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

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