Wednesday, 24 September 2014

By-election Previews: 25 September 2014

Three by-elections on 25th September, all in the South of England.  The main interest will come in two close Tory/Lib Dem fights in Essex and Somerset, with the potential for gains in both directions, while the Conservatives should have an easier ride in the Surrey stockbroker belt.  Read on...

Epping Forest district council, Essex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Kenneth Avey.  Described as a gentleman councillor, Avey had served on Epping Forest district council since 2011 and twice as Mayor of Epping.

Train at Epping Station
Located at the north-west corner of the M25/M11 junction, this ward is centred on Epping underground station, the eastern terminus of the Central Line, and covers the south-east half of the town of Epping.  The census statistics for the area do suggest a commuter profile, with a relatively high number of young professionals in the area.  Despite this, Epping does have its own attractions; it lies on the old road from London to Cambridge and East Anglia, and there are still some beautiful old buildings and coaching inns on the High Street, which the ward boundary runs along.

This ward generally votes Liberal Democrat at local level although it has not always been safe; the party were under severe pressure from the Tories for most of the last decade and the ward saw a series of tiny majorities from 2003 to 2008, although the only Tory win in this period was the second seat of a double-vacancy election in 2004 and was reversed in 2007 (the closest result in this sequence, with a Lib Dem majority of 10).  The Conservatives finally broke through in the 2011 election but since then their vote in the ward has fallen apart; the Lib Dems have made the ward safe and UKIP took over second place in May this year.  With the Tory seat being up in this by-election, the Lib Dems have a good chance to restore their monopoly on the ward again.  The Lib Dems gained the wider county council seat (Epping and Theydon Bois) from the Tories in 2009 and increased their majority in 2013.

So, it would appear that the Tories face an uphill struggle to hold onto this by-election.  Their defending candidate is Kenneth Avey's son Nigel, an Epping town councillor who works in financial services in the City.  The Lib Dem candidate is Kim Adams, while regular UKIP candidate Andrew Smith tries again; another City finance worker, he is the UKIP PPC for Epping Forest.  There is no Labour candidate this time, but Green Party candidate Anna Widdup returns after contesting the ordinary election in May.

Parliamentary constituency: Epping Forest
Essex county council division: Epping and Theydon Bois

Kim Adams (LD)
Nigel Avey (C)
Andrew Smith (UKIP)
Anna Widdup (Grn)

May 2014 result LD 847 UKIP 511 C 420 Lab 128 Grn 87
May 2012 result LD 883 C 482 UKIP 244 Lab 182
May 2011 result C 951 LD 821 Lab 231 UKIP 185 Grn 83
May 2010 result LD 1632 C 1348 Lab 234 UKIP 232 Grn 62
May 2008 result LD 815 C 840 BNP 118 Lab 76 Grn 51
May 2007 result LD 812 C 802 Epping Community Action Group 215 BNP 147 Lab 95
May 2006 result LD 1105 C 1002 Lab 118
June 2004 double vacancy LD 916/873 C 880/806 EDP 247
May 2003 result LD 666 C 593 Lab 98
May 2002 result LD 883/826/823 C 528/521/515 Lab 150

Somerset county council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Sam Phripp, the youngest member of the council, over "intimidation and bullying from other politicians".

River Frome near Woolverton
Recently described by The Times as the "sixth-coolest town" in Britain, Frome is an old town which has declined in prominence over the centuries, defying a prediction by Daniel Defoe that it would become one of the greatest and wealthiest inland towns in England.  There is some industry in the town, with metalworking and printing being major local employers.  Frome's population has greatly increased during the twentieth century, and the part of the town contained within the urban/rural Frome North division would appear to be fairly new.  Outside the town, Frome North covers a wide area along the A361 and A36 roads as far as the village of Norton St Philip, site of a skirmish during the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685.

Somerset county council was redistricted in 2013, and the present Frome North division covers much of the old Frome North (a Tory/Lib Dem marginal, Conservative in 2009) together with part of the former Mendip North East division (safe Conservative in 2009).  The district council wards within the division were very closely fought between the Lib Dems and Tories in 2007 but swung towards the Conservatives in 2011, a fact which makes the Lib Dem win in 2013 - a narrow one, by 45 votes - even more remarkable.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Damon Hooton, a Mendip district councillor who works for a large supermarket after 23 years in the Army; he was Mayor of Frome in 2009/10.  The Tory candidate is Linda Oliver, district councillor for the rural Rode and Norton St Philip ward since winning a by-election in May last year; she has retired to Somerset after a career which included a spell on Shepway district council in Kent.  There is no UKIP candidate after their third-place finish last year, but Labour's Catherine Richardson stands again after contesting the division in 2013.  The Lib Dem vote may well be split by Adrian Dobinson, a Mendip district and Frome town councillor (elected from the same ward as Sam Phripp) who is standing as an independent.  Completing the ballot paper is Les Spalding, the Green Party's candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Somerton and Frome
Mendip district council wards: Frome College; Rode and Norton St Philip; Beckington and Selwood (part: Beckington and Berkley parishes); Frome Market (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bath

Adrian Dobinson (Ind)
Damon Hooton (LD)
Linda Oliver (C)
Catherine Richardson (Lab)
Les Spalding (Grn)

May 2013 result LD 1047 C 1002 UKIP 455 Lab 302

Guildford district council, Surrey
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Garrett.  A Guildford councillor since 2003 and Deputy Mayor in 2011/12, Garrett had retired to Guildford after many years running his family's construction firm in south-west London; he combined this with twenty years as a Wandsworth councillor, serving twice as Mayor of Wandsworth and as chairman of the trustees of the Clapham rail disaster fund.

Autumn at RHS Wisley
The Lovelace ward can be found just outside the M25 motorway, but on the opposite side of London to Epping; it includes junction 10 and the A3 runs through the ward on each side.  Most of the ward's electorate can be found in the parish of Ripley, the birthplace of Eric Clapton, with smaller populations in Ockham parish and Wisley parish, home to a major Royal Horticultural Society garden.  The Lovelace name for the ward is a reference to the Earls of Lovelace, whose traditional family seat was at Ockham Park; perhaps the most famous member of the Lovelace family was Ada, only daughter of Lord Byron, wife of the 1st Earl and a noted mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine.

This is real stockbroker belt, and a very safe Tory area at both district and county level.

The Tory selection could be stoking up some trouble for the years ahead: their candidate is Ben Paton, from Ockham, a green belt campaigner who has been critical of Guildford council's proposal to turn the closed Wisley airfield into a large housing estate.  Regular Labour candidate Robin Woof, an IT worker from Send, just outside the ward, tries again.  The Lib Dems have selected Ripley parish councillor Colin Cross, while the ward's first UKIP candidate is Guildford-based David Sheppard.

Parliamentary constituency: Mole Valley
Surrey county council division: Horsleys
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot

Colin Cross (LD)
Ben Paton (C)
David Sheppard (UKIP)
Robin Woof (Lab)

May 2011 result C 648 Lab 134 LD 131
May 2007 result C 617 LD 184 Lab 88
May 2003 result C 629 Lab 204 LD 179

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