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.


HARROW ON THE HILL
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
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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


RIVERSIDE AND LALEHAM
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


CHIPPING NORTON
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


TUPSLEY
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


BOSWORTH
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


KINGSWOOD
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


DALES and RADFORD AND PARK
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.

Dales
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


DERBY
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


CROOK
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

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