Friday, 28 February 2014

Defection Watch: Pratts Bottom Cllr Joins UKIP

Cllr Julian Grainger (Bromley LBC, Chelsfield and Pratts Bottom ward) has confirmed that he will be standing for UKIP in the upcoming London local elections.  He was sitting as a Conservative councillor, but had reportedly failed to be reselected for May's elections.  Following the announcement, he was expelled from the Conservative group on the council, and his Conservative Party membership was also pending termination.

Bromley Council's website currently describes his political group as "Not specified".

Chelsfield and Pratts Bottom is a safe Conservative ward where they won 60.1% of the vote in 2010, although there was no UKIP candidate in that contest.  Overall, Bromley is one of the safest Conservative boroughs in London.

New council composition:
Conservative - 52 (-1)
Lib Dems - 4
Labour - 3
"Not specified" - 1 (+1)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Defection Watch: Deselected Labour Cllr Joins Conservatives

In a somewhat rare about-turn, a former Labour Cllr in Barnet has joined the Conservatives.  Cllr Ansuya Sodha (Barnet, West Hendon) had been a Labour Cllr for 16 years, but quit the party after being deselected as a candidate ahead of May's London local elections.  After a couple of months as an independent, she has now joined the ruling Conservative group.

Sodha criticised the Labour Party, saying “It is no longer the party for equality and justice, especially when it comes to the Asian, Indian community."  She also added her support for the Conservatives' 'One Barnet' privatization plan, attacking her former Labour comrades for opposing it.

West Hendon is a fairly marginal ward.  Although it elected three Labour councillors in 2010, Labour only had a 41.4% vote share to the Conservatives' 35.5%.  Assuming Sodha is going to be standing under her new colours, you have to consider she has at least a reasonable chance of retaining her seat, especially given her veteran councillor status.

Barnet overall is a pretty safe Conservative council.  The new composition of the council is:

Conservative - 38 (+1)
Labour - 21
Lib Dems - 3
Independents - 1 (-1)

By-Election Preview: 27 February 2014

West Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor William Parry at the age of 71.  Chairman of the district council in 2011/12, Parry had served on West Lindsey district council since 1998.

Scotter High Street
  © Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Part two of a two-part series, here, this being the second Scotter ward by-election in two months.  This is the northwestern corner of Lincolnshire, a series of tiny villages to the north of Gainsborough.  Inland are the parishes of Scotter itself, Scotton, Northorpe and Laughton, while on the right bank of the River Trent can be found the parishes of East Ferry, Wildsworth, East Stockwith and Walkerith (one of the smallest parishes in the country with only 60 electors and an area just creeping over one square kilometre).  Those last two parishes form a sort of salient with only a very narrow neck of land connecting them to the rest of the ward.  In terms of population the ward is dominated by Scotter parish, which contains around 62% of the ward's electors.

Until the last by-election, held in the week before Christmas, the ward had been consistently won by the Conservatives over the last decade, despite pressure from the Lib Dems in the mid-Noughties.  The Tory majority was 131 votes in Scotter ward in 2004, before falling to zero at the 2007 ward election in which 1562 votes split 781 to the Conservative councillor Chris Underwood-Frost (whose recent death caused the December by-election) and 781 to his Lib Dem opponent, Underwood-Frost holding his seat thanks to the toss of a coin.  After coming so close, the Lib Dem challenge has since faded away; the runner-up spot at the most recent district election in Scotter in 2011 was taken by an Independent, while UKIP were second here in May's county council election.  In rather an upset, the by-election last December was won by an independent candidate, although this is more explicable when you consider that the three party candidates all lived some distance away from the ward; on the other hand a simultaneous by-election here to the county council was won by the Lib Dems, suggesting that the Conservative machine may be having some problems here.

Determined not to make the same mistake again, the Tories have selected a Scotter resident, bed & breakfast owner Pat Mewis who is involved with the local tourist board.  Her opposition is Keith Panter, a parish councillor in the village of Morton south of the ward, who is the Liberal Democrat candidate.  The by-election will be a straight fight between the two.

Parliamentary constituency: Gainsborough
Lincolnshire county council division: Scotter Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Scunthorpe
Postcode districts: DN17, DN21

Pat Mewis (C)
Keith Panter (LD)

December 2013 by-election Ind 529 C 219 LD 148 UKIP 138
May 2011 result C 1164/924 Ind 623 LD 332
May 2008 result C 945 LD 705
May 2007 result C 782 LD 781
June 2004 result C 850 LD 719
May 2003 result C 920 LD 319

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Defection Watch: Two Southwark Councillors Join New "All People's Party"

Two Councillors in Southwark have joined a new political party, the "All People's Party".

The All People's Party was reportedly formed by a local former Labour activist, Prem Goyal OBE, after he failed in his attempt to be selected as Labour's candidate for the Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency in the upcoming general election, a presently Lib Dem seat held by Simon Hughes MP.  Its deputy leader is a former Lib Dem and later Labour councillor from the borough, Ade Lasaki.

Labour Cllr Althea Smith (Nunhead ward) and ex-Labour Independent Cllr Stephen Govier (South Camberwell ward) have become the first councillors to represent the new party, which intends to stand candidates in May's local elections across London.  Smith had been de-selected by Labour ahead of these elections, while Govier achieved national notoriety after it emerged he had a past gun crime conviction from the USA, resulting in him leaving the Labour Party in 2011.

Labour remain in majority control of the council, though that majority is reduced from 5 to 3.

New council composition:
Labour - 33 (-1)
Lib Dems - 25
Conservative - 3
All People's Party - 2 (+2)
Independents - 0 (-1)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

By-Election Preview: 20 February 2014

Charnwood District Council, Leicestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Stuart Jones at the age of 67.  A Leicester bus driver for some years, Jones had served on several council committees since first being elected in 2007, and was also a Birstall parish councillor.

"Mountsorrel he mounted at,
Rodely he rode by,
Onelep he leaped o'er,
At Birstall he burst his gall,
At Belgrave he was buried at."
Leicestershire folk rhyme

Most of the electorate of this ward lives in the western half of Birstall, which until the start of the twentieth century was a tiny village on the edge of Leicester.  In 1899 the Great Central Railway came to Birstall and it became a commuter village; during the twentieth century the population increased eighteenfold to over 11,000.  The railway doesn't go to Leicester any longer, but has been turned into one of the UK's most ambitious preserved railways, with steam trains connecting the village with Loughborough at the weekends.

To the north of Birstall, on the other side of the A6, is the tiny village of Wanlip (163 electors, compared with 4818 in the three west Birstall polling districts); once the home of slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce, Wanlip is probably best known as the location of Leicestershire's sewage works.  Wilberforce's former home at Wanlip Hall supports a baronetcy, currently held by the Palmer family; the hall is now owned by an offshoot of that family, Charles Palmer-Tomkinson.  A Winter Olympian in 1964, competing for Britain in skiing (and son and brother of other Olympic skiers), friend of the Prince of Wales and father of socialite and TV personality Tara, Palmer-Tomkinson is the ultimate landowner for most of this ward.

Charnwood is having a ridiculous number of by-elections at the moment; this is the seventh poll in the district since the last full council election in 2011, and the fourth in the last six months.  Historically Birstall is Charnwood's Lib Dem hotspot, the party splitting the two seats in this ward with the Conservatives in both 2003 and 2007, but the party was wiped out here in 2011, their defending councillor falling to third place behind the Tories and Labour (who didn't stand here in 2007).  The Birstall county division (which also includes the stronger Lib Dem ward of Birstall Watermead) was also a Tory gain from Lib Dem in last year's county council elections.

Defending for the Conservatives is Birstall parish councillor Mary Allen.  Labour have reselected Marilyn Cowles, who beat the alphabet to finish as runner-up in the 2011 district election.  Simon Sansome, the Lib Dems' county candidate here last year, stands for the district ward this time.  There are no minor party candidates, so that is your ballot paper.

Mary Allen (C)
Marilyn Cowles (Lab)
Simon Sansome (LD)

Parliamentary constituency: Charnwood
Leicestershire county council division: Birstall
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode districts: LE4, LE7

May 2011 result C 1102/830 Lab 642/461 LD 564
May 2007 result LD 875/774 C 822/779 BNP 250
May 2003 result LD 716/562 C 708/653 Lab 189/161

Defection Watch: Another Solihull Lib Dem Goes Green

Cllr Jean Hamilton (Elmdon ward, Solihull MBC) has defected from the Liberal Democrats to the Green Party.  This moves the Green Party ahead of Labour into third place for number of seats on the council.

Defections from the Lib Dems to the Greens are a well-trodden path in Solihull.  Cllr Howard Allen (Shirley West), originally elected as a Lib Dem, joined the Green Party shortly after the 2011 council elections where the Greens had made gains in the Chelmsley Wood and Smith's Wood wards.  He went on to hold his seat in the 2012 elections, after which another Shirley West Lib Dem, Cllr Andy Hodgson, also switched to the Greens.

The latest defection comes in Elmdon ward, one of the Lib Dems' three holds in the metropolitan borough in the most recent elections, where the Greens had polled only 4.5%.  However, Lib Dem defectors seem to fare well under their new Green colours here - Howard Allen increased the Green vote share in Shirley West from 4.8% in 2011 to a winning 39.1% in 2012.

Solihull is now one of the Green Party's strongest council areas, and now they're closing in on replacing the Lib Dems as the official opposition on the council ahead of elections here in May.

New council composition:
Conservatives - 28
Lib Dems - 9 (-1)
Green - 7 (+1)
Labour - 6
Independent Ratepayers and Residents - 1

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

By-Election Previews: 13 February 2014

Birmingham City Council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Cath Grundy.

Hurlingham Road
  © Copyright Adrian Bailey and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
In the Wythenshawe preview I mentioned that Wythenshawe is a claimant for the title of "largest council estate in Europe".  Here's another one: the Kingstanding ward of Birmingham, which is of a similar age to Wythenshawe.  The name goes back to 1642 when King Charles I reviewed his troops here during the Civil War; the housing goes back to 1928 when construction of the estates started in earnest.  Compared to Birmingham as a whole, this ward has a relatively white working-class population.

Unlike Wythenshawe, this is not a safe Labour area, although the party has held the ward continuously since the last set of boundary changes in 2004.  Since 2007 (when they took second place off the BNP) the Conservatives have had several near-misses here, cutting the Labour majority to just 80 votes at the 2008 election and 175 votes at the 2011 election.  Labour increased their majority from 3.5 to 10 percentage points in 2012, giving them a bit of breathing space.  There is a history of far-right activism in the ward, with a reasonable BNP vote and no fewer than three far-right parties standing here in 2007.  UKIP haven't stood here since 2004 but did get a reasonable score in that election.

The 2006 result in the list below is a corrected one: a calculation error by the counting team had led the BNP candidate Sharon Ebanks to be declared elected when in fact she had finished third in the poll.  Britain's antiquated procedures for dealing with errors like this meant that it took a court case (an "election petition") to sort it all out; even though the facts were uncontested, Ebanks served as a councillor for nearly three months until the court declared her election to be undue and that Cath Grundy had in fact been elected.  This was Birmingham's fourth election petition in as many years, after the "banana republic" postal vote fraud cases in Aston and Bordesley Green wards in 2004 and an allegation of fraud (which was not upheld) in the 2003 Aston ward election, and it has left a chilling effect on the city's finances: Birmingham City Council's insurers have had enough of paying out claims for legal costs defending election petitions, with the effect that the city's council tax payers will have to stump up the first £100,000 of the council's legal bill for any future cases.

At least this time the Returning Officer for Birmingham only has one Kingstanding vacancy to worry about.  The Labour candidate for that vacancy is Lorraine Owen, rewarded with a try at a winnable seat after standing in 2012 in the safe Lib Dem ward of Stechford and Yardley North.  Regular Conservative candidate Gary Sambrook, a party staffer who has fought the ward in the last four elections but still qualifies for a Young Person's Railcard, tries again.  Graham Lippiatt is the Lib Dem candidate for the second time, while Great Barr-based Roger Tempest stands for UKIP.  The final candidate, Terry Williams, is the regular National Front candidate for the ward and was selected to stand as their candidate again, but failed to get his nomination papers filled out correctly; while he has been allowed to stand, he will appear on the ballot paper without a description.

Parliamentary constituency: Birmingham Erdington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham
Postcode districts: B23, B44, B73

Graham Lippiatt (LD)
Lorraine Owen (Lab)
Gary Sambrook (C)
Roger Tempest (UKIP)
Terry Williams (Ind [NF])

May 2012 result Lab 2014 C 1609 BNP 213 Grn 106 LD 80 NF 34
May 2011 result Lab 2210 C 2035 BNP 334 LD 128 Grn 121
May 2010 result Lab 3372 C 2792 BNP 891 LD 866 NF 160 Grn 103
May 2008 result Lab 1376 C 1296 BNP 648 LD 254 Grn 105 NF 54
May 2007 result Lab 2025 C 1020 BNP 673 LD 330 New Nationalist Party 171 NF 161 Grn 122
May 2006 double vacancy (corrected result) Lab 1894/1823 BNP 1329 C 1134/966 Ind 615/171/58 LD 514/446 Grn 315
June 2004 result Lab 1625/1585/1274 BNP 994 C 857/823/656 UKIP 830 LD 697/544/531 NF 639

Richmondshire District Council, North Yorkshire; caused by the death of Independent councillor Bob Gale at the age of 68.  Also a parish councillor and a member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Gale was in his first term on the district council after retiring to the Dales following a career as a fireman and window cleaner.

The Village of Reeth, North Yorkshire
  © Copyright Bill Henderson and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Despite having a population comfortably under 800, Reeth - the point where Arkengarthdale meets Swaledale - is considered to be the main settlement in upper Swaledale, and until 1974 Reeth was the centre of its own rural district; essentially covering Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, the population of Reeth Rural District had fallen below 2,000 by the time of the 1961 census.  The population was much larger here in Victorian times when the hills above Swaledale and Arkengarthdale had a thriving lead-mining industry.

This is an area of dales and uplands, much of which lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which will be familiar to anyone who was followed Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast Walk.  Later this year Reeth will become the northernmost point ever reached by the Tour de France cycle race, the first stage of which on 5th July runs through here on the way from Leeds to Harrogate.

As well as Reeth and Arkengarthdale, the ward extends to the east to include the villages of Marske and Marrick; Marrick is the location of a twelfth-century priory which in the 1960s was turned into an outdoor education centre.

This ward follows the pattern of many deeply rural, isolated areas with both large amounts of support for independents and a propensity for elections to be uncontested.  The 2011 poll which elected Gale (by a margin of more than 7 to 1 over the Tory candidate) was the first contested district election in Reeth this century.  In May's county council election the long-serving independent county councillor for the local division (Upper Dales) was re-elected with more than 77% of the vote.

Two candidates stand to succeed Gale.  In the independent corner is Richard Beal, of Reeth.  In the Conservative corner is Dave Morton, a parish councillor in the village of Redmire in Wensleydale, the next valley to the south.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)
North Yorkshire county council division: Upper Dales
ONS Travel to Work Area: Richmond and Catterick
Postcode district: DL11

May 2011 result Ind 514 C 70
May 2007 result Ind unopposed
May 2003 result Ind unopposed

By-Election Preview: Wythenshawe and Sale East

House of Commons; caused by the death of Labour MP Paul Goggins at the age of 60, after collapsing while running.  Entering the Commons at the 1997 general election after a career in child care and childrens' charities, and seven years as a Salford city councillor, Goggins served as a junior Home Office minister from 2003 to 2006 with responsibility for prisons and probation, later serving as a junior Northern Ireland Office minister.  He claimed that his family inspired the Mrs Goggins character in the Postman Pat series.

2012 Results
Map by Andrew Teale.
Created for the 1997 general election as a result of the number of seats in Manchester and Trafford being reduced from eight to seven, this constituency straddles the Manchester/Trafford borough boundary.  On the Trafford side is three-fifths of Sale, an old town dominated by straight lines: from west to east, the old Roman Road between Chester and York (now the A56 Chester Road and the western boundary of this constituency), the Bridgewater Canal and, next to the canal, the Altrincham branch of Manchester's Metrolink tram network.

The Metrolink opened in 1992, taking over a railway line which had existed since 1849 and had turned Sale into a middle-class commuter area.  Sale's middle-classness can be inferred from its sports: the building of the motorway along the Mersey valley between Sale and Stretford led to a large gravel pit being excavated, which was flooded and turned into Sale Water Park, a watersports centre; the Sale Harriers athletics club is long-established and produced the sprinter Darren Campbell, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics as part of the GB sprint relay team; and (here's the ultimate indication of poshness in the North West) Sale supports a professional rugby union team, Sale Sharks, although due to the lack of a good venue in the town they now play on the other side of the Ship Canal in the new Salford City Stadium at Barton-upon-Irwell.  Probably Sale's most famous resident is the physicist James Joule, after whom the SI unit of energy is named; Joule is buried in Brooklands Cemetery.

Nonetheless, Sale (population around 55,000) is outvoted by the eleven square miles of council housing that is Wythenshawe (population around 86,000); built by the City of Manchester from the 1920s as an overspill estate, Wythenshawe is one of the stronger candidates for the perennially contested title of "Europe's largest council estate".  Effectively, it's a municipal New Town.  Intended as a garden city-type development to attract skilled workers, Wythenshawe turned out to be the exact opposite; it says something that much of the Channel 4 series Shameless was filmed here.  Despite employment from the large Sharston Industrial Estate and Wythenshawe Hospital, a large teaching hospital associated with Manchester University, one of Wythenshawe's wards (Benchill ward, since abolished in boundary changes) came right at the bottom of the 2000 indices of multiple deprivation, and the other wards aren't much better.

One thing you might notice from the map of the constituency's wards is that Woodhouse Park ward is much larger than the rest.  The ward's population is actually concentrated in the northern corner; the rest of the area (forming the city of Manchester's only parish, Ringway) is almost completely filled by the buildings, apron and one of the runways of Manchester Airport, Britain's third busiest airport and busiest outside London.  Underpinning the constituency's economy, the wildly profitable airport is majority-owned by a consortium of the ten Greater Manchester boroughs, with Manchester City Council holding the largest stake of 35.5%, and the dividends paid by the airport have perhaps helped to, very slightly, reduce the effect of the cuts on Greater Manchester's local government.

The airport is the best-connected location in a constituency criss-crossed by motorways; the constituency's only railway station is here, and the Metrolink people are finishing off their current expansion project by building a new branch past Sale Water Park and through Wythenshawe to the airport; not due to open until 2016, the result at present is a linear building site which runs the entire length of the constituency.  If High Speed 2 goes ahead as planned it will include a Manchester Airport station.

Before the Second World War the whole of this area (which was all originally in Cheshire) was part of the Altrincham constituency which was as safe Tory as you might expect.  The growth of Wythenshawe meant that by 1935 Altrincham was twice the size of every other seat in Cheshire; in the general election of that year the Tory candidate, journalist, First World War hero and former Governor of Kenya Lt-Col Sir Edward Grigg, polled over 50,000 votes to 21-and-a-half thousand for Labour.  Unsurprisingly this was one of the seats which was split up in the interim 1945 boundary review, Sale becoming part of the new Altrincham and Sale constituency (which has basically persisted ever since, although with less and less of Sale as time has gone on) and Wythenshawe going into the short-lived Bucklow constituency along with such middle-class towns as Cheadle, Hale and Lymm and a significant rural area (the Bucklow Rural District).  In the '45 election Bucklow was comfortably Conservative, returning new MP Lt William Shepherd, director of Manchester Chamber of Commerce and recently returned from the campaign in France, Belgium and the Netherlands; he defeated the Labour candidate by 30165 votes to 22497.

Wythenshawe finally got a seat of its own (as Manchester Wythenshawe) for the 1950 general election.  Shepherd moved to the new seat of Cheadle, leaving Manchester city councillor and catering firm manager Eveline Hill to defend Wythenshawe for the Tories; and defend it she did, surviving adverse boundary changes in 1955 to hold her increasingly marginal seat until 1964.  This wasn't because Wythenshawe was a particularly Tory area (far from it) but because the seat as then drawn included the rich suburb of Didsbury on the other side of the Mersey.

The Labour candidate who defeated Hill was Alf Morris, brother of another Labour MP for Manchester and uncle of Estelle Morris, an Education secretary under Tony Blair.  Having seen his father die a long and lingering death as a result of First World War injuries (losing a leg and a eye, and being gassed), Morris became a tireless campaigner for disability rights: in 1970 he successfully negotiated through Parliament the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, the world's first legislation giving rights to the disabled, and in 1974 Morris was appointed by Wilson as the world's first ever Minister for the Disabled.  After his first election, Morris was never seriously threatened at the ballot box and bequeathed a large majority to Goggins upon his retirement in 1997.  Goggins, similarly, was never seriously threatened; at his final re-election in 2010 he had a majority of 7,575 over the Conservatives.

Wythenshawe Precinct
  © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Local election results in the constituency basically confirm the pattern you might expect.  It's now almost four years since anyone other than Labour won a ward in the City of Manchester, but near the bottom of Labour's local government fortunes the Lib Dems did manage to win Northenden ward (one of the relatively nicer parts of Wythenshawe) at the 2008 and 2010 elections.  The Lib Dems were still trying to gain Northenden's third seat at the 2011 election when they lost every single seat and Manchester got redwashed, but on the other hand nobody saw the redwash coming, not even Manchester Labour.  There is still a Lib Dem councillor in Northenden (until May's council election, anyway) and she is their candidate for this by-election.  The Tories (who have not won a council seat within the Manchester city limits for more than two decades) made a few serious efforts at Manchester's Brooklands ward in the mid-Noughties, but eventually gave up.  In 2011 and 2012 every Wythenshawe ward was safe for Labour.

Sale is, obviously, where most of the Tory vote in this seat comes from, although they are now down to one ward within the constituency, Trafford's Brooklands (confusingly, this seat includes two different Brooklands wards).  Priory ward (around Dane Road tram stop) is Labour's best ward in Sale, while Sale Moor is a marginal ward with Labour in the ascendancy at the moment.

Confirmation, if confirmation were needed, of Labour's ascendancy in Wythenshawe and Sale East is provided by an opinion poll of the constituency commissioned by major Tory donor Lord Ashcroft, which found figures of Lab 61 UKIP 15 C 14 LD 5.  While constituency polling in the UK has a notoriously poor record, it will take quite a lot for Labour to lose this one.

The Labour candidate for the by-election is Mike Kane, a former city councillor (losing Northenden to the Lib Dems in 2008) who is currently running a campaign against payday lenders for Movement for Change, a grassroots activist organisation founded by David Miliband.  The Tory candidate is 26-year-old Revd Daniel Critchlow, vicar of St Hilda's, Firswood, Old Trafford.  The Lib Dems have nominated their last remaining councillor in the constituency, Mary di Mauro of Northenden ward.  Salford-based Eddy O'Sullivan, a Sale Grammar School old boy, is the BNP candidate.  UKIP have selected Cheshire-based businessman John Bickley, who was brought up in Wythenshawe and runs a software company.  Also standing are the Green Party's Trafford organiser Nigel Woodcock and the Monster Raving Loony Party's Mark Chapman, who will appear on the ballot paper as his alter ego "Captain Chaplington-Smythe".

Constituent wards: Baguley, Brooklands, Northenden, Sharston, Woodhouse Park (Manchester); Brooklands, Priory, Sale Moor (Trafford)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M22, M23, M32, M33, M90, WA15

John Bickley (UKIP)
Captain Chaplington-Smythe (Loony)
Daniel Critchlow (C)
Mary di Mauro (LD)
Mike Kane (Lab)
Eddy O'Sullivan (BNP)
Nigel Woodcock (Grn)

May 2010 result Lab 17987 C 10412 LD 9107 BNP 1572 UKIP 1405 TUSC 268
May 2005 result Lab 18878 C 8051 LD 7766 UKIP 1120 Soc Alternative 369
June 2001 result Lab 21032 C 8424 LD 4320 Grn 869 Soc Lab 410
May 1997 result Lab 26448 C 11429 LD 5639 Referendum Party 1060 Soc Lab 957

Defection Watch: Somerset UKIP Cllr Goes Independent

Cllr Nigel Pearson, representing the Chard North division of Somerset County Council, has quit the UKIP group on the local authority following what he called "irreconcilable differences between myself and the chairman of the UKIP Somerset County Committee".

 The Conservatives retained majority control of Somerset last May, though with a reduced number of seats - down to 29 out of 55. UKIP broke through to win their first seats, though they only took a relatively modest 3 - now down to 2 with Pearson's defection.

 Somerset County Council's makeup is now as follows.

Conservative - 29
Lib Dems - 18
Labour - 3
Independents - 3 (+1)
UKIP - 2 (-1)

Monday, 10 February 2014

Defection Watch: Another London Tory Joins UKIP

Cllr Edward Griffin, representing the Hainault ward of the London Borough of Redbridge, has defected from Conservative to UKIP, giving UKIP representation in the borough for the first time since 2010.

Hainault ward has an interesting political history.  In 2006, a BNP candidate, Julian Luppert, topped the poll becoming the only ever BNP councillor in the borough, while the other two seats were taken by Conservatives.  One of these was Edward Griffin, while the other Conservative elected was Brian Waite, who defected to Independent and then stood unsuccessfully for UKIP in the 2010 elections.

Redbridge is also interesting as it is currently in no overall control, with the Lib Dems holding the balance of power between the Conservatives and Labour.  After the 2010 elections, the Conservatives had 30 seats, Labour 26, and the Lib Dems 7.  Since then 5 Labour councillors have defected, 4 to the "Redbridge Independent Group" and one more as a standalone Independent.  The latest defection makes the new composition of the council as follows.

Lib Dems7
Redbridge Independent Group4

Labour will be targeting this borough as a whole as a potential gain in May, although Hainault ward may now be turning into a more specific UKIP target.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Polling News: Labour on Track to Win Wythenshawe and Sale East

Lord Ashcroft has published the results of a telephone poll that interviewed 1,009 adults living in Wythenshawe and Sale East about their voting intentions for the upcoming parliamentary by-election.  The results show Labour on track for a very easy victory, with UKIP narrowly ahead of the Conservatives for second place:

Lib Dems5%-17%

Lord Ashcroft's polls have generally proven to be rather accurate in recent by-elections, so a Labour win seems to be virtually a given now, with the more interesting questions being who will come second, and whether the Lib Dems will save their deposit.

By-Election Previews: 6 February 2014

Tendring District Council, Essex; caused respectively by the death and the resignation of Conservative councillors Mitch Mitchell and Peter Halliday.  Mitchell, who died in November at the age of 77, had served as a Tendring councillor since 2007 and had been chairman of the human resources committee.  Halliday, the leader of the council until his resignation, has fallen out with his council group and with the Clacton MP Douglas Carswell.

The Pier, Clacton-on-Sea
  © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Welcome to Clacton-on-Sea, Essex' second-largest seaside resort after Southend.  Like Southend, Clacton grew from a tiny village in the Victorian era to become a town, thanks almost entirely to an entrepreneur called Peter Bruff who had made his fortune by building the railway line from Colchester to Ipswich; Bruff developed the modern Clacton-on-Sea starting around 1870.  Unlike Southend, which is close enough to London to be a commuter area, Clacton's economy is still primarily based on entertainment and day-tripping, together with some light engineering.  Being a seaside resort, Clacton has a relatively large retired population and some rather deprived areas.

The ward named in Peter Bruff's honour is a tract of housing in the north-west of Clacton, while St. John's ward is the north end of town between the A133 (the main road in and out) and the railway line.  Both wards elected two Lib Dem councillors in 2003, one each from the Tories and Lib Dems in 2007, and two Tory councillors in 2011.  Both wards remain marginal; while the Lib Dems are still the main challengers to the Tories in Peter Bruff, that mantle in St. John's ward (which scores worse on the deprivation indices) has been taken over by Labour who were a strong second there in 2011.

However, one factor which you can't see from the district elections (as they have not stood in either ward previously) is UKIP; for that you have to go up to county council level.  Peter Bruff forms part of the Clacton North division which in last year's county elections was a three-way marginal, held by the Conservatives with just 29% of the vote to 25% each for Labour and UKIP (Labour being one vote ahead).  For some reason St. John's ward is included in the predominantly rural Tendring Rural East division which runs from here all the way up to Parkeston Quay at Harwich; this division was won by UKIP last year with 35% to 29% for the Tories.

Defending for the Tories in Peter Bruff ward is Sara Richardson.  The Lib Dem candidate is John Candler, rewarded with a winnable fight for standing in the hopeless wards of Jaywick (in a 2010 by-election) and the seafront St. James ward in 2011.  The Labour candidate is Jon Salisbury, from the village of St. Osyth, while UKIP have selected Sue Shearing who was a Lib Dem councillor for the ward until losing her seat to the Tories in 2011; she gives an address in the Frinton suburb of Kirby Cross.

The defending Tory candidate in St. John's ward is Mick Skeels, who has a family firm of plastering and building contractors; he was county councillor for Tendring Rural East until losing his seat to UKIP last year.  Local historian Norman Jacobs stands for Labour, Laurie Gray (from Walton-on-the-Naze) for UKIP and Clive Upton is an independent candidate.

Peter Bruff
Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Clacton North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
Postcode districts: CO15, CO16

John Candler (LD)
Sara Richardson (C)
Jon Salisbury (Lab)
Sue Shearing (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 446/427 LD 379/335 Lab 257/223
May 2007 result LD 400/326 C 353/326 Ind 189 Lab 155/141
May 2003 result LD 485/481 C 204/184

St. John's
Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Tendring Rural East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
Postcode districts: CO15, CO16

Laurie Gray (UKIP)
Norman Jacobs (Lab)
Mick Skeels (C)
Clive Upton

May 2011 result C 633/575 Lab 474/396 LD 284/228 Grn 117
May 2007 result C 558/464 LD 538/472 Lab 258
May 2003 result LD 577/504 C 326/313 Lab 231

Sheffield City Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor John Robson at the age of 65.  A former social worker, Robson had been a member of the Labour party for fifty years and represented Arbourthorne ward for ten years, formerly serving as chairman of Sheffield's licensing board.

Sheffield Supertram at the Park Grange stop
  © Copyright Graham Hogg and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Immediately to the south-east of Sheffield city centre, the Arbourthorne ward runs out along the tram line to Halfway as far as the Ridgeway Road.  A ward once dominated by high-rise Council tower blocks, the area is now being regenerated, particularly the Norfolk Park area closest to the city centre which has gained a significant student population.  Arbourthorne itself is essentially a large 1930s council estate, while the ward also includes much of the suburb of Gleadless, a former village annexed by the city in 1921.  Gleadless is well-off compared to the rest of the ward, which is very much at the wrong end of the deprivation indices.

Sheffield's local voting has a stark east-west divide, with Labour dominant in the city's eastern wards and the Lib Dems confined to the western half.  This being eastern Sheffield, Arbourthorne is safe Labour; even at the party's low point in 2008 they were still 13 points ahead of the Lib Dems.  Arbourthorne is the sort of area where the Lib Dems' decision to go into coalition went down extremely badly, and thus their vote has melted away over the last four years; at the 2011 election the Green Party took over as runners-up, while UKIP were a distant second at the most recent election in 2012.

So Labour's Mike Drabble, secretary of the Labour Party's Birley ward branch, shouldn't have too much to worry about in this by-election.  His opposition will come from UKIP's Bob Sheridan, the Tories' Peter Smith and the Greens' Jennyfer Barnard (both of whom stood here in 2012), the Lib Dems' Susan Ross, Alan Munro of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and the English Democrat candidate David Wildgoose.

Parliamentary constituency: Sheffield Heeley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sheffield and Rotherham
Postcode districts: S2, S12

Jennyfer Barnard (Grn)
Mike Drabble (Lab)
Alan Munro (TUSC)
Susan Ross (LD)
Bob Sheridan (UKIP)
Peter Smith (C)
David Wildgoose (EDP)

May 2012 result Lab 2303 UKIP 544 C 299 Grn 276 LD 275
May 2011 result Lab 2938 Grn 965 LD 566 C 517
May 2010 result Lab 3247 LD 1888 C 826 BNP 682 Grn 242
May 2008 result Lab 1606 LD 1094 C 727 Grn 445
May 2007 result Lab 2099 LD 830 C 527 Grn 304
May 2006 result Lab 1695 LD 872 C 451 Grn 288 Christian Peoples Alliance 121
June 2004 result Lab 2326/2326/2231 LD 1313/1186/1173 C 563/513/503 Grn 403 Socialist Alternative 253