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.

HARPER GREEN
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


HELMSHORE
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


WESTFIELD
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


OAKHAM SOUTH WEST and WHISSENDINE
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

Whissendine
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


MEDWORTH
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


WEST THURROCK AND SOUTH STIFFORD
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


SHEPPEY CENTRAL
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


TUDOR
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

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