Wednesday, 20 March 2013

By-Elections Preview: 21 March 2013

The pace of by-elections continues with six polls this week, all but one of which are in marginal wards.  This week's by-elections are all in London and the South, and can be grouped into three pairs.  Later this column shall consider two Conservative defences in northern Dorset (including the week's only safe ward) and two Labour/Lib Dem contests in Islington.  But first, we travel to Hemel Hempstead for the first of two Labour/Conservative contests in areas of twentieth-century London overspill.

Dacorum District Council, Hertfordshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Keith White, who has moved to Leeds to be close to his elderly mother.  He had been a district councillor since 1995.

Hemel Hempstead: A414 St Albans Road
  © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for
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One of the country's first New Towns, Hemel Hempstead has a rather old history thanks to its location on the main transport links from London to the Midlands - first the Grand Union Canal, then the London and Birmingham Railway were built through what was then an agricultural market town.  This all changed in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, when Hemel was designated as a New Town.  The first area to be developed, on a hill to the east of the old town, was Adeyfield, whose first New Town residents moved into their new homes on Longlands, the eastern boundary of the modern Adeyfield West ward, on 8th February 1950.  More than a third of the ward's housing is still rented from the council.  The ward essentially covers the residential area north of the A414 St Albans Road and east of the town centre.

Hemel is still growing slightly and has overtaken Watford to become Hertfordshire's largest town.  One effect of this population growth is that the curiously-named Dacorum district had a boundary review in time for the 2007 district elections.  The old ward called Adeyfield West was safe Labour in 2003, but the new ward has had very tight results at its three contests so far.  The 2007 district election saw the two seats split between Labour and the Conservatives with majorities of 16 and 6 votes; the Conservatives held their seat at a March 2010 by-election with a majority of 57 but with just 33% of the vote, the Lib Dems threatening to turn the ward into a three-way marginal and the BNP polling 14%.  The 2011 election was essentially a carbon copy of the one four years before, the Conservatives topping the poll this time and Labour winning the second seat with majorities of 25 and 17 votes.  To add to the spice, the ward is part of a county division (Hemel Hempstead St Paul's) which was gained by the Liberal Democrats in 2009 with Labour, who were defending the ward, not even coming close to holding their seat.  This is a weak area of the division for the Lib Dems, whose Hemel powerbase is Highfield ward, but we only have to look as far as last week's poll in Aldwick East to see an example of a Lib Dem county councillor winning an apparently hopeless ward in his own division.

There are five candidates in the by-election.  Defending, Labour's Mike Moore is a former district councillor, who lost his seat in the neighbouring Hemel Hempstead Town ward in 2011, and is currently a a member of the Hemel Hempstead Town Centre Partnership.  His main challenge may come from the Conservatives' Barry Newton, a 77-year-old actor who is described as "a first class character actor, easy to direct with a very low take rate"; Newton has had less success at the ballot box, having previously been a UKIP candidate but most recently standing for the Tories in Highfield ward in 2011.  The Lib Dems, hoping to emulate the success of their Sussex colleagues last week, have selected the ward's county councillor Ron Tindall.  Also on the ballot paper are former Markyate parish councillor Simon Deacon, standing for the English Democrats, and UKIP's Noel Swinford, a 78-year-old who worked as a bricklayer and in the paper industry.

Parliamentary constituency: Hemel Hempstead
Hertfordshire county council division: Hemel Hempstead St Paul's
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford

Simon Deacon (EDP)
Mike Moore (Lab)
Barry Newton (C)
Noel Swinford (UKIP)
Ron Tindall (LD)

May 2011 result C 619/594 Lab 611/592 LD 209/204
March 2010 by-election C 486 Lab 429 LD 362 BNP 203
May 2007 result Lab 518/502 C 508/481 LD 200/178

Havering London Borough Council, North London; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Dennis Bull at the age of 75.  Serving on Havering council from 1990 to 1994 and again since 2006, he was a charity worker on the committee of the Havering and Brentwood Bereavement Service.

Harold Hill Estate, Romford
  © Copyright David Kemp and licensed for
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Welcome to Harold Hill, like Adeyfield an enormous twentieth-century housing development.  Unlike the new town of Hemel Hempstead above, Harold Hill lies just within the M25, west of the A12 junction 28, and was built by the London County Council as an enormous housing development to try and decant people out of poor housing in central London.  This history has left its mark on the ward's population; this is one of the most white and homogeneously British wards remaining in Greater London, and 38% of the ward's housing is still rented from Havering council.

The ward has a similar electoral profile to Adeyfield West above, but with a more extreme right-wing slant in line with its former Essex location.  Safe Labour in 2002, the party narrowly lost all three of the ward's seats at the 2006 election, in wich a single BNP candidate topped the poll and the Conservatives won the other two seats; the BNP majority was 81 and the Conservative majorities were 37 and 1 over the leading Labour candidate.  The BNP successfully defended their seat at a March 2008 by-election, increasing their majority; Labour leapfrogged the Conservatives to finish second but were over 100 votes behind.  That springboard enabled Labour to gain the BNP seat and top the poll at the 2010 borough elections, but Labour failed to knock out the two Conservative councillors who were re-elected by majorities of 79 and 11 votes over the second Labour candidate.

Last year's GLA election still showed a lingering BNP vote in the area despite the virtual collapse of the party; this was one of the few wards where the BNP were third in the mayoral contest (Boris 46% Ken 34% BNP 7%), while Labour carried the ward in the Assembly poll thanks to a three-way split in the right-wing vote (Lab 35% C 27% BNP 13% UKIP 11%).  Labour will be hoping for a similar split this week.

Defending for the Conservatives is their unsuccessful candidate from 2010, Marcus Llewellyn-Rothschild, who is highlighting what his party has done for the area through their "Ambitions" project.  Labour's candidate is Christine McGeary, who works with disabled children's services and is a hospital governor.  The BNP are not giving up here and are standing Mick Braun, a former REME engineer who now drives HGV tankers.  UKIP's candidate is their London mayoral candidate from last year, electrician Lawrence Webb who also fought the 2008 by-election in the ward.  The ballot paper is completed by two competing Residents' Association candidate, Darren Wise for the Harold Wood/Hill/Park association and former borough councillor and ex-policeman Malvin Brown for the Residents Association of London.

Parliamentary constituency: Hornchurch and Upminster
GLA constituency: Havering and Redbridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Mick Braun (BNP)
Malvin Brown (Res Assoc of London)
Marcus Llewellyn-Rothschild (C)
Christine McGeary (Lab)
Lawrence Webb (UKIP)
Darren Wise (Harold Wood Hill Park Res Assoc)

May 2010 result Lab 1869/1603/1562 C 1682/1614/1551 BNP 1445/1346 UKIP 944 Harold Wood Hill Park Res Assoc 616/509/390
March 2008 by-election BNP 865 Lab 741 C 489 UKIP 70 National Liberal 62 LD 52
May 2006 result BNP 996 C 952/916/885 Lab 915/912/814 UKIP 379/321 Havering Res Assoc 199/162/157 Ind 88/84/78
May 2002 result Lab 1507/1415/1377 C 887/876/848 Ind Working Class Assoc 850/833/786 Havering Res Assoc 454/424/423
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 906 Ken 664 BNP 142 UKIP 108 Benita 48 Grn 43 LD 42
List: Lab 690 C 533 BNP 251 UKIP 224 Grn 61 EDP 54 CPA 48 LD 46 NF 36 TUSC 11 House Party 7 Hayat 1 Alagaratnam0

Islington London Borough Council, North London; caused respectively by the resignations of former Liberal Democrat councillor Arthur Graves and Labour councillor Jessica Asato.  Graves, who resigned from the Liberal Democrats in April 2012, is emigrating to Australia, while Asato has been selected as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for the marginal Norwich North constituency.

"They took my baby to Holloway jail,
They took my baby, down Holloway jail,
She was a lady when she went in,
Now she's in jail, and it's giving me hell."
-The Kinks, "Holloway Jail"

These two wards border each other.  Junction ward is named after Junction Road, which runs from the southern end of the ward at Tufnell Park underground station up to the major road junction with the A1 at Archway underground station (both on the High Barnet branch of the Northern line); also serving the eastern end of the ward is the Overground station at Upper Holloway, on the Gospel Oak-Barking line.  (There is a railway signalbox within the ward with the wonderfully redundant name of Junction Road Junction.)  The ward includes the Whittington Hospital  and the former Byam Shaw school of art, now part of Central St Martin's College, University of the Arts London.  It is essentially the south-western half of the N19 (Upper Holloway) postal district.  St George's ward covers the Tufnell Park area, being formed by the triangle of Tufnell Park Road, Brecknock Road and Camden Road and also including the Mercers Road area to the north.  Mostly within the N7 (Holloway) postal district, the most important building within the ward is the Holloway women's prison.

Islington has a reputation as one of those areas where the political profile is very homogeneous, so relatively small swings in votes can deliver wildly different results.  Junction and St George's wards rather give the lie to that stereotype, having remained relatively stable while Labour have made major advances across Islington over the last two elections.  Junction ward returned three Liberal Democrats fairly narrowly over Labour in 2002, but Labour gained one of the three seats in 2006.  2010 also saw one Labour and two Liberal Democrat candidates elected, the Labour councillor topping the poll nearly 500 votes ahead of his running-mates.  St George's ward has been even more stable, having returned two Liberal Democrat and one Labour councillor at every election since 2002; this ward actually swung to the Lib Dems in 2010 and Labour were not far off losing their seat.  In the GLA election last year both wards returned very similar results, backing Ken Livingstone by big margins (Junction: Ken 54% Boris 23% Grn 11%, St George's: Ken 53% Boris 23% Grn 12%), and in the list section of the election the Greens running second in both wards (Junction: Lab 53% Grn 18% C 13% LD 8%, St George's: Lab 53% Grn 20% C 13% LD 7%), although they have never made an impression here at borough level.

Six candidates will fight the Junction ward by-election.  Defending for the Lib Dems, although local press reports suggest they have somewhat given up in the ward, is former councillor Stefan Kasprzyk, a retired former Mayor of Islington who lost his seat in the ward to a running-mate in 2010.  Labour's candidate is Kaya Makarau-Schwartz, a mental health charity worker.  Mick Holloway, a minister, qualified civil engineer and school governor, is the Green Party candidate, and the Tories have selected Patricia Napier, a non-practising barrister.  Also on the ballot paper are Bill Martin from the Socialist Party (GB) and the BNP's Gary Townsend who is the only candidate to give an address outside the N19 postcode.

The St George's by-election appears to be harder-fought.  The defending Labour candidate is Kat Fletcher, a pub landlady who ran the Tufnell Park Tavern until last year.  Julian Gregory, an Islington-based barrister, is the Liberal Democrat candidate.  The Greens have selected Jon Nott, who is chief executive of a children's charity, the Conservative candidate is accountant Evan Williams, and 80-year-old Walter Barfoot stands for the BNP.

Parliamentary constituency: Islington North
GLA constituency: North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Mick Holloway (Grn)
Stefan Kasprzyk (LD)
Kaya Makarau-Schwartz (Lab)
Bill Martin (Socialist Party GB)
Patricia Napier (C)
Gary Townsend (BNP)

May 2010 result Lab 2338/1899/1878 LD 2182/2125/2071 Grn 713/597/529 C 556/533/480
May 2006 result LD 1015/1014/873 Lab 936/870/772 Grn 386/320/291 Ind 263/212 C 228/200/188
May 2002 result LD 1219/1137/1132 Lab 1035/925/864 Grn 261/207/204 CPA 31
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1625 Boris 700 Grn 320 Benita 162 LD 152 UKIP 32 BNP 22
List: Lab 1597 Grn 531 C 403 LD 252 UKIP 80 TUSC 47 BNP 31 CPA 27 EDP 13 House 10 Hayat 7 NF 4 Alagaratnam 2

St George's
Parliamentary constituency: Islington North
GLA constituency: North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Walter Barfoot (BNP)
Kat Fletcher (Lab)
Julian Gregory (LD)
Jon Nott (Grn)
Evan Williams (C)

May 2010 result LD 2571/2473/1872 Lab 1939/1817/1802 Grn 836/814/664 C 571/552/480
May 2006 result LD 1179/1080/821 Lab 1075/975/938 Grn 477/474/393 C 213/212/197
May 2002 result LD 1298/1258/1091 Lab 1111/1086/995 Grn 309/288/239 CPA 49
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1675 Boris 723 Grn 381 LD 160 Benita 159 BNP 28 UKIP 21
List: Lab 1684 Grn 619 C 419 LD 223 TUSC 52 BNP 47 UKIP 46 CPA 20 EDP 18 House Party 14 Hayat 10 NF 5 Alagaratnam 2

North Dorset District Council; caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative councillors Helen and Peter Webb, who are relocating to Somerset.  Peter is a former leader of the council.

Little Ashley Cottage - West Stour
  © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
These are two rather different wards.  Lodbourne is an urban ward, one of four covering Gillingham, a town on the Waterloo-Exeter railway line which has grown rapidly in recent years.  (Pronunciation guide: the G is a hard G, not a J as in Gillingham, Kent.)  The Lodbourne ward covers the area immediately north of the town centre, and is named after the River Lodden which forms the ward's eastern boundary.

The Stours ward, on the other hand, is a large rural area in the Blackmore Vale to the south of Gillingham.  It consists of six parishes: East Stour and West Stour on the A30 Shaftesbury-Sherborne road, and Fifehead Magdalen, Stour Provost, Todber and Margaret Marsh to the south.

North Dorset elections can be characterised as a battle between Lib Dem urban wards and Tory rural wards.  Lodbourne ward was won by the Lib Dems unopposed in 2003, and they held it easily in a 2005 by-election (against only independent opposition) and 2007 (in a straight fight with the Conservatives).  The Lib Dem councillor stood down in 2011 and the Conservatives narrowly gained the ward, beating the Lib Dem candidate by 322 votes to 295.  The Stours has been truer to the stereotype, returning Peter Webb by big majorities in the last three elections.

Defending Lodbourne for the Conservatives is Mike Gould, a financial advisor.  He is opposed by Gillingham town councillor Richard Arnold, for the Liberal Democrats.  Bob Messer, who runs the Gillingham Action for Nature Group, is the Labour candidate.

The Stours is yet again a two-horse race.  The Conservative defence is led by Traci Handford, of Blandford Forum, who works for the family car sales company.  The Lib Dems have retired from the fray this time, but Labour have ensured a contested election; their candidate is Shaftesbury town councillor Joseph Pestell.

Parliamentary constituency: North Dorset
Dorset county council division: Gillingham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shaftesbury and Blandford Forum

Richard Arnold (LD)
Mike Gould (C)
Bob Messer (Lab)

May 2011 result C 322 LD 295
May 2007 result LD 436 C 173
July 2005 by-election LD 308 Ind 131 Ind 96
May 2003 result LD unopposed

The Stours
Parliamentary constituency: North Dorset
Dorset county council division: Stour Vale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shaftesbury and Blandford Forum

Traci Handford (C)
Joseph Pestell (Lab)

May 2011 result C 552 LD 255
May 2007 result C 400 LD 151
May 2003 result C 329 LD 168

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