Thursday, 27 August 2015

By-election Preview: 27 August 2015

Just one by-election on 27th August 2015:

Barnsley metropolitan borough council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Dave Sim at the age of 64, following a fall at his home.  Sim had been involved with the local Labour party for many years but had only served on Barnsley council for a year, first being elected in 2014.

The Dearne North ward of Barnsley has a slightly misleading name, in that it is actually some way to the east of the River Dearne itself: instead, the name is a throwback to the old Dearne Urban District, abolished in 1974, of which this is the northern half.  The ward is based on the large village of Thurnscoe, around eight miles east of Barnsley off the main road to Doncaster, and also includes part of Goldthorpe to the south.  These are unambiguously pit villages, and pit villages of quite recent vintage: Hickleton Colliery (the main pit for Thurnscoe) closed in 1986, Goldthorpe Colliery in 1994.  Hickleton Colliery's spoil heap has now been landscaped and turned into a public park (Phoenix Park), and the site of the colliery has now been redeveloped into social housing.  The colliery closures created a seriously despressed local economy, and one of the works undertaken to try and improve the area was the opening of Thurnscoe's railway station in 1988, with hourly trains south to Rotherham and Sheffield and north to Wakefield and Leeds.

The former Dearne Thurnscoe ward, which covered most of this area until 2004, was a Labour monolith, but a change in the parties contesting the area has led to an erosion in the Labour vote.  However, this shouldn't be overstated as the only seriously close result was in 2004, when the Labour slate beat a single Lib Dem candidate 49-39.  Second place in the ward was taken over by the BNP in 2007 and 2008, by the Barnsley Independent Group (once the main opposition on Barnsley council) from 2010 to 2012, and by UKIP since 2014.  In May's ordinary election Labour beat UKIP here 66-27.

Defending for Labour is Annette Gollick, who is the only candidate to give an address within the ward.  UKIP's candidate is Jim Johnson, who fought his home North East ward (based on Grimethorpe) in May's elections.  Also standing are Lee Ogden for the Conservatives, Yorkshire First's Tony Devoy and Karen Fletcher of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary constituency: Wentworth and Dearne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnsley
Postcode district: S63

May 2015 result Lab 2668 UKIP 1112 C 284
May 2014 result Lab 1179 UKIP 752 C 103
May 2012 result Lab 1314 Barnsley Ind Gp 501 C 87
May 2011 result Lab 1665 Barnsley Ind Gp 501 BNP 246
May 2010 result Lab 2278 Barnsley Ind Gp 647 BNP 595 C 348
May 2008 result Lab 853 BNP 392 Barnsley Ind Gp 375 LD 316 C 186
May 2007 result Lab 1013 BNP 466 LD 464 C 116 Barnsley Ind Gp 102
May 2006 result Lab 1011 LD 453 Barnsley Ind Gp 234 C 129
June 2004 result Lab 1319/1302/1271 LD 1065 C 322

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

By-election Previews: 20 August 2015

Three by-elections on Thursday 20th August 2015. One covered over on Cornish Elections and two below.

Durham council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Robin Todd at the age of 74.  An electrician who started work at 17 as an apprentice at South Hetton pit, Todd served continuously as a councillor for 51 years, first being elected at the age of 23 to the long-abolished Easington Rural District Council.  Once election agent to the local MP Manny Shinwell, and chairman of Easington district council in 1976-77, his legacy will be the Robin Todd Centre, a community centre in South Hetton opened in 2002 and named in his honour.  Todd was appointed MBE in 2006 for services to local government, was a founder member of the unitary Durham council in 2009, and just a week before his death was elected as vice-chairman of Durham council.

This is a classic ex-coalmining division based on pit villages.  Shotton Colliery, at the south end of the ward, is just off the A19 road west of Peterlee and was based on a large colliery which was first developed in 1840 and closed in 1972.  South Hetton, to the north-west on the Houghton-Easington road, was based around a colliery which operated continuously from 1831 to 1982, but is probably better known for the so-called "one-armed bandit murder" of Angus Sibbet in 1967, one of the North East's most notorious criminal cases.  In between is Haswell, the birthplace of the ill-fated British cyclist Tommy Simpson.

This is the former Easington district of Durham, one of the strongest Labour areas in the country: Todd's last two re-elections to the former Easington district council, from the Easington Village and South Hetton ward, were unopposed.  In 2013, the only previous result on the present division boundaries, the Labour slate had 43% of the vote, with an independent polling 33% and a "FAIR and Independent" candidate (one of several in the Peterlee area) coming last with 24%.

Defending for Labour is Alan Liversidge, the chairman of Haswell parish council and a local historian.  He is opposed by, in ballot paper order, Michael Anderson for the Lib Dems; Beaty Bainbridge, a former Durham councillor from Chester-le-Street who appears to be the go-to Tory candidate for Durham by-elections at the moment; Ted Hall, from Shotton Colliery, for the North East Party; Lee-James Harris, who gives an address in Bishop Auckland, for UKIP; and Peterlee resident Martie Warin for the Green Party.

May 2013 result Lab 893/871 Independent 686 FAIR and Independent 493

Parliamentary constituency: Easington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sunderland
Postcode districts: DH6, SR8

West Oxfordshire district council
Caused by the resignation of independent councillor David Snow.  Snow was first elected in 2012, as a Conservative candidate, but then left the party over the issue of gay marriage; his resignation from the council came due to work commitments.

This is, obviously, the northern end of the town of Witney, along the Crawley, Hailey and New Yatt roads.  Witney is the major town of West Oxfordshire district and is based around a crossing-point of the River Windrush: it has lost its traditional blanket industry, but is still known as the home of the Wychwood Brewery, whose flagship drink Hobgoblin is brewed here.  Witney is part of the constituency of the Prime Minister David Cameron, who presented Barack Obama with twelve bottles of Hobgoblin during a G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.  West Oxfordshire district council's offices are located within the ward and form one of the two polling stations.

The presence of Witney within the PM's constituency is a boost for the Tory vote here, although this ward was narrowly won by the Lib Dems in 2003 before their vote faded away.  The main peculiarity of the ward is the strength of the local Green Party, who normally finish second here, although they lost second spot to Labour at the most recent local elections in May.  In May's poll the Tories won with 50%, well ahead of Labour on 19% and the Greens on 14%.

The Tories want their seat back, and have selected Carol Reynolds who represents this ward on Witney town council.  Back on the campaign trail for Labour, having stood in May's ordinary election, is Oxford Tube coach driver Trevor License.  The Green Party have reselected Brigitte Hickman, a teacher and bicycle enthusiast.  Also standing are UKIP's James Robertshaw, who is nominated by the outgoing councillor David Snow, and Diane West for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Witney
Oxfordshire county council division: Witney North and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford
Postcode district: OX28

May 2015 result C 1120 Lab 419 Grn 323 UKIP 259 LD 136
May 2012 result C 450 Grn 286 Lab 179 LD 120
May 2011 result C 798 Grn 261 Lab 214 LD 210
May 2008 result C 594 Grn 314 LD 189
May 2007 result C 588 Grn 368 LD 189
June 2004 result C 569 Grn 324 LD 239 Lab 128
May 2003 result LD 439 C 405 Grn 208
May 2002 result C 491/484 LD 387 Grn 324 Lab 234

Thursday, 13 August 2015

By-election Previews: 13 August 2015

Six by-elections this week in an unusually busy August, with two each in England, Wales and Scotland.  One of the Welsh and both the Scottish polls are caused by newly-elected MPs resigning their council seats.

Warwickshire county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Heatley on health grounds.  Heatley, who has since died at the age of 71, had been a Warwickshire county councillor since 1993 and was the council's cabinet member for the environment; until May he was vice-chairman of the county council.  At the time of his resignation he was also facing allegations of benefit fraud.

It was Nuneaton that provided the "Basildon moment" of the 2015 general election: as one of the first marginal seats to declare its result, it was when the Conservatives increased their majority in the seat that it became clear that Labour were not going to form a government, thus plunging the party into an interminable leadership election (is there really another month of this to go?).  Much of the Tory vote within Nuneaton will have come from Whitestone, an area of postwar housing at the town's south-eastern corner off the Lutterworth Road.  The figure which really sticks out from Whitestone ward's census statistics is the owner-occupied percentage, which at 94.3% is the eighth-highest figure for any ward in England and Wales: there are also relatively high proportions of people with apprenticeships, and Sikhs.  The White Stone of the name can be found at the junction of Lutterworth Road, Bulkington Lane and Golf Drive.

However, differing boundaries at ward and county level make the comparison rather difficult: Whitestone county division only includes part of Whitestone ward, with the other half of the division coming from Attleborough on the other side of the West Coast Main Line.  Attleborough is an older area and much more socially mixed.

This difference is reflected in the local election results, although comparison is difficult as Nuneaton and Bedworth was one of the few English districts which did not hold local elections in May this year.  Whitestone ward is solidly Conservative, while Attleborough is a key marginal ward which Labour gained from the Tories at the most recent borough election in 2014.  This adds up to a safe Tory county division which Heatley won 53-31 at his last re-election in 2013.

Defending for the Tories is Jeff Morgan, a photographer and community activist who won a by-election to Nuneaton and Bedworth borough council from Arbury ward (in the south-west of the town) in December 2013, but lost his seat at the ordinary election five months later.  He should have an easier ride here.  Labour have reselected their 2013 candidate Andrew Crichton, a barman in his mid-twenties.  Also standing are Mick Ludford for the Green Party and Alwyn Waine for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Nuneaton
Nuneaton and Bedworth borough council wards: Attleborough (part), Whitestone (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Coventry
Postcode district: CV11

May 2013 result C 1173 Lab 697 Grn 348
June 2009 result C 1646 Lab 529 BNP 432 Grn 424
May 2005 result C 2748 Lab 2067

Exeter city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Simon Bowkett, who is concentrating on his role as chief executive of the charity Exeter Council for Voluntary Service.  He had served on Exeter city council since 2012, gaining his seat from the Conservatives.

Incorporated into Exeter in 1966, Pinhoe is the north-eastern corner of Exeter, hard up against the M5 motorway.  Pinhoe was the site of a battle in 1001 in which Danish forces, fresh from besieging Exeter, defeated a Saxon army; another legacy of war is that the local community centre, America Hall, was built using funds donated by the families of US service personnel stationed here during the Second World War.  Pinhoe's railway station reopened in 1983, with hourly or two-hourly trains to Exeter St Davids and London Waterloo.  The main curiosity from the ward's census figures is a very high proportion of part-time workers.

At local level this is a hard-fought marginal where majorities are often tiny: Labour by 55 votes in 2004, Conservative gain by 83 votes in 2008, Labour gain by 4 votes in September 2010, Labour hold by 34 votes at the most recent election here in 2014, in which Labour had 37%, the Tories 35% and UKIP were a strong third with 19%; that 2014 poll was also notable for seeing one of the few local election candidates from the UKIP splinter group An Independence from Europe, who didn't quite manage 1% here.  Labour have less trouble at county level in which Pinhoe is paired with the safe Mincinglake city ward.

Defending for Labour is David Harvey.  The Conservatives have selected Cynthia Thompson, who was a councillor for this ward between 2008 and 2012, losing her seat to Bowkett, and has been trying to get back ever since.  Alison Sheridan, who fought St Loyes ward in the 2015 city elections, stands for UKIP.  Also on the ballot paper are Michael Payne for the Lib Dems, John Moreman for the Green Party and independent candidate David Smith.

May 2014 result Lab 862 C 828 UKIP 460 Grn 116 LD 71 An Independence from Europe 23
May 2012 result Lab 1022 C 742 UKIP 240 LD 69 Grn 68
Sept 2010 result Lab 903 C 899 UKIP 104 LD 74 Grn 48
May 2008 result C 993 Lab 910 Lib 212 LD 151
May 2006 result C 1071 Lab 735 LD 165 UKIP 133 Grn 110
June 2004 result Lab 952 C 897 LD 334
May 2002 result Lab 987 C 663 LD 204 Grn 65

Parliamentary constituency: Exeter
Devon county council division: Pinhoe and Mincinglake
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter and Newton Abbot
Postcode districts: EX1, EX4