Wednesday, 23 October 2013

By-Elections Previews: 24 October 2013

Ten by-elections are to be held on 24th October 2013.  Labour have three English defences, in Loughborough, in Wigan and on the Wirral.  The Tories will defend seats in West Sussex, Havant and Leicestershire, and will also try to recover a seat in Devon where the retiring councillor had gone Independent.  There is one Lib Dem defence, in Norfolk, and two by-elections in Scotland which will be covered on the Scottish Elections blog: a Labour seat in Dunfermline and an SNP seat in Hamilton are up for election.  Also in this week's column are two examples of nominative determinism and one terrible Eurovision joke.

West Sussex County Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mick Hodgson.  A chartered surveyor by profession, Hodgson had served on the county council since 2001; he had formerly been vice-chairman of the county council and chairman of Warnham parish council.

The Plough at Rusper
  © Copyright Richard Rogerson and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is a curiously-shaped rural division, wrapping around the north side of Horsham like a pair of earmuffs; an area of villages with no one settlement dominating.  To the west of Horsham are the parishes of Warnham, Slinfold and Rudgwick, with Rusper lying to the north-east and Colgate to the east of Horsham.

This is all very Tory countryside and the Conservatives were not seriously challenged here at the 2013 election, although there was a swing from them to UKIP who consolidated their second place in the division.  The three Horsham district council wards covered by the division were all very safe for the Conservatives at the most recent district council election in 2011, and the Tories have held all four district council seats since 2007 when they easily gained the Lib Dem seat in Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham ward.

Defending for the Conservatives is Liz Kitchen, who is the long-serving Horsham district councillor for Rusper and Colgate ward and lives in Rusper.  Geoff Stevens, from Billingshurst, tries again for UKIP after his second-placed finish in May.  The other three candidates all give Horsham addresses: they are solicitor and former Horsham district councillor Tony Millson for the Liberal Democrats, who fought a Crawley division in May and failed to crack 100 votes; Green candidate Darrin Green, in this week's first example of nominative determinism; and Labour's Carol Hayton.

Parliamentary constituency: Horsham
Horsham district council wards: Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham; Rudgwick; Rusper and Colgate
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley

Darrin Green (Grn)
Carol Hayton (Lab)
Liz Kitchen (C)
Tony Millson (LD)
Geoff Stevens (UKIP)

May 2013 result C 1228 UKIP 673 LD 331
June 2009 result C 1783 UKIP 583 LD 535 Lab 125

Havant Borough Council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor John Hunt due to poor health.

Clock in Waterlooville
  © Copyright Peter Facey and
licensed for reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This ward covers the centre of Waterlooville, one of the towns in the South Hampshire conurbation which have merged into each other.  The strange name is believed to have come from the pub in the town centre on the old London-Portsmouth road, the "Heroes of Waterloo"; it is said that many Waterloo veterans settled in the area after disembarking at Portsmouth.  Whatever the truth of this, the town's proximity to Portsmouth has ensured its prosperity; GEC manufactured torpedoes here for a while from the 1980s.

The Waterloo ward has voted heavily Conservative throughout the noughties, which makes the first result on these boundaries - an uncontested election in 2002, the Tories winning two seats and the Lib Dems one - rather strange in retrospect.  The Tories gained the Lib Dem seat in 2004 and have not come close to losing since; at the 2012 poll the Lib Dems fell behind Labour here for the first time this century.  The local county division (Waterloo and Stakes North) is also safely Conservative but UKIP had a decent second-place vote in May's county elections.

Four new candidates will be finally facing their Waterloo in this by-election.  Peter Wade defends for the Conservatives; he is up against Anthony Berry for Labour, the Lib Dems' David Crichton (chairman of the Waterlooville Community Forum) and UKIP's Gary Kerrin (from Hayling Island).

Parliamentary constituency: Meon Valley
Hampshire county council division: Waterloo and Stakes North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth

Anthony Berry (Lab)
David Crichton (LD)
Gary Kerrin (UKIP)
Peter Wade (C)

May 2012 result C 1334 Lab 524 LD 356
May 2011 result C 2216 LD 440 Grn 259
May 2010 result C 2922 LD 1646 Lab 466 Grn 205
May 2008 result C 1808 LD 497 Lab 271
May 2007 result C 1861 LD 471 Lab 238
May 2006 result C 1683 LD 525 Lab 308
June 2004 result C 1661 LD 626 Lab 306 Grn 244
Nov 2003 by-election C 1083 LD 401 Lab 169
May 2003 result C 1411 LD 623
May 2002 result 2C/1LD unopposed

Teignbridge District Council, Devon; caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Fernley Holmes, who is retiring after forty years' service on the council.  Holmes was one of the original Teignbridge councillors of 1973 and had served continuously since then.  Although he was sitting as an independent at the time of his retirement he was most recently re-elected as a Conservative.

Bovey Tracey: Fore Street
  © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
A market town since ancient times, the "Gateway to the Moor" is named after the Tracey family, lords of the manor following the Norman conquest.  Probably the most important part of the town's history is the Civil War battle of Bovey Heath in January 1646, a decisive Roundhead victory.  The Heath is no longer what it was in 1646 thanks to opencast ball clay mining and the expansion of the village of Heathfield off the A38, the main road through South Devon.  Heathfield and Bovey Tracey form the main population centres in Bovey ward, which also includes the parish of Lustleigh, further up the Bovey valley within the Dartmoor National Park.

Since 2003 the Conservatives have held at least two of the ward's three district council seats.  In 2003 the third seat was held by Holmes himself, who was not opposed by the Tories and topped the poll.  Holmes stood under the Conservative banner in 2007 but the Tories failed to capitalise as the third seat was won by the Lib Dems' Sally Morgan, the local county councillor unil 2009, who topped the poll in a rather close result.  Morgan lost her seat to the Tories in 2011, who then had a clean sweep of the ward's three councillors until Holmes went off and became Independent again.  Another Tory district councillor for the ward, George Gribble, was easily re-elected for the Bovey Tracey Rural county council division this May with UKIP a distant second.

There is no independent candidate in the by-election so the seat us up for grabs.  The Conservatives have selected Bovey Tracey town councillor Avril Kerswell.  The Lib Dems' Charlie West is standing here after contesting the neighbouring Haytor ward in 2011.  Regular Labour candidate Lisa Robillard West is the only candidate from 2011 to try again, while UKIP have selected their county council candidate from May, Bruce Meechan.  All four candidates are from Bovey Tracey.

Parliamentary constituency: Central Devon
Devon county council division: Bovey Tracey Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter and Newton Abbot

Avril Kerswell (C)
Bruce Meechan (UKIP)
Lisa Robillard Webb (Lab)
Charlie West (LD)

May 2011 result C 1682/1493/1452 LD 1131/897/843 Ind 483 Grn 348 Lab 330/303/298 UKIP 300
May 2007 result LD 1554/1302/1301 C 1466/1457/1190
May 2003 result Ind 1570 C 1402/1195 Lab 640

Norfolk County Council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Ed Foss, after just three months in office, due to a change in work commitments.

North Walsham
  © Copyright Janet Tench and licensed for
reuse under this 
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Off to deepest darkest Norfolk we go.  North Walsham is the largest town in inland North Norfolk with a population of around 12,000.  It became a very prosperous textile town in mediaeval times and much of that wealth went into the local church: the fourteenth-century St Nicholas North Walsham is one of the largest parish churches in the UK, even allowing for the fact that its tower is still in a ruined state after collapsing in the eighteenth century.  Another event of significance here in the fourteenth century was the Battle of North Walsham, the last major action in the Peasant's Revolt of 1381.  Since mediaeval times North Walsham is most famous for its association with Horatio Nelson, who was educated at the town's Paston Grammar School until the age of 12.

North Walsham itself provides four-fifths of the electorate in this county division, with the other fifth contained in five parishes (Dilham, Honing, Witton, Walcott and Happisburgh) collected into the deeply rural Happisburgh ward, named after a coastal village but including a signifcant inland area, part of which lies within the Broads National Park.

This is a strongly Lib Dem area, which until May this year was the division of the Lib Dems' county council group leader.  Even in May it was safe; although the Lib Dems only polled 35% of the vote they were 12 points ahead of UKIP with Labour third and the Tories falling from second place to fourth.  The Lib Dems have held all five district council seats in the division for some years, although the most recent district election in 2011 (in which they polled almost 80% in Happisburgh) is not easily comparable as there were no Conservative candidates in any of the wards covered by the division.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Eric Seward, district councillor for North Walsham North ward.  Lynette Comber, from Bodham near Sheringham, tries again for UKIP after her second-place finish in May.  The Labour candidate is Stephen Burke from Happisburgh, co-chairman of the charity Grandparents Plus.  The Tories hope to bounce back with the selection of the deputy leader of North Norfolk district council Rhodri Oliver, who is still in his early twenties; he is a ward councillor in Sheringham.  North Walsham-based Paul Oakes tries again for the Green Party after finishing last in May, and Graham Jones, from Antingham on the road to Cromer, stands as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: North Norfolk
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cromer and Sheringham

Stephen Burke (Lab)
Lynette Comber (UKIP)
Graham Jones (Ind)
Paul Oakes (Grn)
Rhodri Oliver (C)
Eric Seward (LD)

May 2013 result LD 1068 UKIP 705 Lab 645 C 500 Grn 124
June 2009 result LD 1909 C 880 UKIP 464 Grn 201 Lab 189
May 2005 result LD 2915 C 1883 Lab 933 EDP 220

Charnwood District Council, Leicestershire; caused respectively by the resignation of Labour councillor Jitu Choudhury and the death of Conservative councillor Bernard Burr at the age of 82.  Burr was a veteran of local government who was first elected in 1966 to the former Shepshed Urban District Council and had served on and off on Charnwood council since 1987, including as Mayor of Charnwood in 2011/2; a London native, he came to Shepshed to work for the fashion house Jaeger after working in the motor industry and as a semi-professional footballer.

Signalbox on the Great Central
Railway at Loughborough

  © Copyright Stefan Czapski and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Charnwood is having a rash of by-elections at the moment: there were two in September, and here are two more.  We start off alphabetically in Loughborough Hastings, which is Loughborough's eastern ward, including part of the town centre and based around the preserved Great Central Railway station.  This is a generally low-lying area and more than half of the ward is left empty as flood plain.  Shepshed, on the other hand, is an independent town west of Loughborough on the opposite side of the M1 motorway.

Shepshed West is a key marginal ward on the council.  In the 2011 election the Conservatives did well to hold their two seats with majorities of 66 and 26, after gaining the ward from Labour in 2007 with majorities of 96 and 51.  Loughborough Hastings, by contrast, is safe Labour; at the 2011 election Labour beat the Tories here 66-34 in a straight fight.  May's county council elections had similar results in the two divisions concerned, Labour easily holding Loughborough Hastings and the Tories narrowly holding Shepshed.

The Shepshed West poll is contested only by the three main parties, all of whom have selected candidates who are Shepshed town councillors.  Joan Tassell defends for the Conservatives, Jane Lennie challenges for Labour and Diane Horn for the Liberal Democrats.

For the Loughborough Hastings by-election Labour's defending candidate is Sarah Maynard Smith, who fought her home division (Rothley and Mountsorrel) in May's county council elections.  Regular Conservative candidate Judith Spence (from Barrow upon Soar, where she is a parish councillor) tries again.  The Lib Dems have selected Simon Atkins, UKIP have gone for Quorn-based Andy McWilliam who performed well at a September by-election in another Loughborough ward, and Kevan Stafford stands for the British Democratic Party, a new far-right movement led by former BNP MEP Andrew Brons.

Loughborough Hastings
Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Loughborough East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

Simon Atkins (LD)
Sarah Maynard Smith (Lab)
Andy McWilliam (UKIP)
Judith Spence (C)
Kevan Stafford (British Democratic Party)

May 2011 result Lab 1163/1104 C 612/492
May 2007 result Lab 799/769 C 529/507
May 2003 result Lab 836/693 LD 333 C 272

Shepshed West
Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Shepshed
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

Diane Horn (LD)
Jane Lennie (Lab)
Joan Tassell (C)

May 2011 result C 1000/960 Lab 934/801 LD 481/396
May 2007 result C 722/677 Lab 626/560 BNP 540 LD 522/411
May 2003 result Lab 601/600 C 507/422 LD 239/179

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Sylvia Hodrien due to poor health.

The Stonehouse, Ford Road, Upton Village
  © Copyright El Pollock and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
In the geographic centre of the Wirral, Upton these days is essentially that bit of Birkenhead which lies to the west of the M53 motorway.  During Victorian times Upton became associated with the shipping magnate William Inman, owner of the Inman Line, who lived here.  The Upton ward includes Woodchurch, essentially a large post-war council estate built by Birkenhead Corporation, with employment provided by a factory which made spark plugs - this closed in 2006.

This combination of relatively middle-class suburbia (Liverpool city centre is just a quarter of an hour away via the M53 motorway and Wallasey Tunnel) and more working-class social housing makes for a classic key marginal where swings are low.  Add to that its presence in a key marginal parliamentary seat (Wirral West) and you have a hard-fought area.  Despite some close results in the Brown era, Labour have always had the edge over the Tories in this ward; it took the Labour nadir of 2008 for the Conservatives to win, and that win was by only four votes.  Labour convincingly regained the Tory seat at the 2012 election.

Labour have selected a young candidate, Matthew Patrick, to defend the by-election.  The Conservative candidate is Geoffrey Gubb, who fought this ward in 2011 and since then has stood for Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner.  Also standing are Hoylake-based Jim McGinley for the Green Party and the Lib Dems' Alan Davies, from Prenton.

Parliamentary constituency: Wirral West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wirral and Ellesmere Port

Alan Davies (LD)
Geoffrey Gubb (C)
Jim McGinley (Grn)
Matthew Patrick (Lab)

May 2012 result Lab 2504 C 948 UKIP 381 Grn 205 LD 164
May 2011 result Lab 2850 C 1495 LD 226 UKIP 221 Grn 158
May 2010 result Lab 3827 C 2143 LD 1370 Grn 286
May 2008 result C 1861 Lab 1857 LD 451 Grn 256
May 2007 result Lab 1931 C 1734 LD 575 Grn 244
May 2006 result Lab 1716 C 1424 LD 991 Grn 262
June 2004 result Lab 2140/2065/1829 C 1300/1261/1160 LD 1086/945/903 Grn 396

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of Labour councillor Rona Winkworth.  Chair of governors at Winstanley primary school, Winkworth had served as Mayor of Wigan in 2008/9.

Cottages on Pemberton Road Winstanley
  © Copyright Raymond Knapman and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is one of those small towns which characterise the Wigan metropolitan borough.  These days Winstanley is essentially a residential and commuter area, just south-west of Wigan on the road to St Helens.

Winstanley was one of the strong areas for the Community Action Party, essentially a group of anti-Labour independents led by the Franzen family, which had some strength in Wigan during the Blair and Brown years.  It was one of only two wards won by Community Action in 2008, the last time that party won any seats.  When the current ward boundaries were introduced in 2004 Community Action and Labour split the three seats in Winstanley 2-1, and Labour easily gained the Community Action seats here in 2010 and 2012.

Marie Morgan is the defending Labour candidate for the ward; a customer service worker for RBS in Wigan, she is the wife of Clive Morgan, one of the two remaining councillors for the ward.  Stan Barnes, the Community Action councillor who lost his seat in 2012, wants it back.  Steven Heyes is the Green candidate and, in this week's second example of nominative determinism, the Conservatives have selected former Wigan councillor Michael Winstanley for Winstanley; he is an NHS analyst from Ashton-in-Makerfield and was the Tory candidate for Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner.  Also standing are independent candidate David Bowker, Andrew Collinson for UKIP and John Skipworth for the Liberal Democrats, who are fighting this ward for the first time.

Parliamentary constituency: Makerfield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan

Stan Barnes (CA)
David Bowker (Ind)
Andrew Collinson (UKIP)
Steven Heyes (Grn)
Maria Morgan (Lab)
John Skipworth (LD)
Michael Winstanley (C)

May 2012 result Lab 1216 CA 798 Grn 237 C 234
May 2011 result Lab 1509 Ind 1066 C 552
May 2010 result Lab 2465 Ind 1279 C 852 CA 433 BNP 376 UKIP 261
May 2008 result CA 1226 Lab 869 C 508
May 2007 result Lab 1224 CA 1109 C 482
May 2006 result CA 1160 Lab 905 C 382 UKIP 215
June 2004 result CA 1810/1330/1299 Lab 1393/1000/993 C 525

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