Apologies for the lack of an article last week - your regular writer was unfortunately unwell, and your editor was too busy settling into his new day job to stand in. One of these days I might actually clear my to-do list...
Eight by-elections on 16th July 2015, six in England and two in Wales:
Rother district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Noakes on health grounds. Noakes had served as a councillor for just three weeks.
A few miles to the north-west of Hastings, Battle is inextricably linked with the events of 14th October 1066, the misnamed "Battle of Hastings" in which William, Duke of Normandy, put an end to the succession crisis following the death of King Edward the Confessor by defeating and killing Harold Godwinson, ending Saxon rule over England. And the rest is history. The Normans built an abbey on the site of the battlefield, which was dedicated in 1095, and a town grew up around Battle Abbey which now has a population of around 6,000. Although the town was known in the eighteenth century for production of high-quality gunpowder, the main industry here now is tourism.
Battle's civil parish sprawls around a fairly large area of Sussex, but this ward consists only of the town itself. Over the last fifteen years it has normally been a safe Liberal Democrat ward, but May's local election saw the Lib Dems narrowly lose one of the ward's two seats to a single Conservative candidate. That result probably came as a surprise to the new Conservative councillor, who was not in the best of health during the campaign. The surviving Lib Dem councillor is also the county councillor for the wider Battle and Crowhurst division and clearly has a personal vote: in May she gave the Lib Dem slate 47% of the vote to 38% for the Tory, the remaining 15% going to the Labour candidate.
Hazel Sharman defends for the Conservatives; she gives an address in Robertsbridge. The defeated Lib Dem councillor in May, Kevin Dixon, wants his seat back. Also on the ballot paper are Timothy Macpherson for Labour and the ward's first UKIP candidate, Tony Smith.
Parliamentary constituency: Bexhill and Battle
East Sussex county council division: Battle and Crowhurst
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hastings
May 2015 result LD 1481/1134 C 1199 Lab 469
May 2011 result LD 960/778 C 640/529 Lab 276 Grn 261
May 2007 result LD 892/759 C 649/532 Lab 165
May 2003 result LD 668/664 C 599/560 Lab 182
GORLESTON ST ANDREWS and MILE CROSS
Norfolk county council
Caused respectively by the disqualification of UKIP councillor Matthew Smith and by the resignation of Labour councillor Deborah Gihawi. Smith has pleaded guilty to causing or permitting a false statement to be included in nomination papers for the 2013 election. Gihawi had fallen out with the Labour party over a Facebook comment she made on Jews, and had resigned her seat on Norwich city council earlier in the year; her resignation came shortly after her Labour party membership was reinstated.
These divisions are both urban. Gorleston St Andrews division can be found in Great Yarmouth, based on the seaside resort of Gorleston-on-Sea at the mouth of the River Yare. Mile Cross division is in north-western Norwich along the Drayton Road, and has the same boundaries as the Norwich city council ward of the same name; over half the households are socially rented, and nearly 5% of its population came from the new EU states according to the last census.
The Gorleston St Andrews by-election will be an interesting indication of the health of UKIP at the moment: Great Yarmouth is one of the party's strongest areas and Smith was the party's PPC for Great Yarmouth until the electoral fraud allegations came to light. UKIP gained what had been a safe Conservative division in 2013, with a majority of 20 votes over the Labour candidate Tony Wright, who had been MP for Great Yarmouth from 1997 to 2010. The division is made up of the Gorleston and St Andrews wards of Great Yarmouth council; St Andrews was Tory until 2008 but has been Labour since then, including in May's election, while the normally Tory-inclined Gorleston ward was last up in 2014, which was the year UKIP won on the way to getting ten out of a possible thirteen seats in the borough.
Adrian Myers defends this seat for UKIP; he is a Great Yarmouth borough councillor representing the rural Lothingland ward. The Labour candidate is one of the few local by-election candidates to have their own Wikipedia page; he is Tony Wright, the former MP for Great Yarmouth. The Tories have selected Graham Plant, another Great Yarmouth borough councillor (for Bradwell North ward). Also on the ballot paper are Tony Harris for the Lib Dems and Harry Webb for the Green Party.
Mile Cross is normally a Labour area, but the Lib Dems won one of the city council seats in 2004, which was the first election on the current boundaries, going on to hold that seat in a July 2006 by-election; and the Green Party carried the area in the 2009 county council election. Gihawi gained the Lib Dem city council seat in 2008 and the Green county council seat in 2013. In May's city council election Labour had a big lead in a rather fragmented result, with 37% to 20% each for the Tories and UKIP and 18% for the Greens. Labour's defending candidate is Chrissie Rumsby, who is opposed by Richard Edwards for the Green Party, Michelle Ho for UKIP, Chelsea Bales for the Tories and Tom Dymoke for the Lib Dems.
Gorleston St Andrews
Parliamentary constituency: Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth borough council wards: Gorleston, St Andrews
ONS Travel to Work Area: Great Yarmouth
May 2013 result UKIP 874 Lab 854 C 653
June 2009 result C 1223 UKIP 728 Lab 572
May 2005 result C 1798 Lab 1654 LD 736 UKIP 225
Parliamentary constituency: Norwich North
Norwich city council ward: Mile Cross
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
May 2015 city council result Lab 1675/1410 C 921/653 UKIP 905 Grn 802/605 LD 272/204
May 2014 city council result Lab 986 UKIP 568 Grn 481 C 292 LD 112
May 2013 result Lab 913 Grn 435 UKIP 397 C 217 LD 86
May 2012 city council result Lab 1019 Grn 409 C 297 LD 134
May 2011 city council result Lab 1227 C 445 Grn 343 LD 288 UKIP 105
Sept 2010 city council result Lab 797 LD 455 C 266 Grn 238 UKIP 90
June 2009 result Grn 620 Lab 614 C 547 LD 318
May 2008 city council result Lab 778 C 443 LD 439 Grn 325
May 2007 city council result Lab 1013 LD 707 C 305 Grn 298
July 2006 city council by-election LD 789 Lab 702 Grn 115 C 106
May 2006 city council result Lab 849 LD 700 Grn 250 C 235
May 2005 result Lab 1787 LD 799 C 537 Grn 322
June 2004 city council result LD 936/656/642 Lab 897/862/785 C 250/236/205 Grn 249/190/159 Legalise Cannabis Alliance 108
Tendring district council
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Len Sibbald after just a few weeks in office.
The week's third by-election in the East of England, and another indicator of the current health of UKIP in their strongest area. Rush Green is a ward on the western edge of Clacton-on-Sea, which is of course the constituency of UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell. It was a Labour ward in 2003, but the Tories gained convincingly in 2007 only to just as convincingly lose to UKIP in May: UKIP had 48% in May to 30% for the Conservatives and 21% for Labour.
Since May's election there have been some interesting machinations on Tendring council. In the election UKIP were the second largest party on 22 seats, one seat behind the Conservatives who were themselves eight seats short of a majority. The Tories offered UKIP a coalition deal, and the UKIP group split down the middle over whether to accept it; eight UKIP councillors eventually agreed to being part of the administration, a decision which has led to their being kicked out of the party. Len Sibbald himself was briefly part of the rebel group before coming back into the official party fold and promptly resigning his seat.
Defending for UKIP is Richard Everett. Danny Mayzes, the Tory councillor who lost his seat in May, wants it back. The Labour candidate is Samantha Atkinson, and also standing is independent candidate William Hones.
Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Clacton North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
May 2015 result UKIP 870/751 C 540/439 Lab 385/357
May 2011 result C 491/467 Lab 374/344 LD 121/109 BNP 104
May 2007 result C 544/509 Lab 360/359
May 2003 result Lab 300/283 LD 224/217 C 198
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Chrissie Hitchcock. Twice Mayor of Kingston, Hitchcock had represented Grove ward since 1990.
This week's London by-election is in Kingston upon Thames, a borough which is coming out in by-elections like a rash; this is the third Grove by-election in as many years, and the second in three months. The Grove ward covers the town centre, running south from the railway station along the riverfront past the town hall, Surrey County Hall and Kingston University. Several Saxon kings were crowned here in days of olden time, and as a result the town has the status of a Royal Borough.
The Conservatives won the Kingston parliamentary constituency two months ago, defeating the Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey. Davey knew he had a fight on his hands, with a July 2012 by-election in Grove ward and the 2014 ordinary election being photo-finishes in what had previously been a safe Lib Dem ward. The 2014 election saw the Tories gain one of the Lib Dem seats after the Lib Dems nominated a candidate with a Muslim name who lagged a long way behind his running-mates; sadly, not an uncommon pattern. The ward's other Lib Dem councillor resigned this year due to work commitments, following criticism over his attendance, and the by-election was held simultaneously with May's general election resulting in a Lib Dem hold by just 18 votes; the Lib Dems and Tories polled 32% each, Labour 17% and the Green Party 9%. In the 2012 GLA elections Boris beat Ken here by 48 to 26.
For the ward's second by-election of the year the defending Lib Dem candidate is Jon Tolley, manager of an independent record shop. The Tories have selected Jenny Lewington. Laurie South tries again for Labour after finishing third in the May by-election. The new Green candidate is Clare Keogh. John Anderson, for UKIP, completes the ballot paper.
Parliamentary constituency: Kingston and Surbiton
GLA constituency: South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
May 2015 by-election LD 1634 C 1616 Lab 853 Grn 458 UKIP 241 Ind 238 TUSC 44
May 2014 result LD 1041/990/888 C 960/958/906 Lab 699/577/497 Grn 404/384/366
July 2012 by-election LD 720 C 687 Lab 440 Grn 123 UKIP 56 BNP 23 CPA 20
May 2010 result LD 2527/2391/2037 C 1505/1475/1390 Grn 713 Lab 618/584/576 Ind 272
May 2006 result LD 1186/1059/1000 C 881/814/782 Grn 452 Lab 231/205/203
Nov 2004 by-election LD 948 C 513 Lab 213 Grn 105 EDP 26 Soc Lab 17
May 2002 result LD 1290/1287/1172 C 616/603/576 Grn 148/115/99 Lab 142/132/122 CPA 42
May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 902 Ken 497 Grn 167 Benita 147 Paddick 123 UKIP 37 BNP 10
London list: C 590 Lab 441 LD 338 Grn 299 UKIP 102 CPA 30 TUSC 26 BNP 17 EDP 16 House Party 10 Hayat 8 NF 4 Alagaratnam 4
GREYSTOKE AND HESKET
Cumbria county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Bert Richardson due to ill health. He was first elected to Cumbria county council in 1989 and also served as a district councillor for eight years; in his working life he ran Caldbeck post office for 35 years. Formerly a keen golfer, Richardson is an honorary life member of Keswick golf club.
This deeply rural division takes in seven parishes to the north and west of Penrith. Most of the villages here are tiny: the largest centres of population are High Hesket and Plumpton on the A6 Penrith-Carlisle road, and Greystoke to the north-west of Penrith, all of which have populations comfortably under 700. While Greystoke does have a Victorian castle on the site of an earlier Norman creation, any connection with Tarzan of the Apes is merely coincidental. Much of the division lies within the Lake District national park, covering a chunk of Wainwright's Northern Fells including the well-known Blencathra, whose saddle-shaped summit dominates the Eden valley; Blencathra is currently up for sale, with negotiations over the price continuing between the landowner (the Earl of Lonsdale) and the community group Friends of Blencathra.
Cumbria was redistricted in 2013 and the only previous result on these boundaries is from that year, Richardson winning with 53% against very evenly divided opposition from UKIP and the Lib Dems. The Tories won all the seats here in May's district council elections, but only one of the constituent wards (Hesket) was contested.
Defending this by-election from the blue corner is Tom Wentworth Waites, who runs a local food production business. The challenger in the yellow corner is Eden district councillor Judith Derbyshire.
Parliamentary constituency: Penrith and the Border
Eden district council wards: Greystoke, Hesket, Skelton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Penrith and Appleby
May 2013 result C 723 UKIP 331 LD 312