Thursday, 25 July 2013

By-Election Previews: 25 July 2013

Note from the editor: Apologies for the recent problems - the lack of preview or results published last week, the absence of pages on the website for this week's elections, and the lack of editing and late posting of this week's previews.  We're currently in Glasgow Fair Fortnight, and since my day job is in the Clydeside tourist industry, I've been working about fifteen hour days continuously for the last week and a half.  Things should be returning to normal very soon, thankfully!

Seven council by-elections will be held on Thursday 25th July 2013, all in London and the south of England.  We start in South London where Labour have a seat to defend in inner city Lambeth and the Lib Dems are affected by a scandal in Kingston upon Thames.  Further down the Waterloo line the Tories will try to hold off all comers in affluent Weybridge.  There are a pair of seats up for election in Essex, one defence each for Labour and the Conservatives, and we finish off with Conservative defences in Northamptonshire and Weston-super-Mare.

Lambeth Borough Council, South London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ruth Ling at the age of 60.  A former freelance journalist who had lived for a time in Brazil, she had been a relatively long-serving councillor by Lambeth standards, first being elected to Lambeth council in 1994.

A few weeks ago this column previewed a by-election in Brixton Hill ward, whose eastern boundary is the A23 Brixton Hill road.  On the other side of the road is Tulse Hill ward, whose eastern boundary likewise is the A204 Tulse Hill road.  The ward runs frm the heart of Brixton at the northern tip towards Streatham and Tulse Hill proper at the southern end.  The population here is majority non-white with over 36% of the population identifying as black in the 2011 census.

Inner-city wards like this normally have strong Labour support, and such it is here.  There was a by-election here two years ago which saw a small swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, but that was during the Coalition's short-lived honeymoon period and Labour still polled over 52% of the vote.  At the 2012 GLA elections Ken beat Boris here 62-18; in the list section of that election the Green Party resumed their normal second place in the ward's ballot boxes with 17% to Labour's 60%.

These indicators wouldn't suggest much for the new Labour candidate Mary Atkins to worry about.  Amna Ahmad is standing for the Liberal Democrats, while regular Green candidate Bernard Atwell tries again.  All three candidates give addresses in the local SW2 (Brixton) postal district, and Atkins and Ahmad's publicity describes their employment in the sort of buzzword bingo that gives no clue what they actually do for a living.  This is less of a problem for the Conservative candidate, housing solicitor Tim Briggs who has served in Afghanistan with the Paras.  Another solicitor on the ballot is UKIP's Elizabeth Jones, crossing the road after standing in the Brixton Hill by-election in January.  Adam Buick (SPGB) and Steve Nally (TUSC) will dispute the ward's far-left vote, and independent candidate Valentine Walker is a retired businessman campaigning to save sheltered housing in Lambeth.

Parliamentary constituency: Streatham
GLA constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Amna Ahmad (LD)
Mary Atkins (Lab)
Bernard Atwell (Grn)
Timothy Briggs (C)
Adam Buick (SPGB)
Elizabeth Jones (UKIP)
Steve Nally (TUSC)
Valentine Walker (Ind)

July 2010 by-election Lab 1235 LD 745 Grn 256 C 94 UKIP 36
May 2010 result Lab 3232/3186/3160 LD 1764/1748/1668 Grn 759/698/656 C 608/556/503
May 2006 result Lab 1589/1528/1514 Grn 718 LD 582/432/374 C 353/309/306
May 2002 result Lab 1219/1078/1017 Grn 440/333 LD 334/290/285 C 225/215/184 Socialist Alliance 171
May 2012 GLA elections (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 2156 Boris 628 Grn 340 Paddick 172 Benita 155 UKIP 22 BNP 13
List: Lab 2102 Grn 601 C 354 LD 217 UKIP 67 TUSC 64 CPA 37 BNP 17 EDP 15 House Party 12 Hayat 8 NF 3 Alagaratnam 1

Kingston upon Thames Borough Council, South London; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Liberal Democrat councillor Derek Osbourne, after he was arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children.

Further out of London on the south-western main line can be found the suburb of New Malden, one of the London surburbs which owes its existence to the railway line and the commuting opportunities that entails.  The commuting profile has created a relatively well-off middle-class ward.  One surprising feature of New Malden is a very high Korean population, many of whom work in the City for Korean companies; the Korean diet is such that Tesco sell more fruit and vegetables per customer in New Malden than anywhere else.  Most of the resident Koreans, of course, won't be eligible to vote in this by-election.

New Malden's Beverley ward, named ultimately after the Beverley Brook, has been Liberal Democrat-held since 1986 and was a very safe Lib Dem ward in the Noughties, although the Conservatives got a swing in their favour at the most recent Kingston council election, held on general election day in 2010.  The ward most recently went to the polls in 2012 for the GLA elections: in the ward's ballot boxes Boris beat Ken 49-27 and the Liberal Democrats had one of their more decent scores in what was a disastrous election for them (the list votes were C 34 Lab 26 LD 16 Grn 11).  Kingston council is having a rash of by-elections (this is the sixth council by-election in the royal borough since 2010) but with no consistent trend emerging.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Lesley Heap, a swimming teacher and wife of one of the two remaining ward councillors.  The Conservative candidate is Terry Paton, a former policeman.  Volunteer theatre usher Marian Freeman is standing for Labour, Chris Walker for the Green Party and Michael Watson for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Kingston and Surbiton
Greater London Assembly constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Marian Freedman (Lab)
Lesley Heap (LD)
Terence Paton (C)
Chris Walker (Grn)
Michael Watson (UKIP)

May 2010 result LD 2138/2081/2044 C 1738/1591/1530 Lab 657/566/474 Grn 581 Christian Peoples Alliance 158/139/139
May 2006 result LD 1398/1391/1385 C 972/936/874 Grn 416 Lab 284/275/268 Christian Peoples Alliance 125/93/80
May 2002 result LD 1653/1632/1609 C 945/939/889 Lab 249/236/218 Christian Peoples Alliance 117
May 2012 GLA election (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1162 Ken 644 Benita 209 Paddick 152 Grn 129 UKIP 53 BNP 22
List: C 783 Lab 601 LD 375 Grn 264 CPA 94 UKIP 88 BNP 41 EDP 27 TUSC 13 House Party 8 NF 6 Hayat 4 Alagaratnam 2

Elmbridge Borough Council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of the Deputy Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Simon Dodsworth, who is emigrating to Dubai.

For the week's third London-area by-election we travel yet further out along the south-western mainline to the suburb of Weybridge.  Another town which grew because of the railway, Weybridge (the point where the River Wey flows into the Thames) is even better off than New Malden; the Times reported in 2008 that the town had six of the ten most expensive streets in the South East region.  All three of Weybridge South's census areas are in the 20% least deprived in England.

Elmbridge council is known for the political strength of Residents Associations, but the Residents do not normally contest Weybridge South which hasn't seen an awful lot of change in its results over the last decade.  The Tories generally win very easily with the Liberal Democrats second, with the exception of the 2008 election which saw Kelvin MacKenzie (yes, *that* Kelvin MacKenzie) stand as an independent campaigning to reduce the cost of car parking.  While MacKenzie did finish second, he lost just as comprehensively as the Lib Dems normally do here and hasn't been seen on a ballot paper since.  May's county election in the wider Weybridge division (which includes St George's Hill) was more interesting: while the Tories held the division they polled just a third of the vote, with a Weybridge Independent candidate finishing as runner-up and outgoing county councillor Ian Lake standing as a UKIP candidate; Lake came fourth, polling 17%.

The Conservative candidate to defend Weybridge South is Richard Knight who, appropriately for such a rich town, owns a wealth management company.  Gillian Solway stands for the Liberal Democrats and defeated county councillor Ian Lake is back on the campaign trail for UKIP.  Labour apparently did select Martin Lister (their 2010 candidate here) to fight the by-election, but he hasn't been successfully nominated and won't appear on the ballot paper.

Surrey county council division: Weybridge
Parliamentary constituency: Runnymede and Weybridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Richard Knight (C)
Ian Lake (UKIP)
Gillian Solway (LD)

May 2012 result C 638 LD 173 Lab 107
May 2010 result C 1434 LD 649 Lab 152
May 2008 result C 679 Ind 227 LD 192
May 2006 result C 786 LD 271
June 2004 result C 776 LD 365 Lab 77
May 2002 result C 700 LD 266 Lab 78

Braintree District Council, Essex; caused by the death of Labour councillor Eric Lynch at the age of 69 from bowel cancer.  After a career in health technology, Lynch had first been elected to Braintree council in 2003, and regained his seat at a March 2012 by-election after being defeated in 2011.

Braintree appears to be one of the more determinedly obscure towns in southern England.  It can be found in the rural northern half of Essex, about eleven miles north of the county town, Chelmsford.  The town was originally Roman and is located at the junction of two Roman roads, but it became prosperous in mediaeval times by weaving wool, turning to silk during the Industrial Revolution; the main silk mill here was run by Samuel Courtauld, whose descendants founded the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.  Probably the main reason for outsiders to visit is the designer outlet village of Braintree Freeport.  The town and Freeport both have hourly trains to Liverpool Street (change at Witham on Sundays).

Braintree is in a rural area but this doesn't necessarily translate to strong Tory votes.  The area has had Labour MPs in the past, most famously Tom Driberg in the 1940s and 1950s, when this area was part of the Maldon constituency; more recently Braintree elected a Labour MP in 1997 and (narrowly) in 2001.

Indeed Braintree town is one of the more politically marginal areas.  Braintree East ward (which contains some very deprived parts as well as the Freeport) was fairly safe Labour in 2003, but the Conservatives gained one of the Labour seats in 2007 and held on to it in a June 2008 by-election.  The 2011 election again produced a 2Lab/1C split in what was effectively a photo-finish between the top candidates, and the March 2012 by-election saw a Labour gain from the Conservatives with a good swing in Labour's favour.  The ward is split between two county divisions: in May's elections the Conservatives held Braintree Eastern comfortably but held Braintree Town by just 31 votes over the Labour candidate.

The defending Labour candidate Celia Burne moves here from Braintree Central ward which she had fought in the 2011 election.  The Conservatives are standing a former ward councillor, Jennifer Smith who was the winner of the 2008 by-election but stood down in 2011 shortly after a hairdressing business she owned was prosecuted by her own council.  Computer science graduate Philip Palij, from Coggeshall, tries again after finishing third in the 2012 by-election and being runner-up in Braintree Eastern two months ago.  Another veteran of May's election, John Malam, completes the ballot paper as the Green Party candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Braintree
Essex County Council divisions: Braintree Town (western part), Braintree Eastern (eastern part)
ONS Travel to Work area: Chelmsford and Braintree

Celia Burne (Lab)
John Malam (Grn)
Philip Palij (UKIP)
Jennifer Smith (C)

March 2012 by-election Lab 554 C 388 UKIP 131 Grn 76 Ind 32
May 2011 result Lab 762/756/710 C 759/691/668 Grn 297
June 2008 by-election C 668 Lab 406 Grn 125 LD 119
May 2007 result Lab 581/541/516 C 546/507/483 UKIP 266 LD 247/244
May 2003 result Lab 597/531/502 C 304 Ind 254/228 LD 219/216

Uttlesford District Council, Essex; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor David Crome who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.

A few miles west of Braintree can be found the village of Felsted, on the north bank of the Chelmer.  While Felsted has a long history, it's probably best known for its public school, which was founded in 1564 by the 1st Lord Rich, Lord Chancellor, on the back of the profits he had made from the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  The Wikipedia list of Old Felstedians is ridiculously long; for our purposes highlights include the former head of state Richard Cromwell and two members of the current House of Commons, Conservative MPs Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) and Charlie Elphicke (Dover).  The Felsted ward also includes the village of Little Dunmow and the tiny parish of Flitch Green, a new housing development on the site of an old sugar beet factory which declared independence from Little Dunmow parish in 2009.  The word "flitch" recalls a strange ancient tradition in Little Dunmow: awarding a flitch of bacon to couples who have been married for a year
 and a day without regret.  One of the main exports from the ward is English wine: Felsted Vineyard describes itself as the oldest commercial vineyard in East Anglia.

While the Liberal Democrats held both council seats after the 2003 election, this ward has trended strongly towards the Conservatives since then; the Tories defeated the Lib Dems 79-21 at the 2011 election which, like the previous two, was a straight fight.  The ward forms part of the safe Conservative Thaxted county division.

Defending this by-election for the Conservatives is Marie Felton, a full-time mother from Felsted who has worked in property and in the pharmaceutical industry.  Antionette Wattebot, a retired teacher from Thaxted, is the Liberal Democrat candidate.  The duopoly on candidates here has been broken: UKIP have nominated Alan Stannard, from just outside the ward in Willows Green, a retired City stockbroker who has also run his own taxi business.  The ballot paper is completed by the Labour candidate Yad Zanganah, a dental surgeon.

Parliamentary constituency: Saffron Walden
Essex county council division: Thaxted
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harlow and Bishop's Stortford

Marie Felton (C)
Alan Stannard (UKIP)
Antionette Wattebot (LD)
Yad Zanganah (Lab)

May 2011 result C 1204/1113 LD 320/314
May 2007 result C 924/740 LD 585/554
May 2003 result LD 539/531 C 336/298

East Northamptonshire District Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Michael Finch.

A small town in rural Northamptonshire of about 5,800 souls, Thrapston can be found on the River Nene at the junction of the A14 Kettering-Huntingdon road with the A45/A605 Northampton-Peterborough road.  The town is fairly nondescript and the main feature is the offices of East Northamptonshire district council.  The Thrapston Market ward combines the southern half of the town with the parishes of Denford and Ringstead to the south.

East Northamptonshire is a strongly Conservative local government district and the Conservatives were unopposed here in 2007 when the ward was created.  In 2011, however, while still topping the poll the Tories lost one of the seats in this ward to an independent candidate.  The ward is divided between two county council divisions; in May the Tories held Thrapston county division fairly comfortably although on a low share of the vote, UKIP being second, while the rural parishes form part of Irthlingborough county division where the Tories beat off Labour rather more narrowly.  However, it's probably fair to say that Denford and Ringstead are not the best parts of that division for Labour.

Defending for the Conservatives is Alex Smith.  Thrapston town councillor Val Carter is standing as an Independent.  Joseph Garner stands for UKIP hot from the campaign trail after finishing runner-up to the Conservatives in Thrapston county division in May, and teacher Alex Izycky is the Labour candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Corby
Northamptonshire county council division: Thrapston (Thrapston parish), Irthlingborough (Denford and Ringstead parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kettering and Corby

May 2011 result C 754/586 Ind 604
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed

North Somerset Council; caused by the resignation of a Conservative councillor.  This preview has been provided by guest writer Andrew Nisbet.

Weston-super-Mare North Worle is almost entirely made up of new suburbs built in the 1980s and 90s on farmland on the edge of Weston. Situated close to the M5 motorway, this area has lots of young families and commuters. Most of the ward is fairly affluent, with only a few areas of social housing and retirement bungalows. The motte and bailey Castle Batch is a prominent feature in the centre of the ward. Many of the roads are named after people or places of historical interest. At the east end of the ward the roads are named after Somerset county cricketers.

Upon its creation in 1999 the ward was won by the Liberal Democrats, who increased their majority in 2003. The top scoring candidate both times was Alan Hockridge, who had a large personal following, and who became leader of the council in 2005, first in coalition with the Conservatives, then with Labour.  Alan Hockridge died suddenly during the 2007 elections which were then deferred. The unpopularity of the outgoing Lib Dem/Labour administration, combined with the loss of Hockridge's personal vote, meant the Lib Dems lost the ward on a huge swing to the Conservatives. The result in 2011 was very similar apart from an increased Labour vote.

The Conservative candidate is Richard Nightingale who runs his family's removals and estate agents business. He proposed a plan to develop the town's derelict Tropicana swimming pool, which was turned down by the Conservative administration who decided to demolish it instead. He is now in the ironic position of standing for them.

The Liberal Democrat candidate is communications expert Edward Keating who was formerly a councillor for the neighbouring South Worle ward. He has campaigned to get the Tropicana developed as a swimming pool.
An Independent candidate is farmer and developer Derek Mead whose company built many of the new houses in the area. He has also been behind a scheme to redevelop the Tropicana. He was previously not allowed to stand as a Conservative for being in his words "too disruptive".
The Labour candidate is Denise Hunt who works in local government.

The UKIP candidate is local GP Steven Pearse-Danker. He was to have been UKIP's parliamentary candidate in 2010 but was ineligible to stand due to being a Danish citizen.

Another Independent is Rachel Ling, who was the Lib Dem candidate in another by-election just 3 months ago.

There is also a by-election for Weston-super-Mare Town Council for the Worle East ward, which covers roughly the eastern half of the district ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Weston-super-Mare
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bristol

May 2011 result C 1293/1183/1101 LD 686/671/609 Lab 600/596/559
June 2007 postponed poll C 946/920/904 LD 513/498/494 Lab 268/234/218 Ind 157 UKIP 154
May 2003 result LD 1356/1236/1143 C 627/610 Lab 268/248/243

Thursday, 11 July 2013

By-Election Previews: 11 July 2013

We are aware of four by-elections on 11th July.  The Conservatives are on the defensive in a Snowdonia ward which will be covered in the Welsh Elections blog.  In England, the westernmost ward in Suffolk goes to the polls following the resignation of a Lib Dem councillor; a long serving Independent will be replaced in Sleaford, Lincolnshire; and there is a fascinating contest in Brighton  where tensions within the ruling Green Party group have recently been exposed.

Forest Heath District Council, Suffolk; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Williams who has moved to Bath.

St Martin's Church, Exning
  © Copyright mike and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Suffolk's most westerly village, Exning can be found to the north-west of Newmarket, immediately outside the A14 bypass on the road to Burwell.  Local lore would have it that Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni, once lived here; that's a load of nonsense, but there may be more substance to the theory, which goes back to the 12th-century Ely Abbey history Liber Eliensis, that Exning is where the seventh-century East Anglian princess St Etheldreda was born.  With the passage of time it's rather difficult to confirm this.

Exning's previous local election results are rather puzzling.  The Conservatives won easily in 2003 in a straight fight with Labour.  Labour withdrew from the fray in 2007 but the Liberal Democrats stood that year to ensure a contest, and it was a close one, the Tories eventually winning by just eleven votes.  In 2011 the Lib Dems easily gained the ward from the Conservatives.  The ward is part of a county division (Exning and Newmarket) which was gained by UKIP two months ago in the county council elections, but it's not clear how the party support is spread between the two wards covered by the division (and Exning ward is only a quarter of the division).

This by-election is yet another straight fight, but there is no defending Liberal Democrat candidate.  Marion Fairman-Smith, the Conservative councillor from 2007 who stood down in 2011, will try to get back on the council.  She is opposed by independent candidate Simon Cole, who stood in the county division in May and came fourth, with 19% of the vote.

Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Exning and Newmarket
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge

Simon Cole (Ind)
Marion Fairman-Smith (C)

May 2011 result LD 372 C 291
May 2007 result C 253 LD 242
May 2003 result C 254 Lab 147

Brighton and Hove City Council; caused by the resignation of Green Party councillor Matt Follett who is moving away from the city.

Elm Grove Primary School, Brighton
  © Copyright Simon Carey and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Traditionally a rather poor part of Brighton, Hanover consists of a series of terraced streets on the side of a steep hill to the east of the Lewes Road.  For electoral purposes it is combined with the road of Elm Grove to the north and associated streets, and with Brighton General Hospital at the top of Elm Grove.  Hanover is starting to gentrify, its proximity to Brighton's railway station making it attractive to London commuters.  One bizarre story which came out of Hanover this year came when a member of the public reported to Brighton and Hove council, through the Fix My Street website, that a wormhole to another dimension had opened up in one of the ward's streets.  For some reason the council did not follow this up.

This is perhaps a shame, for Brighton's politics are as though a wormhole had opened up to another direction.  This is the first and so far only council whose administration is controlled by the Green Party, and it's not going entirely well for them.  The local Green group seems to have developed a bizarre split between the "mango" wing of the party (green on the outside, yellow on the inside) which includes the Leader of the Council Jason Kitcat and the resigning councillor, and the "watermelon" wing (green on the outside, red on the inside) which includes the defending Green by-election candidate David Gibson, who works in housing and regeneration.  The watermelons recently failed in an attempt to persuade Kitcat to "have a break" from being Leader after his inept handling of a dustbin men's strike, and things had settled down a little after that, but with this by-election affecting the balance of power between the watermelons and mangos tensions may resurface within the Green group after the election.

The Greens should hold this by-election, as it's one of their safest wards in the city and part of the constituency of their MP Caroline Lucas; the party has held all three seats within the ward since taking the last Labour seat in 2007.

As stated, David Gibson is the defending Green candidate.  Emma Daniel, from Labour, will provide the stiffest opposition.  Also standing are full-time carer Robert Knight for the Conservatives, former Manchester city councillor Lev Eakins for the Liberal Democrats, Phil Clarke for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Patricia Mountain for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Brighton Pavilion
ONS Travel to Work Area: Brighton

Phil Clarke (TUSC)
Emma Daniel (Lab)
Lev Eakins (LD)
David Gibson (Grn)
Robert Knight (C)
Patricia Mountain (UKIP)

May 2011 result Grn 2861/2800/2576 Lab 1662/1661/1606 C 499/441/434 LD 189/159/140 TUSC 156
May 2007 result Grn 2181/2102/1945 Lab 1321/1030/945 C 482/459/411 LD 333/260/256
May 2003 result Grn 2198/1895/1382 Lab 1886/1722/1510 LD 517/460/450 C 489/466/455 Socialist Alliance 266

North Kesteven District Council, Lincolnshire; caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Peter Haysum.  With over forty years' service in local goverment, starting on the long-abolished Sleaford Urban District council, Haysum, a former postman, has served three times as Mayor of Sleaford and was chairman of the district council in 1995.  He is stepping down due to ill health.

Approach to A15 and A17 roundabout at Holdingham
  © Copyright Mick Lobb and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
One of the fen towns in which southern Lincolnshire specialises, Sleaford goes back to Roman times, and became a major agricultural centre in the eighteenth century with the canalising of the River Slea to create the Sleaford Navigation.  The railways came here in 1857, and Sleaford is still a railway junction, with lines from Peterborough to Lincoln and from Grantham to Skegness meeting here.  Hubbard's seeds and Bass maltings were major employers, as was administration; from 1888 to 1974 Sleaford was the county town of the Parts of Kesteven.  One of five wards covering the town, Sleaford Holdingham ward is the northern fringe of the built-up area and is centred around the Holdingham roundabout, where the A15 Lincoln-Peterborough road meets the A17 Newark-Kings Lynn road.

As stated, Haysum had been the councillor here for a long time and had a large personal vote.  He was originally a Labour councillor, although his last two re-elections in 2007 and 2011 were as an Independent.  In 2011 he defeated the Conservatives in a straight fight, polling 65%.  In last May's Lincolnshire county elections Sleaford division, of which this ward is part, saw a Conservative loss to the Lincolnshire Independents candidate in a very fractured result, the Lincolnshire Independents winning with less than 28% of the vote.

This makes the result of this district by-election rather unpredictable.  There are two new independent candidates, both Sleaford town councillors: Ken Fernandes, who came last out of five candidates in the county election with 12.5%, and represents this ward on the town council; and retired teacher Grenville Jackson.  The Conservatives have nominated Lucille Hagues, an NHS patient advocate involved in cancer care.  The Labour candidate is Mike Benthall, a retired chartered engineer, and UKIP are standing John Dilks from the nearby village of Brant Broughton; Dilks came third in the county division in May, polling 20%.

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Sleaford
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln

Mike Benthall (Lab)
John Dilks (UKIP)
Ken Fernandes (Ind)
Lucille Hagues (C)
Grenville Jackson (Ind)

May 2011 result Ind 470 C 254
May 2007 result Ind 373 C 148 UKIP 64

Monday, 8 July 2013

By-Election Results: 4 July 2013

Last week's results were a boost for the Lib Dems' future prospects - gaining two marginal seats from the Conservatives in Oxfordshire and Nofo.  Meanwhile, Labour easily held their two seats, with UKIP notably falling back in Newcastle-under-Lyme while they advance across much of the rest of the country.  The full results are currently available on the Engllish Elections homepage here.

The Lib Dems now hold both of the seats in this ward, the result having been split in 2011 with the lead Conservative candidate just six votes ahead of the second Liberal Democrat.  The swing here was a relatively modest 3.8%, but in such a tight race that was enough to allow the Lib Dems to make the gain.  The result will give local Lib Dems some optimism perhaps that they may regain the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency in 2015, that being one of the closest Lib Dem-Conservative marginals in the country with a Conservative majority of only 176 in 2010.

This was also a split ward in 2011, electing two Conservatives and one Lib Dem - with the Lib Dems' gain now reversing that balance of power.  The swing here was a more substantial 9% from Conservative to Lib Dems.  Broadland is a somewhat more safe Conservative seat, though a 9% swing would be more than what is required for the Lib Dems to gain here in 2015, so again there is some cause for optimism.  Overall, the Lib Dems seem to be continuing to perform poorly in the North, especially in urban areas where they've spent some time as the major alternative to Labour, but are actually improving in rural and Southern areas where they've long positioned themselves more as the alternative to the Conservatives.

An ultra-safe Labour ward that was never going to produce any surprises - although the scant 1% swing from the Conservatives suggest that the Labour vote in the area is pretty much maxed out.

On recent national swings, this was effectively UKIP's seat to lose - and lose they did after a surprising Labour hold.  UKIP's vote actually went backwards in 2011, and following disappointing results in Staffordshire in May it seems that the party is now going into decline in one of its original breakthrough areas.  Labour will be happy to be improving their majority and gradually recovering dominance of this once Labour heartland.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

By-Election Previews: 4 July 2013

There are five by-elections on 4 July 2013 with both the major parties in action.  The Conservatives are under pressure from the Liberal Democrats in wards in Norfolk and Oxfordshire, while Labour are defending three coalfield wards: they should not be worried about losing a safe ward in Tyneside but will face a stiffer fight in a Staffordshire ward where UKIP are strong.  Labour's other defence is in Swansea, which will be covered on the Welsh Elections blog.

Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Holly Holman in protest over the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

County Hall, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
  © Copyright Claire Ward and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
One of England's oldest towns, Abingdon on Thames has been occupied since the Iron Age.  The town had one of the oldest abbeys in England, the Saxon Abingdon Abbey; after the Conquest the Normans gave the place a vote of confidence as the future King Henry I was educated there.  Following the dissolution of the Abbey Queen Mary I granted the town a borough charter, after which it assumed the title of county town of Berkshire.  Although it lost this title to Reading in the mid-nineteenth century, Abingdon became a prosperous town in the twentieth century, with major employers including MG cars and the Morland brewery, original brewers of the Duke of Edinburgh's favourite tipple Old Speckled Hen.  Today the town is home to many professionals who work in science and computing, major scientific employers such as UKAEA, Harwell Laboratory and Oxford University being nearby, and the town also being the home of the educational computing supplier RM and the antivirus company Sophos.  Despite this prosperity, Abingdon is one of the largest towns in southern England without a railway station.

Local election results in Abingdon tend to be close fights between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.  This ward's two seats were split between the two parties in 2003; the Conservatives lost their seat to the Lib Dems in 2007 but won one seat back in 2011 to give the ward split representation again.  Continuing this theme, the ward is split between two divisions of Oxfordshire county council, one of which (Abingdon North) elected a Conservative and the other (Abingdon South) a Liberal Democrat.

This by-election, however, can only have one winner.  Defending for the Conservatives is town councillor Monica Lovatt, a former nurse who now volunteers with a Forces charity and has recently finished a term as Mayor of Abingdon; she is the wife of Sandy Lovatt, county councillor for Abingdon North, and was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate here in 2011.  The Lib Dem challenge is led by Jeanette Halliday, another of the town councillors for the ward.  Finally, George Ryall is the Labour candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford West and Abingdon
Oxfordshire county council divisions: Abingdon North (part); Abingdon South (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Jeanette Halliday (LD)
Monica Lovatt (C)
George Ryall (Lab)

May 2011 result LD 709/653 C 659/645 Lab 292
May 2007 result LD 802/784 C 551/543 Grn 155 Lab 90
May 2003 result LD 576/531 C 552/543 Lab 124/122 Grn 95

Broadland District Council, Norfolk; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jo Cottingham.  Deputy leader of the council until last year and Aylsham ward councillor since 2004, Cottingham stepped down following a complaint about her conduct.

Town Centre of Aylsham
  © Copyright Richard Slessor and licensed for
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Here we have another ancient market town.  Nine miles to the north of Norwich on the River Bure, Aylsham was important in mediaeval times as a major centre for the linen and worsted industry.  Thanks to its location about halfway between Norfolk and Cromer, the town became a stop on the coaching route between them, and the coaching Black Boys Inn is one of the town's oldest buildings.  Still a local market town and agricultural centre, Aylsham was one of the first British members of the Cittaslow or "Slow City" movement.  As well as the town, the Aylsham ward includes the parishes of Burgh and Tuttington to the east, Marsham to the south, and Oulton and Blickling to the north; Blickling is a major tourist attraction thanks to the Jacobean stately home Blickling Hall, a former home of the Boleyn family.

Aylsham is a closely fought Lib Dem/Conservative ward and its three councillors have been split between the two parties since 2004; the 2004 election returned two Lib Dems and one Conservative, with the Tories gaining one of the Lib Dem seats in 2007 and topping the poll at the most recent election in 2011.  In May's Norfolk county council election the Liberal Democrats held the Aylsham county division (which also includes the much-smaller Buxton ward to the south-east) within an increased majority as UKIP split the Conservative vote.

With no UKIP candidate on the ballot paper for the district by-election, this should be a closer result.  Defending for the Conservatives is Judi Meredith, a former district councillor who unsuccessfully fought this ward in 2004 and 2007.  The other two candidates both live some distance away: Steve Riley, who lives on the RAF Coltishall airbase, will try to gain the seat for the Lib Dems, and the Labour candidate is Wroxham-based Malcolm Kemp.

Parliamentary constituency: Broadland
Norfolk county council division: Aylsham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich

Malcolm Kemp (Lab)
Judi Meredith (C)
Steve Riley (LD)

May 2011 result C 1336/1253/1010 LD 1182/846/752 Lab 542/471 Grn 446
May 2007 result LD 1137/1067/1024 C 1124/1082/1027 Lab 246/230/199
June 2004 result LD 918/907/845 C 854/822/797 Lab 719/461/421

North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council; caused by Labour councillor Norma Redfearn being elected Mayor of North Tyneside in the May elections.

Coast train arrives at North Shields Metro Station
  © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for reuse
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Last week this column took you to Jarrow on the south bank of the Tyne estuary; this week we travel north from Jarrow through the Tyne Tunnel to Riverside ward on the opposite bank of the river.  Straddling the old border between Wallsend and Tynemouth, Riverside ward consists of a series of disconnected residential areas, running from Willington Quay to the west to the centre of North Shields at the eastern end; other centres of population include Percy Main and the southern fringe of Howdon.  Fishing and coalmining were traditionally the major industries here; while coal is no longer mined here the collieries have been redeveloped into various business parks and industrial estates, and the link with the sea is still important as this ward includes Newcastle's international ferry port, from which there are daily sailings to Amsterdam.  The Tyne and Wear Metro links the ward together, with Howdon, Percy Main, Meadow Well and North Shields stations all serving the ward.

This ward has trended strongly to Labour in the last few years after a few close fights at the end of the Blair era: 54-46 against an Independent in 2006 and 56-44 against the Lib Dems in 2007.  The most recent election in 2012 was also a straight fight, but much more comfortable as Labour beat the Tories 85-15.

Defending for Labour is Wendy Lott, the wife of one of the remaining Labour councillors for the ward.  She is up against Barbara Stevens, a Conservative former councillor who stood down last year in Collingwood ward.

Parliamentary constituency: North Tyneside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

Wendy Lott (Lab)
Barbara Stevens (C)

May 2012 result Lab 1684 C 306
May 2011 result Lab 1775 C 442 LD 249
May 2010 result Lab 2220 LD 1058 C 791
May 2008 result Lab 1199 LD 526 C 369 Grn 172
May 2007 result Lab 1262 LD 1003
May 2006 result Lab 1132 Ind 963
June 2004 result Lab 1217/1064/1038 Ind 769 LD 635 C 461/382 Ind 340

Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Thomas Lawton for personal reasons.  Lawton had not attended any meeting of the council in three months.

Silverdale Colliery
  © Copyright Malcolm Street and licensed for
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Another Labour defence, and another ward with a coal-mining heritage, in this case quite a recent one.  Silverdale is a large pit village just to the west of Newcastle-under-Lyme, whose mine (Silverdale Colliery) did not close until 1998 after being greatly expanded in the 1970s.

You might have thought this would produce a safe Labour ward like the other two Labour are defending this week, but if so, you would be wrong.  The fun started in 2003 when Labour spectacularly lost the ward (which had been very safe the previous year) to Eileen Braithwaite of the Caring Party.  Braithwaite thereafter joined the UK Independence Party, and Newcastle-under-Lyme's UKIP branch became one of the most successful in the country during the mid-noughties, building up a large group on the borough council.  It wasn't enough to deliver UKIP both seats in the ward, but Braithwaite was re-elected in the purple colours in 2007 before losing to Labour in 2011 by 40 votes.  UKIP actually peaked in Newcastle at the 2009 Staffordshire county elections in which they became the official opposition to the Conservatives; while they went backwards in May in terms of seats they did hold the county division covering this ward, by just four votes over Labour.

Defending for Labour in the by-election is Amelia Rout, a research officer and Unison official at Staffordshire University.  UKIP have selected Elaine Blake, who was a Labour councillor for this ward until stepping down in 2010.  An interesting fight is in prospect.  Also standing are James Vernon for the Conservatives and Richard Steele for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary constituency: Newcastle-under-Lyme
Staffordshire county council division: Keele, Knutton and Silverdale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stoke-on-Trent

Elaine Blake (UKIP)
Amelia Rout (Lab)
Richard Steele (TUSC)
James Vernon (C)

May 2011 result Lab 471 UKIP 431 C 112
May 2010 result Lab 612 UKIP 457 C 320 LD 254
May 2007 result UKIP 537 Lab 282 C 107 LD 76
May 2006 result Lab 389 UKIP 296 C 125 LD 119
May 2003 result Caring Party 323 Lab 311 LD 83 C 75
May 2002 result Lab 480/369 Caring Party 110/100 LD 105/101 C 100/82