Seven council by-elections will be held on Thursday 25th July 2013, all in London and the south of England. We start in South London where Labour have a seat to defend in inner city Lambeth and the Lib Dems are affected by a scandal in Kingston upon Thames. Further down the Waterloo line the Tories will try to hold off all comers in affluent Weybridge. There are a pair of seats up for election in Essex, one defence each for Labour and the Conservatives, and we finish off with Conservative defences in Northamptonshire and Weston-super-Mare.
Lambeth Borough Council, South London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ruth Ling at the age of 60. A former freelance journalist who had lived for a time in Brazil, she had been a relatively long-serving councillor by Lambeth standards, first being elected to Lambeth council in 1994.
A few weeks ago this column previewed a by-election in Brixton Hill ward, whose eastern boundary is the A23 Brixton Hill road. On the other side of the road is Tulse Hill ward, whose eastern boundary likewise is the A204 Tulse Hill road. The ward runs frm the heart of Brixton at the northern tip towards Streatham and Tulse Hill proper at the southern end. The population here is majority non-white with over 36% of the population identifying as black in the 2011 census.
Inner-city wards like this normally have strong Labour support, and such it is here. There was a by-election here two years ago which saw a small swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, but that was during the Coalition's short-lived honeymoon period and Labour still polled over 52% of the vote. At the 2012 GLA elections Ken beat Boris here 62-18; in the list section of that election the Green Party resumed their normal second place in the ward's ballot boxes with 17% to Labour's 60%.
These indicators wouldn't suggest much for the new Labour candidate Mary Atkins to worry about. Amna Ahmad is standing for the Liberal Democrats, while regular Green candidate Bernard Atwell tries again. All three candidates give addresses in the local SW2 (Brixton) postal district, and Atkins and Ahmad's publicity describes their employment in the sort of buzzword bingo that gives no clue what they actually do for a living. This is less of a problem for the Conservative candidate, housing solicitor Tim Briggs who has served in Afghanistan with the Paras. Another solicitor on the ballot is UKIP's Elizabeth Jones, crossing the road after standing in the Brixton Hill by-election in January. Adam Buick (SPGB) and Steve Nally (TUSC) will dispute the ward's far-left vote, and independent candidate Valentine Walker is a retired businessman campaigning to save sheltered housing in Lambeth.
Parliamentary constituency: Streatham
GLA constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Amna Ahmad (LD)
Mary Atkins (Lab)
Bernard Atwell (Grn)
Timothy Briggs (C)
Adam Buick (SPGB)
Elizabeth Jones (UKIP)
Steve Nally (TUSC)
Valentine Walker (Ind)
July 2010 by-election Lab 1235 LD 745 Grn 256 C 94 UKIP 36
May 2010 result Lab 3232/3186/3160 LD 1764/1748/1668 Grn 759/698/656 C 608/556/503
May 2006 result Lab 1589/1528/1514 Grn 718 LD 582/432/374 C 353/309/306
May 2002 result Lab 1219/1078/1017 Grn 440/333 LD 334/290/285 C 225/215/184 Socialist Alliance 171
May 2012 GLA elections (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 2156 Boris 628 Grn 340 Paddick 172 Benita 155 UKIP 22 BNP 13
List: Lab 2102 Grn 601 C 354 LD 217 UKIP 67 TUSC 64 CPA 37 BNP 17 EDP 15 House Party 12 Hayat 8 NF 3 Alagaratnam 1
Kingston upon Thames Borough Council, South London; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Liberal Democrat councillor Derek Osbourne, after he was arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children.
Further out of London on the south-western main line can be found the suburb of New Malden, one of the London surburbs which owes its existence to the railway line and the commuting opportunities that entails. The commuting profile has created a relatively well-off middle-class ward. One surprising feature of New Malden is a very high Korean population, many of whom work in the City for Korean companies; the Korean diet is such that Tesco sell more fruit and vegetables per customer in New Malden than anywhere else. Most of the resident Koreans, of course, won't be eligible to vote in this by-election.
New Malden's Beverley ward, named ultimately after the Beverley Brook, has been Liberal Democrat-held since 1986 and was a very safe Lib Dem ward in the Noughties, although the Conservatives got a swing in their favour at the most recent Kingston council election, held on general election day in 2010. The ward most recently went to the polls in 2012 for the GLA elections: in the ward's ballot boxes Boris beat Ken 49-27 and the Liberal Democrats had one of their more decent scores in what was a disastrous election for them (the list votes were C 34 Lab 26 LD 16 Grn 11). Kingston council is having a rash of by-elections (this is the sixth council by-election in the royal borough since 2010) but with no consistent trend emerging.
Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Lesley Heap, a swimming teacher and wife of one of the two remaining ward councillors. The Conservative candidate is Terry Paton, a former policeman. Volunteer theatre usher Marian Freeman is standing for Labour, Chris Walker for the Green Party and Michael Watson for UKIP.
Parliamentary constituency: Kingston and Surbiton
Greater London Assembly constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Marian Freedman (Lab)
Lesley Heap (LD)
Terence Paton (C)
Chris Walker (Grn)
Michael Watson (UKIP)
May 2010 result LD 2138/2081/2044 C 1738/1591/1530 Lab 657/566/474 Grn 581 Christian Peoples Alliance 158/139/139
May 2006 result LD 1398/1391/1385 C 972/936/874 Grn 416 Lab 284/275/268 Christian Peoples Alliance 125/93/80
May 2002 result LD 1653/1632/1609 C 945/939/889 Lab 249/236/218 Christian Peoples Alliance 117
May 2012 GLA election (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1162 Ken 644 Benita 209 Paddick 152 Grn 129 UKIP 53 BNP 22
List: C 783 Lab 601 LD 375 Grn 264 CPA 94 UKIP 88 BNP 41 EDP 27 TUSC 13 House Party 8 NF 6 Hayat 4 Alagaratnam 2
Elmbridge Borough Council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of the Deputy Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Simon Dodsworth, who is emigrating to Dubai.
For the week's third London-area by-election we travel yet further out along the south-western mainline to the suburb of Weybridge. Another town which grew because of the railway, Weybridge (the point where the River Wey flows into the Thames) is even better off than New Malden; the Times reported in 2008 that the town had six of the ten most expensive streets in the South East region. All three of Weybridge South's census areas are in the 20% least deprived in England.
Elmbridge council is known for the political strength of Residents Associations, but the Residents do not normally contest Weybridge South which hasn't seen an awful lot of change in its results over the last decade. The Tories generally win very easily with the Liberal Democrats second, with the exception of the 2008 election which saw Kelvin MacKenzie (yes, *that* Kelvin MacKenzie) stand as an independent campaigning to reduce the cost of car parking. While MacKenzie did finish second, he lost just as comprehensively as the Lib Dems normally do here and hasn't been seen on a ballot paper since. May's county election in the wider Weybridge division (which includes St George's Hill) was more interesting: while the Tories held the division they polled just a third of the vote, with a Weybridge Independent candidate finishing as runner-up and outgoing county councillor Ian Lake standing as a UKIP candidate; Lake came fourth, polling 17%.
The Conservative candidate to defend Weybridge South is Richard Knight who, appropriately for such a rich town, owns a wealth management company. Gillian Solway stands for the Liberal Democrats and defeated county councillor Ian Lake is back on the campaign trail for UKIP. Labour apparently did select Martin Lister (their 2010 candidate here) to fight the by-election, but he hasn't been successfully nominated and won't appear on the ballot paper.
Surrey county council division: Weybridge
Parliamentary constituency: Runnymede and Weybridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Richard Knight (C)
Ian Lake (UKIP)
Gillian Solway (LD)
May 2012 result C 638 LD 173 Lab 107
May 2010 result C 1434 LD 649 Lab 152
May 2008 result C 679 Ind 227 LD 192
May 2006 result C 786 LD 271
June 2004 result C 776 LD 365 Lab 77
May 2002 result C 700 LD 266 Lab 78
Braintree District Council, Essex; caused by the death of Labour councillor Eric Lynch at the age of 69 from bowel cancer. After a career in health technology, Lynch had first been elected to Braintree council in 2003, and regained his seat at a March 2012 by-election after being defeated in 2011.
Braintree appears to be one of the more determinedly obscure towns in southern England. It can be found in the rural northern half of Essex, about eleven miles north of the county town, Chelmsford. The town was originally Roman and is located at the junction of two Roman roads, but it became prosperous in mediaeval times by weaving wool, turning to silk during the Industrial Revolution; the main silk mill here was run by Samuel Courtauld, whose descendants founded the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Probably the main reason for outsiders to visit is the designer outlet village of Braintree Freeport. The town and Freeport both have hourly trains to Liverpool Street (change at Witham on Sundays).
Braintree is in a rural area but this doesn't necessarily translate to strong Tory votes. The area has had Labour MPs in the past, most famously Tom Driberg in the 1940s and 1950s, when this area was part of the Maldon constituency; more recently Braintree elected a Labour MP in 1997 and (narrowly) in 2001.
Indeed Braintree town is one of the more politically marginal areas. Braintree East ward (which contains some very deprived parts as well as the Freeport) was fairly safe Labour in 2003, but the Conservatives gained one of the Labour seats in 2007 and held on to it in a June 2008 by-election. The 2011 election again produced a 2Lab/1C split in what was effectively a photo-finish between the top candidates, and the March 2012 by-election saw a Labour gain from the Conservatives with a good swing in Labour's favour. The ward is split between two county divisions: in May's elections the Conservatives held Braintree Eastern comfortably but held Braintree Town by just 31 votes over the Labour candidate.
The defending Labour candidate Celia Burne moves here from Braintree Central ward which she had fought in the 2011 election. The Conservatives are standing a former ward councillor, Jennifer Smith who was the winner of the 2008 by-election but stood down in 2011 shortly after a hairdressing business she owned was prosecuted by her own council. Computer science graduate Philip Palij, from Coggeshall, tries again after finishing third in the 2012 by-election and being runner-up in Braintree Eastern two months ago. Another veteran of May's election, John Malam, completes the ballot paper as the Green Party candidate.
Parliamentary constituency: Braintree
Essex County Council divisions: Braintree Town (western part), Braintree Eastern (eastern part)
ONS Travel to Work area: Chelmsford and Braintree
Celia Burne (Lab)
John Malam (Grn)
Philip Palij (UKIP)
Jennifer Smith (C)
March 2012 by-election Lab 554 C 388 UKIP 131 Grn 76 Ind 32
May 2011 result Lab 762/756/710 C 759/691/668 Grn 297
June 2008 by-election C 668 Lab 406 Grn 125 LD 119
May 2007 result Lab 581/541/516 C 546/507/483 UKIP 266 LD 247/244
May 2003 result Lab 597/531/502 C 304 Ind 254/228 LD 219/216
Uttlesford District Council, Essex; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor David Crome who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.
A few miles west of Braintree can be found the village of Felsted, on the north bank of the Chelmer. While Felsted has a long history, it's probably best known for its public school, which was founded in 1564 by the 1st Lord Rich, Lord Chancellor, on the back of the profits he had made from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Wikipedia list of Old Felstedians is ridiculously long; for our purposes highlights include the former head of state Richard Cromwell and two members of the current House of Commons, Conservative MPs Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) and Charlie Elphicke (Dover). The Felsted ward also includes the village of Little Dunmow and the tiny parish of Flitch Green, a new housing development on the site of an old sugar beet factory which declared independence from Little Dunmow parish in 2009. The word "flitch" recalls a strange ancient tradition in Little Dunmow: awarding a flitch of bacon to couples who have been married for a year
and a day without regret. One of the main exports from the ward is English wine: Felsted Vineyard describes itself as the oldest commercial vineyard in East Anglia.
While the Liberal Democrats held both council seats after the 2003 election, this ward has trended strongly towards the Conservatives since then; the Tories defeated the Lib Dems 79-21 at the 2011 election which, like the previous two, was a straight fight. The ward forms part of the safe Conservative Thaxted county division.
Defending this by-election for the Conservatives is Marie Felton, a full-time mother from Felsted who has worked in property and in the pharmaceutical industry. Antionette Wattebot, a retired teacher from Thaxted, is the Liberal Democrat candidate. The duopoly on candidates here has been broken: UKIP have nominated Alan Stannard, from just outside the ward in Willows Green, a retired City stockbroker who has also run his own taxi business. The ballot paper is completed by the Labour candidate Yad Zanganah, a dental surgeon.
Parliamentary constituency: Saffron Walden
Essex county council division: Thaxted
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harlow and Bishop's Stortford
Marie Felton (C)
Alan Stannard (UKIP)
Antionette Wattebot (LD)
Yad Zanganah (Lab)
May 2011 result C 1204/1113 LD 320/314
May 2007 result C 924/740 LD 585/554
May 2003 result LD 539/531 C 336/298
East Northamptonshire District Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Michael Finch.
A small town in rural Northamptonshire of about 5,800 souls, Thrapston can be found on the River Nene at the junction of the A14 Kettering-Huntingdon road with the A45/A605 Northampton-Peterborough road. The town is fairly nondescript and the main feature is the offices of East Northamptonshire district council. The Thrapston Market ward combines the southern half of the town with the parishes of Denford and Ringstead to the south.
East Northamptonshire is a strongly Conservative local government district and the Conservatives were unopposed here in 2007 when the ward was created. In 2011, however, while still topping the poll the Tories lost one of the seats in this ward to an independent candidate. The ward is divided between two county council divisions; in May the Tories held Thrapston county division fairly comfortably although on a low share of the vote, UKIP being second, while the rural parishes form part of Irthlingborough county division where the Tories beat off Labour rather more narrowly. However, it's probably fair to say that Denford and Ringstead are not the best parts of that division for Labour.
Defending for the Conservatives is Alex Smith. Thrapston town councillor Val Carter is standing as an Independent. Joseph Garner stands for UKIP hot from the campaign trail after finishing runner-up to the Conservatives in Thrapston county division in May, and teacher Alex Izycky is the Labour candidate.
Parliamentary constituency: Corby
Northamptonshire county council division: Thrapston (Thrapston parish), Irthlingborough (Denford and Ringstead parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kettering and Corby
May 2011 result C 754/586 Ind 604
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
WESTON-SUPER-MARE NORTH WORLE
North Somerset Council; caused by the resignation of a Conservative councillor. This preview has been provided by guest writer Andrew Nisbet.
Weston-super-Mare North Worle is almost entirely made up of new suburbs built in the 1980s and 90s on farmland on the edge of Weston. Situated close to the M5 motorway, this area has lots of young families and commuters. Most of the ward is fairly affluent, with only a few areas of social housing and retirement bungalows. The motte and bailey Castle Batch is a prominent feature in the centre of the ward. Many of the roads are named after people or places of historical interest. At the east end of the ward the roads are named after Somerset county cricketers.
Upon its creation in 1999 the ward was won by the Liberal Democrats, who increased their majority in 2003. The top scoring candidate both times was Alan Hockridge, who had a large personal following, and who became leader of the council in 2005, first in coalition with the Conservatives, then with Labour. Alan Hockridge died suddenly during the 2007 elections which were then deferred. The unpopularity of the outgoing Lib Dem/Labour administration, combined with the loss of Hockridge's personal vote, meant the Lib Dems lost the ward on a huge swing to the Conservatives. The result in 2011 was very similar apart from an increased Labour vote.
The Conservative candidate is Richard Nightingale who runs his family's removals and estate agents business. He proposed a plan to develop the town's derelict Tropicana swimming pool, which was turned down by the Conservative administration who decided to demolish it instead. He is now in the ironic position of standing for them.
The Liberal Democrat candidate is communications expert Edward Keating who was formerly a councillor for the neighbouring South Worle ward. He has campaigned to get the Tropicana developed as a swimming pool.
An Independent candidate is farmer and developer Derek Mead whose company built many of the new houses in the area. He has also been behind a scheme to redevelop the Tropicana. He was previously not allowed to stand as a Conservative for being in his words "too disruptive".
The Labour candidate is Denise Hunt who works in local government.
The UKIP candidate is local GP Steven Pearse-Danker. He was to have been UKIP's parliamentary candidate in 2010 but was ineligible to stand due to being a Danish citizen.
Another Independent is Rachel Ling, who was the Lib Dem candidate in another by-election just 3 months ago.
There is also a by-election for Weston-super-Mare Town Council for the Worle East ward, which covers roughly the eastern half of the district ward.
Parliamentary constituency: Weston-super-Mare
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bristol
May 2011 result C 1293/1183/1101 LD 686/671/609 Lab 600/596/559
June 2007 postponed poll C 946/920/904 LD 513/498/494 Lab 268/234/218 Ind 157 UKIP 154
May 2003 result LD 1356/1236/1143 C 627/610 Lab 268/248/243