Thursday, 6 February 2014

By-Election Previews: 6 February 2014

PETER BRUFF and ST. JOHN'S
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


ARBOURTHORNE
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

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