Five by-elections on 30th July 2015. Three will be held in mid-size English towns, two in the Midlands and one in Northumberland; while on Scottish Elections the SNP will try to hold two seats in Aberdeen after their councillors were elected to Parliament in the recent SNP surge.
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Jimmy Sawyer at the age of 64, from pulmonary fibrosis. A founder member of the unitary Northumberland council in 2008, Sawyer had started his political career on the former Wansbeck district council and worked for thirty years at Ellington Colliery.
Welcome to Ashington, one of the major towns of Northumberland around 15 miles north of Newcastle. By tradition the world's biggest mining village, Ashington was called into existence in the 1840s when the Duke of Portland developed housing for workers at his collieries, and to encourage immigration from Ireland which was at the time in the grip of the potato famine. Coal-mining was the dominant industry here right up to 2005 when Ellington Colliery closed. Apart from coal, Ashington is known for the Ashington Group or Pitmen Painters, an art group made up of local miners, and for producing a very large number of professional footballers, most notably the Milburn and Charlton brothers. It's perhaps fitting that the town is represented in Parliament by the former NUM chairman Ian Lavery, whose two sons both represent this division on Ashington town council.
The College division lies in the Hirst area of the town east of the railway line, and is named after what is now Northumberland College, the town's main FE provider; it runs down to the north bank of the River Wansbeck. Most of the division's housing is of 1960s vintage and the population bears the hallmarks of ex-coalmining areas: almost uniformly British with high levels of unemployment, social housing and no qualifications. Its politics also fall into that pattern: the only previous result on these boundaries (in 2013) saw Labour poll 90.7% in a straight fight with the Conservatives.
Defending for Labour is Ashington town councillor Mark Purvis, who faces opposition fom the Tories' Chris Galley, UKIP's Peter Curtis and the Lib Dems' Andy McGregor.
Parliamentary constituency: Wansbeck
ONS Travel to Work Area: Morpeth, Ashington and Alnwick
May 2013 result Lab 878 C 90
Wychavon district council, Worcestershire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Glenise Noyes at the age of 71. The Mayor of Droitwich in 2008/09, Mrs Noyes had been first elected to Wychavon district council in 2011 for Droitwich Central ward, and had moved to Droitwich East ward in May's election just a few weeks before her death.
Here we are in one of the oldest towns in Worcestershire. The Anglo-Saxon suffix "wich" and the Roman name "Salinae" both give clues as to Droitwich's major industry: salt. There are massive salt deposits underneath the town, some of which comes up to the surface in a series of pits which are almost pure brine and as concentrated as the Dead Sea. In the nineteenth century Droitwich became a spa town, with swimming in the water marketed as providing muscle relief. Since the Second World War Droitwich's population has trebled as a result of Birmingham overspill, thanks to the town's proximity to the M5 motorway and the relatively good railway service, with three trains each hour to Worcester and Birmingham.
Droitwich East ward covers the east of the town, hard up against the M5; its census statistics show a relatively high number of over-65s. It has consistently returned two Conservatives to Wychavon council, although the 2003 result was quite close between the Tories and Labour. In May's ordinary election the Tories had a comfortable win with 44% against divided opposition, with 21% for Labour, 20% for UKIP and 15% for the Lib Dems; all the opposition parties only had single candidates, pointing to a lack of organisation in the area. The Droitwich East county division, which covers the whole of this ward and parts of two other wards, is more interesting: in 2005 Labour win a three-way marginal fight, but didn't defend their seat in 2009 with the Tories gaining in a close fight with the Lib Dems, while at the most recent county election in 2013 a residents' group came a strong second.
Those same four parties are contesting this by-election. Hoping to gather the fallen and lift the masses is lingerie company boss Karen Tomalin, who is the defending Conservative candidate. The Labour candidate is Jacqui O'Reilly, chair of Mid Worcestershire CLP who fought Droitwich West ward in May; she gives an address in Kidderminster. The only candidate for this ward to return from May, and the only one to give an address in Droitwich, is Andy Morgan for UKIP. Completing the ballot paper is the Lib Dem candidate Rory Roberson, from Fernhill Heath near Worcester.
Parliamentary constituency: Mid Worcestershire
Worcestershire county council division: Droitwich East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Worcester and Malvern
May 2015 result C 1587/1201 Lab 775 UKIP 724 LD 534
May 2011 result C 1033/998 Lab 585/538 LD 343
May 2007 result C 899/859 Lab 577/555 LD 408
May 2003 result C 788/716 Lab 691/667
NORTH HYKEHAM MILL
North Kesteven district council, Lincolnshire
Caused by the resignation of Lincolnshire Independents councillor Jill Wilson on health grounds. First elected to the district council here in 2007 as a Liberal Democrat candidate, she retired in 2011 but returned to the council in May's ordinary election.
Named after Mill Lane, this ward lies at the south-western edge of the Lincoln urban area. It forms part of North Hykeham, a Lincoln suburb which has never been incorporated into the city proper. The ward is relatively well off with high levels of full-time employment.
The Conservatives have consistently held one, but only one, of the two district council seats in this ward. In 2007 the other seat went to Jill Wilson, the single Liberal Democrat candidate, who topped the poll. Wilson stood down in 2011 and her seat was won by independent candidate Helen Clark in a close three-way result. The 2015 election saw the Tory slate opposed only by Jill Wilson, standing for the Lincolnshire Independents, who defeated the second Tory candidate by eight votes. At county level almost all of the ward is within the Skellingthorpe and Hykeham South division, which has been Lib Dem-held since 2009.
There is no defending Lincolnshire Independents candidate in this by-election, so this seat is up for grabs. There is an independent candidacy in the shape of John Bishop, a former Lib Dem district councillor for another North Hykeham ward who lost his seat in May; he is standing under the "Hykeham Independents" label. Mike Clarke, the Tory candidate who lost by eight votes in May, returns to the fray; he is the husband of the ward's Tory councillor since 2011 Andrea Clarke. Also on the ballot paper are Elizabeth Bathory-Porter of the Green Party, Diana Catton of the Lib Dems and Terence Dooley for Labour.
Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: (almost all) Skellingthorpe and Hykeham South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln
May 2015 result C 1478/1005 Lincs Ind 1013
May 2011 result C 495/314 Ind 463 Lincs Ind 458
May 2007 result LD 396 C 315/304 UKIP 157