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

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