Monday, 14 October 2013

By-Election Previews: 17 October 2013

Six by-elections will be held on 17th October.  In the north of England, the Conservatives and Lib Dems have rural seats to defend at opposite ends of Cumbria, while in the south of England the Lib Dems, Labour and the Conservatives defend seats in Luton, Thurrock and Sussex respectively.  On the Welsh Elections blog Labour are on the defensive in a Port Talbot by-election with several bizarre features.


Carlisle City Council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Nicola Clarke who is moving away from the area to be closer to her family.

The Square at Dalston
  © Copyright John Holmes and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is one of Carlisle's rural wards, covering the parishes of Dalston, Cummersdale and St Cuthbert Without immediately to the south of Carlisle.  Dalston, the first stop out of Carlisle on the Cumbrian Coast railway line, is the largest population centre in the ward and has a decent amount of industry, with a Nestl√© factory making powdered milk and a BP fuel depot.  The Dalston parish covers a wide area including the hamlets of Gaitsgill and Raughton Head further up the Caldew valley.  Cummersdale is a small Carlisle dormitory village, while the St Cuthbert Without parish runs along the A6 and West Coast Main Line to the south of Carlisle, including the villages of Wreay, Blackwell and Durdar together with some Carlisle overspill.  Possibly the main reason to visit the ward is Carlisle Racecourse, which is located at Blackwell.

Since 2004 Dalston's three seats have been split between the Tories and Lib Dems, the Conservatives finding themselves unable to unseat Lib Dem councillor Trevor Allison, who has seen his majority increase from one vote at the 2004 election to 552 at the most recent poll in 2012.  A second Lib Dem councillor was elected in 2006 but the Conservatives recovered that seat in 2010, and Nicola Clarke was re-elected in 2011 just as comfortably as Allison was the following year.  The ward is split between two Cumbria county council divsions: at the last county elections in May Allison won the Dalston division with a seven-point lead over the Tories, while in Wetheral division (which includes the St Cuthbert Without parish) the Tories won with UKIP second.

Make of that what you will.  Carlisle-based Michael Randall will try to defend the seat for the Conservatives, while the Lib Dems have selected Dalston resident Michael Gee.  The Labour candidate is Ruth Alcroft, from the village of Aglionby east of Carlisle, while UKIP's nominee is Robert Dickinson, who stood in May's county election in Dalston.  The Greens' James Tucker completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Cumbria county council division: Dalston (Dalston and Cummersdale parishes), Wetheral (St Cuthbert Without parish)
ONS Travel to Work area: Carlisle

Ruth Alcroft (Lab)
Robert Dickinson (UKIP)
Michael Gee (LD)
Michael Randall (C)
James Tucker (Grn)

May 2012 result LD 1033 C 481 Lab 305 UKIP 174
May 2011 result C 1108 LD 500 Lab 478 UKIP 170
May 2010 result C 1715 LD 1241 Lab 658
May 2008 result LD 1151 C 928 Lab 216
May 2007 result C 1037 LD 598 Lab 319
May 2006 result LD 891 C 874 Lab 246
June 2004 result LD 1048 C 1047 Lab 310
May 2003 result C 780 LD 654 Lab 281
May 2002 result C 766 LD 537 Lab 281


South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Mary Orr on medical advice.
"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
Little we see in Nature that it ours
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; 
For this, for everything, we are out of tune; 
It moves us not. --- Great God!  I'd rather be 
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn."

Wordsworth composed those words while wandering through the marshes around the Westmorland village of Heversham, at the head of Morecambe Bay on the Kent estuary.  Heversham, with its twelfth-century church on an eighth-century site, is the southernmost village in the Levens ward, which fills the space between Kendal and Morecambe Bay.  Levens itself lies at the centre of the ward and is known for the Elizabethan manor house of Levens Hall with its fantastical topiary garden.  Levens Hall is still in private hands, but the ward's other stately home, Sizergh Castle in the Helsington parish at the nothern end of the ward, is now in the care of the National Trust although still home to the Strickland family.  The Stricklands were were major landowners in Westmorland and their name is commemorated electorally in the name of one of Kendal's wards.

The local parliamentary constituency, Westmorland and Lonsdale, is now one of the safest constituencies for the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron having increased his majority to enormous proportions at the 2010 election thanks to the substantial Labour vote in Kendal voting tactially Lib Dem almost en bloc.  Levens ward, however, was voting strongly Liberal Democrat long before Farron got into Parliament, and if anything has been swinging towards the Conservatives over the last decade, although it has not yet achieved marginal status.  Mary Orr was elected for the ward in a May 2011 by-election following the death of the previous councillor, and re-elected for a full term in 2012, beating the Conservative candidate 56-40 (the Greens were the only other party to stand).  The ward is split between two county council divisions (Lower Kentdale and Lyth Valley), both of which voted Conservative in May's county election very comfortably.

This by-election is a straight fight.  In the yellow corner is Annie Rawlinson, a businesswoman from Levens who ran the 2013 London Marathon in aid of the Samaritans.  In the blue corner is the Tories' 2012 candidate for the ward, Brian Rendell from Leasgill in Heversham parish.  Seconds out!

Parliamentary constituency: Westmorland and Lonsdale
Cumbria county council division: Lyth Valley (Helsington and Levens parishes), Lower Kentdale (Heversham parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kendal

Annie Rawlinson (LD)
Brian Rendell (C)

May 2012 result LD 635 C 458 Grn 45
May 2011 by-election LD 667 C 472 Lab 58
May 2008 result LD 737 C 412


Luton Council, Bedfordshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Pantling to take up a new career which is incompatible with his remaining a councillor.

Luton: Fairford Avenue
  © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
North-eastern Luton this, along the A6 to Bedford and possibly best known for Barnfield College, Bedfordshire's largest FE college.  Politically this was a safe Lib Dem ward during the last Labour government with the Conservatives running second, but in 2011 Labour came from fourth place to split the ward's two seats.  Pantling was top of the poll 96 votes ahead of his running mate, who was beaten by the leading Labour candidate by just 14 votes.  The Tories, who always poll around 600-700 votes here, fell to third place but the lead Conservative candidate still finished in front of the second Labour candidate.

So a tough fight is in prospect where all three parties will fancy their chances.  Clive Mead, a former councillor for Challney ward who lost his seat in the 2011 election, defends the Lib Dem seat.  Francis Steer stands for the Labour Party and the Tories have selected local chartered account Geoff Simons.  Completing the ballot paper is the Greens' Simon Hall.

Parliamentary constituency: Luton North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford

Simon Hall (Grn)
Clive Mead (LD)
Geoff Simons (C)
Francis Steer (Lab)

May 2011 result LD 904/808 Lab 822/679 C 691/657 Grn 171
May 2007 result LD 1074/1050 C 665/639 Ind 501 Lab 288/269 UKIP 137 Grn 124
May 2003 result LD 1001/887 C 698/614 Lab 285/261


Thurrock Council, Essex; caused by the death of Labour councillor Diana Hale at the age of 66.  Hale had served as a Thurrock councillor from 1988 to 1997, before being forced to resign to become principal of Thurrock Adult Community College; she returned to the council in 2007.

Houses on Stifford Clays Road
  © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is a residential area at the north end of Grays, off the A13 dual carriageway, about which I have very little to say.  So we'll move straight on to discussion of the ward's politics, which are more interesting.  This ward was a key marginal on Thurrock council during the tail end of the last Labour government: the Conservatives won the ward's two seats at the 2004 election (when the current boundaries were introduced) with majorities of 127 and 95 over Labour and held off Labour in 2006 by 34 votes.  Labour gained one of the Conservative seats in 2007 by 130 votes, in an election which saw a very high third-place BNP vote of 24%, and followed up in 2010 by gaining the second seat with a majority of 76.  The formation of the Coalition greatly reduced the area's Conservative vote and Labour's majority increased to 354 at the most recent election in this ward in 2011, UKIP finishing close behind the Conservatives in third place.

Labour's current majority control of Thurrock Council will be on the line in this contest with them currently holding 24 seats to the Conservatives' 21 and three independents, with the vacant seat holding the balance of power.

Defending for Labour is Sue Shinnick, an outsourced council administrator.  The Conservatives have selected former councillor and Kent county council officer Danny Nicklen, who still lives in his former ward in Stanford-le-Hope.  UKIP's candidate Clive Broad will hope to improve on the 24% and third place he achieved here in 2011.  The ballot paper is completed by Liberal Democrat candidate Ken Mulroue.

Parliamentary constituency: Thurrock
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Clive Broad (UKIP)
Ken Mulroue (LD)
Danny Nicklen (C)
Susan Shinnick (Lab)

May 2011 result Lab 877 C 523 UKIP 475 LD 68
May 2010 result Lab 1184 C 1108 UKIP 642 BNP 249
May 2007 result Lab 762 C 632 BNP 435
May 2006 result C 829 Lab 795 LD 296
June 2004 result C 788/756 Lab 661/645


Chichester District Council, West Sussex; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Maureen Elliott.

The Square, Westbourne
  © Copyright Simon Carey and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
For our final by-election this week we travel to the most westerly village in Sussex, hard up against the River Ems which forms the border with Hampshire.  This village is aptly named Westbourne, and its parish has the same boundaries as the Westbourne ward of Chichester district.  Westbourne's claim to fame is that the churchyard has England's oldest yew avenue.  Part of the parish (including the hamlet of Aldsworth) lies within the South Downs National Park.

To describe Chichester politics I can do little better than quote Anthony Wells, who stated in his Almanac of British Poltiics that even once the revolution comes the Chichester Workers' Soviet would be Conservative.  Thus are Westbourne politics; since the turn of the century the closest the Tories have come to losing the ward was at the most recent election in 2011, when they beat a Liberal Democrat candidate 62-38.  However, local politics became interesting this year when UKIP gained the local county division (Bourne) from the Conservatives by 83 votes.

What effect will this have on the by-election?  Hoping "not a lot" is the defeated county councillor from May, Mark Dunn, who is the Conservative candidate for the ward by-election; he is from the village of Stoughton, in the South Downs to the north-east.  Southbourne parish councillor, writer and historian Philip MacDougall is the Liberal Democrat candidate.  UKIP's candidate is Alicia Denne, from Bosham on Chichester Harbour.  Also standing in the by-election are former Labour PPC Andrew Emerson for a new far-right outfit called Patria, and Green Party nominee Thomas French.

Parliamentary constituency: Chichester
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chichester and Bognor Regis
West Sussex county council division: Bourne

Alicia Denne (UKIP)
Mark Dunn (C)
Andrew Emerson (Patria)
Thomas French (Grn)
Philip MacDougall (LD)

May 2011 result C 515 LD 315
May 2007 result C 445 LD 172
May 2003 result C 391 Lab 122 UKIP 101

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