Wednesday, 29 October 2014

By-election Previews: 30 October 2014

There are six by-elections this week.  The Police and Crime Commissioner post for South Yorkshire is up for grabs, as well as three other local council seats in England - all detailed below.  Meanwhile single contests are also taking place in Scotland and Wales, covered on the Scottish Elections blog and Welsh Elections blog respectively.

Caused by the resignation of Labour police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

South Yorkshire Police Headquarters, Sheffield
While Clacton may have a more long-term political impact, this is in numerical terms the second biggest by-election of the year (after the West Midlands PCC by-election in August).  The setting is the former metropolitan county of South Yorkshire, which is dominated by the city of Sheffield and also includes such other industrial towns as Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, together with many other small towns and suburbs, most of which have an industrial or coal-mining history.

In November 2012 the county elected Shaun Wright, previously vice-chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Authority, as its first Police and Crime Commissioner.  Wright polled 51% of the first preferences to win in the first round, with David Allen of the English Democrats (who have some electoral strength in Doncaster) just pipping the Tories for second place.  The turnout was less than 15%.  Two weeks later there was a parliamentary by-election in Rotherham, caused by the resignation of Labour MP Denis MacShane who had submitted false expenses claims to Parliament.  UKIP, who had received much publicity during the by-election campaign, came a strong second to Labour who held easily.  The following May UKIP won a council by-election in Rotherham, and in May's local council elections the anti-EU party gained nine further seats and topped the poll in Rotherham.

Why do I mention Rotherham so much when it only forms around a fifth of the South Yorkshire electorate?  Because of the child sexual exploitation scandal in the town.  Professor Alexis Jay's report, published in August, estimated that around 1400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, predominantly by British-Pakistani men.  Before becoming PCC Wright had been the Rotherham councillor responsible for children's services, and the fallout from the report cost him his job as PCC.

The parliamentary by-election in Heywood and Middleton three weeks ago was very nearly lost by Labour to UKIP, and Heywood had suffered from similar child grooming issues (although not on the same scale).  UKIP are campaigning directly on issues related to the scandal, and with a derisory turnout expected might be in with a chance of winning this by-election.

The defending Labour candidate is Revd Alan Billings, a former deputy leader of Sheffield city council who currently directs the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University.  The English Democrats' David Allen, runner-up in 2012, is standing again.  The Tories have selected Ian Walker, who runs a Sheffield electrical company, and the UKIP candidate is Jack Clarkson, a former South Yorkshire police inspector who leads the party's group on Sheffield city council.  The Lib Dems have decided not to bother, so those are your four candidates.

Nov 2012 result Lab 74615 EDP 22608 C 21075 C 16773 LD 10223

Telford and Wrekin council, Shropshire
Caused respectively by the death of Labour councillor Dave Davies at the age of 61 and the resignation of Conservative councillor Adam Stanton.  Davies, who had served as leader of Telford and Wrekin council in the 1990s, had returned to the council for this ward in 2011.  Stanton, who had served since 2007, has resigned due to work commitments.

The Bridge at Ironbridge
While South Yorkshire may have been transformed by the Industrial Revolution, this is where it began, in the village of Coalbrookdale.  Coalbrookdale had been a centre for ironworking for many years before Abraham Darby I came along in 1709 and constructed the first successful coke-fired blast furnace.  His grandson, Abraham Darby III, erected the world's first cast-iron bridge over the nearby River Severn; opened in 1781 and still standing today, the Iron Bridge gave its name to a village which sprang up on the northern side of the Severn Gorge.  Many of the old industrial sites are now within the care of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, and in 1986 the area became a World Heritage Site.  Coal isn't mined here any longer but is still important to the area's economy; just outside the ward boundary is the coal-fired Ironbridge Power Station.

Compared to this, the Shropshire town of Newport is chalk and cheese.  Hard up against the Staffordshire boundary, Newport is Shropshire's fifth-largest town, a Norman market town which specialises in agricultural services and education; here can be found Shropshire's only university, Harper Adams, which specialises in rural and agricultural education.  The Newport West ward covers much of the town centre and the south-west of the town, and has been safely Conservative since the previous independent councillor retired in 2007.

Ironbridge Gorge's election results are more interesting; it was safely Labour in 2003 but has been swinging to the Tories, who in 2011 turned the ward into a marginal, losing to Labour by 53% to 47% in a straight fight.

The Gorge will be defended for Labour by Ken Stringer, a B&B owner and drug and alcohol specialist.  The Conservatives have selected Elizabeth Mollett.  This time four candidates are contesting the ward: Avon Horden is an independent candidate, and Richard Soame stands for UKIP.

In Newport West the defending Tory candidate is Rodney Pitt, a Newport town councillor who works in publishing.  Labour's candidate is town councillor Phil Norton, pub manager Warwick McKenzie will stand for UKIP and town councillor Peter Scott is an independent candidate.

Ironbridge Gorge
Parliamentary constituency: Telford

May 2011 result Lab 589 C 523
May 2007 result Lab 510 C 414
May 2003 result Lab 614 C 271 LD 217

Newport West
Parliamentary constituency: The Wrekin

May 2011 result C 606 Lab 341
May 2007 result C 734 Lab 182
May 2003 result Ind 424 C 273 Lab 233 LD 183

Castle Point borough council, Essex
Caused by the disqualification of Canvey Island Independent Party councillor Gail Barton, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months.

Canvey Island from the Air
There has been much discussion recently of building a new island in the Thames estuary to hold a new airport for London.  It looks like nothing will come of this, but the experience of Canvey Island shows that it is certainly possible to reclaim land from the sea here.  There has been a Canvey Island here since antiquity (the Romans occupied it, and had a salt-making industry here), but the modern island begins in the seventeenth century when Dutch engineers made the island safe to inhabit and reclaimed a large amount of land in the process.  Canvey became a small seaside resort in Victorian times, and the housing of Canvey Island East ward (which runs south down to the beach and the Chapman Sands) dates from this era.  London overspill caused the island's population to more than double since 1961.

The menace of the sea has not gone away - the North Sea flood of 1953 claimed many victims on the island - and the undeveloped west of the island features in several flood-alleviation ideas to deal with the rising sea levels caused by global warming.

The Island's politics is dominated by the localist Canvey Island Independent Party, who form the opposition on Castle Point borough council; the island is outvoted by the mainland communities of Hadleigh and South Benfleet, which are uniformly Tory - or were until May this year, when UKIP won five seats on the mainland and wiped out the Tory majority.  The Conservatives continue to run the council as a minority, and will get their overall majority back if they win this by-election. Not that that looks likely to happen based on previous results; in May the CIIP polled two-thirds of the vote.

The defending CIIP candidate - who is endorsed by UKIP - is John Albert Payne, who was elected for the ward in 2010 but stood down in May.  Chas Mumford is the Tory candidate; he is deputy chairman of the party's Castle Point branch.  Also standing are Labour's Jackie Reilly and independent candidate Colin Letchford.

Parliamentary constituency: Castle Point
Essex county council division: Canvey Island East

May 2014 result CIIP 1006 C 318 Lab 182
May 2012 result CIIP 595 C 291 Ind 195 Lab 158
May 2011 result CIIP 960 C 509 Lab 239
May 2010 result CIIP 1572 C 1041 Lab 402
May 2008 result CIIP 962 C 508 Lab 155
May 2007 result CIIP 833 C 630 Lab 245
May 2006 result CIIP 772 C 537 Lab 373 Grn 67
June 2004 result CIIP 847 C 510 Lab 449 Third Way 47
May 2003 result C 655/633/629 Lab 593/561/542 Grn 135

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

By-election Previews: 23 October 2014

There are eight local by-elections taking place this week. Seven are covered below, while an eighth is featured over on the Scottish Elections blog.

Durham council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Derwentside Independent councillor Bob Alderson and the death of Labour councillor Pauline Charlton.  Alderson, a long-standing councillor on the unitary Durham council and the former Derwentside district council, is suffering from ill-health.  Charlton, who died at the age of 75, is a retired headteacher who had come to Durham council from the former Teesdale district council, and was chair of Durham council in 2013-14.

Stores, Burnopfield
Two divisions in the west of County Durham, but at opposite ends of the county.  Burnopfield and Dipton is Durham's northernmost division, on the A692 Newcastle-Consett road.  This division has a coalmining history, although Burnopfield - the largest village here - never had a major mine of its own and instead became a service centre for the surrounding pit villages.  Also here, just to the north-west of Burnopfield, is the National Trust property of Gibside, a country estate with a now-ruinous hall formerly owned by the Queen Mother's Bowes-Lyon family.  Famous people associated with the division include one-time Gibside Hall owner Andrew Robinson Stoney, whose scandal-prone life in the eighteenth century was fictionalised by Thackeray and Kubrick under the name Barry Lyndon; JMW Turner, several of whose paintings of Gibside Hall are displayed in London; and the Burnopfield Basher, Northamptonshire and England cricketer Colin Milburn.

Some way to the south is Evenwood, a large rural division which covers much of the countryside between Bishop Auckland and Middleton-in-Teesdale.  Again mostly part of the Durham coalfield, this is one of three divisions which cover the old Teesdale district; abolished in 2009, Teesdale had the smallest electoral ward in Great Britain, the rural Hamsterley and South Bedburn ward (covering the north of this area) which had just 506 parliamentary electors on the 2006 register.  This large rural area makes the Tories competitive here, and they won one of the division's two seats at the 2008 election, although Labour gained it in 2013.  At the last Teesdale election in 2007 Labour's six district council seats all came from this area, the Tories winning Hamsterley and South Bedburn and the Teesdale Independent Group picking up the rest; there were several unopposed returns.

Burnopfield and Dipton is also a competitive division, this time between Labour and the long-established Derwentside Independents, who were a strong opposition to Labour on the old Derwentside council.  At the time of abolition the Derwentside Independents had a clean sweep of all the district council seats here, and they won both of the new unitary division's two seats in 2008.  There seems to have been a falling-out within the group after that, as the other Derwentside Independent councillor (Reg Ord) stood for re-election as an independent in 2013, and Labour took his seat.

In Burnopfield and Dipton, the defending Derwentside Independent candidate is former taxi driver Gill Burnett, from Burnopfield.  Joanne Carr, the losing Labour candidate last year, tries again.  The Tories have nominated Alan Booth, who gives an address in Teesdale and is presumably a paper candidate; and Melanie Howd stands for the Green Party.

The Labour defence in Evenwood will be led by Heather Smith.  Stephen Hugill, the Tory councillor for the division from 2008 to 2013, wants his seat back.  UKIP, who polled decently here last year, have selected Ben Casey.  Also standing are independent Lee Carnighan and the Greens' Greg Robinson.

Burnopfield and Dipton
Parliamentary constituency: North West Durham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle and Durham

Alan Booth (C)
Gill Burnett (Derwentside Ind)
Joanne Carr (Lab)
Melanie Howd (Grn)

May 2013 result Derwentside Ind 760/510 Lab 701/688 Ind 381/328/257

Parliamentary constituency: Bishop Auckland
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle

Lee Carnighan (Ind)
Ben Casey (UKIP)
Stephen Hugill (C)
Greg Robinson (Grn)
Heather Smith (Lab)

May 2013 result Lab 870/655 C 529/362 UKIP 491

Shepway district council, Kent
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor George Bunting at the age of 76.  Bunting had a long career in local politics, having sat on Shepway district council since 1991 and on Folkestone town council since it was established in 2004; he served as Mayor of Folkestone in 2005-06 and was also election agent for Michael Howard, the former Conservative party leader.

The Leas, Folkestone
This is a residential area of Folkestone immediately to the west of the town centre, running down to the coast from Folkestone West railway station at the north-west corner.  At district level it is a safe Tory area, although UKIP hold the local county council seat (Folkestone South) and won a district by-election last month in the neighbouring Folkestone Harvey Central division.

While UKIP have won the last two local by-elections in Kent (including Sheppey Central last week) this may be a tougher nut for them to crack.  The Conservatives have a big lead here, and Harvey West is by far the most middle-class of the three wards making up the Folkestone South county division.  The Tory candidate here at the 2013 county election was the other district councillor for this ward; he lost to UKIP by just 17 votes, and much of his vote will have come from this ward.

Defending for the Tories is Helen Barker, a former MoD worker and wife of Harvey Central district councillor Hugh Barker.  Labour's candidate is Nicola Keen.  The Lib Dems have called for the GP: Hugh Robertson-Ritchie, a former district councillor who fought the ward in 2003 and 2007.  UKIP's candidate is Stephen Jardine, and the Greens have selected 19-year-old Hythe resident Jasmine Heywood.

Parliamentary constituency: Folkestone and Hythe
Kent county council division: Folkestone South

May 2011 result C 883/870 Lab 374/353 LD 342
May 2007 result C 865/861 Shepway Ind 209/198 LD 181/178 UKIP 94
May 2003 result C 609/595 LD 370/365

Mid Sussex district council, West Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tim Farmer.

Housing at Middle Village, Bolnore
Moving from Kent into Sussex we come to Haywards Heath.  The Lucastes ward covers the west of the town, and has expanded greatly in recent years as a result of the development of Bolnore Village, with hundreds of new homes being built on a greenfield site.  With Haywards Heath being a fairly small town, most of the people living in these homes will commute for work to Crawley, Brighton or London along the A23 road or the railway line.

The development of Bolnore Village can be seen in the ward's election results; the number of votes cast here in 2011 was around double the number in 2003.  The 2003 result was fairly close between the Tories and Lib Dems, and the 2007 result also saw an independent slate come into the reckoning, but the Tories pulled away here in 2011.  The Tories also hold the local county division very comfortably.  The most recent electoral test here - a by-election to Haywards Heath town council in July last year - also saw an easy Tory win.

Defending for the Tories is letting agent Geoffrey Rawlinson.  The other three candidates on the ballot paper all contested the town council by-election last year: they are Nicholas Chapman for the Lib Dems, Marc Montgomery for UKIP and Henry Fowler, who becomes the district ward's first Labour candidate this century.

West Sussex county council division: Cuckfield and Lucastes
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley

May 2011 result C 1168/1143 LD 511/499 Grn 390 UKIP 157
May 2007 result C 686/649 LD 583/510 Ind 574/522
May 2003 result C 695/642 LD 597/493

Chichester district council, West Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Kingston.  Kingston had served in the Army as an officer with the 3rd Dragoon Guards, and had been a Chichester district councillor since 2010.

"The Rising Sun", Milland
The week's second by-election in West Sussex is at the other end of the county in the village of Rogate, which is close to the Hampshire border and takes many of its services from over the county line in Petersfield, to which it is connected by the A272 road.  The Rogate ward also takes in the small Milland parish and the tiny Linch parish to the north-east.

There was a UKIP candidate for this ward in 2003 who polled 89 votes and failed to make an impact; he was one Ashley Mote, who went on to be elected as a UKIP MEP for South East England the following year.  A month later UKIP found out that Mote was awaiting trial for benefit fraud, and kicked him out of the party.  Mote was eventually convicted, sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to repay £65,000, but the sentence wasn't long enough to disqualify him from office and he served out his five years as an MEP.

At district level this is extremely safe Tory territory; at the last election in 2011 the Conservatives polled 91.1% in a straight fight with Labour, and John Kingston was unopposed at his first contest - a by-election in 2010.  However, the ward is part of the Midhurst county division which the Tories lost to an independent last year, so anything could still happen.

This by-election is a straight fight.  In the blue corner is businesswoman and Petworth resident Gillian Keegan.  In the purple corner is the ward's first UKIP candidate since Mote, Elena McCloskey.

Parliamentary constituency: Chichester
West Sussex county council division: Midhurst
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth

Gillian Keegan (C)
Elena McCloskey (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 990 Lab 97
May 2010 by-election C unopposed
May 2007 result C 695 LD 255
May 2003 result C 531 LD 254 UKIP 89

Gloucestershire county council; and
Forest of Dean district council
Both caused by the death of independent councillor Norman Stephens at the age of 63.  Stephens had been a Forest of Dean district councillor since 1987 and had served on the county council for a year.

The Post Office, Westbury-on-Severn
We finish this week in the eastern edges of the Forest of Dean.  The Newnham and Westbury district ward consists of two parishes on the western shore of the Severn estuary.  Newnham on Severn was a major port in mediaeval times, but declined in importance after the opening of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal allowed vessels to reach Gloucester directly.  Further upstream on the A48 road, Westbury-on-Severn is the centre of a diffuse rural parish.  Westbury-on-Severn is the southern end of the large and badly-drawn Mitcheldean county division: consisting of two-and-four-halves wards of Forest of Dean district, the division covers a huge area to the west of Gloucester and seems to be made up of the countryside that was left over when everything else was accounted for.

Gloucestershire county council was redistricted in 2013; Mitcheldean is the successor to the former Mid Dean county division which was a Tory/Lib Dem marginal in 2005 but safely Conservative in 2009.  Stephens first stood in 2013 and won easily, with the Tories narrowly beating UKIP for second place.  Stephens had topped the poll in the Newnham and Westbury district ward at each election this century, with the Tories holding the other seat.  At the last Newnham and Westbury election in 2011 the Labour slate was led by Glyn Ford, who served for twenty-five years as a Labour member of the European Parliament (initially for Greater Manchester East, moving to the South West region when PR was introduced) before losing his seat in 2009.

In the county by-election one independent candidate has come forward to replace Stephens: he is Ian Whitburn, independent district councillor for Mitcheldean and Drybrook ward.  Brian Robinson, the losing Tory candidate last year, tries again.  UKIP have selected Malcolm Berry.  The Labour candidate is Jackie Fraser, the Lib Dems have reselected Sue Henchley and the Green candidate is again Ken Power.

For the district by-election the independent candidate is Simon Phelps, a Westbury-on-Severn parish councillor.  The Tory candidate is Richard Boyles, who appears to be a former police inspector for the Forest.  The Green candidate is Sid Phelps from Cinderford.  Labour have selected Jenny Shaw, Peter Foster stands for UKIP and Ian King for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Forest of Dean
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester

May 2013 result Ind 1152 C 772 UKIP 612 Lab 328 LD 179 Grn 120

Newnham and Westbury
Parliamentary constituency: Forest of Dean
Gloucestershire county council division: Mitcheldean (Westbury-on-Severn parish),
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester (Westbury-on-Severn parish), Monmouth and Cinderford (Newnham parish)

May 2011 result Ind 790 C 606/196 Grn 318 Lab 256/171
May 2007 result Ind 768 C 568/244 Grn 366
May 2003 result Ind 609/253 C 318/255 LD 215 Lab 143

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

By-election Previews: 16 October 2014

There are ten local by-elections taking place on 16 October 2014. As well as those below, there is a Conservative defence in a local by-election in Conwy covered over on the Welsh Elections blog.

Bolton metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Asha Ali Ismail at the age of just 34, from ovarian cancer.  The first African-British Bolton councillor, Asha had been a councillor for less than a year having won a by-election last December.

Plodder Lane, Bolton
Asha was a union rep at my work.  She died far too young, rest in peace.

The by-election caused by Asha's death will take place in western Farnworth, an area which has family connections for me.  My mother worked for many years at Dennis Guest's bakery on Plodder Lane, the main road west out of the town, and his and [great-]Aunty Anne's house in the Flower Estate - a prestigious 1920s and 1930s development by Farnworth UDC - was a place to go each Christmas until Anne died a few years ago.  Up the hill from the Flower Estate is the Royal Bolton Hospital, the busiest hospital in Greater Manchester and a place with which we have become increasingly familiar.  I once spent a couple of weeks as a temp on the psychiatric wards, then had a wisdom tooth extracted there a few years ago.  In the last year my mother has had extensive - and apparently successful - chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, while my sister went into the maternity unit at the end of April and emerged with the tiniest and most beautiful niece you ever did see.

Much of the hospital lies on the site of Plodder Lane locomotive shed, closed in the 1960s or 1970s.  To the south of the shed is the Highfield area off Plodder Lane; to the north is Lever Edge, part of Bolton proper.  Highfield, Lever Edge and the Flower Estate each form around a third of the ward's population.

This is of course a safe Labour ward; even at the Labour nadir of 2008 they still carried this ward by 4.5 points (or 110 votes) over the Tories, and not even the deselection of councillor Laurence Williamson for the 2010 election could make a dent in the Labour majority; Williamson stood as an independent, polling 12%, but the Tories not only failed to capitalise but fell to a distant third place behind the Lib Dems.  Since the formation of the Coalition the Labour vote peaked at 73% at the most recent election in 2012, but the rise of UKIP - who took over second place in May - has made a dent in that score without yet seriously threatening the Labour majority.

Defending for Labour is Susan Haworth, the chair of Bolton North East CLP with a background in the NHS and mental health services.  The UKIP candidate, Jeff Armstrong, has got into hot water for distributing leaflets which falsely suggested that Bolton council is being investigated over child sex abuse.  The ward's regular Tory candidate, science teacher Robert Tyler, stands again.  Also on the ballot paper are James Tomkinson for the Green Party, Rebekah Fairhurst for the Lib Dems and independent Joseph Holt.

Parliamentary constituency: Bolton South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bolton

Jeff Armstrong (UKIP)
Rebekah Fairhurst (LD)
Susan Haworth (Lab)
Joseph Holt (Ind)
James Tomkinson (Grn)
Robert Tyler (C)

May 2014 result Lab 1713 UKIP 726 C 366 Grn 115 LD 86
Dec 2013 by-election Lab 744 C 325 UKIP 252 Grn 60 LD 53
May 2012 result Lab 1656 C 389 LD 222
May 2011 result Lab 1918 C 616 LD 326
May 2010 result Lab 2312 LD 1023 C 903 Ind 625 Grn 114
May 2008 result Lab 1181 C 1071 LD 390
May 2007 result Lab 1172 C 719 LD 419
May 2006 result Lab 1194 C 768 LD 454
June 2004 result Lab 1272/1196/1195 C 850/740/716 LD 839/838/791

Rossendale borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Amanda Milling, who has been selected as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Cannock Chase constituency in Staffordshire.

"The Station", Helmshore
Clinging to the western edge of the Rossendale Valley, Helmshore is a classic example of an Pennine village created by the Industrial Revolution, with a series of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century woollen and cotton mills, one of which has been preserved and now forms the Helmshore Textile Museum (which is one of the three polling stations for this by-election).  In recent years the village's biggest employer was the package holiday firm Airtours, now part of Thomas Cook, whose head office was in Helmshore until 2003; that building is now proposed to be redeveloped into housing, a sign of the village's gentrification (Manchester is only half-an-hour's drive away on the M66).

Local politics in Rossendale is in a bit of a Fifties timewarp, with most wards being marginal Tory/Labour fights and often wild swings in seats (if not in votes) from election to election.  However, Helmshore is the most dependable Tory ward in the valley, with the blue corner having held all three seats since defeating the last Labour councillor in 2003.  The 2012 election was a close three-way fight, with the Tories six points ahead of Labour who just pipped an independent candidate, but a straight fight at the last ordinary election in May saw the Tories beating Labour by 62-38.  The Tories narrowly hold the local county division (Rossendale West) which also includes the Labour-inclined Worsley ward, covering northern Haslingden.

As in Bolton, a Haworth is the defending candidate; this time it's Tony Haworth, who fought Worsley ward for the Tories in May's ordinary election.  Labour have reselected Emma Harding who fought this ward in May.  A three-cornered ballot paper is completed by UKIP candidate Granville Barker.  The polling stations will be open all hours on Thursday.

Parliamentary constituency: Rossendale and Darwen
Lancashire county council division: Rossendale West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackburn

Granville Barker (UKIP)
Emma Harding (Lab)
Tony Haworth (C)

May 2014 result C 1109 Lab 675
May 2012 result C 674 Lab 566 Ind 548
May 2011 result C 1167 Lab 846
May 2010 result C 1969 Lab 1212
May 2008 result C 975 Lab 320 LD 181 Ind 145
May 2007 result C 859 Lab 434 LD 244
May 2006 result C 897 Lab 549 LD 275
June 2004 result C 1084 Lab 633 LD 500
May 2003 result C 694 Lab 473 LD 244
May 2002 result C 763/748/666 Lab 716/714/627 Ind 405

York city council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Lynn Jeffries at the age of 58.  Jeffries, who was partially disabled as the result of a skiing accident while in her thirties, was a passionate disability campaigner who was in her first term on the council, having been elected as a Labour councillor in 2011; however, she quickly fell out with the Labour group after her election and at the time of her death was a member of the Liberal Democrats.

Shops in York Road, Acomb
The Westfield ward, fittingly, lies on the western edge of the built-up area of York, and forms the southern part of the Acomb area to the south of the Wetherby Road.  Reputedly the site of the funeral of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus in AD 211, the ward today has a mix of council estates and better-off areas (these are mostly along the Wetherby Road and in the Woodthorpe area).

This was a safe Lib Dem ward until Labour gained its three seats in 2011, and with Labour polling 43% to the Lib Dems' 34% that year this area still counts as a marginal.  However, York Labour doesn't seem to be in a good state at the moment; the party has been plagued by defections and has lost its majority on the city council.  NHS worker Louise Corson is the defending Labour candidate, while the Lib Dems have selected Andrew Waller, a former leader of the city council who lost his seat here in 2011.  Also on a crowded ballot paper are Jason Brown for the Tories, the Greens' Alison Webb, the English Democrats' Sam Kelly and UKIP's Judith Morris.

Parliamentary constituency: York Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: York

Jason Brown (C)
Louise Corson (Lab)
Sam Kelly (EDP)
Judith Morris (UKIP)
Andrew Waller (LD)
Alison Webb (Grn)

May 2011 result Lab 1767/1642/1540 LD 1401/1397/1152 C 561 Grn 343/260/253
May 2007 result LD 1512/1511/1432 Lab 887/869/758 C 457/455/358 Grn 437 BNP 407 Loony 161
May 2003 result LD 2291/2154/2013 Lab 697/641/613 C 314

Rutland council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Conservative councillor Joanna Figgis and the death of Independent councillor Brian Montgomery.  Montgomery was a veteran councillor who served for two years as chairman of the abolished Rutland district council in the 1980s and a further two years as the first chairman of the unitary Rutland council; he had been councillor for Whissendine ward since winning a by-election in 2008.  Figgis resigned from the council as she is moving away from the area because her husband has a new job.

Whissendine Windmill
The Oakham South West ward is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin; a residential area to the south of Braunston Road and the west of the railway line.  In the north-west corner of Rutland, Whissendine is a rural village known for its thirteenth-century church and nineteenth-century windmill.

These are both prosperous wards and generally Tory/Independent fights; the Lib Dems won one of the two seats in Oakham South West in 2003 but have since fallen back, and the 2011 election returned one Tory and one independent.  The Tories were unopposed in Whissendine in 2007 but lost a by-election to Montgomery eighteen months later by just six votes; Montgomery increased his majority to 88 votes at the 2011 election.

Oakham South West has a three-cornered ballot paper, after UKIP apparently messed up their nomination papers.  Tearoom owner Richard Clifton defends for the Tories.  The independent candidate is Ben Callaghan, who runs an events company, while accountant Richard Swift stands for the Liberal Democrats.

The Whissendine seat is open, with no defending Independent candidate, and is a straight fight.  In the blue corner is Jonny Baker, a garden designer who was Tory councillor for this ward from 2003 until standing down in 2007.  In the yellow corner is Sam Asplin, a 21-year-old teaching assistant at Whissendine primary school.

Oakham South West
Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

Ben Callaghan (Ind)
Richard Clifton (C)
Richard Swift (LD)

May 2011 result C 285/277 Ind 279/266/139 LD 178/131
May 2007 result C 424/404 LD 291
May 2003 result C 336 LD 288 Ind 227

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

Sam Asplin (LD)
Jonny Baker (C)

May 2011 result Ind 335 C 247
Nov 2008 by-election Ind 154 C 148 LD 71
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 285 Lab 186

Fenland district council, Cambridgeshire
Caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Jonathan Farmer, who was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm - a Second World War-era Walther PPK pistol - and sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.

The Crescent, Wisbech
The Medworth ward can be found in Wisbech, the main town in the Fens and the largest town (as opposed to city) in Cambridgeshire.  Wisbech is an inland port on the River Nene, which became wealthy in the late seventeenth century as the draining of the Fens created a port for agricultural produce.  Accordingly there are many fine Georgian buildings in the town centre, such as the Crescent and Union Place which have featured in several costume dramas; the name of the ward commemmorates Joseph Medworth, who developed the Crescent and also redeveloped the town's castle into a Regency villa.  The ward named after Medworth covers the Crescent and the town centre and runs south-west to the edge of town along the south bank of the Nene and the Cromwell Road.

Farmer had won all the previous elections in this ward since 2000 very comfortably (he was unopposed at the 2003 election).  Last year UKIP gained the local county council seat from the Tories - this isn't a well-off area and Wisbech has seen a large amount of immigration from the new EU states - but since then the ward's UKIP county councillor has been prosecuted for benefit fraud and avoided a disqualification of his own by the skin of his teeth.

Defending for the Conservatives is blogger and Wisbech town councillor Steve Tierney, a former county councillor for Roman Bank and Peckover division who lost his seat in 2013.  Labour have selected Kathy Dougall, while the Lib Dem candidate is Chatteris-based Josephine Ratcliffe.  UKIP's candidate is Andrew Hunt, who back in 2009 stood for the county council as the first ever candidate for the Libertarian Party.  Completing the ballot paper is former Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat standing as an independent; Murat is currently claiming unfair dismissal against Wisbech town council, and Tory candidate Steve Tierney was chairman of the disciplinary panel which sacked him.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wisbech

Kathy Dougall (Lab)
Andrew Hunt (UKIP)
Erbie Murat (Ind)
Josephine Ratcliffe (LD)
Steve Tierney (C)

May 2011 result C 364 Lab 194 LD 58
May 2007 result C 360 Lab 196
May 2003 result C unopposed

Thurrock council, Essex
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Andrew Smith at the age of 64.  Smith was leader of Thurrock council from 2000 to 2004, and at the time of his death was cabinet member for regeneration, highways and transportation; he was first elected as a councillor in 1997.

Inside Lakeside Shopping Centre
Down to the Thames Gateway.  This ward lies at the north end of the Dartford Crossing, where four levels of viaduct can be seen intersecting with each other; the Dartford Bridge over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link over the Dartford Tunnel escape road which itself is at a higher level than the Fenchurch Street-Tilbury railway line.  That line has one station within the ward at Purfleet, which forms the western corner of this ward; a town with a military history as a gunpowder magazine, Purfleet these days is known for margarine (the world's largest margarine factory is allegedly here), a recently-opened arts centre focusing on scenery for the Royal Opera House and other theatres, and the sport of darts (one flavour of the darts world championships was held here until a few years ago).  Margarine and chalk (which is quarried here) form the ward's main exports, but by far the largest employer within the ward is the Lakeside shopping centre, the UK's seventh-largest shopping mall.

In terms of councillors, this ward returned three Tories in 2004 but has been won by Labour at every election since then.  That statistic masks the fact that this ward is a stronghold of what might be termed the populist right wing.  During the heyday of the BNP in the mid-noughties this was one of the strongest BNP wards in the country, the far-right vote peaking at 35% - just 16 votes behind Labour - at the 2006 election.  Over the following years Labour saw off the threat from the BNP and then from the Tories to make the ward safe, although the populist vote here certainly hasn't gone away; UKIP polled 34% here in May to Labour's 47% and will be looking to add to their group on Thurrock council.

Terry Brookes defends for Labour; he contested Ockendon ward in May and came third.  The UKIP candidate is Russell Cherry, and John Rowles - who stood here in May - is the Conservative candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Thurrock
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Terry Brookes (Lab)
Russell Cherry (UKIP)
John Rowles (C)

May 2014 result Lab 1054 UKIP 760 C 340 LD 73
May 2012 result Lab 815 UKIP 321 C 212 Ind 180 LD 47
May 2011 result Lab 951 C 578 BNP 193 LD 87
May 2010 result Lab 1628 C 1193 BNP 574
May 2008 result Lab 668 C 586 BNP 386
May 2007 result Lab 676 BNP 478 C 459
May 2006 result Lab 608 BNP 592 C 471
June 2004 result C 517/477/469 BNP 404 Lab 404/397/246

Swale borough council, Kent
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Morris at the age of 75.  Twice mayor of Swale, Morris had served a year as a borough councillor in 1983 before returning to the council in 2002.

Minster Abbey
Further down the Thames estuary on the Kent side can be found the flat, marshy Isle of Sheppey, the 23rd largest of the British Isles by area and the ninth-largest by population.  Sheppey has an interesting history; it was captured by the Dutch in a 1667 raid, and during the Glorious Revolution James II was taken into custody at Elmley, in the south of ward, while trying to flee the country.  Eastchurch, the village at the centre of the ward, has a long-standing link with aviation as the location of one of the UK's first aerodromes.  Most of the ward's electors live in the southern half of the village of Minster; however, there is a large discrepancy here between electorate and population thanks to the presence of Elmley, Standford Hill and Swaleside prisons which between them house nearly 3,000 prisoners.  One proposal for the "Boris Island" new airport for London involves building an artificial island to the north of Sheppey; however, this idea was rejected by the Airports Commission last month on the grounds of cost and environmental impact.

Created in 2002, this ward was competitive between the Conservatives and Labour up until 2006, when a dissident Tory councillor set up the Kent Campaign Against Increasing Council Taxes which came second to the Tories here in that election.  The KCAICT morphed into a localist party called Sheppey First! which ran riot over the island in the following two years' elections before folding as suddenly as it had appeared; the two Sheppey First! councillors elected for this ward ended up in the Tories, and one of them was re-elected as such in 2011.  Swale council has moved away from election by thirds so there have been no borough polls here since then, but last year the local county division convincingly re-elected a UKIP county councillor who had defected from the Tories.

The defending Conservative candidate is Tina Booth, an Eastchurch parish councillor and wife of a present Swale boroguh councillor.  Labour have selected Alan Henley, who was one of the very first Swale councillors all the way back in 1973; he represented Sheerness West ward until the early 1980s.  UKIP's candidate is David Jones, a retired teacher, and Mad Mike Young stands again for the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Kent county council division: Sheppey
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent

Tina Booth (C)
Alan Henley (Lab)
David Jones (UKIP)
Mad Mike Young (Loony)

May 2011 result C 911/871/838 Lab 664/618/557 UKIP 326 Loony 171
May 2010 result C 2333 Lab 1354
May 2008 result Sheppey First! 852 C 568 Lab 254
May 2007 result Sheppey First! 744 C 522 Lab 246 LD 130
May 2006 result C 636 Kent Campaign Against Increasing Council Taxes 540 Lab 335 LD 117
June 2004 result C 738 Lab 561 LD 291
May 2003 result C 508 Lab 403 LD 139 Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party 69
May 2002 result C 509/504/483 Lab 447/390/381 LD 219/142/132 Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party 101

Kingston upon Thames borough council, South London
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Frank Thompson due to ill-health.

"The Cardinal", Tudor Drive
Sandwiched between Richmond Park on the east side and the River Thames on the western side, Tudor ward is Kingston's northwestern-most ward, running along the Richmond Road and Tudor Avenue.  This is one of Kingston's most affluent wards and is a safe Conservative area; in May's ordinary election the Tory slate polled 41%, with the Lib Dems being the nearest challengers on 18%.  At the London Assembly elections in 2012 Boris beat Ken in the ward's ballot boxes 57-23, while the Tories led in the London Member ballot with 43%, to 21% for Labour, 14% for the Greens and 11% for the Lib Dems.

Maria Netley defends for the Conservatives; she is a freelance financial consultant after many years working in the City.  The Liberal Democrats have selected Marilyn Mason, a former teacher described as an environmental champion.  The Green candidate is 21-year-old Ryan Coley.  Labour are standing Chris Priest, a former borough councillor for the neighbouring Canbury ward.  The ballot paper is completed by UKIP's Ben Roberts, who was worked as a teacher and in IT.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond Park
London Assembly constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work: London

Ryan Coley (Grn)
Marilyn Mason (LD)
Maria Netley (C)
Chris Priest (Lab)
Ben Roberts (UKIP)

May 2014 result C 1617/1437/1378 LD 701/698/554 Grn 629 Lab 561/511/455 UKIP 445
May 2010 result C 2731/2482/2328 LD 1976/1661/1563 Grn 573 Lab 538/529/426
May 2006 result C 1744/1609/1569 LD 810/722/669 Grn 564 Lab 302/250/183
May 2002 result C 1422/1346/1303 LD 614/588/523 Lab 282/276/262 Grn 235/153 CPA 55

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1312 Ken 516 Grn 143 Ind 131 LD 111 UKIP 50 BNP 24
London Members: C 965 Lab 476 Grn 312 LD 253 UKIP 145 CPA 41 BNP 35 EDP 24 TUSC 5 Hayat 5 NF 3 House Party 3 Alagaratnam 3

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

By-election Previews: 9 October 2014

Essex county council
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Roger Lord.

Aerial view of Brightlingsea
With such a high profile being given to the parliamentary by-election, the Essex county council by-election has been rather overlooked.  This is the for the division of Brightlingsea, which covers the south-west of the Tendring peninsula and is made up of the eponymous town and four nearby parishes. Brightlingsea grew up as a fishing port, taking advantage of the rich oyster fisheries around the mouth of the Colne; in the Middle Ages it became a Limb of Sandwich, making it the only part of the Cinque Ports confederation outside Kent and Sussex. Latterly boat-building became an important employer in the town, and the port came to prominence again in the 1980s and 1990s when attempts were made respectively to import coal and export live animals through it. The decline of the town's heritage to become more of a dormitory town for Colchester is marked by the recent construction of a marina over the old dock buildings.

Look on a map and you might get the suspicion that Brightlingsea was once an island; look at the town's etymology and that suspicion will be confirmed, as the name means something like 'island of the descendants of Berhtel', although the dozens of different spellings the place has had over recorded history serve to confuse rather than illuminate the issue. Brightlingsea wasn't connected to the mainland until the 16th century and there is still only one narrow road in or out. Whilst many of the complaints about the town's insularity are the standard intra-village rivalry you'll get anywhere, amongst the older generation in Brightlingsea you can still find people who've never been beyond Colchester, and some who've never even been that far. Nevertheless, as the largest settlement between Wivenhoe and Clacton, it does act as a local centre and it is here that the local secondary school, the Colne Community College, is located.

Head from the parish church out of town, and you'll find yourself on the Brightlingsea road going towards Thorrington Cross (look out for the preserved tide mill on your left). Thorrington is unusual in that it's not a particularly nucleated village, but instead has most of its population spread out along each of the four roads heading away from the Cross. Each one of these branches heads towards another parish in the division; take the road north-west along the B1027 and you'll come to Alresford. The name is derived from a ford over Alresford Creek (now so silted up as to be uncrossable), but these days the population is concentrated half a mile up the road, around the railway station (Alresford is on the Essex Sunshine Coast branch line). The bulk of the village was built in the early 1960s on the orchards which historically were Alresford's economic basis. These days the dwellers in the village's pleasant bungalows are (if not retired) more likely to work in Colchester, although some employment is also provided by the sand and gravel quarries which surround the village.

One stop further by train from Alresford, or along Station Road from Thorrington, and you'll come to Great Bentley. Unlike some other entrants in this column, Great Bentley doesn't claim to be Britain's largest village, but it does claim to have its largest green. Also in the parish but on the other side of the railway and half a mile down the road is Aingers Green, a mid-20th century development seemingly intended specifically for people moving out from London.

If you follow the B1027 from Thorrington eastwards towards Clacton, you'll come to the parish of St Osyth, which like Great Bentley contains two main settlements. St Osyth is a desirable village named after an Anglo-Saxon saint with a decidedly anachronistic life story. A priory sits near the village's centre, but is sadly inaccessible to the public due to a long-running planning dispute. To the west across St Osyth Creek is Point Clear, an isolated community at the mouth of the River Colne which is during the summer connected to Brightlingsea by a foot ferry. A significant proportion of the parish's population lives in static caravan parks, most notably in Point Clear Bay and in Seawick, just down the coast from Jaywick.

St Osyth parish is in the Clacton constituency and is covered by a two-member district ward of the same name, which is the only area which will go to the polls in both by-elections. Currently it is represented by two independents, although in 2007 the Conservatives took one of the seats by a single vote. The rest of the division falls within the Harwich and North Essex constituency. Alresford and Great Bentley are both single member wards, with the former held by the Liberal Democrats and the latter by the Conservatives. Thorrington is part of the concisely-named two-member Thorrington, Frating, Elmstead and Great Bromley ward, which is safely Conservative. Brightlingsea is Tendring's only three-member ward and returns two independents and one Conservative, who beat the alphabet to obtain more than double the votes of one of his running mates. Clearly, this is a place that votes for the person rather than the party.

The Brightlingsea division was safely held for many years by the Conservatives, but after the incumbent retired in 2013 it was narrowly won by UKIP's Roger Lord, with the Lib Dems (as stated above) just pipping the Conservatives to second.

Five candidates are standing in the Brightlingsea by-election. Defending for UKIP is Anne Poonian, secretary of the Clacton branch. She gives an address in Frinton, on the other side of Clacton from the division. The Conservative candidate is Alan Goggin, district councillor for Brightlingsea and cabinet member for finance on Tendring district council. Standing for possibly the fifth time is Gary Scott, the Lib Dem district councillor for Alresford, who clearly has a strong personal vote in that village; he is the election agent for the Colchester MP Bob Russell. The Labour candidate is Carol Carlsson Browne, an Alresford resident and recently-retired headteacher. The Greens fill out the ballot paper, standing Brightlingsea resident Beverley Maltby.  Although it's bound to be overshadowed by the parliamentary by-election, there'll be plenty of worried faces at the Brightlingsea count which will take place on Friday morning: the Tories will be hoping to recover a seat they never expected to lose and to show they can beat back the UKIP juggernaut; UKIP will want to show they aren't just a flash in the pan; and if either Labour or the Lib Dems win they would then become the leader of the opposition at County Hall, with all that implies.

Carol Carlsson Browne (Lab)
Alan Goggin (C)
Beverley Maltby (Grn)
Anne Poonian (UKIP)
Gary Scott (LD)

May 2013 result UKIP 1429 LD 1264 C 1156 Lab 585 Grn 165 Tendring First 102
June 2009 result C 2387 LD 1577 Lab 588 BNP 537 Grn 468
May 2005 result C 4157 Lab 2327 LD 2258 Grn 478

Rushmoor borough council
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Malcolm Small following a conviction for arson, for which he was sentenced to twelve weeks in prison suspended for two years.  Small had burnt clothes belonging to his wife after an argument over their attendance at the Mayor of Rushmoor's Valentine's Day ball.

Birchbrook Reserve, West Heath
With all this focus on UKIP possibly gaining their first elected parliamentary seat this week, it's easy to forget that there is now a UKIP local government caucus which is big enough to generate by-elections of its own.  The second of three UKIP seats up for election this week is West Heath, a residential area in north-western Farnborough based around the Cove Brook and to the north of West Heath Road.  One fact which stands out from the last census is that this ward is in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for the highest Buddhist population, with 4.25% of the population having that faith - a legacy of Gurkha immigration in recent years.

In that context, it's startling to find that this is a safe UKIP ward, although it is Rushmoor's only UKIP ward.  Rushmoor was re-warded in 2012 so it's difficult to determine trends before that, although the previous Westheath ward was safely Conservative since 2008 and a Tory/Lib Dem marginal before that.  In the Hampshire county elections last year UKIP gained Farnborough West, which covers most of this ward, from the Conservatives by 3.5 points, and were 3 points behind the Conservatives in Farnborough North which covers a small part of the ward.

Defending for UKIP is Dave Bell.  Brian Parker stands for the Conservatives, hoping to return to the council after standing down from Empress ward in May.  Sue Gadsby stands for Labour and Charlie Fraser-Fleming for the Lib Dems.

Dave Bell (UKIP)
Charles Fraser-Fleming (LD)
Sue Gadsby (Lab)
Brian Parker (C)

May 2014 result UKIP 970 C 612 Lab 321 LD 179
May 2012 result UKIP 868/828/821 C 498/473/451 LD 252/230/223 Lab 237/220/186

Crawley borough council, West Sussex
Caused by the resignation of Karl Williamson due to work commitments.  Willamson had been elected as a Conservative councillor but had defected to UKIP since his election.  He works as a flight attendant and has been spending an increasing amount of time out of the UK.

Barrington Lodge, Crawley
The week's final UKIP defence, in the new town of Crawley.  Southgate ward lies just to the south of Crawley town centre and railway station; while it is mostly New Town development there are some older features, including Goffs Park.  The census figures give this ward a mostly white-collar profile with a relatively high Hindu population.

Crawley is a key Tory/Labour marginal parliamentary constituency, and this is a key marginal Tory/Labour ward.  New Towns often have a reputation for political volatility, but swings here have been quite low and majorities often small.  Labour won all three seats up for the ward after Crawley was last re-warded in 2004, but the Tories gained the Labour seats between 2006 and 2008.  The last three elections have all been decided by fewer than 100 votes: Tory by 95 in 2011, Tory by 66 in 2012, Labour by 65 in May this year.  The ward is part of an equally marginal county division (Southgate and Crawley Central) which Labour gained last year.

Defending for UKIP is Simon Darroch, who fought the town's Maidenbower ward in May.  The Tories want their seat back, and have selected Jan Tarrant who was runner-up in May's election here.  In an interesting move, Labour have recruited Michael Pickett who was the independent candidate for this ward in May.  Completing the ballot paper is Arshad Khan, a regular in Crawley local by-elections for his Justice Party.

Simon Darroch (UKIP)
Arshad Khan (Justice)
Michael Pickett (Lab)
Jan Tarrant (C)

May 2014 result Lab 888 C 823 UKIP 590 Ind 228
May 2012 result C 920 Lab 854 Grn 294
May 2011 result C 1091 Lab 996 Grn 366
May 2010 result C 1839 Lab 1603 BNP 322
May 2008 result C 1040 Lab 786 LD 323
May 2007 result C 900 Lab 721 LD 289 BNP 235 Grn 171
May 2006 result C 936 Lab 738 LD 271 BNP 263 Grn 212
June 2004 result Lab 722/721/674 C 671/605/554 LD 438 Grn 409/369 BNP 294

Chelmsford city council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Michael Harris at the age of 67, from lung cancer.  Described as "a great loss to the city", Harris had been a Chelmsford city councillor since 2007 and also sat on East Hanningfield parish council.

The White Swan, Bicknacre
Yes, that ward name does indeed have two "and"s in it.  Despite that ungrammaticalness, this ward is pretty much as described in the name; three prosperous villages to the south of Chelmsford.

Look at the previous district results, and this by-election looks very boring; the Tories polled 72% of the vote at the last district election in 2011 and 79% four years previously.  The last county election results show that if UKIP stand they can give the Conservatives a run for their money here, although the local county division (Stock) is still safely Conservative.

Defending for the Tories is Matt Flack, from Rettendon Common.  Labour's candidate is Tony Lees, from East Hanningfield, and the Lib Dems have selected Andy Robson from Chelmsford.  Also standing are two new parties for the ward at district level: the Greens, with Reza Hossain; and UKIP, with David Kirkwood.

Matt Flack (C)
Reza Hossain (Grn)
David Kirkwood (UKIP)
Tony Lees (Lab)
Andy Robson (LD)

May 2011 result C 1322/1279 Lab 298/281 LD 225/216
May 2007 result C 1222/1212 LD 168/152 Lab 150/136
May 2003 result C 734/667 Ind 474/177 LD 331 Lab 147/103

Blackpool council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tony Lee at the age of 71.  A Blackpool councillor since 2007, Lee served as Deputy Mayor of Blackpool in 2010/1.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach
We finish this week as we started, by the seaside, on Blackpool's South Shore.  While Clacton is a little bit out of the way, this Blackpool ward is one of the most touristy locations in the country.  Here can be found the South Pier; the Sandcastle, an indoor water park on the seafront; the southern end of the Golden Mile; part of the Illuminations; and the Pleasure Beach, the UK's single most-visited tourist attraction.  Linking them all together is the Blackpool tramway along the Promenade; if you've not been to Blackpool for a while you may be in for a bit of a surprise, as the tramway has been completely refurbished in recent years with a fleet of shiny new trams, although the traditional trams still exist and operate occasionally for the benefit of tourists.  However, there is less good transport news in Blackpool, with the nearby Blackpool Airport threatened with closure next week unless a buyer is found.

This is a Labour/Tory marginal ward where swings are relatively low - more of a Big Dipper than a Big One.  The two parties split the ward's two seats in 2003; the Tories took the Labour seat in 2007 but Labour got one seat back in 2011 to give split representation again.  There was a noticeably large gap in 2011 between the two Labour candidates, which is probably explained by the second Labour candidate having an Asian name.

Fittingly for the location, the Tory and Labour candidates are both hoteliers: the Tories' Derek Robertson runs the Wilmar Hotel, while Labour's Kathy Ellis is propietor of the Castle Holiday Flats.  The Lib Dems have selected Mike Hodkinson, UKIP's candidate is John Braithwaite and the BNP stand Jack Renshaw.

John Braithwaite (UKIP)
Kathy Ellis (Lab)
Mike Hodkinson (LD)
Jack Renshaw (BNP)
Derek Robertson (C)

May 2011 result Lab 937/659 C 793/728 LD 263
May 2007 result C 972/940 Lab 713/605 LD 297
May 2003 result C 1027/895 Lab 1011/887 LD 592/545

By-election Preview: Heywood and Middleton

House of Commons
Caused by the death of Labour MP Jim Dobbin at the age of 73.  Member of Parliament for Heywood and Middleton since 1997, he died while on a Council of Europe visit to Poland.

York Street, Heywood
Ah, northern Greater Manchester.  To the north-east of Manchester is Rochdale, which in your columnist's opinion is an unattractive town with the redeeming feature of one of the most beautiful town hall buildings in Christendom.  To the north of Manchester is Bury, a post-textile town with military connections and an allegedly-world-famous market, whose town centre is thriving thanks to major development despite the hard times of recent years.  In between are Heywood and Middleton, which are, well, none of these things.

The Heywood and Middleton constituency comes in four distinct parts.  The largest part, despite the order of the names, is Middleton, a depressed mill town on the northern edge of Manchester.  Middleton does have some nice bits, such as the residential Alkrington Garden Village, formerly home to the comedians Steve Coogan and Bernard Manning; it also has some dodgy bits such as the Langley Estate, a Manchester overspill development.  To the east is Castleton, a Rochdale suburb which suffered badly from the demise of Woolworth's, who had a large warehouse here; one of the main local employers now is Carcraft, a chain of used car supermarkets based in Castleton.  Further up into the hills, above the Roch valley, is Heywood, another mill town whose economy now is based on the enormous Heywood Distribution Park, an industrial area off the M66 motorway; Heywood is also a recipient of Manchester overspill, this time in the Darnhill estate.  Finally, up to the north in the moors are the Rochdale suburbs of Norden and Bamford, which one of the most affluent areas in the whole of North West England.  Above this area is the uninhabited Scout Moor, home to a large windfarm which can be seen from all over north Manchester.

Most towns in the north of Greater Manchester have a reputation for insularity (a large number of Boltonians think the world ends at the Chequerbent roundabout) but it would be fair to say that Heywood (in particular) and Middleton are more insular than most.  The fact that Heywood has a long-standing nickname of "Monkey Town" probably tells you everything you need to know.  One of your columnist's workmates - a person who makes Joey Essex look intelligent - is from Heywood.

Heywood and Middleton, as a single constituency, dates from 1983.  Before then Middleton was the Labour-voting half of the marginal Middleton and Prestwich constituency, while Heywood was one end of the bizarrely-shaped marginal seat of Heywood and Royton, which wrapped around the north side of Rochdale like a pair of earmuffs.  Before 1983 Heywood and Royton was represented by Joel Barnett, who served in the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury during the Callaghan government and whose name has been immortalised in the Barnett Formula, of which we have heard much during the recent Scottish independence referendum.  Barnett had gained the seat from the Tories in 1964 by just 816 votes, and some of his future majorities were small (903 votes in 1970, 2287 votes at the seat's last election in 1979); one famous personality whom he saw off was the future Home Secretary David Waddington, who was the Tory candidate here in 1966.  The Middleton and Prestwich MP before 1983 was Labour's Jim Callaghan; not to be confused with the Prime Minister of the same name, Callaghan had been MP for Middleton and Prestwich since gaining the seat from the Conservatives at the February 1974 general election.  In that election he defeated Alan Haselhurst, who later returned to the Commons for a safe Tory seat in Essex (which he still holds) and served for many years as Deputy Speaker.

The effect of the creation of Heywood and Middleton in 1983 was to make a safe Labour seat out of two Labour-held marginals.  Barnett retired and Callaghan continued his parliamentary career in the new seat with a majority at that first election of 9.5 points over the Conservatives.  Callaghan would go on to defeat another present Tory MP in the shape of Eric Ollerenshaw, former leader of the Conservative groups on Hackney council and the Greater London Authority; Ollerenshaw fought Heywood and Middleton in 1992 and since 2010 has been MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Callaghan retired in 1997 and handed the seat over to Jim Dobbin, who had unsuccessfully tried in Bury North in 1992.  Born in Fife as the son of a miner, Dobbin had spent his career in the NHS as a microbiologist, and had been a Rochdale councillor since 1983; at the time of his election he was leader of the council.  In Parliament he chaired the all-party pro-life group and voted on moral issues in accordance with his Catholic faith; he was made a papal knight by Benedict XVI.  At his last election in 2010 he polled 40% of the vote to 27% for the Tories and 23% for the Lib Dems; the BNP saved their deposit with 7%.

Heywood and Middleton wards in Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council showing 2014 winners in each ward

At Rochdale council level (see map: grey wards are outside the constituency), Bamford and Norden are now safe Tory wards; the only Lib Dem councillor left in Rochdale after the party's epic collapse over the last few years represents North Heywood; and Labour win everything else.  At the most recent local elections in May UKIP came within 24 votes of gaining West Heywood ward.  The Lib Dems in their prime (about seven or eight years ago when they controlled Rochdale council) had a stronghold in Castleton and could win Norden and Bamford, while the Tories did well in South Middleton ward (which includes Alkrington) during the Brown years.  That was before the Lib Dem group in Rochdale comprehensively fell apart during the early years of the coalition, with huge numbers of defections.

Issues in the constituency include a child grooming scandal with racial overtones; the murder last year of Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was from the Langley estate; and a paedophilia scandal involving the late Rochdale MP Cyril Smith.  With racially-charged issues like these, there has been some speculation from people who don't know the area well that UKIP could win this seat.  However, two opinion polls of the constituency have shown clear Labour leads with UKIP in second place, which sounds about right to me.

Defending for Labour is Liz McInnes, selected from a shortlist on which local candidates were conspicuous by their absence; she is the most local of the shortlist, being a councillor in Rossendale on the other side of Scout Moor.  The Tories have selected Bury councillor Iain Gartside.  The Lib Dem candidate is Anthony Smith, from Castleton.  UKIP's candidate is John Bickley, who was runner-up in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election earlier this year.  Completing the ballot paper is Middleton-based Abi Jackson, a recent psychology graduate.

John Bickley (UKIP)
Iain Gartside (C)
Abi Jackson (Grn)
Liz McInnes (Lab)
Anthony Smith (LD)

May 2010 result Lab 18499 C 12528 LD 10474 BNP 3239 UKIP 1215 Ind 170

By-election Preview: Clacton

House of Commons
Caused by the resignation of Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, in order to seek re-election as a UKIP candidate.

(I am very grateful to "East Anglian Lefty" on the Vote UK Forum for extensive help with this preview, and the later preview for Brightlingsea.  "East Anglian Lefty" is the son of the Labour candidate in the Brightlingsea by-election.)

"Harwich for the continent, Frinton for the incontinent"
- graffiti at Liverpool Street station, London

Clacton Pier
There's been a noticeable trend in recent years for the party conference season to move away from the seaside.  This year Labour held their conference in Manchester, the Tories were in Birmingham and the Lib Dems are in Glasgow this week.  However, there is one thing which has brought most of the political campaigners in East Anglia to the seaside resort of Clacton in this year's conference season: a sensational by-election in north-east Essex that could end up making a bit of history.

The constituency based on north-east Essex has traditionally been known as Harwich.  In 1918, the first election in which women had the vote, it re-elected Major Harry Newton as a Coalition Conservative; Newton, a barrister and Boer War veteran, had taken over the seat in 1910.  Newton stood down in 1922 and the Conservatives lost Harwich to the Liberals, the victorious candidate being chocolate manufacturer Albert Hillary.  Hillary increased his majority in 1923, but with the Liberals in decline at the following year's election he lost his seat back to the Tories' Sir Frederick Rice.  Rice served just one term before standing down in 1929, and the Liberals came back with John Pybus, former chairman of English Electric, gaining the seat.

The 1929 election resulted in Ramsay MacDonald coming to power at the head of the second Labour government; however, Labour lacked a majority in Parliament and initially relied on the support of the Liberals.  This led to a split in the Liberal Party over the issue of free trade and protectionism, with a breakaway group in favour of protectionism forming the Liberal National Party under Sir John Simon.  Pybus joined the Liberal Nationals group and was appointed Minister for Transport in the National Government.  He was re-elected in 1931 under his new colours, without Conservative opposition, but failed to finish his second term, dying shortly before the 1935 election.

The National Liberals had no trouble holding Harwich in 1935 under their new candidate Stanley Holmes, a chartered accountant who had served as Liberal MP for North East Derbyshire from 1918 to 1922.  Holmes held the seat with few problems until his elevation to the peerage (as Lord Dovercourt) in 1954; he was never opposed by the Conservatives and by 1950 the National Liberals were formally allied with the Conservatives.

Holmes' elevation to the peerage resulted in a by-election in Harwich in 1954.  The new National Liberal and Conservative candidate was Julian Ridsdale, a nephew of Stanley Baldwin who had served as a military intelligence officer in Japan during the Second World War; by now he was running a fruit farm in Sussex.  Ridsdale's wife Paddy had been a secretary to Ian Fleming during the war, and was rumoured to be the inspiration for a character called Miss Moneypenny in Fleming's hit book Casino Royale which had been published the previous year.  Ridsdale was up against Labour, who by now had emerged as the main challengers to the National Liberals and had cut their majority to 11 points in the 1945 election.  Fighting her first election campaign, the Labour candidate was a 23-year-old journalist called Shirley Catlin, fresh out of university where she had been the first woman to chair the Oxford University Labour Club.  We know her today as Shirley Williams.  Ridsdale won the by-election by 59% to 41%, starting off a long Parliamentary career which lasted until his retirement in 1992, when he passed the seat on to Iain Sproat.  A journalist and publisher, Sproat had previously served three terms as Conservative MP for Aberdeen South before a chicken-run in 1983 to what he thought was a safer seat in the Borders went horribly wrong.

Sproat's fourth term in Parliament saw him appointed to the Major government, in which he served for four years as minister for sport.  But as it turned out, Sproat only had one term as MP for Harwich; in 1997 he became one of a large number of ministers to lose their seats in the Labour landslide, Ivan Henderson making one of the most unlikely Labour gains of all with a majority of 1,216, to become the first, and so far only, Labour MP for Harwich.  A stevedore and trade union official at the port of Harwich, Henderson even managed to increase his majority in the 2001 election in a rematch with Sproat, but couldn't hold back the returning Tory tide in 2005 and lost his seat to new Tory candidate Douglas Carswell.

The son of two medical doctors, Carswell had grown up in Africa, where his father diagnosed Uganda's first case of AIDS in the 1980s; after graduating in history from UEA and King's College London, he had worked in TV broadcasting in Italy and, after being the Tory sacrificial lamb against Tony Blair in Sedgefield in 2001, in the Tory party's policy unit.  In Parliament, Carswell emerged as a campaigner on traditional Conservative values, radical political reform (he was the only Conservative MP to support proportional representation) and withdrawal from the European Union.

Carswell's position in parliament was greatly enhanced in 2010 by the Boundary Commission, which undertook a radical redrawing of the constituencies in northern Essex in order to allow for an eighteenth seat for the county.  The physical effect of this was to remove the port of Harwich from the seat which bore its name and transfer it to the North Essex constituency; the political effect was to greatly increase the Conservative majority in the rump Harwich constituency, which was renamed Clacton after its main town.  This increase came about because Harwich is a major port, with regular passenger ferry services over the North Sea to the Hook of Holland (the Esbjerg ferry has just been discontinued), and has a large number of Labour voters.  Ivan Henderson did try to get his seat back in 2010, but without his Harwich powerbase (he is now the town's county councillor) lost badly.

Without Harwich in the Clacton seat, what you got left?  An awful lot of pensioners, that's what.  About half of the Clacton constituency consists of the town of Clacton-on-Sea, a traditional and slightly depressed seaside resort.  To the east of Clacton are the elderly Holland-on-Sea, once home of the singer Sade; Frinton-on-Sea, one of the most well-known retirement ghettos in England (this is a place which protested against the recent removal of the town's level crossing gates); and Walton on the Naze, a small seaside resort.  Inland are a series of villages including Thorpe-le-Soken, whose name commemorates an ecclesiastical peculiar of times past; Weeley, once known for its music festival; and Great Clacton, both distinct and indistinguishable from Clacton town.  To the west of Clacton-on-Sea is Jaywick, part of which (the Brooklands Estate) is famous for being the sub-area at the very bottom of the Governemnt's indices of multiple deprivation; possibly not what the Times foresaw in 1871 when it wrote about Clacton "there will be no slums, nor do any object that can offend the eye".  The Times was referring to what was effectively the opening of Clacton-on-Sea, which owes its entire existence to the vision of Peter Bruff, a nineteenth-century railway engineer and entrepreneur who is almost single-handedly responsible for the town's development.

Clacton wards in Tendring District Council showing 2011 winners in each ward

Peter Bruff's name is commemorated in one of Clacton's electoral wards.  The town is the administrative centre for Tendring district council, one of the more interesting councils when election time comes round because of the wide range of localist parties that stand.  Tendring's last ordinary election was in May 2011; as can be seen from the map (grey wards are outside the constituency) the Tories cleaned up in Frinton and Walton, Holland-on-Sea was dominated by a local residents' party, the inland areas mostly elected independents while Clacton mostly elected Tory councillors, although Labour can win in the rougher areas of town (such as Golf Green ward, which includes Jaywick).  In 2012 there were two by-elections in St Bartholomews ward, both of which were held by the Holland-on-Sea Residents Association.  St Osyth parish is in both the Clacton constituency and the Brightlingsea county council division, and is covered by a two-member district ward of the same name, which is the only area which will go to the polls in both by-elections. Currently it is represented by two independents, although in 2007 the Conservatives took one of the seats by a single vote.

The district as a whole most recently went to the polls in the Essex county council election of May 2013.  By this point UKIP were taking local elections very seriously.  The Tories held Frinton and Walton and two of the three divisions covering Clacton town, but lost Clacton East to the localist group Tendring First and the two divisions covering the rural part of the constituency to UKIP, although only about half of Tendring Rural East division and one-sixth of Brightlingsea division is within the constituency boundary.  The Tories and UKIP were both in contention throughout the constituency and scores were low; the highest winning share of the vote was 38% for the Tories in Clacton West (to 31% for UKIP), while Clacton North was won by the Tories with just 29% of the vote, Labour and UKIP polling 25% each.  The Conservatives were actually pushed down to third place in Brightlingsea with 25%; UKIP won with 30% and the Lib Dems were runners-up on 27%.  In the seventeen months since then there have been three district council by-elections in wards within Clacton town, all of which were held by the Conservatives.

For students of the Second World War, the name "Jaywick" may conjure up not an image of a modern-day Essex slum on the edge of Clacton but a memory of an Australian/British special forces operation in 1943 to raid Japanese shipping in Singapore harbour.  It worked because the enemy were taken completely by surprise.  While there have been signs of a Eurosceptic vote in this corner of Essex for a long time (the old Harwich seat saw the best score for the short-lived Referendum Party in 1997, and UKIP saved their deposit in 2001), nobody foresaw Douglas Carswell's defection to UKIP and wish to seek re-election as a UKIP candidate.  Not David Cameron, who wasn't informed in advance; not the Tory whips, who would undoubtedly have squashed the idea; and certainly not UKIP's county councillor for Brightlingsea Roger Lord, a former Tory figure who had already been selected as UKIP's PPC for Clacton.  In the ensuing fallout Lord resigned from Essex county council to force a by-election of his own, in which he has endorsed the Liberal Democrats.  This is better than fiction; you can't make this sort of thing up and expect to be believed.

"Racist" Banksy mural in Clacton - borrowed in good faith from
Carswell will appear at the top of the ballot paper for this increasingly bizarre by-election thanks to John Black, who was to stand as the candidate of the Scottish Jacobite Party, failing to correctly fill out his nomination papers.  While there were rumours that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson would throw his hat into the ring, the official Conservative candidate is Giles Watling, who as well as being a district councillor for Frinton-on-Sea is an actor probably best known for the role of Oswald in the TV series Bread.  (Again, you can't make this up.)  Labour have selected Tim Young, a Colchester borough councillor.  The Lib Dem candidate is another actor, former mayor of Bishop's Stortford and former East Hertfordshire district councillor Andy Graham, who gives an address in Oxfordshire.  The Greens have reselected Chris Southall, who fought the seat in 2010.  Also standing are the Monster Raving Loony Party's Howling Laud Hope and two independent candidates: Charlotte Rose is a "high class courtesan" (ahem) from London, while Bruze Sizer is an oncologist at Colchester Hospital who is standing on the single issue of health and cancer care.

Two opinion polls taken in the immediate aftermath of Carswell's defection both showed him well ahead, and the election-data blog (whose author, like all good psephologists, is a Boltonian) has a good analysis of how Clacton's elderly demographic is particularly friendly to UKIP.  Nonetheless, it is now over thirty years since the Mitcham and Morden by-election of 1982, the last time in which a defector to a new party immediately resigned to seek re-election, and Bruce Douglas-Mann (the defector in that case) lost.  We shall see on Friday morning whether Carswell's decision to join a new party has come at the cost of his job; or whether he has become the first member of the UK Independence Party to be elected to the House of Commons on that ticket.

Douglas Carswell (UKIP)
Andy Graham (LD)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony)
Charlotte Rose (Ind)
Bruce Sizer (Ind)
Chris Southall (Grn)
Giles Watling (C)
Tim Young (Lab)

May 2010 result C 22867 Lab 10799 LD 5577 BNP 1975 Tendring First 1078 Grn 535 Ind 292