Tuesday, 8 April 2014

By-Election Previews: 10 April 2014

Four seats up for election this week.  One over on the Welsh Elections blog and three here:

Cumbria County Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ian Stockdale at the age of 74.  A stalwart of Carlisle Labour for more than forty years, Stockdale had served as a Carlisle city and Cumbria county councillor at various times since the 1970s, including as Mayor of Carlisle in 1984-85.  At the time of his death he was chairman of the county council's development control and regulation committee.

Hutton Way shops
  © Copyright Rose and Trev Clough and licensed for
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Belle Vue is Carlisle's western end, along the B5307 road out towards Silloth and along the left bank of the River Eden.  This is a socially divided division which follows the usual pattern of neighbourhoods closer to the city centre being more deprived than the housing further out, although here the differences between the better- and worse-off ends are more stark than usual.

The Belle Vue division has almost the same boundaries as the Carlisle city ward of the same name - the 2013 county council boundary review removed a single street from the division, resulting in the unusual situation of the county division being smaller than the corresponding city ward.  Carlisle city's thirds electoral system means that the city goes to the polls every year; from the combined city and county results we can see that Belle Vue became a closely-fought Labour/Conservative area in the later Blair and Brown years, although Labour always had the edge and the Tories were only able to win here twice: once at their high-water mark in 2008 plus a fluke gain in a county council by-election on European election day in 1999, in which the Tory majority was just six votes.  Ian Stockdale was the city councillor defeated by the Tories in 2008, but he came back to win the county division the following year.  Since 2010 Labour have progressively pulled away from the Conservatives here, easily regaining the Conservative city council seat in 2012.

Defending for Labour is the Mayoress of Carlisle Christine Bowditch, a retired teacher and long-serving chair of the Carlisle branch of MENCAP.  The Tory candidate is Nigel Christian from the village of Scotby east of the city, who formerly worked for the county council as manager of the waste team.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's John Stanyer, the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Carlisle constituency.

Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Carlisle city council ward: Belle Vue (part)
Postcode district: CA2

Christine Bowditch (Lab)
Nigel Christian (C)
John Stanyer (UKIP)

May 2013 result Lab 760 C 393

North East Derbyshire District Council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mike Emmens.  A district councillor since 1999 and leader of Dronfield town council until 2012, Emmens was described as a family man known for many years of political, charitable and community works.

Houses on Wilson Road
  © Copyright Andrew Hill and licensed for
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The village of Coal Aston can be found on high ground on the eastern edge of Dronfield; residents here have good views north over Sheffield or west over Dronfield.  Politically part of Dronfield, essentially this a Sheffield commuter area, and as such very desirable; compare and contrast with the deprived council estates just inside the city limits to the north.

In recent times Coal Aston ward has voted like a commuter area by displaying strong Conservative support, although the party only stood one candidate for the two seats in the 2003 election - perhaps indicating relatively weak organisation - and the result of the most recent election in 2011 suggests that the Labour threat hasn't yet been seen off.  Boundary changes mean that there isn't much county-level elections can tell us: the vast majority of the ward was transferred last year from the former Dronfield North county division (Labour in 2005 with Mike Emmens 4.5 points behind, Tory in 2009 with a 10-point lead) into the new Eckington and Killamarsh division, which is dominated by the Labour-voting villages of those names and consequently was an easy Labour win, UKIP finishing as runners-up ahead of the Conservatives.

John Allsop defends for the Conservatives; he served one term as the local county councillor from 2009 but didn't seek re-election last year.  The Labour candidate is bank manager David Cheetham, who was once the youngest-ever Mayor of Dronfield.  The ward's first UKIP candidate is Charles Watson, the UKIP runner-up in last year's county elections; he is from the village of Ridgeway a couple of miles to the east and, with the local Lib Dems not standing, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Eckington and Killamarsh (except for a small part of the ward in Dronfield East division)
Postcode district: S18

John Allsop (C)
David Cheetham (Lab)
Charles Watson (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 730/680 Lab 546/543 LD 198
May 2007 result C 569/514 Lab 378/341 LD 221/220
May 2003 result C 484 Lab 439/418

Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire; caused by the disqualification of former Conservative councillor John Morgan who has been convicted of theft.  The jury at Oxford Crown Court found him guilty of stealing £154,000 from an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease; it's understood that Morgan gambled the money away.  Morgan, who resigned from the council's Conservative group after being convicted, is now serving a five-year prison sentence.

Market Place, Wantage
  © Copyright Nick MacNeill and licensed for
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An ancient town in the centre of the Vale of White Horse, Wantage is still probably best known as the birthplace of King Alfred the Great; it appears under the name "Alfredston" in Hardy's "Jude the Obscure" and in poetry by Betjeman, who lived here for many years.  The Wantage Charlton ward covers the central business district together with the east and south of the town.

The town's Wikipedia entry has a NIMBY overtone, complaining about large housing developments in the town, and it is noticeable that the number of votes cast in this ward has been increasing over the years.  It's not clear whether that has particularly benefited any party in what is a Tory/Lib Dem fight: the three seats split 2C/1LD in the 2003 election, while the Lib Dems gained a seat at the 2007 election - the one in which they won two-thirds of the seats on Vale of White Horse council despite polling fewer votes than the Conservatives.  The Conservatives pulled away slightly in the 2011 election to win a clean sweep of the three seats, but by-elections in circumstances like this often generate a huge swing against the defending party so the 11-point Tory lead might not be enough for them to hold on.

For this by-election the Conservatives have pulled off the coup of selecting Julia Reynolds, a former Lib Dem district councillor for this ward who served from 2004 to 2007 as Mayor of Wantage.  Another former Mayor of Wantage, local British Legion branch chairman Jim Sibbald, is the official Lib Dem candidate.  Also standing are Nathan Sparkes for Labour and Kevin Harris for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Wantage
Oxfordshire county council division: Grove and Wantage
Postcode district: OX12

Kevin Harris (Grn)
Julia Reynolds (C)
Jim Sibbald (LD)
Nathan Sparkes (Lab)

May 2011 result C 1235/1178/1131 LD 940/754/714 Lab 442/428
May 2007 result LD 1089/1018/831 C 961/892/873 Lab 273/225/220
May 2003 result C 800/670/657 LD 727/595/593 Lab 229/226 Grn 205

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