Wednesday, 12 February 2014

By-Election Previews: 13 February 2014

KINGSTANDING
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


REETH AND ARKENGARTHDALE
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

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