Thursday, 28 February 2013

By-Elections Preview: 28 February 2013

As well as the major contest in Eastleigh, Andrew Teale has previewed the three local elections taking place this week in England as well.  The sole Scottish by election this week in Coatbridge will be covered by Kristofer Keane on the Scottish Elections blog.


BEAVER
Ashford District Council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rebecca Rutter after just over a year in office, believed to be for personal reasons.

Having comprehensively gone over my word limit on Eastleigh, the local by-election previews this week may be a little abbreviated.

One of the boom towns of modern Britain thanks to its location and good transport links, Ashford is an old market town which became a major railway junction in the nineteenth century.  It is now linked to London and the Channel Ports by the M20 motorway and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, with high-speed trains taking just 37 minutes to reach St Pancras.  The growth of Ashford has meant the town has spilled outside its old boundaries to swallow up several surrounding villages, and Beaver ward (named after Beaver Lane), which was originally the south-west corner of the town, is now just part of the urban sprawl.

Beaver ward is a fairly working-class area and was safe Labour in 2003. Unusually it swung towards the Conservatives at the next two ordinary elections.  In May 2011 the two Labour candidates were just 29 and 27 votes ahead of the Conservatives; the Ashford Independents, a well-organised localist group with five Ashford councillors, finished in a strong third place.  One of the Labour councillors died shortly afterwards; the resulting by-election, in November 2011, saw Labour increase their majority over the Conservatives in a much more crowded field, and there was much worse to come for the local Tories as their candidate in the by-election, landlord Cengizhan Cerit, was found to have forged nine of the ten signatures on his nomination papers.  Cerit was found guilty of electoral fraud earlier month and is now serving a one-year prison sentence.  This by-election is caused by the resignation of the winner of the November 2011 by-election.

Defending for Labour is Jill Britcher, a retired tutor organiser.  This time the Conservatives have selected Jane Martin, the daughter of Ashford councillor Marion Martin and the only candidate to live outside the town (in the North Downs village of Shottenden, which is closer to Canterbury than Ashford).  Retired voluntary worker Jack Cowen is trying again for the Liberal Democrats after contesting the last by-election.  The Ashford Independents have selected the former councillor and 1995/6 Mayor of Ashford Palma Laughton, who runs a sewing workshop.  Mark Reed, a public sector worker, tries again for the Green Party.  Angharad Yeo, the daughter of Ashford Labour councillor (and NEC member) Harriet Yeo, is the UKIP candidate, and 2009/10 Mayor of Ashford John Holland is standing as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashford
Kent county council division: Ashford South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ashford

Jill Britcher (Lab)
Jack Cowen (LD)
John Holland (Ind)
Palma Laughton (Ashford Ind)
Jane Martin (C)
Mark Reed (Grn)
Angharad Yeo (UKIP)

Nov 2011 by-election Lab 336 C 249 LD 173 Ashford Ind 111 Grn 26
May 2011 result Lab 481/479 C 452/335 Ashford Ind 308/261
May 2007 result Lab 554/545 C 377/369 LD 184/175
May 2003 result Lab 636/619 C 261/259


BERRYLANDS
Kingston upon Thames Royal Borough Council, South London; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Frances Moseley.  A Kingston councillor since 2006, she was the council's lead member for Better Homes.

London suburban sprawl here; this part of Surbiton is a commuter area just off the south-western main line, running south-west from Berrylands railway station (half-hourly trains to Waterloo, taking 24 minutes).  Like Eastleigh further down the main line, this is a hard-fought marginal area between the two coalition parties.  The Conservatives won all three seats convincingly in 2002; the Lib Dems took all three seats in 2006, the third seat by just six votes from the lead Conservative candidate; and the 2010 result was effectively a carbon copy of 2006 except that this time the lead Conservative was six votes ahead of the third Lib Dem.  In last year's GLA elections Boris beat Ken here 55-23, while the list vote had decent shares for all four parties represented in the Assembly (C 38 Lab 21 LD 18 Grn 11).

The Lib Dems will try to hold this by-election with solicitor Sushila Abraham.  Her main rival is the Tories' Mike Head, a former bank manager.  Sports journalist Tony Banks is the Labour candidate, Ryan Coley is standing for the Greens and Michael Watson for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Kingston and Surbiton
GLA constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Sushila Abraham (LD)
Tony Banks (Lab)
Ryan Coley (Grn)
Mike Head (C)
Michael Watson (UKIP)

May 2010 result LD 2333/2080/1933 C 1939/1894/1884 Lab 508/477/396 Grn 507 CPA 92/89/84
May 2006 result LD 1555/1456/1400 C 1394/1347/1337 Grn 329 Lab 194/172/152 CPA 97
May 2002 result C 1205/1067/1066 LD 892/876/845 Lab 325/321/291 CPA 111
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1176 Ken 499 Paddick 150 Grn 132 Benita 127 UKIP 48 BNP 19
London List: C 822 Lab 459 LD 380 Grn 231 UKIP 131 CPA 39 BNP 28 EDP 21 TUSC 21 House Party 10 NF 8 Alagaratnam 4 Hayat 3



PENSBY AND THINGWALL
Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Don McCubbin, who is retiring and moving to London.

Thingwall is a good name for a council ward; the "thing" in the name is an old Norse word meaning "assembly", a word which also occurs in Tynwald, the name of the Manx parliament (a word with an identical etymology to Thingwall - "assembly field"), and the Althing, the name of the Icelandic parliament.  This Thingwall is not in a tax haven, but on the Wirral, that strange peninsula between Liverpool and Wales which would rather be part of neither.  Thingwall and Pensby are two villages which have merged together in the centre of the peninsula, on the road from Birkenhead to Heswall; Pensby in particular is effectively part of Heswall.

Pensby and Thingwall together create an interesting ward which has turned into a three-way marginal.  When the ward was created in 2004 the three council seats here were split between two Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat councillor.  The Lib Dems held their seat in 2006 and then gained the two Conservative seats in 2007 and 2008.  One of the Lib Dem councillors resigned in early 2010 because of work commitments, so there was a double vacancy election on general election day in 2010, at which the Lib Dems topped the poll but the Conservatives gained the by-election seat, the Labour vote here recovering to respectability after plumbing the depths in the later Blair and Brown years.  The Tories confirmed their by-election gain at the 2011 election, the Lib Dems crashing to third and Labour finishing just 245 votes behind the Conservatives.  In 2012 Pensby and Thingwall elected a councillor from its third different party in as many years, Labour gaining a seat from the Lib Dems in a close three-way marginal result, Labour being 189 votes ahead of the Conservatives who in turn were 138 votes ahead of the Lib Dems.

This adds up to a fascinating ward which pretty much anybody could still win.  Labour have the advantage of being the most recent of the three main parties to win here, but they did poorly in the last two Wirral by-elections just four weeks ago, losing Leasowe ward to the Conservatives.  The Tories can take heart from that result and a strong hold in the neighbouring Heswall ward on the same day, although they are on the defensive here and those two January by-elections were the last local by-elections they won; so far the Conservatives have drawn a complete blank in February, losing the two seats they were defending.  The Lib Dems can take solace from the fact that this is one of the few Merseyside wards where their vote has not utterly collapsed since the formation of the Coalition.

The Tory defence is led by Sheila Clarke, a former councillor who lost her seat in Bebington ward last year.  Labour's candidate Phillip Brightmore had a good go at the safe Conservative Clatterbridge ward this year and his reward is an eminently winnable by-election.  The Lib Dems, UKIP and the Greens have all re-selected their candidates from last May, Damien Cummins, Jan Davison and Allen Burton respectively, and the ballot paper is completed by the English Democrats' Neil Kenny.

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

Phillip Brightmore (Lab)
Allen Burton (Grn)
Sheila Clarke (C)
Damien Cummins (LD)
Jan Davison (UKIP)
Neil Kenny (EDP)

May 2012 result Lab 1406 C 1217 LD 1079 UKIP 394 Grn 190
May 2011 result C 1881 Lab 1636 LD 1209 UKIP 196 Grn 180
May 2010 double vacancy LD 2854/2297 C 2479/2103 Lab 1673/1517 UKIP 518 Grn 448
May 2008 result LD 2071 C 1813 Lab 564 UKIP 160 Grn 135
May 2007 result LD 2110 C 1777 Lab 742 Grn 170
May 2006 result LD 1843 C 1710 Lab 754 Grn 256
June 2004 result C 2037/2033/1810 LD 1894/1427/1329 Lab 1311/1265/1022 Grn 586

Monday, 25 February 2013

By-Election Preview: Eastleigh


The last day of February 2013 has got rather buried in a very significant week in my life.  On the 27th, I was at my grandmother's funeral; on 1st March I attain the advanced age of thirty.  I'm not sure which of these is more depressing.  In an attempt to cheer myself up, here is the preview for this week's parliamentary by-election in Eastleigh.  Kris will be covering this week's Scottish by-election in Coatbridge separately; and a later post here will go on to describe the week's three English local by-elections, in which all three parties have a seat to defend (the Tories on the Wirral, Labour in Kent, and the Lib Dems in south-west London), but first there is an extended trip to a corner of suburban Hampshire which has been the focus of much attention this past month.

EASTLEIGH
Borough Constituency, House of Commons; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat MP (and former MEP and leadership contender) Chris Huhne who has pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

Pedestriansised section of Leigh Road, Eastleigh
  © Copyright Peter Facey and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Oh good, here we go.  This is the first by-election since the formation of the Coalition in a Lib Dem/Tory seat, and the first to be caused by the resignation of a Liberal MP since (arguably) Leith in 1927.  With Eastleigh's marginal status the campaign has been a cracker.

There has been an Eastleigh constituency continuously since 1955.  The 1955 constituency was drawn to reduce the electorate of the Winchester and New Forest constituencies, and wrapped around the whole of the landward side of Southampton like a pair of earmuffs, from Totton (now in the New Forest East constituency) in the west to Netley and Hamble-le-Rice in the east.  It was the first constituency to divide three separate rural districts.  At the time this was a fairly rural area, and my 1950 road atlas shows a Southampton much smaller than it is today, with much of the area east of the Itchen relatively undeveloped.  Indeed at its first election in 1955 the Eastleigh constituency had just 48,929 voters.  At the time most of those would have lived in Eastleigh itself, which was then a working-class town dominated by the railways; the London and South Western Railway had opened their locomotive works here in 1891, replacing the original works at Nine Elms in London.  At the other end of the modern seat, Hamble was a rather posh yachting centre with some high-end manufacturing (including a large aerospace factory and a BP oil terminal), while Netley at the time was dominated by the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, where soldiers had convalesced since the Crimean War, although the hospital was already falling into disuse by this point.  The seat has good transport links thanks to the M3 and M27 motorways, the Eastleigh railway station with its good links to London and Southampton, and Southampton Airport, which is located in the constituency; these links have gradually transformed the seat into a commuter area for both Southampton and London.

The Eastleigh constituency didn't remain small for long, as new estates were built and the population grew.  Former villages such as Hedge End became towns in their own right.  The M27 motorway was built through the constituency, bypassing Southampton and linking the villages of the constituency together.  The Boundary Commission has struggled to keep up with the expanding population here: by 1970 the electorate had grown to 76,167, and the boundary changes implemented in February 1974 knocked less than a thousand voters off that figure.  Five years later the electorate was 85,400, and a further set of new boundaries in 1983 (by now no longer including Totton) lost fewer than 3,000 voters.  At the 1992 general election, mainly due to the continued growth of Hedge End, Eastleigh was the fourth largest constituency in the UK with 91,736 electors - only East Hampshire, the Prime Minister's seat of Huntingdon, and the perennial special case of the Isle of Wight were larger.  Hedge End's growth has now slowed down - there's not much space left - and the Boundary Commission seem to have finally got a handle on the problem of keeping the constituency's size down; the last boundary review transferred just 2,500 electors in Chandler's Ford West ward out of the seat.  Opened in 2001, probably the most famous of the constituency's recent developments is Hampshire county cricket club's Rose Bowl ground in West End, which hosted an England Test match against Sri Lanka in 2011.  (The match was ruined by rain and ended in a draw which England had the better of; Ian Bell and Kumar Sangakkara scored centuries and Chris Tremlett took six wickets in Sri Lanka's first innings.)

Throughout all this upheaval Eastleigh had just one MP for its first 37 years as a separate constituency: Sir David Price, an Old Etonian Tory who had served in the Second World War with the Scots Guards and was president of the Cambridge Union in 1948.  Sir David was pushed very close by Labour at the constituency's first contest in 1955 and in the Wilson landslide of 1966, in both of which the Tory majority was under a thousand, but after that he saw his lead in the constituency blossom.  He is still alive at the age of 88, having retired from the Commons in 1992 and passed on a 13,335-vote majority over the Liberal/Alliance to his successor Stephen Milligan, a former Oxford Union president and SDP figure who had been a journalist with the Economist, the BBC and the Sunday Times during the 1980s.  At Milligan's only election in 1992 he defeated the Liberal Democrat candidate David Chidgey by 17,702 votes, increasing the Conservative majority.

Anybody who remembers the Major years knows what happened next.  Fast forward to the first Monday of February 1994, when Milligan's secretary entered his London flat to find the MP dead with electrical cord around his neck and feet and an orange in his mouth.  The inquest heard that Milligan had accidentally asphyxiated himself, and the coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Coming in the middle of the ill-fated Back to Basics campaign, one of your MPs autoerotically asphyxiating himself is not exactly helpful, and the by-election was never going to be easy.  It was held with four other parliamentary by-elections on Euro-election day in June 1994, but with the other four all being in safe Labour seats (Barking, Bradford South, Dagenham and Newham North East) this one was the centre of attention.  Renominated by the Liberal Democrats, David Chidgey, a civil engineer, ran away with the by-election, gaining a 21% swing from the Conservatives and winning by 9,239 votes over the Labour candidate Marilyn Birks, a drama lecturer who would go on to serve eight years on Eastleigh council; the Tories' Stephen Reid, the leader of Basingstoke and Deane council, trailed in third.  One Nigel Farage came in fourth of the six candidates for the UK Independence Party, just 169 votes ahead of the Official Loony Lord Sutch.

It wasn't all plain sailing for Chidgey, who faced-off again against Reid in the 1997 general election and this time held on by just 754 votes, confirming the by-election gain; Labour came within less than 5,000 votes of winning and the seat briefly looked like a three-way marginal.  This large Labour vote was successfully squeezed by Chidgey at his final election in 2001, in which he increased his majority to 3,058 ahead of the new Tory candidate Conor Burns, leader of the party group on Southampton city council, who would eventually go on to be elected to Parliament in 2010 in Bournemouth West.

David Chidgey retired to the Lords in 2005 and was replaced as Liberal Democrat candidate by Chris Huhne, who had been a Lib Dem MEP for south-east England since the introduction of proportional representation in 1999.  The son of Ann Murray, a voice of the speaking clock, he had previously been a City entrepreneur, which had made him a millionaire, having gone into that from journalism; Huhne had been economics editor of the Grauniad and business editor of the Independent and Independent on Sunday, amongst other things; one of his first major jobs was as Brussels correspondent of the Economist, a job for which he was well suited having been educated at Oxford and the Sorbonne.  While at Oxford he was active in Labour student politics and edited Isis magazine, in which he allegedly wrote an article saying that illegal drugs were an accepted facet of our society.

With Conor Burns trying again for the Tories, this was never going to be an easy campaign.  But in the end the results of Huhne's two successful general elections campaigns (he had been a Liberal/Alliance candidate in the two 1980s elections) followed the same pattern as Chidgey's results.  In 2005 Huhne squeaked past the Conservatives by a three-figure majority (568 votes this time) before putting the squeeze on the Labour vote to get a much larger majority at his next election.  This time the Tory candidate beaten by Huhne, who by now had unsuccessfully stood twice for the party leadership, was Maria Hutchings, who in 2005 had confronted Tony Blair on live Channel 5 TV about the closure of autistic schools.

One of the architects of the coalition agreement after the 2010 election, Huhne became Energy Secretary in the coalition government, serving in Cabinet until February 2012 when he was charged with perverting the course of justice following an allegation by his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, that he had pressurised her into accepting driving licence penalty points after his car was caught by a speed camera.  Huhne pleaded guilty to the charge on 4th February 2013 and forthwith resigned his seat in Parliament.  He will be sentenced at a later date once Pryce's trial on the same charge has concluded.

Huhne's resignation has prompted a by-election which promised to be just as fascinating as the last Eastleigh by-election nineteen years ago, and the campaign has certainly lived up to that billing.  Defending for the Lib Dems, and appearing thirteenth of the fourteen candidates on the ballot paper, is Mike Thornton, an Eastleigh borough councillor since 2007 who lives in the town and represents Bishopstoke West ward.  With Huhne damaged goods, the Liberal Democrats have decided to accentuate the positive in their choice of candidate by going for somone strongly associated with the local council, an unmitigated success story from their point of view; the Lib Dems and their predecessors have been the largest party on Eastleigh council for all but two years since 1986 and controlled the council continuously since 1994.  The party's council majority keeps going up and up and now the local party weeps, for there are no more wards left to conquer; the Lib Dems have won every single district ward within the constituency at every election since 2007, when they failed to gain Eastleigh South (easily the borough's most working-class ward) from Labour by just six votes.  The last time the Tories won a council seat in the constituency was in 2004 (in Hamble-le-Rice and Butlocks Heath ward).  All six of the Hampshire county council divisions wholly or partly within the constituency boundary elected Lib Dem county councillors in 2005 and 2009.  At the most recent district council election in 2012, while four of the wards in the constituency were not up for election the only ward which would be described as marginal was Eastleigh South, in which the Lib Dems held off Labour by 13 votes; the closest the Tories came to winning a seat was 15.5 points in both Botley, and Hamble-le-Rice and Butlocks Heath wards, while the relatively well-organised local UKIP branch contested every ward and came second in Bishopstoke East and Netley Abbey.  It would appear from all this that the local council Lib Dem candidates have polled well in excess of Huhne over the last few years.  Maybe Huhne had a negative personal vote?

The Conservatives renominated Maria Hutchings, from West End, for her second tilt at the seat, a decision which they may have come to regret, as during the campaign she has proven to be something of a loose cannon; in the last week of the campaign she failed to appear at a radio hustings apparently for that reason.  Labour have gone for a minor celebrity in the shape of author and broadcaster John O'Farrell, best known in Labour circles for his 1998 memoir "Things Can Only Get Better", who has previous election experience, standing in his home town of Maidenhead in 2001 against Theresa May; he gives an address in the Vauxhall constituency.  O'Farrell has proved himself able to answer tough questions from Jeremy Paxman, being captain of an Exeter alumni team in the 2012 University Challenge Christmas specials.  The UKIP candidate is Diane James, an independent district councillor for the Surrey village of Ewhurst since winning a 2006 by-election.

The other ten candidates can be politely described as also-rans.  In alphabetical order they are Wessex Regionalist Colin Bex, from Winchester; perennial by-election candidate David Bishop, from Nottingham, for the Elvis Loves Pets Party; Jim Duggan, from Horsham, a long-standing figure in the Peace Party which saved its deposit in the recent Middlesbrough by-election; Ray Hall, from Hedge End, for his Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party; Official Monster Raving Loony leader Howling Laud Hope, from Fleet in Hampshire; doctor and former Green Party figure Iain Maclennan, from Bursledon, a yachting village within the constituency, standing for National Health Action, a party backed by former Kidderminster Hospital/Health Concern MP Richard Taylor; Eastleigh resident Kevin Milburn for the Christian Party; Daz Procter from Havant, active in the shipping branch of the RMT, for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; local resident Danny Stupple standing as an independent and campaigning against gay marriage; and regular English Democrats by-election candidate Michael Walters, from Rochester in Kent, who has had a go at several Kent local by-elections in recent months.

The Lib Dems have the dubious advantage of one celebrity endorsement from a local resident: Stephen Gough, the naked rambler.

Although constituency polling is still an inexact science and has a dubious track record in the UK, two pollsters have tried their hand at getting a couple of balanced samples together for the constituency.  For what it's worth, here are the results:

Populus for Lord Ashcroft, 4th-5th Feb: C 34 LD 31 Lab 19 UKIP 13 (sample size 1006)
Survation for the Mail on Sunday, 6th-8th Feb: LD 36 C 33 UKIP 16 Lab 13 (sample size 504)
Survation for the Mail on Sunday, 18th-22nd Feb: C 33 LD 29 UKIP 21 Lab 13 (sample size 543)
Populus for the Sunday Times, 21st-22nd Feb: LD 33 C 28 UKIP 21 Lab 11 (sample size 1001, don't knows excluded)

So, if you believe the opinion polls, the only thing that can really be read into this is that the contest is too close to call and we're heading for an exciting result in which both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are neck-and-neck and UKIP are polling very well.  It's Sunday as I write this, and no doubt there are more twists to come in this by-election; we'll find out the result in the early hours of Friday morning.

Constituent Eastleigh district wards: Bishopstoke East, Bishopstoke West, Botley, Bursledon and Old Netley, Eastleigh Central, Eastleigh North, Eastleigh South, Fair Oak and Horton Heath, Hamble-le-Rice and Butlocks Heath, Hedge End Grange Park, Hedge End St John's, Hedge End Wildern, Netley Abbey, West End North, West End South
Constituent Hampshire county divisions: Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, Botley and Hedge End, Eastleigh East, Eastleigh West (part), Hamble, West End and Hedge End Grange Park
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southampton

Colin Bex (Wessex Regionalists)
David Bishop (Elvis Loves Pets)
Jim Duggan (Peace Party)
Ray Hall (Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony)
Maria Hutchings (C)
Diane James (UKIP)
Iain Maclennan (National Health Action)
Kevin Milburn (Chr)
John O'Farrell (Lab)
Daz Procter (TUSC)
Danny Stupple (Ind)
Michael Thornton (LD)
Michael Walters (EDP)

May 2010 result LD 24966 C 21102 Lab 5153 UKIP 1933 EDP 249 Ind 154 National Liberal 93
(boundary changes)
May 2005 result LD 19216 C 18648 Lab 10238 UKIP 1669
June 2001 result LD 19360 C 16302 Lab 10426 UKIP 849 Grn 636
May 1997 result LD 19453 C 18699 Lab 14883 Referendum Party 2013 UKIP 446
(boundary changes)
June 1994 by-election LD 24473 Lab 15234 C 13675 UKIP 952 Loony 783 Natural Law Party 145
Apr 1992 result C 38998 LD 21296 Lab 15768
June 1987 result C 35584 Lib/All 22229 Lab 11599
June 1983 result C 32393 Lib/All 19385 Lab 11736
(boundary changes)
May 1979 result C 38516 Lab 18222 Lib 12143
Oct 1974 result C 26869 Lab 19054 Lib 13832
Feb 1974 result C 28512 Lab 18402 Lib 17178
(boundary changes)
June 1970 result C 30300 Lab 22248 Lib 6825
March 1966 result C 24337 Lab 23636 Lib 5617
Oct 1964 result C 23249 Lab 21341 Lib 6685
Oct 1959 result C 24949 Lab 21603
May 1955 result C 20215 Lab 19670

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

By-Elections Preview: 21 February 2013


Andrew Teale continues our by-election previews for this week, with three contests being held on the more traditional day of the week.

CASTLEFORD CENTRAL AND GLASSHOUGHTON
Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council, West Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mark Burns-Williamson who is now the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire.

Glasshoughton and Red Hill
  © Copyright David Pickersgill and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Lagentium to the Romans, Castleford is a town with an old history thanks to its location where a Roman road crossed the River Aire.  The town as it is today grew up in the Victorian era with the opening of several collieries in the area.  These closed down in the late twentieth century, but a lot of regeneration money has been thrown at Castleford since then; much of that has manifested into a major industrial and leisure area south of the town on the site of the old Glasshoughton Colliery adjacent to the M62 motorway, which can now boast a shopping village, a large number of retail and food outlets and the Xscape indoor ski slope, which dominates the surrounding area.  Glasshoughton is served by one of the newest stations on the railway network, opened in 2005 with hourly trains to Leeds and Pontefract; Castleford station itself has half-hourly trains to Leeds and an hourly service to Wakefield.

With its mining history this is a very safe Labour ward and the party has not been seriously challenged since the ward was created in 2004.  The BNP were runners-up here from 2004 until 2010 when they were narrowly beaten by the Tories.  Since 2011 it has been UKIP's turn to run a distant second here.

Labour's candidate for the by-election is Richard Forster, who will face opposition from UKIP's Nathan Garbutt, a former Tory figure who stood in the neighbouring Castleford North ward in May; the Tories' Annemarie Glover, a former Wakefield councillor who lost her seat last year in Wrenthorpe and Outwood West ward; and local CAMRA chairman and VoteUK Forum member Mark Goodair who is the ward's first Liberal Democrat candidate since 2005.

Parliamentary constituency: Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wakefield and Castleford

Richard Foster (Lab)
Nathan Garbutt (UKIP) (@Nathangarbutt)
Annemarie Glover (C)
Mark Goodair (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 2306 UKIP 482 C 235
May 2011 result Lab 2641 UKIP 477 C 426
May 2010 result Lab 4146 C 1209 BNP 1147
May 2008 result Lab 1775 BNP 854 C 649
May 2007 result Lab 2077 BNP 745 C 453
May 2006 result Lab 1884 BNP 876 LD 475 C 333
June 2004 result Lab 2797/2692/2286 BNP 948 C 507/484/483


CROMER TOWN
North Norfolk District Council; caused by the death of the Conservative leader of the council Keith Johnson.  It is suspected that he shot his wife dead then turned the gun on himself.  Johnson, a former mayor of Cromer, had been leader of North Norfolk District Council since May 2012.

View from the Tower of Church of St Peter
and St Paul, Cromer, Norfolk

  © Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
The self-styled Gem of the Norfolk Coast and headquarters of North Norfolk District Council, Cromer is a small port and seaside resort on the northern coast of the county.  As well as the normal seaside attractions, the Cromer Crab is still fished here and the town does a thriving trade in seafood.  Despite the name, Cromer Town only covers the western half of the resort, with the other half of town covered by Suffield Park ward, named after the various Lords Suffield, major landowners in this part of Norfolk.  This ward includes Cromer's railway station, at the end of a branch line from Norwich and with hourly trains to Norwich and Sheringham.  Like many East Anglian seaside resorts, this ward has a large proportion of retirees and a median age of 52 according to the 2011 census.

North Norfolk District Council turned Lib Dem in a big way during the later years of the last Labour government, but at the 2011 election the Conservatives gained overall control for the first time.  The swings in this ward have been rather more muted as it has always returned two Conservative councillors since 2003, but the Tory majority did increase in 2011 and Labour are disputing second place here with the Lib Dems.

The Tories have selected a strong local candidate in Cromer town councillor and former Mayor Tony Nash.  The Lib Dems have reselected their 2011 runner-up Andreas Yiasimi, a photographer.  Labour's candidate is Jen Emery, who currently runs the book publishing company Salt Publishing after twenty years working in the NHS.  The ballot paper is completed by UKIP's David Ramsbotham, who gives an address some miles away in the village of Plumstead; he was a strong second to the Conservatives in Corpusty ward in 2011.  Not on the ballot paper is would-be independent candidate John Morgan, who submitted two sets of nomination papers which were both found to be invalid.

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

Jen Emery (Lab)
Tony Nash (C)
David Ramsbotham (UKIP)
Andreas Yiasimi (LD)

May 2011 result C 509/476 LD 367/312 Lab 332/286 Grn 154
May 2007 result C 594/531 LD 406/317 Lab 218/193 Ind 160/157
May 2003 result C 558/529 LD 272/210 Lab 179 Ind 123


WEST HARROW
Harrow London Borough Council, North London; caused by the resignation of ex-Labour councillor Brian Gate, who had received a police caution for possessing indecent images of children.

West Harrow: Drury Road
  © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for
reuse under this 
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Described in its Wikipedia entry as "bohemian", West Harrow is another of those endless suburban tracts in the area known as Metro-land, in this case spreading out from the West Harrow Underground station on the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan Line.  By the mid-twentieth century the ward was essentially full of housing, and in more recent years it has been a major centre for immigration from India; the 2011 census found almost 40% of the population from Asian or Asian British ethnic groups (overwhelmingly Indian) and Hinduism is the second largest religion in the ward after Christianity.

In the three elections from 2002 this ward has been a closely-fought Labour/Conservative marginal.  The seat elected two Labour and one Conservative councillor at the notorious 2002 Harrow election in which almost all the Liberal Democrat candidates had their nominations rejected, and the Conservatives gained a second seat off Labour at the 2006 election, Brian Gate being the surviving Labour councillor.  In 2010 Labour gained the two Conservative seats; the results show a clear personal vote for Gate but his two running-mates had majorities over the lead Conservative candidate of just 64 and 16 votes.  This marginal profile even continued into last year's GLA election in which Ken beat Boris in the ward's ballot boxes by just four votes (although this figure doesn't include postal votes in which Boris had a handy lead in Harrow); on the other hand, Labour led the Tories by 45% to 29% on the GLA list vote last year.

Defending for Labour is Christine Robson, an NHS psychotherapist who lives in the ward.  Julia Merison, a Conservative councillor for the ward between 2006 and 2010, will try to get her seat back.  Pash Nandhra, who gives an address in Pinner, is the Liberal Democrats' candidate; she was a Lib Dem councillor for a neighbouring ward until falling victim to the 2002 nomination papers fiasco, and was also the parliamentary candidate here in 1997.  Jeremy Zeid, a former Conservative councillor in Kenton, is the UKIP candidate, while the Christian Peoples Alliance are not standing again after finishing last in the 2010 election.  Former Lib Dem councillor for the ward Herbert Crossman is standing in this ward for the third consecutive election under the third consecutive label; this time he is an independent after being a UKIPper in 2010 and standing for his own People's Independent Party in 2006.  Finally, Rowan Langley is standing for the Green Party after twice contesting the neighbouring Rayners Lane ward.

I am grateful to Colin Gray for providing information on the candidates in this week's by-election thread on the Vote UK forum, and can recommend his Harrow Elections website (harrow-elections.co.uk) for further information on local elections in Harrow.

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

Herbert Crossman (Ind)
Rowan Langley (Grn)
Julia Merison (C)
Pash Nandhra (LD)
Christine Robson (Lab)
Jeremy Zeid (UKIP)

May 2010 result Lab 2197/1831/1783 C 1767/1760/1651 LD 1056/981/797 UKIP 265 CPA 129/96/87
May 2006 result C 1441/1353/1195 Lab 1251/1199/1095 LD 561/461/434 People's Ind Party 133/124/109
May 2002 result Lab 1249/1172/1102 C 1161/1079/1062
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 997 Boris 993 Grn 109 Benita 101 LD 65 UKIP 38 BNP 17
List: Lab 1047 C 684 Grn 192 UKIP 126 LD 104 CPA 63 BNP 32 EDP 28 Hayat 18 TUSC 14 Alagaratnam 13 NF 6 House Party 4

Monday, 18 February 2013

By-Elections Preview: 19 February 2013

The four by-elections in the third week of February 2013 have some rather interesting features.  Thursday sees three by-elections: the Conservatives defend a district council seat in Norfolk and Labour one in Harrow, both vacated in controversial circumstances, and Labour also have a safe seat to defend in West Yorkshire after their councillor stepped down to become the local Police and Crime Commissioner.  However, this week's column starts with an unusual Tuesday by-election in Essex.

BROOMFIELD AND THE WALTHAMS

Chelmsford City Council, Essex; caused by the death of Independent Councillor Delmas Ashford at the age of 82.  The last remaining councillor from the first election to the modern Chelmsford Council in 1973, Ashford had stood for the Conservatives in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections but was otherwise returned as an Independent.

Guildhall, Great Waltham, Essex
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Broomfield and the Walthams is a large rural ward north of Chelmsford, consisting of the Chelmsford suburb of Broomfield and various settlements along the A130 road to Great Dunmow which form the parishes of Great Waltham and Little Waltham.  Broomfield is the site of a major hospital which specialises in plastics and burns treatment and contains about 60% of the ward's electorate, while the other areas are more traditional Essex villages; possibly the most interesting feature of them is the Elizabethan Great Waltham Guildhall, recently restored.

In 2003 and 2007 this was a safe Conservative ward, forming part of a safe Conservative county division (Broomfield and Writtle) and a safe Conservative parliamentary seat (Saffron Walden); but shortly afterwards it started to go wrong for the local Conservatives, as they lost a September 2007 by-election here to the Liberal Democrats on a massive swing.  The 2011 result looks much less safe for the Conservatives, with Ashford being the third of the three candidates elected and beating the third Conservative candidate by 142 votes, and the top Lib Dem less than 150 votes behind the third Conservative.  The Lib Dems failed to hold on to their by-election gain but increased their share of the vote compared to the May 2007 election.

Nonetheless, with no independent candidate having come forward to replace Ashford the Conservatives should be favoured to hold this by-election.  Their candidate is William Wetton, about whom I have no information other than that he gives an address in Broomfield.  The Lib Dems are standing Graham Pooley, who lost his council seat in Chelmsford's Marconi ward in 2011, and was councillor for this ward from 1995 to 2003; he is campaigning against major housing plans for the ward.  The Green Party, who beat Labour here last time round, have nominated local doctor Reza Hossain who fought this ward in 2007 and the local county division in 2009.  Labour are going for the youth vote with Sinead Jein, who turned 18 last December, and UKIP are fighting the ward for the first time; their candidate is Ian Nicholls from Writtle, a quantity surveyor.

Parliamentary constituency: Saffron Walden
Essex county council division: Broomfield and Writtle
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chelmsford and Braintree

Reza Hossain (Grn)
Sinead Jein (Lab)
Ian Nicholls (UKIP)
Graham Pooley (LD)
William Wetton (C)

May 2011 result C 1278/1145/923 Ind 1065 LD 785/500/492 Grn 373 Lab 348/341/324
Sept 2007 by-election LD 1198 C 742 Lab 76 UKIP 57 Grn 53
May 2007 result C 1433/1279/1214 LD 469/440/399 Grn 256/251/248 UKIP 216 Lab 200
May 2003 result C 1245/1123/1040 LD 714/574/564 Lab 243/200/191


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

By-Elections Preview: 14 February 2013

14th February sees four by-elections, all caused by deaths of councillors.  There is an SNP defence in Lanarkshire which Kris will cover on the Scottish Elections blog.  In England there are three polls this week which could all have some potential for shock: the Liberal Democrats will try to hold a by-election in a historic Lincolnshire town while the Tories and Labour both have seats to defend in rather more modern parts of the West Midlands.


GAINSBOROUGH EAST

West Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Mel Starkey at the age of 61.  A postman by profession, Starkey had served on West Lindsey District Council since 1987.

Heapham Road water tower
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Fifteen miles north-west of Lincoln, Gainsborough has a claim to being Britain's most inland port; located on the navigable River Trent, it is more than 55 miles from the North Sea by river.  The Aegir tidal wave ends here, while road and railway bridges over the Trent block major shipping past this point.  There is still a wharf here, mainly handling imported wood.  Gainsborough is a town with an old history; one of the capital cities of Mercia during the Heptarchy, Gainsborough was the place where the Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard defeated Ethelred the Unready in 1013 and established Danish rule over England.  Sweyn took up office in Gainsborough and the town could have become capital of England, but Sweyn was dead within weeks and his son Canute (whose famous demonstration against the incoming tide allegedly took place here) moved on.

After that the town settled down into the life of an agricultural market town with some industry; notable local employers included the boilermakers Marshall, Sons & Co and the packaging machine manufacturers Rose Brothers, who diversified into lots of other things and whose name survives in Cadbury's Roses chocolates.  Today Eminox makes exhaust systems for buses and commercial vehicles in the town.

One of three wards covering the town, Gainsborough East is a residential and industrial area to the south-east of the town, straddling the town's bypass Thorndike Way.  It is a strong Liberal Democrat ward, with the Lib Dems winning every election from 2002 to 2010 mostly by large majorities over the Conservatives; Labour stood in the ward only rarely during this period but did take second place on each occasion they were on the ballot paper.  West Lindsey moved away from its thirds electoral cycle to whole-council elections in 2011, at which Labour stood one candidate who gained one of the ward's three seats from the Lib Dems, Starkey topping the poll.

With this ward now firmly in Labour's sights the by-election campaign will be very interesting.  Defending for the Lib Dems is Mark Binns, a St John's Ambulance volunteer and one of the ward's town councillors, who fought Gainsborough North at the last district council election.  Labour are hoping to elect Mick Devine, an accounts clerk and Unite member.  The two remaining candidates both live outside the town. Sturton-by-Stow resident Richard Butroid, an electrician in the health and safety sector who has represented Lincolnshire at clay pigeon shooting, is the Conservative candidate, and Howard Thompson, from Claxby near Market Rasen, is having another go for UKIP after contesting district and county council by-elections elsewhere in the district last September; he is described as a former RAF police squadron leader who runs his own company providing data information security to local companies.

Parliamentary constituency: Gainsborough
Lincolnshire county council division: Gainsborough Hill
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln

Mark Binns (LD)
Richard Butroid (C)
Mick Devine (Lab)
Howard Thompson (UKIP)

May 2011 result LD 591/583/358 Lab 422 C 322/227/196
May 2010 result LD 1019 Lab 606 C 597 UKIP 224
May 2008 result LD 635 C 255 UKIP 140
May 2007 result LD 716 C 303
May 2006 result LD 760 C 375
June 2004 result LD 774 Lab 551 C 276
May 2003 result LD 582 C 209
May 2002 result LD 424 Lab 217 C 106


PERTON EAST

South Staffordshire District Council; caused by the death of a Conservative county and district councillor David Billson at the age of 69.  The deputy leader of the district council and district cabinet member for strategic services, he had served on South Staffordshire District Council since 2003 and was approaching the end of his first term on Staffordshire County Council.  In earlier life Billson had been a policeman, and in 1963 became middleweight boxing champion of Staffordshire County Police.  With the next Staffordshire County Council elections less than three months away, this by-election is for his district council seat only.

Perton Shopping Centre
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Even to someone like your columnist, Perton is not one of those names that's famous or interesting enough to immediately pinpoint it in the country, which is a shame as this Perton, a western suburb of Wolverhampton, has a rather interesting history.  There was effectively nothing here but fields until the second world war, when an airfield was constructed by the RAF.  RAF Perton was intended as a fighter station but ended up being used as a relief aerodrome with pilots from other airfields - including the Princess Irene brigade of the exiled Dutch army - being trained here.  After the war the barracks became a camp for eastern European refugees before being abandoned.  In 1972 the site was sold to a private developer who over the next decade built an enormous housing estate here.  The 2011 census found the entire parish, of which this ward is the eastern fifth, to have a population of 10,686.  One legacy of the village's development as a private housing estate is that, despite this ward being immediately outside the Wolverhampton city limits, there is no direct road connection to the city.

In the three elections since 2003 Perton East has always elected David Billson for the Conservatives but has never been a safe ward, with Billson coming under strong pressure from independent candidates each time; at his final re-election in 2011 he had a majority of just 40 votes after a re-count (432 to 402).

This by-election is another Conservative/Independent duel.  The Tory candidate is Nigel Caine, a mobile disco operator and one of the two remaining Perton parish councillors for this ward, who is opposed by the Independent candidate from 2011, Anthony Bourke, a parish councillor for Lakeside ward which covers the centre of the village.

Parliamentary constituency: South Staffordshire
Staffordshire county council division: Perton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton

Anthony Bourke (Ind)
Nigel Caine (C)

May 2011 result C 432 Ind 402
May 2007 result C 367 Ind 293 LD 33
May 2003 result C 260 Ind 237


DAWLEY MAGNA

Telford and Wrekin Council, Shropshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Brian Duce at the age of 76.  The chairman of Great Dawley Parish Council, Duce had worked on the construction of Telford New Town before becoming a school governor and a founder member of the local Neighbourhood Watch.  He had served on Telford and Wrekin Council since 2011.

Dawley High St
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Like Perton, Dawley is an area in the West Midlands generally developed since the 1970s.  Unlike Perton, Dawley is both rather more well-known and has a history before World War Two, having been a mining town for coal and ironstone for centuries; it is immediately to the north of Coalbrookdale, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. In 1963 Dawley was designated as a New Town encompassing Coalbrookdale, Wellington and Oakengates, and development started; however, in 1968 the New Town was renamed Telford, after the civil engineer Thomas Telford, and Dawley's major claim to fame was lost.  The mining and industrial areas of this ward were heavily landscaped and built on.  The modern Dawley Magna ward runs from central Dawley (part of Great Dawley parish) along the old road to Bridgnorth into the Little Dawley and Aqueduct areas (part of Dawley Hamlets parish).

As befits the ward's industrial heritage, it currently has three Labour councillors, but the area's voting patterns over the last decade have been quite volatile; Labour lost a by-election in the ward in December 2006 to the localist Telford and Wrekin Peoples' Association, who confirmed the by-election gain at the 2007 elections and gained the other two seats in the ward for good measure, Labour falling into third place behind the Conservatives.  Labour got the ward's three seats back in 2011, the Peoples' Association falling to third place but with their leading candidate just 84 votes short of the third Labour candidate (who had a majority of 44 votes over a single Tory).

Labour's candidate to hold the by-election is another Great Dawley parish councillor, former charity shop manager Jane Pinter who lives in Little Dawley.  The Conservatives have re-selected their 2011 candidate Alan Scott, a Dawley Hamlets parish councillor who lives in Little Dawley and describes himself as deeply involved in the community.  This time there is no Peoples' Assocation candidate.  An Aqueduct resident, Angela Jordan, is standing as an independent, while UKIP, who have recently had a Great Dawley parish councillor defect to them, have nominated 25-year-old youth worker Ryan Laing.

Parliamentary constituency: Telford
ONS Travel to Work Area: Telford and Bridgnorth

May 2011 result Lab 1315/1243/961 C 917 Telford and Wrekin Peoples' Assoc 877/785/505
May 2007 result Telford and Wrekin Peoples' Assoc 1220/1033/961 C 648/535/464 Lab 574/526/483
Dec 2006 by-election Telford and Wrekin Peoples' Assoc 649 Lab 476 C 446
May 2003 result Lab 1522/1488/1268 C 878/844 Socialist Alliance 359/305


Eastleigh Candidates Published

Eastleigh Borough Council have now released the full list of candidates for the parliamentary by-election to be held on 28 February.  It includes the major party candidates we already knew about, some well known by-election faces, and a handful of other minor parties.

The Lib Dems are fielding local council leader Michael Thornton to defend the seat.  Although former MP Christ Huhne left under a cloud, he will benefit from a strongly developed local organisation - in fact, the Lib Dems hold every single council seat within the constituency.

Maria Hutchings is standing again for the Conservatives, having stood in 2010 and fallen about 3,800 votes short against Huhne.  Comedian John O'Farrell has been chosen by Labour to stand as their candidate.  UKIP's candidate, hoping to emulate their recent good performances, is Diane James - a district councillor from Waverley.

Amongst the other candidates, Colin Bex is a perennial candidate across the South West of England for the Wessex Regionalists party.  He stood against David Cameron in Witney in 2010, polling 62 votes.  David Bishop is also a veteran candidate, standing for his Elvis Loves Pets party.  He most recently stood in the Corby by-election held last November.  The Official Monster Raving Loony Party is fielding their leader 'Howling Laud' Hope, who also contested a seat last November in Manchester Central.

Also standing is Jim Duggan for the Peace Party, who had a surprisingly decent result in the Middlesbrough by-election last year.  Ray Hall is standing for the never before seen "Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party".  Dr Iain MacLennan is standing for National Health Action, campaigning to protect the NHS - MacLennan himself is a former Green candidate in Eastleigh local elections.  Kevin Milburn is standing for the Christian Party, Daz Procter for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Michael Walters for the English Democrats, and Danny Stupple is standing as an independent candidate opposed to same sex marriage.

Full details and news coverage can be found on the Eastleigh by-election page on English Elections here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

By-Elections Preview: 7th February 2013


Three by-elections will be held on 7th February, all following the deaths of councillors.  Labour are defending a safe seat in west London and a rather less safe seat in Gloucestershire, while a localist party has a safe seat to defend in Thornaby-on-Tees.

BERRY HILL
Forest of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Helen Stewart at the age of 65.  Stewart had had a varied career including working on a Xerox assembly line and as a pub landlord; she had been a councillor since 1999 with a break from 2007 to 2011.

Berry Hill Post Office
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Nestled in the middle of the forest, just north of Coleford, is the largish village of Berry Hill, a small corner of the large West Dean civil parish.  Berry Hill is notable for two things: it was the site of Christ Church, the first church in the Forest; and it was the birthplace of the TV playwright Dennis Potter.  Christchurch is now the focus of its own ward, leaving Berry Hill ward as an almost entirely urban ward of 176 acres, the smallest ward in the district.

The Forest has traditionally been a very industrial area with a history of coal mining, free mining and charcoal burning, and this has left its mark on elections in the district which see a larger Labour vote than might be expected for such a rural area.  Berry Hill ward definitely falls into this category: it was a safe Labour ward when created on its current boundaries in 2003, Labour defeating the Conservatives by 60% to 40%, but the Conservatives doubled their vote in 2007 to win by 57% to 43%, and followed up in 2009 by gaining the local county council seat (West Dean) from Labour.  Labour got the ward back in 2011 with a margin of 55% to 45% and a majority of 51 votes.

Labour have selected Timothy Gwilliam, one of the two West Dean parish councillors for this ward, to hold the district by-election.  The Conservatives have called out the local plumber, Nigel Bluett, and the Conservative/Labour duopoly on candidates here has been broken with UKIP nominating John McOwan, an HGV/plant mechanic from the village of Bream.

Parliamentary constituency: Forest of Dean
Gloucestershire county council division: West Dean
ONS Travel to Work Area: Monmouth and Cinderford

Nigel Bluett (C)
Timothy Gwilliam (Lab)
John McOwan (UKIP)

May 2011 result Lab 273 C 222
May 2007 result C 279 Lab 210
May 2003 result Lab 219 C 144


WORMHOLT AND WHITE CITY
Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council, North London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Jean Campbell at the age of 65.  Campbell came to London from Jamaica in 1970 and worked as a nurse and in the civil service; described as a dedicated community councillor, she had represented the ward since 2006 and sat on the executive of the White City tenants and residents association.
White City Estate
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Located in the Hammersmith end of the borough just south of the Westway, one of the main arterial roads into London, Wormholt and White City is named after Wormholt Park at the centre of the ward and the White City district.  First developed as the site of the 1908 London Olympics, White City is now a council estate with roads named after Commonwealth countries, including South Africa Road on which is located (just outside the ward boundary) Loftus Road Stadium, home of Queens Park Rangers football club.  The ward is a very deprived area and majority non-white according to the newly-released 2011 census figures, with Black Africans being the most common non-white ethnic group.  More than half of the households in the ward are socially rented (37% from the council).  All of the ward is within the W12 (Shepherd's Bush) postal district.

With these demographics it's no surprise to find this is a safe Labour ward, with Labour polling 60% at the last borough election on general election day in 2010.  Labour also had 60% here at the last GLA elections in 2012, to 17% for the Conservatives and 8% for the third-placed Greens, who have never stood in the ward at council level.  The ward preferred Ken to Boris by 57% to 30%.

Labour's candidate to hold the ward is Fulham-based charity worker Max Schmid, who fought and lost in the marginal North End ward in 2010.  The Tories have gone for Jamie McKittrick, who gives an address in West Kensington; he is a school governor and economics and law graduate whose Twitter profile describes him as an "odds compiler and sports trader".  Chris Whittaker, a youth leader and manager for a leading employee-run retail organisation, is the Lib Dem candidate.  Three other candidates have been nominated: in alphabetical order they are independent Jeffrey Boateng, of White City; BNP candidate Andrew Donald, of Fulham; and UKIP candidate Andrew Elston, a carer and former teacher from West Kensington.

Parliamentary constituency: Hammersmith
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Jeffrey Boateng (Ind)
Andrew Donald (BNP)
Andrew Elston (UKIP)
Jamie McKittrick (C) (@JamieRightOnCue)
Max Schmid (Lab)
Chris Whittaker (LD)

May 2010 result Lab 3052/2971/2813 C 1186/1152/1071 LD 843/727/723
May 2006 result Lab 1292/1278/1151 C 767/623/519 LD 442/404/382 Ind 184
May 2002 result Lab 1141/1084/1082 C 366/337/272 LD 289/279/242
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal votes)
Mayor: Ken 1708 Boris 904 Grn 136 Benita 97 Paddick 87 UKIP 41 BNP 38
List: Lab 1803 C 527 Grn 233 LD 137 UKIP 92 BNP 67 CPA 60 EDP 28 NF 23 House 20 TUSC 19 Hayat 9 Alagaratnam 3


VILLAGE
Stockton-on-Tees Council; caused by the death of Thornaby Independent Association councillor Mick Eddy.  Re-elected as Mayor of Thornaby last year, he spent 42 years in education, including 21 years as headteacher of Christ the King Roman Catholic primary school in Thornaby.

St. Peter's Church, Thornaby
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Village ward is a residential area forming the south-western third of the town of Thornaby-on-Tees.  On the Yorkshire bank of the Tees directly between Stockton and Middlesbrough, Thornaby has traditionally been the most middle-class part of the Teesside conurbation, in contrast to Stockton, Middlesbrough and Redcar which were all heavily industrial areas.

Today this middle-class heritage is reflected in the local parliamentary constituency, Stockton South, being an extremely marginal Conservative seat, gained from Labour in the 2010 election with a majority of just 332 votes.  With Thornaby being definitely one of the more middle-class parts of the constituency, you might expect Village to be a fairly safe Conservative ward.  If so, you'd be wrong, for Thornaby local election results are dominated by the localist Thornaby Independent Association, which holds five of the town's six seats on Stockton-on-Tees council, including both seats in this ward with a large majority.  Labour run second here, and did take one of the seats when the ward was first used on its current boundaries on general election day in 2005, but haven't come close to winning here since.

The Independent Association has nominated Mick Moore, who is one of the two remaining Thornaby town councillors for this ward, to hold the by-election.  Labour and the Conservatives have both re-selected their top candidates here from the 2011 election, Les Hodge and John Chapman respectively.  Isabel Willis is standing for the Lib Dems, and Ingleby Barwick-based Ted Strike, who contested the Stockton Town Centre ward in 2011, is the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockton South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Middlesbrough and Stockton

John Chapman (C)
Leslie Hodge (Lab)
Mick Moore (Thornaby Ind Assoc)
Ted Strike (UKIP) 
Isabel Willis (LD)

May 2011 result Thornaby Ind Assoc 1087/1022 Lab 660/591 C 242/196 LD 60/56
May 2007 result Thornaby Ind Assoc 1066/969 Lab 552/477 C 209/195 BNP 188
May 2005 result Thornaby Ind Assoc 1262/1113 Lab 1151/1078 C 371 LD 314