Thursday, 22 August 2013

By-Election Previews: 22 August 2013

August is, of course, holiday season, and what better way to take advantage of the good weather than to go to what the LNER always used to call "the Drier Side of Britain"?  We have four by-elections on the menu this week on the eastern side of the Pennines, starting with a marginal ward in the historic city of Lincoln, moving north into Yorkshire to visit a Victorian spa town overshadowed by the effects of a later industry; and finishing up, fittingly for the time of year, on the beach at Scarborough.  If you're feeling a little bit under the weather, there is plenty of opportunity to take the waters this week.

BRACEBRIDGE
Lincoln City Council; caused by the disqualification of former Conservative councillor Darren Grice for failing to attend any meetings of the council in six months.  Grice, who had been leader of the council until the Conservatives lost control in 2011, had been sitting as an independent; I'm not sure why, but there had been an expenses-based scandal in the city council which may have been something to do with it.

Lincoln has a rather strange topography, being divided into "uphill" and "downhill" halves.  The cathedral, castle and public buildings are "uphill", while the city centre lies in the "downhill" part - a low-lying area next to the River Witham.  One way in which this divide is enforced is through local television, with northern "uphill" Lincoln being part of the Yorkshire TV region and southern "downhill" Lincoln covered by the Central TV region.

Bracebridge ward is the most southerly within the Lincoln city limits and therefore "downhill", although it does not mark the end of the built-up area which continues into the independent town of North Hykeham.  The ward is a rather strange one consisting of two completely independent residential areas on either side of the River Witham, along the Brant Road and the Hykeham Road.  It's a generally well-off area and becomes more well-off the further away from the centre you get.

Lincoln is Labour's bastion within the county of Lincolnshire, and as recently as 2003 Labour won a clean sweep of the city's eleven wards.  However, that year and 2012 are the only times in the last decade that Labour won Bracebridge ward which generally votes Conservative.  Boundary changes in 2007 lopped off part of the ward's grottiest census area, so you would assume that would strengthen the Conservative position in the ward.  The 2012 Labour gain was by just seven votes.  In May's county election this was only the Lincoln county division the Tories held, the Lincoln Bracebridge county division (which hasn't yet been updated to match the new ward boundaries) having a Conservative majority of 38 over Labour with UKIP in third place polling 24%.  (Hartsholme, traditionally the strongest Tory area in the city, went UKIP on a freak three-way split with just six votes separating the UKIP, Conservative and Labour candidates.)

The Tories want their old seat back, and they have nominated David Denman, a senior ecologist.  Geography teacher Katie Vause will try to make the Labour gain.  UKIP's candidate is Elaine Warde, who is retired after a career working at a Young Offenders Institute and being a drug and alcohol counsellor.  The Lib Dem candidate is optical assistant Ross Pepper, and the ballot paper is completed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's Karen Williams, a mental health worker.

Parliamentary constituency: Lincoln
Lincolnshire county council division: Lincoln Bracebridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln

David Denman (C)
Ross Pepper (LD)
Katie Vause (Lab)
Elaine Ward (UKIP)
Karen Williams (TUSC)

May 2012 result Lab 719 C 712 UKIP 183 LD 82 BNP 49
May 2011 result C 1134 Lab 932 UKIP 234
May 2010 result C 1632 Lab 1143 LD 775 BNP 206 UKIP 148
May 2008 result C 1126 Lab 517 BNP 230
May 2007 result C 1189/1185/1075 Lab 530/501/458 LD 325 BNP 306 UKIP 204


ASKERN SPA
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, South Yorkshire; caused by Labour councillor Ros Jones being elected as Mayor of Doncaster.

Spa towns in Yorkshire?  Yes, there's a few of them.  Harrogate is almost certainly the most famous, but one of the less well-known is Askern, a small town off the A19 Doncaster-Selby road about seven miles north of Doncaster.  The mineral waters here were first noted in the eighteenth century, and by the end of the nineteenth century there were at least five bathhouses in Askern.  The ward named after the Spa is a generally agricultural area to the north of Doncaster, with Askern and Skellow (a large village off the Great North Road) the main centres of population among tiny villages such as Burghwallis, Norton and Owston which contain a few Doncaster commuters.

You might have thought, given its semi-rural profile, this would be a strong Tory ward.  You'd be wrong: while the Conservatives came close to winning at several points during the later Blair and Brown years, this is now a very safe Labour ward and part of Ed Miliband's constituency.  Don't look at the map, look at what lies under it: coal, and lots of it.  Askern isn't just a spa town; it's a pit town as well, and a pit town of relatively recent vintage.  Askern Colliery opened in 1910 (scaring away the spa's custom, which was dealt the final blow by the Great War) and didn't close until 1993.  The effects of this (even given the dysfunctional nature of Doncaster council) give a high Labour base vote which drowns out the more rural element.  At the most recent election in 2012 Labour polled over 70% in a straight fight with the Conservatives, and in May this one of the ward councillors defeated the incumbent English Democrat Mayor, Peter Davies,
 in Doncaster's fourth mayoral election.

The electors of Askern Spa have rather more choice on offer at this by-election than they had in 2012, with seven candidates successfully nominated.  The defending Labour candidate is Iris Beech, from Askern.  The Conservatives have re-selected their 2012 candidate Martin Greenhalgh, from Sprotbrough.  In alphabetical order, the remaining candidates are David Allen for the English Democrats; independent Martyn Bev from Askern; UKIP candidate Frank Calladine (a poster on the Vote UK forum), a former Tory Doncaster candidate who gives an address in Adwick-upon-Dearne; TUSC candidate Mary Jackson and the Lib Dems' Adrian McLeay.

Parliamentary constituency: Doncaster North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Doncaster

David Allen (EDP)
Iris Beech (Lab)
Martyn Bev (Ind)
Frank Calladine (UKIP)
Martin Greenhalgh (C)
Mary Jackson (TUSC)
Adrian McLeay (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 2269 C 954
May 2011 result Lab 2205 C 831 EDP 574 Ind 416
May 2010 result Lab 2756 C 1502 EDP 1415
May 2008 result Lab 1165 C 1099 Ind 603 Ind 450 Grn 309
May 2007 result Lab 1491 C 1153 Grn 708
May 2006 result Lab 1527 C 1160 Grn 349 Community Group 289
June 2004 result Lab 1488/1356/1323 Community Group 1217 C 1191/1170 Grn 836


NEWBY and RAMSHILL
Scarborough District Council, North Yorkshire; caused respectively by the resignations of Independent councillor Mick Cooper and Conservative councillor Nick Brown.

Another town where a nascent spa industry has been completely overtaken, Scarborough started off as a tourist attraction in the 17th century not for its beach, but for the natural spring water bubbling out of the south cliff.  Drinking the waters became accepted as a medicine, and Regency and Victorian terraces sprang up on the top of the cliff, turning Scarborough into one of Britain's first seaside resort.  The coming of the railway from York ensured the resort's success, as did the Victorian Grand Hotel, which when it was built was one of the largest hotels in the world.  While the spa water is no longer fit for human consumption, its contribution to the town's economy continues with the Spa Centre, a large threatre and conference centre built around the original spring.

The Regency and Victorian terraces on the clifftop above the Spa now form the Ramshill ward of Scarborough, and could often be seen as a backdrop to the ITV drama series The Royal (a Heartbeat spinoff broadcast during the Noughties).  Away from the coast, Newby is a suburb of Scarborough on the Whitby road which has become part of the town's urban area although it is still part of a separate civil parish (Newby and Scalby).

The Newby district ward has the same boundaries as the North Yorkshire county council division of the same name, but despite this has very different voting patterns.  Since 2005 the county division has returned Conservative councillor Andrew Backhouse, the present Mayor of Scarborough, with steadily increasing majorities over Labour, but at district level Independent candidates usually top the poll.  Since 2007 the ward's three district seats have split two to Independents and one to the Conservatives.

The smaller Ramshill ward has only two district councillors, one of which has consistently been Conservative since 2003, although the only time in this millennium that the party has topped the poll in the ward is a 2005 by-election.  The other seat was won by Labour in 2003, the Lib Dems in 2007 (Labour not standing) and by an Independent in 2011.  At county level it is combined with Weaponness ward to the south (which covers the Olivers Mount area), in May Weaponness and Ramshill was won by the Conservatives with UKIP just taking second place from an independent.

The defending Independent candidate in the Newby by-election is Bonnie Purchon, who lost her district conucil seat in North Bay ward at the 2011 election.  She is a hotel proprietor from Staxton, on the road to York and was awarded an MBE in the 2001 New Year Honours for services to the hospitality industry in Yorkshire.  The Conservative candidate Sue Backhouse is county councillor Andrew Backhouse's wife and therefore the current Mayoress of Scarborough; she fought the ward in 2011.  Labour's candidate is Carl Maw who stood here in the May county elections, as did the Greens' Helen Kindness, a teacher.  Last on the ballot paper is UKIP's Andy Smith.

In Ramshill the defending candidate is the Tories' Peter Southward, who is a parish councillor in Osgodby, the next village down the coast.  Steve Siddons is the Labour candidate.  Lana Rogers, the Lib Dem councillor for this ward from 2007 to 2011, will try to get her seat back.  Mark Vesey is back on the campaign trail after his fifth place in the county division in May, while UKIP's Michael James will hope to go one better than his runner-up spot in May.

Newby
Parliamentary constituency: Scarborough and Whitby
North Yorkshire county council division: Newby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Scarborough

Sue Backhouse (C)
Helen Kindness (Grn)
Carl Maw (Lab)
Bonnie Purchon (Ind)
Andy Smith (UKIP)

May 2013 county council result C 605 Lab 370 Ind 355 LD 108 Grn 93
May 2011 result Ind 842/841/676 C 720/696/638 Lab 516 Grn 328 LD 288
June 2009 county council result C 685 Lab 406 LD 392 Ind 370 Grn 160
May 2007 result Ind 995/813/362 C 723/639 Lab 466 Grn 339
May 2005 county council result C 1143 Lab 940 LD 739 Ind 575 Grn 143
May 2003 result Ind 945/767/668 LD 615 C 455/406

Ramshill
Parliamentary constituency: Scarborough and Whitby
North Yorkshire county council division: Weaponness and Ramshill
ONS Travel to Work Area: Scarborough

Michael James (UKIP)
Lana Rodgers (LD)
Steve Siddons (Lab)
Peter Southward (C)
Mark Vesey (Grn)

May 2011 result Ind 368 C 350/323 Lab 301 LD 260 Grn 232
May 2007 result LD 322 C 294/275 Ind 285/134 Grn 242 North Yorks Coast Party 138
May 2006 by-election C 258 Ind 244 Lab 174 LD 71
May 2003 result Lab 408 C 378/320

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