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

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