Thursday, 2 April 2015

By-election Preview: 1 April 2015

The General Election is imminent: Parliament is dissolved, the televised debates are under way, and for most of the country the political parties have bigger fish to fry this April than local by-elections.  Nonetheless, three contests have been scheduled for April, the first two of which are this week: both slightly unusual in that one is a Wednesday poll, while the other falls on Maundy Thursday - it's only a few years since electoral law prohibited polling on the Thursday before Easter.  The Thursday poll is in Gwynedd and will be covered on Welsh Elections, while on Wednesday a trip to the very southern edge of London awaits us.

As there aren't many by-elections this month, your columnist intends to fill the gap by turning his gaze to the national picture, and putting together a prediction for the general election which you can all laugh at.  Stay tuned.

By-election on 1st April 2015:

WHYTELEAFE
Tandridge council, Surrey
Caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Tom Dempsey, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.

Godstone Road, Whyteleafe
Nestled in a dry valley in the North Downs, Whyteleafe is named after the aspen trees that used to grow in White Leaf Field here: the olde-worlde spelling is a gimmick seized on by property developers following the coming of the railway in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Development of housing here proved to be so lucrative that there are now three railway stations in the ward on two separate lines (Whyteleafe and Whyteleafe South on the Caterham branch, and Upper Warlingham on the Oxted branch).  Despite the presence of Upper Warlingham in Travelcard Zone 6, Whyteleafe lies just outside the Greater London boundary; another slightly unexpected feature of the village is that the main employer here is the head office of Ann Summers.  Ahem.

Over the last five years the ward's political representation has turned fifty shades of blue, as the Conservatives gained what was before May 2010 a safe Lib Dem ward - the May 2010 Tory gain came just three months after the Lib Dems had easily held the ward in a by-election.  At the most recent election the Tories (43%) made the ward safe, with the Lib Dem vote falling away to 27% and UKIP polling 20%.  The Tories also hold the local county council seat (Caterham Valley) which at the most recent county election in 2013 had very similar shares of the vote.

Defending for the Conservatives is Peter Sweeney.  He is opposed by David Lee, the winner of the February 2010 by-election, who lost his seat to the Tories in 2012 and has been trying to get it back ever since.  UKIP have selected Martin Ferguson, a bus driver.  Labour aren't bothering this time, so these are your three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: East Surrey
Surrey county council division: Caterham Valley
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

Martin Ferugson (UKIP)
David Lee (LD)
Peter Sweeney (C)

May 2014 result C 470 LD 300 UKIP 216 Lab 116
May 2012 result C 457 LD 376 UKIP 115
May 2010 result C 922 LD 771 Lab 136
Feb 2010 by-election LD 444 C 236 UKIP 99
May 2008 result LD 526 C 407 Lab 45
May 2006 result LD 547 C 364
June 2004 result LD 627 C 343
May 2002 result LD 531 C 354 Lab 55

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