Tuesday, 29 January 2013

By-Election Preview: 31 January 2013

There are two by-elections on Thursday 31st January to round off the month.  One is in south Wales and will be dealt with on the Welsh Elections blog; the other is in a marginal ward in Dudley, in which the Conservatives will be hoping to stop the rot after losing all three of their sitting councillors in the space of a year.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, West Midlands; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Malcolm Knowles at the age of 79.  A metallurgist who built a successful engineering business, Knowles had served on Dudley council since 1975 (with a break from 1995 to 2002) and was Mayor of Dudley in 2004/5; he also served on the council's cabinet as lead member for regeneration from 2006 to 2009.

Parry People Mover at Stourbridge Town
© Copyright Roger Geach and licensed for reuse
under this Creative Commons Licence.
The most south-westerly town in the West Midlands conurbation, Stourbridge can be found about 13 miles west of Birmingham.  It is part of the Black Country region of industrial towns, and Stourbridge's main industry was glassmaking.  Glass isn't made in Stourbridge any more, but the town is the home of the British Glass Biennale, a two-yearly exhibition of the state of the current British glass scene.  Stourbridge's other claim to fame is that its Town railway station, which is included within this ward, is at the end of Europe's shortest branch line; change at Stourbridge Junction, three-quarters of a mile away, for all other destinations.

The Wollaston and Stourbridge Town ward runs west along the Bridgnorth road from the town centre, with its strange one-way ring road, to include the suburb of Wollaston.  The deprivation indices suggest that it's a polarised ward; Wollaston becomes less deprived as you approach the Shropshire border, while Stourbridge town centre is at the other end of the indices.

That polarisation may be one explanation for the huge turnaround in this ward's election results in the last few years.  In June 2004, the first election on the current ward boundaries, the ward elected one Liberal Democrat and two Conservative councillors.  From then until 2010 the ward was a Conservative-Lib Dem marginal in that order, the Tories gaining the Lib Dem seat in 2008.  It would appear that much of the Lib Dem support was tactical, and the Labour vote never entirely disappeared here; that put Labour in a good position to capitalise on Coalition discontent, and capitalise they did, moving into a strong second place in the 2011 election as the Lib Dem vote collapsed.  Suddenly this ward had turned from a Conservative-Lib Dem marginal into a Conservative-Labour marginal.  Then the wheels came off for the Conservatives as they lost all three of their ward councillors in 2012; first one of their councillors died early in the year, creating a double-vacancy election in May at which Labour gained two seats off the Conservatives, contributing to them gaining overall control of Dudley Council.  The Tories are now defending their last seat in this by-election.

There is a crowded field here of seven candidates.  After a root-and-branch review of their recent performances the Conservatives have reselected Matt Rogers, a tree surgeon who stood in this ward last year.  Barbara Sykes, who stood last year in the safe-Conservative Sedgley ward, is hoping to make Labour's third gain in this ward in the space of nine months.  The Lib Dems have brought out the big guns in the form of former Norton ward councillor Christopher Bramall, who stood in this ward last May and also in the Norton ward by-election in June last year, in which he failed to break 10%. 

Among the minor parties, UKIP are standing a former candidate for this ward: Barbara Deeley stood here in 2007 and 2011.  The Green Party is the only party other than Labour and the Conservatives represented on the council, and 22-year-old Ben Sweeney will hope to become Dudley's second Green councillor.  Ken Griffiths of the BNP is the only candidate to give an address outside Stourbridge (he is from Cradley Heath), while former local radio presenter Russell Eden, who helped to set up a litter-picking group in the town, is an independent candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Stourbridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dudley and Sandwell

Christopher Bramall (LD)
Barbara Deeley (UKIP)
Russell Eden (Ind) (@Russ4WST)
Ken Griffiths (BNP)
Matt Rogers (C)
Ben Sweeney (Grn)
Barbara Sykes (Lab)

May 2012 result (double vacancy) Lab 1397/1317 C 1213/1025 LD 478/435 UKIP 365/353 Grn 229/164
May 2011 result C 1772 Lab 1500 LD 656 UKIP 394 Grn 264
May 2010 result C 2545 LD 2138 Lab 1778 UKIP 412 Grn 223
May 2008 result C 1505 LD 1268 Lab 775 UKIP 326
May 2007 result C 1406 LD 1199 Lab 850 UKIP 581
May 2006 result C 1642 LD 1392 Lab 1014
June 2004 result LD 1688/1292/1271 C 1618/1600/1581 Lab 1007/813/775

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

By-Election Preview: 24 January 2013

There are two local council by-elections on 24th January 2012, both in marginal Conservative/Lib Dem constituencies and both in the sort of small market towns in which the west of England specialises; one in the Somerset Levels, one in the picturesque scenery of Herefordshire.  These wards both appear to be unpredictable and interesting contests in marginal wards, and there is the possibility of some surprising results.  Here is the lowdown.


Highbridge roundabout and town clock
  © Copyright Ken Grainger and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset; caused by the resignation of 25-year-old Liberal Democrat councillor Joe Leach who is now employed in a politically restricted post.

About seven miles north of Bridgwater, Highbridge is the lowest crossing of the River Brue before it empties into the Bristol Channel, and used this location to develop as an important market centre and industrial town.  Highbridge's importance to local transport started in 1801 with the opening of the Glastonbury Canal, which reached the sea here at a small wharf.  The railways came to Highbridge in 1844 and opened a station on what is now the Great Western Main Line (now named Highbridge and Burnham and having an hourly service to Bridgwater, Taunton and Bristol with peak-hour extras to Paddington).  Highbridge became a railway centre in 1854 with the opening of the Highbridge branch of the Somerset and Dorset railway (which had bought out the canal); the Somerset and Dorset established its locomotive works here which became a major local employer.

Highbridge started to decline during the Great Depression, with the locomotive works first to go.  In 1933 the urban district merged with the neighbouring resort town of Burnham-on-Sea, and the two towns continue to share a town council.  The wharf closed shortly after the Second World War as it was too small to handle modern ships.  The livestock market was merged with Taunton's in 2007 and moved to a new site near Bridgwater.  Much of the town's economy today is based on distribution and light engineering, thanks to the town's proximity to the M5 motorway which opened in the 1970s.

Sedgemoor got new ward boundaries in 2011 which makes comparison with previous years rather difficult, although the old Highbridge ward itself was relatively little changed, gaining parts of the urban development which have expanded beyond the town boundary into Burnham Without parish, together with the hamlet of Alstone on the other side of the river.  The expanded ward was renamed Highbridge and Burnham Marine, although the only marine part of the ward is a holiday camp.

Sedgemoor District Council normally has a Conservative majority (except in the 1995 disaster) with a fairly strong Labour opposition, the district's main town of Bridgwater having a solid Labour vote.  Highbridge's electoral history is rather more idiosyncratic.  The Liberal Democrats did well in the ward until the 1999 election when they suffered near-wipeout on the council and the ward turned Labour.  In 2003 the Conservatives split the ward's representation by gaining one of the Labour seats.  The Lib Dems made a comeback in the 2007 election gaining all three seats in the ward, Joe Leach (at the age of 19) topping the poll.  Leach topped the poll again in the 2011 election for the redrawn ward, but the Lib Dems lost the other two seats to ex-Lib Dem independents; Mike Mansfield had been the council's only elected Liberal Democrat member in the 2003 election (from the old Burnham South ward) while Chris Williams had fought Highbridge ward for the Lib Dems in 2003.  The wider county council division of Highbridge and Burnham South saw a Conservative gain from the Lib Dems at the most recent Somerset county council election in 2009, although it's fair to say that the strongest Conservative areas in the division are outside this ward.

The ward is mostly (except for Alstone) part of the Wells parliamentary constituency which was gained by the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 general election.  With Highbridge being one of the more Lib-Dem inclined areas of the constituency, this by-election could be an early pointer as to the result of the 2015 election here.

This ward and its predecessors has elected members of all three main parties and independent councillors in the last ten years, and with the Tories and Labour less than a hundred votes off winning seats here in 2011 this by-election is fascinatingly unpredictable and all five candidates will feel that there is everything to play for.  The Liberal Democrats have selected Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge town councillor Helen Groves, who was runner-up in the 2011 district election and has received help from Nick Clegg in the campaign.  Two Independent candidates are in the running: one is the colourfully-named Purple Watkins (formerly known as Stephen) who appears to be a theatrical producer recently moved from Southport, the other is Sally Williams whose husband Chris is one of the ward's independent district councillors.  The Tories have added to the Lib Dems' woes by nominating yet another ex-Lib Dem, Bill Hancock, who stood for the district council and was elected to the town council as a Lib Dem in 2011 but is currently sitting on the town council as an independent.  Shockingly, Labour have not selected an ex-Liberal Democrat; their candidate is Ricky Holcombe, a former coal miner.

Helen Groves (LD)
Bill Hancock (C)
Ricky Holcombe (Lab) (@RickyHolco)
Purple Watkins (Ind)
Sally Williams (Ind)

Parliamentary constituency: Bridgwater and West Somerset (Alstone), Wells (rest of ward)
Somerset county council division: Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea South (part of ward within Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge parish); Brent (part of ward within Burnham Without parish); Huntspill (Alstone)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridgwater

May 2011 result LD 782/528/511 Ind 705/543 C 516/473/471 Lab 451/379/351


Herefordshire Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Gordon Lucas at the age of 82.  Lucas, a former mayor of Ross-on-Wye, worked for nearly seven decades selling, servicing and repairing motorcycles, starting work in a motorcycle shop in Hereford at the age of 15 and running Lucas Motor Cycles in Ross for half a century until his death.

Ross on Wye centre
  © Copyright John Phillips and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
A landmark on the main road from the Midlands to South Wales thanks to its location at the end of the M50 motorway, Ross-on-Wye is thought of as the birthplace of the British tourist industry.  The town is located on a horseshoe bend of the River Wye close to the northern end of the Wye Gorge, and at the end of the 17th century local philanthropist John Kyrle established a public garden in the town called The Prospect, which has fantastic views over the river bend and towards the Black Mountains.  Somewhat later the local rector started taking friends on boat trips down the Wye to admire the picturesque scenery; one of the people who took this trip was William Gilpin, whose 1782 book "Observations on the River Wye" was Britain's first illustrated tour guide.  The Herefordshire tourism industry has rarely looked back since then, and it helps that Ross, like many Marches towns, is itself a picturesque town, with many independent shops and a seventeenth-century sandstone Market House.

Like Highbridge, Ross-on-Wye is part of a marginal Conservative/Lib Dem constituency, Hereford and South Herefordshire; unlike Highbridge, that constituency swung the other way at the 2010 general election with a Conservative gain from the Liberal Democrats.  This ward is not one of the more generally Lib Dem-inclined parts of the constituency (their base is in Hereford), the ward's two seats having been split between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continuously since 2003.  The Conservatives' Gordon Lucas and the Lib Dems' Christopher Bartrum (who topped the poll) were re-elected in 2011 running so far ahead of their running-mates that third and fourth places were filled by two independent candidates, the It's Our County group (which is well-represented on the council and won the last Herefordshire by-election in a Hereford ward) polling very poorly here.

The by-election is going to be a three-candidate shootout, and with the Conservatives having a majority of one on Herefordshire council there is a lot at stake.  Defending for the Tories is businessman Richard Mayo, who runs a delicatessen on the high street and is founding chairman of the Association of Ross Traders.  He is opposed by the Liberal Democrats' Caroline Bennett, who appears to be a former local government officer who spends a lot of time on TripAdvisor, and the current mayor of Ross David Ravenscroft, who stood in the town's East ward at the 2007 election for the Tories and in 2011 as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Monmouth and Cinderford

Caroline Bennett (LD)
Richard Mayo (C) (richard4ross.com)
David Ravenscroft (Ind)

May 2011 result LD 617/368 C 597/383 Ind 522/503 It's Our County 97
May 2007 result C 641/494 LD 526/504 Ind 219
May 2003 result LD 746/709 C 736/653 Ind 653/423

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

By-Elections Preview: 17 January 2013

Welcome back to political reality.  The New Year is now two weeks old, and the UK psephological year cranks into life this week with four local by-elections on 17th January.  The Conservatives are on the defensive in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and Labour have a seat to defend in Lambeth, south London, while both parties will try to hold on to seats on the Wirral.  Saving the most interesting of the week's elections till last, this week's column starts in Brixton.

Lambeth London Borough Council, South London; caused by the Labour leader of the council Steve Reed being elected MP for Croydon North in the recent parliamentary by-election.

Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton
  © Copyright Malc McDonald and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Named after the road of the same name, part of the A23 to Brighton, Brixton Hill is essentially an entirely built-up ward running from the centre of Brixton to Streatham Hill.  Most of the area is within the SW2 (Brixton) postal district, except for its western fringes which are in SW4 (Clapham) and Lambeth Town Hall at the north-east corner of the ward which is covered by SW9 (Stockwell).  The only significant green spaces in the ward are Windmill Gardens at the centre of the ward and Holmewood Gardens to the south-east, while its most significant buildings are Lambeth Town Hall and Brixton Prison.  26% of the ward's population identified themselves as black in the 2001 census, with the majority of those being of Caribbean origin; a legacy of the first group of West Indian immigrants to Britain who settled in Brixton after disembarking from the Empire Windrush.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is a safe Labour ward.  The Lib Dems ran Labour relatively close at the most recent borough election in 2010, polling 30% to 41% for Labour, but second place in this ward's elections normally goes to the Green Party who finished second here in the list section of last year's GLA elections.  In 2012 the ward voted for Ken over Boris by 53% to 25%, the Lib Dems' Brian Paddick, in the area he was most associated with before becoming a politician, finishing fifth.

With Steve Reed having gone to Croydon, Croydon have returned the favour; the Labour candidate is Martin Tiedemann, a Co-operative Party staffer who served two terms as a Croydon councillor until 2006.  The Liberal Democrats have selected 33-year-old Liz Maffei, who has just finished work as a procurement and commercial manager at LOCOG, the London Olympics organising committee, while the Greens have gone for former FT journalist Andrew Child.  The Tories have re-selected their top candidate in 2010, former film and TV actor Tim Briggs who served in Afghanistan with the Paras.  Also on a rather crowded ballot paper are UKIP's Elizabeth Jones, a solicitor, and two candidates disputing the far-left vote: Daniel Lambert of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, who stood in the Lambeth and Southwark GLA constituency last year and gives an address in Chislehurst, Kent; and Steve Nally of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), whom readers with
 long memories might recall as secretary of the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation back in the day. 

All the candidates have given statements to the Brixton Blog giving more information about themselves and what they are standing for.

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

Timothy Briggs (C) (@BackingBrixton)
Andrew Child (Grn) (@andrewjchild)
Elizabeth Jones (UKIP) (@ukipbrixtonhill)
Daniel Lambert (SPGB)
Liz Maffei (LD) (@Liz_Maffei)
Steve Nally (TUSC)
Martin Tiedemann (Lab) (@mtiedemann)

May 2010 result Lab 2805/2699/2648 LD 2100/1873/1560 Grn 1108/1023/850 C 873/768/688
May 2006 result Lab 1354/1213/1206 Grn 714/596/559 LD 534/469/406 C 389/351/329
May 2002 result Lab 1067/1017/1015 Grn 459/393 LD 377/312/312 Socialist Alliance 292 C 272/251/249
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1810 Boris 851 Grn 313 Benita 198 Paddick 197 UKIP 19 BNP 9
List: Lab 1775 Grn 599 C 511 LD 266 TUSC 73 UKIP 69 CPA 50 BNP 28 EDP 17 House Party 15 Hayat 6 NF 4 Alagaratnam 1

Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bruce Wegg.  A Fenland district councillor since 1992 who served as Mayor of Wisbech in 2004/5, he was also a keen musician, being a long-serving choirmaster and church organist.

Wisbech fire station
  © Copyright Kevin Hale and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Hill ward is one of six wards covering the town of Wisbech, a rather isolated market town in the Fens located on the tidal River Nene.  The draining of the Fens and diversion of the Nene to serve the town turned Wisbech into a prosperous inland port with lots of nice-looking Georgian architecture. 

However, as the name suggests, Hill ward is away from the riverfront; it covers the southern end of the town along the A1101 dual carriageway road to Downham Market, which runs along the route of the long-abandoned Wisbech Canal.  The main feature of this residential area is the Isle and Wisbech campuses of the further education College of West Anglia.  Running behind the Isle campus is Ramnoth Road, on which one of Wegg's predecessors as town mayor, Bill Trumpess, lived; he was killed in 1979 when a Harrier jump jet on a training exercise crashed into his house.

Fenland is a strongly Conservative district, and it took the Tory nadir of 1995 for them to lose Fenland with that election producing a Labour majority which looks improbable today.  In 2007 the Tories had a majority before a vote was cast thanks to a large number of unopposed returns (including in Hill ward); after that experience the opposition ensured in 2011 that every ward was contested.  Not that this made much of a difference in the end, as Hill ward continued to return two Conservative councillors with large majorities.  There is a row going on at the moment over the council's planning committee (which seems to include half the councillors) but this didn't have much of an effect at another by-election in Whittlesey a few months ago in which the Conservatives had a swing in their favour.

To hold the by-election the Tories have selected a strong candidate who is no stranger to by-elections: Samantha Hoy, the current deputy mayor of Wisbech, narrowly beat off a strong Liberal Democrat challenge in a county council by-election in Wisbech North division in April 2010.  She should have an easier ride this time.  Dean Reeves, a civil servant, is trying again for Labour after finishing as runner-up in the 2011 district council election; however, his vote could potentially be split by the remaining candidate, independent former councillor John White, who was a Labour candidate for Wisbech town council that year and also fought the town's Staithe ward district by-election in September 2011.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Wisbech South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wisbech

Samantha Hoy (C) (@SamanthaHoy)
Dean Reeves (Lab) (@DeanLReeves)
John White (Ind)

May 2011 result C 797/677 Lab 366 LD 202
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result C 621/574 Lab 258

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Merseyside; caused respectively by the deaths of Conservative councillor Peter Johnson and Labour councillor Anne McArdle.  Cllr Johnson was a 74-year-old with a varied career, most recently working as a newsagent and farmer; he had served on the council since 1991 and was Mayor of Wirral in 2006/7.  Cllr McArdle, who died of cancer at the age of 66, had been the Wirral cabinet member for adult social care and public health, and had previously worked as a teacher and a schools inspector in Liverpool.

Leasowe Castle
  © Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed
for reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence
Now here's a contrast.  We're in the Wirral here, the adjunct of Merseyside over the water which is most definitely not Liverpool, and people from the Wirral are most definitely not Scousers.

On the north side of the Wirral can be found the Wallasey suburbs of Leasowe and Moreton.  Built in the sand dunes which make up the northern coast of the Wirral, Leasowe is a residential area with some interesting landmarks, including the Solar Campus school, the world's most northerly building heated entirely by solar energy; the Leasowe Castle, a hotel on the seafront built by the 5th Earl of Derby which contains the original ceiling from the Star Chamber at the Palace of Westminster (and very nice it is too); and the Leasowe Lighthouse, Britain's oldest brick-built lighthouse.  Further inland is Moreton, which is similar to Leasowe but also has some manufacturing; Typhoo tea is made in Moreton.  The ward is served by two railway stations, Leasowe and Moreton, both located on the West Kirby branch of the Merseyrail Wirral Line with four trains each hour to Liverpool.  The ward is rather starkly socially divided, with the deprivation indices putting the census area around the Leasowe Castle in the top 30% nationally but the rest of the ward in the bottom 40%.

This adds up to a Labour ward, but not an overly safe one by the standards of the region; the Conservatives won here in 2008 following a near-miss in 2007, and on the 2012 result - a Labour win by 51% to 43% - the ward still counts as a marginal.  This will be easily the most interesting contest of the week.

Heswall, on the other hand, can be found on the poorly-defined western coast of the Wirral.  It is a filthy rich town - the 7th richest town in the UK, according to a 2001 Guardian report - and feels like it should still be part of Cheshire as it once was.  Perhaps surprisingly for such a rich town, it doesn't have a direct rail link to the main regional centres; Heswall station (on the eastern edge of town) is on the Bidston-Wrexham 'Borderlands' line. 

Heswall also votes like part of Cheshire; it's rare for the Tory vote to fall below 60% here, and on a general election turnout in 2010 the Conservative candidate here polled 5,000 votes.  Labour have taken over the runners-up spot since 2011 following the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote.

The Heswall by-election has a shortlist of five candidates.  The Tory candidate will win; she is Kathryn Hodson who was a distant runner-up in Bromborough ward last year, and is the wife of another Heswall councillor, Andrew Hodson.  Standing against her are Michael Holliday for Labour, David Scott for UKIP (who fought the ward in 2011 and 2012), the Greens' Barbara Burton (likewise) and Gregory North for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.  As if it wasn't bizarre enough that TUSC are standing somewhere like Heswall in the first place, North doesn't help his cause by giving an address in Anfield, Liverpool; the TUSC vote here could give a new meaning to the word 'derisory'.

Leasowe and Moreton East is made even more interesting by the list of six candidates, none of whom appear to live in the ward.  The Labour candidate is a minor celebrity, although apparently not notable enough to have a Wikipedia page; she is actress and comedienne Pauline Daniels.  Hoping to have the last laugh is Ian Lewis, a former Vote UK poster who was the winning Conservative candidate in 2008 and served one term before losing his seat in 2012; he is standing again.  Susan Whitham, who fought Moreton West and Saughall Massie ward last year, is the UKIP candidate, while James McGinley stands for the Green Party.  Another Vote UK poster, Daniel "Strontium Dog" Clein, is the Lib Dem nominee, and TUSC are standing Mark Halligan.

Parliamentary constituency: Wirral South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wirral and Ellesmere Port

Barbara Burton (Grn)
Kathryn Hodson (C)
Michael Holliday (Lab)
Gregory North (TUSC)
David Scott (UKIP) (@DavidAScottUK)

May 2012 result C 2766 Lab 785 UKIP 413 Grn 261 LD 186
May 2011 result C 3745 Lab 1065 LD 392 UKIP 290 Grn 281
May 2010 result C 5000 LD 1534 Lab 1465 Grn 251 UKIP 213
May 2008 result C 3599 LD 513 Lab 453 Grn 219 UKIP 101
May 2007 result C 3385 LD 618 Lab 589 Grn 292
May 2006 result C 3412 LD 600 Lab 544 Grn 348
May 2004 result C 3844/3655/3591 LD 1202/1090/1011 Lab 820 Grn 755

Leasowe and Moreton East
Parliamentary constituency: Wallasey
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wirral and Ellesmere Port

Daniel Clein (LD)
Pauline Daniels (Lab) (@pauline_daniels)
Mark Halligan (TUSC)
Ian Lewis (C)
James McGinley (Grn)
Susan Whitham (UKIP)

May 2012 result Lab 2094 C 1776 UKIP 144 Grn 89
May 2011 result Lab 2442 C 1564 UKIP 149 Grn 143 LD 111
May 2010 result Lab 3404 C 1948 LD 866 UKIP 216 Grn 129
May 2008 result C 2025 Lab 1373 LD 222 Grn 171 Ind 147
May 2007 result Lab 1682 C 1664 LD 244 Grn 204
May 2006 result Lab 1426 C 1050 LD 406 Grn 243
May 2004 result Lab 1981/1909/1695 C 1218/1184/1163 LD 516/425/398

Friday, 4 January 2013

Labour Gain Bucks Foothold After Defection

Labour have regained representation on Buckinghamshire County Council and Chiltern District Council after the defection of Cllr Mohammad Bhatti MBE from Conservative to Labour.  Bhatti had sat as a Conservative member for the Newtown ward on Chiltern DC since 1999, and for the Chesham East division on the County Council since 2009. He was awarded his MBE a year ago in the 2012 New Year's Honours list.

The reason behind his defection is as yet unknown.  It is also somewhat unusual in that he is joining a party that has not been represented on Buckinghamshire CC since 2009 or on Chiltern DC since 1999, meaning he has never had a Labour Party colleague at any point in his political career.  The major opposition party on both councils are the Liberal Democrats.

It is highly unlikely he will hold the county division in May - Labour polled just 4.3% of the vote there in 2009, coming behind the Conservatives, Lib Dems, UKIP and the Greens.  The district ward looks slightly more competitive with a 16.5% Labour share in 2011, but it is still a very safe Labour area.

Read the forum discussion on this here.