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

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