Thursday, 18 December 2014

By-election Previews: 18th December 2014

Winding down for the end of 2014, there are two by-elections in the week before Christmas, both in England.  A further by-election was scheduled in north Wales, but has been held by Plaid Cymru unopposed; that by-election is therefore not being previewed.

Nottinghamshire county council
Caused by the death of Labour county councillor Stella Smedley at the age of 71.  Smedley was the last member still serving from the Nottinghamshire council elected in 1977, and in her 37 years on the county council had held a number of important positions, including as deputy leader from 1981 to 1985; she was also chairman of the council in 1998-99 and was appointed MBE in 2010 for services to the community.

Station Road, Ollerton
This division lies in the heart of the Nottinghamshire coalfield and the Dukeries area, centred on the villages of Ollerton and New Ollerton.  The colliery here is of quite recent vintage, surviving until 1994.  The area has a propensity to earthquakes, but of the physical rather than the political variety: in a preview for a district council by-election here I wrote that 93 earthquakes had been recorded with a few miles' radius of Ollerton in the four months to mid-April 2014, which the British Geological Survey had put down to continuing coalmining in the area.  The week after that by-election took place, I was in a second-hand bookshop which was offering for sale a 1970s-vintage geological survey of the Ollerton area, so clearly this has been a problem for a while.

As stated, Smedley had been the county councillor here for decades.  In 2005 she was re-elected unopposed, but was run close by the Conservatives in the Labour nadir of 2009, before increasing her majority from 6 points to 36 at her final re-election in 2013.  Labour easily won all five district council seats within the division in 2011, gaining two seats from independent councillors, and had no problem holding a district council by-election in Ollerton ward in September this year.  While this is a safe Labour area, the vote shares will be closely watched as an indicator for the forthcoming general election: the division forms part of the key marginal constituency of Sherwood.

Defending for Labour is Mike Pringle, deputy mayor of Ollerton and Boughton and, since winning the September by-election, Newark and Sherwood district councillor for Ollerton ward; he runs a burglar alarm company.  He will be opposed for the vacancy by the Tories' Ben Bradley, UKIP's Colin Hart and the Lib Dems' Marylyn Rayner.

Parliamentary constituency: Sherwood
Newark and Sherwood district council wards: Boughton, Ollerton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield

Ben Bradley (C)
Colin Hart (UKIP)
Michael Pringle (Lab)
Marylyn Rayner (LD)

May 2013 result Lab 1603 C 594 UKIP 549
June 2009 result Lab 1202 C 1042 Ind 716
May 2005 result Lab unopposed

London Borough of Kingston upon Thames
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Howard Jones at the age of 71.  A former Scotland Yard detective, Jones was first elected in 2002 and led the Conservative group on Kingston council from 2006 until the May election, in which he masterminded the Conservatives' return to overall control of Kingston after twenty years of Lib Dem rule.

St James's Parish Church, New Malden
Here we are in south-west London back in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, which is having a rash of local by-elections at the moment: of the twelve previous local by-elections in the Royal Borough since 1996, seven have come since September 2011 and this will be the second poll since the last ordinary election in May.  The St James ward can be found in southern New Malden, centred on the Malden Junction at which the Kingston-Sutton road crosses the Kingston bypass.  New Malden is a commuter area with the interesting feature of a very high Korean population, many of whom work in the City for Korean companies; the Korean diet is such that Tesco sell more fruit and vegetables per customer in New Malden than anywhere else.  Most of the resident Koreans, of course, won't be eligible to vote in this by-election.

After the ward's three seats split between the Tories and Lib Dems in 2002, the Conservatives have pulled away and made this ward safe: in May they polled 38%, to 22% for the Lib Dems, 18% for Labour and 12% for UKIP.  The London Assembly election of 2012 saw the ward's ballot boxes vote 41% for Tories, 26% to Labour and 10% for the Lib Dems, while Boris beat Ken here that year 53-30.

Defending for the Conservatives is Jack Cheetham, a small business owner who is contesting his home ward after narrowly missing out in a Surbiton ward in May.  The Lib Dem candidate is Annette Wookey, while Labour have selected accountant Stephen Dunkling and UKIP's nominee is Ben Roberts, who came fourth in the last Kingston by-election in Tudor ward in October.  The ballot paper is completed by Alex Nelson, standing for the Green Party.

After this week the only remaining Thursday is Christmas Day, so these are the last acts of the 2014 electoral year.  Many thanks to Sid, Doris and anybody else who may have stumbled across this column over the last twelve months: I hope that you were illuminated as to the electoral process in the UK, learned many interesting facts and were amused by the occasional error which may have crept in.  This column now has a well-earned month off, but shall return in time for the first by-election of 2015, which will be held in Crowborough, East Sussex on Thursday 22nd January: until then, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a New Year that's better than the year just gone.

Parliamentary constituency: Kingston and Surbiton
GLA constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Jack Cheetham (C)
Stephen Dunkling (Lab)
Alex Nelson (Grn)
Ben Roberts (UKIP)
Annette Wookey (LD)

May 2014 result C 1250/1188/1082 LD 729/719/696 Lab 598/494/485 UKIP 386/361 Grn 212 BNP 100 TUSC 34
May 2010 result C 2008/1948/1679 LD 1549/1502/1280 Lab 885/516/513 Grn 342 UKIP 259 Christian Peoples Alliance 184
May 2006 result C 1689/1603/1580 LD 773/732/704 Lab 316/301/258 Christian Peoples Alliance 103/83
May 2002 result C 1087/1021/918 LD 937/889/871 Lab 239/180/161 Christian Peoples Alliance 118

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1106 Ken 531 Ind 124 LD 81 UKIP 50 Grn 46 BNP 33
London Members: C 807 Lab 512 LD 199 UKIP 128 Grn 111 CPA 62 BNP 58 Alagaratnam 38 EDP 25 TUSC 11 Hayat 11 House Party 6 NF 5

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