Tuesday, 9 April 2013

By-Elections Preview: 10/11 April 2013

More by-election fun this week with three by-elections including a rare Wednesday poll.  The Liberal Democrats will hope to get their by-election machine airborne in Luton on Wednesday, while Thursday sees Labour defending a safe ward in Darlington.  Over on the Welsh Elections blog, there's also a much more unpredictable contest in a previously Independent ward in Pembrokeshire.

By-election on 10th April:

Luton Borough Council, Bedfordshire; a rare Wednesday by-election caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Roy Davies, who had served on the borough council for 30 years.

Snow at Luton Airport
  © Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
"Were you truly wafted here from paradise?"
"Nah, Luton Airport!"
-advertisement for Campari, 1970s

The Wigmore ward of Luton is a geographically large ward on the eastern edge of the town.  The reason for its large size is that half the ward is taken up by the runway, apron and land of Luton Airport and its associated buildings.  One of the six airports serving London, Luton is the fifth-busiest airport in Britain with almost ten million people passing through each year.  The airport is the cornerstone of Luton's economy, with associated employment including the head offices of Easyjet, Monarch Airlines and Thomson Airways; another consequence is that Luton is reported to have the UK's largest number of taxicabs per head of population.  Away from the airport to the north is the Wigmore estate where the ward's population lives; this is a relatively new area of housing mostly built privately in the 1970s.

Wigmore is the safest Lib Dem ward in Luton, the party polling 67% in the 2003 election with opposition from the three main parties and UKIP.  That figure had fallen to 42% by the 2011 election, but with the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck for second place that share still translated to a healthy Lib Dem majority.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Alan Skepelhorn, a former borough councillor who lost his seat in the neighbouring Round Green ward at the 2011 election.  The Conservatives have nominated John Young, who regularly stands in hopeless wards in the town (in 2011 he fought South ward, the ward covering the town centre) and the Labour candidate is James Taylor.  Lance Richardson stands again for UKIP after fighting the ward in 2011, the Green Party have nominated Marc Scheimann, a computer consultant and former borough councillor, and John Magill fights the ward as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: Luton South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford

John Magill (Ind)
Lance Richardson (UKIP)
Marc Scheimann (Grn)
Alan Skepelhorn (LD)
James Taylor (Lab)
John Young (C)

May 2011 result LD 1403/1239/1113 C 807/787/559 Lab 786/781/734 UKIP 324
May 2007 result LD 1714/1591/1428 C 618/611 Lab 432/412/385 UKIP 327
May 2003 result LD 1577/1518/1436 C 358/351/336 Lab 347/307/296 UKIP 66

By-election on 11th April:

Darlington Borough Council, Co Durham; caused by the death of Labour councillor Jacqui Maddison, who had served on the council since 2003 and had been heavily involved in the town's carnival for many years.

Geneva Road, Darlington
  © Copyright JThomas and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
A small tract of housing in the south-east of the town, Lascelles ward lies just to the south-east of Darlington's intercity railway station around Dodmire infant and junior schools.  The census figures show this is very much a white working-class area, and it votes like it; the last three elections here have been straight Lab/C fights, with the Conservative vote essentially static at around 275 votes each time.  An increase in turnout in 2011 meant that the Labour percentage lead increased to 68-32.

The Labour candidate is Helen Crumbie, who lost a Labour seat to the Conservatives at a by-election a year ago in the more marginal ward of Harrowgate Hill on the other side of town.  She should have an easier time here.  Lewis Cairns is the Conservative candidate, and the Lib Dems fight the ward for the first time in the shape of Howard Jones.

Parliamentary constituency: Darlington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Darlington

Lewis Cairns (C)
Helen Crumbie (Lab)
Howard Jones (LD)

May 2011 result Lab 599/544 C 277
May 2007 result Lab 457/416 C 284
May 2003 result Lab 702/654 C 264/252

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