Monday, 23 June 2014

By-election Previews: 26 June 2014

Two polls on 26th June 2014.  These are not strictly by-elections, but the first two of five ordinary local elections which were scheduled for 22nd May but had to be postponed after one of the candidates died between close of nominations and polling.  Both of these polls are in Tory/Labour marginal constituencies, and with the general election less than a year away are worth analysing for that reason alone.

London Borough of Barnet
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Green Party candidate Jessica Yorke.

Colindale Tube Station
This is a twentieth-century outer suburb of London, hard up against the Edgware Road on the west side and the Midland Main Line and M1 motorway on the east side.  The ward has more than its fair share of industry and institutions, thanks to the land here by the end of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth century being available and relatively cheap for a Middlesex location.  Here were successively developed the asylum Colindale Hospital, a government vaccine facility which is still used today, a British Library depository which turned into the UK's major newspaper library (until it closed last year; work to transfer the library to St Pancras is in progress) and several large factories including Frigidaire, which from 1923 sold the UK's first automatic domestic fridges from Colindale.  The following year the Underground came to Colindale with the opening of the Golders Green-Edgware section of what is now the Northern Line, and the population of Colindale boomed.

One regular user of the Underground station in its early years was TE Lawrence (of Arabia), who was stationed at nearby Hendon Aerodrome.  Hendon was one of London's first airfields and the scene of many pioneering aeronautical achievements, including the origin of the UK's first airmail, sent from here to Windsor in 1911 to mark the coronation of George V.  During the First World War the Aerodrome was taken over by the War Office and passed into the hands of the RAF; already outmoded by the time of the Second World War, RAF Hendon closed in the 1960s.  Its site is now occupied by the London branch of the RAF Museum, the Hendon Police College (at which decades of Metropolitan policemen and policewomen have been trained) and the GLC and Barnet council's Grahame Park housing estate, named after the originator of the aerodrome Claude Grahame-White.

Almost all of Colindale ward is in the NW9 (The Hyde) postcode district and the ward includes The Hyde itself; a small corner is covered by NW7 (Mill Hill).  With Grahame Park accounting for around half of the ward's population and most of the rest not that much further up the social scale, this is a safe Labour ward.  The three ordinary council elections since 2002 have all seen Labour win with between 51% and 61%, the Tories in second place on 18-20% and the Lib Dems come in third on 14-19%.  A by-election held in 2005, four weeks before the general election of that year, resulted in a swing to Labour who had their best performance in this sequence, polling 63%.

The GLA elections in 2012 suggest that in the current political climate Labour can aspire to more than 63% in Colindale.  In the Mayoral ballot Ken beat Boris here 63-26 (with Paddick coming third), with Labour beating the Tories the list section of the election 66-15 (UKIP coming third), that lead rising to 74-14 (the Greens in third) in the Barnet and Camden constituency ballot.  One factor in the Labour performance in the constituency ballot will be that the Labour candidate was popular former local MP Andrew Dismore, who narrowly lost his seat at the 2010 election, while the Tory candidate was outgoing assembly member and Barnet councillor Brian Coleman.  There's not enough space here to detail all the controversies which have attached themselves to Coleman over the years (although Wikipedia has a good try); suffice it to say that the 2012 GLA election and last month's Barnet council election (in which he stood for re-election to the council as an independent, having kicked out of the Tory party, and got nowhere) show that by now Coleman has a strongly negative personal vote.

Not that the Barnet Tories needed Coleman in order to create controversy; the Tories gained overall control of the council in the 2006 election and the local administration (after losing a shedload of money in collapsed Icelandic banks) has pursued an aggressively right-wing policy of outsourcing as many council services as possible.  This, and the good Labour performance in the 2012 GLA polls, led to a strong challenge from Labour in the 2014 borough elections which came up narrowly short; while the Conservatives lost six seats and Labour gained eight, once the Colindale poll is completed the Tories will still have a majority of one on the council.

The Labour slate in Colindale consists of long-serving councillor Gill Sergeant, the 2005 by-election winner Zaika Zubairi, and new candidate Nagus Narenthira, replacing one-term councillor Geoff Johnson who is standing down.  The three Conservative candidates are Nneka Akwaeze, Golnar Bokaei and William Nicholson.  Regular Lib Dem candidate Daniel Estermann is joined by Victor Corney and Sabriye Warsame.  Jessica Yorke was originally intended to be a lone Green candidate, but the postponement has enabled the Greens to nominate a full slate of Maggie Curati, Francesco Marasco and Andrew Newby; also in on the act after not being on the original nominations list is UKIP, who stand John Baskin, Khalid Khan and Barry Ryan.

I wouldn't necessarily wait up for the result as election counting in London always seems to take a lot longer than it does everywhere else.  There will be more on that subject in next week's column.

Parliamentary constituency: Hendon
GLA constituency: Barnet and Camden
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: NW7, NW9

Nneka Akwaeze (C)
John Baskin (UKIP)
Golnar Bokaei (C)
Victor Corney (LD)
Maggie Curati (Grn)
Daniel Estermann (LD)
Khalid Khan (UKIP)
Francesco Marasco (Grn)
Nagus Narenthira (Lab)
Andrew Newby (Grn)
Willian Nicholson (C)
Barry Ryan (UKIP)
Gill Sargeant (Lab)
Sabriye Warsame (LD)
Zaika Zubairi (Lab)

May 2010 result Lab 3259/2836/2711 C 1175/1175/1019 LD 1095/898/764 Grn 337/306/276
May 2006 result Lab 1442/1348/1339 C 572/566/414 LD 472/417/403 Grn 312
April 2005 by-election Lab 1154 C 299 LD 220 Grn 73 UKIP 45 Ind 29
May 2002 result Lab 1314/1302/1219 C 376/376/374 LD 294/282/239 Grn 156

2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1710 Boris 700 LD 79 Benita 77 UKIP 58 BNP 54 Grn 50
List: Lab 1810 C 409 UKIP 120 Grn 118 LD 93 BNP 75 CPA 61 TUSC 15 Hayat 15 EDP 14 Alagaratnam 9 NF 8 House Party 6
Constituency: Lab 2021 C 383 Grn 131 UKIP 127 LD 87

Amber Valley borough council, Derbyshire
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Conservative candidate Patricia Watson, the chair of Swanwick parish council.

Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick
Here we have that rarest of things: an ex-pit village which now votes Tory.  Located just to the south of Alfreton, until the 1960s Swanwick was the location of a major colliery, coal having been worked in the area for centuries.  The colliery has now been redeveloped into an industrial estate, and Swanwick's economy is now based on chocolate (Thornton's has a facility on the industrial estate) and conferences at the Hayes, a Victorian country house which housed German and Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War.

The village has good road links to Derby and the main towns in the Amber Valley district (Ripley to the south, Alfreton to the north, Belper to the south-west) and so has turned into a commuter area.  Swanwick forms a two-member ward in Amber Valley district which has voted safely Conservative throughout the past 12 years, Labour normally coming second except when independent candidate George Soudah stands.  Swanwick's presence in the Alfreton county division was probably the reason the Conservatives gained that seat from Labour in the 2009 county elections.  A new county division map introduced for the 2013 combined the Alfreton division with the safe Labour Somercotes division; the resulting two-member division was safely Labour with UKIP and the Tories disputing second place.

For the 2014 election the local Tory party deselected long-serving councillor Allen King in favour of Patricia Watson.  Following Watson's death, the replacement Conservative candidate is David Wilson, who was county councillor for the ward from 2009 to 2013; he lives in Alfreton and unsuccessfully stood for re-election to the county council last year in a Ripley-based division.  Swanwick parish councillor George Soudah is standing; he fought the 2007 and 2011 elections for this ward as an independent, finishing both times as runner-up.  The Labour candidate is Antony Tester, from Ripley.  The Lib Dems are fighting the ward for the first time since 2010 in the shape of Joel Hunt, a county council candidate here last year.  Completing the ballot paper is Swanwick ward's first UKIP candidate - none other than deselected Tory councillor Allen King, standing for re-election.  In the current political climate King's presence for UKIP makes this poll fascinatingly unpredictable, and pretty much everyone (except possibly the Lib Dems) will feel that they have a chance of winning.  This is one to watch.

Parliamentary constituency: Amber Valley
Derbyshire county council division: Alfreton and Somercotes
ONS Travel to Work Area: Derby
Postcode district: DE55

Joel Hunt (LD)
Allen King (UKIP)
George Soudah (Ind)
Antony Tester (Lab)
David Wilson (C)

May 2011 result C 903 Ind 593 Lab 523 BNP 63
May 2010 result C 1610 Lab 983 LD 599
May 2007 result C 719 Ind 634 Lab 284 BNP 135 LD 84
May 2006 result C 983 Lab 389 LD 220
May 2003 result C 733 Lab 411 Ind 167
May 2002 result C 797 Lab 487

Monday, 16 June 2014

By-Election Previews: 19 June 2014

By-elections on 19th June 2014:

East Cambridgeshire district council
Caused by the death of independent councillor John Palmer at the age of 85.  First elected to East Cambridgeshire district council in a 1990 by-election, his council career had seen him serve on many committees including more than a decade on East Cambridgeshire's planning committee; before being a councillor he worked as a greengrocer and was responsible for founding the local branch of the Pony Club.

Red Lion Square, Soham
The small town of Soham lies on the road from Ely to Newmarket.  Its history goes back a long way, with many archaeological relics in the area going back all the way to the Bronze Age.  The Saxons saw the town as a religious centre; Soham Abbey was founded in the seventh century but destroyed in a Danish invasion in the ninth century, and replaced by a cathedral built around AD 900.  The cathedral didn't last for long but some of its fabric was built into the twelfth-century church which still stands. Notable people from Soham include the anti-slavery activist Olaudah Equiano, who was married here, and the Argentine social reformer and children's campaigner William Case Morris, who was born and buried here.  During the Second World War the town came very close to being wiped off the map when a goods train loaded with ammunition caught fire while passing through; the engine crew received the George Cross for bravery in saving the town from obliteration.  Despite this history Soham is probably best known by most people for the murder of two local schoolchildren in 2002 in a case which became a national sensation.

In 1999 Soham became the last principal council ward in England to return five councillors (two independents, a Lib Dem and two Labour councillors).  New ward boundaries in 2003 split the town into a North ward with two councillors and a South ward which returned three; Soham South ward also includes the small parish of Wicken, lying in the fens to the west.  That 2003 election saw Soham North return a slate of two independents, Colin Fordham and John Palmer, while Soham South went Conservative.  Soham North was gained by the Conservatives from the independent slate in 2007; the poll-topping Tory candidate was called James Palmer, which might have caused a little confusion. Fordham and John Palmer returned to the district council in 2011, this time winning the second and third seats in Soham South ward behind popular Tory candidate Tony Parramint, who beat the alphabet to run well ahead of his two running-mates.  At county level the town (which forms most of the two-member Soham and Fordham Villages division) is safely Conservative even in the 2013 election.

Two independent candidates will attempt to succeed Palmer in the by-election: they are Soham town councillor Gerard Hobbs and Geoffrey Woollard, a former Conservative county and district councillor who stood for Parliament as an independent in 2010.  Agronomist, chairman of the local magistrates' bench and Soham town councillor Hamish Ross is the Conservative candidate.  The Liberal Democrat candidate Charles Warner was runner-up in this ward at the 2007 election and contested Soham North three years ago.  Labour have selected Ely-based Fiona Ross who fought this ward in 2003, while UKIP's Daniel Divine, county councillor for Littleport, completes the ballot paper, as he did at the Sutton by-election to the district council ealier this year.

Parliamentary constituency: South East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Soham and Fordham Villages
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode district: CB7

Daniel Divine (UKIP)
Gerard Hobbs (Ind)
Fiona Ross (Lab)
Hamish Ross (C)
Charles Warner (LD)
Geoffrey Woollard (Ind)

May 2011 result C 745/578/547 Ind 598/590 LD 397/300 Lab 335
May 2007 result C 577/525/463 LD 412/397/347 Ind 351/349/263
May 2003 result C 486/474/398 LD 348/251/135 Lab 236 Ind 227

Stratford-on-Avon district council, Warwickshire
Caused by the resignation of Independent councillor David Wise.  A district councillor since 2007, Wise resigned after being prosecuted by his own council for operating a taxi firm without a licence.  He was elected and re-elected as a Conservative in 2007 and 2011 but left the party in 2013 for an unrelated reason.

The Holy Well, Southam
At the halfway point between Coventry and Banbury, Southam's history goes back a thousand years thanks to its Holy Well, a spring which formed the town's water supply for centuries and was said to cure eye complaints.  In mediaeval times the town had a private mint which Charles I used to pay his troops during the Civil War, although by all accounts the town as a whole did not take kindly to him; a skirmish outside the town on 23rd August 1642 is said to be the first military action of that war.  Today Southam's economy is based on cement quarrying, computer programming (the veteran computer games company Codemasters is based in Southam) and some commuting to Warwick and Leamington, Coventry and the West Midlands conurbation.

Stratford-on-Avon district had all-out elections on new ward boundaries in 2002, with the town of Southam forming a single ward with three councillors.  Those seats split two to Labour and one to the Conservatives in 2002, but the Tories narrowly gained the Labour seats in 2003 (by 12 votes) and 2004 and steadily increased their majority as the Blair and Brown governments progressed, to the point where Labour fell to third place behind the Lib Dems in 2010.  Labour's fortunes in the town revived somewhat with the formation of the Coalition, but the ward remained in the safe Tory column in the 2011 and 2012 elections.  In the ordinary local elections four weeks ago UKIP, fighting the ward for the first time, took over second place, the Conservatives again winning comfortably enough.  Labour came close to winning the wider Southam county division (which includes a Tory-inclined rural ward) at its most recent election in 2013, although that has less to
 do with any Labour advance than with the Conservative vote being split by David Wise standing as an independent and coming a respectable third.

This by-election will be a three-cornered contest.  The Conservatives want their seat back, and have selected local club cricketer Tony Bromwich.  UKIP's candidate is Emily Bleloch, and Labour have selected Southam town councillor (and former Warwickshire county councillor) Bransby Thomas.

Parliamentary constituency: Kenilworth and Southam
Warwickshire county council division: Southam
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon
Postcode district: CV47

Emily Bleloch (UKIP)
Tony Bromwich (C)
Bransby Thomas (Lab)

May 2014 result C 713 UKIP 515 Lab 399 Grn 118
May 2012 result C 757 Lab 579 LD 120
May 2011 result C 1162 Lab 772 LD 254
May 2010 result C 1631 LD 977 Lab 900
May 2008 result C 853 Lab 404 LD 380
May 2007 result C 975 Lab 555 LD 187
May 2006 result C 816 Lab 471 LD 398
June 2004 result C 774 Lab 632 LD 229
May 2003 result C 620 Lab 608 LD 244
May 2002 result C 926 Lab 771/747/727