Thursday, 29 January 2015

By-election Previews: 28/29 January 2015

One by-election on Wednesday 28th January:


West Berkshire council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor David Betts. A former chairman of Purley on Thames parish council, Betts had been a West Berkshire councillor since 2007 and had served as West Berkshire's executive member for highways and transport.

Long Lane, Purley on Thames
Despite Purley's presence within the West Berkshire district, this is where the Reading built-up area ends and the countryside begins; the area of Reading council has never really kept pace with the growth of the town. Purley on Thames itself is a prosperous Reading suburb which suffers regularly from flooding due to its location on the Thames; the ward also includes the Denefield part of Tilehurst parish (also part of the Reading built-up area) together with the smaller villages of Tidmarsh and Sulham to the south-west.

This is a safe Conservative ward on the district council, although West Berkshire has had no local elections since 2011 which makes it difficult to ascertain more recent trends such as the rise of UKIP. In 2011 the Tories led 67-21 over Labour, who took over second place in that election from the Lib Dems.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rick Jones, the chairman of Purley on Thames parish council. He is opposed by Labour's Ian Stevens, Steve Bown for the Lib Dems (who fought the ward in 2007) and the ward's first UKIP candidate, Catherine Anderson.

Parliamentary constituency: Reading West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell
Postcode districts: RG8, RG31

Catherine Anderson (UKIP)
Steve Bown (LD)
Rick Jones (C)
Ian Stevens (Lab)

May 2011 result C 1621/1536 Lab 512/318 LD 282/226
May 2007 result C 1272/1261 LD 278/238 Grn 264 Lab 261
May 2003 result C 577/550 LD 414/376 Grn 194/113 Lab 108

One by-election on Thursday 29th January:


St Albans city council
A double by-election caused by the resignations of Conservative councillors Heidi Allen and Seema Kennedy. Both former councillors have been selected as Conservative parliamentary candidates for the forthcoming general election: Allen is expected to take over the safe seat of South Cambridgeshire, while Kennedy will defend the marginal South Ribble constituency in Lancashire. Both councillors are going before the end of their first term; Kennedy served for less than a year following her election in May 2014.

The Ridgeway, Marshalswick
Like Purley on Thames above, Marshalswick is an area on the edge of a large town which has seen a lot of development since the First World War; in this case the town is St Albans, which has annexed part of Marshalswick from the neighbouring parish of Sandridge. The part of Marshalswick within the St Albans city limits now forms Marshalswick South ward. This heterogeneous ward contains several different demographics: Marshalswick itself is possibly the most affluent area of St Albans, while Bernard's Heath and Sandridge New Town have transformed from Victorian slumland into a bohemian middle-class area. Bernard's Heath was the site of the Second Battle of St Albans, a Lancastrian victory during the Wars of the Roses; many of the ward's street names (Battlefield Road, Lancaster Road, Warwick Road and so on) commemorate the battle.

Election results here have been intriguing. During the last Labour government this was a Lib Dem/Tory marginal ward, but the Lib Dems generally had the edge and the Tories won only once in this period: in 2006 when their Turkish-born candidate Salih Gaygusuz gained the ward by 32 votes, only to lose his seat four years later by 30 votes. Since 2010 the Lib Dem vote has fallen and the ward has turned safe Tory; in 2014 the Tories won with 39% to 23% for Labour, 19% for the Lib Dems and 10% for the Greens, who were just ahead of UKIP. To add to the mix, at county level this ward is paired off with one of the strongest Labour areas of St Albans to produce the three-way marginal St Albans North division, which Labour gained from the Lib Dems in 2013.

Defending for the Conservatives are housing manager Richard Curthoys and hypnotherapist and psychotherapist Steve McKeown. On the Labour slate are Richard Harris and Vivienne Windle. The Lib Dems have reselected Mark Pedroz who fought the ward last year, and he is goined by Elizabeth Needham. The Green slate consists of first choice Jill Mills and second choice Tim Robinson, while UKIP's nominees David Dickson (who fought the ward in 2014) and Michael Hollins complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: St Albans
Hertfordshire county council division: St Albans North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton and Watford
Postcode districts: AL1, AL3

Richard Curthoys (C)
David Dickson (UKIP)
Richard Harris (Lab)
Michael Hollins (UKIP)
Steve McKeown (C)
Jill Mills (Grn)
Elizabeth Needham (LD)
Mark Pedroz (LD)
Tim Robinson (Grn)
Vivienne Windle (Lab)

May 2014 result C 972 Lab 573 LD 486 Grn 258 UKIP 232
May 2012 result C 929 LD 651 Lab 441 Grn 188 UKIP 123
May 2011 result C 1433 LD 776 Lab 560 Grn 303
May 2010 result LD 1706 C 1676 Lab 596 Grn 247
May 2008 result LD 1190 C 848 Lab 254 Grn 202
May 2007 result LD 1177 C 843 Lab 270 Grn 172
May 2006 result C 985 LD 953 Lab 343 Grn 251
June 2004 result LD 1193 C 1025 Lab 313
May 2003 result LD 1364 C 858 Lab 338
May 2002 result LD 1353 C 667 Lab 321

Friday, 23 January 2015

By-election Preview: 22 January 2015

Welcome to English Elections as we enter the general election year of 2015.  Your columnist must start with an apology for missing the year's first by-election, a Labour hold in Bolsover, Derbyshire two weeks ago; in my defence, the publicity for the poll was clearly as poor as the turnout.  We get up to speed properly this week with a Tory defence in East Sussex and an SNP defence in Fife, which will be covered on Scottish Elections.


Wealden district council, East Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Anthony Quin.  Quin had served as a Wealden councillor since 1999 after a career in the Royal Marines, from which he retired with the rank of Major.  He served on several committees during his time as a councillor and for some years chaired the regulatory and audit committee.

Crowborough High Street
The largest inland town in East Sussex, Crowborough can be found in the High Weald seven miles south-west of Tunbridge Wells.  The town grew in the mid-Victorian period following the completion of the town's rail link to London; at the time it was promoted as health resort thanks to its relatively high altitude and surrounding forest.  Crowborough lies on the eastern edge of Ashdown Forest, the setting for A A Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and also has literary connections as the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who died here in 1930; Conan Doyle has a statue in the town centre and Crowborough once hosted an annual Sherlock Holmes festival.

The Crowborough West ward is a safe Tory ward where the party are not seriously challenged.  At the most recent election in 2011 the two-person Tory slate polled 73% in a straight fight with a single Labour candidate.  The Tories hold both the county council seats for the town as a whole, with the runner-up spot at the last county elections in 2013 going to an independent who was just ahead of the UKIP slate.

Whoever wins this by-election is likely to be back on the campaign trail immediately in order to seek re-election at May's ordinary election.  Defending in the blue corner is Jeannette Towey, an accredited tennis referee and volunteer at Citizens Advice.  Challenging in the purple corner is Simon Staveley, a manager at an IT company.

Parliamentary constituency: Wealden
East Sussex county council division: Crowborough
ONS Travel to Work Area: Tunbridge Wells
Postcode districts: TN6, TN7

May 2011 result C 1387/1225 Lab 517
May 2007 result C 992/954 LD 336 Lab 192
May 2003 result C 814/812 LD 394 Lab 238