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
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
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
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
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

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