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

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