Thursday, 28 November 2013

By-Election Previews: 28 November 2013

There are five seats up for grabs across England this week, as well as one vacancy that has returned the Conservative candidate unopposed, while a by-election in the very northernmost ward of the UK mainland will be covered over on the Scottish Elections blog.

St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Alison Bacon.  Bacon's resignation came in May, so this by-election has taken an unusually long time to be called.

The Billinge Arms, Billinge
  © Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for
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A few weeks back we had a by-election in Winstanley, the first village out of Wigan on the road to Sentelens.  This week we travel a little further along that road over the Merseyside boundary to the village of Billinge, on a hilltop location overlooking the Merseyside conurbation; Billinge Hill is the highest point of Merseyside at 587 feet, with views all over north-west England and even as far as Snowdonia.

The Billinge Chapel End parish, which covers the village, is combined for electoral purposes with the parish of Seneley Green, or, as it's known to everyone else, Garswood.  Effectively a suburb of Ashton-in-Makerfield, Garswood has more of a commuter profile, lying as it does on the Wigan to Liverpool railway line.

The area's economy is historically based on coal-mining, although the coal here was close enough to the surface for drift mining to be preferred to deep mining, and there is still some opencast mining going on in the area.  That coal-mining history creates a Labour history in the ward, and Labour have won every contest in Billinge and Seneley Green since the last boundary changes in 2004 (including an October 2010 by-election), although they came within 43 votes of losing the ward to the Conservatives at the Labour nadir of 2008.  In recent years the opposition vote has fallen back and Labour can now look on this ward as a stronghold.

So the Labour candidate, Billinge Chapel End parish councillor Dennis McDonnell, shouldn't have too much to worry about.  His opposition will come from the Conservatives' John Cunliffe (from St Helens), the Green Party's Sue Rahman (from Billinge), UKIP's Laurence Allen (from St Helens), the BNP's Alan Brindle (from Billinge) and the Lib Dems' Noreen Knowles (from St Helens).

Parliamentary constituency: St Helens North
Constituent civil parishes: Billinge Chapel End, Seneley Green
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode districts: WN4 and WN5 (mostly)

Laurence Allen (UKIP)
Alan Brindle (BNP)
John Cunliffe (C)
Noreen Knowles (LD)
Dennis McDonnell (Lab)
Sue Rahman (Grn)

May 2012 result Lab 1802 C 536 Ind 371 Grn 140
May 2011 result Lab 1896 C 964 Ind 556 LD 170
Oct 2010 by-election Lab 1288 C 624 LD 229 BNP 141
May 2010 result Lab 2954 C 1795 LD 1216
May 2008 result Lab 1335 C 1292 LD 574
May 2007 result Lab 1321 C 922 LD 551 CPF 313
May 2006 result Lab 1504 C 970 LD 679
June 2004 result Lab 1503/1492/1229 Ind 917 C 905/893/878 LD 651/454/409

Central Bedfordshire Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ruth Gammons whose husband is seriously ill.

Caddington from the air
  © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for
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This is Bedfordshire's southernmost ward, being a series of villages in the Chiltern Hills immediately to the south of Luton and Dunstable.  At the east end is Hyde parish, based around the Luton Hoo country house hotel and its large estate, a favourite location for film producers; Hyde has never been annexed by Luton, resulting in it forming a weird salient to the south of Luton within Central Bedfordshire council.  Moving further west we have the historically brickworking parishes of Slip End, where the official start-of-works ceremony for the M1 motorway took place, and Caddington itself.  To the west of the A5 Watling Street are the parishes of Kensworth, Studham and - the main reason to visit the ward - Whipsnade, home of the Zoological Society of London's Whipsnade Zoo.  The zoo, the chalk quarry at Kensworth, the Luton Hoo estate and commuting to Luton form the basis of the ward's economy.

Zoo animals don't vote, of course, so the area's political character is shaped by its human residents.  Don't be confused by the presence of Caddington, Hyde and Slip End within the safe Labour Luton South constituency; this is a strongly Tory area, the Conservatives polling almost two-thirds of the vote at the 2011 election and easily winning both seats.  The predecessor Bedfordshire county council divisions and South Bedfordshire district council wards were just as strongly Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is Caddington parish councillor Kevin Collins.  Kensworth resident Ian Lowery is the Labour candidate, the Lib Dems have selected Houghton Regis town councillor Alan Winter, Caddington-based Christine Smith stands as an independent and the UKIP candidate is Steven Wildman, who gives an address some distance the other side of Luton in Barton-le-Clay.

Parliamentary constituency: Luton South (Caddington, Hyde and Slip End parishes), South West Bedfordshire (Kensworth, Studham and Whipsnade parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford
Postcode districts: LU1, LU2 and LU6 (mostly)

May 2011 result C 2215/2134 Lab 711/424 LD 404/213

Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council, West Yorkshire; caused by the death of the Mayor of Wakefield, Labour councillor Brian Holmes, at the age of 75.

Horbury - west end of New Street
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Horbury is the next centre of population up from Wakefield in the Calder Valley, and traditionally on the edge of Yorkshire's Heavy Woollen District.  As well as wool and other textiles (a major employer here was the tennis-ball manufacturer Slazenger) Horbury was also a centre for railway wagon manufacture, which continued right up until the 2000s when the Voyager trains were built here.

During the 2000s this ward was consistently marginal, the three seats splitting 2 to Labour and one to the Conservatives.  The Tories held their seat in 2006 and gained the Labour seats in 2007 and 2008, but could never make the ward safe; the largest Tory majority was 199 votes at the 2007 election.  In that context the Conservatives did very well to hold the ward at the 2010 election with a majority of 102, but after that it has been one-way traffic for Labour, who now hold all the ward's three seats following gains at the 2011 and 2012 elections and a July 2011 by-election.  The Tories will not have been helped at the 2012 election by their outgoing councillor Graham Jesty standing as an Independent and polling well.

Rory Bickerton, whose Twitter profile reads "25, Labour lad, Opera, Mozart and other nice things", defends the seat for Labour.   The Tories have selected Angela Holwell, who is fighting her first local election campaign for over seven years.  UKIP have recruited the independent candidate from 2012, former Tory councillor for this ward Chris Jesty, and regular Lib Dem candidate and Vote UK forum contributor Mark Goodair stands here for the seventh time since 2002.

Parliamentary constituency: Wakefield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wakefield and Castleford
Postcode districts: WF4 and WF5

Rory Bickerton (Lab)
Mark Goodair (LD)
Angela Holwell (C)
Graham Jesty (UKIP)

May 2012 result Lab 1660 C 934 Ind 732 UKIP 429 LD 340
July 2011 by-election Lab 1776 C 1061 UKIP 232 LD 200 Horbury Ind 93 Ind 88
May 2011 result Lab 2433 C 2048 LD 473
May 2010 result C 3034 Lab 2932 LD 1517 BNP 558
May 2008 result C 1845 Lab 1657 Ind 576 LD 522
May 2007 result C 1822 Lab 1623 LD 825
May 2006 result C 1411 Lab 1245 LD 873 BNP 582
June 2004 result Lab 1724/1621/1228 C 1578/1507/1452 LD 1245/1176/929 BNP 978 Ind 452

Lambeth London Borough Council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Kingsley Abrams, apparently so he could seek selection as the Labour parliamentary candidate for the Brent Central constituency.  The selection is still ongoing, but he didn't make the shortlist.

Macartney House, SW9
  © Copyright Danny Robinson and licensed for
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This Lambeth ward runs south from Kennington Park along the Brixton Road, west of Clapham Road and south of Camberwell New Road.  Named after the first developer here in the 1820s, Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, the ward's Wikipedia entry notes the area's high level of deprivation and that more than half of the ward's households are socially rented.  Famous former residents include Vincent van Gogh and John Major, and from 1998 to 2002 two of the three ward councillors were journalist Dan Sabbagh, now national news editor of the Guardian, and economist (and niece of Peter and Virginia Bottomley) Kitty Usher, who would later serve one term as Labour MP for Burnley.

During the 2000s and into 2010 this Labour ward was under threat from the Liberal Democrats, who finally broke through at the 2010 election to take one of the three seats.  Although the Lib Dems crashed to fourth here in last year's GLA elections, they did poll a relatively good 11% in the Assembly ballot (to 54% for Labour, 15% for the Tories and 13% for the Greens).  Ken beat Boris in the ward's ballot boxes by 55% to 24%.

The defending Labour candidate is Paul Gadsby, a local resident described as an active local community campaigner.  Colette Thomas, a local childminder, is the Liberal Democrat candidate.  The Conservatives have selected the local Conservative Association treasurer Kelly ben-Maimon.  Also on the ballot paper are some names which will be familiar to regular readers of this column: Rachel Laurence for the Greens, Elizabeth Jones for UKIP, Danny Lambert for the Socialist Party and Steven Nally for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

With the six-month rule now in effect leading up to the 2014 local elections, this is expected to be the last local by-election in London before the all-out elections for the London boroughs on 22nd May 2014.  Any further London vacancies which occur before then will be left unfilled.

Parliamentary constituency: Vauxhall
GLA constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SE5 and SW9

Kelly Ben-Maimon (C)
Paul Gadsby (Lab)
Elizabeth Jones (UKIP)
Danny Lambert (Soc)
Rachel Laurence (Grn)
Steven Nally (TUSC)
Colette Thomas (LD)

May 2010 result Lab 2533/2308/2146 LD 2193/1793/1617 C 706/593/525 Grn 542/477/476
May 2006 result Lab 1426/1421/1306 LD 1146/1092/1044 C 369/360/341 Respect 287/257/234
May 2002 result Lab 1056/943/895 LD 851/846/744 Grn 257 C 188/181/165 Socialist Alliance 127

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1629 (55%) C 708 (24%) Grn 246 LD 197 Benita 155 UKIP 16 BNP 10
Assembly: Lab 1617 C 450 Grn 396 LD 326 TUSC 51 CPA 45 UKIP 44 BNP 22 EDP 14 House Party 9 Hayat 8 NF 4 Alagaratnam 1

Bracknell Forest Council, Berkshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mary Ballin at the age of 72.  Ballin had been the council's executive member for transport and planning for many years, and had been the election agent for Andrew MacKay, the former MP for Bracknell.

Maiden's Green
  © Copyright Alan Hunt and licensed for reuse
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One of the rural wards of Bracknell Forest, this ward is essentially the area between Bracknell and Windsor Great Park; the northern end of the large Winkfield parish together with a small part of Warfield parish.  Obviously, it's a very Tory area; the closest the Conservatives have come to losing the ward in recent years was in 2007 when they had majorities of 280 and 260 over an independent candidate, who had fought the ward in 2003 as a Lib Dem.  The 2011 election gave the Conservatives 71% of the vote here against evenly divided Labour and Lib Dem opposition.

The defending Tory candidate is Winkfield parish councillor Susie Phillips, who runs a company which makes and sells paper flower decorations.  Chartered accountant Paul Birchall is the Lib Dem candidate, Janet Keene - who fought the Bracknell parliamentary seat in 2005 - stands for Labour, and business advisor Ken la Garde is the ward's first UKIP nominee.

Parliamentary constituency: Windsor
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell
Postcode districts: RG12, RG42, SL4, SL5

May 2011 result C 1308/1250 LD 269 Lab 255/252
May 2007 result C 844/824 Ind 564 Lab 262/229
May 2003 result C 807/802 LD 357/231 Lab 160

We should also note an unopposed result from the by-election in Topcliffe to Hambleton District Council, North Yorkshire, caused by the resignation of Conservative former council leader Neville Huxtable.  

Snowy morning in Front Street
  © Copyright Gordon Hatton and licensed for
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The name might suggest a clifftop location, but Topcliffe is in fact a village in the centre of the Vale of York, on the left bank of the Swale.  Its location, and the fact that the Vale tends to fill with freezing fog in the winter, means that the village has a propensity for very low temperatures; three years ago the Topcliffe weather station set the Yorkshire low temperature record at minus 19 degrees Celsius.  That weather station is located at Topcliffe Airfield, an army barracks which is also used by the RAF for glider training.  The ward named after Topcliffe is a large rural area to the south and south-west of Thirsk, stretching from Skipton-on-Swale at the west end to Hutton Sessay at the east end.

Your columnist has fond memories of the Happy Eater on the A168 at Topcliffe, a favourite stop on childhood journeys to see grandparents in Hartlepool.

Huxtable had been the councillor for Topcliffe throughout the last decade, and was unopposed at the 2007 election; in 2003 and 2011 he defeated Liberal Democrat opposition very comfortably indeed.  Polling for the by-election caused by his resignation had been set for 12th December, but when nominations closed last week there was only one candidate, the Conservatives' Garry Key, who has therefore been elected unopposed.

Parliamentary constituency: Thirsk and Malton
North Yorkshire county council division: Sowerby
Constituent parishes: Skipton-on-Swale, Catton, Topcliffe, Dalton, Sessay, Hutton Sessay
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northallerton and Thirsk
Postcode district: YO7 (mostly)

Nov 2013 by-election C unopposed
May 2011 result C 550 LD 185
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 483 LD 133

Thursday, 21 November 2013

By-Election Previews: 21 November 2013

South Cambridgeshire District Council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Stephen Harangozo who is moving away from the area.

Comberton Village Sign - east side
  © Copyright Keith Edkins and licensed for
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The South Cambridgeshire district, which surrounds the town of Cambridge on each side, has grown spectacularly in population over the last few decades, but this hasn't been achieved by building a new town.  Rather, bits and bobs are tacked on to villages that already exist.  Such is the case with the village of Comberton, a village located around six miles to the west of Cambridge on the road to St Neots, just to the east of the Greenwich Meridian, which now has a population comfortably over 2,000.

At district level Comberton has been represented for over fifteen years by Stephen Harangozo, usually with comfortable majorities although he was pushed close by the Conservatives at the 2007 election.  The ward forms one-quarter of the Hardwick county division, which has seesawed between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in recent elections; the Tories are currently on top, winning in May by 42% to 38%, Labour (who have better wards elsewhere in the division) polling 21%.

The defending Lib Dem candidate is Fay Boissieux, who runs a cake shop in the village of Gamlingay, near Sandy.  The Tories have selected Comberton parish councillor and farmer Tim Scott, while the Labour candidate, Cambridge University tutor and Comberton resident Helen Haugh, hasn't had a good election campaign, her house having been ransacked by burglars on Hallowe'en.  Completing the ballot paper is the area's first UKIP local candidate, Duxford-based Elizabeth Smith.

Parliamentary constituency: South Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Comberton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge

Fay Boissieux (LD)
Helen Haugh (Lab)
Tim Scott (C)
Elizabeth Smith (UKIP)

May 2011 result LD 558 C 397 Lab 104
May 2007 result LD 437 C 401 Lab 69
May 2003 result LD 427 C 212 Grn 72

Scarborough District Council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of a Liberal Democrat councilllor Geoff Evans, who had refused to apologise to a constituent whom he had insulted.

High Street, Eastfield
  © Copyright Paul Glazzard and licensed for
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This is another ward covering a single large village.  Effectively a Scarborough suburb with a population of around 5,500, Eastfield can be found just to the south of Scarborough, immediately to the east of Seamer off the main road to York.  There is some industry here, with the Olympian Trading Park off the main road providing employment, and the village is home to the head office of Boyes, a chain of department stores prominent in Yorkshire and the north-east.

The ward's three seats split 2 Labour and one Lib Dem in 2003, but the Lib Dems have held all three seats since the 2007 election in which they had a massive majority.  Labour made inroads into the Lib Dem majority in 2011 but actually did better at a September 2010 by-election when the Lib Dem majority fell to 23 votes on a very low turnout.

In further bad news for the local Lib Dems their nominated candidate, Barry Pearson, had to withdraw from the election at the last minute, apparently due to a family bereavement. Unfortunately the withdrawal came after nominations had closed so there is no Liberal Democrat candidate on the ballot paper, meaning the seat is up for grabs.  In pole position is the Labour candidate Tony Randerson, who at the county elections in May gained the local county council division (Eastfield and Osgodby) from the Lib Dems on an enormous swing; Labour had finished fourth in the division in 2009.  Independent candidate Carole Gerarda is the only candidate from the 2011 district election here to try again, and she is joined by a second independent, Dawn Maxwell.  The Tories have nominated William Baines, the UKIP candidate is Jonathan Dodds, and the Greens' Annette Hudspeth (who gives an address in the Whitby area) completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Scarborough and Whitby
North Yorkshire county council division: Eastfield and Osgodby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Scarborough

William Baines (C)
Jonathan Dodds (UKIP)
Carole Gerarda (Ind)
Annette Hudspeth (Grn)
Dawn Maxwell (Ind)
Tony Randerson (Lab)

May 2011 result LD 468/358/356 Lab 272/260/240 Ind 107/97 C 91/81
Sept 2010 by-election LD 182 Lab 159 Ind 110 C 100 BNP 27 Grn 13
May 2007 result LD 771/673/517 Lab 229/214 C 158/132
May 2003 result LD 538/303 Lab 363/324 Ind 159

Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Paul Salveson, who is concentrating on his role as a board member of the rail users' lobby group Passenger Focus.

Parkwood Mills
  © Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for
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From the Yorkshire coast to a very different part of Yorkshire.  In western Huddersfield along the road to Standedge and Manchester, Golcar is the sort of place whose view epitomises the Yorkshire mill town; stone-built houses as far as the eye can see, clinging to the steep sides of the Colne Valley, in whose narrow floor the local woollen mills were situated and in many cases still stand.  Think "Where the Heart Is", which was filmed up the valley in Slawit and Marsden, but perhaps not quite as pretty.

Did I say Colne Valley?  That might give you a clue as to the area's politics, for the Colne Valley is one of the longest-running hotspots of Liberalism, five times electing Liberal candidate Richard Wainwright to Parliament from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Since Wainwright's retirement the constituency has been won twice by Labour and three times by the Conservatives, who currently hold it, but the Lib Dem vote remains strong and they were second here at the 2010 election.

This is one of the weakest wards in the constituency for the Conservatives and very much a Lib Dem/Labour fight these days, with Labour having come out on top in the two elections since the Tory/Lib Dem coalition was formed; but both of those wins were narrow, by 202 votes in 2011 and 145 votes in 2012.  The area has rather volatile voting patterns, with the Greens getting a respectable vote at the 2004 election and the BNP finishing as runners-up in 2006 and 2007.

Defending for Labour is Stephan Jungnitz, who recently retired as principal of a local sixth-form college.  Christine Iredale, the Lib Dem councillor who was defeated at the 2012 election, wants her seat back.  The Tories and Greens have re-selected their regular candidates, respectively Clinton Simpson, an inspector for a local bus company, and music teacher Dan Greenwood.  Slawit-based Gregory Broome, a full-time carer, completes the ballot paper as the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Colne Valley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huddersfield

Gregory Broome (UKIP)
Daniel Greenwood (Grn)
Christine Iredale (LD)
Stephan Jungnitz (Lab)
Clinton Simpson (C)

May 2012 result Lab 1729 LD 1584 C 548 Grn 490
May 2011 result Lab 1769 LD 1567 C 857 Grn 384 Ind 340 BNP 292 TUSC 59
May 2010 result LD 3166 Lab 2111 C 1917 BNP 783 Grn 381 Ind 289
May 2008 result LD 1634 Lab 982 BNP 944 C 883 Grn 425
May 2007 result LD 2093 BNP 1170 Lab 1085 C 633 Grn 321
May 2006 result LD 1453 BNP 1104 Lab 760 C 732 Grn 558 Save Huddersfield NHS 412
June 2004 result LD 1920/1911/1854 Lab 1217/1066/971 C 1097/1000/911 Grn 1018/748/652

Rugby District Council, Warwickshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Bill Sewell, who is retiring from local government at the age of 77, having served as a Rugby councillor for eleven years and as Mayor of Rugby in 2008/9.

High Street, Hillmorton
  © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for
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From the rugby league town of Huddersfield, in the month of the Rugby League World Cup, to a very different Rugby - the Warwickshire town of that name, after whose school the sport is based.  This by-election is in the south-eastern suburb of Hillmorton, a village on the Oxford Canal and West Coast Main Line which was annexed by Rugby in 1932.

This is Warwickshire's easternmost ward, and combines Hillmorton itself with part of the enormous Rugby radio station, a well-known landmark for travellers on the West Coast Main Line and the M1, which for many years transmitted messages to the UK's submarines together with the official NPL time signal.  With both of those functions now having been transferred to Cumbria, the radio station (which lies within the parish of Clifton upon Dunsmore) is now closed and apparently ripe for development.

Rugby was re-warded in 2012, with the new Hillmorton ward electing three Conservative councillors with Labour in second place.  The previous Hillmorton ward had councillors from all three parties from 2002 to 2007 - pretty unusual in a first-past-the-post context - but had voted Conservative each year since 2006.  On the other hand, the Eastlands and Hillmorton county division, which covers the Hillmorton proper part of the ward (the Clifton upon Dunsmore part is almost uninhabited, for now) returned two Lib Dem county councillors in May very comfortably; however, it's fair to say that the Lib Dem strength in the county division comes from the town's Paddox ward rather than here.

The Conservative candidate is Jim Buckley, a property developer.  Labour have selected Barbara Brown and the Lib Dem candidate is Tim Douglas, who lagged a long way behind his running-mates at the 2012 district election.  Also standing are the Greens' Peter Burrows and UKIP's Roy Harvey.

Parliamentary constituency: Rugby
Warwickshire county council division: Eastlands and Hillmorton (part in Rugby town); Fosse (part in Clifton upon Dunsmore parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rugby

Barbara Brown (Lab)
Jim Buckley (C)
Peter Burrows (Grn)
Tim Douglas (LD)
Roy Harvey (UKIP)

May 2012 result C 804/706/662 Lab 534/451/427 LD 334/255/207 TUSC 119

Herefordshire Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Russell Hamilton, the cabinet member for the environment, housing and planning, over "disrespectful and bullying" behaviour.

Much Birch village hall
  © Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for
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For our final by-election of the week we travel to the Marches.  Over the years the Welsh/English border has been somewhat fluid, and that's reflected in the place-names; there are many villages on the Welsh side of the border with England names, and some on the English side with Welsh names.  So it is with this misnamed ward (Pontrilas itself is at least three miles outside the ward boundary) which covers twelve parishes south of Hereford and west of Ross-on-Wye, the largest of which (Much Birch, on the A49) has a population of 911, the smallest (Harewood) only 29 electors.  (The reason I'm comparing apples with oranges here is that the ONS won't publish the headcount for parishes less than 100 population.)  The Garway parish adjoins the Welsh border and several of the villages within the ward (Llandinabo, Llanwarne, Tretire with Michaelchurch) have distinctively Welsh names.

Another distinctively Welsh name is that of Godfrey Davis, the independent ward councillor here until he was defeated by the Tories' Richard Smith at the 2007 election.  Smith stood down in 2011 and was replaced by Russell Hamilton who fought off an independent challenge from Elaine Godding, third place going to the localist group It's Our County (Herefordshire).  It's Our County have had some success in Herefordshire - they easily held a by-election in Hereford two weeks ago - but their success has tended to be concentrated in Hereford and its hinterland, deeply rural areas like this being tougher nuts to crack for them.

The Tory defence is led by Elissa Swinglehurst, an author and parish councillor in Welsh Newton on the road to Monmouth.  (Despite being called Welsh Newton and having a Monmouth postcode, it's on the English side of the border.)  The other two candidates both live in the ward: Elaine Godding (a Little Birch parish councillor) is trying again, and the new It's Our County candidate is Much Birch parish councillor, web designer and children's entertainer Jon Norris.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford and Leominster

Elaine Godding (Ind)
Jon Norris (IOCH)
Elissa Swinglehurst (C)

May 2011 result C 728 Ind 515 IOCH 337
May 2007 result C 510 Ind 445 Grn 224 LD 162
May 2003 result Ind 904 C 765

Thursday, 14 November 2013

By-Election Previews: 14 November 2013

Unfortunately no previews are available this week due to all our team being occupied with other things, but the candidates and past results for each contest are up on the website, and results will be added as they come in overnight.

Allerdale - Seaton
Bournemouth - Winton East
Cumbria - Seaton
Stoke-on-Trent - Baddeley, Milton and Norton

Thursday, 7 November 2013

By-Election Previews: 7 November 2013

Possibly the busiest remaining day for local by-elections in 2013 is Thursday 7th November, which sees ten contests in England.  Labour have the most to lose this week, defending seats in Harrow, Oxfordshire, Corby, Bootle and County Durham, together with two in Nottingham; the Tories have defences in Middlesex and Leicestershire; and the week's tenth by-election is in Hereford where a localist party has a seat up for election.

London Borough of Harrow, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ann Gate, who is moving to Gloucestershire.

Harrow on the Hill: High Street
  © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for
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This ward is named after and covers the hill that Harrow on the Hill is built on, and the ward boundaries also extend into Roxeth and Sudbury Hill.  For outsiders the most notable feature of the ward is the famous Harrow School, which has given the world eight British prime ministers (including Winston Churchill and Robert Peel), one Indian prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru), three foreign monarchs, three present Conservative MPs and the game of squash.  The ward does not include the Underground station of that name (which is on lower ground to the north of the ward) but does include the Chiltern Railways station of Sudbury Hill Harrow, while the South Harrow and Sudbury Hill underground stations (on the Piccadilly Line) lie on its southern boundary.  This is generally a very affluent area, but that doesn't stop it from being quite marginal at council level; the Tories won all three seats rather narrowly in 2002 and comfortably in 2006, but Labour gained two seats at the 2010 election, helped by outgoing Conservative ward councillor Eileen Kinnear standing as an independent and splitting the Tory vote.  At last year's GLA elections Boris carried the ward's ballot boxes 49-39 but Labour won the list vote of election here by 40% to the Conservatives' 37%, the Greens best of the rest on 6%.

Some council groups see more than their fair share of infighting; a handful are complete basket cases.  It's been rather dizzying to see Harrow move into basket-case territory over the last few months.  The fun started in earnest around April when the ruling Labour group decided to depose their leader, Thaya Idaikkadar.  As well as being leader of the Labour group, Idaikkadar was leader of the council, from which position he refused to resign.  The ensuing standoff split the Labour group, with around seven Labour councillors (and one Tory councillor) defecting to form an Independent Labour group led by Idaikkadar, who was confirmed as Leader of the Council.  With Idaikkadar's Independent Labour group trying to control the council with only nine out of 63 members (to 25 each for Labour and the Tories), the numbers didn't stack up and the Independent Labour administration fell after only a few months.  A minority Conservative administration (with Independent Labour support) is now trying to nurse the council towards the May 2014 elections.

This by-election forms the first opportunity for the electors of Harrow to deliver their verdict on all these shenanigans.  Defending for Labour is small businessman Glen Hearnden, while Stanmore-based Stephen Lewis will try to gain for the Conservatives.  Former Tory councillor for this ward Eileen Kinnear (who posed for her official council photograph in comically large glasses) tries again as an Independent after polling 18% in 2010, as does lead Lib Dem candidate from last time Gaye Branch.  There could be vote splits galore here, as the Independent Labour group have registered with the Electoral Commission under the name "Harrow First" and are standing Thaya Idaikkadar's son Gajan.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Jeremy Zeid.  Expect a win on a low vote share.

Parliamentary constituency: Harrow West
GLA constituency: Brent and Harrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Gaye Branch (LD)
Glen Hearnden (Lab)
Gajan Idaikkadar (Harrow First)
Eileen Kinnear (Ind)
Stephen Lewis (C)
Jeremy Zeid (UKIP)

May 2010 result Lab 1948/1729/1630 C 1786/1651/1646 Ind 1021/641/500 LD 973/899
May 2006 result C 1550/1493/1424 Lab 810/707/651 LD 462/436/397
May 2002 result C 1377/1323/1287 Lab 1086/1038/1025
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1104 Ken 887 Benita 79 Grn 76 LD 63 UKIP 39 BNP 27
London Member: Lab 915 C 836 Grn 132 LD 120 UKIP 93 CPA 56 BNP 49 Alagaratnam 28 EDP 23 NF 9 TUSC 9 Hayat 9 House Party 5

Spelthorne Borough Council, Surrey; caused by the death of the Mayor of Spelthorne, Conservative councillor Isobel Napper, at the age of 74.

Laleham Abbey
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Wicked.  I is here to talk about the week's other by-election in the former county of Middlesex, which is likely to be less hard-fought than Harrow on the Hill.  Riverside and Laleham, a series of rather disconnected residential areas in the south of the recently renamed Staines-upon-Thames, has the look of the sort of ward that's drawn to make up the numbers after everywhere else has been accounted for; it doesn't even include the whole of Laleham, a riverside village on the road to Shepperton.  It says something about Staines' complete lack of interest that it's still probably best known as the home of Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional comedy character Ali G.

The most recent election results for Spelthorne district (in 2011) are difficult to compare because Labour only contested one ward in the district, although given Labour's poor previous results in this ward that's unlikely to cause many problems.  In 2011 the three Conservative candidates were only opposed here by two Liberal Democrats and a UKIP candidate, who was runner-up.  The ward is split between two Surrey county council divisions: in May Staines was an easy Conservative hold, but Staines South and Ashford West was one of the seats won by UKIP, their majority being just four votes.

Despite that UKIP are not contesting this district by-election, which is fought by representatives of the three main parties who all stood in May's county elections.  The Tory defence is led by Denise Saliagopoulos, re-elected in May as county councillor for Staines.  The Lib Dems' Susan Vincent will hope to improve on her fourth place in that by-election, while Labour's John Johnston did better in May, polling 20% in Staines South and Ashford West.

Parliamentary constituency: Spelthorne
Surrey county council division: Staines (western part), Staines South and Ashford West (eastern part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot

John Johnston (Lab)
Denise Saliagopoulos (C)
Susan Vincent (LD)

May 2011 result C 1771/1585/1478 UKIP 531 LD 529/435
May 2007 result C 1398/1323/1302 LD 382/343/310 Lab 263/214
May 2003 result C 1025/1016/950 LD 375/374/278 Lab 296

West Oxfordshire District Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Rob Evans at the age of 64.  Originally from Bala and a native Welsh speaker, Evans had had a career in education as a history teacher and exam marker; he was a Chipping Norton town councillor for 28 years and Mayor of the town in 1995, represented the town on Oxfordshire County Council from 1997 to 2005 and had first been elected to the district council in 2012.

Chipping Norton Town Centre
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Last year Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (once described by the Oxford University Quiz Society as "easily the most inaccurate reference book known to man") published a new edition which included for the first time the phrase "Chipping Norton set", a group of political, media and showbusiness people who live in and around Chipping Norton.  Members of the set apparently include the former Sun and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, the Prime Minister and local MP David Cameron, the Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, the Carphone Warehouse chairman Charles Dunstone, Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and the Blur bassist Alex James.  An awful lot of stuff has been written about the members and activities of this so-called set, which might lead those unacquainted with the area to think that Chipping Norton is all millionaires and high-powered types and lavish parties and all that jazz.  The town, is, of course, much more prosaic, although
 Chipping Norton is certainly a beautiful town with many surviving buildings from the mediaeval period, when the wool trade made the Cotswolds a very wealthy part of England.

One of the interesting things about Chipping Norton is that it retains a significant Labour vote.  At the all-out 2002 elections an Independent topped the poll with the Tories and Labour winning the second and third seats; the independent stood down in 2004 and the Tories took his seat, but the Conservatives never managed to knock Labour out here and at the most recent district election (in 2012) Labour gained a second seat in the ward from the Conservatives.  As stated above, Labour held the wider county division from 1997 to 2005, and in May's county elections they consolidated second place with 31% to the Tories' 49%.

The defending Labour candidate is solicitor Geoff Saul, that runner-up candidate in May's county election.  His main opposition will be from the Tories' Joe Johnson, who runs a builders' company in Chipping Norton but gives an address in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire.  Also on the ballot paper are the Greens' Matthew Clayton and the Lib Dems' Andrew Crick.

Parliamentary constituency: Witney
Oxfordshire county council division: Chipping Norton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Banbury

Matthew Clayton (Grn)
Andrew Crick (LD)
Joe Johnson (C)
Geoff Saul (Lab)

May 2012 result Lab 966 C 644
May 2011 result Lab 881 C 833 Grn 94 LD 59
May 2010 result C 1673 Lab 1394 LD 467
May 2008 result C 1006 Lab 620 Ind 304 Grn 105
May 2007 result Lab 958 C 795 Ind 272
May 2006 result C 1198 Lab 533 LD 138 Grn 94
June 2004 result C 964 Lab 478 LD 363 Grn 163
May 2003 result Lab 744 C 631 LD 223
May 2002 result Ind 1000 C 813/608 Lab 797/610/547 LD 209/197

Herefordshire Council; caused by the resignation of It's Our County councillor Alex Hempton-Smith, the youngest member of the council, after he received a police caution for possessing an illegal substance.

St. Paul's church, Tupsley, east end
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This ward is the south-east of the city of Hereford, on the north bank of the River Wye along the roads to Ledbury and down the Wye Valley.

Herefordshire politics, and Hereford in particular, is seeing a boom in support for the localist political movement It's OUR County (Herefordshire), who won a number of seats at the 2011 election and have continued their momentum by winning by-elections in a western Hereford ward.  It's OUR County gained all three seats in this ward from the Liberal Democrats at the 2011 election (one of their councillors having been elected as a Lib Dem in 2007); previously the Liberal Democrats had held all three seats in Tupsley since gaining a 2005 by-election from an independent.

Defending for It's Our County is Cath North, who is clearly very involved in the local community judging from her profile on It's Our County's website.  The Tories have selected hotel owner Jason Kay, who is one of the Hereford city councillors for for the ward and was runner-up in the 2011 district election (beating the alphabet).  Completing the ballot paper is the Liberal Democrat candidate Duncan Fraser.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford and Leominster

Duncan Fraser (LD)
Jason Kay (C)
Cath North (IOCH)

May 2011 result IOCH 1808/1588/1296 C 757/736/699 LD 652/521/404 Lab 425
May 2007 result LD 1116/912/884 C 815/676/664 Grn 709 Ind 666/588
Dec 2005 by-election LD 831 C 608 Ind 274 Lab 118 Ind 56 (LD gain from Ind)
May 2003 result LD 1544/1275/1155 Ind 1305/851/583 C 1041/1039 Grn 480/387/298

Harborough District Council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Brian Smith, a former chairman of the council who had served as a councillor for ten years.

Husbands Bosworth High Street
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One of those wards with confusing names.  Although this is Leicestershire, it has nothing to do with the Battle of Bosworth, with the constituency of Bosworth or with the district of Hinckley and Bosworth.  Instead, this Bosworth ward is on the southern border of Leicestershire and is centred on the village of Husbands Bosworth, at the junction of the Leicester-Northampton and Lutterworth-Market Harborough roads; the ward also includes the smaller parishes of Mowsley, Knaptoft, North Kilworth and South Kilworth.

This is of course deeply Tory countryside and the ward is not seriously contested by the other parties.  The most recent district council election saw the Tories win a straight fight with Labour 75-25, and the local county division (Bruntingthorpe) is also very safely Conservative.  The ward is part of the Harborough constituency which is a consistent Lib Dem target, but the Lib Dem vote in the constituency is overwhelmingly in the Leicester suburbs of Oadby and Wigston.

The defending Labour candidate is the local party agent Lesley Bowles, who gives an address just over the border in Welford, Northamptonshire.  The Tories' opposition this time comes from Annette Deacon, a parish councillor in Lubenham on the road to Market Harborough, who is the Lib Dem candidate, and former Mayor of Lutterworth Bill Piper who stands in the UKIP interest.

Parliamentary constituency: Harborough
Leicestershire county council division: Bruntingthorpe
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

Lesley Bowles (C)
Annette Deacon (LD)
Bill Piper (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 780 Lab 255
May 2007 result C 509 Lab 157 Ind 150
May 2003 result C 400 Lab 178 LD 116

Corby Borough Council, Northamptonshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Maureen Forshaw due to poor health.  The Mayor of Corby in 2003/4, Forshaw had served on the council for almost forty years.

Gainsborough Road
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Kingswood ward is an essentially residential area to the south-west of Corby town centre along the northern side of Oakley Road.  It is named after King's Wood, a local nature reserve in the middle of the built-up area.

This is such a strong Labour area that the other parties have difficulty finding candidates; the 2007 and 2011 elections saw Labour guaranteed at least one of the three seats as only two opposition candidates stood.  In the 2011 election both the opposition candidates were Conservatives, the Labour slate beating the Tory slate 72-28.  Labour held the wider Kingswood county division (which also includes the town's Exeter ward and parts of two other wards) even more comfortably at May's county elections.

Defending for Labour is Elise Elliston, who teaches business studies at a local secondary school.  Phil Ewers, a veteran of the Falklands war, stands for the Conservatives and Julie Grant, a supply teacher from the village of Cottingham, for the Lib Dems.  Completing the ballot paper is former Labour councillor Peter McGowan, who is the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Corby
Northamptonshire county council division: Kingswood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kettering and Corby

Elise Elliston (Lab)
Phil Ewers (C)
Julie Grant (LD)
Peter McGowan (UKIP)

May 2011 result Lab 1052/1027/1015 C 413/332
May 2007 result Lab 708/705/651 C 454 LD 345
May 2003 result Lab 719/650/644 C 562/441 LD 416

Nottingham City Council; caused by the resignations of Labour councillors Ken and Steph Williams respectively.  Ken Williams has been diagnosed with dementia and Steph, his wife, is to care for him.

The Park, Nottingham
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These wards are in very different parts of the city.  Dales ward lies to the east of the city centre in the Trent valley; centred on Nottingham racecourse, it includes parts of Sneinton.  Radford and Park ward lies immediately to the west of the centre, running north-west; its main feature is Nottingham Castle, and it also includes the Catholic Nottingham Cathedral.

Like nearly every Nottingham ward, both wards are now very safe for Labour.  Before the Coalition was formed they were both reasonably close Labour/Conservative fights and the Tories actually won one of the three Dales seats at the 2003 election, losing it to Labour in 2007.  Dales ward in 2011 saw the candidacy of serial frivolous by-election candidate David Bishop, that time describing himself as "Militant Elvis Anti-Tesco Popular Front".

The Dales by-election has been affected by a cockup at the company producing the postal voting packs, which has meant that all the postal ballot papers have had to be reissued.  Hopefully this won't have too much of an effect on the election.  Defending for Labour is Sneinton-born and bred Neghat Khan.  Party staffer Tad Jones stands for the Liberal Democrats, former Basford ward councillor Neale Mittenshaw-Hodge for the Conservatives, Irenea Marriott for UKIP, Adam McGregor for the Green Party and Cathy Meadows for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Regular readers of this column (hello Sid, hello Doris) will note the presence of some familiar names on the Radford and Park ballot paper.  The defending Labour candidate here is Anne Peach, a former British Rail computing projects manager.  Nicholas Packham, who hit the headlines ealier this year by being caught driving at four times the alcohol limit, is re-selected as the Conservative candidate after fighting the ward in 2011.  Katharina Boettge, a regular in Nottingham by-elections, is the Green Party's nominee, David Bishop is back for his "Elvis Loves Pets" party, Francesco Lari stands for UKIP and Geraint Thomas for TUSC.

Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham

Tad Jones (LD)
Neghat Khan (Lab)
Irenea Marriott (UKIP)
Adam McGregor (Grn)
Cathy Meadows (TUSC)
Neale Mittenshaw-Hodge (C)

May 2011 result Lab 2456/2327/2238 LD 949 C 815/809/726 Elvis 322
May 2007 result Lab 1641/1548/1487 C 1091/1086/897 LD 761/735/725 Grn 476
May 2003 result Lab 1239/1127/1057 C 1122/1010/969 LD 754/584/544 Grn 283 Socialist Alliance 207

Radford and Park
Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham

David Bishop (Elvis Loves Pets)
Katharina Boettge (Grn)
Francesco Lari (UKIP)
Nicholas Packham (C)
Anne Peach (Lab)
Geraint Thomas (TUSC)

May 2011 result Lab 1717/1710/1639 C 940/932/866 Grn 509 LD 404/336/274
May 2007 result Lab 1351/1247/1173 C 888/868/865 LD 511/466/462
May 2003 result Lab 1112/1092/997 C 750/704/667 LD 609/591/554

Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, Merseyside; caused by the death of Labour councillor Carol Gustafson.  Gustafson served for many years as chairman of Merseyside police authority, for which she was appointed OBE in the 2005 Birthday Honours; nonetheless, she was a controversial figure, having chaired the police authority at the time it appointed Sir Norman Bettison as chief constable of Merseyside despite his links to the Hillsborough disaster.

The Poulsom Memorial, Derby Park
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It's Bootle.  Do I need to say more?

Oh, all right.  One thing that does need explaining is the very high UKIP vote in the ward during the Brown years; the regular UKIP candidate here during the period 2006-2008 was Paul Nuttall, who essentially grew the Bootle UKIP branch on his own and in the 2008 election cut the Labour majority to just 13 percentage points.  By Bootle standards, that's ultra-marginal.  Nuttall stopped standing in local elections after being elected to the European Parliament in 2009 (he is sometimes thought of as a future UKIP leader) and his successors have not had as much success at the ballot box as the Labour steamroller resumed in earnest.  At the most recent election in 2012 Labour polled 81% of the vote here.

Defending for Labour is local party agent Anne Thompson.  UKIP have selected Jack Colbert, a former Lib Dem councillor for Molyneux ward in Maghull.  The Tories and Lib Dems have thrown in the towel after getting 3% each last time, but four other candidates have come forward; two independents, Janice Blanchard and community worker Juliet Edgar, Southport-based Laurence Rankin for the Green Party and Graham Woodhouse for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary constituency: Bootle
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool

Janice Blanchard (Ind)
Jack Colbert (UKIP)
Juliet Edgar (Ind)
Laurence Rankin (Grn)
Anne Thompson (Lab)
Graham Woodhouse (TUSC)

May 2012 result Lab 1809 UKIP 302 C 64 LD 56
May 2011 result Lab 2071 UKIP 404 LD 107 C 95 EDP 55
May 2010 result Lab 3387 UKIP 724 LD 518 C 202
May 2008 result Lab 1030 UKIP 763 C 108 BNP 98
May 2007 result Lab 1120 UKIP 550 LD 208 C 94
May 2006 result Lab 1197 UKIP 403 LD 205 C 118
June 2004 result Lab 1993/1811/1736 LD 498/458/438 C 345

Durham County Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Geoff Mowbray at the age of 71.  Mowbray, who worked for many years as a prison officer, started his local government career on the former Wear Valley District Council and had focused on regeneration during his time on the councils.

Offices of Durham County Council in Crook
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This wonderfully-named market town can be found in the hills above Weardale, about five miles north-west of Bishop Auckland.  It's a town of relatively recent vintage which grew from a tiny hamlet in the early Victorian period thanks to coalmining; with the mines now exhausted Crook has declined to the status of a small market town.

The Liberal Democrats had some strength in Crook during the later years of the last Labour government; when Wear Valley District Council was abolished in 2009 they held most of the district council seats covered by the present division, and in the first unitary Durham Council elections in 2008 the Lib Dems won both seats in Crook North and Tow Law, the seats in Crook South being split by Labour and an Independent with the Lib Dems close behind; part of the modern Crook division was also then in the Willington division where the Tories topped the poll.  New division boundaries introduced in May united Crook into a single three-seat division, the independent councillor being re-elected at the top of the poll and Labour winning the other two seats.  There were significant votes in the 2013 election for an Independent slate and for the "Wear Valley Independents", with the Lib Dem vote crashing.

Defending for Labour is Crook resident Andrea Patterson, who runs an equestrian equipment and saddle fitting business.  Ian Hirst, who runs a leisure centre in Willington, finished fifth here in the 2013 election as an Independent and is trying again.  The Wear Valley Independent Group have reselected John Bailey, who was one of the Lib Dems elected for Crook North in 2008.  The official Lib Dem candidate is again David English, Durham resident Joanne Yelland has been reselected by the Greens and the Tories have found a candidate this time: Beaty Bainbridge, who lost her county council seat this year - at the other end of the county in Chester-le-Street East.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Durham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle

John Bailey (Wear Valley Ind Gp)
Beaty Bainbridge (C)
David English (LD)
Ian Hirst (Ind)
Andrea Patterson (Lab)
Joanne Yelland (Grn)

May 2013 result Ind 771/630/594 Lab 719/691/642 Wear Valley Ind Gp 559/476/450 LD 161/144/124 Grn 123/89/88