Monday, 18 February 2013

By-Elections Preview: 19 February 2013

The four by-elections in the third week of February 2013 have some rather interesting features.  Thursday sees three by-elections: the Conservatives defend a district council seat in Norfolk and Labour one in Harrow, both vacated in controversial circumstances, and Labour also have a safe seat to defend in West Yorkshire after their councillor stepped down to become the local Police and Crime Commissioner.  However, this week's column starts with an unusual Tuesday by-election in Essex.


Chelmsford City Council, Essex; caused by the death of Independent Councillor Delmas Ashford at the age of 82.  The last remaining councillor from the first election to the modern Chelmsford Council in 1973, Ashford had stood for the Conservatives in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections but was otherwise returned as an Independent.

Guildhall, Great Waltham, Essex
  © Copyright Robert Edwards and licensed for
reuse under this 
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Broomfield and the Walthams is a large rural ward north of Chelmsford, consisting of the Chelmsford suburb of Broomfield and various settlements along the A130 road to Great Dunmow which form the parishes of Great Waltham and Little Waltham.  Broomfield is the site of a major hospital which specialises in plastics and burns treatment and contains about 60% of the ward's electorate, while the other areas are more traditional Essex villages; possibly the most interesting feature of them is the Elizabethan Great Waltham Guildhall, recently restored.

In 2003 and 2007 this was a safe Conservative ward, forming part of a safe Conservative county division (Broomfield and Writtle) and a safe Conservative parliamentary seat (Saffron Walden); but shortly afterwards it started to go wrong for the local Conservatives, as they lost a September 2007 by-election here to the Liberal Democrats on a massive swing.  The 2011 result looks much less safe for the Conservatives, with Ashford being the third of the three candidates elected and beating the third Conservative candidate by 142 votes, and the top Lib Dem less than 150 votes behind the third Conservative.  The Lib Dems failed to hold on to their by-election gain but increased their share of the vote compared to the May 2007 election.

Nonetheless, with no independent candidate having come forward to replace Ashford the Conservatives should be favoured to hold this by-election.  Their candidate is William Wetton, about whom I have no information other than that he gives an address in Broomfield.  The Lib Dems are standing Graham Pooley, who lost his council seat in Chelmsford's Marconi ward in 2011, and was councillor for this ward from 1995 to 2003; he is campaigning against major housing plans for the ward.  The Green Party, who beat Labour here last time round, have nominated local doctor Reza Hossain who fought this ward in 2007 and the local county division in 2009.  Labour are going for the youth vote with Sinead Jein, who turned 18 last December, and UKIP are fighting the ward for the first time; their candidate is Ian Nicholls from Writtle, a quantity surveyor.

Parliamentary constituency: Saffron Walden
Essex county council division: Broomfield and Writtle
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chelmsford and Braintree

Reza Hossain (Grn)
Sinead Jein (Lab)
Ian Nicholls (UKIP)
Graham Pooley (LD)
William Wetton (C)

May 2011 result C 1278/1145/923 Ind 1065 LD 785/500/492 Grn 373 Lab 348/341/324
Sept 2007 by-election LD 1198 C 742 Lab 76 UKIP 57 Grn 53
May 2007 result C 1433/1279/1214 LD 469/440/399 Grn 256/251/248 UKIP 216 Lab 200
May 2003 result C 1245/1123/1040 LD 714/574/564 Lab 243/200/191

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