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.

EAST WALWORTH
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


SHIPSTON
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


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