Wednesday, 3 June 2015

By-election Previews: 4 June 2015

Welcome back everyone.  Did you see that general election result coming on 7th May?  No, neither did I, and neither did the pollsters.  For some strange reason, which may possibly be related, there has a noticeable dearth of political polling over the last four weeks, giving us little opportunity to test out opinion on our new majority Conservative government.  That all changes on 4th June, with the first two local polls since the General Election.  One is a proper by-election in Cambridgeshire, but we start in Northamptonshire with the first of five pieces of unfinished business from May's ordinary local elections.
ROTHWELL

Kettering borough council 
Postponed from 7th May due to the death of UKIP candidate Alan Pote.  A former county and district councillor for the Conservatives, Pote was Mayor of Kettering in 2003/4 and thrice chairman of Rothwell town council.
The Market House, Rothwell
Not to be confused with the town of the same name just outside Leeds, Rothwell is a market town immediately to the north-west of Kettering, on the old A6 London-Leicester road.  Thanks to its market, which received its first charter from King John, Rothwell became one of the largest towns in Northamptonshire in medieval times, and the town centre has many old and unusual buildings, including the county's longest church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity and one of only two churches in England with an ossuary; and the Elizabethan Market House, designed by the eccentric Thomas Tresham who was lord of the manor of Rothwell and left the town a very strange building full of heraldic and Catholic symbolism.  Opposite the Market House is Rothwell Conservative Club, which hosted the British Quiz Championships last year.  The Industrial Revolution passed the town by, leaving a picture-postcard place which is now functionally a Kettering satellite.

Interestingly, the town is very closely fought between the Conservatives and Labour at district council level.  In 2003 it formed two wards: Tresham ward, forming the town's eastern half, split its two seats between the Tories and Labour, while Trinity ward elected two Tories; in both wards the Tories had 52% and Labour 48%.  The Conservative councillor in Tresham ward was Alan Pote, who following boundary changes was re-elected at the top of the poll in 2007 in a united Rothwell ward, the Tories beating Labour 56-44 across the town.  Pote had also been elected to Northamptonshire county council in 2005 for the then Rothwell division (which had the same boundaries as this ward), beating Labour 52-48 in the 2005 election and 50-29 four years later.

In early 2011 Pote fell out with the Tories and stood for re-election to Kettering council that year as an independent.  He polled 20% in the 2011 election, some way off holding his seat which was picked up by Labour: the Conservatives topped the poll with 37% and won two seats to Labour's 36% and one seat.  Pote then joined UKIP and sought re-election to the county council in 2013, losing the redrawn Rothwell and Mawsley division to the Conservatives, who polled 38% to 31% for UKIP and 27% for Labour.

Three councillors are to be elected here.  The Conservatives retained their strong majority on Kettering council in the May elections and stand just one seat short of the 26 seats they won in 2011.  They are defending two seats here, outgoing councillors Ian Jelley and Margaret Talbot being joined on the Tory slate by Rothwell town councillor Karl Sumpter.  Labour's defending councillor Alan Mills, a master stonemason, is joined by Margaret Harris, who under her former name of Margaret Draper is a former Mayor of High Wycombe, and retired firefighter Malcolm Jones.  The replacement UKIP candidate is Sally Hogston, who fought a safe Labour division in Corby for the Conservatives in the 2005 Northamptonshire county council election; and the ballot paper is completed by the Green Party slate of Alan Heath, Stevie Jones and Rob Reeves.

Parliamentary constituency: Kettering
Northamptonshire county council division: Rothwell and Mawsley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kettering and Corby
Postcode districts: NN14, NN16

Margaret Harris (Lab)
Alan Heath (Grn)
Sally Hogston (UKIP)
Ian Jelley (C)
Malcolm Jones (Lab)
Stevie Jones (Grn)
Alan Mills (Lab)
Rob Reeves (Grn)
Karl Sumpter (C)
Margaret Talbot (C)

May 2011 result C 1103/1079/1052 Lab 1077/847/778 Ind 616 LD 230
June 2009 county council election C 1130 Lab 649 Ind 259 LD 231
May 2007 result C 1293/1257/1173 Lab 1010/950/886
May 2005 county council election C 1944 Lab 1825


WISBECH SOUTH

Cambridgeshire county council
Caused by the resignation of ex-UKIP councillor Peter Lagoda.
The Crescent, Wisbech
Welcome to Cambridgeshire's largest town (as opposed to city), Wisbech.  Like Rothwell, its centre is a picture-postcard place, with many fine Georgian buildings which makes the town a popular location for costume dramas: these date from the town's heyday as a port on the River Nene exporting agricultural produce from the Fens, and were mainly laid out by Joseph Medworth who is commemorated in the name of one of the three Fenland district council wards which make up the Wisbech South county division.  Another ward name commemorates one of Wisbech's famous daughters: Octavia Hill, social reformer and founder of the National Trust, was born here in 1838.

Wisbech's location as an agricultural centre has led to large levels of immigration from Eastern Europe over the last decade, and that has been reflected in a large UKIP vote in what is not a well-off town.  UKIP polled 38% here in 2013 to defeat the Tory county councillor Simon King who got 31%; there were also significant votes for Labour (16%) and the Lib Dems (14%).  Peter Lagoda has had a turbulent two years as a county councillor: he was prosecuted for benefit fraud and given a 12-month community order; was investigated by the county council after using racist language on a visit to Wisbech fire station; and quit UKIP after they suspended him and "badly let him down" over those two incidents.  Last month the Conservatives easily held all four district council seats in the division, suggesting that UKIP may have peaked in Wisbech.

Defending the seat for UKIP is Susan Carson, the wife of Wisbech North county councillor Paul Clapp; she is a carer for her disabled son, and fought Roman Bank ward (a rural area north-west of Wisbech) in May's district council elections.  The Tory candidate is Samantha Hoy, who topped in the poll in Octavia Hill ward in May.  The Lib Dem candidate is Chatteris-based Josephine Ratcliffe, while Labour have selected Dean Reeves who was bottom of the poll in Octavia Hill this year.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshie
Fenland district council wards: Medworth, Octavia Hill, Staithe
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wisbech

Susan Carson (UKIP)
Samantha Hoy (C)
Josephine Ratcliffe (LD)
Dean Reeves (Lab)

May 2013 result UKIP 774 C 636 Lab 333 LD 281
June 2009 result C 930 UKIP 532 Lab 212 LD 191 Libertarian 140
May 2005 result C 1941 LD 1084 UKIP 592


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