Wednesday, 7 May 2014

By-Election Preview: 8 May 2014

Fenland District Council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Phil Hatton in order to concentrate on his health care business and his boat.  Hatton was sacked as chairman of the council planning committee last year following a row over two rival proposals to develop a supermarket in Whittlesey.

Leverington Church
This is Cambridgeshire's northernmost ward, covering the fens to the north-west of Wisbech.  The Roman Bank itself is a long-standing flood defence protecting the village of Leverington.  Leverington is the largest village in the ward with 2,800 electors, just over half the total electorate; the ward's three other parishes of Gorefield, Newton and Tydd St Giles also have respectable headcounts.

Although Fenland District Council was Labour-controlled for four years from 1995, the opposition to the Conservatives in Fenland is now so poorly organised that the Tories have been guaranteed at least one of the three seats in the ward at every ordinary election this century, including an unopposed return at the notorious Fenland 2007 by-election in which the Conservatives had a majority before a single vote was cast.  The two most recent contested polls - the 2011 ordinary election and a September 2004 by-election - were easy Conservative wins.  However, the district results don't give any indication of one potential fly in the ointment: UKIP, who gained the local county council seat from the Conservatives by just eleven votes in last year's county elections.

Defending for the Conservatives is Newtown parish councillor Sam Clark, a professional within the care industry who describes herself as "one of the perpetual volunteers who always gets roped into everything".  The Labour candidate is Barry Diggle, who fought the county election here last year and a county council by-election in 2008.  Standing for the Lib Dems is Stephen Court, who gives an address in March.  The local UKIP county councillor Alan Lay is now standing for the district council, and the ballot paper is completed by independent candidate Erbie Murat, whom readers with very long memories might remember as the Liberal Party parliamentary candidate for Peterborough in 1992; last year Murat was sacked as clerk of Wisbech Town Council for security breaches related to the town council's computer system.

Roman Bank is the last by-election before the ordinary local and European elections on 22nd May.  Due to other commitments there will no preview post from me for those elections; however, this column shall return in time for the next by-election after 22nd May, which will be held in Lanarkshire on 5th June.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Roman Bank and Peckover
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wisbech

Samantha Clark (C)
Stephen Court (LD)
Barry Diggle (Lab)
Alan Lay (UKIP)
Erbie Murat (Ind)

May 2011 result C 1256/1092/1007 Lab 590 LD 361
May 2007 result 3 C unopposed
September 2004 by-election C 501 LD 254 Ind 155 Lab 88
May 2003 result C 851/849/810 Lab 329