Monday, 21 December 2015

By-election Preview: 23 December 2015

You're probably sick of Christmas by know and wondering when it's going to be over.  Spare a thought for your columnist, who had a hernia repaired last week and is presently laid up in that phase they euphemistically call "recuperation".  Luckily he found time before his operation to preview the last local by-election of 2015, just two days before Christmas.  Brill, you say?  Correct...

Aylesbury Vale district council, Buckinghamshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Cartwright at the age of 75.  Cartwright had had a thirty-year career in local government, starting in June 1985 when he won a by-election in the former Grendon Underwood ward, and served as leader of Aylesbury Vale district council from 2001 to 2013.  He also served on Buckinghamshire county council from 1997 to 2013, and his legacy will be the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, whose VIP suite is named after him.

St. Leonards, Grendon Underwood
We come to Buckinghamshire, to a group of eight parishes on the Oxfordshire border.  The village of Grendon Underwood lies within the countryside, away from the main road between Aylesbury and Bicester; a good location for the SOE, which had a base here in the Second World War, and now home to a couple of prisons.  The ward named after it extends to the south to include the villages of Ludgershall and (following boundary changes this year) Brill, previously the centre of its own ward and once rather bizarrely the north-western terminus of the London Underground.  Famous people associated with the ward include Tony and Cherie Blair, who bought a house here in 2008 for £4 million; and the Great Train Robbers who hid out in Leatherslade Farm not far away from the Blairs.

Because of the rewarding this year results from Grendon Underwood ward in previous years are not directly comparable, although it's fair to say that on the 2003-2011 boundaries the ward was safe Conservative and Cartwright was unopposed in 2003.  The only previous result on these boundaries is from May, where the Tories beat UKIP 55-22.  UKIP did better in 2013 in the larger Grendon Underwood county division, cutting the Tory majority to nine points; and this ward lies on the proposed route of HS2 so it will be interesting to see whether that has any effect on the election.

The Blairs (if they are registered to vote here) may be disappointed that there is no Labour candidate.  As it's Christmas, the defending Tories have brought out the Branston: Cameron Branston, a Canadian who is the UK commercial officer for the Government of Alberta.  Voters who find Branston not to their taste can choose between UKIP's Gary Good or the Lib Dems' Julian Newman.  Because Thursday this week is Christmas Eve and (understandably) nobody wants to spend Christmas night counting votes, polling for this by-election will be on Wednesday 23rd December.

And that is that for the UK electoral year of 2015.  This column will return in time for the first local by-election of 2016, to take place in flood-hit Carlisle on 7th January; until then, all that remains is for Kris and I to wish both our readers a very Merry Christmas, and a New Year that's better than the year just gone.

Parliamentary constituency: Buckingham
Buckinghamshire county council division: Grendon Underwood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

May 2015 result C 1068 UKIP 427 Grn 246 LD 213

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

By-election Previews: 15 and 17 December 2015

One by-election on 15th December and four by-elections on 17th December:

15th December:
Spelthorne borough council, Surrey
Caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Robert Watts, at the age of 64.  A former civil engineer, he was elected to Spelthorne council in 2011 and had been Leader of the Council since 2013.  He was killed in an accidental fire at his home.

This was once Middlesex, the part of what's now Surrey north of the River Thames.  Shepperton is a thriving commuter town within a bend of the Thames; mostly on flood plain, industries here included ropemaking and extraction of brick clay, while in the early 19th century it was a favoured location for writers and artists - Canaletto and Turner both painted pictures of Walton Bridge which links the town with Walton-on-Thames.  The railway came here in 1864 on a branch line from Waterloo, leading to the town being a favoured location for commuters.  As well as Shepperton itself, the ward includes the village of Lower Halliford next to Walton Bridge and some flood plain on the road to Chertsey.

As you might expect, this is a strong Tory ward, although the Lib Dems did win one of the three available seats in the 2003 election.  In May the Tory slate had 56% with UKIP best of the rest of 18%, although the Tory vote here is normally inflated by the presence on the ballot of long-serving councillor Robin Sider who has a large personal vote.

Defending for the Conservatives is Colin Barnard, a retired baker and director of his local residents association.  The UKIP candidate is Brian Catt from Sunbury-on-Thames, who runs an IT consultancy and management business for the European market.  Also on the ballot are Labour's Jonathan Button, the Lib Dems' Richard Dunn and Nigel Scott of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Spelthorne
Surrey county council division: Laleham and Shepperton
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2015 result C 2502/2121/2029 UKIP 823/656 Lab 612/554/524 LD 532
May 2011 result C 1852/1726/1428 LD 698 UKIP 607
May 2007 result C 1489/1345/1248 LD 631/608/509 Lab 182

May 2003 result C 1239/1117/1040 LD 1059/955/864 Lab 144

17th December:
London Borough of Brent
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Dan Filson at the age of 67.  He had been a Brent councillor only since 2014, but previously served for twelve years on Hammersmith and Fulham council where he had been Mayor.  Filson spent his career in the civil service, mostly in the Inland Revenue, before retiring in 2010.

This ward is rather misnamed: while it does include Kensal Green station, it's actually based on the eastern half of Harlesden, with Willesden Junction being the most convenient station for most of the ward.  Kensal Green has traditionally been an immigrant area and is still in the top 30 wards for Irish population, as well as having a large black community - this is a traditional working-class area thanks to the presence nearby of the railway works at Old Oak Common (now a major construction site for Crossrail) and the large Park Royal industrial estate.

As you might expect, this is a safe Labour ward under present circumstances, although the Lib Dems were just 58 votes behind the third Labour candidate in the 2010 election in which Sarah Teather became the local MP.  At the most recent Brent council election in 2014 Labour had 54% to 19% for the Green Party and 15% for the Lib Dems; in the 2012 London Assembly elections Ken beat Boris here 53-30, while on the list ballot Labour had 54% to 16% for the Tories and 13% for the Greens.

Defending for Labour is Jumbo Chan, who according to his LinkedIn is a teacher at Hampstead School and secretary of the Young Fabians Education Network.  He is opposed by Jafar Hassan of the Greens, Sarah Dickson of the Lib Dems, Chris Alley of the Conservatives and the ward's first UKIP candidate, Juliette Nibbs.

Parliamentary constituency: Brent Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2014 result Lab 1819/1808/1730 Grn 621 LD 510/502/481 C 394/382/330
May 2010 result Lab 2172/2064/1782 LD 1724/1601/1570 C 760/569/516 Grn 653/466/346 Ind 450
May 2006 result Lab 1331/1169/1108 LD 671/583/555 Grn 573/473 C 356/326/298
May 2002 result Lab 1157/1017/1008 Grn 303/239 C 292/280/273 LD 258/209/181

2012 GLA election (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1419 Boris 816 Grn 166 LD 132 Ind 108 UKIP 24 BNP 11
List: Lab 1444 C 433 Grn 357 LD 205 UKIP 65 Chr 60 TUSC 41 BNP 24 EDP 19 House Party 19 Hayat 7 NF 2 Alagaratnam 2

East Hertfordshire district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Adrian McNeece, a secular atheist, after the failure of his motion not to have prayers at council meetings.

Essentially covering the open space between Hertford and Hoddesdon, Hertford Heath ward is not part of the town but named after the village of the same name.  As well as Hertford Heath, the ward also includes the parish of Brickendon Liberty, a wonderful name for what is essentially a collection of hamlets.  The ward is probably best known for Haileybury College, a public school originally built to train East India Company administrators, whose alumni include the former Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the present Tory MP Nick Herbert.

Hertford Heath's councillors seem to have been controversy magnets over the last couple of years.  McNeece had only represented the ward since May, when he polled 45% to 21% for the previous Tory councillor William Ashley, standing as an independent, and 15% for UKIP.  Ashley had got himself into a series of scrapes over planning applications at his farm in Brickendon, and was eventually dropped by the Conservative party.  He had enjoyed much bigger majorities than McNeece before 2015, and was unopposed in the 2007 election.  At county level this ward is part of the Ware South division, which is safely Conservative.

Even with McNeece gone the troubles for the local Conservative group are not over: the Tory agent messed up his party's nomination papers with the result that their candidate, 32-year-old mother-of-one Charlotte Snowdon, is on the ballot paper without a description.  UKIP's Sheila Pettman tries again after her third-place finish in May.  Also standing are Labour's Graham Nickson, the Lib Dems' Rob Lambie and the Greens' Hilary Cullen.

Parliamentary constituency: Hertford and Stortford
Hertfordshire county council division: Ware South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harlow and Bishop's Stortford

May 2015 result C 739 Ind 344 UKIP 249 Lab 204 Grn 96
May 2011 result C 753 Lab 319
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 528 Lab 109 LD 90

Worcestershire county council
Caused by the death of Health Concern councillor Jim Parish.  Parish was a former Mayor of Stourport who first entered politics in 1997; he was first elected to Worcestershire county council in 2001, lost his seat in 2005 but returned in 2009.  He had also served on Wyre Forest district council until losing his seat in May.  Away from politics, Parish formerly ran an engineering business in Wednesbury, and had represented England and Worcestershire at bowls.

This column often talks about railway towns, towns that sprung up in the Victorian era around major railway works or railway junctions.  Stourport is a rare example of a canal town, which grew up in the early Georgian era around the junction of the River Severn and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, and for many years goods were transshipped from canal boats to Severn trows (river boats).  However, Stourport's prosperity didn't last for very long, as it was bypassed by the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and later by the railways.

Stourport is part of the Wyre Forest district, where politics has never been quite the same since 1999 and the foundation of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern party, initially a single-issue party pressing for the restoration of Kidderminster Hospital's casualty unit which briefly controlled the district council.  Stourport has been a traditional strong point for Health Concern, although they performed poorly in the borough elections this year.  The town forms a two-member county council division whose results have been a mess.  In 2005 the seats split betwen Health Concern and the Tories with Labour not far behind; while in 2009 Health Concern won comfortably.  The May 2013 election saw UKIP top the poll with just 28% and split the seats with Health Concern, Labour and the Tories being close behind, but the UKIP councillor lasted just 13 days in office before it turned out that his Facebook had anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic stuff on it which was too hot even for UKIP to handle.  The resulting by-election at the end of June 2013 saw Health Concern regain their seat with 31%, UKIP polling 26%, the Tories 22% and Labour 18%.  The Conservatives did well here in the 2015 district elections and despite starting in third place will fancy their chances of making a gain.

Defending for Health Concern is Nicky Martin, a Stourport town councillor.  UKIP have reselected their candidate from the June 2013 by-election, former Tory district councillor John Holden.  The Conservative candidate is Tony Muir, a district councillor in the division and a triathlete still in his mid-twenties.  Retired social worker Jill Hawes stands as the Labour candidate, and the ballot is completed by the Greens' Phil Oliver.

Parliamentary constituency: Wyre Forest
Wyre Forest district wards: Areley Kings and Riverside, Lickhill, Mitton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kidderminster

June 2013 by-election Health Concern 1055 UKIP 892 C 753 Lab 607 Grn 77 BNP 39 LD 30
May 2013 result UKIP 1385/1151 Health Concern 1335/1167 Lab 1141/894 C 984/964 Grn 195
June 2009 result Health Concern 2396/2231 C 1894/1764 Lab 724/703 Ind 510 Grn 318 LD 313 Lib 237
May 2005 result Health Concern 3339/2624 C 3266/3060 Lab 2670/2649 Grn 539/507

Ryedale district council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Phil Evans.  He had served only since May.

For our final by-election of the week we head to North Yorkshire and an agglomeration of fifteen parishes to the east, south and west of the twin towns of Malton and Norton.  The ward is named after the river Derwent, which drains the Vale of Pickering and divides the ward into two parts, either side of the steep Kirkham Gorge.  Many tourists are attracted to the ward by the Baroque stately home of Castle Howard, still in private hands and well-known as "Brideshead" in the 1981 Granada TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited.

While Ryedale does have some of a Liberal tradition, this ward is usually safe for the Tories - they have held both seats in every election this century except 2007 when there was only one Conservative candidate.  In May's district election the Tory slate had 47% to 29% for an independent candidate and 25% for the Lib Dems.  The Lib Dems do hold the county council seat for Norton, which covers half the ward, but their vote is concentrated in Norton itself.

This time round an interesting ballot paper could create vote splits on both the Tory and Liberal fronts.  The official defending Conservative candidate is Kerry Ennis, a Malton town councillor.  The ballot paper shows two independent candidates; Stephen Shaw, the former Tory county councillor for Norton who was runner-up here in May, and Darren Allanson who is in fact the official Lib Dem candidate but screwed up his nomination papers (see also Hertford Heath above; it's an amazing coincidence that two candidates can make the same mistake in the same week).  Also standing are Tony Barran for Yorkshire First, and Mike Potter of the unreconstructed Liberal Party who have a power base in Pickering.

Parliamentary constituency: Thirsk and Malton
North Yorkshire county council division: Hovingham and Sheriff Hutton (part: Bulmer, Coneysthorpe, Henderskelfe, Howsham, Huttons Ambo, Welburn and Westow parishes); Norton (part: Acklam, Birdsall, Burythorpe, Langton, Leavening, Scagglethorpe, Scrayingham and Settrington parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Malton and Pickering

May 2015 result C 1077/750 Ind 659 LD 574
May 2011 result C 719/628 Ind 410 LD 329 Lab 265
May 2007 result C 753 LD 444 Ind 401
May 2003 result C 603/510 LD 419

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

By-election Previews: 10 December 2015

Seven local by-elections this week - six taking place in England with one more covered over on the Scottish Elections blog.

Bournemouth council, Dorset
A rare double by-election caused by the elections of Conservative councillors Norman Decent and Roger Marley being voided by the election court.  Both councillors had served only since May.

Sometimes things just go wrong.  When the polls opened on 7th May this year for the ordinary local election in Bournemouth, it quickly became apparent that there was a problem: the books of blank ballot papers which had been sent to the polling stations in Kinson South were actually ballot papers for Kinson North ward, and vice versa.  It took an hour for the problem to be sorted out, and just over 100 voters were affected by what was essentially a printing error.  Unfortunately, these things do happen sometimes.  Even more unfortunately, the votes here in May were close enough that the error might have affected the result, in which two Tory councillors and a UKIP councillor were elected.  The fourth-placed candidate, long-serving Labour councillor Beryl Baxter, took the result to the election court.  The UKIP councillor finished top of the poll, and his majority is large enough that he would have been elected anyway; but the election court has voided the election of the two Conservatives who will now have to go to the electorate all over again.

Kinson itself lies inland, a former village to the north-west of Bournemouth which was annexed by the town in 1931, necessitating a change to what was then the Hampshire/Dorset county boundary.  Kinson South is normally Bournemouth's Labour stronghold, in sharp contrast to the rest of the town which these days votes Conservative; however, the Tories gained one of the three Labour seats in 2011.  The voided 2015 election had a very fractured result: UKIP topped the poll with just 25% of the vote, with the Tories just behind also on 25%, Labour polling 22% and 10% of the vote each for the Bournemouth Independent Alliance and the Green Party.

This double by-election has attracted a field of twelve candidates.  The two outgoing Tory councillors, Norman Decent and Roger Marley, are standing for re-election.  UKIP, interestingly, only have a single candidate, Duane Farr, who according to his Twitter is an "NHS pain management volunteer".  The mind boggles.  On the Labour slate, Beryl Baxter is hoping to complete the job of getting her seat back after winning her case in the election court; she is joined by Mel Semple, a doctor who has fought the ward in the last two elections.  Philip Davenport and Roger West stand for the Bournemouth Independent Alliance: Davenport stood here in May while West is a former Lib Dem borough councillor.  The Greens have two new candidates, Geoffrey Darnton and Carla Gregory-May.  Completing the ballot paper are Phil Dunn and Gill Pardy, who form the Lib Dem slate, and Kevin Dixon who is the candidate of Patria, an obscure far-right group.

Parliamentary constituency: Bournemouth West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bournemouth

May 2015 partially void result UKIP 1224 C 1188/1147/919 Lab 1083/951/875 Bournemouth Independent Alliance 489 Grn 471 LD 378
May 2011 result Lab 1043/992/892 C 922/787/782 LD 308/256
May 2007 result Lab 861/736/711 LD 536/534/523 C 493/486/476 UKIP 233/211 Ind 118
May 2003 result Lab 940/876/862 C 457/448/437 LD 321/268/251

Huntingdonshire district council, Cambridgeshire
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Andrew Hardy on health grounds.  Having served since May 2014, he was about to be disqualified for non-attendance.

Moving north, we take the Great North Road and come to Huntingdon, a thriving market town in Cambridgeshire which was once the centre of its own county.  One of three wards covering the town itself, Huntingdon East ward covers part of the town centre but is based on Hartford, a suburb which now forms the eastern edge of town.

This ward has traditionally been a Tory/Lib Dem marginal: it elected three Conservatives at the first poll in its current form in 2004, with the Lib Dems gaining two of the seats in 2006 and 2008 respectively.  That balance persisted until 2014, when UKIP topped the poll in a close three-way result and gained a seat from the Lib Dems.  At the most recent ordinary election in May the Tory seat was up, and the Conservatives held it with 35% to 28% for the Lib Dems and 23% for UKIP, a Conservative majority of 331.  The ward forms part of a county council division based on Godmanchester which has been trending towards the Lib Dems over the last decade, although the most recent county election was a very close three-way split with Lib Dem majorities of 55 and 24 over UKIP.

Defending for UKIP is Martin Cohen, the runner-up here in 2013's county council election.  Tom Fletcher hopes to make the gain for the Conservatives.  The Lib Dems have selected Ste Greenall, a district councillor for this ward from 2010 until losing his seat to UKIP in 2014.  Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Duncan Williams.

Parliamentary constituency: Huntingdon
Cambridgeshire county council division: Godmanchester and Huntingdon East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huntingdon

May 2015 result C 1595 LD 1264 UKIP 1065 Lab 566 TUSC 52
May 2014 result UKIP 882 LD 848 C 702 Lab 282
May 2012 result LD 823 C 789 UKIP 336 Lab 282
May 2011 result C 1424 LD 989 Lab 492
May 2010 result LD 2075 C 1766 Lab 453 Grn 202
May 2008 result LD 1239 C 1016 Lab 154 UKIP 145 Grn 64
May 2007 result C 1173 LD 901 Lab 188 Grn 125
May 2006 result LD 1326 C 1073 Lab 247
June 2004 result C 1236/1146/1114 LD 1040/988/960 UKIP 442 Lab 297/289/272

Harborough district council, Leicestershire
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Callis at the age of 76.  Callis had a long career in local government, sitting on Harborough district council from 1979 to 1983 and continuously since 1991, and also on Leicestershire county council from 1993 to 2009.  Away from politics he worked as a carpet fitter, and leaves behind a wife and two sons.

Moving into the Midlands with another market town on a main line from London.  Market Harborough has a long history as a royal manor and a service centre for Rockingham Forest, an ancient royal hunting forest.  In the early nineteenth century the town was joined to the canal network with a branch of the Grand Union canal terminating here; a century later a National Festival of Boats held in the canal basin kickstarted a revival in the canal network for leisure use.  One of four wards covering the town, Logan ward is the north-west corner, containing part of the town centre and the canal basin, and is named after Logan Street which connects the canal with the Coventry Road.

Peter Callis had a strong personal vote and tended to run well ahead of his Lib Dem running-mate in this ward, which is one reason that the ward's two seats have split Lib Dem/Tory at every election since 2007.  In May's local elections the Lib Dem slate was top with 36% to 35% for the Tories and 15% for Labour, Callis being just 21 votes ahead of the new Tory candidate.  The Conservatives hold the local county council seat, defeating Callis in 2009 by just eight votes and increasing their majority in 2013 to eighteen votes.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Barbara Johnson, a former district councillor for the town's Great Bowden and Arden ward who lost her seat in May.  The Tories' Paul Bremner is also hoping to make a quick return to the council, having been the Tory councillor here from 2007 until standing down in 2015.  The Labour candidate is Anne Pridmore, a disability rights campaigner.  Also standing are UKIP's Robert Davison and Darren Woodiwiss of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Harborough
Leicestershire county council division: Market Harborough East and Foxton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

May 2015 result LD 996/660 C 975/645 Lab 416 Grn 368
May 2011 result LD 734/609 C 729/508 Lab 230/220 Ind 98
May 2007 result C 718/584 LD 663/528
Aug 2004 by-election LD 615 C 570
May 2003 result LD 876/808 C 592/460

North East Derbyshire district council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Conservative councillor Gary Griffin-Chappel and the death of Labour councillor Tricia Williams at the age of 64.  Griffin-Chappel's resignation comes after just five months on the council as he is moving to New Zealand.  Williams was a retired NHS administrator who had served on North East Derbyshire council since 1996.

Continuing our trip north, we come to two Derbyshire wards which despite being within the same district are chalk and cheese.  Centred on junction 29 of the M1, Holmewood and Heath is a rather strange name for a ward which is based on the parish of Heath and Holmewood: the explanation for this reversal is that Holmewood is now the major player in the division, the village having been built essentially from scratch in 1905 by and for the Williamthorpe Colliery Company.  Yes, this is a pit village, which has suffered massive unemployment since the Williamthorpe Colliery closed in 1970.  In response, the Thatcher government and the local council set up an enterprise zone, using the village's proximity to the M1 and a series of financial incentives to lure business to the area.  It's a textbook example of the decline of the former pit villages, and indeed the story of Holmewood was used as an example in a 2004 GCSE geography textbook.  The ward has politics to match, being Labour at every election this century except a by-election in April 2008 which saw a freak Lib Dem win; that seat was recovered by Labour at a further by-election in February 2010 and the Lib Dems haven't been seen here since.  Last May's election was a straight fight between Labour and the Tories, with Labour winning 71-29.

Given what I've just said, you might have expected that Coal Aston would have a similar history and economy.  You'd be wrong: it's a village on the eastern edge of Dronfield and just outside the Sheffield city limits.  In other words, it's a commuter village and has politics to match: it has been trending towards the Tories in recent years and in May the Tories beat Labour here 51-34.

So, two by-elections in safe seats, both of which are straight fights between the Tories and Labour.  In Coal Aston, Dronfield town councillor Gareth Hopkinson (Conservative) is opposed by banker David Cheetham (Labour).  In Holmewood and Heath the Labour candidate, "business advisor, social enterprise expert and employability coach" Suzy Cornwell Ball (appearing on the ballot paper as Suzy Cornwell) is opposed by the Tories' Caroline Ellis.

Coal Aston
Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Eckington and Killamarsh (most); Dronfield East (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sheffield and Rotherham

May 2015 result C 1034/941 Lab 691/608 UKIP 283
May 2011 result C 730/680 Lab 546/543 LD 198
May 2007 result C 569/514 Lab 378/341 LD 221/220
May 2003 result C 484 Lab 439/418

Holmewood and Heath
Parliamentary constituency: Bolsover
Derbyshire county council division: Sutton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield

May 2015 result Lab 925/841 C 376/325
May 2011 result Lab 607/582 C 248
Feb 2010 by-election Lab 373 C 209
Apr 2008 by-election LD 382 Lab 356 C 165
May 2007 result Lab unopposed
May 2003 result Lab unopposed

Fylde district council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Len Davies, who had served on Fylde council since winning a by-election in November 2009.

A bit bracing at this time of year, but welcome to the seaside.  This is the centre of Lytham, covering the East Beach (almost as far as the windmill) and Lytham railway station.  The ward is named after the Clifton family, who controlled Lytham until the middle of the twentieth century, and has a reputation as the rich end of the Blackpool conurbation.

Despite that, this ward hasn't been plain sailing for the Tories who are often run close by independent candidates, and in 2011 for some reason the Conservatives only stood two candidates for the three seats.  In May's election the Conservatives recovered the monopoly on the ward which they had lost in 2007, but outgoing independent councillor Kenneth Hopwood lost his seat by just six votes; he had 36% to 46% for the Tory slate and 18% for Labour.  The Conservatives do better here at county council level where Lytham is a safe seat.

Defending for the Tories is Peter Anthony, a singer, entertainer and bar owner who fought Blackpool South in this year's general election.  Noreen Griffiths stands as an independent candidate.  Labour have selected Jed Sullivan, a youth worker who fought Fylde in this year's general election.  Also on the ballot are Luke Gibbon of the Lib Dems and Tim Wood of UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Fylde
Lancashire county council division: Lytham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackpool

May 2015 result C 1385/1136/1087 Ind 1081 Lab 554
May 2011 result C 828/699 Ind 813/804
Nov 2009 by-election C 386 Fylde Ratepayers 372 LD 241 Lab 80 Grn 13
May 2007 result C 837/739/710 Ind 735 Lab 239
May 2003 result C 874/722/651 Fylde Ratepayers 609/559 Lab 232

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

By-election Previews: 3 December 2015 (including Oldham West and Royton)

With apologies, our usual contributor was unavailable this week and our editor is still buried up to his eyeballs with his day job, so it's a skeleton service for this week's by-elections...

House of Commons
Michael Meacher (Labour) died.

2015: Lab 23630, UKIP 8892, Con 8187, LD 1589, Grn 839
2010: Lab 19503, Con 10151, LD 8193, BNP 3049, UKIP 1387, Respect 627
2005: Lab 18452, Con 7998, LD 7519, BNP 2606, UKIP 987
2001: Lab 20441, Con 7076, BNP 6552, LD 4975, Grn 918

Sir Oink A-Lot (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party)
John Bickley (UK Independence Party (UKIP))
Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrats)
James Daly (The Conservative Party Candidate)
Simeon Hart (Green Party)
Jim McMahon (Labour Party)

Guildford borough council
Stephen Mansbridge (Conservative, former council leader) resigned in protest to changes to the council's leadership model.

2015: Con 2299/2199/2104, Guildford Greenbelt Group 999, LD 900/665, Lab 746
May 2013 by: Con unopposed
2011: Con 1684/1683/1636, Lab 643/474
2007: Con 1393/1377/1354, LD 538/478/1354
Jul 2006 by: Con 1245, LD 684
2003: Con 1691/1395/1356, LD 1035/985/967, Lab 276/262/243

George Dokimakis (Labour Party Candidate)
Andrew Gomm (Conservative Party Candidate)
Kyle Greaves (UK Independence Party (UKIP))
Alan Hilliar (Liberal Democrat)
Ramsey Nagaty (Guildford Greenbelt Group) 

Malvern Hills district council
Gill Farmer (Conservative) died. She was councillor for more than 20 years and was Chairman of the Council in 2004.

2015: Con 797, UKIP 306
2011: Con unopposed
2007: Con unopposed
2003: Con unopposed

Andrew Dolan (UKIP)
Caroline Palethorpe (Conservative)
Daniel Walton (Labour)

Newham London borough council
Charity Fiberesima (Labour) died.

2014: Lab 2658/2505/2425, Con 869/823/756, TUSC 342, CPA 270/259
2010: Lab 3261/3221/3107, Con 1354/1177/844, CPA 386/314/275, Kamran Malik Communities Welfare Party 116/81
2006: Lab 1627/1547/1512, Respect 1219/1082/1007, Con 528/484/426, CPA 308
2002: Lab 1321/1224/1122, Con 579, Grn 507, CPA 289

Emmanuel Finndoro-Obasi (Conservative Party Candidate)
David Mears (UK Independence Party (UKIP))
Sheree Miller (Liberal Democrats)
Veronica Oakeshott (Labour Party)
Diane Ofori (Independent)
Frankie-Rose Taylor (The Green Party)

Shropshire council
Mike Owen (Conservative) resigned to spend time with his family. He was a member of the Cabinet and county councillor between 2000 and 2001 and since 2005.

2013: Con 689, Lab 473, LD 92
2009: Con 1035, LD 416

Nat Green (Liberal Democrat) 
Nic Laurens (Conservative Party Candidate)
John Lewis (Labour and Co-operative Party)
David Morgan (UK Independence Party (UK I P))
John Newnham (Green Party)

South Kesteven district council
Thomas Webster (Conservative) resigned to focus on personal issues and closing his business.

2015: Con 1749/1570, Lab 763

Louise Clack (Labour Party)
Laura King (Independent)
Mike Taylor (UK Independence Party (UKIP))
Hannah Westropp (The Conservative Party Candidate)

Thanks go to 'maxque' who prepared the local previews originally for this week's local elections thread on the forum, here.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

By-election Previews: 26 November 2015

Nine by-elections on 26th November 2015, five in England, two in Wales and two in Scotland.  In England the Conservatives are defending seats in Essex and Lancashire, the Liberal Democrats one in Salisbury, and two by-elections in Nottinghamshire are caused by the resignation of the same Independent councillor.

Lancaster city council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Christopher Leadbetter at the age of 64, while on holiday in Croatia.  Leadbetter had served on Lancaster city council only since May, having previously been a teacher at Our Lady's Catholic College in Lancaster for thirty years.

We start in the north this week at Carnforth, a small town a few miles north of Lancaster.  This is a railway town based around a major junction at which branch lines to Barrow-in-Furness and Skipton join the West Coast Main Line.  The railways are still an important part of the town's economy: the West Coast Railway Company has its headquarters here, maintaining and overhauling steam locomotives and charter trains; and the station itself is a focus for tourism as a result of its being used as a set for the wartime David Lean film Brief Encounter.  Legend has it that one of the extras in that film was a thirteen-year-old lad called Cecil Parkinson, the son of the stationmaster; he would go on to greater things as a fixture of Margaret Thatcher's cabinets in the 1980s.

Lancaster got new ward boundaries this year, in which the former Carnforth ward was expanded by taking in the Crag Bank area on the A6 at the south end of town, together with the village of Millhead - a nineteenth-century company village originally built to house local ironworkers who had come from a failing ironworks in Dudley.  The previous two-member Carnforth ward had been Labour in 2003, but split Tory/Independent in 2007, Labour regaining the independent seat in a 2011 result which was close between the two main parties.  The new ward boundaries would appear to have helped the Tories, who beat Labour 48-35 in the expanded ward in May.  The Tories also hold the local county council division, although this is not the best part of the division for them.

Defending for the Tories is George Askew, from the village of Warton just outside the ward.  Labour have reselected Paul Gardner, their councillor who lost his seat in May.  Also standing are Christopher Coates of the Green Party, Philip Dunster of the Lib Dems and UKIP's Michelle Ogden.

Parliamentary constituency: Morecambe and Lunesdale
Lancashire county council division: Lancaster Rural North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe

May 2015 result C 1405/1238/1184 Lab 1027/981/921 Grn 495

Nottinghamshire county council and Ashfield district council, Nottinghamshire
Both caused by the resignation of Selston Independent councillor Gail Turner.

We're in what Nottinghamshire county council is slightly hopefully calling the Hidden Valleys area in hope of encouraging tourism to an area which has been blighted by the decline of Nottinghamshire's heavy industry.  Selston itself is a large village on a hilltop just off the M1 motorway, around nine miles south-west of Mansfield, with a population of around 12,000; it is centred on Nottinghamshire's oldest church, dating to 1150 and dedicated to St Helen.  The county division, as well as Selston itself, takes in the former mining village of Jacksdale (Nottinghamshire's most westerly village) and almost all of the increasingly desirable Underwood ward.

Gail Turner had a very strong personal vote, having topped the poll in every district and county election in Selston since 2005, when she finished close behind Labour in the county election.  That makes it rather difficult to assess what will happen now she is gone.  The district ward has returned two independents at every election this century, usually under the Turnerite banner of "Selston Area Independent"; however, the other Selston Area Independent councillor, Sam Wilson, was re-elected in May as a plain-vanilla independent.  At county level, Turner beat Labour 72-23 in the last county council election in 2013.  Turner changed her description in May to "Selston Parish Independent".

In the county by-election the defending Selston Parish Independent candidate is David Martin, who fought Jacksdale ward in May's district elections and finished third.  He is opposed by Labour's Mike Hollis, Paul Saxelby of the Tories, independent district councillor Sam Wilson and UKIP's Ray Young.

The district by-election sees Christine Quinn-Wilcox, the runner-up in May's ordinary election, defend for the Selston Parish Independents.  She is opposed by Labour's Donna Gilbert, the Tories' Michelle Sims, independent Anna Wilson and UKIP's Ray Young (again).

Selston (County council)
Parliamentary constituency: Ashfield
Ashfield district council wards: Jacksdale, Selston, Underwood (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield (Jacksdale and Selston wards); Nottingham (Underwood ward)

May 2013 result Selston Area Ind 2427 Lab 794 Ind 161
June 2009 result Selston Area Ind 1593 LD 1037 BNP 734 Lab 557 C 343 Grn 79
May 2005 result Lab 2523 Ind 2272 LD 1013

Selston (District council)
Parliamentary constituency: Ashfield
Nottinghamshire county council division: Selston
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield

May 2015 result Selston Parish Ind 1977/738 Ind 1427 Lab 617/564 LD 306 TUSC 95
May 2011 result Selston Area Ind 1678/1463 Lab 380/347 LD 124/95
May 2007 result Selston Area Ind 1402/1114 Lab 391 Ind 366
May 2003 result Ind 750/708 Lab 596/570

Rochford district council, Essex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Gillian Lucas-Gill, who had served as a councillor since 2008.

Moving into the Thames Estuary now and the small town of Rochford, just north of Southend-on-Sea.  This is a popular commuter town thanks to its location on the Liverpool Street-Southend railway line, and its transport links have only got better in recent years thanks to the development of Southend Airport, which lies within the ward and links Rochford to more than twenty holiday destinations across Europe.  Rochford is also notable for Sister Jean Ward, a nurse at the former Rochford General Hospital who discovered the phototherapy treatment for jaundice in newborn babies.

However, Rochford doesn't vote like a commuter ward.  Labour won one of the three seats here in 2002, losing it to the Tories fairly narrowly in 2006.  Since 2012 the ward has become marginal, Labour cutting the Tory majority to 45 votes in 2012 and gaining the ward in 2014 with a majority of 58; however, the Tories held the ward in May's ordinary election with 40% and a majority of 325, UKIP (31%) moving into second place just ahead of Labour (29%).  The ward is also part of a three-way marginal county division which was held by the Tories in 2013, just ahead of Labour with UKIP close behind in third.

This is the last time that Rochford's current ward boundaries will be used, as new boundaries come in for May's election next year; whoever wins this by-election is likely to be straight back on the campaign trail to seek re-election in May 2016.  Defending for the Tories is Gillian's widower Michael Lucas-Gill, who formerly ran a hardware shop in the town and is a former Rochford parish councillor.  UKIP's candidate is Nicholas Cooper, who fought Ashingdon and Canewdon ward in May.  Labour have selected Rochford parish councillor Matt Softly.  Daniel Irlam, the ward's first Lib Dem candidate since 2003, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Rochford and Southend East
Essex county council division: Rochford South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood

May 2015 result C 1372 UKIP 1047 Lab 998
May 2014 result Lab 653 C 595 UKIP 495 Ind 149
May 2012 result C 735 Lab 690
May 2011 result C 801 Lab 588 Grn 357 Ind 187
May 2010 result C 1813 Lab 834 Grn 607
May 2008 double vacancy C 864/796 Lab 361/357 EDP 347 Grn 205
May 2007 result C 970 Lab 442
May 2006 result C 877 Lab 782
June 2004 result C 957 Lab 625
May 2003 double vacancy C 455/406 Lab 412/409 Ind 220/193 LD 91/68
May 2002 result Lab 701/653/594 C 672/660/587

Wiltshire council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Helena McKeown, who had served as a Wiltshire councillor since 2013 and as a Salisbury district councillor from 2007 to that council's abolition in 2009.

This is Salisbury's city centre ward, containing the city's main shopping area, the bus station, and the (parish-level) city council offices.  It lies generally to the east of the railway station and the north of the cathedral, without containing either.  The census figures show a fairly middle-class ward with high levels of immigration and private renting - an interesting mix.  This area has been a Lib Dem stronghold throughout the twenty-first century, and that pattern continued in the most recent poll in 2013 when the Lib Dems had 43% to 23% for the Tories and 14% for Labour.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Greg Condliffe, an architect and chairman of the local party branch.  He is opposed by the Tories' Atiqul Hoque, Labour's Frank Timbrell, Michael Pope of the Green Party and independent candidate Diana Dallimore.

Parliamentary constituency: Salisbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Salisbury

May 2013 result LD 526 C 281 Lab 177 UKIP 148 Grn 92
June 2009 result LD 849 C 364 UKIP 201 Lab 119

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

By-election Previews: 19 November 2015

There are seven by-elections on 19th November 2015, of which four are in England and three in Wales, covered over on the Welsh Elections blog.  In England Labour have a seat to defend in Ashford, Kent, while the Lib Dems face an uphill struggle in Epsom, Surrey.  But we start this week with two crucial by-elections in Norfolk.

Norfolk county council
Caused respectively by the resignations of Liberal Democrat councillor David Thomas and UKIP councillor Stan Hebborn.  Thomas' resignation is due to work commitments, while Hebborn, who was deputy leader of the UKIP group, is disillusioned with politics.

Norfolk county council is having a glut of by-elections at the moment: these are the fifth and sixth by-elections to the county council this year, and possibly the most important.  We start in the west of the county at Watton, about 25 miles west of Norwich.  This is a small market town probably best known for the former RAF Watton, a Bomber Command and USAF base during the Second World War which has now been mostly developed for housing.  The county division also includes four parishes to the east of the town which formerly formed Templar ward on the district council.

South Smallburgh, on the other hand, is a rural division in the north-east of the county with no large town, running from the coast at Waxham inland to the Broads.  The name refers not to Smallburgh itself - which is not in the division - but to the Smallburgh Rural District which existed before 1974.  The largest polling station, with just over 1,000 electors, is in Ludham.

The reason these by-elections are crucial is the makeup of Norfolk county council.  The Conservatives lost control in the 2013 election and the council is now run by a coalition of everybody else.  Going into these by-elections, the ruling coalition controls 42 seats plus these two vacancies, to 40 seats for the Conservatives, so if the Tories can gain both by-elections they will hold half the seats and might challenge for the council leadership.

Let's see how likely that is.  Turning first to South Smallburgh, which is that rarest of things - a council by-election in a Lib Dem-held constituency, in this case North Norfolk.  This will be a hard fight: South Smallburgh has voted Lib Dem in the last two elections but is not safe.  The Lib Dems gained the division from the Conservatives in 2009 with a majority of 139 votes, but the Lib Dem councillor then defected to the Tories and stood for re-election in 2013 as a Conservative.  The 2013 result turned into a close three-way marginal, with the Lib Dems reversing the defection to win with just 31% of the vote, 45 vote ahead of the Tories (who had 29%) and 111 ahead of UKIP (27%).  The division is made up of three whole district council wards, which in May returned three Tories and one Lib Dem - a Tory gain of one seat from the Lib Dems.

In 2009 Watton was one of the safest Tory divisions in the country, the Tories winning 76-24 in a straight fight with Labour, so it was remarkable that UKIP could turn that around four years later.  UKIP's gain came with 34% of the vote, 146 votes ahead of the Tories (27%) and 239 ahead of independent candidate Keith Gilbert (24%), a district councillor for Watton ward.  Breckland got new ward boundaries in May which makes comparison a little difficult, but there was no change in the division's council representation: the unchanged Watton ward continued to elect Gilbert (who topped the poll) and two Tories, while the former Tory Templar ward was split between two new Tory wards.

Turning to the candidate lists, the big surprise is that there is no defending UKIP candidate in Watton.  Instead of running a candidate of their own UKIP have endorsed Keith Gilbert, who is again standing as an independent candidate.  Gilbert is up against Tory candidate Claire Bowes, one of his colleagues as district councillor for Watton.  Also standing are Joe Sisto for Labour and Timothy Birt for the Green Party.

In South Smallburgh the defending Lib Dem candidate is Allison Bradnock, a graphic designer from Neatishead.  Potter Heigham resident Paul Rice, the Lib Dem turned Tory county councillor from 2009 to 2013, stands again for the Conservatives.  UKIP's candidate is Barry Whitehouse, from Ludham, while Labour (David Spencer) and Green (Anne Filgate) candidates complete the ballot paper.

South Smallburgh
Parliamentary constituency: North Norfolk
North Norfolk district council wards: St Benet, Waterside, Waxham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norfolk (part); Great Yarmouth (part)

May 2013 result LD 879 C 844 UKIP 768 Lab 274 Grn 107
June 2009 result LD 1283 C 1144 UKIP 693 Lab 198
May 2005 result C 2414 LD 2019 Lab 738

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Norfolk
Breckland district council wards: Watton; All Saints and Wayland (part: Caston and Griston parishes); Saham Toney (part: Carbrooke and Ovington parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Thetford and Mildenhall

May 2013 result UKIP 808 C 662 Ind 569 Lab 270 Grn 102
June 2009 result C 1843 Lab 562
May 2005 result C 1975 Lab 1127 LD 964

Ashford borough council, Kent
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Kate Hooker for family reasons.  She had represented the ward since May.

Moving south to Ashford, Kent, a late twentieth-century boom town which has benefited from good road and rail links to London and the Continent, thanks to its Eurostar international station.  The Aylesford Green ward covers two distinct parts of south-eastern Ashford bisected by the High Speed 1 line, with only footpaths connecting them: to the east is Aylesford Green itself, an area of postwar London overspill housing named after a small area of open space next to the Old Mill Stream; while to the west lies the New Town area, originally built by the South Eastern Railway in the 1840s as its main locomotive works with adjacent housing for railway staff.  Railway use of the site ended here in the 1980s and the works are now the Old Railway Works Industrial Estate.

The history of the ward is reflected in a distinctly working-class population and high levels of social housing.  Despite that, the ward has a history of close results.  In 2003 it was won by the Ashford Independents, a well-organised localist group who beat Labour by 35 votes.  Labour didn't contest the 2007 election, in which the Ashford Independents lost their seat to the Lib Dems by just ten votes.  However, the Lib Dems didn't defend their seat in 2011 and Labour made the pickup, beating the Ashford Independents by a single vote.  May's election was relatively sedate, Labour winning 55-45 in a straight fight with the Conservatives.  At county level this is part of the Ashford East division, which has been Lib Dem since 2005 but was a three-way marginal in 2013 with UKIP second and the Tories third.

Defending for Labour is Gordon Miller, a Unite member and Salvationist who stood in May's election in the neighbouring Norman ward and lost it to the Conservatives.  The Tories have gone for youth in selecting Alex Howard, chairman of the Ashford branch of Conservative Future.  Also on the ballot paper are a couple of familiar names.  The Lib Dems' Adrian Gee-Turner is a former Hackney councillor and was runner-up in the Mayor of Hackney election in 2010; the Ashford Independents' candidate Christine Kathawick-Smith is a retired nurse hoping to join her husband David on the council; the Green Party have selected Thom Pizzey, a parish councillor for the village of Stanhope which was been swallowed up by Ashford's expansion; last but not least UKIP are represented by Harriet Yeo, a former Labour borough councillor (for the neighbouring Norman ward) and NEC member who fought Folkestone and Hythe for UKIP in the general election.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashford
Kent county council division: Ashford East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ashford

May 2015 result Lab 725 C 592
May 2011 result Lab 241 Ashford Ind 240 C 183
May 2007 result LD 209 Ashford Ind 199 C 110
May 2003 result Ashford Ind 168 Lab 133 LD 98 C 52 NF 51

Surrey county council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Stella Lallement, who has fallen out with her local party.  She had been a Surrey county councillor since 2013.

We're in Surrey commuter territory here, an area lying generally to the north-west of the Sutton-Epsom-Dorking railway line.  Although Epsom, a former spa town which gave its name to a magnesium sulphate compound, lies within the built-up area of London it has never been incorporated within the Greater London area.  The town's location on the North Downs together with its good railway service (five trains per hour to Victoria and four to Waterloo) makes it a very desirable place to live, and Epsom and Ewell council's Stamford ward - covering the west of the town - has all the demographic hallmarks of a middle-class London commuter area.  The Court ward to the north-west of the town centre, on the other hand, rather sticks out with high levels of social housing - and half of it is included within this county division.

Local election results in Epsom are very difficult to read for several reasons.  One is that the borough's county divisions were redrawn at the last election in 2013: Epsom West is based on the former Lib Dem division of Epsom and Ewell South West, but with half of Town ward transferred to Epsom and Ewell South East (which was renamed Epsom Town and Downs).  Another is that this is a stronghold of the Residents Associations, who have controlled the local district council since it was created as a municipal borough in 1937.  The county division contains the whole of Stamford ward and half of Court and Town wards: Court, reflecting its demographics, is a Labour stronghold, while Stamford was Lib Dem from 2003 until May's elections, when it was lost to the Residents who also hold Town ward.  As stated, the only previous result on the current county division boundaries is from 2013, where the Lib Dems won with just 28% to 23% for the Residents, 20% for Labour and 16% for UKIP who pushed the Tories into fifth place.  Not often that happens in Surrey.

The Lib Dems are facing an uphill struggle to hold this one, having lost all their seats on the borough council in May.  Their candidate is former borough councillor Julie Morris.  The Residents' candidate is Neil Dallen, borough councillor for Town ward since 2007.  Labour's candidate is Kate Chinn, borough councillor for Court ward.  UKIP have selected Robert Leach, a former Residents figure who fought Epsom and Ewell in the general election.  Also standing are Karen Persand for the Tories and Chris Crook, who gives an address in Dorking, for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Epsom and Ewell
Epsom and Ewell borough council wards: Stamford, Court (part), Town (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2013 result LD 854 Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell 693 Lab 616 UKIP 494 C 389

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

By-election Previews: 12 November 2015

Four local by-elections taking place this week - two covered here and another two covered over on the Welsh Elections blog.

Dorset county council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Dan Brember due to work commitments.

Despite the name, this is Weymouth: the southern side of the Wey estuary, running from the Nothe Fort along the edge of Weymouth harbour.  Now Dorset's largest town after Bournemouth and Poole gained unitary status, Weymouth is one of the most long-standing tourist resorts in the world, thanks its being the favoured holiday residence of King George III: the town gained a new audience in 2012 when it was the venue for the sailing events in the London Olmypics.  Tourism and sailing are the mainstay of the town's economy, although it is also the headquarters of the fashion chain New Look.

Weymouth's local elections are a fractured mess, with significant support for all five of the UK's political parties and many wards being won on low shares of the vote.  The Rodwell county division is consistently marginal: in 2005 Labour beat the Tories 37-31, but the Tories made the gain in 2009 by beating the Lib Dems 42-38, Labour falling to third place in their nadir year.  Labour recovered in 2013 to win the division with just 29% of the vote in a four-way marginal result, with the Tories coming second on 24%, the Greens third on 23% and UKIP fourth on 19%.  The division covers two wards of Weymouth and Portland council: Weymouth East is generally a Lib Dem/Tory marginal, but the Lib Dems didn't contest it in May's election and the Tories held their seat, beating the Green Party 38-28 with Labour third on 19%.  Weymouth West is a key Tory/Labour marginal, although the Tories built up a big lead in May (C 44% Lab 33% Grn 22%) having been just five votes ahead of Labour in 2014.  The Tories were clearly ahead across both wards in May and Labour - who are defending Weymouth West next year - might have an uphill struggle to hold this by-election.

The task of holding Rodwell for Labour falls to Hazel Priest, a gardener and designer.  The Tory candidate is Richard Nickinson, treasurer of the local Conservative association.  The Green Party candidate is Clare Sutton, who was the Labour county councillor for this division from 2005 to 2009 and is a regular Green candidate in the area.  UKIP have selected their Weymouth and Portland borough councillor, the wonderfully-named Francis Drake.  The Lib Dems' Graham Winter completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: South Dorset
Weymouth and Portland borough council wards: Weymouth East, Weymouth West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dorchester and Weymouth

May 2013 result Lab 722 C 583 Grn 565 UKIP 467 LD 132
June 2009 result C 1126 LD 1019 Lab 566
May 2005 result Lab 1734 C 1476 LD 1186 UKIP 305

Shropshire council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mansel Williams.

For the second of this week's two English by-elections we are in Shrewsbury.  The Belle Vue division lies on the south bank of the Severn, running from the English Bridge at the north end, through the suburb of Coleham and along the Belle Vue Road - once the main road to Hereford.  This is a built-up ward with mostly nineteenth and early twentieth-century housing stock, which (particularly in Coleham) is prone to flooding due its proximity to the river.

Williams was a long-standing councillor for Belle Vue, having represented the ward for some years on the former Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council which was abolished in 2009.  He seems to have had a large personal vote given that the ward's demographics are fairly mixed: at his last re-election in 2013 he beat the Tories 76-24 in a straight fight.  On the other hand, Labour had the same lead in the Shrewsbury town council elections here on the same day, and the ruling Conservative group on Shropshire council has a rather right-wing reputation.

Defending for Labour is Amy Liebich, although describing herself on Twitter as a "prospective Labour councillor" for the ward is perhaps a little bit presumptive.  The Tory candidate is Andrew Wagner, town councillor for the Quarry and Coton Hill ward which covers Shrewsbury town centre.  Also standing are town councillor Beverley Baker for the Lib Dems and Sam Taylor of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Shrewsbury and Atcham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shrewsbury

May 2013 result Lab 939 C 289
June 2009 result Lab 797 C 571 Grn 161 LD 117

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

By-election Preview: 5 November 2015

Torbay council, Devon
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Ruth Pentney at the age of 62, from motor neurone disease.  A Torbay councillor since 2003, Pentney was the election agent for the former Torbay MP Adrian Sanders in his four general election wins from 1997 to 2010, and had held pretty much every available post in the local party.

This ward is an entirely built-up section of Paignton, the middle of the three towns on the shore of Tor Bay.  Clifton-with-Maidenway ward is the landward side of town, a residential ward running from Primley Park at the southern end to Maidenway Road at the northern end.  This is generally a poor area with large levels of part-time working; not unusual demographics for a seaside resort.

The Tory vote has grown here, and from 2003 to 2011 this ward developed from a Lib Dem bastion into a Lib Dem-leaning marginal: in 2011 the Lib Dem slate beat the Tories 37-32, with Labour fighting the ward for the first time and polling 18%, and the two Lib Dem councillors holding majorities of 119 and 59 votes.  In that context the Lib Dems did extremely well to hold on to the ward in May's ordinary election with majorities of 54 and 46; in shares of the vote the Lib Dems had 30%, the Conservatives 29%, UKIP 20% and Labour 12%.

So, a key marginal by-election which might be an indicator of whether the Lib Dems have any strength left in the south-west following the loss of all their MPs from the region in May.  The Lib Dems have served an indicator that they are going all-out to hold this seat by selecting Adrian Sanders, the MP for Torbay from 1997 to May this year and a former Torbay councillor (from 1984 to '86).  The Tories' Richard Barnby tries again after his near-miss in May; he greatly outpolled his running-mate in that election and clearly has a large personal vote.  UKIP's candidate is Anthony Rayner, while Labour have selected Eddie Harris; the Greens' Stephen Pocock completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Torbay
ONS Travel to Work Area: Paignton and Totnes

May 2015 result LD 1162/1154 C 1108/740 UKIP 766 Lab 480 Grn 370/232
May 2011 result LD 859/799 C 740/621 Lab 421/419 Grn 280
May 2007 result LD 942/887 C 704/653 UKIP 305/265 BNP 113
May 2003 result LD 1281/1255 C 566/511

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

By-election Previews: 29 October 2015

While last week's by-elections were mostly in super-safe wards, with the exception of an eye-catching Tory gain in Bury, this week's crop of six polls is much more mixed.  Three of them are in north-west England, with a key Labour/Tory marginal fight in Lancashire, a safe Tory ward in Congleton and a safe Labour ward in Cheshire.  The other three polls are in the south: while they all voted Tory in May, one poll in Peterborough is in a ward which is getting more interesting as the years go on, while one seat in East Sussex was a shock gain for the Tories which the Lib Dems will be desperate to regain.  But we start in Essex commuterland with a difficult defence for the Liberal Democrats...


Brentwood borough council, Essex 
Caused by the resignation of Lib Dem councillor Liz Cohen on health grounds.  Cohen had served as a councillor since winning a by-election in December 2012.
Shenfield station
Shenfield is a place probably best known for its railway station.  An outer suburb of the Essex town of Brentwood on the road to Chelmsford, Shenfield is the junction station for Southend-on-Sea off the Great Eastern main line and the terminus of Transport for London's inner-suburban service from Liverpool Street (which will become part of Crossrail in a few years' time).  This gives Shenfield a ridiculously-high thirteen hourly trains to Liverpool Street, making it a perfect location for London commuters.  Shenfield's other claim to fame is that the minister of its church was once Nathanial Ward, who wrote 'The Body of Liberties', the first constitution of Massachusetts.
For much of its recent electoral history, the ward has voted like a London commuter ward as a super-safe Conservative seat; the Tory vote peaked at 77.7% in both 2007 and 2008.  However, in 2012 the Liberal Democrats surprisingly gained two of the ward's three seats, including one in a by-election, capitalising on some disunity within the council's Tory group.  The Lib Dems confirmed the by-election gain in 2014, but the result in May's ordinary election reverted to "safe Tory hold", the Conservatives beating the Lib Dems 58-27.  At county level this is the most Tory part of the Brentwood North division, which the Lib Dems gained from the Conservatives in 2009 and made safe in 2013.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Alison Fulcher, a charity shop manager and secretary of the local bus and rail users' association.  With their lead in May, the Tory candidate Jan Pound will be hopeful of a gain: she is a former councillor for Warley ward who lost her seat to the Lib Dems in 2014.  Also standing are UKIP's Peter Sceats, Labour's Cameron Ball and the ward's first Green candidate John Hamilton.

Parliamentary constituency: Brentwood and Ongar
Essex county council division: Brentwood North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood

May 2015 result C 1965 LD 934 UKIP 285 Lab 223
May 2014 result LD 892 C 783 UKIP 282 Lab 81
Dec 2012 by-election LD 728 C 557 UKIP 119 Lab 31
May 2012 result LD 853 C 611 Lab 116
May 2011 result C 1286 LD 609 UKIP 191 Lab 184
May 2010 result C 1937 LD 1175 Lab 216
May 2008 result C 1303 LD 269 Lab 104
May 2007 result C 1254 LD 281 Lab 79
May 2006 result C 1419 LD 323 Lab 101
June 2004 double vacancy C 1401/1318 LD 405/378 Lab 140/114
May 2003 result C 1141 LD 239 Lab 123
May 2002 result C 964/876/767 Ind 605 LD 337/313/292 Lab 124/118/81


Wealden district council, East Sussex
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Soane, who has fallen out with the council's Conservative group and is standing for re-election as an independent candidate.  He had served as a councillor since May this year.

Entering Upper Dicker
This Sussex ward is slightly misleadingly named.  It does cover a large rural area in the Cuckmere valley, including the parishes of Hellingly and Arlington and the wonderfully-named hamlets of Upper Dicker and Lower Dicker; but most of the ward's electorate actually lies within the town of Hailsham, the largest of Wealden district's five towns and notable for its cattle market.  One of the more surprising elements of the ward's economy is motor racing, with Arlington hosting the Eastbourne speedway team.
During the period from 2003 to 2015 this was a safe Lib Dem ward, although not overly safe: the Lib Dem peaked in 2003 when they defeated the Conservatives 58-42.  That all changed in May when the Tories rode the general election turnout to turn the majority around and beat the Lib Dems by 48-35.  The Conservatives also hold the local county council division, but not safely: they beat the Lib Dems by six points in 2009 and UKIP by four points at the most recent county elections in 2013.

Although he didn't need to resign - he has his own mandate and could have just crossed the floor, lots of councillors do - outgoing councillor Paul Soane is standing for re-election as an independent candidate.  The Tories want their seat back, and have selected Hailsham town councillor Alex Willis.  The Lib Dems, having lost in May, also want their seat back, and their candidate is David White, who has chairman of Hellingly parish council for 25 years and was a district councillor for this ward from 2003 until losing his seat in May.  An interesting fight is in prospect.

Parliamentary constituency: Wealden
East Sussex county council division: Alfriston, East Hoathly and Hellingly
ONS Travel to Work Area: Eastbourne

May 2015 result C 1722/1599 LD 1253/1145 Ind 608
May 2011 result LD 961/954 C 739/647 Lab 268
May 2007 result LD 943/929 C 727/653
May 2003 result LD 817/732 C 583/528

Peterborough city council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Nick Arculus, who is now working in the Falkland Islands as Crown Counsel to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands governments.  He had been a Peterborough councillor since 2010.

Longthorpe Village Cross, Peterborough
Moving north now, and we come to Peterborough.  West ward, as presently constituted, runs west from Peterborough's mainline railway station along the north bank of the River Nene to take in the suburb of Longthorpe.  While Peterborough is a New Town, Longthorpe is old: the Romans were here in the first century AD, and notable buildings within the ward include the fourteenth-century Longthorpe Tower, known for its mediaeval murals, and the mansion of Thorpe Hall, one of the few surviving buildings of the Commonwealth period and now a Sue Ryder hospice.  To the south of the ward is Nene Park with its large watersports centre; the new Peterborough City Hospital occupies the ward's northern corner, while the older Peterborough District Hospital lies in the south-east corner close to the railway station.
This is likely to be the last election on the current set of Peterborough ward boundaries, with boundary changes now before Parliament.  From next year West ward will be cut back to two councillors covering just Longthorpe, with the city hospital moving to an expanded Ravensthorpe ward and the station area moving into Central ward.

West ward's population is an interesting mix of middle-class and Asian.  The middle-class element generally prevails at elections and this is normally a safe Tory ward, although Labour came within seven points of winning at the 2014 election as UKIP ate into the Tory vote.  May's ordinary election was a return to safety, with the Tories winning on 45% to 32% for Labour and 15% for UKIP.

The Conservatives haven't looked far for a new candidate to replace Arculus, having selected Lynne Ayres, a senior partner at the same firm of solicitors and chair of the Peterborough School governors.  Labour's Mohammed Sabir fights the ward for the fifth time; he is a businessman and a former city councillor, representing Central ward from 2004 to 2006.  UKIP's regular candidate for the ward John Myles returns to the fray: he is now retired after working for twenty years as a surgeon at Peterborough District Hospital.  Also on the ballot paper are the Green Party's Alex Airey and the Lib Dems' Malcolm Pollack.

Parliamentary constituency: Peterborough
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

May 2015 result C 2312 Lab 1619 UKIP 755 Grn 418
May 2014 result C 991 Lab 805 UKIP 614 Lib 210 Grn 133
May 2012 result C 1079 Lab 547 UKIP 499 Ind 304 LD 156
May 2011 result C 1937 Lab 850 UKIP 343 LD 243
May 2010 result C 2664 Lab 1265 EDP 609
Dec 2009 by-election C 1252 Lab 341 LD 224 UKIP 177 EDP 93 Grn 58
May 2008 result C 1683 Ind 758 Lab 466 Grn 99 LD 93
May 2007 result C 1908 Lab 559 Grn 313
May 2006 result C 1988 Lab 766
June 2004 result C 2108/2104/2020 Lab 660/527/524 LD 655


Cheshire East council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Peter Mason at the age of 75.  A long-serving councillor, he was first elected in 1991 to the former Congleton borough council and in 1993 to the former Cheshire county council; he was one of the original Cheshire East councillors elected in 2008 and was Cabinet member for procurement from 2009 to 2012.  Away from the council he was a keen Stoke City fan, and Congleton's leisure centre is to be renamed in his memory.

An orange valley
 For the final three by-elections this week we are in the north-west of England, starting in the Cheshire town of Congleton, a mediaeval market town in the Pennine foothills.  Like many Pennine towns, the traditional industry here was textiles, and many of the old mills still exist.  This ward covers the eastern half of the town: the Hightown, Mossley and Buglawton districts around the town's railway station and the Macclesfield Canal, together with the western slopes of The Cloud, a prominent Peak District hill which dominates the eastern Cheshire Plain.
The ward has the same boundaries as the former Congleton Town East division of the old Cheshire county council, and the 2005 and 2008 results for that division are shown in the table below.  In the days when Congleton borough council existed this area was covered by the Buglawton, Congleton North and Congleton South wards: a look at the old results for that council (which last went to the polls in 2007) shows that the Tory majority comes out of the old Congleton South ward - the Mossley and Hightown areas around the railway station - while the rest of the ward is marginal.  This adds up to a safe Tory ward: in May the Tories won with 39% against evenly divided opposition (20% for Labour, 17% for UKIP, 14% for an independent).

Defending for the Conservatives is Geoff Baggott, an independent financial advisor and Congleton town councillor.  Labour have also selected a Congleton town councillor, psychiatric nurse Robert Boston.  Yet another Congleton town councillor on the ballot is UKIP's Dawn Allen, while the Lib Dem Denis Murphy completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Congleton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stoke-on-Trent

May 2015 result C 2969/2603/2361 Lab 1506/1436/1340 UKIP 1290/1055 Ind 1067 LD 736/666/658
May 2011 result C 2139/1982/1849 Lab 1268/1190/1087 Independent Voice of Congleton 959 LD 632
May 2008 result C 2189/2143/2078 LD 709/625/597 Lab 688
May 2005 county council result C 3098 Lab 1772 LD 1282 Grn 423


Chorley borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the disqualification of Labour councillor Mike Handley who failed to attend any meetings in six months.

Euxton library
First, a pronunciation guide: EX-ton.  This is a village which many pass through but few visit, lying on the old Preston-Wigan road and the West Coast mainline and bypassed by the M6 motorway.  Euxton's traditional industry was munitions: just outside the ward is the site of ROF Chorley, an enormous munitions factory which at its height employed over 40,000 people.  Today the ward has a fairly middle-class, commuter profile with the main oddity from the census figures being a notably high "Christian" figure - in Lancashire this usually indicates a large Catholic population.
This is a key marginal ward: Labour in 2002 and 2004, Tory from 2006 to 2010, Labour since 2012.  The ward last polled in 2014 when Labour had 45%, the Tories 37% and UKIP 19%.  At county level the ward is grouped with Buckshaw Village and Whittle-le-Woods in the Chorley North division - despite the fact that Chorley North has been Tory since 2005, all of this is key marginal territory, and indeed it is part of the marginal Chorley parliamentary constituency, currently held for Labour by the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle.

Defending Euxton North for Labour is Tommy Gray, a former Labour councillor for the ward who lost his seat to the Conservatives in 2006.  His main opposition will come from the Tories' Alan Platt.  UKIP's Christopher Suart, of Whittle-le-Woods, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Chorley
Lancashire county council division: Chorley North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Preston

May 2014 result Lab 692 C 570 UKIP 289
May 2012 result Lab 847 C 549 UKIP 179
May 2010 result C 1388 Lab 1215
May 2008 result C 908 Lab 745
May 2006 result C 833 Lab 718
June 2004 result Lab 1016 C 890
May 2002 result Lab 1086/989 C 773/769 LD 234


Barrow in Furness borough council, Cumbria
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Lesley Graham, who has a new job as the public health locality manager for Barrow.  She had served as a councillor since 2011.

'Frying Plaice', Barrow-in-Furness
We finish this week in the town of Barrow-in-Furness, a town which neatly demonstrates just how the Conservatives won May's general election by playing on anti-Scottish sentiment.  The census figures bear out that this is a manufacturing town - Risedale ward, as well as having a working-class profile, has one of the UK's populations of people with apprenticeships.  The only game in town here is defence: Barrow has an active shipyard actively preparing to build the next generation of submarines for Britain's nuclear deterrent.  That's why Labour lost the Barrow parliamentary seat in 1983, and there was a 5-point swing to the Conservatives here in May which cut the Labour majority in Barrow and Furness to three figures.
Nonetheless, at exactly the same time Labour kept their grip on Barrow-in-Furness council, losing just two seats to the Tories.  The opposition to Labour is poorly organised in the town - Labour won six seats unopposed - and there was no Tory slate in Risedale ward, an entirely built-up area in the south-eastern corner of town along the Roose Road and Risedale Road.  The Tories actually won one of the ward's three seats in 2008, when the ward was last redrawn, but lost it back to Labour in 2011.  This May the three-person Labour slate was opposed by just two UKIP candidates, who were trounced 77-23.  The Risedale county council division - which has somewhat different boundaries - is also safe Labour.

Defending for Labour is Lee Mack lookalike Michael Cassells, chairman of the Furness branch of Mind among other things.  UKIP have selected Colin Rudd, chairman of the party's South Cumbria branch.  Also standing is Carole Friend for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Barrow and Furness
Cumbria county council division: Risedale (most); Roosecote (part: Roose Gate)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barrow-in-Furness

May 2015 result Lab 1474/1361/1310 UKIP 438/348
May 2011 result Lab 827/820/812 C 326/269/263 UKIP 159
May 2010 result Lab 1647 C 599 Socialist People's Party 252
May 2008 result C 461 Lab 427/395/387

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

By-election Previews: 22 October 2015

Six local by-elections will take place on 22nd October 2015.  Most of these should be safe Tory holds, with the party unlikely to be troubled in Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Essex or central London, while Labour should have little trouble defending one of the grimmer parts of Oxford.  But we start this week with a Labour defence on the edge of Greater Manchester which the Tories have a good chance of gaining.

Bury metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Simon Carter.  A councillor since 2012, Carter's resignation came after pleading guilty to making indecent images of children.

Welcome to the West Pennine Moors.  Up in the hills a few miles to the north-west of Bury, Tottington is essentially an affluent Bury suburb, although like many towns in the area it grew greatly during the Industrial Revolution with some textile working in the town.  Famous entertainers from Totty include the actress Lisa Riley and most of Elbow, while the Tottington Public Band claims to be one of the UK's oldest brass bands having been in continuous existence since 1835.  Also in the ward are the village of Walshaw to the south and the hamlet of Affetside, high on a hill with fantastic views over Manchester, the Cheshire plain and (on a good day) as far as Snowdonia, while the ward also includes a small part of Bury proper around Elton High School, where your columnist's brother-in-law teaches.

In terms of local politics - did I say affluent?  Even in the Tory nadir year of 1995, when they won fewer than twenty wards in the whole of Greater Manchester, Tottington was one of them - although the boundaries were a little more favourable for the Tories then.  In that context the Labour win in 2012 - the only time Labour have won Tottington since the formation of Bury metropolitan borough in 1973 - is even more surprising, but in 2012 the Conservatives underperformed in Bury very badly partly thanks to a planning-related scandal involving two senior Tory councillors.  May's ordinary election saw a return to Tottington's normal safe Tory status, with the Tories winning on 49% to 29% for Labour and 14% for UKIP.  This ward will clearly have provided the Tory majority in Bury North at the general election.  Ladbrokes are taking bets on the outcome of this by-election, and my tip is to back the Tories.

Defending for Labour is Martin Hayes, who stood in neighbouring Elton ward in May's ordinary election and narrowly lost it to the Conservatives.  Retired policeman Greg Keeley is hoping to make the first Tory gain in a metropolitan borough by-election since March 2014.  UKIP's candidate is Ian Henderson, who fought Bury North in the general election.  Completing the ballot paper are the Green Party's John Southworth and the Lib Dems' David Foss.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester

May 2015 result C 2682 Lab 1592 UKIP 785 Grn 247 LD 194
May 2014 result C 1295 Lab 1019 UKIP 605 Grn 109 LD 88
May 2012 result Lab 1085 C 965 UKIP 379 LD 135
May 2011 result C 1646 Lab 1323 LD 283
May 2010 result C 2521 Lab 1608 LD 1098 BNP 337
May 2008 result C 1700 Lab 614 LD 456 BNP 210
May 2007 result C 1565 Lab 726 LD 354 BNP 345
May 2006 result C 1590 Lab 711 LD 478
June 2004 result C 1796/1563/1479 Lab 1111/1044/980 BNP 663 LD 580

Oxford city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Scott Seamans, who has a new job as a policy advisor at the Treasury.  First elected in 2010 when he was 23 years old, Seamans had served since 2012 as the council's cabinet member for housing and regeneration, forming plans for the refurbishment of Oxford's tower blocks and the regeneration of Blackbird Leys.

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, along comes another Oxford by-election: this is the seventh council by-election in Oxford since the last ordinary elections in the city in 2014, and the second in this ward within twelve months.  Northfield Brook ward is on the city's southern edge, and covers the south-western half of the notoriously deprived and crime-ridden Blackbird Leys estate.

This is a strongly left-wing area, to the extent that during most of the Noughties it was closely fought between Labour and a local left-wing group called the Independent Working Class Association, who gained the Labour seats in 2004 and 2006 and held both seats in the ward from 2006 to 2010.  However, the IWCA stopped contesting elections after 2008 and in their absence the ward has become a Labour monolith.  The most recent poll here was a by-election in November 2014, caused by the ward's other Labour councillor resigning to stand in a county council by-election: on a dismal turnout Labour had 71%, with the Tories' 11% best of the rest.

Defending for Labour is Jennifer Pegg.  Her opposition will come from the Tories' Gary Dixon (returning from last year's by-election), the Greens' Lucy Ayrton, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's James Morbin (who also stood in the by-election last year) and the ward's first UKIP candidate Joe Lawes.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
Oxfordshire county council division: Leys
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Nov 2014 by-election Lab 401 C 65 Grn 50 TUSC 34 LD 18
May 2014 result Lab 700 C 112 Grn 111 LD 55
May 2012 result Lab 564 Grn 73 LD 68 C 61
May 2010 result Lab 1264 LD 503 C 419 Grn 140
May 2008 result IWCA 537 Lab 471 C 78 LD 56 Grn 44
May 2006 result IWCA 620 Lab 502 LD 91 Grn 62
July 2005 by-election Lab 592 IWCA 300 LD 141 C 31 Grn 19
June 2004 result IWCA 555 Lab 439 C 90 LD 89 Grn 61
May 2002 result Lab 406/308 IWCA 354/328 LD 70/59 Grn 44/38

South Oxfordshire district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Akehurst on health grounds.  A former mayor of Henley-on-Thames, Akehurst joined the Conservatives earlier this year after having previously been a Henley town councillor for the Henley Residents Group.  He remains a Henley town councillor.

Staying within Oxfordshire and we move to the county's most southeasterly ward, essentially occupying the space between Reading and Henley-on-Thames.  Sonning Common itself is a relatively new village in the Chiltern foothills: the Sonning Common parish has existed only since 1952.  The ward's other main population centre is the rather older Shiplake on the banks of the Thames, home to the ward's railway station on the Henley branch (change at Twyford for Reading and Paddington).

South Oxfordshire was re-warded this year so comparisons with previous years are difficult, but the former Shiplake and Sonning Common wards were Tory bastions and this May's election suggests more of the same: in May the Tory slate had 60%, with Labour runners-up on 16%.  The Sonning Common county council division - which covers a larger area - is also safely Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is William Hall, who is seeking to make a quick return to South Oxfordshire council having lost his seat in the neighbouring Henley-on-Thames ward in May; currently a parliamentary assistant, he is the son of Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the present Director-General of the BBC.  His opposition will come from Labour's David Winchester, who was runner-up here in May and is the only candidate to live in the ward, and the Lib Dems' Sue Cooper.

Parliamentary constituency: Henley
Oxfordshire county council division: Sonning Common
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell

May 2015 result C 2444/2432 Lab 651/510 Grn 519 LD 431/424

Hampshire county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative county councillor Colin Davidovitz.

Continuing our trip around the home counties, we now move south to Hampshire.  Effectively a westward extension of Eastleigh, Chandler's Ford is a nineteenth century town which did not become a parish until 1897.  The completion of the M3 motorway has turned the town into a Southampton commuter area and the division's profile is very middle class, particularly so in the two Hiltingbury wards whch make up two-thirds of the division.

Although this division is in Eastleigh district which is a Lib Dem bastion, it forms part of the Winchester parliamentary constituency and so has a slghtly different electoral dynamic to the rest of Eastleigh.  Since 2005 Chandler's Ford has been the only Conservative division in Eastleigh district: at the most recent county elections in 2013 the Tories won with 39%, the Lib Dems were second on 32% and UKIP third on 22%.  At district level the two Hiltingbury wards are the only reliable Tory wards in Eastleigh, while Chandler's Ford East was Conservative in 2002 but has voted Lib Dem ever since.

Defending for the Conservatives is Judith Grajewski, a district and parish councillor for Hiltingbury West ward.  The Lib Dems have selected James Duguid, the vice-chairman of Chandler's Ford parish council.  UKIP's candidate is John Edwards, a self-employed gardener and chairman of UKIP's Winchester branch.  Labour's Sarah Smith completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Winchester
Eastleigh borough council wards: Chandler's Ford East, Hiltingbury East, Hiltingbury West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southampton

May 2013 result C 1919 LD 1557 UKIP 1073 Lab 238 Grn 124
June 2009 result C 2860 LD 1928 UKIP 573 Lab 215
May 2005 result C 3951 LD 3592 UKIP 844 Lab 329

Colchester borough council, Essex
Caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Mark Cable, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.

'Ello 'ello 'ello.  Evenin' all.  We're in Constable country here, running north from the edge of Colchester along the A12 to the River Stour and the Suffolk border.  It was the early nineteenth-century artist John Constable who made this area famous for its beauty: Constable was schooled in Dedham and many of his most famous paintings - notably "Dedham Vale" - are set within the ward.  Given Constable's legacy in bringing tourism to what is still a generally agricultural area, it's fitting that the local county council division is named after him.

Dedham and Langham last went to the polls in 2012, when Mark Cable was elected for the first time.  He inherited a super-safe Tory ward, polling 71% of the vote against evenly split opposition - the Lib Dems and Labour tied for second place.  However, the Tories weren't nearly as dominant in the 2013 county council elections in Constable division, finishing a mere 13 points ahead of UKIP.

Defending for the Conservatives is Anne Brown, Constable division's county councillor since 2009.  She is opposed by George Penny of the Lib Dems, John Spademan of Labour and the ward's first UKIP candidate Bill Faram.

Parliamentary constituency: Harwich and North Essex
Essex county council division: Constable
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester

May 2012 result C 596 LD 81 Lab 81 Grn 78
May 2008 result C 895 LD 102 Lab 46 Grn 38
June 2004 result C 991 LD 180 Lab 84
May 2002 result C 747 LD 197 Lab 73

Westminster city council, London
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Audrey Lewis.

We finish this week in the heart of London: the mansion territory of Marylebone.  The ward's southern end is at Marble Arch, and it includes the western end of Oxford Street, before running up past the narrow Bryanston Square to the Edgware Road, and across it to include Dorset Square and Marylebone station, the terminus for Chiltern Railways' services to Buckinghamshire, Birmingham and (in the next few years) Oxford.  As well as Marylebone, the ward is well-served by the Underground, with Marble Arch and Edgware Road (Circle) within its boundaries: also here is the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street.  Quiz League of London players may be familiar with the Carpenters Arms on Seymour Place, which going into this week's matches was home to the league's top two teams (Broken Hearts and Nomads).

Anyway, who actually lives and (more importantly) votes in these lovely Georgian mansions?  A walk along the southern end of the Edgware Road will persuade you that there's a huge amount of immigration here: in the last census only 39% of the ward's population was British-born and 42% were born outside the EU.  As you might expect from the Edgware Road's shisha bars, Bryanston and Dorset Square has one of the UK's highest populations from the Middle East, with 9% of the population hailing from there.  Most of those people, however won't have the vote - and the fact that the ward's average property price is around £950,000 gives a hint of the sort of people here who do have the vote: rich people.  This is a very safe Tory area: at the most recent borough election in 2014 the Tory slate had 52% to 20% for Labour and 16% for the Green Party.  In the 2012 GLA elections Boris beat Ken here 67-20 and the Tories led Labour 55-21 in the London Member ballot.  Although the Returning Officer for this by-election is called Charlie Parker, the music coming out of the ward's ballot boxes is likely to be blues.

Defending for the Conservatives is Julia Alexander, a community activist who has worked as a writer and in English teaching.  Labour have selected Ananthi Paskaralingam, a former debt advisor who volunteers at an activity centre for older people.  Also on the ballot are Hugh Small of the Green Party, the Lib Dems' Martin Thompson, UKIP candidate Jill de Quincey, and Steve Dollond who is standing on a platform of opposing two-way traffic along Baker Street.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly constituency: West Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2014 result C 1207/1180/1049 Lab 468/415/391 Grn 381 LD 286/240
May 2010 result C 1993/1990/1965 LD 810/728/670 Lab 747/666/621 Grn 475
May 2006 result C 1266/1250/1187 Grn 352 LD 317/263/256 Lab 262/247/233
May 2002 result C 1157/1147/1123 Lab 295/277/264 LD 260/232

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1309 Ken 396 Ind 95 Grn 76 LD 59 UKIP 22 BNP 6
Assembly: C 1085 Lab 422 Grn 186 LD 130 UKIP 66 CPA 20 EDP 14 House Party 13 BNP 10 TUSC 9 Hayat 5 NF 4 Alagaratnam 1