Thursday, 12 December 2013

By-election Previews: 12 December 2013

Just three contests taking place this week, with each major party defending a seat across a wide spread of England.  Labour have a suburban seat to defend in the West Midlands, with the Tories defending a large rural seat in northernmost Yorkshire, while the Lib Dems try to hold on to their sole seat in South Buckinghamshire.  One by-election in the Topcliffe ward of Hambleton that was intended to be held today was filled unopposed by the Conservatives.

Warwickshire County Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Keith Richardson at the age of 69.  A full-time trade union official for many years, Richardson had served as a county councillor for just five months.

Coventry Colliery Monument
  © Copyright Alan Paxton and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This county division contains relatively little of Bedworth itself; located to the west of the A444 Bedworth Bypass, it is centred on junction 3 of the M6 motorway and is based primarily on the Coventry overspill villages of Ash Green and Keresley End together with part of Bedworth Heath.  Keresley End is a pit village built to serve the former Coventry Colliery, which has now been redeveloped into a large warehouse/distribution park, while Ash Green is more suburban in character.

Bedworth is one of the most strongly Labour parts of Warwickshire, and the Bedworth West county division is generally safe Labour although their majority over the Conservatives fell to just four percentage points in the 2009 election, which also had a large third-place BNP vote.  Labour recovered the division's safe status in the May 2013 election.  While the Tories performed well to gain a ward elsewhere in Nuneaton and Bedworth borough last week, this is a much stiffer task from their point of view.

Defending for Labour is Brian Hawkes, one of the two Nuneaton and Bedworth borough councillors representing Heath ward, which covers Bedworth Heath.  The Tories have reselected their candidate from May's election, Janet Batterbee, as have the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition with Natara Hunter.  Completing the ballot paper is the division's first UKIP candidate, Andrew Hutchings.

Parliamentary constituency: North Warwickshire
Nuneaton and Bedworth district council wards: Exhall (part), Heath (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Coventry
Postcode districts: CV6, CV7, CV12

Janet Batterbee (C)
Brian Hawkes (Lab)
Natara Hunter (TUSC)
Andrew Hutchings (UKIP)

May 2013 result Lab 1219 C 569 Grn 173 TUSC 139
June 2009 result Lab 889 C 776 BNP 427 LD 289 Grn 174
May 2005 result Lab 2484 C 1278 LD 719

Richmondshire District Council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Lin Clarkson.

Tunstall near Catterick
  © Copyright Nick W and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is a large rural ward essentially covering the area to the west and south-west of Catterick.  Named after the fourteenth-century manor house of Hornby Castle, now home to the Clutterbuck family after being owned in the past by the Barons Conyers, the Earls of Holderness and the Dukes of Leeds, the ward consists of a series of small villages, the largest of which is perhaps Tunstall.

The ward has a history going back into antiquity: the Romans built a fort called Cataractonium to protect the point where Dere Street crosses the River Swale, and the location was significant enough to appear in Ptolemy's second-century AD map of the world (as Katouraktonion).  That crossing point later became Catterick Bridge on the Great North Road, and is the location of possibly the ward's main attraction to outsiders, Catterick Racecourse.  Catterick Bridge is the northernmost hamlet within the ward.

So, what does the formbook say about this by-election?  The ward was independent-held until 2007 when the Independent councillor returned and the Conservatives gained the ward in a contest with another independent.  The new Conservative councillor Melva Steckles was re-elected unopposed in 2011 but resigned a year later; the resulting by-election in May 2012 returned the Tories' Lin Clarkson against independent and Labour opposition.  Clarkson has now resigned in her turn.  The wider Catterick Bridge county division was held by the Conservatives in May's county election, with UKIP second and an independent candidate campaigning against hospital closures coming in third.

The defending Conservative candidate is Robin Scott, from Harmby near Leyburn, who runs a web design and development business and has a personal website ( as glossy as you would expect a web designer to have.  Richmond-based independent Helen Grant tries again after being runner-up in the 2012 district by-election; in May she was elected as county councillor for the neigbouring Central Richmondshire division (which covers Catterick Garrison) having won a May 2012 by-election for that county seat which had also been previously held by Melva Steckles.  UKIP's Jacqueline Brakenberry, from Brompton-on-Swale at the other end of Catterick Bridge, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)
North Yorkshire county council division: Catterick Bridge
Civil parishes: Appleton East and West, Arrathorne, Brough with St Giles, Hornby, Hunton, Tunstall
ONS Travel to Work Area: Richmond and Catterick
Postcode districts: DL8, DL9, DL10

Jacqueline Brakenberry (UKIP)
Helen Grant (Ind)
Robin Scott (C)

May 2012 by-election C 204 Ind 147 Lab 45
May 2011 result C unopposed
May 2007 result C 294 Ind 158
May 2003 result Ind 290 Richmondshire Ind Group 42

South Bucks District Council; caused by the resignation of South Bucks' only Liberal Democrat councillor, Alan Oxley.

Iver railway station
  © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
On the western edge of Greater London, this is Buckinghamshire's southeasternmost ward, nestled in the gap between Slough and London.  Iver (the centre of a surprisingly large civil parish) and Richings Park are both villages just off the M25 motorway, with Richings Park being the location for Iver railway station, currently a sleepy suburban station on the Great Western Main Line but possibly destined for greater things; one proposal for putting Heathrow Airport on the high speed rail map involves redeveloping Iver station into a Heathrow Hub intercity station.

This is the only South Bucks ward in which the Lib Dems are a factor, the party gaining two seats from the Conservatives at the 2007 election in which, surprisingly, the Tories only fielded two candidates despite holding all three seats prior to the election.  This came after the Lib Dems had won the wider Iver county division (with Alan Oxley as the candidate) in the 2005 election.  The Tories got the county seat back in 2009 and regained one of the Lib Dem district council seats at the 2011 election, Oxley polling a long way ahead of his running-mates and clearly having a substantial personal vote.  In May's county election the Tory majority over Oxley in the Iver division increased from 2.5 points to 15 points.

It remains to be seen whether Oxley's personal vote can transfer to the new Lib Dem candidate Peter Chapman, who lost out to the Tories in his home ward of Gerrards Cross North in 2011, in a June 2012 by-election in Iver Heath ward and this May's county election in Gerrards Cross.  The Tory candidate is business consultant Paul Griffin, chair of the Iver Community Action Group.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Ken Wight, from Stoke Poges.

Parliamentary constituency: Beaconsfield
Buckinghamshire county council division: Iver
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wycombe and Slough
Postcode districts: SL3, SL0

Peter Chapman (LD)
Paul Griffin (C)
Ken Wight (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 868/767/697 LD 772/462/419
May 2007 result LD 809/671/521 C 686/622
May 2003 result C 728/703/658 LD 486

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