Friday, 28 June 2013

By-Elections Results: 27 June 2013

On the busiest night electorally since the 2nd of May, Labour had the most to celebrate from gaining three seats off the Conservatives while holding the other they were defending.  The Conservatives managed to hold their other three seats while UKIP, despite strong showings everywhere, lost their Worcestershire seat to the localist Independent Community and Health Concern.  The full results are currently available on the English Elections homepage here.

The future of the Conservative Party in South Tyneside looks bleak after Labour gained a seat in Cleadon and East Boldon, their last real redoubt in the area.  The seat had been vacated by the death of UKIP Cllr David Potts who had originally been elected as a Conservative, and UKIP's relatively strong showing seems to have split the Conservative vote and allowed Labour to pull through - winning with a majority of just 92 over their Tory rivals.

Primrose ward meanwhile saw a significant dent in the Labour vote as UKIP picked up a strong second place showing from not having stood here previously.  The BNP, having long come a distant second in this ward, fell to third place but still managed to pretty comfortably beat the Tories down into fourth.

A fairly safe rural Conservative ward, they held easily here with a swing to them from Labour of 4.6%.

Another Conservative heartland - this one seeing a contested election for the first time since 2003.  Local parish council chairman Andrew McGilvray ran the Tories close as an independent candidate, but they still managed to hold on here with a majority of 70.

A very safe Conservative seat in the London commuter belt, though UKIP made solid progress with a 10.4% swing from the Conservatives.  One of the most predictable of yesterday's contests - although notable for the derisory vote for the National Front of a measly 3 votes, one of the lowest vote counts we've seen anywhere in some time.

Labour will be happy to see any gains coming in from the South East as vindication of their 'One Nation Labour' strategy, even though this sort of deprived inner-urban ward is one they should traditionally dominate.  Their gain however seemed to more result from UKIP again splitting the Conservative vote - the Labour vote share rising only little in comparison to UKIP's takings.

Another Labour gain, this time in a suburban ward in the South West.  Like Newtown, this was a traditional Labour area that went Conservative in the Brown years, and now looks to be trending back towards them with all three seats now red once again.

UKIP have had terrible luck in Worcestershire - winning two seats in May's county council elections only to have one resign under a cloud within days, and the other now having also passed away.  Health Concern narrowly regained the second seat here in a contest where the vote shares were largely static, leaving the council a UKIP-free zone once more.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

By-Election Previews: 27 June 2013

27 June 2013 is the busiest day, psephologically speaking, since the big May elections with eight seats up for election.  The Conservatives have most to lose this week with defences in Essex, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Plymouth and Rutland; Labour probably shouldn't be unduly worried about losing a seat in Tyneside; and, in a sign of just how far the party has come in the last years, UKIP have two local by-elections to defend, in Tyneside and Worcestershire.


CLEADON AND EAST BOLDON and PRIMROSE
South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council, Tyne and Wear; caused respectively by the death of UK Independence Party councillor David Potts and by the resignation of Labour councillor Emma Lewell-Buck.  Potts, who died aged just 30 years old after a history of alcohol addiction, was first elected at the age of 21 as a Conservative and had had a controversial time as a councillor: a former leader of the Conservative group, he resigned from the party in January 2011 after making an offensive tweet about the then-South Shields MP David Miliband, and joined UKIP in November 2011; he was named Socialite of the Year 2012 by Private Eye magazine after apparently tweeting an invitation for people to join a sex party; more seriously, he was once cautioned by police for leaking confidential information to a local newspaper.  Lewell-Buck is now the Member of Parliament for South Shields following the recent parliamentary by-election.

Cleadon Village.
  © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for
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Two contrasting lives, two contrasting reasons for a by-election, and indeed two contrasting wards within the Jarrow parliamentary constituency.  Cleadon and East Boldon ward is effectively the remaining gap between South Shields to the north and Sunderland to the south.  Cleadon, on the main road between the two, is an ancient village which has become a commuter village for the two towns, while East Boldon is also a major commuter area for Sunderland and Newcastle thanks to its station on the Sunderland branch of the Tyne and Wear Metro; despite only opening in 2002 East Boldon is one of the busiest stations on the Metro network.

With this commuter profile it's not surprising to find that this is South Tyneside's only reliable Conservative ward, although in recent years it has been a close fight with Labour who won the ward in the 2011 election.  Despite Potts' affiliation, UKIP have not previously contested this ward.

A very different area is Primrose ward, which covers the centre of Jarrow and the Primrose area to the south.  Jarrow is a place with a glorious ancient past: the Venerable Bede lived here and at Monkwearmouth for all his life in what was the only eighth-century centre of leaning north of Rome, and the world's oldest known copy of the Bible, the Codex Amiatinus, was written here.  Much of Jarrow priory church survives and includes what is claimed to be the world's oldest stained glass window.  In more recent times Jarrow was a major centre for shipbuilding, with Palmers shipyard being the first in the world to use armour plate; the closure of the shipyard in the mid-1930s led to the Jarrow March, a protest march from here to London against unemployment in the town.  Jarrow is also on the Metro network, with its station located on the South Shields branch.

Primrose is a safe Labour ward with the BNP having finished as runner-up in all but one election here since 2007 while never really threatening to win.  In 2012 Labour polled over 75% of the vote against only BNP and Conservative opposition.

This means that the Cleadon and East Boldon by-election is likely to more closely contested and UKIP's intervention makes the result very unpredictable.  Defending for UKIP is Colin Campbell, a property landlord.  Fiona Milburn, the wife of one of the two remaining ward councillors, is the Conservative candidate, and last year's Labour candidate Margaret Meling will try again.

In a safe ward it's often the selection meeting that's more important than the poll in deciding who will be the next councillor, and the Labour selection for the Primrose by-election was as close as it gets: after several tied ballots the shortlist eventually resorted to drawing straws to decide who would be the candidate.  That will be Moira Smith, a former borough councillor for Fellgate and Hedworth ward to the south, who lost her seat to an independent candidate in 2007.  Martin Vaughan stands for the BNP.  In the home town of middle-distance runner Steve Cram, it's amusing that the Conservative candidate is a Coe: John Coe, this time.  John Clarke of UKIP completes the ballot paper.

Cleadon and East Boldon
Parliamentary constituency: Jarrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

Colin Campbell (UKIP)
Margaret Meling (Lab)
Fiona Milburn (C)

May 2012 result C 1692 Lab 1443
May 2011 result Lab 1931 C 1590 South Tyneside Progressives 238 Ind 88
May 2010 result C 2082 Lab 1978 South Tyneside Progressives 776 BNP 165
May 2008 result C 2224 Lab 1054
May 2007 result C 1988 Lab 1080
Sept 2006 by-election C 1057 LD 669 Lab 601 Grn 124
May 2006 result C 1300 LD 700 Lab 660 Ind 546
June 2004 result C 1649/1569/1500 LD 1456/1177/1176 Lab 495/423/414

Primrose
Parliamentary constituency: Jarrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

John Clarke (UKIP)
John Coe (C)
Moira Smith (Lab)
Martin Vaughan (BNP)

May 2012 result Lab 1284 BNP 227 C 195
May 2011 result Lab 1157 Ind 767 C 164 Ind 93
May 2010 result Lab 1723 BNP 478 LD 422 C 300 Ind 285 Grn 63
Feb 2010 by-election Lab 854 BNP 566 Ind 213 Ind 174 C 124 LD 100
May 2008 result Lab 1005 BNP 681 C 382
May 2007 result Lab 1066 BNP 504 C 270 Grn 221
May 2006 result Lab 917 LD 260 C 180 Ind 178 Ind 142 Grn 114
June 2004 result Lab 1065/1036/972 C 634


FARNSFIELD AND BILSTHORPE
Newark and Sherwood District Council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Nora Armstrong.  First elected in 1991, Mrs Armstrong had recently served as cabinet member for Clean and Green issues.

Farnsfield Church
  © Copyright Steven Ruffles and licensed for
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At first sight this looks like one of those large, ill-defined rural wards which are just conglomerations of parishes.  However, there's more to this ward than meets the eye.  This is the area where the influence of Newark starts to decline and that of Sherwood Forest increase, and that's reflected in this ward being starkly socially divided.  Bilsthorpe, which despite the order of names is actually the largest of the ward's seven parishes, is a pit village, and a working pit village until relatively recently, the mine closing in 1997 (but not until after an appalling roof collapse in 1993 which killed three miners).  Farnsfield and the other five parishes, on the other hand are typical rural villages, although Eakring at the north-east corner of the ward was at the centre of a small oilfield which was first developed - secretly - during the Second World War and is the location of a training centre for National Grid.

Newark and Sherwood council have consistently proved unable to estimate electorates five years in the future, and the result is that the district is now just starting its third ward boundary review in fifteen years.  The boundaries introduced in 2003, in which Bilsthorpe was the centre of a safe Labour ward and Farnsfield and the other parishes formed a safe Conservative ward, lasted just one election before being replaced by the current set in 2007.  The 2007 and 2011 elections basically tell the same story as in 2003; with Bilsthorpe only being worth about one councillor and having a falling electorate, Farnsfield and the other parishes outvote it, resulting in a safe (but not super-safe) Conservative ward.

All the district elections here this century have been straight Conservative/Labour fights, and the by-election continues this pattern.  Defending for the Conservatives is Frank Taylor, a farmer from Bilsthorpe; challenging for Labour is Glenn Bardill, a town councillor in Ollerton, a few miles north on the A614 road.

Parliamentary constituency: Sherwood
Nottinghamshire county council division: Rufford (Bilsthorpe parish), Farnsfield and Lowdham (rest of ward)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield

May 2011 result C 1752/1698/1619 Lab 1234/1181/1142
May 2007 result C 1586/1554/1461 Lab 934/793/678 LD 508


KETTON
Rutland Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Barrie Roper who is moving out of the county.

The centre of the village, Ketton
  © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for
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Another ill-defined rural conglomeration of parishes, in this case a long thin ward running south-west from Stamford along the north bank of the River Welland, covering the villages of Tinwell, Ketton, Tixover and Barrowden.  Ketton is the fourth-largest settlement in Rutland, although its population is comfortably under 2,000 souls.  Ketton's main export is limestone and cement; many Cambridge colleges are built with the Jurassic Ketton limestone, while Ketton Cement Works supplies more than 10% of Britain's cement.

This by-election is the first contested county election in Ketton for more than ten years, the only previous result on the current boundaries being in 2003 when Ketton returned two independents against opposition from only a single Conservative candidate.  Those two independents - Roper and Hugh Rees - were re-elected unopposed as Conservatives in 2007.  Rees stood down in 2011 and was replaced by Christine Emmett, whom readers might remember as the Conservative candidate in the recent Corby parliamentary by-election.

This complete lack of previous data renders the by-election more unpredictable than might otherwise be the case.  Gary Conde, a former chairman of Ketton parish council, is the defending Conservative candidate.  There are two independent candidates standing: Martin Brookes, a former Oakham town councillor who is currently on bail awaiting trial on charges of harassment and whose bail conditions prevent him from attending the count (from the Stamford Mercury here); and current Ketton parish council chairman Andrew McGilvray.  The ballot paper is completed by Liam Powell, from Uppingham, who is standing for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result Ind 582/567 C 379


BILLERICAY EAST
Basildon Borough Council, Essex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tony Archer at the age of 72.  A former bank manager and leader of Basildon council, Archer had served as a councillor for almost 30 years.

Bustling Billericay High Street
  © Copyright Martin Tipper and licensed for
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One of the indistinguishable London commuter towns, Billericay can be found just to the north of the new town of Basildon, which has effectively taken over from Billericay as the main town within the district.  One of three wards covering the town, Billericay East includes Norsey Wood, the place where the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 came to a sticky end in battle.

There's not a lot to write about Billericay, and there's not an awful lot interesting about this ward's previous election results which are all safe Conservative.  The Liberal Democrats ran second here until the formation of the Coalition, since when Labour were second in 2011 and UKIP in 2012.

Defending for the Conservatives is Andrew Schrader, a charity worker and hospital governor from Basildon.  Terry Gandy, a Billericay town councillor, stands for UKIP, Lauren Brown is the Labour candidate and the Lib Dems are standing last year's candidate Nigel Horn.  Finally, Thomas Beaney stands for the National Front.

Parliamentary constituency: Basildon and Billericay
Essex county council division: Billericay and Burstead
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood

Thomas Beaney (NF)
Lauren Brown (Lab)
Terry Gandy (UKIP)
Nigel Horn (LD)
Andrew Schrader (C)

May 2012 result C 1502 UKIP 409 Lab 383 LD 316
May 2011 result C 2626 Lab 567 LD 528 UKIP 346
May 2010 result C 4084 LD 1360 Lab 737 UKIP 308 BNP 196
May 2008 result C 1932 LD 428 BNP 220 Lab 206 UKIP 152
May 2007 result C 1373 LD 1095 BNP 377 Lab 259
May 2006 result C 2486 LD 638 Lab 307
June 2004 result C 2150 LD 780 Lab 333
May 2003 result C 1563 LD 526 Lab 272
May 2002 result C 1786/1745/1702 LD 623/597/573 Lab 387/363/341


NEWTOWN
Dartford Borough Council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Gary Reynolds, for personal reasons, halfway through his first term in office.

West View Road, Dartford
  © Copyright Brian Chadwick and licensed for
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This is an almost entirely urban ward immediately east of Dartford town centre, bounded to the south by Watling Street, the Roman road from London to Dover, and to the north by the North Kent railway line.  The A282, along which generations of motorists have queued to approach the Dartford Tunnel tollbooths, effectively divides the ward into two.  Dartford's Wikipedia entry paints a picture of a declining town with a decrepit high street; perhaps it's indicative of something that the first name on that page's list of notable people from Dartford is Pete Tong.

Recent election results in the ward have been going all Pete Tong for Labour, with this ward showing a clear trend to the Conservatives over the last decade.  Labour won all three seats in the ward at the 2003 election.  The 2007 election saw the Conservatives gain two seats but long-serving Labour councillor Dave Baker (first elected here in 1991) continued to top the poll and clearly had a large personal vote.  However, that didn't stop him losing his seat in 2011.  While Labour did gain the local county division (Dartford North East) in last month's Kent county council results, it's fair to say that this is the most Conservative of the three wards within the division.

The Conservatives have selected Rosanna Currans to hold the by-election, while Dave Baker will try to get his seat back for Labour.  The ballot paper is completed by Ivan Burch, standing for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Dartford
Kent county council division: Dartford North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

David Baker (Lab)
Ivan Burch (UKIP)
Rosanna Currans (C)

May 2011 result C 951/938/898 Lab 842/733/679 EDP 265/225/213
May 2007 result Lab 760/620/577 C 653/627/598 EDP 319 UKIP 228/205
May 2003 result Lab 661/614/536 C 432/415/399 UKIP 157


SOUTHWAY
Plymouth City Council; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Tom Browne for failing to attend any meetings of the council in six months.  Browne, a councillor for this ward since 2006, has been suffering from poor health.

Southway Drive
  © Copyright Tony Atkin and licensed for
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Don't be confused by the name of this ward: Southway is actually the northernmost ward within the Plymouth city limits.  Developed in reponse to the Second World War bombing which destroyed much of Plymouth's housing stock, the ward mostly consists of a large 1950s and 1960s housing estate built on steep hillsides in the Dartmoor foothills.  The ward also includes the ancient village of Tamerton Foliot on the very edge of Plymouth.

For some years Southway has been a very closely-fought marginal.  Safe Labour at the first election on current boundaries in 2003, the Conservatives, helped by new development in the north-east of the ward, broke through in May 2006 with Tom Browne gaining the ward from Labour by 29 votes.  The Conservatives couldn't repeat the trick at a by-election just a month later which resulted in a Labour hold, but went on to gain the two remaining Labour seats at the 2007 election (by 27 votes) and the 2008 election (by 163 votes).  Browne was re-elected in 2010 with a reduced majority of 23 votes, but Labour broke through in 2011 to gain the ward by 257 votes in a straight fight with the Tories.  One of the remaining Conservative councillors for the ward, Peter Berrow, then defected to UKIP in early 2012 and stood for re-election that May, seriously splitting the Conservative vote and allowing Labour to gain a second seat with a huge majority.  With this by-election Labour must now be favourites to make it three out of three councillors for the ward.

Defending for the Conservatives is David Downie, an executive with the Prince's Trust.  Hoping to spread a bit of magic among the electorate is freelance copy editor Jonny Morris, the Labour candidate.  Peter Berrow tries again for UKIP.  Three other candidates have thrown their hat into the ring: in alphabetical order they are the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's Ryan Aldred; independent candidate Dennis Silverwood, a retired engineer from Tamerton Foliot; and Justin Stafford, formerly of the Royal Navy, who is the ward's first Lib Dem candidate since 2010.

Parliamentary constituency: Plymouth Moor View
ONS Travel to Work Area: Plymouth

Ryan Aldred (TUSC)
Peter Berrow (UKIP)
David Downie (C)
Jonny Morris (Lab)
Dennis Silverwood (Ind)
Justin Stafford (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 1845 C 967 UKIP 785
May 2011 result Lab 2096 C 1839
May 2010 result C 2183 Lab 2160 LD 1029 UKIP 678
May 2008 result C 1318 Lab 1155 LD 583 BNP 338
May 2007 result C 1547 Lab 1520 LD 441 BNP 354
June 2006 by-election Lab 1624 C 1517 LD 214 BNP 200 UKIP 139 Grn 53
May 2006 result C 1400 Lab 1371 LD 712
June 2004 result Lab 1578 C 1222 LD 662
May 2003 result Lab 1996/1728/1620 C 836/732/731 LD 372/333/292


STOURPORT-ON-SEVERN
Worcestershire County Council; caused by the resignation of UK Independence Party councillor Eric Kitson, after just 13 days in office, over anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic posts on his Facebook page.

High Street looking towards Mitton Street
  © Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for
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This column often talks about railway towns, towns that sprung up in the Victorian era around major railway works or railway junctions.  Stourport is a rare example of a canal town, which grew up in the early Georgian era around the junction of the River Severn and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, and for many years goods were transshipped from canal boats to Severn trows (river boats).  However, Stourport's prosperity didn't last for very long, as it was bypassed by the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and later by the railways.

Stourport is part of the Wyre Forest district, where politics has never been quite the same since 1999 and the foundation of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern party, initially a single-issue party pressing for the restoration of Kidderminster Hospital's casualty unit.  Health Concern have been consistently strong in Stourport's three district wards and won two of them in the 2012 district elections (Labour gaining the other).  Stourport's county elections have been a comparative mess.  The division's two seats split between Health Concern and the Tories in 2005 with Labour not far behind.  Health Concern won both seats relatively comfortably in 2009, but in 2013 we saw a four-way marginal result, UKIP topping the poll on 27.5%, Health Concern coming second with 26.5%, Labour third with 22.6% and the Conservatives fourth with 19.5%.  UKIP and Health Concern split the two seats.  Given that result and the circumstances of the by-election, pretty much anything could happen here.

To hold the by-election UKIP have recruited Stourport town councillor, and former Conservative district councillor for Stourport's Mitton ward, John Holden who was one of the defeated Conservative candidates in last month's county election here.  Health Concern's candidate is John Thomas, who lost his county council seat in May's election.  Labour's candidate is Stourport town councillor Carol Warren, who also fought the division in May, and the Conservatives stand Chris Rogers, a district councillor for Mitton ward.  Angela Hartwich is on the ballot again for the Greens after finishing last in May, Worcester resident Carl Mason stands for the BNP and Kidderminster-based Paul Preston for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Wyre Forest
Wyre Forest district wards: Areley Kings, Lickhill, Mitton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kidderminster

Angela Hartwich (Grn)
John Holden (UKIP)
Carl Mason (BNP)
Paul Preston (LD)
Chris Rogers (C)
John Thomas (Health Concern)
Carol Warren (Lab)

May 2013 result UKIP 1385/1151 Health Concern 1335/1167 Lab 1141/894 C 984/964 Grn 195
June 2009 result Health Concern 2396/2231 C 1894/1764 Lab 724/703 Ind 510 Grn 318 LD 313 Lib 237
May 2005 result Health Concern 3339/2624 C 3266/3060 Lab 2670/2649 Grn 539/507

Monday, 17 June 2013

By-Elections Preview: 20 June 2013

The number of local by-elections in June 2013 follows a Fibonacci sequence.  Since there were two in the first week and three last week, this week there are five local polls, all following the recent deaths of local councillors.  All five by-elections are taking place within Labour-held parliamentary constituencies and Labour are defending three of the seats up for election.  This post is confined to dealing with the three English by-elections; the two Scottish local by-elections as well as the Aberdeen Donside by-election will be covered by Kristofer Keane on the Scottish Elections blog later this week.


BLETCHLEY AND FENNY STRATFORD
Milton Keynes Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Rita Venn after just a year in office.

Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park
  © Copyright Paul Gillett and licensed for reuse
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"I told you to leave no stone unturned, but I did not expect you to take me literally."
 - Winston Churchill, on the staff of Bletchley Park

Bletchley lies at the intersection of many rather disconnected things.  Milton Keynes and things that existed before the 1960s; the West Coast Main Line and the Varsity Line; early computing devices and mansions of questionable architectural taste.

Mention Milton Keynes to people and they will probably think of 1970s housing as far as the eye can see, roundabouts at every junction and the inevitable concrete cows.  Bletchley isn't like that; it grew up in the Victorian era as a railway town in rural northern Buckinghamshire, well-sited at the junction of the West Coast Main Line and the Oxford-Cambridge line and with extensive railway yards providing employment.  The town quickly grew and merged with neighbouring Fenny Stratford, a vilage on Watling Street and the Grand Union Canal, at the end of the 19th century.

In those days the town centre was west of the railway line, and close to the architecturally-strange mansion of Bletchley Park, home of the local Liberal MP Sir Herbert Leon.  After Sir Herbert's widow died in 1937 the mansion and land was sold to a developer but quickly sold on to Adm Sir Hugh Sinclair.  Shortly afterwards a group of Government visitors described as "Capt Ridley's shooting party" turned up at the mansion, and as the Second World War got into full swing the Park became a hive of activity.

It wasn't revealed until the 1970s that the Park was the site of the UK's decryption establishment, the Government Code and Cypher School, which deciphered the codes of the Axis Powers during the War; this intelligence was so successful it is said to have shortened the war by at least two years.  In order to do this, some of the foremost mathematicians of the time, notably Alan Turing, developed electromechanical and electronic machines including "Colossus", the world's first programmable digital computer and a distant ancestor of the machine you are reading this column on.  In recognition of this, Bletchley Park is now a series of museums dedicated to the War, codebreaking and computing.

Bletchley in the 1970s had greatly changed from what it was in the 1940s, first with the construction of a London overspill estate and then with the designation of the New City of Milton Keynes in 1967.  In the early days (until the construction of Central Milton Keynes) Bletchley was the main shopping district for MK thanks to the Brunel Shopping Centre, which opened in the early 1970s and effectively transferred the town centre to the east side of the railway line.  The Brunel Centre is now in decline thanks to a number of large retail developments in the north of the ward at Denbigh, an industrial area on Watling Street (one of the main employers is Marshall guitar amplifiers) which also includes Stadium MK, home of the football team Milton Keynes Dons.

So, what does all this mean for local politics?  A fascinating marginal ward, that's what.  All the local industry creates a Labour base vote that allowed them to carry the ward up to 2004, but the town's railway station has frequent and relatively fast trains to Milton Keynes Central and London Euston, making Bletchley an attractive commuter area.  This makes the ward a close Conservative/Labour fight in normal circumstances, and the last two elections have both been decided by fewer than 100 votes, Labour turning around a 78-vote deficit in 2011 to beat the Conservatives by 47 votes in 2012.  Although the Liberal Democrats controlled MK council from 2002 to 2006, they have never come anywhere near threatening to win this ward.

The defending Labour candidate is Mohammed Khan, who is described as a community activist.  He is up against John Bailey, the Conservative candidate from 2012, who runs a consulting business.  The Green Party have nominated West Bletchley parish councillor Keith Allen, from the bucolically-named Poets ward; Vince Peddle is the UKIP nominee; and the Lib Dems have selected Rosemary Snell, a former borough councillor for Emerson Valley ward (elected as Rosemary Drewett) who lost her seat in 2011.

Parliamentary constituency: Milton Keynes South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Milton Keynes and Aylesbury

Keith Allen (Grn)
John Bailey (C)
Mohammed Khan (Lab)
Vince Peddle (UKIP)
Rosemary Snell (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 1270 C 1223 Grn 420 UKIP 375 LD 161
May 2011 result C 1692 Lab 1614 Grn 545 UKIP 341 LD 278
May 2010 result C 2894 Lab 1993 LD 833 UKIP 466 Grn 253
May 2008 result C 1941 Lab 1199 UKIP 365 LD 325
May 2007 result C 1649 Lab 1377 Ind 597 LD 391 UKIP 179
May 2006 result C 1387 Lab 1260 Ind 777 LD 368
June 2004 result Lab 1448 C 1131 Ind 581 UKIP 460 LD 362
May 2003 result Lab 1813 C 1048 Ind 357 LD 294 UKIP 71
May 2002 result Lab 1626/1597/1524 C 1323/1249/1149 LD 550/539/529 UKIP 138


BOLTONS
Allerdale District Council, Cumbria; caused by the death of Independent councillor Joe Mumberson at the age of 74.  Councillor for Boltons since 1995, he was the Mayor of Allerdale in 2006/7.

Old School and School House, Bolton New Houses
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The Boltons ward covers a swathe of beautiful countryside in the Lake District.  At the northern end is Boltons parish, named after the hamlets of Bolton Low Houses (on the Carlisle-Whitehaven road), Bolton New Houses, Bolton Wood Lane and Boltongate (on the Aspatria-Caldbeck road).  On country roads through the village of Ireby we enter the Lake District national park.  Reaching Bassenthwaite, the ward then runs down the eastern edge of the village's namesake Lake (the only Lake, as opposed to a Mere, Tarn or Water, in the Lake District) all the way to the edge of Keswick.  Thirteen of Wainwright's twenty-four Northern Fells are within the ward boundary (plus one, Great Sca Fell, lying on the boundary), including the wonderfully-named Great Cockup, but one dominates them all: Skiddaw, at 3053 feet the fourth-highest mountain in England.

The ward is now going to the polls for the fifth time in this Parliament thanks to two county council by-elections for the division then covering this ward in 2011 and 2012, the second one after the winner of the first by-election found himself TUPEd to work for the county council highways division.  The first county by-election was a straight fight between the Tories and Greens, while the second saw the Conservatives rather narrowly hold off a Labour challenge with a strong independent showing.  However, this isn't the sort of place where previous election results mean an awful lot.  Firstly, the Labour vote in the second county by-election will have mostly come from Aspatria, which isn't in the ward; secondly, Joe Mumberson had dominated the ward's district election results for many years.  Mumberson was unopposed in the 2003 and 2007 elections, and easily beat off a Conservative challenge at his final re-election in 2011.

There are two independent candidates in the by-election to replace Joe Mumberson.  Probably the favourite is Mary Mumberson, Joe's widow, from Ireby, although Marion Fitzgerald, from Bolton Low Houses, has a high profile in the area as an anti-windfarm campaigner.  The Conservatives have selected Caldbeck parish councillor (although he gives an address in Kirkbride, close to the Solway coast) Colin Smithson, and the ballot paper is completed by Dianne Standen, from Maryport, standing for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Workington
Cumbria county council division: Bothel and Wharrels (Bassenthwaite, Bewaldeth and Snittlegarth, Ireby and Uldale, and Underskiddaw parishes); Thursby (Boltons parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Workington and Keswick

Marion Fitzgerald (Ind)
Mary Mumberson (Ind)
Colin Smithson (C)
Dianne Standen (Grn)

May 2011 Ind 504 C 257
May 2007 Ind unopposed
May 2003 Ind unopposed


WEASTE AND SEEDLEY
Salford City Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Jan Rochford.

Rails and Road to Liverpool
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When your columnist was nobbut a lad, his mum worked as a school secretary at Hope High School on Eccles Old Road, just up the hill from Hope Hospital, where many of Salford's residents begin and end their days.  Times have changed since then: Hope Hospital has been renamed Salford Royal Hospital and comprehensively redeveloped, while Hope High - always a challenging school to run because of the nature of the local kids - became an academy and moved last year to a new site behind the shiny new BBC buildings at MediaCityUK, on the banks of the Ship Canal.

MediaCity is just outside the south-east corner of Weaste and Seedley ward, and beyond MediaCity is the point where there is still some industry on the banks of the Ship Canal.  Going north from the canal, we first meet the Eccles New Road with its tramline (Ladywell, Weaste and Langworthy stops are all within the ward boundary), then the roaring chasm that contains the Liverpool and Manchester railway and the M602 motorway.  Immediately to the north of the motorway the main residential part of the ward begins, still dominated by the sort of Coronation Street-like terraced housing that is becoming more and more scarce within the M60.  It can't be denied that this is the model of a deprived inner-city ward, but there are some relatively affluent bits, particularly once you get north of Eccles Old Road.  There are far more deprived wards in Salford than this.

During the Blair and Brown years Weaste and Seedley ward was a consistently close fight between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, the Lib Dems finally breaking through with new ward boundaries in 2004 to take the ward's three seats off Labour.  Labour had to wait until 2010 to get the ward back, and since then it has been plain sailing for Labour as the formation of the Coalition led to the disintegration of the Lib Dem vote in Salford.  It won't have helped the Lib Dems that their former ward councillor Geoff Ainsworth ran for re-election in 2011 as an Independent, beating the official Lib Dem candidate into third place.

There's a lot of choice on the ballot paper for this by-election, with nine candidates (a tenth candidate was nominated but withdrew).  Defending for Labour is Co-op pharmacist Paul Wilson, a former Hope High pupil and GMB member, and son of one of the two remaining councillors for the ward.  Valerie Kelly is the Liberal Democrat candidate, and hospital consultant Adam Kennaugh, the only candidate to give an address within the ward, stands for the Conservatives again after coming third here in 2012.  Kay Pollitt has been nominated by the BNP, last year's Lib Dem candidate (and former Claremont ward councillor) Mary Ferrer is now standing for the Green Party, Terry Simmons is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate and further education teacher Glyn Wright will try to get elected for UKIP.  Finally, there are two Independent candidates standing, Matt Simpson and former Preston Lib Dem councillor Alan Valentine.

Parliamentary constituency: Salford and Eccles
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester

Mary Ferrer (Grn)
Valerie Kelly (LD)
Adam Kennaugh (C)
Kay Pollitt (BNP)
Terry Simmons (TUSC)
Matt Simpson (Ind)
Alan Valentine (Ind)
Paul Wilson (Lab)
Glyn Wright (UKIP)

May 2012 result Lab 1240 LD 424 C 287 BNP 197 CA 119
May 2011 result Lab 1333 Ind 439 LD 406 C 377 Grn 222
May 2010 result Lab 1884 LD 1623 C 941
May 2008 result LD 1282 Lab 682 C 478
May 2007 result LD 1086 Lab 997 C 328
May 2006 result LD 1003 Lab 888 C 345
June 2004 result LD 1298/1264/1158 Lab 916/907/796 C 538

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

By-Elections Preview: 13 June 2013

English Elections apologises for the recent hiatus, caused by our preview writer working on other projects, and myself sitting finals.  All that is out the way now, so a very welcome back to our by-election previews!

13th June 2013 sees three local by-elections in England and there's a good mix of areas here.  Later in this column we will discuss a ward in industrial Southampton which Labour are defending, and a village in the Fens of Norfolk vacated by a Liberal Democrat councillor; but first we travel to the Heavy Woollen District of Yorkshire where the Conservatives are trying to hold on to a small industrial town.

LIVERSEDGE AND GOMERSAL
Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council, West Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Margaret Bates due to ill health.  The Mayor of Kirklees in 2002/3, she had first been elected to the council in 1987; after two breaks in service, she had represented Liversedge and Gomersal since 2000.


Red House, Gomersal
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The old Spenborough Urban District lies almost at the geographic centre of West Yorkshire but was just a collection of various relatively small towns, such as Cleckheaton and Liversedge, which causes problems when deciding which of the major urban centres the area looks to.  Cleckheaton, just off the M62, is part of the Bradford postal district and the Bradford travel to work area; Liversedge is part of the Wakefield postal district and the Leeds travel to work area, so it was obvious that when West Yorkshire's five metropolitan boroughs were drawn up this area should end up in Kirklees, whose main urban centre is Huddersfield.

Liversedge and Gomersal both lie on the edge of the Heavy Woollen District, and in 1812 the area saw Luddite riots against the power looms, which have been immortalised by the unlikely figure of Charlotte Brontë (in her novel Shirley).  With the woollen industry now nearly dead, in modern times the area is essentially a commuter area for the various cities of West Yorkshire.

And it votes like a commuter area - since 2004 (when the ward was drawn on its current boundaries) Liversedge and Gomersal has never elected anything other than a Conservative councillor.  Not that the ward has always been safe - the BNP came within 150 votes of winning at their Kirklees high-water-mark in 2006, while Labour were reasonably close in 2004 and 2011 before falling back in 2012 at the final re-election of Margaret Bates, who clearly had a strong personal vote.

This by-election will be contested by just the three main parties.  Defending for the Conservatives is Sharon Light, from Birkenshaw, who is the wife of the Tory group leader on the council.  The Labour candidate is Simon Alvy, a schoolteacher and rugby league coach from Heckmondwike who is the son of a former Lib Dem councillor.  Also standing is last year's Lib Dem candidate for the ward, Cleckheaton businessman Richard Farnhill.

Parliamentary constituency: Batley and Spen
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leeds

Simon Alvy (Lab)
Richard Farnhill (LD)
Sharon Light (C)

May 2012 result C 2021 Lab 1577 Grn 365 LD 155
May 2011 result C 2467 Lab 2189 Grn 334 LD 290
May 2010 result C 3667 Lab 2284 LD 1548 BNP 990 Grn 232
May 2008 result C 2592 BNP 936 Lab 797 LD 382 Grn 202
May 2007 result C 2157 BNP 1436 Lab 1006 LD 387 Grn 208
May 2006 result C 1791 BNP 1643 Lab 1017 LD 393 Grn 226
June 2004 result C 2245/2122/2075 Lab 1749/1463/1412 BNP 1478 LD 764/734/453 Grn 432


WATLINGTON
King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council, Norfolk; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Dr Ian Mack, who now holds a politically restricted post as chairman of West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group.


Signpost in Watlington
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Not to be confused with the Oxfordshire town of the same name, the Norfolk village of Watlington can be found seven miles south of King's Lynn in fen territory east of the River Great Ouse.  Some way off the main A10 road, Watlington is perhaps better connected to the outside world by rail: the village's railway station, reopened in 1989, is on the Fens Line with regular trains to King's Lynn, Cambridge and London.

Despite this the village still votes in a fashion typical of small, remote rural places with the ward's three previous elections all being two-candidate straight fights resulting in huge majorities.  The 2003 election saw the Tories beating the Lib Dems 72-28, but the Conservative councillor stood down in 2007 and Dr Mack, the local GP, beat the new Tory candidate 64-36.  In the most recent election in 2011 Mack polled 82% of the vote against only Labour opposition.  The ward went to the polls last month in the Norfolk county council election as part of Fincham division, which went from very safe Conservative to C/UKIP marginal this year.

There is no defending Liberal Democrat candidate, so the seat is up for grabs.  Labour are standing again; their candidate is King's Lynn-based Emilia Rust, who fought Heacham ward at the last district election and came last of four candidates in North Coast division last month.  Conservative candidate John Dobson also comes hotfoot from the county campaign trail; in May he was easily re-elected as county councillor for Dersingham, north of King's Lynn.  Dobson was thrown out of the Conservative group on the county council in August last year after moving a motion to overthrow the then leader of the council over the King's Lynn incinerator controversy, but would appear to have been rehabilitated.  The most local candidate is Ashley Collins of UKIP, who gives an address a few miles away in Wiggenhall St Germans; he came within 5% of the Conservatives in the county division (Fincham) covering Watlington last month.  With this ward's propensity for huge swings and blowout results, pretty much anything could happen here.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Fincham
ONS Travel to Work Area: King's Lynn and Fakenham

Ashley Collins (UKIP)
John Dobson (C)
Emilia Rust (Lab)

May 2011 result LD 635 Lab 135
May 2007 result LD 515 C 293
May 2003 result C 501 LD 193


WOOLSTON
Southampton City Council; caused by the resignation of the Labour Leader of the Council Richard Williams following a scandal.  Cllr Williams was found, in an independent report, to have misled the public about the reasons for Cllr Keith Morrell's resignation from the council cabinet in May 2012: Williams had stated that the resignation was due to ill health, whereas in fact there were policy disagreements; and several damaging allegations against Williams in the first draft of the report were removed from the final published version.

Woolston, Victoria Road
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An area with a long history, Woolston started off life as a Viking camp in the tenth century, overlooking the Saxon port of Hamwic on the opposite side of the Itchen estuary.  The Itchen has always been a major barrier to travel between Woolston and Southampton; while there is an hourly train to Southampton from Woolston's railway station the line takes a very circuitous route around the estuary, and for centuries the easiest way into town was by ferry until the Itchen toll bridge opened in 1977 and put the ferry out of business.

While Woolston was not incorporated into Southampton until the 1920s, it was already a major industrial area by that point thanks to John I Thornycroft & Company, whose shipbuilding works was Woolston's major employer for decades until the successor company VT Group upped sticks to Portsmouth in 2004.  Woolston was also a centre for aircraft manufacturing, and the Supermarine aircraft company which designed and manufactured the famous Spitfire fighter aircraft was based here; the Supermarine factory here was completely destroyed, and Woolston was extensively damaged, by enemy bombing during the Battle of Britain.

Southampton local politics in the last decade has been rather weird.  The council was hopelessly hung for much of the period up to 2007 with all three of the main parties on roughly the same number of seats and many wards being three-way marginal.  In 2008 the Conservatives decisively took control with a 1960s-style landslide, winning fourteen of the sixteen wards; because of this result Labour have only been in overall control since 2012 when they had a landslide of their own, winning 12 wards to the Tories' 4.  In this time, as befits its heavy industrial heritage, Woolston has been one of Labour's staunchest wards in the city: in the last eleven years Labour have only lost the ward once, to the Liberal Democrats in 2003.  The Conservatives came within 107 votes of winning in their 2008 landslide (partly a reaction to an unpopular Lab/Lib administration) but they have fallen back since then and the Lib Dems now struggle to break 10% here.

Labour's candidate to hold the by-election is Christopher Hammond, who is a parliamentary assistant to Alan Whitehead, the MP for Southampton Test.  The Conservatives' Alex Houghton is having another go at the ward after his second place in 2012; he is a manager at the John Lewis Partnership.  Standing for the Lib Dems is businessman Adrian Ford, while the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have nominated Sue Atkins.  Also standing are the Greens' Chris Bluemel, who fought Southampton Test at the 2010 general election, and UKIP's John Sharp whose policies include abolishing the Itchen Bridge tolls outside peak times.

Parliamentary constituency: Southampton Itchen
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southampton

Sue Atkins (TUSC)
Christopher Bluemel (Grn)
Adrian Ford (LD)
Christopher Hammond (Lab)
Alex Houghton (C)
John Sharp (UKIP)

May 2012 result Lab 1607 C 931 LD 243 TUSC 138
May 2011 result Lab 1768 C 1071 LD 354 TUSC 163
May 2010 result Lab 2447 C 1755 LD 1281 Grn 270
May 2008 result Lab 1250 C 1143 LD 373 Grn 255
May 2007 result Lab 1346 C 840 LD 666
May 2006 result Lab 1525 C 792 LD 693
June 2004 result Lab 1445 LD 1073 C 689
May 2003 result LD 1261 Lab 1091 C 382 BNP 189 Socialist Alliance 38
May 2002 result Lab 1443/1412/1372 LD 1077/1025/958 C 365/363/339