After four by-elections in the South of England last week, for the second week of October it's the turn of the North with eight by-elections, none of them further south than Staffordshire. The Tories will try to hold that Staffordshire seat together with a marginal North Yorkshire county council division and a seat in polarised West Lancashire. In fact there is a distinct Lancashire bias this week with Labour having two seats up for election within the M60 Manchester orbital motorway, together with a seat on the wrong side of the Pennines in Barnsley. The Tories and Labour also have a seat each to defend in Scotland.
ANCOATS AND CLAYTON
Manchester City Council; caused by the resignation of the deputy leader of the council, Labour councillor Jim Battle, in order to become deputy police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester.
Ancoats: one of the bywords for the Industrial Revolution. Immediately to the north-east of Manchester city centre, Ancoats was the world's first industrial suburb. The development of the Rochdale Canal and the area's proximity to Manchester led to the building of an enormous number of cotton mills and other industrial works (foundries, glass, aeroplanes). All these required people to man them, and they came in their thousands, particularly from Ireland and Italy; the 1851 census found Ancoats having a greater population than Bury and Blackburn, and almost half of the area's men had been born in Ireland. The last industry to move in here was newspaper printing in 1939, with the Daily Express opening a printing works in a building which still looks futuristic today.
But by 1939 Ancoats was already in decline as its industry started to die off, and from the 1960s onwards the terraces which dominated the area, and had turned into slums, were cleared. The closure of the newspaper works in 1989 sparked the first attempts at regeneration, but these were initially frustrated by, of all things, Manchester's bids for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games which led to speculators buying property in the area and then, when the bids came to naught, leaving it to rot. Nonetheless it wasn't all a failure: the Manchester Velodrome was built for the bids and was the UK's only Olympic-standard velodrome until London 2012, and the work behind those bids eventually came to fruition with the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which led to the development of the City of Manchester Stadium (now home to Manchester City football club) and the associated "Sportcity" development.
Sportcity, the Velodrome and Philips Park (Manchester's first public park) effectively cut off Ancoats from the eastern suburb of Clayton on the Ashton New Road, another area being redeveloped; the new Metrolink line to Droylsden and (eventually) Ashton-under-Lyne runs along the Ashton New Road.
This is, of course, a strongly Labour ward and it's now more than three years since anybody other than Labour won a ward anywhere in the city of Manchester. There was some Liberal Democrat activism around the turn of the century in the old Beswick and Clayton ward, and the Lib Dems came reasonably close to Labour in the 2004 and 2006 elections, but their vote has fallen away since then, first gradually, then off a cliff after the Coalition was formed. At the most recent election in 2012 Labour polled 74% of the vote here, the Greens being best of the rest on just 9%.
So Labour candidate Donna Ludford shouldn't have too much to worry about; she is a GMB member from Moston who was prominent in the campaign to save Miles Platting swimming pool from closure. Her opposition is Pete Birkinshaw, the regular Green Party candidate for the ward, from central Manchester; Tory candidate Nicholas Savage, who works in e-learning at the University of Manchester and fought his home Fallowfield ward last year; the Lib Dems' John Bridges, a former city councillor from Levenshulme; the Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye, standing in his home ward; the BNP's Gareth Black, from central Manchester; and UKIP's Adrienne Shaw, who gives an address all the way out in Denton.
Parliamentary constituency: Manchester Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Pete Birkinshaw (Grn)
Gareth Black (BNP)
John Bridges (LD)
Loz Kaye (Pirate)
Donna Ludford (Lab)
Nicholas Savage (C)
Adrienne Shaw (UKIP)
May 2012 result Lab 1862 Grn 215 C 173 LD 100 TUSC 82 Pirate 75
May 2011 result Lab 2202 Grn 369 C 278 LD 220
May 2010 result Lab 2845 LD 1265 C 678 Grn 404
May 2008 result Lab 1428 LD 403 C 334 Grn 226
May 2007 result Lab 1518 LD 473 Grn 148 C 135 Ind 76
May 2006 result Lab 1463 LD 1235 C 136 Grn 126 Ind 71
June 2004 result Lab 1406/1385/1330 LD 1237/1216/1028 C 157/153/135 Grn 144/124/100 Ind 108
WEASTE AND SEEDLEY
Salford City Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Thomas Murphy.
Have we been here before? Yes we have. This is the second by-election in Weaste and Seedley since May.
When your columnist was nobbut a lad, his mum worked as a school secretary at Hope High School on Eccles Old Road, just up the hill from Hope Hospital, where many of Salford's residents begin and end their days. Times have changed since then: Hope Hospital has been renamed Salford Royal Hospital and comprehensively redeveloped, while Hope High - always a challenging school to run because of the nature of the local kids - became an academy and moved last year to a new site behind the shiny new BBC buildings at MediaCityUK, on the banks of the Ship Canal.
MediaCity is just outside the south-east corner of Weaste and Seedley ward, and beyond MediaCity is the point where there is still some industry on the banks of the Ship Canal. Going north from the canal, we first meet the Eccles New Road with its tramline (Ladywell, Weaste and Langworthy stops are all within the ward boundary), then the roaring chasm that contains the Liverpool and Manchester railway and the M602 motorway. Immediately to the north of the motorway the main residential part of the ward begins, still dominated by the sort of Coronation Street-like terraced housing that is becoming more and more scarce within the M60. It can't be denied that this is the model of a deprived inner-city ward, but there are some relatively nice bits, particularly once you get north of Eccles Old Road. There are far more deprived wards in Salford than this.
During the Blair and Brown years Weaste and Seedley ward was a consistently close fight between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, the Lib Dems finally breaking through with new ward boundaries in 2004 to take the ward's three seats off Labour. Labour had to wait until 2010 to get the ward back, and since then it has been plain sailing for Labour as the formation of the Coalition led to the disintegration of the Lib Dem vote in Salford. It won't have helped the Lib Dems that their former ward councillor Geoff Ainsworth ran for re-election in 2011 as an Independent, beating the official Lib Dem candidate into third place. The last by-election, held on 20th June, introduced another twist into the tale with UKIP finishing a strong second to Labour.
Defending for Labour this time is Stephen Hesling, an advice worker who is Weaste born and bred. Further education teacher Glyn Wright, the UKIP candidate, is one of five candidates reselected after fighting the June by-election, along with Adam Kennaugh (Conservative, hospital consultant), Kay Pollitt (BNP), Matt Simpson (independent) and Terry Simmons (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition). The only party other than Labour to have changed their candidate is the Greens, who have selected local businessman Andrew Olsen. After an appalling performance in the June by-election (finishing seventh out of nine candidates with just 3.3%) the Lib Dems have thrown in the towel.
Parliamentary constituency: Salford and Eccles
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Stephen Hesling (Lab)
Adam Kennaugh (C)
Andrew Olsen (Grn)
Kay Pollitt (BNP)
Terry Simmons (TUSC)
Matt Simpson (Ind)
Glyn Wright (UKIP)
June 2013 by-election Lab 785 UKIP 401 C 260 Grn 80 BNP 74 Ind 64 LD 58 TUSC 30 Ind 15
May 2012 result Lab 1240 LD 424 C 287 BNP 197 CA 119
May 2011 result Lab 1333 Ind 439 LD 406 C 377 Grn 222
May 2010 result Lab 1884 LD 1623 C 941
May 2008 result LD 1282 Lab 682 C 478
May 2007 result LD 1086 Lab 997 C 328
May 2006 result LD 1003 Lab 888 C 345
June 2004 result LD 1298/1264/1158 Lab 916/907/796 C 538
West Lancashire Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Barbara Kean, who had served on the council since 2010.
For the third Lancashire by-election this week we travel north-west to Parbold, the point where the River Douglas breaks out of the Lancashire hills onto the wide flat plain of West Lancashire. Parbold itself lies at the foot of Parbold Hill, a well-known viewpoint with wide views over Liverpool and beyond to the Welsh mountains. This geographical position meant that the village was a natural choice to build the Leeds and Liverpool Canal through on its way to Wigan; while the canal enabled local coal and sandstone to be exported, Parbold really started to grow with the coming of the railways; the village is a calling point on the line from Manchester and Wigan to Southport and as a result Parbold grew into a commuter village.
The modern Parbold ward also includes the parishes of Dalton to the south and Hilldale and Bispham to the north. Its commuter profile means that it is definitely on the Conservative side of the hilariously polarised West Lancashire council, nearly all of whose wards are either incredibly Tory (in the rural areas) or incredibly Labour (in Skelmersdale) with very few marginal areas (chiefly in Ormskirk and Burscough). The Conservative vote in Parbold peaked at 78% in 2007, in a straight fight with Labour, and the most recent district result in 2011 the Tories still beat Labour 68-32. The local county council division (confusingly called West Lancashire East) has a similar elctoral profile.
So the new Conservative candidate should have little to worry about. He is David Whittington, a Hilldale parish councillor from the village of Mawdesley to the north. The Labour candidate is Parbold resident Clare Gillard, and UKIP are fighting the ward for the first time in the shape of Damon Noone, from Skem.
Parliamentary constituency: West Lancashire
Lancashire county council division: West Lancashire East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Clare Gillard (Lab)
Damon Noone (UKIP)
David Whittington (C)
May 2011 result C 1062 Lab 502
May 2010 result C 1477 Lab 864
May 2007 result C 992 Lab 277
May 2006 result C 980 Lab 335
May 2003 result C 749 Ind 341 Lab 183
May 2002 result C 935/920 Lab 305
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Graham Kyte.
Over to the wrong side of the Pennines we go. Royston, a few miles north of Barnsley, is one of the ex-pit villages that dominate the South Yorkshire coalfield. Although the mine has gone, coal is still part of the village's economy, with a coke works here processing coal from elsewhere. Obviously this is a very safe Labour ward and the party polled 67% at the most recent election in 2012. Since 2011 UKIP have been best of the rest here; they polled 14% at the 2012 election.
Defending for Labour is Caroline Makinson, while UKIP have re-selected James Johnson who fought the 2012 election here. Paul Buckley stands for the Conservatives, while English Democrat Justin Saxton and BNP candidate Mark Baker will dispute the nationalist vote.
Parliamentary constituency: Barnsley Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnsley
Mark Baker (BNP)
Paul Buckley (C)
James Johnson (UKIP)
Caroline Makinson (Lab)
Justin Saxton (EDP)
May 2012 result Lab 1573 UKIP 322 Ind 248 C 117 EDP 73
May 2011 result Lab 1570 UKIP 450 C 244 LD 148 Soc Lab 114 BNP 113
May 2010 result Lab 2175 LD 1078 C 628 BNP 564 Barnsley Ind Group 274
May 2008 result Lab 1202 LD 513 BNP 392 C 263 Barnsley Ind Group 195
May 2007 result Lab 1115 LD 531 BNP 332 Barnsley Ind Group 299 C 215
May 2006 result Lab 959 Barnsley Ind Group 464 LD 437 BNP 393 C 197
June 2004 result Lab 1510/1345/1266 Ind 952 C 511 BNP 480
North Yorkshire County Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Margaret Hulme at the age of 81, while on a family holiday in Crete. Cllr Hulme had represented South Selby since 1997 and had previously won a 1991 by-election in the former Selby Rural division.
This is a seriously misnamed division, as it actually consists of two separate areas to the east and south-east of Selby, cut off from each other by the River Ouse which does not have a crossing point here. North of the Ouse is the Hemingbrough ward of Selby district, covering a series of villages on the Selby-Howden road between the Ouse and Derwent rivers: the Cliffe and Hemingbrough parishes and part of the Barlby with Osgodby parish. South of the Ouse, between the Ouse and Aire rivers is Selby district's Camblesforth ward, a sparsely populated area but one which is very important for the UK's economy: this division includes the coal-fired Drax Power Station, Britain's single biggest producer of both electricity and carbon dioxide and the second-largest coal-fired plant in Europe. This area is divided into the parishes of Camblesforth, Carlton, Drax, Long Drax and Newland.
The presence of Drax power station turns this ward from safe Tory into a key marginal with a history of close results: the Tories beat Labour 53-47 at the 2005 election (held simultaneously with the general election) and 40-34 at the 2013 election. The two district wards vote pretty much as you would expect them to. Camblesforth has split representation Conservative/Labour, while Hemingbrough always returns Conservative councillors but not always safely: the second Tory seat came under pressure at the 2011 election from independent Hemingbrough parish councillor David McSherry - who, to add spice, is a former Tory councillor for the ward and ex-husband of Tory ward councillor Kay McSherry, the present leader of Selby district council.
So, an interesting fight is in prospect. Defending for the Conservatives is Mike Jordan who is a district councillor for his home ward of Sherburn in Elmet, about 20km away at the other end of the district. Labour may be regretting their selection of their Camblesforth ward councillor Rod Price, from Carlton, after he was forced to apologise for tweeting during the campaign that his opponents were "a fascist, a crypto-fascist and an independent". David McSherry is having another go at getting elected to the county council after polling 18% as an independent in May, while UKIP have selected their local branch chairman, Selby-based Colin Heath.
Parliamentary constituency: Selby and Ainsty
Selby district council wards: Camblesforth, Hemingbrough
ONS Travel to Work Area: York
Colin Heath (UKIP)
Mike Jordan (C)
David McSherry (Ind)
Rod Price (Lab)
May 2013 result C 740 Lab 633 Ind 336 Grn 131
June 2009 result C 1580 Lab 640
May 2005 result C 2129 Lab 1886
BREWOOD AND COVEN
South Staffordshire District Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ivor Clay.
For our final English by-election of the week we travel south to Brewood and Coven in Staffordshire. Brewood (pronounced Brood) is a Wolverhampton commuter village, located about six miles north of the city on the Shropshire Union Canal and with a hilariously long Wikipedia entry. This ward covers about three-quarters of the parish of Brewood and Coven (a small village off the A449 Wolverhampton-Stafford road), lying south of the A5 Watling Street, generally west of the A449 and generally north of the M54 Telford motorway, and includes the Georgian stately home of Chillington Hall.
Recent district council elections in the ward have been Conservative versus Independent battles: the Conservatives have always held two of the three seats, but independent candidate Andy Ball took the third seat from the Tories at the 2007 election, topping the poll, before being defeated in his turn in 2011. The local county division (Brewood) was safe Conservative in May with UKIP second.
Defending for the Conservatives is Brewood-based Wendy Sutton, wife of county councillor Mark Sutton. The new independent candidate is parish councillor Moira Alden-Court, from Coven. Also from Coven is the Labour candidate Lorna Jones, top of the two Labour candidates in 2011 who also fought the county seat in 2013, as did UKIP's Christopher Lenton, from Cheslyn Hay.
Parliamentary constituency: South Staffordshire
Staffordshire county council division: Brewood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton
Moira Alden-Court (Ind)
Lorna Jones (Lab)
Christopher Lenton (UKIP)
Wendy Sutton (C)
May 2011 result C 1369/1221/1193 Ind 941 Lab 765/661
May 2007 result Ind 1128 C 1018/992/989 Lab 514
May 2003 result C 1054/1034/960 Lab 762/619/385