With ten by-elections to cover this week, your columnist must apologise for not having sufficient time to cover all of these polls in the level of detail to which readers have become accustomed. There is a very wide spread this week, with two polls in the West Country including one covered on the Cornish Elections blog, two in East Anglia, four in the East Midlands, one in a Home Counties ward stuffed full of old money, and one in Carlisle. There is a strong disability theme this week, and two amputees feature in this week's column.
St. Edmundsbury District Council, Suffolk; caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Hale at the age of 68. A retired financial services advisor specialising in pensions, Hale was first elected to the district council in 2003.
This is a big rural ward in the Blackbourn valley just south of Thetford, covering the parishes of Barnham on the Thetford-Bury St Edmunds road; Euston, Fakenham Magna and Honington on the Thetford-Stowmarket road; and Bardwell and Coney Weston to the east.
Bardwell ward elects one member of St Edmundsbury district council, and since 2003 that member has been the Conservatives' John Hale. His three election results have all been very similar to each other, polling around 75% of the vote against only UKIP opposition.
The Tories have selected Paula Wade to defend the seat; she is from Bardwell. Also from Bardwell is the UKIP candidate James Lumley, who is hoping it will be third time lucky after contesting the ward in 2003 and 2011. This time there is a three-cornered contest with Labour having nominated Thomas Stebbing, an architect from Bury St Edmunds.
Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Blackbourn
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bury St Edmunds (Bardwell and Coney Weston parishes); Thetford and Mildenhall (rest of ward)
James Lumley (UKIP)
Thomas Stebbing (Lab)
Paula Wade (C)
May 2011 result C 737 UKIP 223
May 2007 result C 540 UKIP 179
May 2003 result C 485 UKIP 180
East Cambridgeshire District Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Will Burton, the 2012/13 Mayor of Ely, who is relocating to Lincolnshire.
Self-explanatory ward name alert: this is the eastern quarter of the cathedral city of Ely, in the Fens. This ward covers the city centre, the cathedral, the marina on the River Great Ouse and the city's railway station, a major junction where lines from Cambridge, Ipswich, Peterborough, Norwich and King's Lynn all meet. Also included in the ward are the fen villages of Queen Adelaide (with its three adjacent level crossings) and Prickwillow, which lie within the city boundary.
Ely East split its two district council seats between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in 2003. The Tories gained the Lib Dem seat in 2007 and held the two seats in 2011, but this remains a marginal ward at district council level.
The new Conservative candidate is Lis Every, a business teacher at Ely College. The Lib Dems and Labour have both selected the less popular of their two candidates in the 2011 election, Dian Warman and Jane Frances respectively. Independent candidate John Borland, who fought this ward all the way back in 2003, also stands, as does UKIP's Jeremy Tyrrell.
May 2011 result C 613/598 LD 541/522 Lab 306/258
May 2007 result C 582/527 LD 468/453 Ind 218/153
May 2003 result C 468/350 LD 452/414 Ind 166 Grn 116
John Borland (Ind)
Lis Every (C)
Jane Frances (Lab)
Jeremy Tyrrell (UKIP)
Dian Warman (LD)
Boston Borough Council, Lincolnshire; caused by the disqualification of English Democrats Party councillor Elliott Fountain who did not attend any meetings of the council in six months.
This is effectively the north-western corner of the town of Boston, a triangular area of housing on the south bank of the River Witham.
Local politics in Boston has gone a bit weird, with lots of support for minor parties. The fun began in 2007 when a group completely new to local politics surprisingly gained control of the council - the Boston Bypass Independents, who as the name suggests are calling for a bypass to built to solve the severe traffic problems experienced by Boston (which are exacerbated by the fact that all the bridges over the Witham are in the town centre). The Boston Bypass Independents turned out to be as inept in running the council as might have been expected from a group of inexperienced first-time councillors, and were resoundingly defeated in the 2011 council elections at which the Conservatives took overall control. In this May's elections to Lincolnshire county council UKIP had one of their best results in Boston, winning four of the district's six county council seats including the Boston North West division which includes Fenside ward.
Fenside ward has not been immune to the overall strangeness; safely Labour in 2003, it was gained by the Bypass Independents in 2007. The Bypass Independents then went on to lose one of the ward's two seats to the BNP in a November 2008 by-election, before both seats in the ward were gained by the English Democrats, a minor federalist party. Apart from the 2009 Doncaster mayoral election, this is the English Democrats' only success at principal authority level. Fountain's disqualification has resulted in the number of English Democrat district councillors reducing from two to one.
There is no defending English Democrat candidate so the seat is up for grabs. Taking the candidates in alphabetical order: Ben Cook, the Labour candidate, is 27, works at the local ASDA and is a GMB union officer; the Conservative candidate is independent financial advisor Dan Elkington; the UKIP candidate is Tiggs Keywood-Wainwright, who convincingly won the local county council division in May; and the Lib Dems have nominated Revd Alan Taylor.
Parliamentary constituency: Boston and Skegness
Lincolnshire county council division: Boston North West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Boston
May 2011 result EDP 231/195 Boston Bypass Ind 182/176 Lab 162/159 LD 68/51
Nov 2008 by-election BNP 279 Boston Bypass Ind 141 C 119 Lab 69 UKIP 24 LD 23
May 2007 result Boston Bypass Ind 317/315 Lab 174/116 C 134 UKIP 107
May 2003 result Lab 292/250 C 160
Ben Cook (Lab)
Dan Elkington (C)
Tiggs Keywood-Wainwright (UKIP)
Alan Taylor (LD)
Wycombe District Council, Buckinghamshire; caused by the death of the Chairman of the Council, Conservative councillor Roger Emmett, at the age of 67. Emmett had been a Wycombe district councillor since 2001.
Here we have some very rich and beautiful Chiltern countryside, with a particular specialisation in country houses. Hambleden Valley is a large ward which covers most of the area south-west of High Wycombe down to the north bank of the Thames. It consists of Hambleden, Fawley, Turville and Ibstone parishes together with most of Medmenham parish.
Medmenham is notorious for its association with Francis Dashwood's so-called "Hellfire Club" in the eighteenth century, many of whose activities took place in the ruins of Medmenham Abbey, but should probably be better known for RAF Medmenham, home of the Air Force's photographic reconaissance unit during the Second World War. Inevitably, the RAF building - Danesfield House - is now a country house hotel. Another country house in the ward is Fawley Court, a former school for Polish boys overlooking the Henley Regatta course, which has been a favourite subject of Private Eye magazine over the last few years thanks to its recent sale and resulting legal disputes.
At the north end of the ward, Turville is a favourite location for film and TV productions; among many other things, it has been invaded by German paratroopers (in the Ealing comedy Went the Day Well?) and endured Dawn French as its vicar (in The Vicar of Dibley) while Cobstone Windmill in Ibstone, overlooking Turville, was restored for the filming of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Finally, Hambleden itself has associations with the aristocracy; Lord Cardigan, of Charge of the Light Brigade fame, was born here, and the Viscounts Hambleden (the original owning family of the WH Smith chain) are the lords of the manor.
In his twelve years on Wycombe district council Roger Emmett only faced two contested elections: his first, a November 2001 by-election in which he polled a whisker under 50% against independent and Labour opposition, and his last re-election in 2011, in which he beat a single Lib Dem candidate by 80% to 20%. (Ask yourself: what did you expect a ward as full of old money as this to vote like?) The county council results don't hold much hope of an exciting election either, the Tories winning the local county division (Chiltern Villages) in May with a margin of 34 points over UKIP.
The new Conservative candidate is Roger Metcalfe, a former Royal Artillery officer from Fawley who runs a business consultancy firm. Labour's nominee is Julian Grigg, from High Wycombe, the second amputee (after Adam Hills) to feature in this week's column, while UKIP are standing Brian Mapletoft, from Penn on the other side of High Wycombe.
Parliamentary constituency: Wycombe
Buckinghamshire county council division: Chiltern Villages
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wycombe and Slough
Julian Grigg (Lab)
Brian Mapletoft (UKIP)
Roger Metcalfe (C)
May 2011 result C 820 LD 204
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C unopposed
Charnwood Borough Council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Chris Carter.
This tract of Loughborough can be found either side of the main road going out of town west towards the M1 motorway, and includes a large part of the Loughborough University campus.
Luffbra has some strange local election results and Labour often overperform here. This ward of the town was won by Labour unopposed in 2003, but in 2007 the party lost one of their two seats to a single Conservative candidate. Labour restored their monopoly in the 2011 election, polling 62% in a straight fight with the Conservatives. This bodes well for a Labour hold in the by-election, but Loughborough is a student town and this ward has part of the campus in it; although students are notorious for not voting in local elections anyway, Loughborough's new academic year hasn't started yet, and a by-election in the town's Southfields ward last September which also fell during the summer recess resulted in a surprise Conservative gain. On the other hand, last May's county council polls saw the Tories finish third in Loughborough North West behind Labour and an Independent.
So there is the potential for something strange to happen. The defending Labour candidate will obviously not be hoping for a repeat performance, as it's the same candidate who lost last year's Southfields by-election: Mary Draycott, a former Lord Mayor of Leicester with many years' service on Leicester City Council, now living in Shepshed. Syston-based teacher Kirti Asmal is the Conservative candidate, and UKIP have selected Andy McWilliam, from Quorn.
Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Loughborough North West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
May 2011 result Lab 834/817 C 506/404
May 2007 result C 546 Lab 517/472 BNP 220
May 2003 result 2 Lab unopposed
Kirti Asmal (C)
Mary Draycott (Lab)
Andy McWilliam (UKIP)
MIDDLETON CHENEY and RAVENSTHORPE
Northamptonshire County Council, and Daventry District Council, Northamptonshire; both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Ken Melling. The Chairman of Daventry council in 2003/4, Melling had served as a district councillor since 1998 (for Brampton ward, moving to Ravensthorpe in 2012 when the council was re-warded) and as a county councillor since 2005, and also sat on Harlestone parish council.
These are very different areas. To take the district ward first, Ravensthorpe ward covers a series of villages off the Northampton-Rugby road: Ravensthorpe itself, Hollowell, Holdenby, East Haddon, Brington and Althorp, home of the Earls Spencer and final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales. Middleton Cheney, on the other hand, is the far south-west corner of Northamptonshire, occupying the space between Banbury and Brackley.
Ravensthorpe ward looks safe enough for the Tories, who polled 62% last year (the first election on its current boundaries) with the English Democrats beating the Lib Dems for second place. The Tories have selected company director Bryn Aldridge who, like all the other candidates, gives an address in the Long Buckby area. The Lib Dem candidate Neil Farmer is a company director and local Lib Dem agent, UKIP's Ruaraidh "Eric" MacAnndrais is a Daventry town councillor who runs a taxi firm, while qualified special needs teacher Sue Myers stands for Labour.
On paper, Middleton Cheney should be more interesting with UKIP coming a strong second in the division in May. The defending Conservative candidate is Ron Sawbridge, who is retired after careers as an RAF navigator and as a director of a large logistics company; he sat on Northamptonshire county council from 2001 until May when he lost Brackley to UKIP. Living in Aynho, Northamptonshire's most south-westerly village, this is his home division. UKIP's candidate Barry Mahoney fought the 2010 general election for this constituency (South Northamptonshire) and will be on UKIP's East Midlands list for next year's European Parliament elections; in May he fought his home division of Towcester and Roade. Labour's candidate is Daventry district councillor Christopher Lee, a freelance director and drama tutor, and the Lib Dems have nominated former Northampton borough councillor Scott Collins, who lives in Helmdon and runs a printing/social media company.
Parliamentary constituency: South Northamptonshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Banbury
Scott Collins (LD)
Christopher Lee (Lab)
Barry Mahoney (UKIP)
Ron Sawbridge (C)
May 2013 result C 1165 UKIP 963 Lab 357 LD 239
Parliamentary constituency: Daventry
Northamptonshire county council division: Long Buckby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton and Wellingborough
Bryn Aldridge (C)
Neil Farmer (LD)
Eric MacAnndrais (UKIP)
Sue Myers (Lab)
May 2012 result C 420 EDP 136 LD 124
Torridge District Council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Geoff Lee who is moving to Norfolk.
This ward has the same boundaries as the town of Great Torrington, the main town in the Torridge Valley but still a small market town. Much of its economy is based on the town centre shops, many of which are still independently owned, tourism (the town was one of the main settings for Henry Williamson's book Tarka the Otter) and glass-making; Dartington Crystal's factory in Torrington is the last remaining crystal factory in the UK and the town's largest employer.
Torrington's district council results are rather idiosyncratic with much support for independents, notably Cllr Margaret Brown who has a large personal vote. The ward elected two Independent councillors and a Lib Dem in the 2003 election; the Conservatives gained one of the Independent seats in 2007 to split the ward's representation three ways, and the three ward councillors were re-elected in 2011. The Conservative ward councillor Andy Boyd is also the county councillor for the wider Torrington Rural division, winning a second term in May with UKIP as runners-up.
So, with previous election results serving more to confuse than inform, who are the candidates? There is no official Lib Dem candidate, so the seat is up for grabs, but, as in the nearby Shebbear and Langtree by-election two weeks back there is an unofficial Lib Dem candidate, independent Adrian Freeland who was the Lib Dem candidate in Torrington Rural in May. The Conservatives have selected Bideford-based Phil Pester, who was a district councillor in Bideford South ward until losing his seat to Labour in 2011. UKIP have gone for county councillor Robin Julian, who is based in Hartland, about twenty miles away from the ward; he gained the Bideford South and Hartland division from the Conservatives in May. Independent David Cox rose from bottom of the poll in the 2007 district election here to runner-up in 2011, and will hope to finish first this time. Completing the ballot paper is Cathrine Simmons, the regular Green Party candidate for the
Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
Devon county council division: Torrington Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bideford
David Cox (Ind)
Adrian Freeland (Ind)
Robin Julian (UKIP)
Phil Pester (C)
Cathrine Simmons (Grn)
May 2011 result C 809 Ind 792/480 LD 641/209 Lab 312 UKIP 208
May 2007 result Ind 693/490/476/179 C 620 LD 495 Grn 352
May 2003 result Ind 645/424/254 LD 376/364/243 Grn 212
Carlisle City Council, Cumbria; caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Prof Joe Hendry, at the age of 67. A visiting professor at Strathclyde Business School, he had served as council leader since 2012.
Covering an area of outer south-western Carlisle either side of the Orton Road, this is one of the more prosperous of Carlisle's wards. It turned into a key marginal during the last Labour government as Labour and the Conservatives vied for control of Carlisle, but during the Blair years Labour always had the edge here and the Tories had to wait until the 2008 election to finally break through, repeating the gain at the 2009 county council election (until this May the ward had the same boundaries as the Yewdale county division, and even now there is very little difference in the boundaries). Majorities in this period were regularly tiny: 21 votes in 2002, 34 votes in 2004, 47 votes in 2006, 10 votes in 2007, 42 votes for the Conservatives in 2008, 89 votes for the Tories in 2009. The Tory runner-up in '06 and '07 was former Vote UK forum poster Gareth Ellis. Labour's fortunes in the ward have recovered since the formation of the coalition, and
they easily regained the Tory seats in 2012 and 2013. Joe Hendry had been a councillor throughout this period, most recently re-elected in 2011.
Defending for Labour is Tom Dodd, the secretary of Carlisle constituency Labour Party. Christine Finlayson is the Conservative candidate. Also standing are Terence Jones for the Liberal Democrats, Charmian McCutcheon for the Greens and UKIP's Mike Owen.
Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Cumbria county council division: Yewdale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Carlisle
Tom Dodd (Lab)
Christine Finlayson (C)
Terence Jones (LD)
Charmian McCutcheon (Grn)
Mike Owen (UKIP)
May 2012 result Lab 1222 C 730 LD 57 Grn 55
May 2011 result Lab 1254 C 845
May 2010 result Lab 1653 C 1353 TUSC 176 Grn 173
June 2009 county council election C 802 Lab 713 LD 249 BNP 185 Grn 109
May 2008 result C 945 Lab 903 BNP 326
May 2007 result Lab 988 C 978
May 2006 result Lab 797 C 750 LD 327
May 2005 county council election Lab 1890 C 1202
June 2004 result Lab 1016 C 982
May 2003 result Lab 831 C 624 LD 167
May 2002 result Lab 729 C 708 LD 157