Thursday, 4 December 2014

By-election Previews: 4th/5th December 2014

Four local by-elections are taking place this week, all in England.  UKIP are defending a seat in Thurrock, Labour are defending the seat of Liz McInnes (now MP for Heywood and Middleton) in Rossendale, while a Mansfield Independent Forum seat is up for grabs in Mansfield with no defending candidate.  A rare Friday by-election completes the set with a Conservative defence in Adur.

Three by-elections on 4th December 2014:

Thurrock council, Essex
Caused by the death of UKIP councillor Maggie O'Keeffe-Ray at the age of 62.  The wife of Cllr Robert Ray, the leader of Thurrock's UKIP group, O'Keeffe-Ray had been a Thurrock councillor for just four months since winning her seat in May this year.

The Top House, Aveley
On the north bank of Thames Estuary, Aveley is a small town just outside the Greater London boundary.  Its Wikipedia entry paints it as suburban development which has also seen some London overspill, although the area's economic indicators paint a mixed picture.  The area of the ward on the Thames bank is part of the Rainham Marshes nature reserve, while the ward also includes a small part of Purfleet along the Arterial Road (the former A13).

The present ward goes back to 2004, created as a result of the expansion of the former Aveley ward which was safely Conservative.  The Tories kept the current Aveley and Uplands ward in their hands until 2011 although there were some close shaves: in 2007 the BNP polled 31% here and cut the Tory majority to 6 points, while the 2010 result was a portent of things to come as the Tories won with just 33% of the vote, 10 points ahead of Labour.  The next year the ward turned into a four-way marginal: 2011 saw the Tories hold on with just 28%, to 24.5% for a former Tory councillor standing as an independent, 23.5% for UKIP and 22% for Labour.  The UKIP candidate that year was Tim Aker; then 25 years old, Aker has gone on to a career within UKIP as head of the party's policy unit and, since May this year, as an MEP for the Eastern region.  However, when UKIP gained the ward in 2012 in another four-way marginal result (UKIP 29% C 26% Lab 23% Ind 20.5%) it was Robert Ray who made the gain here.  In last May's ordinary election Robert's wife Maggie O'Keeffe-Ray made the ward safe for UKIP, polling 47% to 30% for the Tories and 16% for Labour.

Defending for UKIP is Tim Aker MEP, who is hoping to raise his profile in the area by being elected to Thurrock council: we are just five months away from a general election in which Aker is odds-on favourite to gain the Thurrock constituency from the Conservatives.  Theresa Webster is standing again for the Tories after fighting the ward in May.  Labour, who successfully fought off UKIP in an October by-election to the next-door ward of West Thurrock and South Stifford, have selected John O'Regan.  The Lib Dems have thrown in the towel after some appalling performances here over the last electoral cycle, but a four-cornered fight is assured by independent candidate Eddie Stringer.

Parliamentary constituency: Thurrock
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Tim Aker (UKIP)
John O'Regan (Lab)
Eddie Stringer (Ind)
Teresa Webster (C)

May 2014 result UKIP 1085 C 683 Lab 372 LD 161
May 2012 result UKIP 495 C 448 Lab 385 Ind 350 LD 29
May 2011 result C 626 Ind 551 UKIP 528 Lab 497 LD 45
May 2010 result C 1264 Lab 902 Ind 734 UKIP 553 BNP 369
May 2008 result C 845 BNP 521 Lab 363 LD 128
May 2007 result C 671 BNP 562 Lab 436 LD 146
May 2006 result C 941 Lab 509 Grn 202 LD 173
June 2004 result C 1152/1107/924 Lab 471/399/388 Grn 324

Rossendale borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Liz McInnes, who is now the MP for Heywood and Middleton after winning the recent parliamentary by-election.  She was first elected to Rossendale council in 2010.

St Mary's Chambers. Rawtenstall
Rossendale has lots of pronunciation traps for the unwary southerner.  Ask for directions to Hasslingden and you won't be taken seriously, while a passing reference to Backup may mean that the place goes all Royston Vasey on you.  Even the name of the district is a trap.  Repeat after me: Rozzendale, Hazlingden, Bay-c'p, Rotten-stall - or, as it's correctly spelt, Rawtenstall - the centre of Rossendale and the location of Longholme ward.  Longholme covers the western half of Rawtenstall along the Haslingden Road, together with New Hall Hey along the old road to Bury.

Rossendale is a classic industrial Pennine valley, with the River Irwell at the bottom surrounded by mills and the housing climbing up the steep sides to the north and south.  The mills were the usual Lancashire cotton-spinning mix, but Rozzendale also specialised in shoemaking for the Empire; there are no shoe factories in the valley now, but about every other building on the road to Bacup is still a shoe shop.  On the northern slopes of the ward is one of the valley's more unusual tourist attractions, Ski Rossendale, a 200m dry ski slope which has caused the local hospital to develop a specialism in treating skiing-related injuries.  At the bottom can be found Rawtenstall's railway station, now the northern terminus of the East Lancashire tourist railway which connects the town with Bury and Heywood.  Around the station has developed a retail and industrial park with the usual range of national chain shops/restaurants and some light engineering.

Longholme ward, like much of Rossendale and the Rossendale and Darwen parliamentary seat in which it lies, is a key marginal area which has seen some tiny majorities.  Labour won all three seats for the ward quite comfortably when it was drawn up in its present form in 2002, but the Tories took two of the Labour seats in 2003 (by 8 votes) and 2004, and held a seat in a by-election in September 2004.  Labour didn't get the Tory seats back until 2011 and 2012.  The Lib Dems were just 26 votes behind Labour in the 2010 election, coming from nowhere and returning there just as swiftly.  Over the 2011-2014 electoral cycle Labour has taken the Tory seats and consolidated its majority; in May Labour had 43% to 33% for the Tories and 24% for UKIP.  The ward lies within the Rossendale South county council division, which is a Tory-held marginal.

Defending for Labour is Annie McMahon.  The Tories have reselected their candidate from May, NHS child psychiatrist Mischa Mockett, while the ballot paper is completed by UKIP candidate Gary Barnes.

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

Gary Barnes (UKIP)
Annie McMahon (Lab)
Mischa Mockett (C)

May 2014 result Lab 715 C 554 UKIP 396
May 2012 result Lab 757 C 401 LD 242
May 2011 result Lab 937 C 879
May 2010 result Lab 991 LD 965 C 785
May 2008 result C 679 Lab 484 Ind 350
May 2007 result C 663/586 Lab 554/528 LD 147
May 2006 result Lab 642 C 564 Grn 299
Sept 2004 by-election C 720 Lab 511
June 2004 result C 1024 Lab 829
May 2003 result C 559 Lab 551
May 2002 result Lab 896/789/775 C 524/510/389

Mansfield district council, Nottinghamshire
Caused by the death of Mansfield Independent Forum councillor Derek Evans at the age of 70.  Evans was the deputy leader of the Independent Forum, and member for housing strategy and regeneration in mayor Tony Egginton's cabinet.  In his working life he had worked in sales and marketing for the brewing industry, and started his political career in his 20s in Leicestershire, serving three terms on Hinckley and Bosworth borough council where he was Mayor in 1982/3.  After retiring from work he returned to local politics on Mansfield district council, serving as a Warsop parish councillor and as district councillor for Netherfield ward since 2011.

Meden Vale Methodist Church
The Netherfield ward is an ex-coalmining area, essentially consisting of the village of Meden Vale which was called into existence in the 1910s to house miners at Welbeck Colliery.  Welbeck was one of the last deep coal mines to operate in England, closing in 2010 having exhausted its reserves.

Mansfield got redrawn single-member ward boundaries in 2011, so there is only one previous result: a narrow 43-vote (51%-46%) win by the Mansfield Independent Forum over Labour that year.  The Mansfield Independent Forum is essentially the supporters of Tony Egginton, who has served as Mansfield's elected mayor since 2002 but at his last re-election in 2011 only had a majority of 67 votes (0.2 points) over the Labour candidate in the runoff.  Before 2011 Netherfield was part of the three-seat Meden ward, which was solidly Labour although independents could often poll well.  The ward is part of the very safely Labour Warsop county council division.

Evans died at the end of May, so this by-election has taken an unusually long time to call; whoever wins here will be straight back on the campaign trail to secure re-election next year.  In what may be a bad sign for Mayor Egginton who also faces re-election next year, there is no defending Mansfield Independent Forum candidate and the seat is up for grabs.  This should be good news for the new Labour candidate, Lesley Wright, who is opposed by Karen Seymour of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Sid Walker of UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Mansfield
Nottinghamshire county council division: Warsop
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield

Karen Seymour (TUSC)
Sid Walker (UKIP)
Lesley Wright (Lab)

May 2011 result MIF 444 Lab 401 LD 34

One by-election on 5th December 2014:

Adur district council, West Sussex
A rare Friday by-election caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Mike Mendoza.  A broadcaster who once presented the overnight show on talkSPORT, Mendoza is concentrating on being a TV presenter with Latest TV, a local television channel covering the Brighton area.

Adur Civic Centre, Shoreham
This particular St Mary's ward (there are about 20 of them up and down the UK) covers the centre of Shoreham-by-Sea, running from the town centre and harbour along the High Street, Brighton Road and Eastern Avenue.  Thanks to its location on the Adur estuary, Shoreham was developed as a port during the Norman period, and prospered as the closest Channel port to London; King John stationed his fleet here in the early thirteenth century.  While the port was revived by the Victorians who connected Shoreham to the railway network, the main survivor of the Norman period is the church of St Mary de Haura, which gives its name to the ward, although only half of the original Norman church remains.

St Mary's, like Adur as a whole, is generally safe Conservative.  Although Labour did turn the ward into a marginal in 2012 by cutting the Tory lead to 9 points, the Tories pulled away again in May's ordinary election when they had 47%, to 29% for Labour and 16% for the Green Party, who usually poll respectably in this ward and had a couple of second places in the Noughties.  The Conservatives safely hold the Shoreham county division, which includes this ward.

Defending for the Conservatives is letting agent Stephen Chipp.  Labour have reselected Irene Reed, their candidate from May.  The Green candidate will be Jennie Tindall, and Jenny Greig stands for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: East Worthing and Shoreham
West Sussex county council division: Shoreham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Worthing

May 2014 result C 508 Lab 309 Grn 174 LD 88
May 2012 result C 335 Lab 247 Grn 205 UKIP 103 LD 51
May 2010 result C 864 Lab 558 Grn 406 UKIP 250
May 2008 result C 514 Grn 212 Lab 136 LD 99 UKIP 73
May 2006 result C 473 Grn 203 LD 168 Lab 159
June 2004 result C 560/503 Lab 454/434

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