Wednesday, 30 July 2014

By-election Previews: 31 July 2014

Four by-elections are taking place this week.  Two are covered here, and the other two over on the Welsh Elections blog.

Rother district council, East Sussex
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Bob White for health reasons.

Burwash Village
The Darwell ward is a large tract of rural East Sussex, located in the hills of the Sussex Weald to the north-west of Battle.  There is no village called Darwell; rather, the ward is named after the Darwell Wood site of special scientific interest, which surrounds the Darwell Reservoir that provides much of the area's drinking water.  The largest village within the ward (providing around 1,450 electors) is Burwash, probably best known as the home of Rudyard Kipling who set Puck of Pook's Hill in the area.

Darwell ward returns two members to Rother district council, and in the 2003 and 2007 elections they were David Vereker of the Conservatives and independent candidate Wendy Miers, who was not opposed by the Tories.  Miers stood down in 2011 and Bob White - who was elected for the neighbouring Battle Town ward as a Lib Dem in 2003 but lost his seat as a Conservative in 2007 - was elected in her place.  At county level the ward is split between the safe Tory division of Rother North West and the safe Lib Dem division of Battle and Crowhurst; however, the Lib Dem strength in Battle and Crowhurst comes from Battle town which is not part of this ward.

Defending for the Tories is Eleanor Kirby-Green, who lives outside the ward in Ticehurst.  Andrew Wedmore of the Green Party, the runner-up in the 2011 district election, tries his luck again; he lives within the ward at Brightling.  The Lib Dems have reselected Tracy Dixon, who also lives within the ward (at Netherfield), while Labour's candidate is Suz Evasdaughter, a B&B owner with an interest in raw food.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Edward Smith, from Burwash.

Parliamentary constituency: Bexhill and Battle
East Sussex county council divisions: Battle and Crowhurst (part: Mountfield and Whatlington parishes and part of Battle parish); Rother North West (part: Brightling, Burwash and Dallington parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hastings (part: Mountfield and Whatlington parishes and part of Battle parish); Tunbridge Wells (part: Brightling, Burwash and Dallington parishes)

Tracy Dixon (LD)
Suz Evasdaughter (Lab)
Eleanor Kirby-Green (C)
Edward Smith (UKIP)
Andrew Wedmore (Grn)

May 2011 result C 1168/1016 Grn 386 LD 363/341 Lab 228
May 2007 result C 1072 Ind 685 LD 469
May 2003 result C 858 Ind 756 LD 476

Charnwood borough council, Leicestershire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Harley due to work commitments.  Harley had been a Charnwood councillor for eleven years and had served on the council's cabinet.

The Top House, Thurmaston
Thurmaston is a Leicester suburb, located just outside the city limits.  It can be found to the north-east of the city on the Fosse Way, on the eastern bank of the River Soar.

Although Thurmaston forms part of a safe Conservative parliamentary seat, it is a key marginal ward in the current political climate.  The ward's three seats split two Tory and one Labour in 2003.  The Tories then won the 2005 county council election (the county division has the same boundaries as the district ward) with Harley as their candidate.  The 2007 district election and 2009 county election were convincing Conservative wins, but the 2011 district election was a much closer-run affair: the Tories held all three seats but with majorities over Labour of just 167, 93 and 3 votes.  Labour followed up on this good performance by gaining the county council seat from Paul Harley last year by a majority of 123 votes.

Defending for the Conservatives is Hanif Asmal, a teacher, Syston parish councillor and chairman of the Charnwood Conservative Association.  The Labour challenge is led by Thurmaston parish councillor Ralph Raven, who is the only candidate to live within the ward.  Charnwood is one of only two local councils to still have a BNP member, and the BNP polled 24% here at the 2007 district election; this time the far-right vote is disputed between Stephen Denham of the BNP and Chris Canham of the British Democrats, a BNP splinter group associated with former MEP Andrew Brons.  Tom Prior, Thurmaston's first UKIP candidate, comples the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Charnwood
Leicestershire county council division: Thurmaston
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

Hanif Asmal (C)
Chris Canham (BDP)
Stephen Denham (BNP)
Tom Prior (UKIP)
Ralph Raven (Lab)

May 2013 result Lab 1094 C 971 BNP 242
May 2011 result C 1473/1399/1309 Lab 1306/1153/1058
June 2009 result C 1322 Lab 593 BNP 529 LD 260
May 2007 result C 1363/1288/1283 Lab 873/735/728 BNP 713
May 2005 county council result C 1810 Lab 1590 LD 505 BNP 307 Ind 175
May 2003 result C 838/781/748 Lab 803/769/731 Ind 321/259/249

Sunday, 27 July 2014

UKIP Candidate Defects to... "Blonde, curly hair, grey eyes"

Tracey Gough, who contested the Underhill ward of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council for UKIP in May, has been nominated for the Portland Town Council elections to be held on 14 August.

Gough will be standing in the Portland Tophill West ward, but instead of standing for UKIP has given the ballot paper description, "Blonde, curly hair, grey eyes".

It's not clear if this is a deliberate joke or a bit of a mix-up, but English Elections wishes the new Blonde, Curly Hair, Grey Eyes Party well in their future endeavours.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

By-election Previews: 24 July 2014

Walsall metropolitan borough council, West Midlands
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Tim Oliver at the age of 56.  Described as a conviction politician and community activist, Oliver had sat on Walsall council for eighteen years and at the time of his death was leader of the Labour group.

Cavendish Road, Leamore
Drive down the M6 into the Black County, taking care to avoid the toll road, and just after the M54 joins a view opens out on the left-hand side of an unambiguously industrial landscape with several prominent blocks of high-rise flats.  This is Leamore, part of Birchills Leamore ward.

As the name suggests, the ward covers two distinct parts of the borough of Walsall. Birchills is located just outside the town centre ring road in the south-east corner of the ward, while Leamore is a large council estate in the west of the ward on the opposite side of a canal, hard up against the M6 as stated.  The ward scores very highly on the deprivation indices; apart from Pouk Hill in the south-west corner every census area in the ward is in the most deprived 20% in England.

In Walsall demographics like this produce a safe enough Labour ward, but a ward that should probably be safer for Labour if it were not for the fact that it's in Walsall.  The Walsall Labour Party has a long history of wacky politics and severe underperformance at the ballot box: even after the 2014 elections, four years into a period of Labour opposition at national level, Labour only held half the seats on Walsall council.  Oliver, who had been leader of the Labour group, died three days after the 2014 elections and before the council AGM, and in consequence Labour didn't have enough votes to remove the Conservative leader of the council, who remains in post with support from the Lib Dems, UKIP and independent councillors.  Labour may try again to take control if they hold this by-election.

So, what are the chances of Walsall Labour missing this particular open goal?  Over the last decade Birchills Leamore has voted Labour at every election which the exception of a by-election in November 2008, which was caused by one of the Labour councillors resigning over child porn allegations; that by-election resulted in a Tory gain.  The Tories also came close to winning in 2006 (at which election their candidate was the defending councillor, who had defected from Labour) and in 2010.  In last May's ordinary elections UKIP took over second place.

Defending for Labour is Chris Jones, an electrician who has lived in the ward for 25 years.  UKIP are standing Paul White, their PPC for Aldridge-Brownhills.  The Tories have reselected charity worker Gazanfer Ali who fought the ward in May.  Completing the ballot paper is Chris Newey from the English Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Walsall North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Walsall and Cannock
Postcode districts: WS2, WS3

Gazanfer Ali (C)
Chris Jones (Lab)
Chris Newey (EDP)
Paul White (UKIP)

May 2014 result Lab 1194 UKIP 854 C 707 BNP 140
May 2012 result Lab 1424 C 274 BNP 230 EDP 128 LD 74 Grn 59
Dec 2011 by-election Lab 835 C 512 EDP 130 UKIP 59 Grn 46
May 2011 result Lab 1574 C 961 LD 167 Democratic Labour 158
May 2010 result Lab 1773 C 1602 LD 608 UKIP 524 Democratic Labour 136 Grn 132
Nov 2008 by-election C 764 Lab 661 BNP 90 LD 72 Democratic Labour 69 UKIP 52 Grn 34
May 2008 result Lab 958 C 543 Grn 142 Democratic Labour 110
May 2007 result Lab 1114 C 684 LD 290 Democratic Labour 173
May 2006 result Lab 1016 C 946 LD 327 Democratic Labour 180
June 2004 result Lab 1023/902/894 C 699/691/650 LD 437 Democratic Socialist Alliance 369

Blackpool council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Joan Greenhalgh at the age of 83.  A former professional dancer and secretary, Greenhalgh had represented Clifton ward since 1992 and was Mayor of Blackpool in 2011/2.

In a seaside resort known as Blackpool,
Renowned for fresh air and fun,
It's election time this coming Thursday,
While Lancastrians arrive for some sun.

The schools are now out across Lancashire,
And the kids need amusing each day,
Forecast's nice! So let's drive to the seaside
On the M55 motorway.

It's boring while sat in the back seat.
"Look out for the Tower" says Mum!
And it's there, on the distant horizon,
As we bake in the hot July sun.

All too soon we run into some traffic:
We've come to the edge of the town.
But there's no beach here yet, just some houses
Most Victorian, two-up-and-two-down.

There's a by-election here round these houses,
It's Clifton ward, on this Thursday;
While the kids get packed off to the seafront
The pseophologists come out to play.

The people round here vote for Labour:
Cllr Greenhalgh's team wouldn't rest.
But you shouldn't write off Blackpool Tories;
They won here in '07 with Joe Best.

The new man for Labour's Luke Taylor;
For the Tories, Bruce Allen's your runner;
There's Shackleton Spencer for UKIP;
Gina Gordon's your Lib Dem this summer.

There's a row in the Fylde over fracking,
And the Greens' Tina Rothery says "no".
And Philip Watt, local trade unionist,
To the foot of the ballot does go.

I hope that the Lion and Albert
Will forgive me for writing these lines;
But then, this and similar parodies
Have been done many thousands of times.

Parliamentary constituency: Blackpool South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackpool
Postcode district: FY4

Bruce Allen (C)
Gita Gordon (LD)
Tina Rothery (Grn)
Shackleton Spencer (UKIP)
Luke Taylor (Lab)
Philip Watt (TUSC)

May 2011 result Lab 1090/911 C 567/475 Ind 221
May 2007 result Lab 801/703 C 749/703 LD 287
May 2003 result Lab 1268/1120 C 796/680 LD 356

Northumberland council
Caused by the death of Independent councillor John Taylor at the age of 77.  A retired farmer and estate manager, Taylor had served in elected office for more than 28 years, including as leader of the now-defunct Alnwick district council, and was first elected to Northumberland county council in 2001.

Boats in Craster Harbour
You're not getting poetry with this preview; instead, the landscape can speak for itself.  Longhoughton itself is a small village (965 electors) close to the coast east of Alnwick, and the division named after it surrounds Alnwick to the north, east and west sides.  This is a very beautiful part of England, which includes the fishing village of Craster and the ruined Dunstanburgh Castle.  Out of the tourist season the main drivers for the local economy are Craster kippers and the RAF search-and-rescue helicopter station at Boulmer, just outside Longhoughton.

The modern Longhoughton ward was drawn up for the 2013 election and John Taylor won easily, as he had done in the 2008 and 2005 county elections.  The Tories were a rather distant second last time round.

The new independent candidate is Wendy Pattison, from Alnwick.  Former Alnwick district councillor John Hope, a retired police inspector, is the Tory candidate, while UKIP have selected their Alnwick branch chairman Michael Weatheritt.  The Liberal Democrats are standing civil engineer and road safety campaigner Kate Cairns, who is the only candidate to live in the ward (at Newton-by-the-Sea).  Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Nicola Morrison, who in last year's county elections tried her luck in the neighbouring Bamburgh division.

Parliamentary constituency: Berwick-upon-Tweed
ONS Travel to Work area: Berwick (part: Ellingham parish), Morpeth, Ashington and Alnwick (rest of ward)
Postcode districts: NE66, NE67

Kate Cairns (LD)
John Hope (C)
Nicola Morrison (Lab)
Wendy Pattison (Ind)
Michael Weatheritt (UKIP)

May 2013 result Ind 705 C 315 Ind 184 UKIP 178

Doncaster metropolitan borough council, South Yorkshire
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Pat Hall.

Train Approaching Kirk Sandall
Here we have a set of three villages to the north-east of Doncaster, in the floodplain of the River Don.  The names of the villages run from south to north.  Kirk Sandall is a new village, originally built from the 1920s for workers at a large Pilkington's glass factory, while Edenthorpe - on the A18 Doncaster-Scunthorpe road - is a more residential area.  Opposite Barnby Dun (the name is a corruption of "Barnby upon Don") on the other side of the Don is Thorpe Marsh power station, a now-disused coal-fired power station whose cooling towers dominated the area until their removal a couple of years ago; there is a plan to build a new power station here with more up-to-date technology.

The ward's proximity to Doncaster and transport links (there is a railway station at Kirk Sandall) give it somewhat of a commuting profile.  The ward was created in 2004 and initially returned two Lib Dems and an independent candidate in a very fragmented result, with both Labour and the Tories also polling well.  The three councillors were re-elected in 2006-2008, before Labour gained all three seats in the period 2010-2012 result; the 2010 win was somewhat of a freak, with Labour polling just 24% of the vote on a five-way split, the English Democrats and the defending independent councillor tying for last place on 16% of the vote each, but the 2011 and 2012 results were safe.  However, UKIP, who had not previously fought the ward, managed to win here in May 2014 by just 37 votes over Labour.

Make of that what you will.  Defending for Labour is David Nevett, the Labour councillor who lost his seat in May and wants it back.  The UKIP candidate is also a former councillor for the ward: in one of the less-frequently-travelled political journeys he is Paul Bissett, who was a Lib Dem councillor for this ward from 2004 until 2011, when he stood as a Labour candidate in Bessacarr and Cantley ward and lost to the Lib Dems.  The Lib Dems are notable by their absence from the ballot paper, having had the majority of the ward's councillors until May 2011.  Also standing are Nick Allen for the Tories, and Pete Kennedy who is the ward's first Green Party candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Doncaster Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Doncaster
Postcode districts: DN2, DN3, DN7

Nick Allen (C)
Paul Bissett (UKIP)
Pete Kennedy (Grn)
David Nevett (Lab)

May 2014 result UKIP 1304 Lab 1267 C 681 EDP 198 TUSC 102
May 2012 result Lab 1409 EDP 731 LD 579 C 518 Ind 437
May 2011 result Lab 1618 Ind 928 C 837 EDP 655 LD 394
May 2010 result Lab 1632 LD 1585 C 1383 EDP 1100 Ind 1100
May 2008 result LD 2177 C 914 Lab 867
May 2007 result LD 1508 Lab 948 Ind 910 C 578
May 2006 result Ind 2275 Lab 1153 C 628
June 2004 result LD 1696/1594/952 Ind 1406 Lab 1327/1067/970 C 1157/916/780

Windsor and Maidenhead council
Caused by the death of Independent councillor Cynthia Endacott at the age of 68.  Originally from Llanfyllin in Mid-Wales, Endacott had served on the council since 1995 and served from 2000 to 2003 as the council's cabinet member for social services.

Sawyer's Close, Windsor
A bit of a history lesson is in order here.  Many people are, of course aware of Windsor as the place where the Royal Family have a castle.  The castle has been in the family for centuries; the twelth-century Henry I was the first king to use it significantly as a royal residence.  Windsor Castle was named after a village a couple of miles down the river which is now known as Old Windsor; thanks to the presence of the first bridge built over the Thames between Staines and Reading, a new town grew up below the castle on the western side in the late twelfth century.  This "New Windsor" - as it was officially known until as late as 1974 - has grown to the extent that it has merged with the settlement of Clewer, which is actually older than both the castle and New Windsor.  The ward pattern still reflects this historical division, so three of the five wards covering Windsor town have their names prefixed with "Clewer".

The Clewer North ward is a riverside ward covering the north-west corner of the Windsor built-up area.  Much of the area is floodplain, with the Thames forming a series of islands here and at least two marinas located within the ward; on one of the larger islands is Royal Windsor racecourse, with its curious figure-of-eight layout.  This area is celebrity central: former residents of the ward include Sir Michael Caine and the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, while a current resident (and, presumably, elector) is Nathalie Imbruglia, who named her second album after her home on White Lilies Island.

Local elections in Clewer North are dominated by an independent slate associated with the West Windsor Residents Association, although they came under some pressure from the Tories at the 2011 election.  The other two independent councillors for the ward, John Fido and John Penfold had already announced that they were to stand down at the 2015 election.  (Oh crumbs.)  Not that this appears to have affected the independents' ability to campaign; another independent councillor has reported the Tory campaign to the Electoral Commission over claims that the council's newspaper was being used to promote the Conservatives' by-election campaign.

Defending for the independents is accountant Wisdom da Costa, chairman of the West Windsor Residents Association.  The Conservative candidate is IT consultant John Collins.  Completing the ballot paper is Peter Shearman for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Windsor
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell
Postcode district: SL4

John Collins (C)
Wisdom da Costa (Ind)
Peter Shearman (Lab)

May 2011 result Ind 1392/1159/1151 C 1016/895/831 Lab 372
May 2007 result Ind 1216/1085/1040 C 645/630/600 BNP 402/336 Lab 233/221/214
Oct 2003 by-election Ind 544 C 325 LD 298 Lab 121
May 2003 result Ind 967/914/883 C 457/452/430 LD 274/249/227 Lab 265/250/245

Reading council, Berkshire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Pete Ruhemann at the age of 66.  Ruhemann had been a councillor for Southcote since 1985, initially on the now-defunct Berkshire county council, and was the husband of the leader of Reading council Jo Lovelock.

Coronation Square, Southcote
The Southcote ward of Reading can be found on the south-western edge of the town along the A4 Bath Road.  It is named after the former Southcote Manor, much of whose land was developed into the ward's housing during the twentieth century.  The lords of Southcote Manor supplied several MPs for Reading over the centuries, including the regicide MP Daniel Blagrave who inherited the manor from the Tudor mathematician John Blagrave.  The ward includes another mansion whose land has been preserved as Prospect Park.

Southcote has returned Labour councillors consistently since the current ward boundaries were drawn up, and under current political conditions is a safe ward.  The Tories run a rather distant second here.

Defending for Labour is Matthew Lawrence.  The Tories have reselected May's runner-up Ellis Wiggins.  Alan Lockey stands for the Greens, Margaret McNeill for the Lib Dems, while the ward's first UKIP candidate Ann Zebedee will hope to bounce into contention.

Parliamentary constituency: Reading West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell
Postcode district: RG30

Matthew Lawrence (Lab)
Alan Lockey (Grn)
Margaret McNeill (LD)
Ellis Wiggins (C)
Ann Zebedee (UKIP)

May 2014 result Lab 1286 C 626 Grn 213 LD 110
May 2012 result Lab 1364 C 478 LD 142 Grn 112
May 2011 result Lab 1543 C 858 LD 193 Grn 157
May 2010 result Lab 1836 C 1466 LD 638 Grn 108
May 2008 result Lab 1333 C 1067 LD 139 Grn 85
May 2007 result Lab 1028 C 898 LD 168 Grn 103
May 2006 result Lab 1108 C 748 LD 203 Grn 122
May 2006 by-election (simultaneous with above election) Lab 1252 C 837
June 2004 result Lab 1266/1243/1212 C 788/701/654 LD 330/322

Maidstone borough council, Kent
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Richard Lusty after he was passed over for a post in the council's cabinet.  Lusty had represented Staplehurst for 16 years.

Hammer Way, Staplehurst
The large village of Staplehurst can be found squarely in the Weald of Kent, about eight miles south of Maidstone.  The ward is primarily a commuter area; it lies on the South Eastern main line, and the railway is the cause of the village's most famous incident; inadequately protected engineering work led to a train derailing at Staplehurst in 1865 with the deaths of ten passengers.  Travelling on that train was Charles Dickens, who escaped serious injury but never recovered from the accident psychologically.  In modern times the ward's economy is contributed to by the Hush Heath Estate, a local vineyard whose pink sparkling wine has won awards.

Staplehurst is normally a boringly safe Conservative ward, although the Lib Dems performed relatively well in 2010 thanks to the general election turnout; it is part of the Maidstone and The Weald constituency which was a long-shot target for the Lib Dems that year.  However, the most recent election in May saw the Tory vote halve to just 33%, six points ahead of the Lib Dems and nine-and-a-half points ahead of UKIP who fought the ward for the first time.  It will be interesting to see whether the by-election confirms this new dynamic or reverts to form.

Defending for the Tories is mother-of-two Louise Brice.  The Lib Dem, UKIP and Labour candidates from May are all standing again: they are Paulina Watson, Jamie Kalmar and John Randall respectively.  The ballot paper is completed by new Green Party candidate David George.

Parliamentary constituency: Maidstone and The Weald
Kent county council division: Maidstone Rural South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent
Postcode districts: TN12, TN17

Louise Brice (C)
David George (Grn)
Jamie Kalmar (UKIP)
John Randall (Lab)
Paulina Watson (LD)

May 2014 result C 619 LD 510 UKIP 441 Lab 147 Ind 98 Grn 65
May 2011 result C 1211 Lab 288 LD 228 Grn 148
May 2010 result C 1906 LD 1082 Grn 202
May 2007 result C 1127 LD 270 Lab 211
May 2006 result C 1085 LD 335 Lab 207
May 2003 result C 883 LD 328 Lab 171
May 2002 result C 922/896 LD 300/290 Lab 231/201

Thursday, 17 July 2014

By-election Previews: 17 July 2014

King's Lynn and West Norfolk borough council
Caused by the resignation of Green Party councillor Lori Allen.

RAF Marham Boundary Fence
The Airfield ward is a large rural ward in western Norfolk, running down to the River Nar on its northern boundary and the River Great Ouse at its western extent.  The airfield of the name is RAF Marham, still a very active airfield with three squadrons of Tornados based here.  The polling district covering the RAF station accounts for around a third of the ward's electors; however, servicemen rarely vote in local elections so a low turnout (even by local by-election standards) can be expected.  Away from the airbase the largest villages in the ward are Marham itself and Runcton Holme, down on the Great Ouse floodplain.

Airfield was very strongly Conservative when the current ward was created in 2003, and the two Tory councillors were re-elected unopposed in 2007.  However, in the 2011 election the Conservatives unaccountably stood only one candidate for the two seats; the beneficiary of this decision was the Green Party's Lori Allen who beat Labour and an independent candidate standing on an anti-incinerator ticket (an incinerator proposed for near King's Lynn has been a highly toxic politicial issue in this district for most of the last decade). Matters got worse for the local Conservatives in the 2013 Norfolk county council elections, in which they lost one of the county divisions covering this ward to UKIP and held UKIP off only narrowly in the other.

Defending for the Green Party is farmer Jonathan Burr.  The Conservative candidate is Geoff Hipperson, borough councillor for this ward until 2011 and chairman of Shouldham parish council.  Maths teacher Sebastian Polhill stands for Labour, and Watlington parish councillor Bob Scully is the UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Fincham (part: Runcton Holme, Shouldham Thorpe and Tottenhill parishes); Gayton and Nar Valley (part: Marham, Shouldham and Wormegay parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: King's Lynn and Fakenham

Jonathan Burr (Grn)
Geoff Hipperson (C)
Sebastian Polhill (Lab)
Bob Scully (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 782 Grn 386 Lab 354 Ind 283
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result C 958/847 Lab 442 LD 334

Redditch borough council, Worcestershire
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Dave Small after just two weeks in office.  Small was elected as councillor for this ward on 22nd May this year but was almost immediately expelled from UKIP over racist and homophobic Facebook comments.

Edgeworth Close, Church Hill
Well, that didn't take long.  Less than two months have elapsed since the 2014 ordinary elections and we already have our first vacancy among the councillors elected that day.  This vacancy has occurred in the Church Hill ward, the north-east corner of the new town of Redditch; started in 1975 and one of Redditch's largest developments, Church Hill is described as a social planning experiment, with social housing concentrated in the south of the estate, private housing to the north and services in the centre.

The social mix adds up to a normally-Labour-inclined ward which since 2004 had been lost by the party only once - to the Tories in 2010, by 19 votes after they came 11 votes short in 2008.  The Tory seat was duly lost in May's ordinary election, but not to Labour: to a UKIP candidate who quickly proved to be too much of a racist, loony and closet fruitcake for even UKIP to handle.  Mind, this UKIP performance - a 50-vote majority over Labour - wasn't a one-off: last year the party split with Labour the two county council seats in the local Arrow Valley East division, which had voted Conservative in 2009.

Defending for UKIP is Len Harris, chairman of the local party branch.  The second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-placed candidates from May are all trying again: respectively they are Nina Wood-Ford for Labour, Kathy Haslam for the Tories, Lee Bradley for the Green Party, perennial Lib Dem candidate David Gee and independent Agnieszka Wiecek.  Completing the ballot paper is a second independent candidate, Isabel Armstrong.

Parliamentary constituency: Redditch
Worcestershire county council division: Arrow Valley East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham

May 2014 result UKIP 665 Lab 615 C 433 Grn 80 LD 79 Ind 26 Ind 14
May 2012 double vacancy Lab 883/793 C 466/430 LD 106/102 Grn 90/71 Ind 51/47/41
May 2011 result Lab 992 C 768 LD 205 Grn 139
May 2010 result C 1301 Lab 1282 LD 788 Ind 123 Grn 93
May 2008 result Lab 733 C 722 LD 233 Ind 176
May 2007 result Lab 824 C 690 LD 377
May 2006 result Lab 865 C 626 LD 428
June 2004 result Lab 974/966/909 LD 564/542/528 C 434/422/360

Isabel Armstrong (Ind)
Lee Bradley (Grn)
David Gee (LD)
Len Harris (UKIP)
Kathy Haslam (C)
Agnieszka Wiecek (Ind)
Nina Wood-Ford (Lab)

East Dorset district council
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Don Wallace at the age of 95.  Chairman of the council in 1995/6, Wallace served for 41 years in elected office on East Dorset district council, Dorset county council and Colehill parish council.  After serving in West Africa and Burma during the Second World War, Wallace had a career in personnel management in his native Birmingham and Dorset, and also worked as a university lecturer.

Colehill Library
From one of the shortest-serving councillors in recent times to one of the longest.  Colehill is a village north of Poole about whom nobody seems to have very much to say; the Wikipedia article is long on speculation about what might have happened here in prehistoric times but short on information after about 1500.  The deprivation indices show this area to be very much at the rich end of the spectrum, so I'll take a wild guess and say that there are a fair number of people here who commute to Poole and Bournemouth.

Despite (or perhaps because of) his age, Wallace doesn't appear to have had much of a personal vote and badly trailed his Lib Dem colleague Janet Dover at the May 2011 election in this safe Lib Dem ward.  Dover is also the county councillor for the area and increased her majority in the 2013 county elections; bad news for the local Tories in their quest to regain the marginal parliamentary seat of Mid Dorset and North Poole.

Two Colehill parish councillors will square off in this by-election: in the yellow corner is Lib Dem defender Barry Roberts, while in the blue corner parish council chairman Graeme Smith challenges for the Conservatives.  In the purple corner is UKIP's David Mattocks, who describes himself as a "business broker", whatever that means.  Labour have thrown in the towel, so those are your three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Dorset and North Poole
Dorset county council division: Colehill and Stapehill
ONS Travel to Work Area: Poole

David Mattocks (UKIP)
Barry Roberts (LD)
Graeme Smith (C)

May 2011 result LD 1066/765 C 668/667 Lab 200 UKIP 175
May 2007 result LD 933/805 C 486/447 UKIP 210/205 Lab 83
May 2003 result LD 799/709 C 480/459 Ind 132 Lab 92

Oxford city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Helen O'Hara.

Cowley Road, Oxford
In south-eastern Oxford, Cowley is well-known for motor vehicle manufacturing, with BMW's Mini factory today continuing a tradition going back to the nineteenth century.  One of the nineteenth-century manufacturers in this area was John Allen and Sons, which made agricultural machinery until the 1980s; the site of their factory has been redeveloped into a retail park called the John Allen Centre which lies at the centre of the modern Cowley ward.  Further out of the city is the Oxford Business Park next to the ring road, a modern redevelopment of the old Morris Motors factory; further in is Florence Park, a popular neighbourhood built in the 1920s for Cowley factory workers.

The Cowley factories have a reputation for strong trade unionism, and it's appropriate that the modern Cowley ward is safe for Labour, with the exception of a fluke Lib Dem win in 2006; the Lib Dem councillor who won that year later defected to Labour in whose colours he was re-elected in 2010. Labour also hold the Cowley division of Oxfordshire county council, which includes parts of neighbouring wards.

Defending for Labour is David Henwood, a secondary school teacher and former engineer at the Cowley body plant.  May's election saw a surprise runner-up: an independent candidate campaigning to save the Temple Cowley swimming pool, who appeared on the ballot paper only as "Artwell"; he is back on the campaign trail for this by-election.  Law lecturer Hazel Dawe is the Green Party candidate, while environmental scientist Katharine Harborne stands for the Tories; Nepalese restaurateur Prakash Sharma is the Lib Dem nominee, and completing the ballot paper is UKIP's local party chair and PPC Ian Macdonald.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
Oxfordshire county council division: Cowley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Artwell (Ind)
Hazel Dawe (Grn)
Katharine Harborne (C)
David Henwood (Lab)
Ian Macdonald (UKIP)
Prakash Sharma (LD)

May 2014 result Lab 659 Ind 373 Grn 268 C 186 LD 142
May 2012 result Lab 626 Grn 276 C 196 LD 115
May 2010 result Lab 1264 LD 601 C 506 Grn 385
May 2008 result Lab 692 C 250 LD 224 Grn 180 Ind 91
May 2006 result LD 627 Lab 534 Grn 294 Respect 213
June 2004 result Lab 616 LD 396 Grn 323 C 262
May 2002 result Lab 693/668 LD 392/360 C 210 Grn 157/146

Harrogate borough council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Reg Marsh.

The Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate
This is a ward on the south-eastern outskirts of Harrogate, either side of the A661 road to Wetherby.  While it is primarily residential rather than touristy (as much of Harrogate town centre is), nonetheless the ward receives many visitors each year as it is the location of the Great Yorkshire Showground.  On polling day you can visit an exhibition being put on by Motability; or you can wait two weeks for the Great Northern Needlecraft Show, at which one of the quilt exhibits (the one with the two dragons with intertwined tails) is destined, once the show is over, for your columnist's bed. Thanks Mum!

For years a safe Lib Dem ward, Hookstone ward had been represented by Reg Marsh and his wife Pat since the current ward was created in 2002.  Pat Marsh was re-elected in May in the ward's closest result yet, the Tories cutting the Lib Dem majority to less than 9 points and turning the ward into a marginal.  That swing since 2010 suggests that the Lib Dems may have their work cut out to regain the Harrogate and Knaresborough parliamentary seat at next May's general election; an impression reinforced by the Tories gaining the Harrogate Oatlands county council division (which covers most of this ward) from the Lib Dems in last year's county elections.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Clare Skardon, who fought the safe-Tory Stray ward in May's ordinary elections.  The Tory challenger is Phil Headford, who runs a garden design company.  Also standing are Alan Henderson for UKIP and Pat(ricia) Foxall for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Harrogate and Knaresborough
North Yorkshire county council division: Harrogate Oatlands (part), Harrogate Starbeck (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harrogate and Ripon

Pat Foxall (Lab)
Phil Headford (C)
Alan Henderson (UKIP)
Clare Skardon (LD)

May 2014 result LD 760 C 607 UKIP 291 Lab 128
May 2011 result LD 1153 C 708 Lab 257
May 2010 result LD 2139 C 1150
May 2007 result LD 1202 C 467 BNP 112 Lab 57
May 2006 result LD 1137 C 652 Lab 57
May 2003 result LD 956 C 671 Lab 60
May 2002 result LD 1114/1030 C 645/628 Lab 96

Herefordshire council
Caused by the deaths of Conservative councillors Peter Watts and Roger Hunt respectively.  Watts, who died at the age of 66 after a four-year battle with bone cancer, had served on Herefordshire council since 2003 and was a Ledbury town councillor from 2000 until 2013; a former paratrooper and fireman, he had a key role in encouraging new employment on the site of the former Robertson's jam factory in Ledbury.  Hunt, a four-time Mayor of Leominster, also had a fight with cancer, successfully raising a six-figure sum in 2007 to secure treatment in the USA for a very rare form of spinal cancer; his death came at the age of 68.

Church Lane, Ledbury
Here we have two of the beautiful small market towns which you only seem to get in the Marches.  In the shadow of the Malvern Hills, Ledbury can be found at the south-eastern corner of Herefordshire on the Hereford-Worcester railway line.  The town is noted for its large number of old timber-framed buildings, and has a light industrial base: packaging is manufactured here, while the site of the Robertson's jam factory is now used by Universal Beverages to process fruit for cider producers.

Leominster (pronounced Lemster, for those who weren't aware) is the only major town in northern Herefordshire, located on the main road and railway line through the Marches from Hereford to Shrewsbury.  An ancient religious centre, Leominster was established by the wool trade (wool from local sheep was especially prized) and now, like Ledbury, a large amount of its economy is based on tourism.  In case your columnist hasn't said this before, the Marches are a very beautiful part of the country.

The three-member Ledbury ward covers the whole of the town together with the smaller parishes of Eastnor to the east and Donnington to the south.  It returned an Independent, a Conservative and a Lib Dem councillor in 2003, but the Conservatives swept the ward in 2007 and held it a by-election on general election day in 2010, caused by one of the Conservative councillors being elected to the European Parliament.  At the most recent local election in 2011 the localist political party It's Our County (Herefordshire) split the ward again by taking one of the three Conservative seats.

The Leominster South ward is the south of the town itself together with a few hamlets which lie within the Leominster parish boundary.  In 2003 the two seats split Tory/Labour; the Conservatives gained the Labour seat in 2007 but then lost a by-election to an independent candidate in October 2008.  The Tory and Independent councillors were both re-elected in 2011.

Ledbury's by-election is a three-way fight.  Defending for the Tories is Allen Conway, a town councillor and former Mayor of Ledbury.  The present Mayor of Ledbury, 33-year-old sales manager Terry Widdows, is the It's Our County candidate.  UKIP's nominee is Paul Stanford, a former headteacher who has served in the Royal Navy; he gives an adress eight miles away in Weston Beggard.

In Leominster South the Tory defence is led by Wayne Rosser, community dog warden.  The independent candidate is Angela Pendleton, who ran the gold-medal-winning Leominster in Bloom team.  Nominated for the Green Party is Jenny Bartlett from Leintwardine, who describes herself as a "former mapping specialist"; perhaps she can explain how the new OS Election Maps website is better than the old.  (Hint: it isn't, although your columnist has been informed than an upgrade is in the works which may change that.)  Labour's Emma Pardoe is, like all the candidates previously mentioned, a Leominster town councillor; the odd candidate out in that respect is UKIP's Liz Portman-Lewis.

Parliamentary constituency: North Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford and Leominster

Allen Conway (C)
Paul Stanford (UKIP)
Terry Widdows (It's Our County (Herefordshire))

May 2011 result C 1403/1129/1300 It's Our County (Herefordshire) 1287/1013/809 LD 526/456/437 Lab 481
May 2010 by-election C 2438 LD 1769 Ind 713
May 2007 result C 1393/1331/1255 LD 976/799 Ind 820/255 Grn 693
May 2003 result Ind 1791/1272/982 C 1762/1186/859 LD 1496

Leominster South
Parliamentary constituency: North Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford and Leominster

May 2011 result C 787/427 Ind 660/233 Grn 268/240 Lab 160
Oct 2008 by-election Ind 515 C 397 Grn 200 LD 131
May 2007 result C 827/634 Grn 393 Ind 387 LD 267
May 2003 result C 1082/673 Lab 840/364 Grn 313/291 Ind 305 LD 304

Jennifer Bartlett (Grn)
Emma Pardoe (Lab)
Angela Pendleton (Ind)
Liz Portman-Lewis (UKIP)
Wayne Rosser (C)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

By-Election Previews: 10 July 2014

Five by-elections (four covered here, and one over on the Cornish Elections blog) and one deferred election on 10th July 2014:

Cheshire West and Chester council
Caused respectively by the death and resignation of Labour councillors David Robinson and Amy Mercer-Bailey.  David Robinson, who has died at the age of 67, was a former high school teacher who had been a local councillor on and off for over 30 years; he was Labour's parliamentary candidate for the City of Chester at the 1987 and 1992 general elections, losing to the Conservatives Peter Morrison and Gyles Brandreth respectively.  Mercer-Bailey, who was the youngest member of the council having been elected in 2011 at the age of 19, has taken up a new job which is politically restricted.

The Queen Hotel, Chester
Boughton is the first part of Chester that people see as they emerge from the city's railway station; a rather mixed area east of the ancient city centre and sandwiched between the railway line to the north and the River Dee to the south.

Winnington and Castle ward covers the centre and north of the town of Northwich.  Another Roman town at the confluence of the rivers Weaver and Dane, Northwich's economy has for millennia been based on salt.  The industry still leaves its mark on the town in the form of subsidence as the abandoned salt mines under the town slowly collapse; several lakes (known as "flashes") have been created by the subsidence.  Another legacy of the salt is a thriving chemical industry.

There has only been one election to CWaC council on these boundaries, which suggests that Boughton is safe Labour.  The present ward is the successor to the Boughton ward which existed on the old Chester city council; that ward was also safe Labour, although the Tories came within two points of winning at its final election in 2007.  In 2008 this area was part of the larger City ward, which voted Conservative by four points over Labour.  Winnington and Castle is a safer Labour area.  Its predecessor wards on the former Vale Royal council, Northwich Castle and Northwich Winnington, were both Labour in 2003; Northwich Winnington was actually unopposed at that election but narrowly voted Tory four years later.  The first Cheshire West and Chester council election in 2008 was a disaster for Labour as the Tories won every seat in Northwich, but Labour recovered their losses in 2011.  Both of these wards form part of parliamentary seats held by the Conservatives with small majorities, so Labour will be looking for a good performance here with the next general election less than ten months away.

The Boughton by-election is defended for Labour by Martyn Delaney, secretary of a local community group.  The Conservative candidate is Kate Vaughan.  Also standing are Mark Gant for the Lib Dems, Charles Dodman for UKIP and John McNamara for the Green Party.

Labour's candidate in Winnington and Castle is used to hard knocks; Sam Naylor plays for Northwich rugby club and is the club chairman.  The Tories' Jim Sinar is hoping to join his wife on the council; she sits for the Davenham and Moulton ward south of the town.  Also standing are Alice Chapman for the Lib Dems and Amos Wright for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency:
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chester and Flint
Postcode districts: CH1, CH2, CH3, CH88

Martyn Delaney (Lab)
Charles Dodman (UKIP)
Mark Gant (LD)
John McNamara (Grn)
Kate Vaughan (C)

May 2011 result Lab 960 C 744 LD 139

Winnington and Castle
Parliamentary constituency: Weaver Vale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crewe and Northwich
Postcode districts: CW8, CW9

Alice Chapman (LD)
Sam Naylor (Lab)
Jim Sinar (C)
Amos Wright (UKIP)

May 2011 result Lab 1041/995 C 744/704 LD 205 BNP 151

North Hertfordshire district council
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Green Party candidate Mark Davis.

The Post Office, Pirton
In the last piece of unfinished business from May, we travel to North Hertfordshire.  This ward covers the countryside between Hitchin, Luton and Stevenage; a grouping of nine parishes and eleven villages, the largest of which (with just over 1,000 electors) is Whitwell.  This is a prosperous area, full of commuters to the nearby large towns and, presumably, onwards to London.

North Hertfordshire district's current ward boundaries date from 2007, and this three-councillor ward bears the names of its three single-member predecessors.  All of those wards were safely Conservative, as are both of the Hertfordshire county council divisions which the ward is split between.  No prizes for guessing the political complexion of this ward, which was very safely held at its last election; a by-election on Police and Crime Commissioner election day in November 2012.

The winner of that by-election, Conservative councillor Faye Barnard, is standing for re-election; she lives in the village of Lilley on the edge of Luton.  She is opposed by Colin Rafferty for UKIP, Simon Watson for Labour, Peter Johnson for the Lib Dems and replacement Green candidate Orla Nicholls.

Parliamentary constituency: Hitchin and Harpenden
Hertfordshire county council division: Hitchin Rural (part: Hexton, King's Walden, Lilley, Offley, Pirton and Preston parishes); Knebworth and Codicote (part: Langley, St Ippolyts and St Paul's Walden parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stevenage (most of ward); Luton and Watford (Hexton parish, Lilley parish, part of Offley parish: Cockernhoe)
Postcode districts: LU2, SG4, SG5

Faye Barnard (C)
Peter Johnson (LD)
Orla Nicholls (Grn)
Colin Rafferty (UKIP)
Simon Watson (Lab)

Nov 2012 by-election C 774 UKIP 217 Lab 189 LD 110 Grn 72
May 2012 result C 1230 Lab 325 Grn 213 LD 147
May 2011 result C 1867 Lab 435 LD 285 Grn 215
May 2010 result C 2591 LD 821 Lab 522 Grn 251
May 2008 result C 1705 LD 243 Lab 226 Grn 160
May 2007 result C 1603/1516/1512 LD 503 Grn 486 Lab 391

Torridge district council, Devon
Caused by the resignation of independent councillor Kathy Murdoch.

Bus Shelter, Fairy Cross
Further along the north coast of the West Country can be found the tiny Kenwith ward, which covers three small parishes immediately to the west of Bideford.  The ward is named after Kenwith Castle, an eighteenth-century building in the far north of the ward, near Abbotsham, which now serves as a retirement home.

At its first election in 2003 Kenwith ward elected a councillor from the Community Alliance, a newly-formed independent group, against only independent opposition.  The Community Alliance proved short-lived and their councillor, Hugh Bone, stood for re-election in 2007 as an independent but narrowly lost to the Conservatives.  The Conservatives easily held the ward in 2011 with new candidate Kathy Murdoch; however, she resigned from the party a year later, having fallen out with the Tory leader of the council over him being a freemason.  The county division of which the ward is part (Bideford South and Hartland) has a similarly convoluted recent history, having voted Lib Dem in 2005, Tory in 2009 and UKIP last year.

Two independent candidates have come forward to replace Murdoch: they are Hugh Bone, the district councillor for this ward from 2003 to 2007, and David Gale, an architect from Bideford.  The Tories want their seat back, and have selected Alison Boyle who was the county councillor for the ward from 2009 until losing her seat in 2013.  The Lib Dems, who were second in 2011, have thrown in the towel.  Labour have reselected their 2011 candidate Geoff Hastings.  Completing the ballot paper are the Greens' Simon Mathers and UKIP's Derek Sargent.

Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
Devon county council division: Bideford South and Hartland
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bideford
Postcode district: EX39

Hugh Bone (Ind)
Alison Boyle (C)
David Gale (Ind)
Geoff Hastings (Lab)
Simon Mathers (Grn)
Derek Sargent (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 406 LD 162 Lab 153
May 2007 result C 333 Ind 278
May 2003 result Community Alliance 263 Ind 237

Barnsley metropolitan borough council, South Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Peter Starling at the age of 67.  A Penistone town councillor since the 1980s, Starling was in his first term on the borough council; he was also a school governor and involved with a local dance group.

Market Street, Penistone
High up in the foothills of the Peak District, the town of Penistone can be found eight miles to the west of Barnsley.  Barnsley district's economy is traditionally based on coal-mining; however, while there is some coal under Penistone, the main drivers of the town have historically been its market and the railways. The town was once a major junction on the Great Central main line and there was a depot here for engineering trains.  Closed in the Beeching cuts, the Great Central ran west from Penistone into the Dark Peak, eventually entering the long Woodhead Tunnel at Dunford Bridge.  No trains run through Woodhead any longer; although there was a slightly mad scheme to route a Manchester-Sheffield motorway through the tunnel, it's now owned by the National Grid who have routed high-voltage power lines through it in preference to having to build pylons through the Peak District National Park.  Deprived of the tunnel, Manchester-Sheffield road traffic (and the Tour de France, last weekend) continues to take the Woodhead Pass through the ward before dropping down into Langsett, an accident blackspot whose casualty rate rivals even the Stocksbridge Bypass further towards Sheffield.

Penistone is essentially the only Tory foothold in Barnsley, but West's Conservative vote isn't as strong as that in Penistone East ward (which is essentially all villages).  The Tories won all elections in the ward from 2006 to 2011 (including a July 2006 by-election) fairly easily, but 2012 saw Peter Starling win the ward for Labour at the fifth attempt by a margin of just 52 votes.  The result here in May's ordinary election was even closer with Labour 42 votes ahead of the Tories, who in turn were 82 votes ahead of UKIP.

With UKIP turning the ward into a three-way marginal anything could happen here.  Defending for Labour is Barnsley-based David Griffin.  The other three candidates have all continued in the same roles they performed in May's election: former councillor Andrew Millner, who lost his seat in May, will try to get straight back on the council for the Tories; fish and chip shop owner David Wood stands again for UKIP, and Penistone town councillor Steve Webber is an independent candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Penistone and Stocksbridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnsley
Postcode districts: HD8, HD9, S36

May 2014 result Lab 1015 C 973 UKIP 891 Ind 635
May 2012 result Lab 1389 C 1337 LD 190
May 2011 result C 1836 Lab 1298 Ind 558 BNP 195
May 2010 result C 2871 Lab 2047 BNP 512 Barnsley Ind Group 460
May 2008 result C 1439 Ind 654 BNP 550 Lab 448 Grn 295
May 2007 result C 1451 Ind 912 Lab 562 Grn 307 BNP 303
July 2006 by-election C 897 Lab 558 Grn 328
May 2006 result C 1012 Barnsley Ind Group 808 Lab 763 BNP 399
June 2004 result C 1815/1391/797 Ind 1779 Lab 1194/597/572 BNP 456

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

By-Election Previews: 2/3 July 2014

Two Wednesday by-elections on 2nd July 2014:

Craven district council, and

North Yorkshire county council
Both caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Polly English at the age of 71.  A former Mayor of Skipton, English's passions were foreign travel and dogs; she ran a dog grooming business called Hair of the Dog, and had exhibited at Crufts.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Skipton
Bienvenüe à Skipton.  Bienvenüe au Grand Départ du Tour de France 2014.  Yes, the annual bicycle race around France is coming to Yorkshire for its start this year, and the first stage will pass through the ancient market town of Skipton.  The largest town in the Craven district, Skipton is a thriving market town located on the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool canal.  A castle was built here during Norman times, and the town developed around it; the wide street leading up to the castle is still the location of regular markets.  The nineteenth century brought the canal to Skipton, which became a standard Yorkshire textile town; today the local economy is based on financial services (the large Skipton Building Society is still based here), commuting to the large cities of West Yorkshire (there are frequent electric trains to both Leeds and Bradford) and tourism; as well as the town being a base for the Yorkshire Dales, the amount of Tour-related tat that has been sold here over the last few months is a sight to behold.

One unexpected electoral effect of this year's Tour has been to bump these by-elections to Wednesday rather than the usual Thursday polling day, in order to allow a bit of breathing space (the Tour and associated road closures will bring quite a lot of disruption to the town).  Despite its name, the Skipton West ward covers the south-western corner of the town, around the town's railway station and along the roads towards Clitheroe and Keighley.  The Skipton West county division also takes in Skipton North ward, which covers the town centre, the castle and the residential and industrial areas in the north-west of the town.

Recent electoral races in Skipton West have always been won by the English candidate in yellow; an omen for this year's Tour, perhaps?  Polly and her husband Paul had been the two district councillors for over a decade, having won all contests from 2002 (when the present ward was drawn up) to 2008 in a safe Lib Dem ward which was normally a straight fight with the Conservatives.  The last two district elections have been more interesting; Polly was re-elected in 2011 with a majorty of just seven votes over the Conservatives with Labour and independent candidate Bernard Clarke not far behind; Paul secured re-election in 2012 rather more comfortably ahead of a closely-bunched peloton of Clarke, Labour and the Tories.

Polly English had served as Skipton West's county councillor since at least 2005, when she won easily over the Tories; however, the Lib Dem majority was cut to 3.5 points in the 2009 election with the intervention of Labour and the BNP; the BNP candidate Andrew Brons finished last with 10% of the vote but got the consolation prize of being elected to the European Parliament on the same day.  The 2013 election saw a crowded and fragmented field enabling the Lib Dems to win with just 29% of the vote; an independent candidate came second with 24%, the Tories got 20% and the Green Party and Labour also polled respectably.

In the district by-election Edward Walker will try to hold the seat for the Lib Dems; he is the chairman of the Skipton and Ripon constituency branch of the party.  Independent candidate Bernard Clarke, a retained firefighter and town councillor for the ward, tries again after his runner-up finish two years ago.  The Labour candidate is Peter Madeley, described as a family man who has lived in Skipton for 30 years.  The Conservatives are standing Tim Hudson-Brunt, chairman of the Skipton branch of the Royal Naval Association.  Also standing are Roger Baxandall (the only candidate from outside the town) for UKIP and John Launder for the Green Party.

The county by-election sees Paul English try to replace his wife as Lib Dem county councillor.  He is up against another district councillor, independent Andy Solloway of Skipton South ward, who runs a guitar shop and was runner-up last year, and former district councillor and town councillor Paul Whitaker for the Conservatives.  The Green Party candidate is Claire Nash, a former Leeds city councillor who now lives in the town.  Labour's candidate is forensic parapsychologist Andy Rankine, a former Mayor of Skipton and town councillor for 14 years, who was the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hyndburn in 2010 before defecting.  The UKIP candidate, again Roger Baxandall, completes the ballot paper.

Skipton West (district ward)
Parliamentary constituency: Skipton and Ripon
North Yorkshire county council division: Skipton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Craven
Postcode district: BD23

Roger Baxandall (UKIP)
Bernard Clarke (Ind)
Tim Hudson-Brunt (C)
John Launder (Grn)
Peter Madeley (Lab)
Edward Walker (LD)

May 2012 result LD 379 Ind 228 Lab 218 C 213
May 2011 result LD 311 C 304 Lab 250 Ind 203 Ind 80
May 2008 result LD 592 C 449
May 2007 result LD 629 C 387
May 2003 result LD 473 C 233
May 2002 result LD 589/575 C 279/261

Skipton West (county division)
Parliamentary constituency: Skipton and Ripon
Craven district council wards: Skipton North, Skipton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Craven
Postcode district: BD23

Roger Baxandall (UKIP)
Paul English (LD)
Claire Nash (Grn)
Andy Rankine (Lab)
Andy Solloway (Ind)
Paul Whitaker (C)

May 2013 result LD 572 Ind 471 C 407 Grn 312 Lab 234
June 2009 result LD 956 C 875 Lab 272 BNP 242
May 2005 result LD 1714 C 1162 Ind 639

Six by-elections and two deferred elections on 3rd July 2014:

London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of Tower Hamlets First candidate Hifzur Rahman on the eve of polling day.

"A shambles of an election, which would disgrace a banana republic"
- George Galloway, 6th May 2005

Glengall Grove, Cubitt Town
Where do I start with this one?

Perhaps best to start with the location.  This is a riverfront ward covering the north-eastern corner of the Isle of Dogs.  Look over the river to the east and you see the white upturned saucer of the Millennium Dome; look in the opposite direction to the west and the enormous office towers of Canary Wharf dominate the eyeline.  In the middle is Cubitt Town which lies on the eastern shore of the Isle of Dogs; named after an 1860s Lord Mayor of London who did much to turn the Victorian Isle of Dogs into an industrial centre, Cubitt Town is a classic mixed London community in which old-established East End families, immigrants from Bangladesh and East Asia and middle-class Canary Wharf employees live cheek-by-jowl.  Cubitt Town is served by the Crossharbour station on the Lewisham branch of the Docklands Light Railway, while Blackwall itself, further downstream, is served by the DLR's East India station (Blackwall station lies just outside the ward boundary).

From the 2002 election the Dogs were divided into two wards, with Blackwall and Cubitt Town covering the eastern half of the peninsula and Millwall ward covering the western half.  Both wards were safe for Labour, who led the Conservatives by sixteen points in Blackwall and twenty-nine points in Millwall.  Top of the poll in Millwall ward that year was a Labour candidate called Alan Amos, whom people who have been following British politics for a long time might recall as a rather right-wing Tory MP for Hexham from 1987 to 1992.

But by 2002 major demographic change in the peninsula was already afoot.  The driving force behind this is Canary Wharf and the sheer amount of money the London financial markets can generate for the people who play them (or could generate up until it all went sour around 2008 or so).  With Millwall and Cubitt Town being within easy walking distance of the business centre and offering the chance of riverside living at a cheaper price than Wapping or the Surrey Docks, the population of the Isle of Dogs boomed, and it was a middle-class population boom.  The Tories started to take Tower Hamlets seriously, and won a by-election in Millwall ward in 2005.  A year later all six of the Dogs' council seats were in Tory hands, and Millwall - thanks to a 20% swing -  already looked safe, Amos losing his seat (he later reappeared as a Labour councillor in Worcester, or at least he was until a few weeks ago when he resigned from the party and voted in a Tory administration on the hung Worcester city council in exchange for the city's mayoralty).  The 2010 election saw Labour fight back a little bit, and with a much higher turnout thanks to the coincident general election Labour came within 17 votes of taking the final Conservative seat in Blackwall and Cubitt Town.

While all this was going on politics was also happening in the rest of the Tower Hamlets, which despite the presence of Canary Wharf remains a generally poor and heavily immigrant area, as the East End has been for centuries.  Since the seventeenth century the original wave of Huguenot immigrants has been replaced by Irish, Jewish and presently Bangladeshis; the 2002 ward review even named a ward as "Spitalfields and Banglatown".  The two Labour councillors elected in that ward in 2006 were Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman, and a power struggle ensued between them for the leadership of the Labour group and the council.  The power struggle had an ethnic dimension, with most of Rahman's supporters within the Labour group being Bangladeshi and most of the Bangladeshi councillors opposed to him being on the opposite side of the main division in Bangladesh's politics - between Jawaat-e-Islami and the Awami League.  In the meantime the anti-Iraq war party Respect, whose support is overwhelmingly Muslim, had scored a breakthrough to win twelve seats on Tower Hamlets council at the 2006 election, but their council group quickly fell apart and some of their councillors defected to Labour.  Those defections affected the split within the Labour group and enabled Rahman to oust Abbas for the leadership of the council in 2008.

Rahman's administration got a lot of bad press, particularly after he forced the council's chief executive out of his job, and various allegations were made that council funds were being used improperly.  While his administration was going on, the voters of Tower Hamlets got up a petition to install a directly elected mayor for the borough, and this was confirmed in a referendum held simultaneously with the 2010 general and council elections.  With Labour's majority strengthened as a result of the council election, Abbas got the leadership back off Rahman, but both of them then ran for the Labour nomination in the borough's inaugural mayoral election, held in October 2010.  The selection contest was extremely messy, and Abbas ended up with the Labour nomination despite finishing third in the vote, while Rahman ran as an independent.  Rahman won the mayoralty in the first round.  His election as Mayor saw the Labour group on the council split, with Rahmanite councillors walking off to form a substantial group that eventually became "Tower Hamlets First".  In terms of bad press, well, Rahman's mayoralty has continued in the same vein that his leadership did.

The 2011 census found that Millwall had the biggest population of any ward in London and was becoming grossly oversized relative to the average Tower Hamlets ward.  Recognising that a re-warding was needed, the Local Government Boundary Commission stepped in.  The resulting review lopped six seats off the council, reflecting its new mayoral strucutre, but the Isle of Dogs still ended up gaining a seat: the old three-seat Millwall ward was divided into a pair of two-seat wards called Canary Wharf and Island Gardens; covering the southern end of the peninsula, Island Gardens also took in the southern end of Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward.  Despite this, Blackwall and Cubitt Town kept its three seats.  This postponed poll is the first election on these new boundaries, so there is little track record to go on; however, the reaction of the ward's Tory councillors makes clear that the new Blackwall is more Labour-inclined than the old.  One of the outgoing Tory councillors stood down while the other two tried their luck in the new Island Gardens ward.

Few of those watching the TV coverage of the 2005 general election will forget the attack that newly-elected George Galloway gave the Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets over what he saw as a "shambles of an election which would disgrace a banana republic".  God only knows what he would have said had he been present at the black farce which Tower Hamlets Electoral Services served up for us nine years later.  Counting in the Mayoral election started at 9.30am on Friday morning.  Twelve hours later, it was reported that the agents were going through over 2,000 spoilt ballots; shortly afterwards the declaration was suspended after the police put the counting hall into lockdown due to a riot outside.  The mayoral declaration eventually came after 1.30am on Saturday, after which counting started on the council election results.  This got suspended at around 10.45am on Saturday with six wards unfinished, at which point some of the count staff had been there for over 24 hours, because somebody else had booked the hall from noon.

Counting resumed at 2pm on Sunday in parallel with the European election count and it was quickly apparent that things were going wrong.  By 8pm the Deputy Returning Officer for London had turned up wanting to know why the European count was running late, and the delays just kept coming.  At 2.45am Monday the counting team gave up, phoned its European election result through (around two hours after everyone else had finished) and went home.  Bromley South ward was still undeclared; it took until 8.30pm Tuesday for this final declaration to happen, 118-and-a-half hours after polls closed.  Northern Ireland can count a province-wide Single Transferable Vote election, by hand, more quickly than that; and even the normally-supine Electoral Commission have took notice and are trying to work out what the hell happened at the count.

Out of this sustained incompetence, what did we eventually end up with?  Well, the two seats in Island Gardens (which was the penultimate ward to declare, around midnight Sunday) split between Labour and the Conservatives, and the Tories also lost a seat in Canary Wharf ward to Tower Hamlets First.  That would suggest to me that the Tory vote in the Dogs has fallen back since 2010, but whether this benefits Labour or Tower Hamlets First is anybody's guess.  In the wider mayoral election, Rahman was fairly narrowly re-elected; he had a big lead on first preferences but in the run-off almost all the transfers went to the Labour candidate, London Assembly member John Biggs.

However, this isn't going to be the end of the story as a legal challenge (an "election petition") has been brought against the mayoral result alleging electoral fraud by Tower Hamlets First in a variety of ways, together with various breaches of the rules by the Returning Officer or his staff.  The petition has been brought by four Tower Hamlets electors from four different parties.  This will take a few months to reach the court, and English Elections will of course keep an eye on proceedings as they develop.

In the meantime, Tower Hamlets electoral services have the daunting task, given their track record, of conducting a postponed poll in Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward.  The revised candidate list has major changes from the original one and the number of candidates standing for election has increased from twelve to twenty-one.  This section is already far too long and I can do little more than enumerate their names here.   The Conservative slate consists of Christopher Chapman, Geeta Kasanga and newly-nominated Gloria Thienel, outgoing councillor for the previous Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward who is standing for re-election here after being defeated in the new Island Gardens ward; she replaces originally-nominated Christopher Donnelly.  The Labour slate is Dave Chesterton, Anisur Rahman and Candida Ronald.  For Tower Hamlets First, Hifzur Rahman has of course died; Faruk Khan remains on the ballot paper, but Khadar Ismail has been dropped, with he and Hifzur Rahman replaced by Kabir Ahmed and Mohammed Aktaruzzaman.  For the Liberal Democrats, Richard Flowers has been joined by newly-nominated Elaine Bagshaw and Christopher Chapman.  Two more parties that have taken the opportunity to stand a full slate, having had only one candidate originally, are UKIP (Diana Lochner being joined by Anthony Registe and Paul Shea) and the Greens (Katy Guttman and Chris Smith joining up with Mark Lomas).  The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have put up a slate of two (Ellen Kenyon Peers and John Peers) and the ballot paper is completed by Mohammed Rahman, standing as an independent candidate.

So, a fascinating election full of questions.  Who will win out?  Rich or poor?  Tory or Labour?  Tower Hamlets First or the rest?  We just don't know - but let's see if we can get a result within 118 hours this time, please.

Parliamentary constituency: Bow and Poplar
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: E14

Kabir Ahmed (THF)
Mohammed Aktaruzzaman (THF)
Elaine Bagshaw (LD)
Christopher Chapman (C)
Dave Chesterton (Lab)
Stephen Clarke (LD)
Richard Flowers (LD)
Katy Guttmann (Grn)
Geeta Kasanga (C)
Ellen Kenyon Peers (TUSC)
Faruk Khan (THF)
Diana Lochner (UKIP)
Mark Lomas (Grn)
John Peers (TUSC)
Anisur Rahman (Lab)
Mohammed Rahman (Ind)
Anthony Registe (UKIP)
Candida Ronald (Lab)
Paul Shea (UKIP)
Chris Smith (Grn)
Gloria Thienel (C)

No previous results on these boundaries

Colchester borough council, Essex
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Steve Ford at the age of 63.  A former Mayor of Wivenhoe, Ford had served as a Colchester borough councillor since 2004; he worked as a teacher in Clacton-on-Sea and had a passion for sports, political history and philosophy.

Wivenhoe Railway Station
After that last preview, I think I need to get out of London quickly, so let's take the DLR to Stratford for a hop onto the express train to Colchester, changing there for the local train to Wivenhoe.  The small town of Wivenhoe is on the Colne estuary downstream from Colchester, and its history is bound up with the sea; fishing and boat-building are the town's traditional industries.  Wivenhoe developed a line in building racing yachts for the Victorian nobility, and a lot of the crews for those yachts also came from the town; it's said that traditionally most of the Cowes week skippers came from here or the surrounding area.  While boatbuilding in Wivenhoe is no more, the town's maritime heritage is commemorated in the name of the Wivenhoe One boat class, and the Wivenhoe Quay ward which covers the southern three-quarters of the town.

With the decline of the maritime industries, Wivenhoe has become a commuter area thanks to its rail link to Colchester, with a fair number of trains running beyond Colchester as far as London.  Today the main driver of the local economy is the University of Essex, whose campus can be found just north of the town and forms the basis of the town's other district council ward, Wivenhoe Cross.  While relatively few students live in this ward a fair number of the residents are university staff, which has enabled the town's Bohemian reputation (which pre-dated the University) to continue.

In Britain, Bohemian reputations and slightly unexpected voting patterns tend to go hand in hand.  So it is in Wivenhoe, which has an unusually large Labour vote for a town of its size in Essex, and under the present political climate Wivenhoe Quay is a safe Labour ward.  Not that it was always so: at its first election in 2002 Labour won only one of the two seats in the ward, the other going to independent candidate Richard Davies.  Davies was easily re-elected in 2003 but died not long into his term of office, and Steve Ford narrowly won the by-election (in April 2004) for Labour; he was just twelve votes ahead of the Conservatives who were themselves only 33 votes ahead of the Lib Dems.  In the meantime the ward's other Labour councillor had fallen out with the party and stood for re-election in June 2004 as an independent, splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Tories to win easily.  Ford was re-elected in 2007 by just two votes from the Conservatives; his last re-election in 2011 was much more comfortable and Labour followed up by gaining the ward's other seat from the Conservatives at the 2012 district council election.  At county level Wivenhoe Quay is part of the Wivenhoe St Andrew division, which also includes the University of Essex campus and one ward of Colchester proper; this is a safe Labour division, and in 2009 was the only Essex county division to return a Labour councillor.

The gyrations in the ward's election results over the last decade suggest that this is an area where personal votes matter.  The Labour candidate for the by-election is Ros Scott, a local teacher with a background in environmental science.  The Tories are hoping to pick up some personal votes of their own by selecting Peter Hill, who has served several times as Mayor of Wivenhoe and is involved in a number of local societies.  The Greens and Lib Dems have both selected locals who fought the county division last year, Tim Glover and Shaun Broughton respectively.  The other two candidates are from villages on the far side of Colchester; they are Dave Osborn of the "Patriotic Socialist Party" (a new party which fought last month's Newark by-election and polled risibly; judging from a lengthy thread on the Vote UK forum, the party tries to be earnest and serious and comes over as neither), and the ward's first UKIP candidate, local PPC John Pitts.

I am grateful to "East Anglian Lefty" from the Vote UK forum for help with this preview and the next.

Parliamentary constituency: Harwich and North Essex
Essex county council division: Wivenhoe St Andrew
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester
Postcode district: CO7

Shaun Broughton (LD)
Tim Glover (Grn)
Peter Hill (C)
Dave Osborn (PatSoc)
John Pitts (UKIP)
Rosalind Scott (Lab)

May 2012 result Lab 915 C 559 Grn 159 LD 122
May 2011 result Lab 1279 C 573 Grn 217 LD 172
May 2008 result C 678 Lab 518 Grn 513 LD 132
May 2007 result Lab 648 C 646 Grn 366 LD 147
June 2004 result C 629 Ind 476 Lab 322 LD 293
Apr 2004 by-election Lab 626 C 614 LD 581
May 2003 result Ind 488 C 394 Lab 336 Grn 142
May 2002 result Lab 592/523 Ind 567 C 412/399 Grn 231

Tendring district council, Essex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Sarah Candy at the age of 47.  A mother of three and successful businesswoman, Candy was an Essex county councillor for twelve years and a Tendring district councillor since 2003, and had served on the cabinets of both councils.

The Fountain at Mistley
It's become a running theme of this column over the years that every few months we visit somewhere that claims to be the UK's largest village.  This will be an exception to that rule, for Manningtree - a few miles north-east of  Colchester off the road and railway line to Ipswich - claims to be the UK's smallest town.  True, the Manningtree parish is tiny (less than 50 acres of land plus a few acres washed over by the high tide) but that's mainly because the parish boundaries haven't kept pace with the growth of the town which has spilled over into the neighbouring parishes of Lawford (which contains Manningtree's railway station) and Mistley.  Lawford is not part of this ward, but Mistley parish is; the first stop on the Harwich branch line, Mistley is probably best known for its Cold War bunker, now bizarrely being turned into homes.  Inland in this rather awkward ward are the parishes of Little Bentley and Tendring itself; the name of Tendring council came from the ancient Tendring hundred of Essex, and it's a source of debate whether the hundred is named after the village or the village took its name from the hundred.  This ward was once the previously the home of Margaret Thatcher and the Witchfinder General, although not at the same time; I'll leave you to make up your own mind as to whether or not this lack of coincidence was a good thing.

The cumbersomely-named and -drawn Manningtree, Mistley, Little Bentley and Tendring ward has seen the Tories slowly advance over the last decade to take the ward from the Lib Dems; the ward was won by the Lib Dems in 2003, by the Tories in 2011, and the 2007 election saw the parties split the two seats.  The last local election here was to Essex county council in 2013; UKIP ran riot in much of Tendring district, but the Tories held the county division covering this ward (Tendring Rural West) without too much trouble.  Sarah Candy was the previous county councillor but stood down at that election.

All four candidates come from the Manningtree area.  Defending for the Conservatives is Alan Coley, the chairman of Lawford parish council.  Trying to get back on the council after more than a decade away is the Lib Dems' Rosemary Smith, a former chair of Tendring district council.  The UKIP candidate is Mark Cole, chairman of the Harwich and North Essex branch of the party whose Twitter describes him as a hard-working professional.  Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Jo Richardson, a former district councillor in the town of Brightlingsea some miles to the south; she works in Colchester teaching English as a foreign language.

Parliamentary constituency: Harwich and North Essex
Essex county council division: Tendring Rural West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester
Postcode districts: CO7, CO11, CO16

Mark Cole (UKIP)
Alan Coley (C)
Jo Richardson (Lab)
Rosemary Smith (LD)

May 2011 result C 759/724 LD 656/367 Grn 407
May 2007 result C 634/586 LD 600/518 Lab 135/120
May 2003 result LD 547/511 C 438/403 Lab 154

Northamptonshire county council
Caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative councillors Steven Slatter and Catherine Boardman.  Slatter's resignation, after just a year in office, is due to his taking up a new job in London, while Boardman - who was the county council's cabinet member for children and education and was credited with turning around the county's poorly-rated children's services - is concentrating on her farming business.

Entrance to Braunston Marina
These two rural divisions border each other along Northamptonshire's northern boundary.  The Braunston and Crick division runs from the village of Stanford on Avon to the north to Braunston (a junction on the Grand Union Canal) to the south.  It is centred on junction 18 of the M1, the motorway's original northern terminus, and hence its economy is based around distribution; just off junction 18 is the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, at which a large amount of freight is transferred from road to rail and vice versa.  The Notice of Poll shows that Braunston and Crick are the division's largest villages with over 1400 electors each, and around 3800 electors are accounted for by the division's other eight parishes (the smallest of which, Clay Coton and Stanford, muster fewer than 100 electors between them).  However, a significant part of the division - around 2800 electors - is actually located within the town of Daventry.

The Brixworth division covers no fewer than twenty-two parishes to the south of Market Harborough, but 45% of its electors are accounted for by the village of Brixworth itself.  Five miles north of Northampton on the main road to Market Harborough, Brixworth is the home of a Mercedes factory which manufactures engines for three Formula One motor racing teams; cast stone is also a major local employer.  One of the smaller parishes within the division is Naseby, site of the decisive battle of the English Civil War.

Northamptonshire got new division boundaries in 2013 and Daventry district council, within which both these divisions lie, was re-warded in 2012 which makes it difficult to discern trends going back into the past.  The three county divisions covering all or part of this area (Braunston, Brixworth and Uplands) were all very safe Conservative in 2005 and 2009; while Brixworth was held safely by the Tories in 2013 Braunston and Crick turned into a very close three-way fight, the Tories eventually winning with 34% to 31% for UKIP and 30% for Labour.

The Labour vote in Braunston and Crick will come from the south end of the division: Daventry (many of whose residents come from Birmingham overspill developments) has a significant number of Labour voters, while Braunston - anomalously for such a rural village - votes strongly Labour.  In addition, Barby and Kilsby ward - which since 2012 covers Crick - is hard-fought between the Tories and Lib Dems at local level.  To add spice, the part of Daventry within the division forms about half of Abbey North ward, which voted UKIP in May by 13 votes over the Conservatives, Labour again polling well.  In Brixworth division the Tories hold all the district council seats (or did until one of their councillors defected to UKIP), mostly with very large majorities; since 2012 the Tories have easily held two by-elections in Brixworth district ward and a further by-election in the other ward within the division (Welford).

Dealing with the less interesting (on previous form) Brixworth first, the defending Tory candidate is Cecile Irving-Swift, who was very easily re-elected in May as district councillor for Welford ward.  The UKIP candidate is Stephen Pointer, the Conservative defector and winner of the Brixworth district by-election held in November 2012.  Labour have reselected Robert McNally and the Greens have reselected Steve Whiffen, both of whom fought the division in 2013.  Completing the ballot paper is the Lib Dems' Daniel Jones, who gives an address some distance away in Rushden and therefore is likely to be a paper candidate.

Braunston and Crick will be a three-way fight, the Lib Dems having thrown in the towel.  Defending for the Tories is Malcolm Longley, who runs a railway engineering company.  UKIP are standing Eric MacAnndrais, a Daventry town councillor who runs a taxi firm, while Labour have reselected their 2013 candidate and Braunston district councillor Abigail Campbell.

Braunston and Crick
Parliamentary constituency: Daventry
Daventry district council wards: Abbey North (part); Barby and Kilsby; Braunston and Welton; Yelvertoft (part: Clay Coton, Lilbourne, Stanford and Yelvertoft parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rugby (Barby and Kilsby ward and part of Yelvertoft ward), Northampton and Wellingborough (Braunston and Welton ward and part of Abbey North ward)
Postcode districts: CV23, NN6, NN11

Abigail Campbell (Lab)
Malcolm Longley (C)
Eric MacAnndrais (UKIP)

May 2013 result C 1008 UKIP 932 Lab 884 LD 138

Parliamentary constituency: Daventry
Daventry district council wards: Brixworth; Welford; Yelvertoft (part: Cold Ashby, Elkington, Thornby and Winwick parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rugby (part of Yelvertoft ward), Northampton and Wellingborough (Brixworth and Welton wards)
Postcode districts: CV23, LE16, NN6

Cecile Irving-Swift (C)
Daniel Jones (LD)
Robert McNally (Lab)
Stephen Pointer (UKIP)
Stephen Whiffen (Grn)

May 2013 result C 1683 UKIP 826 Lab 436 Grn 221 LD 133

Northampton borough council
Caused by the death of councillor Terry Wire, who was the leader of the Labour group, at the age of 73.  A former firefighter, Wire had served as both Mayor of Northampton and chairman of Northamptonshire county council.

National Lift Tower, Northampton
Staying in Northamptonshire, we move into Northampton itself.  The St James ward lies immediately west of Northampton town centre and railway station along the road towards Daventry, and includes two of the town's most recognisable landmarks: the Sixfields football stadium, home of Northampton Town and (er) Coventry City football clubs, the Franklin's Gardens rugby union stadium, home of Northampton Saints, and the "Northampton Lighthouse" - a tower over 400 feet tall built in the 1980s and used for testing lifts, the National Lift Tower (to give its correct name) is one of the UK's most recently-built listed buildings.

Northampton was comprehensively re-warded in 2011 and the present single-member St James ward bears little relation to the previous two-member ward and single-member county division of that name, which was normally a Labour-Conservative marginal (voting Labour in 2003 and 2005 and  Tory at the 2009 county election) but voted Lib Dem in the 2007 borough election.  The Lib Dems fell back badly in Northampton in 2011 having made a hash of running the council in the preceding four years, and the redrawn St James ward reverted to a close Labour-Tory fight, Labour's Terry Wire - one of the district councillors elected for the old ward in 2003 - winning by 33 votes.  At county level the area is now divided between the divisions of Dallington Spencer (safe Labour) and Sixfields (a three-way marginal which voted Lib Dem in 2013 by 52 votes over the Conservatives).

With ten months to go to the next general election, this is by-election in a Labour/Conservative marginal ward within a Conservative/Labour marginal seat, and is therefore worth watching.  Defending for Labour is Rufia Ashraf, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as an "individual and family services professional".  She is up against Tory candidate Andrew Kilbride, a sales manager for a printing company.  The Lib Dems have nominated Jill Hope, their county councillor for Sixfields division.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's John Howsam, who fought the Northampton North constituency in 2005.

Parliamentary constituency: Northampton South
Northamptonshire county council divisions: Dallington Spencer (part), Sixfields (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton and Wellingborough
Postcode districts: NN1, NN4, NN5

Rufia Ashraf (Lab)
Jill Hope (LD)
John Howsam (UKIP)
Andrew Kilbride (C)

May 2011 result Lab 419 C 386 LD 208 Ind 198

Cheltenham borough council, Gloucestershire
Postponed from 22nd May due to the death of independent candidate Mark Daniel.  Daniel was a member of the UK Independence Party and was believed to be standing as an independent due to a problem with his nomination papers.

Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve
Located in the south-east of Cheltenham, the Charlton Park ward is named after the Charlton Park mansion and its estate.  The house itself, now part of a school, goes back to the thirteenth century, but residential development didn't start until 1935, while the estate which forms the main part of the ward dates from the early 1980s.

The current Charlton Park was was drawn up in 2002 and was safe Conservative throughout the later Blair and Brown years.  The May 2010 result marked a departure from this pattern, the general election turnout enabling the Lib Dems to come within four points of the Tories; interestingly, the ward remained marginal at the 2012 election rather than reverting to type.  The Lib Dems hold the local county division (Charlton Park and College) which also includes the strongly Lib Dem College ward.

Although the Lib Dems have a strong majority on Cheltenham council, it's not clear whether their strong performance in 2012 was due to a strong pro-Lib Dem or a strong anti-Tory vote.   This question may well be answered by this postponed poll, which will see the first election in this ward for a decade which is not a straight Tory/Lib Dem fight.  The incumbent Conservative councillor Penny Hall is seeking re-election.  The Lib Dem candidate, fighting the ward for the third time, is Paul Baker; a former borough councillor, Baker has a high local profile as chairman of the local League Two football team Cheltenham Town.  The Labour candidate is John Bride.  This time UKIP have managed to get their candidate succesfully nominated as a UKIP candidate; they are standing university lecturer Justin Dunne.  Another new addition to the ballot paper who wasn't nominated for the original election, Green Party candidate Wayne Spiller, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Cheltenham
Gloucestershire county council division: Charlton Park and College
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cheltenham and Evesham
Postcode districts: GL52, GL53

Paul Baker (LD)
John Bride (Lab)
Justin Dunne (UKIP)
Penny Hall (C)
Wayne Spiller (Grn)

May 2012 result C 898 LD 794
May 2010 result C 1641 LD 1512
May 2008 result C 1285 LD 607
May 2006 result C 1236 LD 693
June 2004 result C 1284 LD 583 Lab 138
May 2002 result C 1179/1109 LD 567/542 Lab 93

Pendle borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor John David due to poor health.  First elected to Pendle council in 1986, David had served as deputy leader of Pendle council, leader of the Lib Dem group and as Mayor of Pendle in 1992/3.

St. Anne's Church, Fence
For the week's final preview it's off to East Lancashire.  Up in the Forest of Pendle, the ward and parish of Old Laund Booth is based on the village of Fence.  While Pendle district is dominated by the towns of Nelson and Colne which have run together and absorbed several neighbouring settlements into the urban sprawl, Fence remains an independent village on the southern slopes of Pendle Hill.  Old Laund Booth parish also includes the smaller village of Wheatley Lane together with part of an industrial estate which has spilled over the parish boundary from Nelson.

David had been the parish's borough councillor for a long time and had a significant personal vote.  He won every election here in the Noughties by a distance, his vote peaking in 2002 at 85% in a straight fight with the Conservatives.  However, David came very close to losing his seat in the 2011 election in which the Conservatives cut his majority to just ten votes.  The Conservatives do better elsewhere in the Pendle West county division, which is safe for them.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Brian Newman, the chairman of Old Laund Booth parish council.  Jill Hartley, the Conservative candidate who came so close in 2011, has been reselected. Another Hartley on the ballot paper is Kieron Hartley of the newly-formed Blue Party, which fought a handful of Pendle wards in May's borough elections.  Completing the ballot paper is UKIP's Michael Waddington.

Parliamentary constituency: Pendle
Lancashire county council division: Pendle West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burnley, Nelson and Colne
Postcode districts: BB9, BB12

Jill Hartley (C)
Kieron Hartley (Blue Party)
Brian Newman (LD)
Michael Waddington (UKIP)

May 2011 result LD 367 C 357 Lab 32
May 2007 result LD 462 C 212 Lab 26
May 2003 result LD 555 C 138
May 2002 result LD 639 C 116