Monday, 26 November 2012

By-Elections Preview: 29 November 2012

29th November 2012 will be the largest remaining electoral test of the year.  As well as three parliamentary by-elections in the safe Labour seats of Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham, there are three local by-elections.  One is an SNP defence in the Outer Hebrides, while the Liberal Democrats will fancy their chances in both of the polls on the mainland: a Conservative defence in a C/LD marginal in Warwickshire, and a Labour defence in a Lab/LD marginal in south London which is the first subject of this week's column.

Southwark London borough council, South London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Helen Morrissey.

Heygate Estate from Strata SE1 tower
  © Copyright London SE1 and licensed for
reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Running east from the Elephant and Castle junction, East Walworth ward runs along the southern edge of the New Kent and Old Kent Roads as far as Burgess Park.  It includes the notorious Heygate Estate, described as one of the starkest examples of post-war urban decay in Britain.  Southwark council are currently trying to regenerate the area and demolition started on the Heygate Estate last year.  This may have contributed to a fall in the ward's population to 11,557 in the recently-released 2011 Census population figures; the Census was taken in the month that demolition work began.  The 2001 census found a population figure of exactly 12,000, of which 29% were black (and over 20% Black African) and 27% born outside the EU-15.

You might have thought that these demographics would create just another inner London safe Labour ward.  The reason why this is not the case can be summed up in two words: Simon Hughes.  East Walworth ward is part of Hughes' constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and the Lib Dem machine which keeps re-electing him hasn't seized up yet.  While East Walworth is arguably the most Labour-inclined ward in that constituency - it was the only ward in the seat where Labour topped the poll at the 2006 Southwark borough elections - it elected three Liberal Democrat councillors in 2002 and the Lib Dems held the ward in a February 2004 by-election.  Labour gained two seats in 2006 and got a clean sweep of the ward's three seats in 2010, on the same day Hughes was re-elected, but the 2010 result was a close-run thing with the third Labour candidate just 103 votes ahead of the leading Lib Dem.  The most recent electoral test here was the 2012 GLA election in which the Lib Dems had one of their best results in London here, holding second place with 14% of the vote (to 55% for Labour; Ken beat Boris here 57-23).

So, an interesting by-election is in prospect which is contested only by the three main parties.  The defending Labour candidate is Rebecca Lury, a 25-year-old PR worker.  Her main challenge will come from the top Lib Dem candidate in 2010, biologist Dr Ben Johnson who at 31 is the oldest of the three candidates.  Rounding off the ballot paper is 29-year-old Conservative candidate Stuart Millson from East Dulwich.  Southwark Talking News has sent a questionnaire to all the candidates and has put recordings of the results on the internet; see the links below.  All three candidates are on Twitter; in alphabetical order they are @drbenjohnson, @rebeccalury and @Stuart_Millson.

Parliamentary constituency: Bermondsey and Old Southwark
GLA constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Ben Johnson (LD) 
Rebecca Lury (Lab)
Stuart Millson (C)

May 2010 result Lab 1931/1892/1870 LD 1767/1740/1441 C 530/466/458 Grn 373
May 2006 result Lab 1488/1432/1403 LD 1452/1410/1296 C 305/251/236 Ind 208
Feb 2004 by-election LD 1477 Lab 978 C 86 Grn 82 Ind 11
May 2002 result LD 1200/1189/1064 Lab 716/680/660 C 115/101/97 Grn 91/88/78 Socialist Alliance 80/80 Ind 55
2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1352 Boris 552 Paddick 183 Grn 123 Benita 83 UKIP 40 BNP 23
List: Lab 1296 LD 327 C 286 Grn 213 UKIP 88 CPA 45 BNP 32 TUSC 32 EDP 28 House Party 13 NF 9 Alagaratnam 0 Hayat 0

Stratford-on-Avon district council, Warwickshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jon Gullis to take up a new job in London.
Shipston on Stour
© Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for
reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The youngest member of the council, elected eighteen months ago at the age of 21, his resignation came three hours too late for the by-election to be combined with the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner election.  Gullis had refused to hand in resignation until a replacement candidate was selected, but the local Conservatives had been unwilling to select a replacement candidate before Gullis resigned.

This column finishes for the week in the English Midlands and the southernmost town in Warwickshire.  Shipston-on-Stour can be found ten miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon on the road to Oxford.  A prosperous market town in medieval times, the "Ship" of the name refers to sheep which, along with coaching inns, formed much of the local economy.

Shipston ward has the same boundaries as Shipston-on-Stour town council.  For the last decade it has consistently been a Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginal; the two seats split C/LD when the current boundaries were introduced in 2002, but since then the Conservatives have only won the ward in 2004 and 2011.  There have been some very close results over the years (Lib Dem majority of 51 in 2007, Lib Dem majority of 13 in 2008, Conservative majority of 17 in 2011).  The May result in the ward was rather atypical, with the Conservative vote more than halving and the Labour vote almost doubling so that Labour finished second, the Liberal Democrat councillor (who is currently group leader) convincingly holding his seat.  It appears that there was a major controversy in the town over a supermarket development which the Labour candidate supported.

Defending a 17-vote majority and having finished third in the previous election is not where the Conservatives will have wanted to be leading up to this by-election.  Their candidate is Marion Lowe, the Shipston town crier.  The Liberal Democrat candidate is Laura Nelson, who fought Aston Cantlow ward in May.  Completing the ballot paper, Labour's Jeff Kenner will hope to build on his good performance in May; he has apparently been endorsed by outgoing councillor Gullis.

Parliamentary constituency: Stratford-on-Avon
Warwickshire county council division: Shipston-on-Stour
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon

Jeffrey Kenner (Lab) (@JeffKenner1)
Marion Lowe (C)
Laura Nelson (LD) (@Laura_e_Nelson)

May 2012 result LD 752 Lab 501 C 423 Grn 61
May 2011 result C 883 LD 866 Lab 262
May 2010 by-election LD 1376 C 1108 Lab 315 Grn 70
May 2008 result LD 934 C 921 Lab 64
May 2007 result LD 952 C 901 Lab 83
June 2004 result C 897 LD 778
May 2003 result LD 853 C 642
May 2002 result C 729/700 LD 728/615

Friday, 23 November 2012

Lib Dems Back In Shepway After Folkestone Win

The Lib Dems won a seat back on Shepway District Council in yesterday's Folkestone Park by-election.  They were wiped out on the council they formerly ran in the 2011 elections, but the return of former Folkestone Park Councillor Lynne Beaumont suggests a start of a reversal in their fortunes.

There was a very substantial 14.0% swing from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems.  This seems to be at least in part due to parking issues in Folkestone, which Beaumont featured prominently in her campaign.  She also seems to have a large personal vote, having won the largest Lib Dem vote in 2011, and being the only Lib Dem to survive in this ward after the 2007 election.  There was little movement in the results of the other party's candidates, with People First and Labour down just slightly with UKIP improving on their previous result and the Greens standing for the first time.

Shepway District Council is currently dominated by the Conservatives, who hold 43 out of the 46 seats.  Two are held by People First (a local independent group formed by former Lib Dems) and Beaumont becomes the third opposition member.  The Lib Dems had majority control between 2003 and 2004, but collapsed after the major split which created People First.

Full result.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

By-Election Preview: 22 November 2012

With the farcical Police Commissioner elections now out of the way, normal service resumes on the local by-election front with one poll on Thursday 22nd November, which fills a vacancy that occurred just too late to be combined with the Police Commissioner elections.

We are now in the "six-month rule" period as there are less than six months to go to the May 2013 local elections in which the English county councils, some ex-county councils which have gone down the unitary route, one-third of Bristol City Council (thanks to its unique electoral cycle) and Anglesey County Council in Wales are up for re-election.  The six-month rule means that there will not be any by-elections to replace councillors who would have been up for re-election in 2013, so there will be no county council by-elections for a little while.  At least one vacancy which falls under this rule has already been reported (in Ludgvan division, Cornwall).

This column continues a series which was previously published on the Britain-Votes blog.  It appears that the people behind Britain-Votes have moved on to other projects; nonetheless I am grateful to them for their support over the last year and even more grateful to Kris for allowing me to hijack his blogs in the same way as I did to Britain-Votes.  Anyway...


Shepway District Council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tristan Allen.

Folkestone Academy
  © Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for 
reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Off to the south coast and the town of Folkestone, the major town within the curiously-named Shepway district.  Folkestone has had a few industries over the years, although they are all connected with its location as a Channel port.  The coming of the railways in 1843 transformed the town into both a bustling ferry port (the South Eastern Railway essentially rebuilt the harbour to handle steam packets for Boulogne) and a resort with a sandy beach.  There are no passenger ferries from Folkestone now, thanks to competition from a more recent development up the hill at the other end of town: the Channel Tunnel, which surfaces at Castle Hill just north of Folkestone and is a major local employer.

Folkestone's Park ward, one of nine covering the town, can be found at the northern end of the built-up area, running from the railway line at the south end to the end of the M20 motorway at the north end.  At the southern end of the ward is Folkestone Central railway station, with three trains per hour to Dover and London (one of which reaches London in less than an hour thanks to the high-speed line).  The deprivation indices suggest that the area around the station and Radnor Park is seriously run-down, with the ward's other three census areas being around the English average.

This ward elected three Liberal Democrats in 2003 fairly comfortably; the Conservatives gained two seats at the 2007 election and got a full slate in 2011 by a very comfortable margin.  The Lib Dems were completely wiped out on Shepway council in 2011 - having controlled it until 2007 - and the only opposition to the Conservatives consists of two "People First" councillors from Folkestone Foord ward.

The defending Conservative candidate is Leo Griggs, a parish councillor in the coastal parish of Sandgate which is to all intents and purposes part of Folkestone.  The Liberal Democrats' Lynne Beaumont will hope to get back on the council quickly after losing her seat in this ward in 2011.  Another unsuccessful candidate from 2011 standing again is Patricia Copping of the People First party.  Labour's Nicola Keen wants to reverse the recent introduction of on-street parking charges in Folkestone.  Hod Birkby is standing for UKIP, and the ballot paper is completed by Green Party candidate Derek Moran.

Tristan Allen also sat on Folkestone town council, and there is a simultaneous by-election for the town council in the same ward.  All the candidates are contesting both by-elections, with the exception of Moran who lives in the next-door town of Hythe; he is replaced by another Green candidate.

Lynne Beaumont (LD)

Hod Birkby (UKIP)
Patricia Copping (People First)
Leo Griggs (C)
Nicola Keen (Lab)
Derek Moran (Grn)

Parliamentary constituency: Folkestone and Hythe

Kent county council division: Folkestone North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Folkestone

May 2011 result C 966/940/802 LD 569/428/403 People First 336/258/200 Lab 279 UKIP 217

May 2007 result LD 684/581/555 C 624/614/594 Ind 384 Shepway Ind 293/135 People First 174/122/104 UKIP 111
May 2003 result LD 1015/1015/984 C 798/652/649

Lib Dem Goes Green in Malvern

The Green Party have reported that Cllr Clive Smith has joined them from the Liberal Democrats.  Smith is currently a councillor on both Worcestershire County Council (covering the Malvern Link division) and Malvern Hills District Council (Link ward), as well as being a member of Malvern Town Council.

In the last election for Malvern Hills, Link was a very closely fought split ward, electing two Conservatives and the Lib Dem Smith.  Smith won the most votes in the contest, significantly ahead of his fellow Lib Dem running mate.  The Greens' Julian Roskams was only six votes short of taking a seat at the expense of the Conservatives.  The county council division was contested in 2009, with Smith narrowly beating the Conservatives - in that contest the Greens came a distant fourth.

The defection gives the Greens their first ever councillor on Worcestershire County Council - a major local milestone for them.  Given their poor performance in the county division in 2009 however, it remains to be seen whether they can hold that seat past next May.  Smith's electoral history does however suggest he has a strong personal vote independent of party ties.  The Greens already had groups on Malvern Town Council and Malvern Hills District Council, and Smith's defection brings their total number to three on each of those bodies.

Worcestershire County Council
Lib Dems-1
Health Concern2-
Residents Association1-

Malvern Hills District Council
Lib Dems10-1

Introducing New Blogger Andrew Teale

On behalf of English Elections and its fellow sites, I would like to warmly welcome our new blogger, Andrew Teale.  

The webmaster and editor of the Local Elections Archive Project, Andrew Teale lives and works in Bolton.  He is an experienced and enthusiastic psephologist, and will be providing us with fascinating previews of upcoming by-elections across the UK each week.

Andrew has now been writing these previews for about two years, first for the Atlas Forum and more recently for the Britain Votes blog.  He enjoys writing and feels that writing the by-election previews improves his quiz knowledge of Great Britain.

His greatest passion is quiz; just back from the European Quiz Championships in Estonia, Andrew is currently ranked as 38th in the UK by the British Quiz Association, is a University Challenge quarter-finalist and has appeared on Mastermind.  His team has won a large number of quiz league titles in Bolton. 

Andrew is also a clarinettist with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Lancashire) band, an amateur military band based in Bury, and has played as part of the band at high-profile events in Canada and Belgium.  He does surprisingly little politics beyond being a fully paid-up member of the Electoral Reform Society and playing quiz out of a local Conservative club.

Andrew's first contribution will be published later this evening for tomorrow's by-election in Folkestone!