Tuesday, 30 September 2014

By-elections preview: 2 October 2014

There are six by-elections on 2nd October.  Three are in the far north of England, with a fight between Labour and UKIP for an open seat in the Tyneside conurbation and the Lib Dems defending a double by-election in the heart of the Lake District.  Another double by-election takes place in a new village outside Northampton, with the Tories defending, while Labour seek to retain a safe ward in the north London suburb of Wood Green.  The week's final poll, a Labour defence in the Cardiff suburbs, will be covered on the Welsh Elections blog.

South Tyneside metropolitan borough council
Caused by the death of independent councillor Jane McBride at the age of 66.  McBride, who was most recently elected as Jane Branley before reverting to her maiden name, was first elected as councillor for Westoe ward in 1986 and served eight years as a Labour councillor, before returning to the council in 2004 as an independent; shortly before her death she unsuccessfully applied to rejoin Labour.  In her working life she had been a manager at the City of Sunderland College and had also worked for South Tyneside Council and the former Port of Tyne Authority.

Terraced Housing, Westoe Road
A mile south of the centre of South Shields on the road to Sunderland, Westoe is traditionally seen as the town's most exclusive area, with much of the housing stock being Georgian and Victorian.  Avid readers of Catherine Cookson may recognise the location, while other famous people associated with the area include the New Zealand prime minister William Fox and the X Factor winner Joe McElderry.  On the western boundary of the ward is the Chichester metro station, linking the area to South Shields, Gateshead and Newcastle, while at its centre is the South Shields campus of South Tyneside college.

Westoe has been one of the more anti-Labour wards in South Tyneside in recent years, with opposition to Labour mainly coming from independent Jane McBride and her husband Allen Branley, who easily won two of the three seats at the modern ward's first election in 2004, Labour winning the other just ahead of the Tories and Lib Dems.  Labour lost their seat to an independent in 2006, but got it back in 2010 after failing in a September 2009 by-election, and then gained Allen Branley's seat at the 2012 election.  With no independent standing to succeed McBride, this by-election will give Labour the opportunity to hold all three seats in the ward; however, they will be under pressure from UKIP, who polled well in last year's parliamentary by-election in South Shields, and followed up by turning this ward into a Labour-UKIP marginal at last May's ordinary election; Labour held the seat with 45% to 38% for UKIP.

As stated, this seat is open with no defending independent candidate.  The Labour candidate is Katharine Maxwell, a pharmacy technician and husband of a current Labour councillor.  UKIP have reselected Norman Dennis, who fought the ward in May; a former bandsman with the Royal Green Jackets, he has spent most of his life abroad as a teacher and pastor.  Also standing again from May is the Tories' Edward Russell, deputy chairman of the party's South Tyneside branch.  Completing the ballot paper are singer-songwriter Tony Bengtssom, standing for the Green Party, and Carole Troupe who is the ward's first Lib Dem candidate for five years.

Parliamentary constituency: South Shields
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

Tony Bengtssom (Grn)
Norman Dennis (UKIP)
Katharine Maxwell (Lab)
Edward Russell (C)
Carole Troupe (LD)

May 2014 result Lab 966 UKIP 818 C 371
May 2012 result Lab 1013 Ind 639 C 265 South Tyneside Progressive 165 Lib 62
May 2011 result Ind 1199 Lab 968 C 315 Grn 158 Lib 72
May 2010 result Lab 1462 Ind 1017 C 566 BNP 282 Grn 210 South Tyneside Progressive 183 Ind 154
Sept 2009 by-election Ind 694 Lab 567 C 320 BNP 266 LD 225 Ind 194
May 2008 result Ind 1768 Lab 609 C 294 Grn 127
May 2007 result Ind 2065 Lab 516 C 226
May 2006 result Ind 1490 Lab 618 C 401 LD 158
June 2004 result Ind 1561/1488 Lab 807/544/536 C 787/651/612 LD 751

Cumbria county council and South Lakeland district council, Cumbria
Both caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Jo Stephenson, the deputy leader of Cumbria county council, who fell out of a window at his home in Windermere and suffered a suspected stroke while recovering from the fall.

Lakeland Plastics, Windermere
Welcome to the Lake District, and welcome to the tourist trail.  We are here in the Lakes' railhead, the town of Windermere.  Indeed Windermere as a town owes its existence to the railways, specifically the Kendal and Windermere railway which opened in 1847 and made the Lake District easily accessible to tourists for the first time.  In order to accomodate them the town of Windermere (and its twin town, the inland resort of Bowness-on-Windermere) boomed.  Today, as well as the tourism, Windermere is also the home of the kitchenware chain Lakeland, whose flagship store can be found next to the railway station.

The Windermere Town ward itself runs south-east from the railway station as far as the hamlet of Heathwaite, while the Windermere county division covers the whole of Windermere town, the northern half of Bowness and a few hamlets to the north, the largest of which is Troutbeck Bridge.

Politically, South Lakeland council has been comprehensively taken over by the Liberal Democrats with sometimes mind-boggling shares of the vote.  To understand this you need to go back to the Lib Dem decapitation strategy at the 2005 general election, in which the local parliamentary seat (Westmorland and Lonsdale) was the only decapitation to actually succeed, Tim Farron narrowly defeating the Tories' education spokesman Tim Collins.  Farron and the local Lib Dems weren't satisfied with a narrow victory; five years later the seat became one of the safest Lib Dem constituencies in the land, thanks to an 11% swing from the Conservatives and a collapse in the Labour vote to just 2.2%.

Before then, South Lakeland got new ward boundaries in 2008 and so the whole council was up (the district has a strange electoral cycle combining thirds elections with predominantly single-member wards).  In 2008 there were just eleven wards in the whole of England and Wales where the Lib Dems broke 80%, and eight of them were in South Lakeland (six of them were in Kendal, a town which just six years previously had returned 6 Labour councillors out of a possible 13).  Windermere Town's 2008 Lib Dem score of 82.7% was the seventh-highest in the country that year.

Windermere Town forms the core of the county division, which also includes almost all of the equally-rock-solid Windermere Bowness North ward and most of the Windermere Applethwaite and Troutbeck ward, a marginal area which Jo Stephenson actually lost to the Tories at the 2011 election, before returning to the district council by winning a by-election in Windermere Town in 2012.

Not even the coalition can affect the Lib Dems' popularity in Windermere, so a win for anyone else here would be a major upset.  The defending Liberal Democrat candidate for the county by-election is Colin Jones, a Windermere town councillor and National Trust ranger, and South Lakeland district councillor since winning a by-election in August last year to Windermere Bowness North ward (caused by the resignation of Jo Stephenson' wife).  The Tories are standing Ben Berry, the district councillor who defeated Jo Stephenson at the 2011 election.  UKIP and Labour have thrown in the towel.  Also standing are the Greens' Gwen Harrison (who gives an address in Kendal) and independent Robert Judson.

At district level Dyan Jones is the defending Lib Dem; she is a teaching assistant at the Lakes School.  The Tories have reselected Bermuda-born retired qualified chef Sandra Lilley, who fought the 2012 by-election, while Gwen Harrison doubles up as Green candidate at district and county level.  Again, Labour and UKIP are not standing.

Parliamentary constituency: Westmorland and Lonsdale
South Lakeland district council wards: Windermere Town, Windermere Applethwaite and Troutbeck (part), Windermere Bowness North (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kendal

Ben Berry (C)
Gwen Harrison (Grn)
Colin Jones (LD)
Robert Judson (Ind)

May 2013 result LD 1162 C 350 UKIP 227 Lab 133

Windermere Town
Parliamentary constituency: Westmorland and Lonsdale
Cumbria county council division: Windermere
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kendal

Gwen Harrison (Grn)
Dyan Jones (LD)
Sandra Lilley (C)

Feb 2012 by-election LD 418 C 85 Lab 50 UKIP 20
May 2011 result LD 537 C 117 Lab 114
May 2008 result LD 563 C 118

South Northamptonshire district council
A double by-election caused by the resignations of two Conservative councillors, Mark Davidson and Tharik Jainu-Deen, both of whom have moved to the North of England.

Georges Drive, Grange Park
Grange Park is a sizeable village just south of Northampton, with 3,058 electors shown on the 2011 local government register.  It has excellent road connections, being just off the M1 motorway at junction 15.  It's also an almost completely new village, mostly developed in the last twelve years.  The 2001 census found just 327 people living in the parish.  Two years later there were 2,375 registered electors, and the district ward that then contained the village (Courteenhall, with two councillors) had grown so much that the entire district had to have new ward boundaries.  Grange Park became a ward in its own right, with two councillors of its own, in 2007.  By the time of 2011 census the parish's population was 4,404; despite this, I wrote in this column the following year that the village didn't even appear in my 2011 AA road atlas.  The A to Z Company have caught up and show the relevant built-up area in their 2013 atlas, although it still doesn't have a name.

The age of the area means that there are few reliable statistics, but with such a recent private development you'd expect a relatively prosperous demographic.  That would appear to be borne out by the ward's election results; the Conservatives were unopposed here in 2007 (South Northants is one of those councils that has lots of unopposed returns), beat the Lib Dems 76-24 in a 2009 by-election, a single Independent candidate 75-25 at the 2011 election and the Lib Dems 76-24 (again) in a 2012 by-election.  As can be seen, the ward has a high councillor attrition rate, with this being the third by-election in the seven years the ward has existed; Jainu-Deen actually managed to serve non-consecutive terms, standing down from the council in 2011 before returning in the 2012 by-election.  Northamptonshire county council was redistricted in 2013 and Grange Park ended up in a new division with Hackleton to the east, which narrowly elected the Conservatives with 42.2% of the vote, to 41.1% for UKIP.

At the fifth attempt, Grange Park has a district council election which is not a straight fight.  The defending Tory slate is Simon Clifford and Adil Sadygov; Clifford is a web consultant, while Sadygov runs a shop in the nearby village of Roade.  Standing for UKIP are Katie Chick, from Greatworth near Banbury, and Towcester town councillor Peter Conquest.  A single Labour candidate completes the ballot paper; he is local resident Ian Grant.

Northamptonshire county council division: Hackleton and Grange Park
Parliamentary constituency: South Northamptonshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton and Wellingborough

Katie Chick (UKIP)
Simon Clifford (C)
Peter Conquest (UKIP)
Ian Grant (Lab)
Adil Sadygov (C)

Feb 2012 by-election C 313 LD 98
May 2011 result C 697/590 Ind 231
Feb 2009 by-election C 407 LD 128
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed

Haringey London borough council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Pat Egan at the age of 66.  A Haringey councillor since 2006 and chief whip of the Labour group, Egan had a career in education working as a teacher, deputy headteacher and university lecturer; at the time of his death he was chairman of the governors at St Thomas More secondary school.

Wood Green Tube Station
The Woodside ward covers the northern half of Wood Green, to the north of Lordship Lane and Station Road.  It includes the Piccadilly Line station at Wood Green, the Wood Green crown court and bus garage, the sports centre on White Hart Lane and the headquarters of Haringey council.  This is an ethnically-mixed ward which has attracted an enormous number of immigrants in recent years; the 2011 census found that the ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for population born in countries which have joined the EU since 2001 (17%), "White Other" (34%) and "mixed race" (6.8%).

That demographic profile in London gives a safe Labour ward in the current political climate, although Labour were pushed close here by the Lib Dems in 2006, the Labour slate having majorities of 130, 129 and 94 votes.  If the Lib Dems had won two of the Labour seats in this ward that year they would have gained control of Haringey council.  Labour made the ward safe in 2010, and since then the anti-Labour vote has fractured between several parties none of which are close to challenging Labour.

Defending for Labour is Charles Wright, a communications and PR consultant who narrowly missed out on election in the Alexandra ward, on the other side of the East Coast Main Line, in May.  The Lib Dem candidate is Dawn Barnes, who fought David Cameron's Witney constituency at the last general election and the Enfield and Haringey constituency at the 2012 London Assembly election.  The Green Party are not standing despite finishing in third place in May's ordinary election, but there is still a Green on the ballot paper - Scott Green, the Conservative candidate.  UKIP have selected Andrew Price, while Vivek Lehal stands for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.  Two independent candidates - Tom Davidson and Pauline Gibson - complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Hornsey and Wood Green
London Assembly constituency: Enfield and Haringey
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Dawn Barnes (LD)
Tom Davidson (Ind)
Pauline Gibson (Ind)
Scott Green (C)
Vivek Lehal (TUSC)
Andrew Price (UKIP)
Charles Wright (Lab)

May 2014 result Lab 2018/1947/1865 LD 418/393/361 Grn 406/342/254 C 271/244/207 UKIP 259 TUSC 100 Ind 61
May 2010 result Lab 2300/2217/2031 LD 1733/1633/1487 C 598/551/531 Grn 320/290/288
May 2006 result Lab 1354/1353/1318 LD 1224/1126/1087 Grn 297/220 C 293/271/221
May 2002 result Lab 1227/1222/1112 LD 448/429/352 C 395/342/335 Socialist Alliance 139

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