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.

CROWBOROUGH WEST

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


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