Thursday, 18 October 2012

Defections in Durham, Norfolk and Southampton

There have been a number of new defections in English local authorities in the past week.

On Durham County Council, Cllr Dennis Maddison has left the Labour Party to sit as an independent.  He was formerly a councillor on Easington District Council, before election on to the new Durham County unitary authority since its inception in 2009.  The Peterlee Star reports that Maddison felt his views were not being listened to by the Labour group on the council.

Durham County Council
Lib Dems21-

On Norfolk County Council, Cllr Graham Jones quit the Lib Dems, sitting as an "Independent Liberal Democrat" on the council instead.  As with many other Lib Dem defectors since 2010, Jones cited the coalition with the Conservatives as one of his reasons for leaving the party, as well as a loss of faith in party politics in general.  The Eastern Daily Press reported that the local Labour group have called on him to resign his seat and contest a by-election as an independent.

Norfolk County Council
Lib Dems9-1

Finally, two suspended Labour councillors on Southampton City Council (who were still registered members of the party), have formed their own group on the council, "Labour Councillors Against The Cuts".  Cllrs Don Thomas and Keith Morrell were suspended by Labour group whips for voting against budget cuts to a local swimming pool.  In turn, the Southern Daily Echo reports that they accuse the Labour group of passing on Coalition cuts, which they say they will oppose.

Southampton City Council
Lib Dems2-

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Sir Stuart Bell MP Passes Away

The veteran Labour MP for Middlesborough, Sir Stuart Bell, has died after suffering from pancreatic cancer, the BBC reports.

Bell was first elected in the safe Labour seat in 1983, and was then easily re-elected at every subsequent election until 2010.  The popular MP's vote share peaked at 71.4% during the Labour landslide in 1997, but had always held above 50% until the 2010 contest.

He was sometimes derided for refusing to hold constituent surgeries after being assaulted during one in 1997, but he did have a noteworthy parliamentary career holding a number of important positions, including Shadow Trade Minister, and was later knighted in 2004.

Bell's passing adds to the growing list of vacancies in Westminster.  Labour MP for Croydon North Malcolm Wicks passed away last month, and other Labour MPs Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) and Alun Michael (Cardiff South and Penarth) have both resigned to contest the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections.  Corby Conservative MP Louise Mensch resigned to move to America, and Mid Ulster Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness resigned to focus on serving as Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister.

By-Elections Summary: 11 October 2012

In two local contests held on Thursday, Labour gained a seat from the Liberal Democrats in the split Whitefoot ward in Lewisham, while local group Sutton on Sea First held the Sutton on Sea North ward in East Lindsey.

The Whitefoot by-election was triggered by the resignation of Lib Dem Cllr Pete Pattisson, who is moving to India to teach.  The three-member ward had produced a split result in 2010 with a Labour candidate topping the poll but Lib Dems taking the other two seats available.  Despite the national swing against the Lib Dems since 2010, their vote held up relatively well with a fall of just 6.3% on their top candidate previously.  The Labour vote remained virtually stationary with an increase of just 0.3%, with the biggest beneficiaries of the by-election being local socialist group Lewisham for People Not Profit who saw their vote share more than triple to 10.9%.  Full result.

In East Lindsey District, localist grouping Sutton on Sea First defended the Sutton on Sea North ward and also a parish council seat in the same area after their Cllr Andrew Ferryman stood down due to poor health.  The seat was very safely won by Sutton on Sea First in 2011, and held easily despite a 13.2% fall in their vote share this time, apparently mostly to an independent candidate who did not contest the ward previously.  Full result.

Next week there are four local by-elections taking place including contests in Boston and Brighton and Hove and a contest at both District and Kent County levels in Maidstone.