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

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