government lost office in February 1974.  Fenner herself held her seat by 843 votes that February, but was not so lucky in the October election which she lost to Labour's Robert Bean, a polytechnic lecturer, by 2,418.  A rematch between Bean and Fenner saw Fenner get her seat back in 1979 by 2,688 votes, and Bean's attempt in 1983 to get his seat back - in the new Medway constituency following boundary changes - saw Fenner increase her majority to 8,656 and turn Medway into a safe Tory seat for the first time since the Second World War.  That was Bean's last contest; he died in 1987 at the early age of 52.

Fenner returned to the Ministry of Agriculture under Thatcher, and upon going back to the backbenches in 1986 was appointed DBE.  Dame Peggy kept her parliamentary seat safe right up until the Labour landslide of 1997, when a 15-point swing saw Labour's Bob Marshall-Andrews, a barrister who had fought the seat in 1992 and Richmond (Surrey) in October 1974, defeat Fenner.  Overnight Medway had turned from a safe Tory seat into a safe Labour seat.

In a thirteen-year parliamentary career Marshall-Andrews became a high-profile backbencher and a thorn in the side of the Blair and Brown governments.  He had little trouble being re-elected in 2001 against new Conservative candidate Mark Reckless, who at the time was working in financial services.  Further down the ballot that year, polling 2.5% and losing her deposit, was the UKIP candidate Nikki Sinclaire, who would later serve from 2009 to May this year as an MEP for the West Midlands.  The 2005 Medway election was a more close-run thing; Marshall-Andrews actually conceded defeat to Reckless in an early election night interview, but when the declaration finally came he had held on to his seat by 213 votes.

Marshall-Andrews was eventually done for by the Boundary Commission, which redrew his seat as Rochester and Strood for the 2010 election.  Reckless would have won in 2005 on the present boundaries, and when Marshall-Andrews retired in 2010 Reckless had little trouble getting elected at the third attempt, finishing with a majority of 21 points over Labour.  By now having been called to the Bar, Reckless' parliamentary career has been less than stellar: he got off on the wrong foot by failing to vote on the 2010 budget because he was drunk, and since then has followed the Marshall-Andrews path of being a backbencher with a rebellious reputation.

2011 Medway Council Results in the Rochester and Strood Constituency

The Medway council itself goes back only to 1998 when the various borough councils covering the Medway Towns merged into one local government unit; an action which was not without consequences, as the new council failed to appoint Charter Trustees which resulted in Rochester losing its city status.  Since 2000 the area covered by the modern Rochester and Strood constituency has been trending towards the Tories: Labour carried three wards in 2003 (River ward - which covers part of the centres of both Rochester and Chatham and the Dockyard - Rochester West and Strood South), but only topped the poll in Rochester East at the most recent council election in 2011, although they did hold one of the three seats in Strood North and gained a seat in Strood South.  In the 2007-2011 council there was a series of bizarre council by-elections in Rochester: the Tories held Rochester South and Horsted ward in 2008 after the Tory councillor resigned over a controversial blog post; the Tories gained River ward from Labour in August 2010 after the Labour councillor was elected to Parliament for a seat two hundred miles away in Merseyside, but Labour won that seat straight back in a second by-election in October after the new Tory councillor resigned on being (wrongly) advised that being a special constable made him ineligible to be a councillor.

Main Road, Hoo St. Werburgh
The Peninsula by-election this week is, however, the first and only council by-election in Medway in the 2011-15 term.   A rural ward covering seven parishes on the Hoo peninsula, despite all the industry on the Isle of Grain this is (at least in 2011 cirumstances) a very safe Tory ward.  Outgoing councillor Christopher Irvine is, as stated above, standing for re-election as UKIP.  The official Tory candidate is Ron Sands, from Hoo; also on the ballot are Labour's Pete Tungate, the Greens' Clive Gregory and the Lib Dems' Christopher Sams.

In the wider constituency, Mark Reckless is of course riding the UKIP wave following the party's win in the Clacton by-election last month.  The official Conservative candidate is Kelly Tolhurst, a local councillor representing Rochester West ward; she was selected by an all-postal primary with ballot papers being sent to all electors in the constituency.  Labour have selected Naushabah Khan, a PR consultant and kickboxer, while the Lib Dems' Geoff Juby is, like Reckless, fighting the seat for the fourth time.  Also on a crowded ballot paper are Clive Gregory, who doubles up as the Greens' parliamentary and council candidate; independents Mike Barker and Christopher Challis; Hairy Knorm Davidson of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party; the Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen (whose leaflets Royal Mail have refused to deliver, citing laws on the sending of threatening mail); independent Stephen Goldsbrough; Nick Long of the Lewisham-based group People Before Profit; Dave Osborn of the Patriotic Socialist Party, who polled two (2) votes in a council by-election in Colchester in July; and independent candidate and "high class courtesan" Charlotte Rose who also fought the Clacton by-election.

Four opinion polls of the constituency have shown Reckless leading by between 9 and 15 points; the most recent poll at the time of writing, taken by Lord Ashcroft from 7-10 November, showed Reckless on 44% to 32% for the Tories and 17% for Labour.  While readers should bear in mind that constituency polling in the UK has a poor record, it does appear that the Tories are going to have a problem holding on in what may the last parliamentary by-election before the 2015 general election.

Rochester and Strood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent

Mike Baker (Ind)
Christopher Challis (Ind)
Hary Knorm Davidson (Loony)
Jayda Fransen (Britain First)
Stephen Goldsbrough (Ind)
Clive Gregory (Grn)
Geoff Juby (LD)
Naushabah Khan (Lab)
Nick Long (PBP)
Dave Osborn (PatSoc)
Mark Reckless (UKIP)
Charlotte Rose (Ind)
Kelly Tolhurst (C)

May 2010 result C 23604 Lab 13651 LD 7800 EDP 2182 Grn 734

Parliamentary constituency: Rochester and Strood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent

Clive Gregory (Grn)
Christopher Irvine (UKIP)
Christopher Sams (LD)
Ron Sands (C)
Pete Tungate (Lab)

May 2011 result C 2557/2307/2125 Lab 975/898/879 EDP 535/476 Grn 351 LD 298/282
May 2007 result C 2396/2054/2036 Ind 1376 Lab 646/561/511 UKIP 427 LD 251/122/94
May 2003 result C 2640/2503/2451 Lab 776/658/621 LD 195/182/169 UKIP 159

Stockport metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Anita Johnson due to ill-health.

Davenport Arms, Woodford
This is the most southerly ward in Greater Manchester, covering one of Manchester's most affluent suburbs.  Bramhall is the point where the housing ends and the Cheshire countryside begins.  The ward covers the village of Woodford, known for its recently-closed aerodrome and aircraft factory and for being the home of several famous Manchester United footballers; in recognition of Woodford, the ward was renamed in April this year having previously been called simply "Bramhall South".  Bramhall presently marks the eastern terminus of the A555 road, the only part that was ever built of an ambitious road scheme to link Hazel Grove to Manchester Airport; at present the A555 does neither, making it very much a road to nowhere.

Bramhall South's election results haven't seen much change over the last decade; it's a safe Tory ward with the Lib Dems in a strong second place but never quite polling well enough to win.  The ward forms part of the Lib Dem-held Cheadle constituency.

Defending for the Tories is John McGahan.  Jeremy Meal has been reselected by the Lib Dems after fighting the ward in May's ordinary election.  Also standing are Labour's Kathryn Priestley and the Greens' David McDonough.

Parliamentary constituency: Cheadle
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester

David McDonough (Grn)
John McGahan (C)
Jeremy Meal (LD)
Kathryn Priestley (Lab)

May 2014 result C 1862 LD 1373 UKIP 538 Lab 369
May 2012 result C 1900 LD 1007 Lab 389 UKIP 342 Grn 202
May 2011 result C 2791 LD 1489 Lab 480 UKIP 213 Grn 176
May 2010 result C 3775 LD 3195 Lab 387 UKIP 213 Grn 173
May 2008 result C 2762 LD 1554 Lab 170 UKIP 163
May 2007 result C 2713 LD 1787 UKIP 155 Lab 151
May 2006 result C 2606 LD 2044 UKIP 146 Lab 142
June 2004 result C 2673/2656/2620 LD 2507/2418/2085 UKIP 491 Lab 396/270/259

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

By-election Previews: 13 November 2014

Derbyshire county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Tomlinson due to personal and professional commitments.

Crich Tramway Village
This not-particularly-cohesive county division covers the whole of the western edge of Amber Valley district.  At the southern end is the village of Kirk Langley on the A52 Derby-Ashbourne road.  At the nothern end is Crich, a village which is known for the National Tramway Museum and as the location for the 1990s ITV drama Peak Practice.  Below Crich is the Derwent Valley, a World Heritage Site, and the intriguingly-named village of Whatstandwell.  While the division have a generally rural profile, it does also include one of the four wards covering the town of Belper.

Alport and Derwent has been a safe Conservative division for the last decade, although Derbyshire was redistricted in 2013 and the previous division of this name covered a rather different area.  At the most recent county election UKIP were in second place, narrowly ahead of Labour.  The division covers three whole wards of Amber Valley district (Alport, Belper North and Crich) and part of a fourth ward (South West Parishes), all of which returned Conservative councillors at the last election in 2011 or 2012; in 2011 the Tories were unopposed in South West Parishes ward.

The defending Conservative candidate is David Taylor, district councillor for Alport ward; he lives within that ward in Idridgehay (wonderfully, his house is called "Wits End").  He is opposed by UKIP's David Fisher, a Belper town councillor, and Labour's Mike Ratcliffe, a district and town councillor for the nearby town of Wirksworth.

Parliamentary constituency: Derbyshire Dales (Alport and Crich wards and part of South West Parishes ward), Mid Derbyshire (Belper North ward)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Matlock (Alport and Crich wards), Derby (Belper North ward and part of South West Parishes ward)

David Fisher (UKIP)
Mike Ratcliffe (Lab)
David Taylor (C)

May 2013 result C 1558 UKIP 936 Lab 894 LD 295

Mid Sussex district council, West Sussex
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Sue Seward.

"The Street", Bolney
Another non-cohesive rural ward, Bolney ward covers a series of villages off the A23 London-Brighton road to the west of Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill.  Bolney itself lies at the centre of the ward, which also includes Warninglid to the north and Albourne to the south.  The ward boundary is drawn in such a way that there is no road between Albourne and the rest of the ward which does not pass through neighbouring wards.

This is a super-safe Conservative ward: at the most recent election in 2011 Seward polled two-thirds of the vote against Lib Dem and UKIP opposition.  The ward is also part of a very safe Tory county council division (Hurstpierpoint and Bolney).

Defending for the Tories is John Allen, of Bolney, who is opposed by the Lib Dems' Simon Hicks and UKIP's Anthony Williams.

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Sussex
West Sussex county council division: Hurstpierpoint and Bolney
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley

John Allen (C)
Simon Hicks (LD)
Anthony Williams (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 745 LD 217 UKIP 148
May 2007 result C 577 LD 179 UKIP 116
May 2003 result C 603 LD 112 Lab 59 Loony 36

Dartford borough council, Kent
Caused respectively by the deaths of Conservative councillor Nancy Wightman and Labour councillor John Muckle.  Muckle, who died at the age of 81, was one of the few remaining people who had been councillors since before the reorganisation of 1974, having been first elected in the late 1960s.  Muckle was the last Mayor of Dartford before reorganisation, and served as leader of the modern Dartford council from 1998 to 2003.  His legacy will be many regeneration projects, most prominently the Bluewater shopping centre just outside Dartford.  Wightman had served on Dartford council since 2003.

Dartford Railway Station
These two wards are both within the Kent town of Dartford.  Littlebrook ward is in the north-east of the town, lying on the waterfront to the north-east of Dartford railway station; it includes the oil-fired Littlebrook power station (the large building on the right-hand side as you pass over the Dartford Bridge) together with part of the toll plaza for the Dartford Crossing.  The queues generated by the tolls are legendary, but may ease in future; at the end of this month an electronic charging scheme is to be introduced, similar to the London congestion charge, and the tollbooths removed.  Perhaps good news for Brent ward, which is in the south-east of Dartford town to the south of Watling Street, centred on junction 1B of the M25.

Littlebrook ward had a weird result in 2003, electing one Labour candidate and one of only two successful candidates from the New England Party, a nationalist outfit which then merged with the English Democrats.  Labour gained the second seat from the English Democrats in 2007 and consolidated their majority in 2011.  The English Democrats have been traditionally been very active in Dartford, but their local prime mover Steve Uncles is having legal problems at the moment: he is awaiting trial on charges of fraud, related to allegedly non-existent English Democrat candidates in the 2013 Kent county council election.

Brent ward was close between the Tories and Labour in 2003 but the Conservatives have pulled away since then.  Both wards form part of marginal county council divisions and the marginal Dartford constituency, so while these wards are safe on paper the vote shares will be watched closely to see what they augur for the general election in less than six months' time.

In Brent ward the Conservatives have selected Rosanna Currans, who lost a by-election to Labour in the neighbouring Newtown ward last year; Newtown is a marginal and she should have an easier ride here.  Labour are standing Mark Maddison, who works for a local housing association, while the ward's first UKIP candidate is Shan-e-din Choycha, who works for a local taxi firm.

The Littlebrook by-election will feature Daisy Page as the defending Labour candidate.  The Tories have selected Calvin McLean and UKIP's candidate is Sonia Keane.

Parliamentary constituency: Dartford
Kent county council division: Dartford East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Shan-e-din Choycha (UKIP)
Rosanna Currans (C)
Mark Maddison (Lab)

May 2011 result C 1152/1129/1115 Lab 779/638/616 EDP 252/211/193
May 2007 result C 905/902/874 Lab 707/661/646 EDP 341/331/315 UKIP 136
May 2003 result C 800/781/779 Lab 712/679/678 UKIP 205

Parliamentary constituency: Dartford
Kent county council division: Dartford North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Sonia Keane (UKIP)
Calvin McLean (C)
Daisy Page (Lab)

May 2011 result Lab 585/504 C 256/233 EDP 226
May 2007 result Lab 425/391 EDP 330/264 C 166/138
May 2003 result Lab 321/271 New England Party 276 C 131/123 UKIP 117/88 LD 85

Wokingham council, Berkshire
Caused by the disqualification of former Liberal Democrat councillor Lesley Hayward who has been sentenced to four months in prison, suspended, for benefit fraud.

Shepherd's Hill, Earley
The rather confusing name of this ward, and its location within the Wokingham council area, hide the fact that this ward is in fact Reading suburbia.  The area covered by the ward runs from the banks of the Thames, through part of the new Thames Valley Business Park, then into the Whitegates area (part of Earley parish), past Bulmershe Park and the Bulmershe School to run into the centre of the Reading suburb of Woodley.

Over the last decade this ward has developed from a safe Lib Dem area into an intriguing three-way marginal, which was won by the Conservatives in 2011 with the Lib Dems second, by the Lib Dems in 2012 with Labour second, and by Labour in 2014 with the Conservatives second.

The Lib Dem vote crashed here in May and they will have an uphill struggle to defend this seat.  That job falls to Munir Ahmed, who represents the Whitegates half of the ward on Earley town council.  Labour have selected Greg Bello, who has fought the ward several times before and was runner-up in 2012.  The Tory candidate is Alison Swaddle who fought the ward in 2007; she is a director of a communications company.  UKIP's Peter Jackson and the Greens' Adrian Windisch complete the ballot paper; they both stood here in May.

Parliamentary constituency: Reading East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell

Munir Ahmed (LD)
Greg Bello (Lab)
Peter Jackson (UKIP)
Alison Swaddle (C)
Adrian Windisch (Grn)

May 2014 result Lab 967 C 760 LD 499 UKIP 423 Grn 173
May 2012 result LD 976 Lab 750 C 660 UKIP 137 Grn 106
May 2011 result C 1154 LD 1050 Lab 661 UKIP 176 Grn 121
May 2010 result LD 1742 C 1615 Lab 877 UKIP 214 Grn 127
May 2008 result LD 1168 C 944 Lab 345 UKIP 131
May 2007 result LD 1207 C 703 Lab 337 UKIP 125
May 2006 result LD 999 C 727 Lab 338 UKIP 216
June 2004 result LD 1167/1158/1089 C 736/691/688 Lab 338/334/329

Wigan metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Joy Birch, who has been the subject of allegations that she is living in Ireland.

Wigan Pier
This ward is inner western Wigan, downhill from North Western station.  The ward is named after the River Douglas, an river which meanders around industrial south Lancashire before emptying into the Ribble estuary.  Here can be found the DW Stadium, home of Wigan Athletic FC and Wigan rugby league, and the only-slightly-fictional Wigan Pier on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Douglas has returned Labour councillors throughout the last decade, mostly with few problems although the 2004 result was quite close between Labour and the localist group Community Action.  Community Action have faded in recent years - they lost their last Wigan council seat in 2012 - and UKIP took over second place in May's ordinary election.

Defending for Labour is Maggie Skilling, a former Lancashire county councillor and West Lancashire district councillor from Skelmersdale, who now lives in Wigan.  UKIP and the Tories have reselected their candidates from May, Derek Wilkes and Margaret Atherton respectively.  Also on the ballot paper are the Greens' Damien Hendry and Community Action's Michael Moulding.

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

Margaret Atherton (C)
Damien Hendry (Grn)
Michael Moulding (CA)
Maggie Skilling (Lab)
Derek Wilkes (UKIP)

May 2014 result Lab 1502 UKIP 790 C 210
May 2012 result Lab 1774 Ind 324 C 172
May 2011 result Lab 1867 Ind 393 C 321
May 2010 result Lab 2742 C 659 BNP 461 CA 396 Ind 380
May 2008 result Lab 1170 CA 745 C 350
May 2007 result Lab 1338 CA 586 C 374
May 2006 result Lab 1369 CA 933
June 2004 result Lab 1427/1347/1318 CA 1296/1287/1223

Cambridge city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Sue Birtles who has fallen out with the Labour group.

Addenbrooke's Hospital
Covering the south-eastern corner of the city of Cambridge, Queen Edith's ward is based around the sprawling Addenbrooke's Hospital, one of the world's premier teaching hospitals and a pioneer in transplant surgery.  The presence of Homerton College within the ward boundaries means that there is a significant student population, but this is generally one of the more prosperous wards within the city.

The Queen Edith's ward was created in 1976 and modified in 2004.  It elected Conservative councillors continuously until the 1990s (except for an SDP win in the 1985 county council election) but the last Tory win here was in 1996 and the ward had elected Lib Dem councillors continuously since then; until 2012 when Labour unexpectedly came from third place to win Queen Edith's ward for the first time.  The Lib Dem vote has recovered since then in the 2013 county council elections (Cambridge's wards and county divisions have the same boundaries) and in last year's city council election, suggesting that the Labour win in 2012 may have been a freak.  The ward is one of two Cambridge wards to fall within the safe Conservative South Cambridgeshire parliamentary seat.

The defending Labour candidate is Rahima Ahammed, a Home Office interpreter.  The Lib Dems want their seat back, and have selected Addenbrooke's worker Viki Sanders, who served one term as a city councillor for this ward from 2007 to 2011.  Also standing are the Tories' Andrew Bower and the Greens' Joel Chalfen.

Parliamentary constituency: South Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Queen Edith's
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge

Rahima Ahammed (Lab)
Andrew Bower (C)
Joel Chalfen (Grn)
Viki Sanders (LD)

May 2014 result LD 1362 Lab 951 C 522 Grn 363
May 2013 county council result LD 1188 Lab 931 C 361 Grn 172
May 2012 result Lab 1084 LD 963 C 513 Grn 172
May 2011 result LD 1318 C 830 Lab 642 Grn 416
May 2010 result LD 2129 C 1221 Lab 541 Grn 334 UKIP 122
June 2009 county council result LD 1521 C 651 Grn 329 Lab 199
May 2008 result LD 1250 C 838 Lab 233 Grn 183
May 2007 result LD 1364 C 760 Lab 221 Grn 210
May 2006 result LD 1489 C 735 Lab 219 Grn 181
May 2005 county council result LD 2392 C 848 Lab 574 Grn 225
June 2004 result LD 1671/1591/1566 C 653/550/531 Grn 337 Lab 277/256/211 UKIP 206

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

By-election Preview: 6 November 2014

There are just two by-elections on 6th November, one in Warwickshire and one in Cornwall which will be covered on Cornish Elections.  (That low number is good news for your columnist who is still recovering from a long weekend in Bucharest.)  Both are the result of elected councillors moving on to take up new jobs.

The six-month rule comes into effect this week: as of Friday there will be less than six months to go to the 2015 local elections on 7th May.  From then on, any new vacancies in seats which will be up for election in 2015 will not be filled; as most English councils will have whole council elections next year this means there will be relatively few by-elections until then.

Rugby district council, Warwickshire
Caused by the resignation of the leader of the council, Conservative councillor Craig Humphrey, who has a new job as managing director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Clearing House.

Main Street, Old Bilton
The Bilton area is an old village in western Rugby which has become absorbed into the town.  Here can be found the Rugby High School (not the famous public school but a girls' grammar school) together with some very expensive housing.  This is one of the most desirable areas in Rugby and its demographic profile is determinedly middle-class.

It's not surprising, therefore, to find that the Bilton ward is safe Conservative.  Rugby was re-warded in 2012 which makes comparisons difficult, but the 2002-2012 version of Bilton ward returned Tories at every election, and the ward actually swung towards the Conservatives between 2012 and 2014.  There are no implications for control of the council, which has a small Conservative majority.

The defending Conservative candidate is library volunteer Julie A'Barrow, who stood in the neighbouring ward of Rokeby and Overslade (a three-way marginal) in May this year and heavily lost a Tory seat to the Lib Dems.  She should have fewer problems here.  Labour have selected John Wells, a former Warwickshire county councillor.  Also standing are the Greens' Kate Crowley; the Lib Dems' Lesley George who, like Crowley, fought the ward in May; Pete McLaren for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; the ward's first UKIP candidate Gordon Davies; and independent John Herman.

Parliamentary constituency: Rugby
Warwickshire county council division: Caldecott (most), Admirals (small part), Lawford and New Bilton (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rugby

Julie A'Barrow (C)
Kate Crowley (Grn)
Gordon Davies (UKIP)
Lesley George (LD)
John Herman (Ind)
Pete McLaren (TUSC)
John Wells (Lab)

May 2014 result C 1187 Lab 468 Grn 220 LD 207 TUSC 107
May 2012 result C 1134/1004/968 Lab 643 LD 397/373 TUSC 299

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

By-election Previews: 30 October 2014

There are six by-elections this week.  The Police and Crime Commissioner post for South Yorkshire is up for grabs, as well as three other local council seats in England - all detailed below.  Meanwhile single contests are also taking place in Scotland and Wales, covered on the Scottish Elections blog and Welsh Elections blog respectively.

Caused by the resignation of Labour police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

South Yorkshire Police Headquarters, Sheffield
While Clacton may have a more long-term political impact, this is in numerical terms the second biggest by-election of the year (after the West Midlands PCC by-election in August).  The setting is the former metropolitan county of South Yorkshire, which is dominated by the city of Sheffield and also includes such other industrial towns as Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, together with many other small towns and suburbs, most of which have an industrial or coal-mining history.

In November 2012 the county elected Shaun Wright, previously vice-chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Authority, as its first Police and Crime Commissioner.  Wright polled 51% of the first preferences to win in the first round, with David Allen of the English Democrats (who have some electoral strength in Doncaster) just pipping the Tories for second place.  The turnout was less than 15%.  Two weeks later there was a parliamentary by-election in Rotherham, caused by the resignation of Labour MP Denis MacShane who had submitted false expenses claims to Parliament.  UKIP, who had received much publicity during the by-election campaign, came a strong second to Labour who held easily.  The following May UKIP won a council by-election in Rotherham, and in May's local council elections the anti-EU party gained nine further seats and topped the poll in Rotherham.

Why do I mention Rotherham so much when it only forms around a fifth of the South Yorkshire electorate?  Because of the child sexual exploitation scandal in the town.  Professor Alexis Jay's report, published in August, estimated that around 1400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, predominantly by British-Pakistani men.  Before becoming PCC Wright had been the Rotherham councillor responsible for children's services, and the fallout from the report cost him his job as PCC.

The parliamentary by-election in Heywood and Middleton three weeks ago was very nearly lost by Labour to UKIP, and Heywood had suffered from similar child grooming issues (although not on the same scale).  UKIP are campaigning directly on issues related to the scandal, and with a derisory turnout expected might be in with a chance of winning this by-election.

The defending Labour candidate is Revd Alan Billings, a former deputy leader of Sheffield city council who currently directs the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University.  The English Democrats' David Allen, runner-up in 2012, is standing again.  The Tories have selected Ian Walker, who runs a Sheffield electrical company, and the UKIP candidate is Jack Clarkson, a former South Yorkshire police inspector who leads the party's group on Sheffield city council.  The Lib Dems have decided not to bother, so those are your four candidates.

Nov 2012 result Lab 74615 EDP 22608 C 21075 C 16773 LD 10223

Telford and Wrekin council, Shropshire
Caused respectively by the death of Labour councillor Dave Davies at the age of 61 and the resignation of Conservative councillor Adam Stanton.  Davies, who had served as leader of Telford and Wrekin council in the 1990s, had returned to the council for this ward in 2011.  Stanton, who had served since 2007, has resigned due to work commitments.

The Bridge at Ironbridge
While South Yorkshire may have been transformed by the Industrial Revolution, this is where it began, in the village of Coalbrookdale.  Coalbrookdale had been a centre for ironworking for many years before Abraham Darby I came along in 1709 and constructed the first successful coke-fired blast furnace.  His grandson, Abraham Darby III, erected the world's first cast-iron bridge over the nearby River Severn; opened in 1781 and still standing today, the Iron Bridge gave its name to a village which sprang up on the northern side of the Severn Gorge.  Many of the old industrial sites are now within the care of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, and in 1986 the area became a World Heritage Site.  Coal isn't mined here any longer but is still important to the area's economy; just outside the ward boundary is the coal-fired Ironbridge Power Station.

Compared to this, the Shropshire town of Newport is chalk and cheese.  Hard up against the Staffordshire boundary, Newport is Shropshire's fifth-largest town, a Norman market town which specialises in agricultural services and education; here can be found Shropshire's only university, Harper Adams, which specialises in rural and agricultural education.  The Newport West ward covers much of the town centre and the south-west of the town, and has been safely Conservative since the previous independent councillor retired in 2007.

Ironbridge Gorge's election results are more interesting; it was safely Labour in 2003 but has been swinging to the Tories, who in 2011 turned the ward into a marginal, losing to Labour by 53% to 47% in a straight fight.

The Gorge will be defended for Labour by Ken Stringer, a B&B owner and drug and alcohol specialist.  The Conservatives have selected Elizabeth Mollett.  This time four candidates are contesting the ward: Avon Horden is an independent candidate, and Richard Soame stands for UKIP.

In Newport West the defending Tory candidate is Rodney Pitt, a Newport town councillor who works in publishing.  Labour's candidate is town councillor Phil Norton, pub manager Warwick McKenzie will stand for UKIP and town councillor Peter Scott is an independent candidate.

Ironbridge Gorge
Parliamentary constituency: Telford

May 2011 result Lab 589 C 523
May 2007 result Lab 510 C 414
May 2003 result Lab 614 C 271 LD 217

Newport West
Parliamentary constituency: The Wrekin

May 2011 result C 606 Lab 341
May 2007 result C 734 Lab 182
May 2003 result Ind 424 C 273 Lab 233 LD 183

Castle Point borough council, Essex
Caused by the disqualification of Canvey Island Independent Party councillor Gail Barton, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months.

Canvey Island from the Air
There has been much discussion recently of building a new island in the Thames estuary to hold a new airport for London.  It looks like nothing will come of this, but the experience of Canvey Island shows that it is certainly possible to reclaim land from the sea here.  There has been a Canvey Island here since antiquity (the Romans occupied it, and had a salt-making industry here), but the modern island begins in the seventeenth century when Dutch engineers made the island safe to inhabit and reclaimed a large amount of land in the process.  Canvey became a small seaside resort in Victorian times, and the housing of Canvey Island East ward (which runs south down to the beach and the Chapman Sands) dates from this era.  London overspill caused the island's population to more than double since 1961.

The menace of the sea has not gone away - the North Sea flood of 1953 claimed many victims on the island - and the undeveloped west of the island features in several flood-alleviation ideas to deal with the rising sea levels caused by global warming.

The Island's politics is dominated by the localist Canvey Island Independent Party, who form the opposition on Castle Point borough council; the island is outvoted by the mainland communities of Hadleigh and South Benfleet, which are uniformly Tory - or were until May this year, when UKIP won five seats on the mainland and wiped out the Tory majority.  The Conservatives continue to run the council as a minority, and will get their overall majority back if they win this by-election. Not that that looks likely to happen based on previous results; in May the CIIP polled two-thirds of the vote.

The defending CIIP candidate - who is endorsed by UKIP - is John Albert Payne, who was elected for the ward in 2010 but stood down in May.  Chas Mumford is the Tory candidate; he is deputy chairman of the party's Castle Point branch.  Also standing are Labour's Jackie Reilly and independent candidate Colin Letchford.

Parliamentary constituency: Castle Point
Essex county council division: Canvey Island East

May 2014 result CIIP 1006 C 318 Lab 182
May 2012 result CIIP 595 C 291 Ind 195 Lab 158
May 2011 result CIIP 960 C 509 Lab 239
May 2010 result CIIP 1572 C 1041 Lab 402
May 2008 result CIIP 962 C 508 Lab 155
May 2007 result CIIP 833 C 630 Lab 245
May 2006 result CIIP 772 C 537 Lab 373 Grn 67
June 2004 result CIIP 847 C 510 Lab 449 Third Way 47
May 2003 result C 655/633/629 Lab 593/561/542 Grn 135

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

By-election Previews: 23 October 2014

There are eight local by-elections taking place this week. Seven are covered below, while an eighth is featured over on the Scottish Elections blog.

Durham council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Derwentside Independent councillor Bob Alderson and the death of Labour councillor Pauline Charlton.  Alderson, a long-standing councillor on the unitary Durham council and the former Derwentside district council, is suffering from ill-health.  Charlton, who died at the age of 75, is a retired headteacher who had come to Durham council from the former Teesdale district council, and was chair of Durham council in 2013-14.

Stores, Burnopfield
Two divisions in the west of County Durham, but at opposite ends of the county.  Burnopfield and Dipton is Durham's northernmost division, on the A692 Newcastle-Consett road.  This division has a coalmining history, although Burnopfield - the largest village here - never had a major mine of its own and instead became a service centre for the surrounding pit villages.  Also here, just to the north-west of Burnopfield, is the National Trust property of Gibside, a country estate with a now-ruinous hall formerly owned by the Queen Mother's Bowes-Lyon family.  Famous people associated with the division include one-time Gibside Hall owner Andrew Robinson Stoney, whose scandal-prone life in the eighteenth century was fictionalised by Thackeray and Kubrick under the name Barry Lyndon; JMW Turner, several of whose paintings of Gibside Hall are displayed in London; and the Burnopfield Basher, Northamptonshire and England cricketer Colin Milburn.

Some way to the south is Evenwood, a large rural division which covers much of the countryside between Bishop Auckland and Middleton-in-Teesdale.  Again mostly part of the Durham coalfield, this is one of three divisions which cover the old Teesdale district; abolished in 2009, Teesdale had the smallest electoral ward in Great Britain, the rural Hamsterley and South Bedburn ward (covering the north of this area) which had just 506 parliamentary electors on the 2006 register.  This large rural area makes the Tories competitive here, and they won one of the division's two seats at the 2008 election, although Labour gained it in 2013.  At the last Teesdale election in 2007 Labour's six district council seats all came from this area, the Tories winning Hamsterley and South Bedburn and the Teesdale Independent Group picking up the rest; there were several unopposed returns.

Burnopfield and Dipton is also a competitive division, this time between Labour and the long-established Derwentside Independents, who were a strong opposition to Labour on the old Derwentside council.  At the time of abolition the Derwentside Independents had a clean sweep of all the district council seats here, and they won both of the new unitary division's two seats in 2008.  There seems to have been a falling-out within the group after that, as the other Derwentside Independent councillor (Reg Ord) stood for re-election as an independent in 2013, and Labour took his seat.

In Burnopfield and Dipton, the defending Derwentside Independent candidate is former taxi driver Gill Burnett, from Burnopfield.  Joanne Carr, the losing Labour candidate last year, tries again.  The Tories have nominated Alan Booth, who gives an address in Teesdale and is presumably a paper candidate; and Melanie Howd stands for the Green Party.

The Labour defence in Evenwood will be led by Heather Smith.  Stephen Hugill, the Tory councillor for the division from 2008 to 2013, wants his seat back.  UKIP, who polled decently here last year, have selected Ben Casey.  Also standing are independent Lee Carnighan and the Greens' Greg Robinson.

Burnopfield and Dipton
Parliamentary constituency: North West Durham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

Alan Booth (C)
Gill Burnett (Derwentside Ind)
Joanne Carr (Lab)
Melanie Howd (Grn)

May 2013 result Derwentside Ind 760/510 Lab 701/688 Ind 381/328/257

Parliamentary constituency: Bishop Auckland
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle

Lee Carnighan (Ind)
Ben Casey (UKIP)
Stephen Hugill (C)
Greg Robinson (Grn)
Heather Smith (Lab)

May 2013 result Lab 870/655 C 529/362 UKIP 491

Shepway district council, Kent
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor George Bunting at the age of 76.  Bunting had a long career in local politics, having sat on Shepway district council since 1991 and on Folkestone town council since it was established in 2004; he served as Mayor of Folkestone in 2005-06 and was also election agent for Michael Howard, the former Conservative party leader.

The Leas, Folkestone
This is a residential area of Folkestone immediately to the west of the town centre, running down to the coast from Folkestone West railway station at the north-west corner.  At district level it is a safe Tory area, although UKIP hold the local county council seat (Folkestone South) and won a district by-election last month in the neighbouring Folkestone Harvey Central division.

While UKIP have won the last two local by-elections in Kent (including Sheppey Central last week) this may be a tougher nut for them to crack.  The Conservatives have a big lead here, and Harvey West is by far the most middle-class of the three wards making up the Folkestone South county division.  The Tory candidate here at the 2013 county election was the other district councillor for this ward; he lost to UKIP by just 17 votes, and much of his vote will have come from this ward.

Defending for the Tories is Helen Barker, a former MoD worker and wife of Harvey Central district councillor Hugh Barker.  Labour's candidate is Nicola Keen.  The Lib Dems have called for the GP: Hugh Robertson-Ritchie, a former district councillor who fought the ward in 2003 and 2007.  UKIP's candidate is Stephen Jardine, and the Greens have selected 19-year-old Hythe resident Jasmine Heywood.

Parliamentary constituency: Folkestone and Hythe
Kent county council division: Folkestone South

May 2011 result C 883/870 Lab 374/353 LD 342
May 2007 result C 865/861 Shepway Ind 209/198 LD 181/178 UKIP 94
May 2003 result C 609/595 LD 370/365

Mid Sussex district council, West Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tim Farmer.

Housing at Middle Village, Bolnore
Moving from Kent into Sussex we come to Haywards Heath.  The Lucastes ward covers the west of the town, and has expanded greatly in recent years as a result of the development of Bolnore Village, with hundreds of new homes being built on a greenfield site.  With Haywards Heath being a fairly small town, most of the people living in these homes will commute for work to Crawley, Brighton or London along the A23 road or the railway line.

The development of Bolnore Village can be seen in the ward's election results; the number of votes cast here in 2011 was around double the number in 2003.  The 2003 result was fairly close between the Tories and Lib Dems, and the 2007 result also saw an independent slate come into the reckoning, but the Tories pulled away here in 2011.  The Tories also hold the local county division very comfortably.  The most recent electoral test here - a by-election to Haywards Heath town council in July last year - also saw an easy Tory win.

Defending for the Tories is letting agent Geoffrey Rawlinson.  The other three candidates on the ballot paper all contested the town council by-election last year: they are Nicholas Chapman for the Lib Dems, Marc Montgomery for UKIP and Henry Fowler, who becomes the district ward's first Labour candidate this century.

West Sussex county council division: Cuckfield and Lucastes
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley

May 2011 result C 1168/1143 LD 511/499 Grn 390 UKIP 157
May 2007 result C 686/649 LD 583/510 Ind 574/522
May 2003 result C 695/642 LD 597/493

Chichester district council, West Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Kingston.  Kingston had served in the Army as an officer with the 3rd Dragoon Guards, and had been a Chichester district councillor since 2010.

"The Rising Sun", Milland
The week's second by-election in West Sussex is at the other end of the county in the village of Rogate, which is close to the Hampshire border and takes many of its services from over the county line in Petersfield, to which it is connected by the A272 road.  The Rogate ward also takes in the small Milland parish and the tiny Linch parish to the north-east.

There was a UKIP candidate for this ward in 2003 who polled 89 votes and failed to make an impact; he was one Ashley Mote, who went on to be elected as a UKIP MEP for South East England the following year.  A month later UKIP found out that Mote was awaiting trial for benefit fraud, and kicked him out of the party.  Mote was eventually convicted, sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to repay £65,000, but the sentence wasn't long enough to disqualify him from office and he served out his five years as an MEP.

At district level this is extremely safe Tory territory; at the last election in 2011 the Conservatives polled 91.1% in a straight fight with Labour, and John Kingston was unopposed at his first contest - a by-election in 2010.  However, the ward is part of the Midhurst county division which the Tories lost to an independent last year, so anything could still happen.

This by-election is a straight fight.  In the blue corner is businesswoman and Petworth resident Gillian Keegan.  In the purple corner is the ward's first UKIP candidate since Mote, Elena McCloskey.

Parliamentary constituency: Chichester
West Sussex county council division: Midhurst
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth

Gillian Keegan (C)
Elena McCloskey (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 990 Lab 97
May 2010 by-election C unopposed
May 2007 result C 695 LD 255
May 2003 result C 531 LD 254 UKIP 89

Gloucestershire county council; and
Forest of Dean district council
Both caused by the death of independent councillor Norman Stephens at the age of 63.  Stephens had been a Forest of Dean district councillor since 1987 and had served on the county council for a year.

The Post Office, Westbury-on-Severn
We finish this week in the eastern edges of the Forest of Dean.  The Newnham and Westbury district ward consists of two parishes on the western shore of the Severn estuary.  Newnham on Severn was a major port in mediaeval times, but declined in importance after the opening of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal allowed vessels to reach Gloucester directly.  Further upstream on the A48 road, Westbury-on-Severn is the centre of a diffuse rural parish.  Westbury-on-Severn is the southern end of the large and badly-drawn Mitcheldean county division: consisting of two-and-four-halves wards of Forest of Dean district, the division covers a huge area to the west of Gloucester and seems to be made up of the countryside that was left over when everything else was accounted for.

Gloucestershire county council was redistricted in 2013; Mitcheldean is the successor to the former Mid Dean county division which was a Tory/Lib Dem marginal in 2005 but safely Conservative in 2009.  Stephens first stood in 2013 and won easily, with the Tories narrowly beating UKIP for second place.  Stephens had topped the poll in the Newnham and Westbury district ward at each election this century, with the Tories holding the other seat.  At the last Newnham and Westbury election in 2011 the Labour slate was led by Glyn Ford, who served for twenty-five years as a Labour member of the European Parliament (initially for Greater Manchester East, moving to the South West region when PR was introduced) before losing his seat in 2009.

In the county by-election one independent candidate has come forward to replace Stephens: he is Ian Whitburn, independent district councillor for Mitcheldean and Drybrook ward.  Brian Robinson, the losing Tory candidate last year, tries again.  UKIP have selected Malcolm Berry.  The Labour candidate is Jackie Fraser, the Lib Dems have reselected Sue Henchley and the Green candidate is again Ken Power.

For the district by-election the independent candidate is Simon Phelps, a Westbury-on-Severn parish councillor.  The Tory candidate is Richard Boyles, who appears to be a former police inspector for the Forest.  The Green candidate is Sid Phelps from Cinderford.  Labour have selected Jenny Shaw, Peter Foster stands for UKIP and Ian King for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Forest of Dean
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester

May 2013 result Ind 1152 C 772 UKIP 612 Lab 328 LD 179 Grn 120

Newnham and Westbury
Parliamentary constituency: Forest of Dean
Gloucestershire county council division: Mitcheldean (Westbury-on-Severn parish),
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester (Westbury-on-Severn parish), Monmouth and Cinderford (Newnham parish)

May 2011 result Ind 790 C 606/196 Grn 318 Lab 256/171
May 2007 result Ind 768 C 568/244 Grn 366
May 2003 result Ind 609/253 C 318/255 LD 215 Lab 143

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

By-election Previews: 16 October 2014

There are ten local by-elections taking place on 16 October 2014. As well as those below, there is a Conservative defence in a local by-election in Conwy covered over on the Welsh Elections blog.

Bolton metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Asha Ali Ismail at the age of just 34, from ovarian cancer.  The first African-British Bolton councillor, Asha had been a councillor for less than a year having won a by-election last December.

Plodder Lane, Bolton
Asha was a union rep at my work.  She died far too young, rest in peace.

The by-election caused by Asha's death will take place in western Farnworth, an area which has family connections for me.  My mother worked for many years at Dennis Guest's bakery on Plodder Lane, the main road west out of the town, and his and [great-]Aunty Anne's house in the Flower Estate - a prestigious 1920s and 1930s development by Farnworth UDC - was a place to go each Christmas until Anne died a few years ago.  Up the hill from the Flower Estate is the Royal Bolton Hospital, the busiest hospital in Greater Manchester and a place with which we have become increasingly familiar.  I once spent a couple of weeks as a temp on the psychiatric wards, then had a wisdom tooth extracted there a few years ago.  In the last year my mother has had extensive - and apparently successful - chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, while my sister went into the maternity unit at the end of April and emerged with the tiniest and most beautiful niece you ever did see.

Much of the hospital lies on the site of Plodder Lane locomotive shed, closed in the 1960s or 1970s.  To the south of the shed is the Highfield area off Plodder Lane; to the north is Lever Edge, part of Bolton proper.  Highfield, Lever Edge and the Flower Estate each form around a third of the ward's population.

This is of course a safe Labour ward; even at the Labour nadir of 2008 they still carried this ward by 4.5 points (or 110 votes) over the Tories, and not even the deselection of councillor Laurence Williamson for the 2010 election could make a dent in the Labour majority; Williamson stood as an independent, polling 12%, but the Tories not only failed to capitalise but fell to a distant third place behind the Lib Dems.  Since the formation of the Coalition the Labour vote peaked at 73% at the most recent election in 2012, but the rise of UKIP - who took over second place in May - has made a dent in that score without yet seriously threatening the Labour majority.

Defending for Labour is Susan Haworth, the chair of Bolton North East CLP with a background in the NHS and mental health services.  The UKIP candidate, Jeff Armstrong, has got into hot water for distributing leaflets which falsely suggested that Bolton council is being investigated over child sex abuse.  The ward's regular Tory candidate, science teacher Robert Tyler, stands again.  Also on the ballot paper are James Tomkinson for the Green Party, Rebekah Fairhurst for the Lib Dems and independent Joseph Holt.

Parliamentary constituency: Bolton South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bolton

Jeff Armstrong (UKIP)
Rebekah Fairhurst (LD)
Susan Haworth (Lab)
Joseph Holt (Ind)
James Tomkinson (Grn)
Robert Tyler (C)

May 2014 result Lab 1713 UKIP 726 C 366 Grn 115 LD 86
Dec 2013 by-election Lab 744 C 325 UKIP 252 Grn 60 LD 53
May 2012 result Lab 1656 C 389 LD 222
May 2011 result Lab 1918 C 616 LD 326
May 2010 result Lab 2312 LD 1023 C 903 Ind 625 Grn 114
May 2008 result Lab 1181 C 1071 LD 390
May 2007 result Lab 1172 C 719 LD 419
May 2006 result Lab 1194 C 768 LD 454
June 2004 result Lab 1272/1196/1195 C 850/740/716 LD 839/838/791

Rossendale borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Amanda Milling, who has been selected as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Cannock Chase constituency in Staffordshire.

"The Station", Helmshore
Clinging to the western edge of the Rossendale Valley, Helmshore is a classic example of an Pennine village created by the Industrial Revolution, with a series of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century woollen and cotton mills, one of which has been preserved and now forms the Helmshore Textile Museum (which is one of the three polling stations for this by-election).  In recent years the village's biggest employer was the package holiday firm Airtours, now part of Thomas Cook, whose head office was in Helmshore until 2003; that building is now proposed to be redeveloped into housing, a sign of the village's gentrification (Manchester is only half-an-hour's drive away on the M66).

Local politics in Rossendale is in a bit of a Fifties timewarp, with most wards being marginal Tory/Labour fights and often wild swings in seats (if not in votes) from election to election.  However, Helmshore is the most dependable Tory ward in the valley, with the blue corner having held all three seats since defeating the last Labour councillor in 2003.  The 2012 election was a close three-way fight, with the Tories six points ahead of Labour who just pipped an independent candidate, but a straight fight at the last ordinary election in May saw the Tories beating Labour by 62-38.  The Tories narrowly hold the local county division (Rossendale West) which also includes the Labour-inclined Worsley ward, covering northern Haslingden.

As in Bolton, a Haworth is the defending candidate; this time it's Tony Haworth, who fought Worsley ward for the Tories in May's ordinary election.  Labour have reselected Emma Harding who fought this ward in May.  A three-cornered ballot paper is completed by UKIP candidate Granville Barker.  The polling stations will be open all hours on Thursday.

Parliamentary constituency: Rossendale and Darwen
Lancashire county council division: Rossendale West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackburn

Granville Barker (UKIP)
Emma Harding (Lab)
Tony Haworth (C)

May 2014 result C 1109 Lab 675
May 2012 result C 674 Lab 566 Ind 548
May 2011 result C 1167 Lab 846
May 2010 result C 1969 Lab 1212
May 2008 result C 975 Lab 320 LD 181 Ind 145
May 2007 result C 859 Lab 434 LD 244
May 2006 result C 897 Lab 549 LD 275
June 2004 result C 1084 Lab 633 LD 500
May 2003 result C 694 Lab 473 LD 244
May 2002 result C 763/748/666 Lab 716/714/627 Ind 405

York city council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Lynn Jeffries at the age of 58.  Jeffries, who was partially disabled as the result of a skiing accident while in her thirties, was a passionate disability campaigner who was in her first term on the council, having been elected as a Labour councillor in 2011; however, she quickly fell out with the Labour group after her election and at the time of her death was a member of the Liberal Democrats.

Shops in York Road, Acomb
The Westfield ward, fittingly, lies on the western edge of the built-up area of York, and forms the southern part of the Acomb area to the south of the Wetherby Road.  Reputedly the site of the funeral of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus in AD 211, the ward today has a mix of council estates and better-off areas (these are mostly along the Wetherby Road and in the Woodthorpe area).

This was a safe Lib Dem ward until Labour gained its three seats in 2011, and with Labour polling 43% to the Lib Dems' 34% that year this area still counts as a marginal.  However, York Labour doesn't seem to be in a good state at the moment; the party has been plagued by defections and has lost its majority on the city council.  NHS worker Louise Corson is the defending Labour candidate, while the Lib Dems have selected Andrew Waller, a former leader of the city council who lost his seat here in 2011.  Also on a crowded ballot paper are Jason Brown for the Tories, the Greens' Alison Webb, the English Democrats' Sam Kelly and UKIP's Judith Morris.

Parliamentary constituency: York Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: York

Jason Brown (C)
Louise Corson (Lab)
Sam Kelly (EDP)
Judith Morris (UKIP)
Andrew Waller (LD)
Alison Webb (Grn)

May 2011 result Lab 1767/1642/1540 LD 1401/1397/1152 C 561 Grn 343/260/253
May 2007 result LD 1512/1511/1432 Lab 887/869/758 C 457/455/358 Grn 437 BNP 407 Loony 161
May 2003 result LD 2291/2154/2013 Lab 697/641/613 C 314

Rutland council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Conservative councillor Joanna Figgis and the death of Independent councillor Brian Montgomery.  Montgomery was a veteran councillor who served for two years as chairman of the abolished Rutland district council in the 1980s and a further two years as the first chairman of the unitary Rutland council; he had been councillor for Whissendine ward since winning a by-election in 2008.  Figgis resigned from the council as she is moving away from the area because her husband has a new job.

Whissendine Windmill
The Oakham South West ward is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin; a residential area to the south of Braunston Road and the west of the railway line.  In the north-west corner of Rutland, Whissendine is a rural village known for its thirteenth-century church and nineteenth-century windmill.

These are both prosperous wards and generally Tory/Independent fights; the Lib Dems won one of the two seats in Oakham South West in 2003 but have since fallen back, and the 2011 election returned one Tory and one independent.  The Tories were unopposed in Whissendine in 2007 but lost a by-election to Montgomery eighteen months later by just six votes; Montgomery increased his majority to 88 votes at the 2011 election.

Oakham South West has a three-cornered ballot paper, after UKIP apparently messed up their nomination papers.  Tearoom owner Richard Clifton defends for the Tories.  The independent candidate is Ben Callaghan, who runs an events company, while accountant Richard Swift stands for the Liberal Democrats.

The Whissendine seat is open, with no defending Independent candidate, and is a straight fight.  In the blue corner is Jonny Baker, a garden designer who was Tory councillor for this ward from 2003 until standing down in 2007.  In the yellow corner is Sam Asplin, a 21-year-old teaching assistant at Whissendine primary school.

Oakham South West
Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

Ben Callaghan (Ind)
Richard Clifton (C)
Richard Swift (LD)

May 2011 result C 285/277 Ind 279/266/139 LD 178/131
May 2007 result C 424/404 LD 291
May 2003 result C 336 LD 288 Ind 227

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

Sam Asplin (LD)
Jonny Baker (C)

May 2011 result Ind 335 C 247
Nov 2008 by-election Ind 154 C 148 LD 71
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 285 Lab 186

Fenland district council, Cambridgeshire
Caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Jonathan Farmer, who was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm - a Second World War-era Walther PPK pistol - and sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.

The Crescent, Wisbech
The Medworth ward can be found in Wisbech, the main town in the Fens and the largest town (as opposed to city) in Cambridgeshire.  Wisbech is an inland port on the River Nene, which became wealthy in the late seventeenth century as the draining of the Fens created a port for agricultural produce.  Accordingly there are many fine Georgian buildings in the town centre, such as the Crescent and Union Place which have featured in several costume dramas; the name of the ward commemmorates Joseph Medworth, who developed the Crescent and also redeveloped the town's castle into a Regency villa.  The ward named after Medworth covers the Crescent and the town centre and runs south-west to the edge of town along the south bank of the Nene and the Cromwell Road.

Farmer had won all the previous elections in this ward since 2000 very comfortably (he was unopposed at the 2003 election).  Last year UKIP gained the local county council seat from the Tories - this isn't a well-off area and Wisbech has seen a large amount of immigration from the new EU states - but since then the ward's UKIP county councillor has been prosecuted for benefit fraud and avoided a disqualification of his own by the skin of his teeth.

Defending for the Conservatives is blogger and Wisbech town councillor Steve Tierney, a former county councillor for Roman Bank and Peckover division who lost his seat in 2013.  Labour have selected Kathy Dougall, while the Lib Dem candidate is Chatteris-based Josephine Ratcliffe.  UKIP's candidate is Andrew Hunt, who back in 2009 stood for the county council as the first ever candidate for the Libertarian Party.  Completing the ballot paper is former Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat standing as an independent; Murat is currently claiming unfair dismissal against Wisbech town council, and Tory candidate Steve Tierney was chairman of the disciplinary panel which sacked him.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wisbech

Kathy Dougall (Lab)
Andrew Hunt (UKIP)
Erbie Murat (Ind)
Josephine Ratcliffe (LD)
Steve Tierney (C)

May 2011 result C 364 Lab 194 LD 58
May 2007 result C 360 Lab 196
May 2003 result C unopposed

Thurrock council, Essex
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Andrew Smith at the age of 64.  Smith was leader of Thurrock council from 2000 to 2004, and at the time of his death was cabinet member for regeneration, highways and transportation; he was first elected as a councillor in 1997.

Inside Lakeside Shopping Centre
Down to the Thames Gateway.  This ward lies at the north end of the Dartford Crossing, where four levels of viaduct can be seen intersecting with each other; the Dartford Bridge over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link over the Dartford Tunnel escape road which itself is at a higher level than the Fenchurch Street-Tilbury railway line.  That line has one station within the ward at Purfleet, which forms the western corner of this ward; a town with a military history as a gunpowder magazine, Purfleet these days is known for margarine (the world's largest margarine factory is allegedly here), a recently-opened arts centre focusing on scenery for the Royal Opera House and other theatres, and the sport of darts (one flavour of the darts world championships was held here until a few years ago).  Margarine and chalk (which is quarried here) form the ward's main exports, but by far the largest employer within the ward is the Lakeside shopping centre, the UK's seventh-largest shopping mall.

In terms of councillors, this ward returned three Tories in 2004 but has been won by Labour at every election since then.  That statistic masks the fact that this ward is a stronghold of what might be termed the populist right wing.  During the heyday of the BNP in the mid-noughties this was one of the strongest BNP wards in the country, the far-right vote peaking at 35% - just 16 votes behind Labour - at the 2006 election.  Over the following years Labour saw off the threat from the BNP and then from the Tories to make the ward safe, although the populist vote here certainly hasn't gone away; UKIP polled 34% here in May to Labour's 47% and will be looking to add to their group on Thurrock council.

Terry Brookes defends for Labour; he contested Ockendon ward in May and came third.  The UKIP candidate is Russell Cherry, and John Rowles - who stood here in May - is the Conservative candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Thurrock
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Terry Brookes (Lab)
Russell Cherry (UKIP)
John Rowles (C)

May 2014 result Lab 1054 UKIP 760 C 340 LD 73
May 2012 result Lab 815 UKIP 321 C 212 Ind 180 LD 47
May 2011 result Lab 951 C 578 BNP 193 LD 87
May 2010 result Lab 1628 C 1193 BNP 574
May 2008 result Lab 668 C 586 BNP 386
May 2007 result Lab 676 BNP 478 C 459
May 2006 result Lab 608 BNP 592 C 471
June 2004 result C 517/477/469 BNP 404 Lab 404/397/246

Swale borough council, Kent
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Morris at the age of 75.  Twice mayor of Swale, Morris had served a year as a borough councillor in 1983 before returning to the council in 2002.

Minster Abbey
Further down the Thames estuary on the Kent side can be found the flat, marshy Isle of Sheppey, the 23rd largest of the British Isles by area and the ninth-largest by population.  Sheppey has an interesting history; it was captured by the Dutch in a 1667 raid, and during the Glorious Revolution James II was taken into custody at Elmley, in the south of ward, while trying to flee the country.  Eastchurch, the village at the centre of the ward, has a long-standing link with aviation as the location of one of the UK's first aerodromes.  Most of the ward's electors live in the southern half of the village of Minster; however, there is a large discrepancy here between electorate and population thanks to the presence of Elmley, Standford Hill and Swaleside prisons which between them house nearly 3,000 prisoners.  One proposal for the "Boris Island" new airport for London involves building an artificial island to the north of Sheppey; however, this idea was rejected by the Airports Commission last month on the grounds of cost and environmental impact.

Created in 2002, this ward was competitive between the Conservatives and Labour up until 2006, when a dissident Tory councillor set up the Kent Campaign Against Increasing Council Taxes which came second to the Tories here in that election.  The KCAICT morphed into a localist party called Sheppey First! which ran riot over the island in the following two years' elections before folding as suddenly as it had appeared; the two Sheppey First! councillors elected for this ward ended up in the Tories, and one of them was re-elected as such in 2011.  Swale council has moved away from election by thirds so there have been no borough polls here since then, but last year the local county division convincingly re-elected a UKIP county councillor who had defected from the Tories.

The defending Conservative candidate is Tina Booth, an Eastchurch parish councillor and wife of a present Swale boroguh councillor.  Labour have selected Alan Henley, who was one of the very first Swale councillors all the way back in 1973; he represented Sheerness West ward until the early 1980s.  UKIP's candidate is David Jones, a retired teacher, and Mad Mike Young stands again for the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Kent county council division: Sheppey
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent

Tina Booth (C)
Alan Henley (Lab)
David Jones (UKIP)
Mad Mike Young (Loony)

May 2011 result C 911/871/838 Lab 664/618/557 UKIP 326 Loony 171
May 2010 result C 2333 Lab 1354
May 2008 result Sheppey First! 852 C 568 Lab 254
May 2007 result Sheppey First! 744 C 522 Lab 246 LD 130
May 2006 result C 636 Kent Campaign Against Increasing Council Taxes 540 Lab 335 LD 117
June 2004 result C 738 Lab 561 LD 291
May 2003 result C 508 Lab 403 LD 139 Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party 69
May 2002 result C 509/504/483 Lab 447/390/381 LD 219/142/132 Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party 101

Kingston upon Thames borough council, South London
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Frank Thompson due to ill-health.

"The Cardinal", Tudor Drive
Sandwiched between Richmond Park on the east side and the River Thames on the western side, Tudor ward is Kingston's northwestern-most ward, running along the Richmond Road and Tudor Avenue.  This is one of Kingston's most affluent wards and is a safe Conservative area; in May's ordinary election the Tory slate polled 41%, with the Lib Dems being the nearest challengers on 18%.  At the London Assembly elections in 2012 Boris beat Ken in the ward's ballot boxes 57-23, while the Tories led in the London Member ballot with 43%, to 21% for Labour, 14% for the Greens and 11% for the Lib Dems.

Maria Netley defends for the Conservatives; she is a freelance financial consultant after many years working in the City.  The Liberal Democrats have selected Marilyn Mason, a former teacher described as an environmental champion.  The Green candidate is 21-year-old Ryan Coley.  Labour are standing Chris Priest, a former borough councillor for the neighbouring Canbury ward.  The ballot paper is completed by UKIP's Ben Roberts, who was worked as a teacher and in IT.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond Park
London Assembly constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work: London

Ryan Coley (Grn)
Marilyn Mason (LD)
Maria Netley (C)
Chris Priest (Lab)
Ben Roberts (UKIP)

May 2014 result C 1617/1437/1378 LD 701/698/554 Grn 629 Lab 561/511/455 UKIP 445
May 2010 result C 2731/2482/2328 LD 1976/1661/1563 Grn 573 Lab 538/529/426
May 2006 result C 1744/1609/1569 LD 810/722/669 Grn 564 Lab 302/250/183
May 2002 result C 1422/1346/1303 LD 614/588/523 Lab 282/276/262 Grn 235/153 CPA 55

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1312 Ken 516 Grn 143 Ind 131 LD 111 UKIP 50 BNP 24
London Members: C 965 Lab 476 Grn 312 LD 253 UKIP 145 CPA 41 BNP 35 EDP 24 TUSC 5 Hayat 5 NF 3 House Party 3 Alagaratnam 3