Thursday, 27 June 2013

By-Election Previews: 27 June 2013

27 June 2013 is the busiest day, psephologically speaking, since the big May elections with eight seats up for election.  The Conservatives have most to lose this week with defences in Essex, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Plymouth and Rutland; Labour probably shouldn't be unduly worried about losing a seat in Tyneside; and, in a sign of just how far the party has come in the last years, UKIP have two local by-elections to defend, in Tyneside and Worcestershire.

South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council, Tyne and Wear; caused respectively by the death of UK Independence Party councillor David Potts and by the resignation of Labour councillor Emma Lewell-Buck.  Potts, who died aged just 30 years old after a history of alcohol addiction, was first elected at the age of 21 as a Conservative and had had a controversial time as a councillor: a former leader of the Conservative group, he resigned from the party in January 2011 after making an offensive tweet about the then-South Shields MP David Miliband, and joined UKIP in November 2011; he was named Socialite of the Year 2012 by Private Eye magazine after apparently tweeting an invitation for people to join a sex party; more seriously, he was once cautioned by police for leaking confidential information to a local newspaper.  Lewell-Buck is now the Member of Parliament for South Shields following the recent parliamentary by-election.

Cleadon Village.
  © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for
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Two contrasting lives, two contrasting reasons for a by-election, and indeed two contrasting wards within the Jarrow parliamentary constituency.  Cleadon and East Boldon ward is effectively the remaining gap between South Shields to the north and Sunderland to the south.  Cleadon, on the main road between the two, is an ancient village which has become a commuter village for the two towns, while East Boldon is also a major commuter area for Sunderland and Newcastle thanks to its station on the Sunderland branch of the Tyne and Wear Metro; despite only opening in 2002 East Boldon is one of the busiest stations on the Metro network.

With this commuter profile it's not surprising to find that this is South Tyneside's only reliable Conservative ward, although in recent years it has been a close fight with Labour who won the ward in the 2011 election.  Despite Potts' affiliation, UKIP have not previously contested this ward.

A very different area is Primrose ward, which covers the centre of Jarrow and the Primrose area to the south.  Jarrow is a place with a glorious ancient past: the Venerable Bede lived here and at Monkwearmouth for all his life in what was the only eighth-century centre of leaning north of Rome, and the world's oldest known copy of the Bible, the Codex Amiatinus, was written here.  Much of Jarrow priory church survives and includes what is claimed to be the world's oldest stained glass window.  In more recent times Jarrow was a major centre for shipbuilding, with Palmers shipyard being the first in the world to use armour plate; the closure of the shipyard in the mid-1930s led to the Jarrow March, a protest march from here to London against unemployment in the town.  Jarrow is also on the Metro network, with its station located on the South Shields branch.

Primrose is a safe Labour ward with the BNP having finished as runner-up in all but one election here since 2007 while never really threatening to win.  In 2012 Labour polled over 75% of the vote against only BNP and Conservative opposition.

This means that the Cleadon and East Boldon by-election is likely to more closely contested and UKIP's intervention makes the result very unpredictable.  Defending for UKIP is Colin Campbell, a property landlord.  Fiona Milburn, the wife of one of the two remaining ward councillors, is the Conservative candidate, and last year's Labour candidate Margaret Meling will try again.

In a safe ward it's often the selection meeting that's more important than the poll in deciding who will be the next councillor, and the Labour selection for the Primrose by-election was as close as it gets: after several tied ballots the shortlist eventually resorted to drawing straws to decide who would be the candidate.  That will be Moira Smith, a former borough councillor for Fellgate and Hedworth ward to the south, who lost her seat to an independent candidate in 2007.  Martin Vaughan stands for the BNP.  In the home town of middle-distance runner Steve Cram, it's amusing that the Conservative candidate is a Coe: John Coe, this time.  John Clarke of UKIP completes the ballot paper.

Cleadon and East Boldon
Parliamentary constituency: Jarrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

Colin Campbell (UKIP)
Margaret Meling (Lab)
Fiona Milburn (C)

May 2012 result C 1692 Lab 1443
May 2011 result Lab 1931 C 1590 South Tyneside Progressives 238 Ind 88
May 2010 result C 2082 Lab 1978 South Tyneside Progressives 776 BNP 165
May 2008 result C 2224 Lab 1054
May 2007 result C 1988 Lab 1080
Sept 2006 by-election C 1057 LD 669 Lab 601 Grn 124
May 2006 result C 1300 LD 700 Lab 660 Ind 546
June 2004 result C 1649/1569/1500 LD 1456/1177/1176 Lab 495/423/414

Parliamentary constituency: Jarrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

John Clarke (UKIP)
John Coe (C)
Moira Smith (Lab)
Martin Vaughan (BNP)

May 2012 result Lab 1284 BNP 227 C 195
May 2011 result Lab 1157 Ind 767 C 164 Ind 93
May 2010 result Lab 1723 BNP 478 LD 422 C 300 Ind 285 Grn 63
Feb 2010 by-election Lab 854 BNP 566 Ind 213 Ind 174 C 124 LD 100
May 2008 result Lab 1005 BNP 681 C 382
May 2007 result Lab 1066 BNP 504 C 270 Grn 221
May 2006 result Lab 917 LD 260 C 180 Ind 178 Ind 142 Grn 114
June 2004 result Lab 1065/1036/972 C 634

Newark and Sherwood District Council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Nora Armstrong.  First elected in 1991, Mrs Armstrong had recently served as cabinet member for Clean and Green issues.

Farnsfield Church
  © Copyright Steven Ruffles and licensed for
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At first sight this looks like one of those large, ill-defined rural wards which are just conglomerations of parishes.  However, there's more to this ward than meets the eye.  This is the area where the influence of Newark starts to decline and that of Sherwood Forest increase, and that's reflected in this ward being starkly socially divided.  Bilsthorpe, which despite the order of names is actually the largest of the ward's seven parishes, is a pit village, and a working pit village until relatively recently, the mine closing in 1997 (but not until after an appalling roof collapse in 1993 which killed three miners).  Farnsfield and the other five parishes, on the other hand are typical rural villages, although Eakring at the north-east corner of the ward was at the centre of a small oilfield which was first developed - secretly - during the Second World War and is the location of a training centre for National Grid.

Newark and Sherwood council have consistently proved unable to estimate electorates five years in the future, and the result is that the district is now just starting its third ward boundary review in fifteen years.  The boundaries introduced in 2003, in which Bilsthorpe was the centre of a safe Labour ward and Farnsfield and the other parishes formed a safe Conservative ward, lasted just one election before being replaced by the current set in 2007.  The 2007 and 2011 elections basically tell the same story as in 2003; with Bilsthorpe only being worth about one councillor and having a falling electorate, Farnsfield and the other parishes outvote it, resulting in a safe (but not super-safe) Conservative ward.

All the district elections here this century have been straight Conservative/Labour fights, and the by-election continues this pattern.  Defending for the Conservatives is Frank Taylor, a farmer from Bilsthorpe; challenging for Labour is Glenn Bardill, a town councillor in Ollerton, a few miles north on the A614 road.

Parliamentary constituency: Sherwood
Nottinghamshire county council division: Rufford (Bilsthorpe parish), Farnsfield and Lowdham (rest of ward)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield

May 2011 result C 1752/1698/1619 Lab 1234/1181/1142
May 2007 result C 1586/1554/1461 Lab 934/793/678 LD 508

Rutland Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Barrie Roper who is moving out of the county.

The centre of the village, Ketton
  © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for
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Another ill-defined rural conglomeration of parishes, in this case a long thin ward running south-west from Stamford along the north bank of the River Welland, covering the villages of Tinwell, Ketton, Tixover and Barrowden.  Ketton is the fourth-largest settlement in Rutland, although its population is comfortably under 2,000 souls.  Ketton's main export is limestone and cement; many Cambridge colleges are built with the Jurassic Ketton limestone, while Ketton Cement Works supplies more than 10% of Britain's cement.

This by-election is the first contested county election in Ketton for more than ten years, the only previous result on the current boundaries being in 2003 when Ketton returned two independents against opposition from only a single Conservative candidate.  Those two independents - Roper and Hugh Rees - were re-elected unopposed as Conservatives in 2007.  Rees stood down in 2011 and was replaced by Christine Emmett, whom readers might remember as the Conservative candidate in the recent Corby parliamentary by-election.

This complete lack of previous data renders the by-election more unpredictable than might otherwise be the case.  Gary Conde, a former chairman of Ketton parish council, is the defending Conservative candidate.  There are two independent candidates standing: Martin Brookes, a former Oakham town councillor who is currently on bail awaiting trial on charges of harassment and whose bail conditions prevent him from attending the count (from the Stamford Mercury here); and current Ketton parish council chairman Andrew McGilvray.  The ballot paper is completed by Liam Powell, from Uppingham, who is standing for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result Ind 582/567 C 379

Basildon Borough Council, Essex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tony Archer at the age of 72.  A former bank manager and leader of Basildon council, Archer had served as a councillor for almost 30 years.

Bustling Billericay High Street
  © Copyright Martin Tipper and licensed for
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One of the indistinguishable London commuter towns, Billericay can be found just to the north of the new town of Basildon, which has effectively taken over from Billericay as the main town within the district.  One of three wards covering the town, Billericay East includes Norsey Wood, the place where the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 came to a sticky end in battle.

There's not a lot to write about Billericay, and there's not an awful lot interesting about this ward's previous election results which are all safe Conservative.  The Liberal Democrats ran second here until the formation of the Coalition, since when Labour were second in 2011 and UKIP in 2012.

Defending for the Conservatives is Andrew Schrader, a charity worker and hospital governor from Basildon.  Terry Gandy, a Billericay town councillor, stands for UKIP, Lauren Brown is the Labour candidate and the Lib Dems are standing last year's candidate Nigel Horn.  Finally, Thomas Beaney stands for the National Front.

Parliamentary constituency: Basildon and Billericay
Essex county council division: Billericay and Burstead
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood

Thomas Beaney (NF)
Lauren Brown (Lab)
Terry Gandy (UKIP)
Nigel Horn (LD)
Andrew Schrader (C)

May 2012 result C 1502 UKIP 409 Lab 383 LD 316
May 2011 result C 2626 Lab 567 LD 528 UKIP 346
May 2010 result C 4084 LD 1360 Lab 737 UKIP 308 BNP 196
May 2008 result C 1932 LD 428 BNP 220 Lab 206 UKIP 152
May 2007 result C 1373 LD 1095 BNP 377 Lab 259
May 2006 result C 2486 LD 638 Lab 307
June 2004 result C 2150 LD 780 Lab 333
May 2003 result C 1563 LD 526 Lab 272
May 2002 result C 1786/1745/1702 LD 623/597/573 Lab 387/363/341

Dartford Borough Council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Gary Reynolds, for personal reasons, halfway through his first term in office.

West View Road, Dartford
  © Copyright Brian Chadwick and licensed for
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This is an almost entirely urban ward immediately east of Dartford town centre, bounded to the south by Watling Street, the Roman road from London to Dover, and to the north by the North Kent railway line.  The A282, along which generations of motorists have queued to approach the Dartford Tunnel tollbooths, effectively divides the ward into two.  Dartford's Wikipedia entry paints a picture of a declining town with a decrepit high street; perhaps it's indicative of something that the first name on that page's list of notable people from Dartford is Pete Tong.

Recent election results in the ward have been going all Pete Tong for Labour, with this ward showing a clear trend to the Conservatives over the last decade.  Labour won all three seats in the ward at the 2003 election.  The 2007 election saw the Conservatives gain two seats but long-serving Labour councillor Dave Baker (first elected here in 1991) continued to top the poll and clearly had a large personal vote.  However, that didn't stop him losing his seat in 2011.  While Labour did gain the local county division (Dartford North East) in last month's Kent county council results, it's fair to say that this is the most Conservative of the three wards within the division.

The Conservatives have selected Rosanna Currans to hold the by-election, while Dave Baker will try to get his seat back for Labour.  The ballot paper is completed by Ivan Burch, standing for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Dartford
Kent county council division: Dartford North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

David Baker (Lab)
Ivan Burch (UKIP)
Rosanna Currans (C)

May 2011 result C 951/938/898 Lab 842/733/679 EDP 265/225/213
May 2007 result Lab 760/620/577 C 653/627/598 EDP 319 UKIP 228/205
May 2003 result Lab 661/614/536 C 432/415/399 UKIP 157

Plymouth City Council; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Tom Browne for failing to attend any meetings of the council in six months.  Browne, a councillor for this ward since 2006, has been suffering from poor health.

Southway Drive
  © Copyright Tony Atkin and licensed for
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Don't be confused by the name of this ward: Southway is actually the northernmost ward within the Plymouth city limits.  Developed in reponse to the Second World War bombing which destroyed much of Plymouth's housing stock, the ward mostly consists of a large 1950s and 1960s housing estate built on steep hillsides in the Dartmoor foothills.  The ward also includes the ancient village of Tamerton Foliot on the very edge of Plymouth.

For some years Southway has been a very closely-fought marginal.  Safe Labour at the first election on current boundaries in 2003, the Conservatives, helped by new development in the north-east of the ward, broke through in May 2006 with Tom Browne gaining the ward from Labour by 29 votes.  The Conservatives couldn't repeat the trick at a by-election just a month later which resulted in a Labour hold, but went on to gain the two remaining Labour seats at the 2007 election (by 27 votes) and the 2008 election (by 163 votes).  Browne was re-elected in 2010 with a reduced majority of 23 votes, but Labour broke through in 2011 to gain the ward by 257 votes in a straight fight with the Tories.  One of the remaining Conservative councillors for the ward, Peter Berrow, then defected to UKIP in early 2012 and stood for re-election that May, seriously splitting the Conservative vote and allowing Labour to gain a second seat with a huge majority.  With this by-election Labour must now be favourites to make it three out of three councillors for the ward.

Defending for the Conservatives is David Downie, an executive with the Prince's Trust.  Hoping to spread a bit of magic among the electorate is freelance copy editor Jonny Morris, the Labour candidate.  Peter Berrow tries again for UKIP.  Three other candidates have thrown their hat into the ring: in alphabetical order they are the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's Ryan Aldred; independent candidate Dennis Silverwood, a retired engineer from Tamerton Foliot; and Justin Stafford, formerly of the Royal Navy, who is the ward's first Lib Dem candidate since 2010.

Parliamentary constituency: Plymouth Moor View
ONS Travel to Work Area: Plymouth

Ryan Aldred (TUSC)
Peter Berrow (UKIP)
David Downie (C)
Jonny Morris (Lab)
Dennis Silverwood (Ind)
Justin Stafford (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 1845 C 967 UKIP 785
May 2011 result Lab 2096 C 1839
May 2010 result C 2183 Lab 2160 LD 1029 UKIP 678
May 2008 result C 1318 Lab 1155 LD 583 BNP 338
May 2007 result C 1547 Lab 1520 LD 441 BNP 354
June 2006 by-election Lab 1624 C 1517 LD 214 BNP 200 UKIP 139 Grn 53
May 2006 result C 1400 Lab 1371 LD 712
June 2004 result Lab 1578 C 1222 LD 662
May 2003 result Lab 1996/1728/1620 C 836/732/731 LD 372/333/292

Worcestershire County Council; caused by the resignation of UK Independence Party councillor Eric Kitson, after just 13 days in office, over anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic posts on his Facebook page.

High Street looking towards Mitton Street
  © Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for
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This column often talks about railway towns, towns that sprung up in the Victorian era around major railway works or railway junctions.  Stourport is a rare example of a canal town, which grew up in the early Georgian era around the junction of the River Severn and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, and for many years goods were transshipped from canal boats to Severn trows (river boats).  However, Stourport's prosperity didn't last for very long, as it was bypassed by the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and later by the railways.

Stourport is part of the Wyre Forest district, where politics has never been quite the same since 1999 and the foundation of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern party, initially a single-issue party pressing for the restoration of Kidderminster Hospital's casualty unit.  Health Concern have been consistently strong in Stourport's three district wards and won two of them in the 2012 district elections (Labour gaining the other).  Stourport's county elections have been a comparative mess.  The division's two seats split between Health Concern and the Tories in 2005 with Labour not far behind.  Health Concern won both seats relatively comfortably in 2009, but in 2013 we saw a four-way marginal result, UKIP topping the poll on 27.5%, Health Concern coming second with 26.5%, Labour third with 22.6% and the Conservatives fourth with 19.5%.  UKIP and Health Concern split the two seats.  Given that result and the circumstances of the by-election, pretty much anything could happen here.

To hold the by-election UKIP have recruited Stourport town councillor, and former Conservative district councillor for Stourport's Mitton ward, John Holden who was one of the defeated Conservative candidates in last month's county election here.  Health Concern's candidate is John Thomas, who lost his county council seat in May's election.  Labour's candidate is Stourport town councillor Carol Warren, who also fought the division in May, and the Conservatives stand Chris Rogers, a district councillor for Mitton ward.  Angela Hartwich is on the ballot again for the Greens after finishing last in May, Worcester resident Carl Mason stands for the BNP and Kidderminster-based Paul Preston for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Wyre Forest
Wyre Forest district wards: Areley Kings, Lickhill, Mitton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kidderminster

Angela Hartwich (Grn)
John Holden (UKIP)
Carl Mason (BNP)
Paul Preston (LD)
Chris Rogers (C)
John Thomas (Health Concern)
Carol Warren (Lab)

May 2013 result UKIP 1385/1151 Health Concern 1335/1167 Lab 1141/894 C 984/964 Grn 195
June 2009 result Health Concern 2396/2231 C 1894/1764 Lab 724/703 Ind 510 Grn 318 LD 313 Lib 237
May 2005 result Health Concern 3339/2624 C 3266/3060 Lab 2670/2649 Grn 539/507

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