Friday, 30 August 2013

Which MPs Rebelled on the Syria Vote?

Last night, the Government's motion to engage the UK in military conflict in Syria was defeated by 283 votes to 270.  The 283 Nos included 223 Labour MPs (no Labour MPs voted Yes, though many were absent), as well as all SNP, Plaid, SDLP, Green, Respect and Alliance MPs as well as the Independent Lady Hermon, and 5 of the DUP MPs (others absent).

However, the tide was turned by 41 rebels - 30 Conservatives and 11 Lib Dems - who voted against the Government to oppose military action in Syria.  Here is the list of those 41 rebels:

David Amess
Southend West
Richard Bacon
South Norfolk
Steven Baker
Wycombe
John Baron
Basildon and Billericay
Gordon Birtwistle
Burnley
Andrew Bingham
High Peak
Crispin Blunt
Reigate
Fiona Bruce
Congleton
Michael Crockart
Edinburgh West
Tracey Crouch
Chatham and Aylesford
David Davies
Monmouth
Philip Davies
Shipley
David Davis
Haltemprice and Howden
Nick de Bois
Enfield North
Richard Drax
South Dorset
Andrew George
St. Ives
Mike Hancock
Portsmouth South
Gordon Henderson
Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Philip Hollobone
Kettering
Adam Holloway
Gravesham
Julian Huppert
Cambridge
Phillip Lee
Bracknell
Julian Lewis
New Forest East
Jason McCartney
Colne Valley
Stephen McPartland
Stevenage
Nigel Mills
Amber Valley
Anne-Marie Morris
Newton Abbot
Andrew Percy
Brigg and Goole
Dan Rogerson
North Cornwall
Richard Shepherd
Aldridge-Brownhills
Andrew Stunell
Hazel Grove
Ian Swales
Redcar
Peter Tapsell
Louth and Horncastle
Sarah Teather
Brent Central
Andrew Turner
Isle of Wight
Martin Vickers
Cleethorpes
Charles Walker
Broxbourne
David Ward
Bradford East
Chris White
Warwick and Leamington
Roger Williams
Brecon and Radnorshire
Sarah Wollaston
Totnes

The total number of absent MPs, who did not vote at all, for each party were:
35 Labour
33 Conservatives
14 Lib Dems
5 Sinn Fein (who never take their seats)
3 DUP
The Speaker

In addition, two MPs voted both ways (to show they abstain without being absent) - Tim Loughton (Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham) and Paul Burstow (Lib Dem, Sutton and Cheam).

Thursday, 29 August 2013

By-Election Preview: 29 August 2013

Just one by-election this week:

WINDERMERE BOWNESS NORTH
South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Hilary Stephenson. A former leader of the council who had represented the ward for six years, Mrs Stephenson resigned to support her husband Jonathan who is now the deputy leader of Cumbria County Council.

This is the last week of the school summer holidays in England, a time when families have their last chance to get away before the schools come back and the nights draw in. One popular choice for getting away is the Lake District, and the town of Bowness-on-Windermere has become a major tourist centre thanks to its location on the banks of Windermere and proximity to Windermere railway station. The "Rio" of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series, Bowness is a sailing centre for the lake; by far the most popular sailing is the car ferry which crosses the lake to Far Sawrey on the western side, not far from Beatrix Potter's house at Hill Top.

Bowness, which at parish level has merged with the neighbouring town of Windermere, is part of the South Lakeland district and Westmorland and Lonsdale parliamentary constituency, which over the last decade or so has swung a mile towards the Lib Dems; the local MP Tim Farron has one of the safest Lib Dem seats in the country despite only gaining it from the Conservatives in 2005, "decapitating" the Tory education spokesman Tim Collins. South Lakeland Council has an unusual electoral system, combining the "thirds" election cycle with a predominantly single-member ward pattern; the effect of this is that only one of the district's three main towns (Kendal, Ulverston or Windermere) has district council elections in any given year, with Windermere last up in 2011. Kendal was a Labour stronghold until the mid-Noughties, when their vote epically collapsed in the Lib Dems' favour. Windermere has been a Lib Dem stronghold for rather longer, and the Windermere county council division, of which this ward is part, gave Jonathan Stephenson, the Liberal Democrat candidate, 62% of the vote in May's elections to Cumbria county council, the Tories being runners-up on 19%. The last district council election in Bowness North, in 2011, was better for the Tories, who polled 30% (in the absence of a UKIP candidate) to 65% for the Lib Dems.

The defending Liberal Democrat candidate is Colin Jones, a Windermere town councillor and National Trust ranger. The Tory candidate is former travel agent Ian Keeling, and Labour have reselected their 2011 candidate for this ward Rae Cross.

Parliamentary constituency: Westmorland and Lonsdale Cumbria county council division: Windermere ONS Travel to Work Area: Kendal

Rae Cross (Lab) Colin Jones (LD) Ian Keeling (C)

May 2011 result LD 608 C 280 Lab 47 May 2008 result LD 654 C 227

Andrew Teale

Thursday, 22 August 2013

By-Election Previews: 22 August 2013

August is, of course, holiday season, and what better way to take advantage of the good weather than to go to what the LNER always used to call "the Drier Side of Britain"?  We have four by-elections on the menu this week on the eastern side of the Pennines, starting with a marginal ward in the historic city of Lincoln, moving north into Yorkshire to visit a Victorian spa town overshadowed by the effects of a later industry; and finishing up, fittingly for the time of year, on the beach at Scarborough.  If you're feeling a little bit under the weather, there is plenty of opportunity to take the waters this week.

BRACEBRIDGE
Lincoln City Council; caused by the disqualification of former Conservative councillor Darren Grice for failing to attend any meetings of the council in six months.  Grice, who had been leader of the council until the Conservatives lost control in 2011, had been sitting as an independent; I'm not sure why, but there had been an expenses-based scandal in the city council which may have been something to do with it.

Lincoln has a rather strange topography, being divided into "uphill" and "downhill" halves.  The cathedral, castle and public buildings are "uphill", while the city centre lies in the "downhill" part - a low-lying area next to the River Witham.  One way in which this divide is enforced is through local television, with northern "uphill" Lincoln being part of the Yorkshire TV region and southern "downhill" Lincoln covered by the Central TV region.

Bracebridge ward is the most southerly within the Lincoln city limits and therefore "downhill", although it does not mark the end of the built-up area which continues into the independent town of North Hykeham.  The ward is a rather strange one consisting of two completely independent residential areas on either side of the River Witham, along the Brant Road and the Hykeham Road.  It's a generally well-off area and becomes more well-off the further away from the centre you get.

Lincoln is Labour's bastion within the county of Lincolnshire, and as recently as 2003 Labour won a clean sweep of the city's eleven wards.  However, that year and 2012 are the only times in the last decade that Labour won Bracebridge ward which generally votes Conservative.  Boundary changes in 2007 lopped off part of the ward's grottiest census area, so you would assume that would strengthen the Conservative position in the ward.  The 2012 Labour gain was by just seven votes.  In May's county election this was only the Lincoln county division the Tories held, the Lincoln Bracebridge county division (which hasn't yet been updated to match the new ward boundaries) having a Conservative majority of 38 over Labour with UKIP in third place polling 24%.  (Hartsholme, traditionally the strongest Tory area in the city, went UKIP on a freak three-way split with just six votes separating the UKIP, Conservative and Labour candidates.)

The Tories want their old seat back, and they have nominated David Denman, a senior ecologist.  Geography teacher Katie Vause will try to make the Labour gain.  UKIP's candidate is Elaine Warde, who is retired after a career working at a Young Offenders Institute and being a drug and alcohol counsellor.  The Lib Dem candidate is optical assistant Ross Pepper, and the ballot paper is completed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's Karen Williams, a mental health worker.

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

David Denman (C)
Ross Pepper (LD)
Katie Vause (Lab)
Elaine Ward (UKIP)
Karen Williams (TUSC)

May 2012 result Lab 719 C 712 UKIP 183 LD 82 BNP 49
May 2011 result C 1134 Lab 932 UKIP 234
May 2010 result C 1632 Lab 1143 LD 775 BNP 206 UKIP 148
May 2008 result C 1126 Lab 517 BNP 230
May 2007 result C 1189/1185/1075 Lab 530/501/458 LD 325 BNP 306 UKIP 204


ASKERN SPA
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, South Yorkshire; caused by Labour councillor Ros Jones being elected as Mayor of Doncaster.

Spa towns in Yorkshire?  Yes, there's a few of them.  Harrogate is almost certainly the most famous, but one of the less well-known is Askern, a small town off the A19 Doncaster-Selby road about seven miles north of Doncaster.  The mineral waters here were first noted in the eighteenth century, and by the end of the nineteenth century there were at least five bathhouses in Askern.  The ward named after the Spa is a generally agricultural area to the north of Doncaster, with Askern and Skellow (a large village off the Great North Road) the main centres of population among tiny villages such as Burghwallis, Norton and Owston which contain a few Doncaster commuters.

You might have thought, given its semi-rural profile, this would be a strong Tory ward.  You'd be wrong: while the Conservatives came close to winning at several points during the later Blair and Brown years, this is now a very safe Labour ward and part of Ed Miliband's constituency.  Don't look at the map, look at what lies under it: coal, and lots of it.  Askern isn't just a spa town; it's a pit town as well, and a pit town of relatively recent vintage.  Askern Colliery opened in 1910 (scaring away the spa's custom, which was dealt the final blow by the Great War) and didn't close until 1993.  The effects of this (even given the dysfunctional nature of Doncaster council) give a high Labour base vote which drowns out the more rural element.  At the most recent election in 2012 Labour polled over 70% in a straight fight with the Conservatives, and in May this one of the ward councillors defeated the incumbent English Democrat Mayor, Peter Davies,
 in Doncaster's fourth mayoral election.

The electors of Askern Spa have rather more choice on offer at this by-election than they had in 2012, with seven candidates successfully nominated.  The defending Labour candidate is Iris Beech, from Askern.  The Conservatives have re-selected their 2012 candidate Martin Greenhalgh, from Sprotbrough.  In alphabetical order, the remaining candidates are David Allen for the English Democrats; independent Martyn Bev from Askern; UKIP candidate Frank Calladine (a poster on the Vote UK forum), a former Tory Doncaster candidate who gives an address in Adwick-upon-Dearne; TUSC candidate Mary Jackson and the Lib Dems' Adrian McLeay.

Parliamentary constituency: Doncaster North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Doncaster

David Allen (EDP)
Iris Beech (Lab)
Martyn Bev (Ind)
Frank Calladine (UKIP)
Martin Greenhalgh (C)
Mary Jackson (TUSC)
Adrian McLeay (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 2269 C 954
May 2011 result Lab 2205 C 831 EDP 574 Ind 416
May 2010 result Lab 2756 C 1502 EDP 1415
May 2008 result Lab 1165 C 1099 Ind 603 Ind 450 Grn 309
May 2007 result Lab 1491 C 1153 Grn 708
May 2006 result Lab 1527 C 1160 Grn 349 Community Group 289
June 2004 result Lab 1488/1356/1323 Community Group 1217 C 1191/1170 Grn 836


NEWBY and RAMSHILL
Scarborough District Council, North Yorkshire; caused respectively by the resignations of Independent councillor Mick Cooper and Conservative councillor Nick Brown.

Another town where a nascent spa industry has been completely overtaken, Scarborough started off as a tourist attraction in the 17th century not for its beach, but for the natural spring water bubbling out of the south cliff.  Drinking the waters became accepted as a medicine, and Regency and Victorian terraces sprang up on the top of the cliff, turning Scarborough into one of Britain's first seaside resort.  The coming of the railway from York ensured the resort's success, as did the Victorian Grand Hotel, which when it was built was one of the largest hotels in the world.  While the spa water is no longer fit for human consumption, its contribution to the town's economy continues with the Spa Centre, a large threatre and conference centre built around the original spring.

The Regency and Victorian terraces on the clifftop above the Spa now form the Ramshill ward of Scarborough, and could often be seen as a backdrop to the ITV drama series The Royal (a Heartbeat spinoff broadcast during the Noughties).  Away from the coast, Newby is a suburb of Scarborough on the Whitby road which has become part of the town's urban area although it is still part of a separate civil parish (Newby and Scalby).

The Newby district ward has the same boundaries as the North Yorkshire county council division of the same name, but despite this has very different voting patterns.  Since 2005 the county division has returned Conservative councillor Andrew Backhouse, the present Mayor of Scarborough, with steadily increasing majorities over Labour, but at district level Independent candidates usually top the poll.  Since 2007 the ward's three district seats have split two to Independents and one to the Conservatives.

The smaller Ramshill ward has only two district councillors, one of which has consistently been Conservative since 2003, although the only time in this millennium that the party has topped the poll in the ward is a 2005 by-election.  The other seat was won by Labour in 2003, the Lib Dems in 2007 (Labour not standing) and by an Independent in 2011.  At county level it is combined with Weaponness ward to the south (which covers the Olivers Mount area), in May Weaponness and Ramshill was won by the Conservatives with UKIP just taking second place from an independent.

The defending Independent candidate in the Newby by-election is Bonnie Purchon, who lost her district conucil seat in North Bay ward at the 2011 election.  She is a hotel proprietor from Staxton, on the road to York and was awarded an MBE in the 2001 New Year Honours for services to the hospitality industry in Yorkshire.  The Conservative candidate Sue Backhouse is county councillor Andrew Backhouse's wife and therefore the current Mayoress of Scarborough; she fought the ward in 2011.  Labour's candidate is Carl Maw who stood here in the May county elections, as did the Greens' Helen Kindness, a teacher.  Last on the ballot paper is UKIP's Andy Smith.

In Ramshill the defending candidate is the Tories' Peter Southward, who is a parish councillor in Osgodby, the next village down the coast.  Steve Siddons is the Labour candidate.  Lana Rogers, the Lib Dem councillor for this ward from 2007 to 2011, will try to get her seat back.  Mark Vesey is back on the campaign trail after his fifth place in the county division in May, while UKIP's Michael James will hope to go one better than his runner-up spot in May.

Newby
Parliamentary constituency: Scarborough and Whitby
North Yorkshire county council division: Newby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Scarborough

Sue Backhouse (C)
Helen Kindness (Grn)
Carl Maw (Lab)
Bonnie Purchon (Ind)
Andy Smith (UKIP)

May 2013 county council result C 605 Lab 370 Ind 355 LD 108 Grn 93
May 2011 result Ind 842/841/676 C 720/696/638 Lab 516 Grn 328 LD 288
June 2009 county council result C 685 Lab 406 LD 392 Ind 370 Grn 160
May 2007 result Ind 995/813/362 C 723/639 Lab 466 Grn 339
May 2005 county council result C 1143 Lab 940 LD 739 Ind 575 Grn 143
May 2003 result Ind 945/767/668 LD 615 C 455/406

Ramshill
Parliamentary constituency: Scarborough and Whitby
North Yorkshire county council division: Weaponness and Ramshill
ONS Travel to Work Area: Scarborough

Michael James (UKIP)
Lana Rodgers (LD)
Steve Siddons (Lab)
Peter Southward (C)
Mark Vesey (Grn)

May 2011 result Ind 368 C 350/323 Lab 301 LD 260 Grn 232
May 2007 result LD 322 C 294/275 Ind 285/134 Grn 242 North Yorks Coast Party 138
May 2006 by-election C 258 Ind 244 Lab 174 LD 71
May 2003 result Lab 408 C 378/320

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

By-Election Preview: 15 August 2013

Four by-elections again this week.  Later this column will discuss three Tory defences in the suburban West Midlands, rural Devon and a Hampshire market town, but first I hope you will forgive an extended trip down memory lane as Labour try and defend the ward in Hartlepool where your columnist's father and grandparents lived.

MANOR HOUSE

Hartlepool Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Angie Wilcox as the result of a scandal, which will be described below.
Wynyard Road Primary Care Centre in Hartlepool
  © Copyright Peter Robinson and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.

It's a long time since your columnist has been here, but this is a place with fond memories.  When I was a lad, my grandma and grandad lived on Glamis Walk in the Owton Manor estate in Hartlepool; we would travel up there a few times a year to meet them, particularly at Christmas and other holiday times, and I used to get packed off up there for a week every summer to see all the sights that Hartlepool and Teesside has to offer: the beach at Seaton Carew, the town centre, the quayside (in the days when redevelopment was just starting, although we did get to see quite a lot of the ironclad HMS Warrior which was being restored there at the time), the museums, the headland of Old Hartlepool (an insular place which has never psychologically recovered from being merged with West Hartlepool), the calm of Rossmere Park and the festival of litter that we went past to get there.  Regular trips to Durham and to the Sunday car boot sale at Sedgefield racecourse.  Standing in the middle of the back of the car looking at the forward view while my dad barrelled along the A19 in the days before backseat seatbelts became compulsory - ah, memories.  Ticking off the landmarks on the journey: the house in the middle of the M62, Elland Road stadium, the many tunnels on the road through Leeds city centre, turn left at the Halifax offices, through Roundhay and into the open countryside, the signpost for Shadwell, the A1 from Wetherby before it became a motorway, the airfield at Dishforth, the Happy Eater at Topcliffe, the white horse on the hillside near Thirsk, Mount Grace Priory at Easter with the daffodils in full bloom, the high viaduct over the Tees at Middlesbrough.  And no trip, of course, was complete without a ride on the Transporter Bridge.

Hartlepool was all very different from Prestwich where I was growing up at the time; the salty sea air, the call of the seagulls, the roar of the crowd at West Hartlepool rugby club's ground nearby, the different material of the buildings, the fact that my grandma and grandad's house was the wrong way round with the back door opening onto the street.  In fact, that wasn't the only strange thing about the house: my grandad joined the fire brigade, not wanting to go back to an office job after serving in the North Africa campaign with the Royal Marines, and by the time he retired he was in a very high-up position in Cleveland Fire Brigade.  (My grandma, as a fireman's widow, always got a Christmas hamper from the Firefighters Charity.)  With the huge ICI complex at Billingham and all the Teesside industry within Grandad's bailiwick, he saw some huge fires and had some individualistic views on fire prevention, the main one of which from a domestic point of view was that he'd seen too many explosions to allow gas in his house.  The result of this was that well into the 1990s the living room had a well-used coal fire, around which me and my sister would annoy Susie the cat, who was not afraid to bite back.

The street running around the back of Glamis Walk forms a rather narrow loop off Wynyard Road.  At the time I was there half of the space within the loop was filled by lock-up garages (although grandad had his own garage, which appeared to be made predominantly out of asbestos) and the rest (apart from a petrol station and a bookmakers') was mostly open space.  While the garages are still there the open space has been filled by the medical centre shown in the photograph, and the buildings which were on the west side of the loop, to the right of the photographer, have gone and been replaced by a supported living complex run by the Manor Residents Association.

The Manor Residents Association is run by Angie Wilcox who has been involved in voluntary work for many years.  Unfortunately, the Association appears to be falling apart in a very public way.  Since the start of the year Wilcox has been arrested twice (once on suspicion of theft, once on suspicion of perverting the course of justice); the Association has lost four separate employment tribunals which upheld various allegations of unfair dismissal and payment below the minimum wage, the result of which is aggregated compensation awards running well into five figures and Wilcox being branded a liar by a judge; HMRC are investigating allegations that the Association has failed to pass on tax and NI deductions from wages; and the Charity Commission appears to be looking into the management of the Association as well.  After a damning audit report by the council and the resignation of two other Hartlepool Labour councillors from the board of trustees, Wilcox finally resigned as a Hartlepool councillor.

Grandad was a lifelong Labour man who knew and respected the town's Labour MP for most of the late twentieth century, Ted Leadbitter, who gained the two Hartlepools (as they were then) for Labour in 1964 following the retirement of one-term Tory MP Commander John "Yangtse Incident" Kerans.  Grandad would give people lifts to the polling station on election day.  ("Do you know you're going to vote for?"  "No, I've not made my mind up", a surprising number of people would say.  "There's a good guy called Ted Leadbitter...")   He never liked Leadbitter's successor Peter Mandelson all that much, and neither did my grandma, who would often say that the people of Hartlepool would vote for a monkey if it had a red rosette.  Grandad died in 1997, and so never saw the decline of Hartlepool Labour during the early Blair years.  The rot started to set in in 2000 when Labour lost overall control of the council, helped by an apparent electoral pact between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, but it was with the town's first mayoral election in May 2002 that politics in the Pool took a turn for the weird.  The mayoralty was won in a shock result by the joke candidate Stuart Drummond, who was just 28 years old and was standing as a publicity stunt for the town's football club, for which he played the club mascot "H'Angus the Monkey".  Turns out my grandma was half-right - but the monkey didn't even need a red rosette!  In office, Drummond turned out to be a rather more sober and professional mayor than his previous reputation might have suggested, and despite failing to implement his only election pledge - free bananas for Hartlepool's schoolchildren - he was twice re-elected and led the town for eleven years, until his office was abolished in May this year following a referendum, control passing back to Labour who by now had recovered their council majority. 

The wackiness continued into the Hartlepool by-election in the summer of 2004 after the translation of Peter Mandelson to the European Commission.  Today we are accustomed to seeing good UKIP performances in parliamentary by-elections, but back in 2004 10% of the vote and third place for UKIP in a by-election was a notable result.  UKIP followed up by winning seats on Hartlepool council, although none of them were from Owton ward, the main predecessor to the current Manor House ward; not a very well-off area at all, Owton remained Labour throughout the Noughties except for a narrow Lib Dem gain in 2007.

Hartlepool had been re-warded at the 2004 council elections, a call by newly-elected Mayor Drummond to greatly reduce the size of the council to reflect the Mayoral structure coming just too late to influence the Electoral Commission's thinking.  Drummond did eventually get his way on this and the town was again re-warded in 2012 with fewer and much larger wards than hitherto, making it very difficult to compare results before 2012.  There has only been one election in this ward so far on the current boundaries, Labour easily winning all three seats in May last year.

This by-election has rather more choice for the electorate than my dad had at his first vote, in the predecessor to this ward at one of the last elections to Hartlepool county borough council: his choice then was between Labour and Independent Labour.  This time round the defending Labour candidate is Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau director Allan Barclay, who lost out on election in the neighbouring Fens and Rossmere ward last year.  The runner-up in this ward last year, retired bus driver Mick Stevens who has served in Northern Ireland with the Royal Engineers, tries again for the localist group Putting Hartlepool First, which won a by-election in Seaton Carew last October to add to four other seats on the council.  Hartlepool people like being put first.  Tom Hind, chairman of the local UKIP branch, also stands as does the Conservative candidate Mandy Loynes.

Parliamentary constituency: Hartlepool
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hartlepool

Allan Barclay (Lab)
Tom Hind (UKIP)
Mandy Loynes (C)
Mick Stevens (Putting Hartlepool First)

May 2012 result Lab 906/822/808 Putting Hartlepool First 305 UKIP 289 BNP 230 C 105/79/70


ALDRIDGE CENTRAL AND SOUTH

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, West Midlands; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tom Ansell at the age of 70.  A former Leader of the Council and the Walsall cabinet member for transport and the environment at his death, he served as Mayor of Walsall in 2008/9.  Ansell had been a Conservative councillor in the ward for more than 25 years, and was an Independent councillor in Blakenall before that.

Aldridge Shopping Centre
  © Copyright John M and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Now a suburban town east of Walsall, Aldridge is a relatively affluent town which developed in the nineteenth century as a centre for coal-mining and brickmaking; the town's clay creates distinctive blue bricks.  The modern affluence, however, is generally the result of the town being a commuter area for Birmingham and the West Midlands conurbation, and Aldridge is one of the strongest Conservative areas in the Aldridge-Brownhills constituency which has been in Tory hands since 1979.

The Conservatives are not seriously challenged in this ward and the main battle is usually for second place.  Four parties have finished as runners-up here in the last decade: UKIP in 2004 and 2007, the BNP in 2006, the Lib Dems in 2010 and Labour in 2008, 2011 and most recently in 2012.

Walsall council is currently hung, the ruling Conservative/Lib coalition having 28 seats plus this vacancy to 28 for Labour with three independents holding the balance of power.  A (rather unlikely) Labour gain could upset that balance.  Hoping this won't happen is defending Conservative candidate Timothy Wilson, descrived as a popular local resident and campaigner.  He is opposed by Labour candidate Bob Grainger, from Walsall Wood just to the north; UKIP's Liz Hazell from Willenhall, the local party branch treasurer; Roy Sheward from the Liberal Democrats, who fought this ward in the 2008, 2010 and 2011 elections; and English Democrats candidate Chris Newey.

Parliamentary constituency: Aldridge-Brownhills
ONS Travel to Work Area: Walsall and Cannock

Bob Grainger (Lab)
Liz Hazell (UKIP)
Chris Newey (EDP)
Roy Sheward (LD)
Timothy Wilson (C)

May 2012 result C 1602 Lab 735 UKIP 517 LD 358
May 2011 double vacancy C 2719/2553 Lab 976/967 LD 632 UKIP 552/378
May 2010 result C 3827 LD 1446 Lab 1324 UKIP 629 Grn 155
May 2008 result C 2306 Lab 507 UKIP 442 LD 382
May 2007 result C 2310 UKIP 775 Lab 625 LD 436
May 2006 result C 2367 BNP 749 Lab 555 LD 437 Ind 229
June 2004 result C 2238/2207/2065 UKIP 1087 BNP 751 LD 718/680/584 Lab 714/691/536


SHEBBEAR AND LANGTREE

Torridge District Council, Devon; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor John Lewis.

Shebbear
  © Copyright Andrew Longton and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is truly deepest darkest Devon: a ward consisting entirely of a series of tiny villages on the moors between Great Torrington and Holsworthy.  Shebbear, the largest with around 1000 souls despite being about five miles from the nearest A-road, was once the centre of its own hundred and has a stone (the Devil's Stone) in the village square which has to be turned over every 5th November to avoid a disaster falling on the village; the village was also the site of the first Bible Christian chapel, a minor nineteenth-century denomination which is now part of the Methodists.  Langtree, on the Great Torrington-Holsworthy road, attracted attention a few years ago for staging a village pantomime called Snow White and the Seven Asylum Seekers.  The ward also includes the smaller village of Stibb Cross (part of Langtree parish) and the tiny parish of Newton St Petrock.

In common with many deeply rural areas, previous election results don't tell an awful lot, although it is noticeable that none of the councillors elected for this ward since the millennium have served for more than one term.  The 2003 election saw the Liberal Democrats comfortably beat a "Community Alliance" candidate; the Conservatives contested the ward in 2007 and narrowly gained the ward from the Lib Dems.  The Tory majority increased in 2011.  The ward is split between two Devon county divisions, Holsworthy Rural and Torrington Rural, both of which were Conservative holds in May's election with UKIP in second place.

Defending for the Conservatives is David Hurley, from Langtree.  There is no official Lib Dem candidate this time, but there is an unofficial one: Bob Wootton, a Bideford town councillor who is chairman of the local constituency party.  The Green Party candidate is Colin Jones, a web designer from some miles to the east in Dolton, and UKIP are standing Penny Mills from Highampton, just south of the ward, who runs the Torridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and was the runner-up in Holsworthy Rural in May's Devon county elections.

Devon county council division: Torrington Rural (Langtree parish); Holsworthy Rural (Newton St Petrock and Shebbear parishes)
Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bideford

David Hurley (C)
Colin Jones (Grn)
Penny Mills (UKIP)
Bob Wootton (Ind)

May 2011 result C 468 LD 273
May 2007 result C 411 LD 373
May 2003 result LD 389 Community Alliance 226


HUNGERFORD

West Berkshire Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor David Holtby.  After a distinguished military career, Holtby became a successful political agent and had served as a Hungerford ward councillor since 2007; he had recently been appointed as vice-chairman of the council.

Hungerford - Town Hall
  © Copyright Chris Talbot and licensed for reuse
under this 
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A prosperous market town in the Kennet valley, Hungerford can be found about six miles west of Newbury along several transport routes.  The town benefited from its location on the Kennet and Avon canal, which allowed goods to be easily transported from London to Bristol from 1811 onwards.  The Old Bath Road, now the A4, was the main stagecoach route from London to Bath and Bristol, and with Hungerford almost exactly halfway between London and Bristol it became a major coaching town.  In 1836 five stagecoach companies ran coaches between London and Bristol through Hungerford; seven years later there were none, their business taken by the Great Western Railway which took a more northerly route through the Vale of the White Horse rather than the Kennet Valley.  Nonetheless, the railway did eventually arrive in Hungerford as part of the Berks and Hants line, and today there are regular trains from Hungerford east to Newbury, Reading and London and west to Bedwyn, Westbury, Taunton and Exeter.  William of Orange was offered the British crown here during the Glorious Revolution, but the town is probably best remembered these days for the massacre of 16 people by a gunman in 1987.

Like Shebbear and Langtree above, Hungerford is part of a parliamentary constituency gained by the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats in 2005, in this case Newbury.  The Hungerford ward has also been trending to the Conservatives over the last few years, the Tories gaining the ward from the Lib Dems in 2007 and increasing their majority in 2011.  All previous contests in the ward since the millennium have been straight C/LD fights.

Defending for the Conservatives is James Podger, who runs an antique shop in the town and is vice-chairman of the local Rotary club; his 20-year-old daughter sits on the town council.  His main opposition will come from the Lib Dem figurehead Denise Gaines, who was one of the two district councillors for the town until her defeat at the 2007 election, and failed to recover her seat in 2011.  Labour's candidate is Gary Puffett, who lives in Newbury and works at the Harwell Nuclear Decommissioning Authority after spending many years as a firefighter.  Completing the ballot paper is Andrew Stott, a parish councillor in the area and leader of his United People's Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Newbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newbury

Denise Gaines (LD)
James Podger (C)
Gary Puffett (Lab)
Andrew Stott (United People's Party)

May 2011 result C 1315/1178 LD 840/711
May 2007 result C 1244/1189 LD 924/821
May 2003 result LD 1065/1046 C 885/881


Thursday, 8 August 2013

By-Election Preview: 8 August 2013

8th August 2013 sees four by-elections in diverse areas of the country with something for everyone.  The only Tory defence comes in suburban Swindon in a ward where their majority is comfortable but perhaps not impregnable.  All the other three by-elections are to replace Labour councillors, one in the London borough of Merton and one in the Suffolk town of Lowestoft.  However, this week we start in Cleveland in the first of a two-parties series of places with which your columnist has a family connection.

SKELTON

Redcar and Cleveland Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Dave McLuckie, a former chairman of Cleveland Police Authority, after he was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.  A manager at the Boulby Potash mine, McLuckie's offence was similar to that of Chris Huhne; facing disqualification from driving after being caught speeding, he was found to have persuaded a friend to take the points for him.  McLuckie is now serving an eight-month prison sentence.

Looking down on Skelton
  © Copyright Graham Horn and licensed for
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This ward has a rather special place in your columnist's family history: the only member of my branch of the Teales ever to seek elected office was Harry Teale, my great-grandfather, who stood for election to Skelton and Brotton Urban District Council in what was then the North Riding of Yorkshire.  Although he was basically a Liberal he stood as an independent; politics was different in those days.  There are still members of my dad's family living in Skelton and the nearby villages of Boosbeck and Lingdale up on the North York Moors, and some years ago I went to a wedding in Skelton parish church of which my abiding memory is, as the congregation filed out, the open church doorway perfectly framing the sight of a horse merrily pissing in the field opposite.  What this portents for the bride and groom can only be guessed at.

Today the village of Skelton-in-Cleveland, just south of the seaside town of Saltburn, elects three members to Redcar and Cleveland council.  Those positions had been stable since at least 2003, with Brian Briggs and Dave and Helen McLuckie being the ward councillors for Labour.  Labour were pushed relatively close by the Conservatives at the 2003 election; the Tories fell back badly in 2007 before recovering at the 2011 election.  On the Labour side, Brian Briggs has a significant personal vote in the ward and greatly outpolls the McLuckies.

Labour are not having a good time in Redcar and Cleveland at the moment: on top of Dave McLuckie's conviction, the recent defection of two councillors to go Independent has wiped out the Labour majority on the council.  They have gone for an experienced candidate to hold the by-election: David Walsh was leader of Redcar and Cleveland council until losing his seat in the 2003 election.  The Conservatives have selected Anne Watts, from Guisborough, while the Lib Dem candidate this time is Rod Waite.  The chairman of Skelton and Brotton Parish Council, James Carolle, has been runner-up for the Conservatives in the last three elections to this ward, and tries again as an Independent this time.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP candidate Stuart Todd.

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

James Carolle (Ind) # Conservative candidate 2003, 2007
Stuart Todd (UKIP)
Rod Waite (LD)
David Walsh (Lab)
Anne Watts (C)

May 2011 result Lab 1238/921/876 C 718/657 LD 312/269/248
May 2007 result Lab 1897/1752/1676 C 672/667/642 Ind 354/342 BNP 171
May 2003 result Lab 1700/1492/1378 C 1194/1027/1021


COLLIERS WOOD

Merton London Borough Council, South London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Gam Gurung at the age of 53.  A bricklaying teacher at Carshalton College, Gurung settled in Britain after serving for seventeen years in the Gurkhas and was a founder of the South London Nepalese Gurkha Association.

Colliers Wood Recreation Ground
  © Copyright Ian Yarham and licensed for reuse
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While the wood which Colliers Wood is named after had been cleared for development by the 1890s, Colliers Wood itself has a much longer history as home to the remains of the 12th century Merton Priory.  Founded in 1114 at the point where Stane Street (the modern A24) crossed the River Wandle, Merton Priory quickly became a major centre of learning, with Pope Adrian IV and Thomas Becket educated here, and in 1236 a Parliament was held here which agreed the Statute of Merton: the first recorded Act of Parliament, among other things it allowed Lords of the Manor to enclose common land provided sufficient pasture remained for their tenants.

The modern Colliers Wood ward lies roughly in the middle of the deprivation indices, and has significant Black and Asian populations.  Roughly at the centre of the ward is Colliers Wood underground station on the Northern Line, opened in 1926 to link the area with the City.  One major issue in the ward is the future of the Colliers Wood Tower, an large office block which a few years ago was voted as the ugliest building in London.

Colliers Wood ward is a Labour stronghold, but was a consistent Green Party hotspot in the Noughties, the party's vote peaking at 38% in 2002, 16 points behind Labour.  At the most recent election in 2010 Labour won the ward with 51%, the Tories being best of the rest on 20%.  Last year the ward's ballot boxes produced scores of 52% for Ken and 29% for Boris, Labour polling 53% in the list section of the election to 19% for the Conservatives and 12% for the Greens.

Defending for Labour is 50-year-old Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, who works in finance and is the secretary of the local residents association.  The Conservative candidate is Peter Wood, a former volunteer police officer who works for a major telecoms company.  Standing for the Lib Dems is marketing and strategy consultant Phil Ling, and legal services entrepreneur Shafqat Janjua completes the ballot paper for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Mitcham and Morden
GLA constituency: Merton and Wandsworth
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2010 result Lab 2608/2376/2261 C 1001/960/848 LD 888/804/608 Grn 622
May 2006 result Lab 1713/1625/1577 Grn 1222/1152/1068 C 398/374/353 LD 262
May 2002 result Lab 1328/1306/1254 Grn 940/813/752 C 179/158/145
May 2012 GLA election (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1338 Boris 736 Benita 177 Grn 159 Paddick 91 UKIP 36 BNP 33
London members: Lab 1354 C 493 Grn 315 LD 139 UKIP 79 CPA 62 BNP 47 TUSC 18 EDP 17 Alagaratnam 15 House Party 9 Hayat 7 NF 6


HAYDON WICK

Swindon Council, Wiltshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Rex Barnett, who had been suffering from mesothelioma for some years.  Starting his working life with the railways at Swindon Works, he served an apprenticeship as a gas fitter and plumber, and spent twenty years as a sales manager for an engineering company.  Having formerly been a councillor in the 1960s and 1970s, Barnett had represented Haydon Wick ward since 2007 and had served as Mayor of Swindon.

Fox and Hounds, Haydon Wick, Swindon
  © Copyright John Grayson and licensed for
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A village which has been swallowed up by the explosive growth of Swindon, Haydon Wick is on the north-western edge of the built-up area according to my 2007 A-Z road atlas, but well within it according to more recent OS mapping.  Because of the growth of the town Swindon had to be re-warded in 2012, and Haydon Wick ward only covers the eastern half of the parish is is named after: the Haydon Wick and Greenmeadow areas, together with some neighbouring areas.

Because of the recent re-warding results in the ward before 2012 are not directly comparable.  The 2012 result shows a comfortable but not overwhelming Conservative lead over Labour of around 12 points, with Barnett topping the poll at the head of the Tory slate.

The defending Conservative candidate is Oliver Donachie, a local businessman and school governor.  Labour have nominated Dublin-born Maura Clarke, who has produced radio and TV programmes for RTE and the BBC and won a Sony award for the best radio feature/documentary of 1996; she now volunteers at the CAB and fought the ward in 2012.  Also standing again from 2012 is UKIP's Ed Gerrard, a retired electrical engineer who specialised in railway signalling and communications.  Completing the ballot paper is Liberal Democrat candidate Sean Davey, a director of a CCTV company who describes himself on his twitter as a "Caribbean Foodtrepreneur".  Your guess is as good as mine.

Parliamentary constituency: North Swindon
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swindon

Maura Clarke (Lab)
Sean Davey (LD)
Oliver Donachie (C)
Ed Gerrard (UKIP)

May 2012 result C 1390/1299/1168 Lab 993/904/897 UKIP 339 Grn 263 LD 202


OULTON

Waveney District Council, Suffolk; caused by the death of Labour councillor Mike Ives-Keeler.  First elected in 2011, he was the Labour group's shadow cabinet member for resources.

Oulton Broad Tidal Ford
  © Copyright John Walton and licensed for
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On the western edge of the built-up area of Lowestoft, the Oulton ward links together some rather disjoint residential areas, from the old village of Oulton to the north to part of Oulton Broad in the south.  A small corner of the ward lies within the Broads National Park.  This corner of the ward, around Sands Lane, is quite well-off, the rest of the ward less so.

This socially mixed nature has created a fascinating marginal ward which has had split representation since it was created in 2002.  The 2002 election saw Labour topping the poll and the Conservatives winning a close race for the second seat.  In 2003 the Conservatives lost their seat to an independent candidate, but made up for it by gaining the Labour seat in 2006 and holding it in 2010 (by 112 votes).  Since 2011 Waveney council has moved away from elections by thirds, and the 2011 election saw Labour topping the poll and gaining the Conservative seat, with the Independent councillor holding off a Tory challenge to win the second seat.  Oulton is one of four wards making up the two-member Oulton division of Suffolk county council, which in May elected a UKIP (Bert Poole) and a Labour (Len Jacklin) county councillor with the Conservatives - who had won both seats in 2009 - close behind. 

Both newly-elected county councillors are standing in the by-election, Jacklin hoping to defend the seat for Labour and Poole hoping to gain it for UKIP, who have not previously contested this district ward.  The Tory candidate is Deanna Law, who lost her seat on the county council in May (moving from Lowestoft South to Gunton division).  The Green candidate is Maxine Narburgh, who fought this county division in May, and Chris Thomas stands for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Waveney
Suffolk county council division: Oulton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lowestoft and Beccles

Len Jacklin (Lab)
Deanna Law (C)
Maxine Narburgh (Grn)
Bert Poole (UKIP)
Chris Thomas (LD)

May 2011 result Lab 502/420 Ind 492 C 474/372 Grn 117 LD 105
May 2010 result C 914 Lab 802 LD 345 Grn 112
May 2007 result Ind 389 Lab 303 C 296 UKIP 107 LD 70 Grn 31
May 2006 result C 419 Lab 284 Ind 281 LD 107 Grn 50
May 2003 result Ind 461 Lab 289 C 274 Grn 40
May 2002 result Lab 527/406 C 439/416 LD 203