Wednesday, 11 September 2013

By-Election Previews: 12 September 2013

By-elections on Thursday 12th September:

Central Bedfordshire Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Denise Green.  A former Mayoress of Dunstable, Green was constituency secretary to the local Conservative MP Anthony Selous.

High Street North, Dunstable
  © Copyright David Howard and licensed for
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This is one of five wards covering the town of Dunstable, the largest town in Central Bedfordshire district but still essentially a western suburb of Luton.  The Northfields ward covers the north-western corner of the town along Watling Street.

Previous election results for this area are mixed.  The only previous result on these boundaries is from 2011, Central Bedfordshire having used temporary ward boundaries for its first election in 2009 based on the old Bedfordshire County Council divisions.  Before the abolition of the county council and South Bedfordshire district council, there was a Northfields ward and division with similar boundaries to the present Dunstable-Northfields; this was the only reliable Labour ward in South Bedfordshire, the party winning at every district council election except 2004 when the Tories gained.  One of the Labour district councillors, Julian Murray, stood in the 2009 Central Bedfordshire election as an independent after being deselected, and topped the poll in the ward, the Tories' Denise Green winning the other of the ward's two seats.  Murray and Green were re-elected in 2011.

So, a hard-fought by-election is in prospect.  Defending for the Conservatives is Jeannette Freeman, a Dunstable town councillor for this ward who narrowly lost out to Green for the Tory seat last time.  Standing as an independent is Bev Coleman, a former Labour district councillor for the ward.  The official Labour candidate is former county councillor Duncan Ross, who fought the ward in 2011.  The Lib Dems have nominated Lynda Walmsley, a former Mayor of Houghton Regis and special educational needs advisor.  Finally, UKIP's candidate is Garry Lelliott, a mechanical design engineer from Leighton Buzzard.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Bedfordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford

Bev Coleman (Ind)
Jeannette Freeman (C)
Garry Lelliott (UKIP)
Duncan Ross (Lab)
Lynda Walmsley (LD)

May 2011 result Ind 877/198/45 C 757/753 Lab 618/594 LD 168/117


East Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire; caused by the resignation of East Lindsey Independent Group councillor Steve Doughty.

  © Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for
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A large rural ward in the Fens of Lincolnshire, a few miles north of Boston on the north bank of the Witham, this ward consists of the parishes of Langriville, Thornton le Fen, Frithville and Westville, Carrington and West Fen. 

This area has rather different voting patterns at district and county level.  For Lincolnshire County Council purposes it is part of the Tattershall Castle division, which UKIP gained from the Conservatives in May by just 15 votes.  However, Frithville has thus far returned independent district councillors, generally unopposed; Steve Doughty's re-election in 2011 was the first contested election in the ward this century, Doughty defeating a Conservative candidate 66-34.

There is no independent candidate to replace Doughty so the district council seat will change hands.  In the blue corner is the Conservatives' Neil Jones, who has been chairman of Langriville parish council for 25 years.  In the purple corner is the ward's county councillor Colin Mair of UKIP; he is based in the small town of Coningsby to the west of the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Boston and Skegness
Lincolnshire county council division: Tattershall Castle
ONS Travel to Work Area: Boston

Neil Jones (C)
Colin Mair (UKIP)

May 2011 result Ind 446 C 229
May 2007 result East Lindsey Ind Group unopposed
May 2003 result Ind unopposed


Hertfordshire County Council, and North Hertfordshire District Council; both caused by the death of Labour councillor David Billing at the age of 71.  Billing was a former leader of the Labour group on North Hertfordshire district council.

Hitchin railway station, Hertfordshire
  © Copyright Nigel Thompson and licensed for
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These wards cover different areas.  Hitchin North county division is based on the Hitchin Bearton and Hitchin Walsworth district wards, although the ward and county boundaries don't quite match since North Hertfordshire got new ward boundaries in 2007; effectively this is everything in Hitchin north and east of the railway station.  Hitchin station is a major junction at which the Cambridge branch leaves the East Coast main line; the junction is a long-standing bottleneck on the route which is now being relieved, a flyover having recently been built to take away the conflict between northbound London-Cambridge and southbound Peterborough-London trains.  To the west, Hitchin Oughton is the town's most north-westerly ward and is named after the River Oughton, which forms its north-western boundary.

David Billing had won Hitchin North comfortably enough for Labour at the 2005 county council election, and lost the division to the Conservatives in 2009 by just six votes.  He regained his county seat for Labour in May very comfortably.  Of the two district council wards, Hitchin Bearton is the better for Labour, having been won by them every year except for a freak 2010 result in which the Lib Dems won, five votes ahead of the Conservatives with Labour in third.  In the two elections since then Labour have polled 51% and 53% in Bearton ward.  Hitchin Walsworth (east of the railway lines) has consistently voted Tory since 2007, but perhaps not for much longer: their majority over Labour in the 2012 election was just three votes.

Hitchin Oughton, on the other hand, is the safest Labour ward in Hitchin, the party polling 61% last year.  The smallest Labour majority in the ward in recent years was 4 percentage points (93 votes) in 2010.

Both by-elections have a field of five candidates.  Defending the county seat for Labour is David Billing's widow Judi, who is also one of the Labour district councillors for Hitchin Bearton.  The Conservative candidate is also a district councillor in the division, Alan Millard of Hitchin Walsworth, who fought the May election after county councillor Ray Shakespeare-Smith retired.  The Green Party have reselected computer programmer Gavin Nicholson, who fought the ward in May and polled a respectable 15%.  The Liberal Democrat candidate is district councillor Lisa Courts, the winner of Bearton ward in 2010, and the ballot paper is completed by UKIP's John Barry, who lives in Letchworth and fought Letchworth South in May.

In Oughton ward the defending Labour candidate is Frank Radcliffe.  Mara MacSeoinin is the Conservative hope, Jackie Greatorex stands for the Green Party, Clare Body for the Liberal Democrats and Peter Croft for UKIP.

Hitchin North
Parliamentary constituency: Hitchin and Harpenden
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stevenage

John Barry (UKIP)
Judi Billing (Lab)
Lisa Courts (LD)
Alan Millard (C)
Gavin Nicholson (Grn)

May 2013 result Lab 1503 C 1070 Grn 479 LD 217
June 2009 result C 1501 Lab 1495 Grn 804 LD 655 BNP 171
May 2005 result Lab 2840 C 2204 LD 1425 Grn 545

Hitchin Oughton
Parliamentary constituency: Hitchin and Harpenden
Hertfordshire county council division: Hitchin Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stevenage

Clare Body (LD)
Peter Croft (UKIP)
Jacqueline Greatorex (Grn)
Mara MacSeoinin (C)
Frank Radcliffe (Lab) (@RadRedSox)

May 2012 result Lab 638 C 258 Grn 103 LD 50
May 2010 result Lab 888 C 795 LD 461 Grn 138
May 2008 result Lab 640 C 410 LD 108 Grn 99
May 2007 result Lab 643/636 C 326/322 LD 124 Grn 119/89


Charnwood District Council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Dr Matthew Blain, the cabinet member for planning, who wishes to focus on his non-council career.

Cossington, Leicestershire
  © Copyright Kate Jewell and licensed for
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Here we have a large rural ward covering a series of villages to the north of Leicester along the River Wreake and the Fosse Way: Cossington in the south-west, Seagrave to the north-west, Thrussington to the east, Rearsby to the south-east and Ratcliffe on the Weake in the middle.  These are all very strongly Tory villages, and in the three elections since 2003 the Tory vote has not fallen below 74%; all three of those polls have been straight fights with Labour.  The May county council elections don't tell us an awful lot as the ward is split between three county divisions, but all three of those are also safely Conservative.

This by-election is also a straight fight.  The Tories have selected James Poland, from Quorn, who fought Loughborough Dishley and Hathern ward at the 2011 election.  Labour's sacrificial lamb is Steve Brown, vice-chairman of Thurmaston parish council.

Parliamentary constituency: Charnwood
Leicestershire county council divisions: Sileby and the Wolds (Seagrave parish), Syston Fosse (Cossington, Ratcliffe on the Wreake and Thrussington parishes), Syston Ridgeway (Rearsby parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

Steve Brown (Lab)
James Poland (C)

May 2011 result C 904 Lab 253
May 2007 result C 890 Lab 169
May 2003 result C 712 Lab 255

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