Tuesday, 28 January 2014

By-Elections Preview: 30 January 2014

Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Michael Fryers Snr who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.

Purcell Avenue, Lichfield
  © Copyright Mick Malpass and licensed for
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Places which sound nice aren't always entirely so.  Lichfield is a generally beautiful and well-preserved cathedral city in the Midlands, but the Chadsmead ward - a tract of postwar housing in the north-west of the city - includes Lichfield's most deprived census district.  And it votes like it too; this is one of Labour's strongest wards in the city.

At district level this ward has voted for all three main parties in the last eleven years; it returned a Tory and a Labour councillor in 2003 before the Conservatives gained the Labour seat at a by-election just before Christmas 2005.  In May 2007 the Lib Dems gained one of the Conservative seats, only to lose it back to the Tories in 2011.  The most recent city council elections, also held in 2011, saw the Tories win the ward's three seats, but a double by-election to the city council in September 2012 (caused by the resignations of Mike Fryers Snr and Jr) was won by the Lib Dems with Labour gaining the second seat up for election.  Chadsmead ward forms a quarter of the Lichfield City North county division, which was narrowly gained by Labour at the May 2013 county elections; given that the county division includes a safe Tory ward it's probable that Labour had a healthy lead here in May.

So, mixed messages there and this is a by-election in which anything could happen.  Defending for the Tories is Jon O'Hagan, who is involved in the Chadsmead Action Group.  The Lib Dem candidate is former district councillor Marion Bland who topped the poll in the 2012 city by-election.  Runner-up in that by-election was Labour's Caroline Wood, who stands in this by-election.  Completing the ballot paper is Bob Green, the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Lichfield
Staffordshire county council division: Lichfield City North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Walsall and Cannock
Postcode district: WS13

Marion Bland (LD)
Bob Green (UKIP)
Jon O'Hagan (C)
Caroline Wood (Lab)

May 2011 result C 416/385 LD 326/206 Lab 303/278
May 2007 result LD 407/366 C 373/368 Lab 181/171
Dec 2005 by-election C 192 Lab 181 LD 117
May 2003 result C 328/289 Lab 300/250 LD 100

Amber Valley Borough Council, Derbyshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Phil Hill due to work commitments.

Meadow Gardens, Heanor
  © Copyright Alan Murray-Rust and licensed for
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Overlooking the Erewash valley on the Derbyshire side, Heanor is one of Derbyshire's small industrial towns, traditionally specialising in coal-mining and textiles.  With those industries now having declined to almost nothing the main local employer is a food factory which traditionally specialises in Christmas puddings.

Heanor East is one of those wards which holds the dubious distinction of having had a BNP local councillor.  That happened in 2008, when the BNP took advantage of what was developing into a marginal Labour/Tory ward to come through the middle and win with 36% of the vote (to 33% for the Tories and 31% for Labour).  That is the only time in the twenty-first century that Labour have lost Heanor East; the party fought off close Tory challenges in 2006 and 2010 and easily regained the BNP seat in 2012.

Defending for Labour is Sheila Oakes.  The Tories have selected Steven Grainger, a Heanor and Loscoe town councillor (although not for this ward).  The ballot paper is completed by the Lib Dems' Kate Smith, who gives an address some miles away in Crich.

Parliamentary constituency: Amber Valley
Derbyshire county council division: Greater Heanor
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: DE75

Steven Grainger (C)
Sheila Oakes (Lab)
Kate Smith (LD)

May 2012 result Lab 744 C 391 BNP 284 LD 69
May 2010 result Lab 1038 C 965 BNP 451 LD 440
May 2008 result BNP 537 C 472 Lab 454
May 2006 result Lab 567 C 468 LD 242
June 2004 result Lab 1147 C 619
May 2002 result Lab 548 C 272 Ind 129 LD 70

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

By-Election Preview: 23 January 2014

Southend-on-Sea Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Gwen Horrigan for health reasons.

Evening sunshine over Marine Parade
  © Copyright Paul Collins and licensed for
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Effectively a part of the South Essex conurbation, the town of Leigh-on-Sea merges seamlessly into Southend in the one direction and Hadleigh in the other.  Whereas Southend grew from very little to become a seaside resort in the Victorian era, Leigh-on-Sea has a long history as a fishing village with some boat-building.  Some fishing still goes on from the Old Town, but West Leigh is very much a residential ward with not much of a seafront; just off the shore here is the low-lying nature reserve of Two Tree Island.  The ward includes Leigh-on-Sea railway station, from which there are frequent trains to Southend and London.

Since at least 2002 West Leigh has been a safe Conservative ward with the Lib Dems in a strong second place; interestingly the Lib Dem vote has actually risen here since the Coalition was formed, although this may reflect more on the shrinking Conservative majority on Southend council, which will disappear altogether if this by-election is lost.

Eyes down then for this crucial by-election.  Georgina Phillips defends for the Conservatives, getting her chance at a winnable ward after two tilts at the neighbouring Leigh ward, which covers the old town of Leigh-on-Sea and consistently votes Lib Dem.  The Lib Dem challenger will again be Christopher Bailey who has fought the ward at every opportunty since 2010, as has the returning Labour candidate Jane Norman.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Tino Callaghan; UKIP had some very good shares of the vote in Southend in 2012, but Callaghan's 12.5% in the neighbouring Belfairs ward wasn't one of them.

Parliamentary constituency: Southend West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood
Postcode district: SS9

Christopher Bailey (LD)
Tino Callaghan (UKIP)
Jane Norman (Lab)
Georgina Phillips (C)

May 2012 result C 1307 LD 803 Ind 278 Lab 240
May 2011 result C 1769 LD 1157 Lab 400 UKIP 214
May 2010 result C 2541 LD 2060 Lab 377 BNP 185 Grn 170 Ind 123
May 2008 result C 1673 LD 821 BNP 232 Lab 153
May 2007 result C 1626 LD 755 Grn 191 Lab 150
May 2006 double vacancy C 1562/1559 LD 983/874 Grn 428 Southend Party 344
June 2004 result C 1935 LD 896 Grn 213 Lab 200
May 2003 result C 1417 LD 821 Lab 118 Grn 114
May 2002 result C 1692 LD 875 Lab 196

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

By-Election Preview: 16 January 2014

Just the one by-election this week...

Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Ken Weston.  A Trafford councillor since 2000, Weston had served as Mayor of Trafford in 2010/11.

Canal Warehouse, Broadheath, Altrincham
  © Copyright Phil Champion and licensed for
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Altringham, as it's pronounced.  The Broadheath ward is essentially the north-western corner of Altrincham, a residential and industrial area along the A56 Manchester Road and the Bridgewater Canal.  The ward is essentially everything in Altrincham north-west of the canal, together with the area around Deansgate Lane on the other side of the canal, plus a small part of Sale.  Greater Manchester residents of a certain age may recall trying to keep their balance on the Altrincham Ice Rink, which was located within this ward.

Although there is some Manchester commuting (Timperley tram stop lies on the eastern boundary of the ward), the presence of the largish industrial area means that this is Labour's best of the seven wards in Altrincham, and since the formation of the Coalition the ward has turned from a safe Tory area into a key marginal.  Ken Weston was rather lucky to be re-elected in 2011 with 43% to 40% for Labour (a majority of 122 votes), and Labour built on that good showing to gain the ward at the 2012 election by 46% to 39% for the Conservatives (265 votes).

Trafford council is one of only two Tory-controlled metropolitan boroughs (the other is Solihull) and their majority is tenuous enough that there is a good chance of no overall control, perhaps even Labour becoming the largest party, following the forthcoming May 2014 election.  A Labour gain in this by-election would make such a scenario that bit more likely, so this is an unusually crucial by-election.

Defending for the Tories is the long-serving councillor who lost her seat to Labour in 2012, local resident Brenda Houraghan.  Labour have selected secondary school maths teacher Helen Boyle, a Sale resident.  UKIP, who took third place off the Lib Dems in 2012, have nominated Ron George, who gives an address in Partington; the Green Party candidate is Joe Ryan from Sale; and Stretford-based Will Jones stands for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Altrincham and Sale West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M33, WA14, WA15

Helen Boyle (Lab)
Ron George (UKIP)
Brenda Houraghan (C)
Will Jones (LD)
Joe Ryan (Grn)

May 2012 result Lab 1662 C 1397 UKIP 221 Grn 156 LD 152
May 2011 result C 1879 Lab 1757 LD 307 UKIP 205 Grn 202
May 2010 result C 2569 Lab 1799 LD 1519 Grn 247
May 2008 result C 1681 Lab 836 LD 334 Grn 225
May 2007 result C 1530 Lab 834 LD 397 Grn 226
May 2006 result C 1392 Lab 725 LD 428 Grn 263
June 2004 result C 1905/1833/1686 Lab 1193/1081/968 LD 621

Thursday, 9 January 2014

By-Election Previews: 9 January 2014

Just two contests being held on the 9th of January, with the Conservatives having to defend both.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Evans due to ill-health.

Borough Green Shops
  © Copyright Chris Shaw and licensed for
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Nestled in the middle of the North Downs, Borough Green is a large village at the crossing of the Sevenoaks-Maidstone and Gravesend-Tonbridge roads.  Although it's essentially a sleepy commuter village (it's on the Victoria - Maidstone - Ashford line) Borough Green does have one iconic export; the Geographers' A-Z Map Company, publishers of the famous London A-Z street map, is based in Borough Green.  The Borough Green and Long Mill ward also includes three rural parishes: Platt to the east, and Plaxtol and Shipbourne to the south; Plaxtol parish includes the 13th century manor house of Old Soar Manor, which is open to the public.

The electoral profile of this ward is basically safe Conservative, with the closest recent result coming at the 2011 election which saw a slate of Independent candidates poll well.  The other party to stand regularly is Labour, whose local candidates all come from the Hayman family.

Defending for the Conservatives is Stuart Murray, the husband of one of the remaining Conservative councillors.  One of the independents from 2011, Mike Taylor, is standing again, as is Labour's Victoria Hayman.  Howard Porter, from the nearby village of Trottiscliffe, is the Green Party candidate, and UKIP have nominated West Malling-based David Waller.

Parliamentary constituency: Tonbridge and Malling
Kent county council division: Malling West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent
Postcode districts: TN11, TN15

Victoria Hayman (Lab)
Stuart Murray (C)
Howard Porter (Grn)
Mike Taylor (Ind)
David Waller (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 1522/1422/1256 Ind 901/783/454 Lab 321/302/300
May 2007 result C 1413/1403/1289 LD 512 Lab 281/279
May 2003 result C 1218/1183/1182 Lab 371/370


St Edmundsbury Borough Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Les Ager at the age of 75.  A district councillor since 2007 and twice Mayor of Haverhill, he was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to music in Haverhill; he co-founded the Haverhill Operatic Society and for thirty years was conductor of the Haverhill Silver Band.

Market Hill and Parish Church, Haverhill
  © Copyright Rodney Burton and licensed for
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Suffolk's most south-westerly town, Haverhill (the E and middle H are silent) is a New Town in all but name; in the last fifty years its population has increased fivefold, mainly due to immigration from London in the 1960s; Haverhill was chosen for London overspill because of its good railway links, but by the time the Londoners moved in the railways had all fallen under the Beeching Axe, resulting in major rush-hour congestion on the road to Cambridge.  The town's accent is an Estuary rather than a Suffolk one, and its economic profile is heavy on manufacturing, with toothbrushes, chemicals and pharmaceuticals all made here.

This manufacturing profile explains the rather narrow Labour win in this ward at the 2003 election, with the three Labour seats having majorities over the Conservatives of 42, 6 and 4 votes.  The ward was a very easy Tory gain in 2007 (one seat having gone Tory in a 2004 by-election) but came under threat again from Labour in 2011; while Agar had a large personal vote his running-mates were elected by just 16 and 14 votes over the leading Labour candidate.  One factor which can't be seen from previous borough election results is UKIP, who gained the local county seat (Haverhill East and Kedington) from the Tories in May last year with a big majority, and also took a seat in the two-member county division covering the rest of the town.

Convincing cases can be made for any of the Tories, Labour and UKIP winning this by-election so this is one to watch.  Defending for the Conservatives is David Roach, a member of the Labour-controlled Haverhill town council.  Former Mayor of Haverhill and town councillor for this ward Pat Hanlon makes a second attempt to get back the borough council seat he lost in 2007; he beat the alphabet to be the leading Labour candidate in 2011 and, as stated, was only 14 votes away from winning.  Regular Lib Dem candidate Ken Rolph stands again, and UKIP's candidate is their local county councillor Tony Brown.

Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Haverhill East and Kedington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode district: CB9

Tony Brown (UKIP)
Pat Hanlon (Lab)
David Roach (C)
Ken Rolph (LD)

May 2011 result C 834/664/662 Lab 648/636 LD 260/188
May 2007 result C 637/581/507 Lab 327/317 LD 228/223/198 Grn 192
June 2004 by-election C 520 St Edmundsbury Alliance 376 Lab 363 LD 189
May 2003 result Lab 639/603/601 C 597/586/525