Wednesday, 3 April 2013

By-Elections Preview: 4 April 2013


4th April 2013 will see the biggest remaining electoral test before the county council elections, with seven local by-elections.  Where last week's polls were concentrated in the south of England, this week we focus on the Midlands and the North, with four by-elections in metropolitan Lancashire, two in Nottingham and one in Lincolnshire.  The Lincolnshire poll is a difficult-looking Tory defence, while Labour will seek to hold the other six seats up for election.

Your columnist has a new non-election-related project, which will eat up much of his free time for the next few months, so future columns may be abbreviated or replaced with Kristofer's previews instead.  We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.


PRESCOT EAST, PRESCOT WEST and ST. MICHAELS
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Merseyside; caused by the deaths of three Labour councillors.  Councillor Derek McEgan of Prescot East ward, who has died at the age of 74, had served on Knowsley council between 1987 and 1999 before returning to the council in 2012.  Prescot West councillor Bob Whiley, who was 66, had been a Knowsley councillor since 2011.  Both McEgan and Whiley were also Prescot town councillors.  St Michael's ward councillor Ken Keith, who died at the age of 65, was the council's cabinet member for corporate and customer services and had served as a Knowsley councillor since 2003.

Prescot Register Office
  © Copyright Sue Adair and licensed for
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Very much within the orbit of Liverpool, Prescot is the last large town on the road out of Liverpool before reaching St Helens, just outside the M57 ring road.  The town has had two major influences in its history: the main economic influence over the years has been the cable factory in Prescot, with BICC Cables being the major employer until the cable factory closed in the 1980s; it's now an industrial estate.  This is in Prescot West ward, which is by far the largest ward in Knowsley by area thanks to Knowsley Park, still the estate of the Earls of Derby, the "uncrowned kings of Lancashire" and one of the most influential families in British history.  The first Earl won the Battle of Bosworth Field for the Tudors after turning his back on King Richard III; the seventh earl, a prominent Royalist, was beheaded by the people of Bolton during the Civil War; the twelfth earl founded and named the Epsom Derby horse-race; the fourteenth earl served three times as Prime Minister; the fifteenth earl served as Foreign Secretary under Disraeli and Colonial Secretary under Gladstone; the sixteenth earl served as Secretary of State for War and founded ice hockey's Stanley Cup; the seventeenth earl also served as Secretary of State for War and founded the Lord Derby Cup, a French rugby league competition.  The eighteenth earl turned much of the Knowsley Park estate into one of the major reasons to visit Prescot, the Knowsley Safari Park, now owned by the nineteenth and current earl.  The Derby of the name refers to the local West Derby hundred, not to the city in the Midlands.

Prescot East ward is an essentially residential ward running south-east of the town centre along the road to Warrington, and includes Prescot's railway station (half-hourly trains to Liverpool and Wigan).  Prescot West ward covers the north and west of the town, the former cable works, the safari park, the village of Knowsley and various industrial units on the south side of the East Lancs Road.  On the other side of the M57 motorway, St Michaels ward lies on the eastern edge of the Liverpool suburb of Huyton, which in an electoral context will forever be associated with Harold Wilson.

Knowsley council is now the first ever one-party state among the metropolitan boroughs, the Lib Dems losing their last seats at the 2012 election to leave Labour with 63 councillors out of a possible 63 as Merseyside's Liberal Democrat vote melted away like winter snow.  Before the formation of the Coalition Prescot (particularly Prescot West) was one of the strongest Lib Dem areas in the borough, and they held all six councillors in the two Prescot wards from 2004 to 2008.  Labour gained both wards in the 2010 election (West by just 100 votes) and repeated the trick in both 2011 and 2012.  The Lib Dem vote has faded rather badly in Prescot East, where Labour polled 64% last year, but Prescot West is perhaps the last marginal ward in the whole of Knowsley; the Labour majority at the 2012 election was still only 152 votes over the Lib Dems (Labour 46.5% LD 37.9%).  St Michaels, on the other hand, is one of the very strongest Labour wards in the whole of the United Kingdom, the 2012 result (a straight fight with the Lib Dems) producing a Labour vote just shy of 93%.  It would take a very deluded gambler to bet against a Labour hold in that ward.

Prescot East, like in 2012, is a three-cornered fight between the main parties.  The Labour candidate, Prescot town councillor Steff O'Keeffe, is opposed by the Lib Dems' Carl Cashman, a politics and philosophy student at the University of Liverpool and 2012 candidate here, and the Tory sacrificial lamb Adam Butler.

The main fight in Prescot West will be between Labour's Lynn O'Keeffe, the current mayor of Prescot, and the former Lib Dem borough councillor Ian Smith who lost his seat in 2012.  Also trying again after losing in 2012 are the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate Stephen Whatham and the Tories' Robert Avery, while the Green Party candidate Robert Mbanu enters the fray.

Finally, the Labour candidate in St Michaels ward is Vickie Lamb.  She will face two opposition candidates, Mike Currie for the Liberal Democrats and David Dunne for the Conservatives.


Prescot East
Parliamentary constituency: St Helens South and Whiston
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool

Adam Butler (C)
Carl Cashman (LD)
Steff O'Keeffe (Lab)

May 2012 result Lab 976 LD 505 C 51
May 2011 result Lab 1110 LD 588 C 118
May 2010 result Lab 1638 LD 1102 C 283
May 2008 result LD 797 Lab 444 C 119
May 2007 result LD 657 Lab 565 C 105
May 2006 result LD 747 Lab 555
June 2004 result LD 847/844/833 Lab 810/809/771

Prescot West
Parliamentary constituency: Knowsley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool

Robert Avery (C)
Robert Mbanu (Grn)
Lynn O'Keeffe (Lab)
Ian Smith (LD)
Stephen Whatham (TUSC)

May 2012 results Lab 819 LD 667 TUSC 172 C 101
May 2011 result Lab 912 LD 729 SocLab 195 C 187
May 2010 result Lab 1683 LD 1583
May 2008 result LD 911 Lab 493 C 167 Grn 61
May 2007 result LD 777 Lab 574 C 200 SocLab 154
May 2006 result LD 867 Lab 494 SocLab 149
June 2004 result LD 1069/1044/1020 Lab 686/685/679 SocLab 256/114

St Michael's
Parliamentary constituency: Knowsley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool

Mike Currie (LD)
David Dunne (C)
Vickie Lamb (Lab)

May 2012 result Lab 1497 LD 116
May 2011 result Lab 1696 LD 165
May 2010 result Lab 2343 LD 657
May 2008 result Lab 862 LD 435
May 2007 result Lab 920 LD 510
May 2006 result Lab 882 LD 557
June 2004 result Lab 1229/1227/1193 LD 421/374/335


PEMBERTON
Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of Labour councillor Barbara Bourne.  A Wigan councillor since 1996, her legacy will be the medical centre in Marsh Green, opened in 2010 after years of lobbying by Cllr Bourne.

Entrance to PEMBAC on Montrose Avenue
  © Copyright Raymond Knapman and licensed for
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Pemberton ward lies west of Wigan on the eastern side of the M6 motorway.  The main residential areas in the ward are Lamberhead Green on the Wigan-Skelmersdale road and Kitt Green and Marsh Green to the north; Pemberton's railway station, on the southern boundary of the ward, has hourly trains to Wigan and Kirkby (no Sunday service).  Rather cut off from the rest of the ward is the village of Gathurst in the north-west corner which has its own railway station (hourly trains to Wigan and Southport).  The ward's economy was traditionally based on coal-mining but the collieries closed many years ago; today the main economic feature of the ward is the enormous Heinz factory at Kitt Green, which was listed by the Discovery Channel this year among the world's top five manufacturing units, and is the largest food factory in Europe.

This is a very safe Labour seat and should remain so in the by-election.  Second place in the ward is normally taken by the localist Community Action Party, who came fairly close in the 2004 election but have been nowhere near winning since then.  Community Action lost their final seats on Wigan council in 2012.

Labour's candidate is Sam Murphy, who has earned a shot at a safe ward after being runner-up last year in the hopeless Standish with Langtree ward; he gives an address in Orrell, just over the M6.  The Community Action leader Peter Franzen will try to get back on the council after losing his Golborne and Lowton West seat in the 2011 election.  Jonathan Cartwright tries again for the Conservatives, and two new parties enter the fray: UKIP, represented by Alan Freeman, and the BNP who stand Platt Bridge drain-cleaner Dennis Shambley.

Parliamentary constituency: Wigan
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan

Jonathan Cartwright (C)
Peter Franzen (Community Action)
Alan Freeman (UKIP)
Sam Murphy (Lab)
Dennis Shambley (BNP)

May 2012 result Lab 1996 CA 291 C 205
May 2011 result Lab 1864 CA 377 C 360
May 2010 result Lab 3219 C 617 BNP 596 CA 451
May 2008 result Lab 1387 CA 406 C 350 BNP 334
May 2007 result Lab 1421 CA 409 BNP 333 C 295
May 2006 result Lab 1452 CA 320 LD 281 UKIP 189
June 2004 result Lab 1419/1381/1314 CA 1140/1096/1025 C 439



BILBOROUGH and WOLLATON EAST AND LENTON ABBEY
Nottingham City Council; caused respectively by the death and the resignation of Labour councillors Derek Cresswell and Stuart Fox.  Cresswell, who has died at the age of 80, had served on Nottingham council since 2000 and served twice in the ceremonial role of Sheriff of Nottingham.  Fox has resigned due to ill health.

Trent Building, Nottingham University
  © Copyright Oxymoron and licensed for
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These are two wards in the west of Nottingham.  Bilborough is mostly-council-built housing on the western edge of town, and is probably best known for its very successful sixth-form college.  Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey ward lies to the south-east of the open space of Wollaton Park; it includes a complex of University of Nottingham buildings and its electorate is dominated by students (more than half of the population is aged between 18 and 24, and the median age is 20).

Bilborough is a safe Labour ward and swung strongly towards them at the last election in 2011.  Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey, in the manner of many student wards, is far more volatile: in 2003 it was a Lib Dem/Tory marginal, the Lib Dems winning the second of the ward's two seats by just seven votes.  The Lib Dems, after holding a by-election on general election day in 2005 with little swing, increased their majority in 2007 but were submerged in May 2011 as Labour came from a poor third place to win the ward, polling over 700 more votes while the Lib Dem and Conservative numbers remained stable.

The Labour candidate in the Bilborough by-election is Wendy Smith, who teaches in a local school.  The Tories and Lib Dems reselected their lead candidates from the 2011 election, Ian Culley and John Calvert respectively.  Also standing are regular parliamentary by-election candidate David Bishop for his Elvis Loves Pets party; the Greens' Katharina Boettger, a German-born psychotherapist who will lead the East Midlands Green list at next year's European elections; and Irenea Marriott for UKIP, who fought the local Nottingham North parliamentary seat in 2010.

In Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey ward the defending Labour candidate is community worker Sam Webster.  Tony Sutton is trying to get back on the council for the Liberal Democrats after losing his seat here in 2011; he was the winner of the 2005 by-election.  Jeanna Parton stands for the Conservatives and Andrew Taylor for UKIP.

Bilborough
Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham

David Bishop (Elvis Loves Pets Party)
Katharina Boettge (Grn)
John Calvert (LD)
Ian Culley (C)
Irenea Marriott (UKIP)
Wendy Smith (Lab)

May 2011 result Lab 2573/2407/2288 C 824/780/763 LD 421 BNP 381/379
May 2007 result Lab 1877/1774/1588 C 889/858/832 LD 820 Ind 449
May 2003 result Lab 1956/1912/1888 C 855/772/768 LD 617

Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey
Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham

Jeanna Parton (C)
Tony Sutton (LD)
Andrew Taylor (UKIP)
Sam Webster (Lab)

May 2011 result Lab 981/942 LD 676/631 C 551/530 UKIP 79/54
May 2007 result LD 673/672 C 539/522 Lab 276/236 Ind 87
May 2005 by-elections LD 1045 C 901 Lab 759 Grn 220 UKIP 60
May 2003 result LD 731/688 C 681/672 Lab 339/317


HUMBERSTON AND NEW WALTHAM
North East Lincolnshire Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Colebrook at the age of 75.  The Mayor of North East Lincolnshire in 2009/10, and chairman of the local NHS trust, Colebrook was first elected in 1975 to Great Grimsby Borough Council and was the final mayor of that borough before its abolition in 1996; he had a varied working life, with jobs in the family pet food shop, in banking, as an agent for an MP and finally as an administrator for care associations.

St. Peter's Church, Humberston
  © Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for
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This ward, the only non-Labour defence this week, covers two villages immediately to the south of the seaside resort of Cleethorpes.  Humberston, on the winding Cleethorpes-Mablethorpe road, is a village on the Greenwich Meridian and home to Thorpe Park on the coast, one of the UK's largest caravan parks.  New Waltham is further inland on the Grimsby-Louth road.  Essentially both places are commuter villages for Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

At the 2003 election the three seats split, with independent councillor Margaret Solomon topping the poll without opposition from the Conservatives, who picked up the other two seats.  After the 2003 election North East Lincolnshire moved to the "thirds" method of election, and after easily holding their two seats in 2004 and 2006 the Tories narrowly defeated Solomon by 96 votes at the 2007 election.  Solomon tried to get her seat back in the 2008 and 2011 elections, fading further behind each time.  The three most recent elections have all seen Conservative wins, but the runner-up has been different each time: the Lib Dems were a freak second in 2010, 465 votes behind; Labour beat UKIP and Solomon in a close three-way race for second in 2011, 571 votes behind; last year UKIP emerged as the main challenger and cut the Tory majority to 230, the lowest since 2007.

The defending Tory candidate is Harry Hall, chairman of Humberston parish council.  UKIP's Stephen Harness stands here for the third time, and will hope to be top of the podium this time after finishing third and second in the previous two elections.  Ashley Smith stands for Labour and Stephen Stead for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Cleethorpes
ONS Travel to Work Area: Grimsby

Harry Hall (C)
Stephen Harness (UKIP)
Ashley Smith (Lab)
Stephen Stead (LD)

May 2012 result C 1231 UKIP 1001 Lab 596
May 2011 result C 1327 Lab 756 UKIP 663 Ind 616 LD 136
May 2010 result C 2317 LD 1852 Lab 1138 UKIP 494 Ind 183
May 2008 result C 1997 Ind 913 Lab 349
May 2007 result C 1221 Ind 1125 Lab 451 LD 187
May 2006 result C 1992 Lab 789
June 2004 result C 2507 Lab 1030
May 2003 result Ind 1501 C 1476/1316 Lab 840 LD 580/503

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