Tuesday, 29 September 2015

By-election Preview: 1 October 2015

October is traditionally a busy month for by-elections and this October is no exception, with 27 polls scheduled so far.  Eight of these occur on the 1st, with an unusual feature: seven of them are in Scotland, a total boosted by the resignation of four SNP councillors who have moved on to the House of Commons.  The SNP have successfully defended all the seats they have lost to Westminster in by-elections so far, and they have another five seats to defend tonight; of the other three seats, one in Moray is defended by independents; one in Banbury, England, by the Conservatives; and one in Aberdeen was Conservative in 2012 but the Tory councillor then went independent.  Confused?  You will be...

Cherwell district council, Oxfordshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Ann Bonner at the age of 62.  Bonner, whose career had been in banking and financial services, was first elected to Cherwell council in 2004, and also served on Oxfordshire county council from 2009 to 2013; she was Mayor of Banbury in 2008/9.

Your columnist has bad memories of Banbury station, having been in Oxford on the day of the Harbury tunnel landslip last winter and waiting for well over an hour, on a cold cloudless January night, for a replacement bus to Leamington Spa.  All this while trying to get home on the last train of the evening to Bolton, a journey which eventually took around six hours and involved a taxi from Birmingham.  It has to be said that Chiltern and CrossCountry really did not cover themselves in glory that day.

Banbury's railway station lies at the focal point of this ward, which essentially covers the town centre and eastern part of Banbury.  Grimsbury itself - now essentially the eastern part of Banbury - is an old village whose first expansion came in Victorian times and has further greatly expanded since the war thanks to London overspill and its proximity (from 1990) to the M40 motorway.  The ward's economic focus was traditionally the enormous cattle market next to Banbury station; while this has gone there is still a lot of industry in Banbury to provide employment.

All this has turned Banbury Grimsbury and Castle ward into a key Tory/Labour marginal, and Ann Bonner's death has put up for election the ward's last Tory seat.  The ward was created on its current boundaries in 2002 and returned three Labour councillors then, but it took until 2011 for Labour to win again.  Majorities in the ward have often been small: Tory by 20 votes in 2003, by 79 votes in the 2005 county council election (on a general election turnout; the county division then had the same boundaries); Labour gain by 13 votes in 2011; Tory hold by 108 votes in 2012.  Labour pulled away in the 2013 county elections (on slightly different boundaries) and 2014, but last May's ordinary election was another close result, Labour holding with 37% to 35% for the Tories and 15% for UKIP, a majority of 73 votes on a general election turnout.

Defending for the Conservatives is the Mayor of Banbury Tony Mepham, who also fought the ward in 2014 and in May.  He is opposed by Shaida Hussain, a Banbury town councillor for the ward.  UKIP's Linda Wren fights the ward for the third time.  Also standing are Christopher Manley for the Green Party and regular Lib Dem candidate Kenneth Ashworth.

Parliamentary constituency: Banbury
Oxfordshire county council division: Banbury Grimsbury and Castle (most); Banbury Calthorpe (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Banbury

May 2015 result Lab 1533 C 1460 UKIP 623 Grn 330 LD 230
May 2014 result Lab 950 C 574 UKIP 507 Grn 184 LD 103
May 2012 result C 821 Lab 713 Grn 186 LD 104
May 2011 result Lab 969 C 954 Grn 230 LD 214
May 2010 result C 1694 Lab 1176 LD 1080
June 2009 county council election C 1013 Lab 367 UKIP 275 LD 171 Grn 161
May 2008 result C 1075 Lab 495 LD 163
May 2007 result C 1015 Lab 631
May 2006 result C 862 Lab 520 LD 334 simultaneous with

May 2006 county council by-election C 880 Lab 488 LD 340
May 2005 county council election C 1323 Lab 1244 LD 789 Grn 212
June 2004 result C 1099 Lab 827
May 2003 result C 704 Lab 684

May 2002 result Lab 810/748/721 C 619/564/522

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

By-election Previews: 24 September 2015

Five local by-elections in England this week:

Wakefield city council, West Yorkshire
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Paula Sherriff, who has been elected as Member of Parliament for Dewsbury.  Sherriff was first elected to Wakefield council in 2012.

"Post mortem patris pro filio" (After the death of the father, support the son), read the motto of the old Pontefract Borough Council; a reference to the town's Royalist sympathies during the Civil War.  Not that Pontefract has always been sympathetic to royalty; in 1399 King Richard II was starved to death in the town's castle.  Some precedents for the town's backbench Labour MP Yvette Cooper to reflect on following her failure in the Labour leadership election, perhaps.

In many ways Ponte Carlo is a strange town: one of several historic claimants for the title of most pubs per square mile in England, the main industries here were historically coalmining and liquorice.  Pontefract's liquorice industry has evolved into production of sweets, with Haribo and Tangerine Confectionery both having sweet factories here.  Coalmining was still a feature of the Pontefract North ward into the twenty-first century, until the closure of the Prince of Wales Colliery in 2002; just outside the ward is the coal-fired Ferrybridge Power Station and the doomed Kellingley Colliery, Britain's last deep coal mine.  Either or both of these factors may explain why the NUM nominated Cooper for the Labour leadership.  Next to the colliery site and occupying much of the western part of the ward is Pontefract Racecourse, one of the longest flat courses in Europe with a circuit of 2-and-a-half miles; the races used to have a tradition of starting afternoon meetings at the late time of 2:45pm to attract miners coming off the morning shift.  Away from these distractions, Pontefract North ward covers the town centre, the castle, the north and west of the town and the town's three railway stations: the main Monkhill station and the quieter Tanshelf and Baghill.

Very much the more working-class half of Pontefract, this all adds up to a safe Labour ward although the Tories did manage to win here by 29 votes at the height of their fortunes in 2008.  In May's ordinary election Labour had 52%, with UKIP (22%) just beating the Tories (21%) for the runner-up spot.

Defending for Labour is Lorna Malkin, a manager at the Castleford Heritage Trust.  Standing again from May is UKIP's regular candidate for the ward Nathan Garbutt.  The Tories have changed candidate and are now standing Anthony Hill.  Also on the ballot paper are Daniel Dearden of TUSC, Lucy Brown of the Yorkshire First party and Daniel Woodlock who is the ward's first Lib Dem candidate since 2010.

Parliamentary constituency: Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wakefield and Castleford
Postcode districts: WF7, WF8, WF11

May 2015 result Lab 3398 UKIP 1422 C 1375 Grn 286 TUSC 97
May 2014 result Lab 1645 UKIP 1205 C 463 TUSC 71
May 2012 result Lab 1649 Ind 769 C 481 UKIP 368 Grn 103 TUSC 76
May 2011 result Lab 2261 C 894 UKIP 403 Grn 205
May 2010 result Lab 3051 C 1594 LD 1008 BNP 585 Ind 279 Grn 150
May 2008 result C 1352 Lab 1323 Ind 398 Grn 240
May 2007 result Lab 1695 C 1517
May 2006 result Lab 1757 C 1077
June 2004 result Lab 2008/1716/1599 UKIP 994/848 C 838/838/783 Socialist Alternative 232

Derbyshire county council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mike Longden at the age of 74.  A trained accountant who had run a manufacturing and distribution company, Longden was first elected to Derbyshire county council in 2009 and was cabinet member for education until the Tories lost control of Derbyshire in 2013.  Longden had stood down this year from Derbyshire Dales district council, on which he had represented Chatsworth ward for some years.

This rural county division lies within the heart of the Peak District, covering sixteen parishes running up the Derwent valley from the edge of Matlock all the way to Froggatt.  The famous and much-visited stately home of Chatsworth lies at the centre of the division; the various villages at the southern end are linked together by the A6 road and the Peak Rail preserved railway; while at the north end the cliffs of Stoney Middleton show that we are in the limestone "White Peak".  Much of the division lies within the Peak District National Park, although the ward's main population centre, the Matlock suburb of Darley Dale, is outside the park boundary.

The list of polling stations for the by-election reveals some curiosities.  The largest polling station for this by-election is the Whitworth Centre in Darley Dale, a name which commemorates the nineteenth-century engineer Joseph Whitworth, who is buried in Darley Dale and after whom a park and hospital in the town are named.  The divsion's second largest polling district will go to the polls at a pub, the Grouse Inn in Darley Dale.  More predictably, the polling station for Chatsworth parish is the Cavendish Hall in Edensor, while another Cavendish Village Hall, in Beeley, also acts as a polling station; both names, of course, refer to the Dukes of Devonshire who are or were the ultimate landowners for much of the division.

Derbyshire was redistricted at the most recent county elections in 2013 but Derwent Valley division was unchanged.  It was narrowly won by the Lib Dems in 2005 in a straight fight against the Conservatives, but the Tories easily gained in 2009.  In the 2013 county elections the Tories won with 43%, UKIP coming second with 24% and Labour third with 23%.  The Tories did very well here in May's district elections partly because the Lib Dems didn't defend their two councillors in Darley Dale; the Tories were also unopposed in Chatsworth and Stanton wards.  There were a couple of strange features here in the 2011 district election, where the only nominated candidate for Stanton ward withdrew, and the deeply rural Winster and South Darley ward (only part of which is in this division) was gained from the Tories by a Labour candidate, Colin Swindell, who clearly had a personal vote - Swindell stood for re-election in May as an independent and was returned unopposed.

Defending for the Conservatives is Jo Wild, district councillor for Stanton ward since winning the June 2011 by-election following the failure of the ordinary election.  The UKIP candidate is Mike Dawson, who gives an address in Swadlincote - an hour's drive away at the far end of the county.  Labour have selected Martin Rutter, from Matlock, and the Lib Dems' Michael Crapper completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Derbyshire Dales
Derbyshire Dales wards: Calver, Chatsworth, Darley Dale, Stanton, Winster and South Darley (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Matlock
Postcode districts: DE4, DE45, S32, S42

May 2013 result C 1674 UKIP 944 Lab 904 LD 387
June 2009 result C 2078 LD 1427 Ind 617 UKIP 374
May 2005 result LD 3367 C 3039

Wyre Forest district council, Worcestershire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ruth Gregory on health grounds.  Gregory, a retired charity shop volunteer, had served on Wyre Forest council for just three months.

The Tories' second defence of the week is a world away from the peace and grandeur of the Peak District.  Instead we are in Kidderminster; the Blakebrook and Habberley South ward covers the town centre and the western end of the town along the main road to Bewdley.  Kidderminster is perhaps best known for carpets - the red carpet used at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding was made here - but other industries in the town include luxury yachts and solid-fuel rocket motors.

At the centre of the ward lies Kidderminster Hospital, the epicentre of one of the more unlikely political movements of recent years.  The Health Concern political party, formed in 1999 in protest against the withdrawal of A&E services from Kidderminster Hospital, ended up running Wyre Forest council for several years and held the town's parliamentary seat, in the form of Dr Richard Taylor, from 2001 to 2010.  Despite this, the A&E services haven't come back and Health Concern's vote has been on the slide in recent years, although it's fair to say that this area hasn't been the best part of the district for them.  Wyre Forest got radically new ward boundaries this year which makes comparison difficult, but the main predecessor ward (Habberley and Blakebrook) was generally a Labour-inclined marginal although Health Concern did win it at the 2002 and 2006 elections.  The new ward boundaries in May's election proved better for the Conservatives in a fragmented result; on highest votes the Tory slate won with 28%, to 20% for UKIP, 18% for Labour, 15% for the single Health Concern candidate and 11% for the Greens.  Comparison at county level is difficult because the ward is split between two divisions: St Johns division (which covers the western part of the ward) is consistently Conservative with UKIP second, while St Marys (which covers the town centre) was Labour in 2005 and Tory in 2009 before going UKIP in 2013, but the new UKIP county councillor died shortly afterwards and the Tories won the seat back at the by-election.

Defending for the Conservatives is Tracey Onslow, formerly a Wyre Forest councillor from 2007-2015 and looking for a quick return to the council after her former Sutton Park ward disappeared in May's boundary changes.  Another former Wyre Forest councillor standing is UKIP's Michael Wrench, who lost his seat in May in another ward having served for just a year.  Labour's lead candidate Bernadette Connor tries again.  Health Concern have selected Jim Lawson, Richard Taylor's election agent.  The Green candidate is Natalie McVey who was top of the Green slate here in May.  The Lib Dems' Adrian Beavis completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Wyre Forest
Worcestershire county council divisions: St Marys (town centre), St Johns (rest)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kidderminster
Postcode districts: DY10, DY11

May 2015 result C 1232/1194/1070 UKIP 871/833/699 Lab 792/790/612 Health Concern 669 Grn 481/289/206 LD 211 TUSC 88

Norfolk county council; and
South Norfolk district council
Both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Derek Blake at the age of 78.  Blake was found dead in June on his drive, with severe head injuries and a shotgun lying next to him; Norfolk police are not treating his death as suspicious.  Blake had served as a county councillor for less than two months since winning a by-election in May, held simultaneously with the ordinary election; he had served on South Norfolk district council since 2003 and as chairman of Bergh Apton parish council since 2011.  Before retiring to Norfolk and seeking elected office, he had a successful career working all over the world in the electrical and power industry.

For our final by-elections of the week we come to the Norfolk Broads.  Loddon is a small market town around twelve miles south-east of Norwich on the road to Beccles and Lowestoft.  The town is located on the River Chet and as such is a focal point for tourism to the Broads, with boating and boatbuliding being major contributors to the local economy.  Loddon forms the eastern end of a deeply rural county division of twenty-two parishes, of which perhaps the most notable is Seething, home to a US air force base during the Second World War and now a private aerodrome.  Six of those parishes form the Chedgrave and Thurton ward, which lies on the south bank of the Yare and is perhaps most notable for the ruined Langley Abbey.  Parts of the county division and ward lie within the Broads National Park.

The political profile of this area is true blue: the county by-election in May, held on general election day, saw the Tories poll 50% to 17% for Labour and 15% for UKIP; while in the simultaneous district election the Tories had 46%, Labour 20% and UKIP 16%.  The closest in recent years that the Tories have come to losing either ward was Blake's first district election in 2003, where he had 55% in a straight fight with Labour.

The defending Tory candidate in the county by-election is Barry Stone, who was elected to the district council in May from a ward elsewhere in the district.  Labour have reselected their candidate from May's by-election (David Bissonnet) as have UKIP (Alan Baugh), while the Lib Dems (Christopher Brown) complete the ballot paper.

In the district by-election the Tories have selected Jaan Larner, a consultant solicitor with an MBA from Oxford who has published books on how to be a cad and on his experience competing in an Ironman triathlon in 2012.  He is opposed by Labour's Sarah Langton, UKIP's Ron Murphy and the Lib Dems' Ernest Green.

Parliamentary constituency: South Norfolk
South Norfolk district council wards: Brooke, Chedgrave and Thurton, Loddon, Hempnall (part), Rockland (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR14, NR15, NR35

May 2015 by-election C 3002 Lab 1018 UKIP 923 Grn 555 LD 496
May 2013 result C 2001 UKIP 594 Lab 383 LD 163
June 2009 result C 3087 LD 481 Lab 233 Ind 176
May 2005 result C 3834 LD 939 Lab 802 Grn 318

Chedgrave and Thurton
Parliamentary constituency: South Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Loddon
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR14, NR15

May 2015 result C 688 Lab 299 UKIP 243 Ind 144 LD 129
May 2011 result C 600 LD 244 UKIP 202
May 2007 result C 573 LD 318
May 2003 result C 425 Lab 349

Friday, 18 September 2015

By-election Previews: 17 September 2015

Five by-elections on 17th September, four in England and one in Scotland:

South Cambridgeshire district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Morgan, who is now working in the Middle East.  Morgan was first elected for this ward in 2004, resigned in 2011 to take up a new job, and returned to the council in 2014.

Kids in recent school geography lessons may have come across this ward in the course of their studies.  Bourn ward consists of five parishes in western Cambridgeshire, generally to the south of the A428 Cambridge-St Neots road, ranging from Croxton in the west to Bourn itself in the east.  The ward has existed on its current boundaries since 1977, then having one councillor; and when it was drawn Bourn was the largest village in the ward but was still a sleepy backwater, little changed since mediaeval times.  During the Second World War the RAF built an airfield at Bourn for the use of Bomber Command; this fell into disuse after the war and the airfield was occupied by squatters from London, almost doubling Bourn's population.

But this population growth was dwarfed by what was to come.  In June 1998 construction of a new village began on empty farmland to the north of Bourn; six years later a new parish, called Cambourne, was established to cover the village.  Cambourne has grown from nothing seventeen years ago to become the largest settlement in the townless South Cambridgeshire district, with around 6,200 registered electors for this by-election, and is still growing; the housebuilding is not yet finished and the village has a very high birthrate.  The Boundary Commission responded to this development by trebling the number of councillors for Bourn ward in 2004, but the ward's electorate has more than quadrupled since 2001 and will probably force a re-warding of South Cambridgeshire in the near future.

Through all this growth the ward has been Conservative, but not always safely so.  The closest result so far was in 2007 when the Tories beat an independent candidate by 34 votes.  The Lib Dems did well in 2008 and 2010, with Tory majorities of 144 in 2008 and 265 on a much higher turnout in 2010; however, the Lib Dem vote crashed here during the coalition government.  Labour came close in 2012, 113 votes behind the Conservatives, while the 2014 result was a fragmented mess with David Morgan returning to the council with just 25% of the vote, 150 votes ahead of an independent candidate and 250 votes ahead of Labour.  The Tories did better in May partly due to a smaller field and the lack of a UKIP candidate, beating Labour 56-29.  At county level we have the unusual situation where the Bourn county division is smaller than the district ward, covering Cambourne, Bourn and Caxton only; it voted safely Conservative in 2005 and 2009 but produced a fragmented result in 2013, with just 5 percentage points separating the winning Conservative candidate and the fourth-placed UKIP candidate.  The two westernmost parishes of Eltisley and Croxton are in a county division with Papworth and Swavesey, which is safely Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is Simon Crocker, chairman of Cambourne parish council.  The Labour candidate from May, Gavin Clayton, stands again; he is one of Cambourne's longest-standing residents having been here since 2000.  Also standing again from May is the Green Party's Marcus Pitcaithly, while UKIP (Helene Green) and the Lib Dems (Jeni Sawford) enter the fray.

Parliamentary constituency: South Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Bourn (Bourn, Cambourne and Caxton parishes); Papworth and Swavesey (Croxton and Eltisley parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge

May 2015 result C 3002 Lab 1559 Grn 766
May 2014 result C 677 Ind 527 Lab 427 UKIP 383 Ind 327 Grn 186 LD 148
May 2012 result C 779 Lab 666 LD 232
May 2011 result C 1106 Ind 582 Lab 503 LD 433
Feb 2011 by-election C 874 LD 345 LD 337
May 2010 result C 1935 LD 1670 Lab 489 UKIP 180
May 2008 result C 922 LD 778 Lab 168
May 2007 result C 676 Ind 642 Lab 215
May 2006 result C 737 LD 417 Ind 300 Lab 145
June 2004 result C 872/710/697 LD 544/493/391 Lab 287 Ind 176
May 2002 result C 615 Grn 205

Haringey London borough council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Denise Marshall and the death of George Meehan, both of whom were Labour councillors.  Marshall, who since her resignation has died at the age of 53, was one of the UK's most notable campaigners against violence towards women, and founded the Poppy Project to support victims of sex trafficking.  She was appointed OBE in 2007 for services to disadvantaged women, but returned the honour in 2011 in protest at government cuts to services for rape and domestic violence victims.  Marshall had served as a Haringey councillor since 2014.  Meehan, whose death came at the age of 71, served as a councillor for forty years, having been first elected in 1971; after a four-year break in service he had represented Woodside ward since 1990.  Originally from Ireland and moving to London in 1963, Meehan had served three times over three decades as leader of Haringey council, his first stint begining in 1983 and his final resignation as leader coming in 2008 following the appalling death of baby Peter Connolly.

"What, out of the metropolis, would be called a town, which would eventually ... be larger than the Royal Borough of Windsor and nearly as large as the old cathedral city of Canterbury. But this town would not contain various classes of population, but would be built for the express purpose of meeting the wants of the artisan classes, so that they whose resources are limited should be enabled to reside amid pleasant surroundings."
- Ernest Noel, 4th August 1883

If Cambourne is a twenty-first-century solution to housing shortages in south-east England, then Noel Park is a nineteenth-century solution to the same problem; a planned garden suburb-style estate built in sparsely-populated Wood Green in the 1880s by the Artizans, Labourers and General Dwellings Company, and the fourth large-scale estates built by the company on what was then the edge of London.  The Noel of the name was Ernest Noel, then chairman of the Artizans Company and also Liberal MP for Dumfries Burghs.  Most of the original Gothic Revival houses still exist, although the estate has had a chequered history.  The transport links to London were not properly sorted out until the extension of the Piccadilly Line of the Underground to Turnpike Lane and Wood Green in 1932.  In 1966 the estate, much of which was in poor condition, was sold to Haringey council to become council housing; during the 1980s and 1990s many of the homes were vacant, leading to a large squatter community, while the designation of much of Noel Park as a conservation area has not had the desired effect of stopping unauthorised alterations to the Victorian properties.  The western part of the ward is dominated by the Mall Wood Green, the largest shopping centre within the North Circular Road and the commercial hub of the London Borough of Haringey.

The growth of Noel Park led to the incorporation of Wood Green Urban District in 1894, whose core was the modern Noel Park ward together with Woodside ward.  Immediately to the north of Noel Park, Woodside road runs generally to the east of the High Road and along White Hart Lane.

The wards have some interesting census statistics.  Noel Park in particular has very low owner-occupation levels - as might be expected given its history - combined with high levels of both social and private renting, and Wood Green in general has a very high proportion of immigrants from the new EU states.  The age structure of the two wards is interesting, with a very low proportion of over-45s - something with is consistent with the high rate of immigration.

Both wards are safe for Labour now, but they fall within the Hornsey and Wood Green parliamentary constituency: this seat had a Labour majority over 20,000 in Blair's first landslide but was gained by the Lib Dems in the 2005 general election.  The Lib Dems made a major effort to gain Haringey council in the 2006 borough elections, and although they topped the popular vote they finished just short of Labour in the seat count, 27-30.  In that election the Lib Dems won two out of three seats in Noel Park but were some way short of knocking out the third Labour seat, while Woodside stayed Labour 43-39.  The most recent London borough elections, in 2014, saw the Labour slate poll 50% in Noel Park to 13% each for the Greens and Lib Dems, while Woodside was even safer for Labour with a 57-12 lead over the Lib Dems, who were just ahead of the Green Party.  In the London Assembly elections of 2012, Ken beat Boris 64-19 in Noel Park and 64-20 in Woodside; while on the London Member ballot that year Labour had 63% in Noel Park to 10% for the Tories with the Greens just behind, and Woodside voted 61% Labour with the Tories' 11% again just beating the Greens for second place.

Defending Noel Park for Labour is Stephen Mann, the husband of the present Mayor of Haringey Jennifer Mann.  He is opposed by Mike McGowan of the Green Party, Derin Adebiyi of the Lib Dems, Neville Watson of UKIP, Mike Burgess of the Conservatives and Paul Burnham of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.  In Woodside ward the Labour defence is led by Peter Mitchell, whose opposition is Jenni Hollis (Lib Dem), Annette Baker (Green Party), Robert Broadhurst (Conservative) and Andrew Price (UKIP).

Noel Park
Parliamentary constituency: Hornsey and Wood Green
London Assembly constituency: Enfield and Haringey
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2014 result Lab 1897/1807/1782 Grn 503/332/309 LD 492/491/437 UKIP 220 C 213/210/163 Ind 128
May 2010 result Lab 2149/2026/1864 LD 1743/1616/1407 C 718/616/610 Grn 429/355/264 Ind 145
May 2006 result Lab 1124/1024/1007 LD 1114/1031/920 Grn 257 C 249/240/229 Grn 183
May 2002 result Lab 982/975/934 LD 342/293/222 C 307/270/255 Grn 265 Socialist Alliance 105 Ind 66

2012 GLA elections (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1577 C 461 Grn 140 LD 112 Ind 102 UKIP 44 BNP 12
London Member: Lab 1599 C 265 Grn 241 LD 199 UKIP 66 TUSC 38 BNP 32 CPA 31 EDP 20 House Party 16 Hayat 9 NF 7 Alagaratnam 1

Parliamentary constituency: Hornsey and Wood Green
London Assembly constituency: Enfield and Haringey
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2014 result Lab 2018/1947/1865 LD 418/393/361 Grn 406/342/254 C 271/244/207 UKIP 259 TUSC 100 Ind 61
May 2010 result Lab 2300/2217/2031 LD 1733/1633/1487 C 598/551/531 Grn 320/290/288
May 2006 result Lab 1354/1353/1318 LD 1224/1126/1087 Grn 297 C 293/271/221 Grn 220
May 2002 result Lab 1227/1222/1112 LD 448/429/352 C 395/342/335 Socialist Alliance 139

2012 GLA elections (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1588 C 503 Grn 148 LD 125 Ind 74 UKIP 27 BNP 26
London Member: Lab 1529 C 290 Grn 260 LD 227 UKIP 66 CPA 40 TUSC 38 BNP 37 EDP 18 NF 10 House Party 4 Hayat 2 Alagaratnam 1

Richmondshire district council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Karen Kirby on health grounds.  Kirby, who runs a local building company, is recovering from treatment for a brain tumour two years ago.

For the final English by-election of the week we move to Richmond - not that upstart in South London, but the original Richmond in Yorkshire.  An ancient mediaeval town on the River Swale, Richmond's greatest prosperity came in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when it was the marketplace of the two major industries in the Yorkshire Dales: wool from Swaledale and lead-mining from Arkengarthdale.  Since then the town has barely grown, partly due to its isolation.  The main industries here are now tourism and defence: Richmond, the only town visited by Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast Walk, lies at the foot of Swaledale just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, while much of the surrounding area is used for military training associated with the large garrison at nearby Catterick.  The Richmond East ward, one of three covering the town, covers the eastern end of the town along the road to Scotch Corner and Darlington.

Richmondshire is one of England's smallest local government districts, and with this comes parochial politics and lots of support for independent candidates.  Since 2007 independent candidate Russell Lord has filled one of the ward's two seats; in 2007 he joined Lib Dem John Harris who was re-elected.  Harris stood down in 2011 and his seat was gained by Muriel Blythman for the Conservatives, but Blythman lost the seat in May's election to her running-mate Karen Kirby.

Defending for the Conservatives is Louise Dickens, who is the granddaughter of the former Tory MP and anti-paedophile campaigner Geoffrey Dickens.  Richmondshire Independent candidate Lorraine Hodgson tries again after her fourth-place finish in May.  The Lib Dem candidate is Philip Knowles, and the ballot paper is completed by Tina McKay who is the ward's first Labour candidate this century.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)
North Yorkshire county council division: Richmond
ONS Travel to Work Area: Richmond and Catterick

May 2015 result Ind 541 C 513/467 Richmondshire Independent 448 LD 293 Grn 224
May 2011 result Ind 531/295 C 315/312 LD 268/245
May 2007 result Ind 649/487 LD 560
May 2003 result LD 486/342 Richmondshire Independent Group 409 C 408

By-election Previews: 10 September 2015

The summer is over, the kids are back at school, the nights are drawing in and it's time for us to enter the autumn.  Autumn is peak by-election season, as with no local elections due until May 2016 there is no reason to defer polling until then; and a bit of a backlog of vacancies has built up over the summer.

We start this autumn with six polls on 10th September 2015 for seven vacancies.  In England the Tories defend two seats in Kent, while Labour have a tricky defence in Essex and a safer one in the Black Country.  In Scotland, over on the Scottish Elections blog, the SNP defend seats in Edinburgh and Midlothian where their councillors have moved on to Westminster, while the Edinburgh vacancy is combined with a Green Party defence in Scotland's first double by-election for at least forty years.

Sandwell metropolitan borough council, West Midlands
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Malcolm Bridges at the age of 70.  Bridges was first elected to Sandwell council in August 1999, in a by-election for Bristnall ward; while he lost that seat to the Conservatives in 2008, he returned to the council in 2010 by gaining Blackheath ward from the Tories.  He was the chair of the council's Smethwick and Oldbury Town committee, and an active member of Unite.

One of the Black Country's more obscure towns, Blackheath can be found at the southern end of Sandwell, just off the M5 motorway.  It's a classic mid-Victorian industrial town whose major focus was on manufacturing: the British Thomson-Houston electrical engineering works are still in operation under a successor company.  The Blackheath ward also includes the southern part of Rowley Regis, including Rowley Regis railway station from which there are very frequent trains to Birmingham and Stourbridge.

Blackheath is a ward which often produces interesting results.  The first election on these boundaries (in 2004) was a virtual tie between Labour and the Conservatives, with the Tories topping the poll by one vote but Labour winning the seat split 2-1.  In 2006 the Conservatives gained a second seat from Labour by 65 votes.  Labour gained the Tory seats in 2010 (by 330 votes on a general election turnout) and easily in 2012, but the intervention of UKIP has made the ward interesting again: UKIP came within 87 votes of Labour at the 2014 election, and were still polling well in May when Labour won with 44% to 31% for the Conservatives and 25% for UKIP.

Defending for Labour is Danny Millard.  The Conservatives have nominated Shirley Ching, a councillor for this ward from 2006 to 2010; she would appear to be back in the Tory fold after standing for the ward as a Sandwell Traditional Independent candidate in 2012.  UKIP's Ian Keeling returns to the campaign trail after his strong third place in May.  Also standing is Ben Groom for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Halesowen and Rowley Regis
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dudley and Sandwell

May 2015 result Lab 2418 C 1696 UKIP 1336
May 2014 result Lab 1090 UKIP 1003 C 573 Grn 111
May 2012 result Lab 1324 C 860 Sandwell Traditional Independent 305
May 2011 result Lab 1880 C 1326
May 2010 result Lab 2272 C 1942 LD 726 BNP 555
May 2008 result C 1497 Lab 1016 LD 258
May 2007 result Lab 1341 C 1027 BNP 633 Grn 132
May 2006 result C 1330 Lab 1265 LD 267
June 2004 result C 1369/1237/1166 Lab 1368/1346/1310

Tunbridge Wells borough council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mike Rusbridge, who had served on Tunbridge Wells council for seventeen years.  Rusbridge had held many positions on the council, including as cabinet member for finance and governance, and was Mayor of Tunbridge Wells in 2008/9.  Away from politics he ran the family firm, the Rusbridge Family Bakery.

For the first of this week's two Kent by-elections we travel to the south of the county to the Tunbridge Wells suburb of Southborough which, confusingly, is to the north of the town on the A26, the main road to Tonbridge.  This confusion can be resolved by recalling that the name of Southborough dates from a time long before Tunbridge Wells was established; it is a Norman name, identifying the town as the South Borough within the purview of Tonbridge Castle.  The ward was forest until the sixteenth century, when an ironworking industry grew up.  Other industries in the area included gunpowder manufacture, cricket ball manufacture and brickmaking - the industry which caused the town to start to grow as the High Brooms Brick and Tile Company built houses for its employees during the late nineteenth century.  As well as the northern half of Southborough, the ward also includes the village of Bidborough on the road to Tonbridge.

In some ways, the only way for the Tories in Tunbridge Wells is down - they won every available seat on the council in May's local elections - but there's not much evidence of that happening here any time soon.  The ward's two seats split between the Tories and Lib Dems at its first election in 2002, but the Tories gained the Lib Dem seat in 2007 and since then it has been plain sailing: they polled 58% here in May, with Labour's 16% just beating the Lib Dems for second place.  The ward is within the Tunbridge Wells North county division which consistently votes Conservative against badly split opposition.

Defending for the Conservatives is Joe Simmons, who from 2004 to 2012 was councillor for the neighbouring ward of Southborough and High Brooms; that ward is a Tory/Labour marginal and Simmons should have an easier time here.  Despite their second place in May Labour are not standing, so the opposition comes from the Lib Dems' Trevor Poile, councillor for this ward from 2002 until losing his seat in 2007, and UKIP's William O'Shea.

Parliamentary constituency: Tunbridge Wells
Kent county council division: Tunbridge Wells North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Tunbridge Wells

May 2015 result C 1343 Lab 372 LD 357 UKIP 256
May 2014 result C 790 Lab 233 UKIP 219 LD 181
May 2011 result C 829 LD 395 Lab 220 UKIP 139
May 2010 result C 1335 LD 927
May 2007 result C 748 LD 544 Lab 80
May 2006 result C 797 LD 474 Lab 107
May 2003 result LD 577 C 553 Grn 61
May 2002 result C 618/531 LD 545/475

Maidstone borough council, Kent
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Alistair Black at the age of 79.  Originally from Glasgow and Ayrshire, after National Service in the RAF and a spell in the British Transport Police Black had spent his working life in Africa, running a management consultancy business for 25 years.  He was first elected to Maidstone council in 2011 and his death came two months into his second term of office.

Some miles north-east along the A26 from Southborough is Maidstone.  The Fant ward is south-western Maidstone on the west bank of the River Medway, between the A26 and the river.  At the eastern end of the ward is Maidstone West railway station, at the halfway point of the Medway Valley line between Strood and Tonbridge, while East Farleigh station (on that line) lies just outside the ward boundary.

Fant ward's election results have developed into an enormous mess with significant support for all five of the UK's major political parties.  Not that you'd have guessed that from the 2002 result, where Labour won all three seats quite narrowly and none of the other parties put up full slates; the Labour majorities were 126, 44 and 21 over the Lib Dems.  In 2003 the Lib Dems gained their first seat in the ward, defeating Labour by 131 votes.  Labour held on in 2004 by 74 votes over the Lib Dems.

Fast forward to Labour's third term and support for the party in the ward collapsed.  They lost a second seat in 2006 to the Lib Dems, Labour finishing a poor third and the Lib Dems now looking safe, and the 2007 result was an even safer Lib Dem hold.  But the Lib Dems couldn't get a full house, as the last Labour seat in 2008 fell to the Tories, who had a majority of 117 over the Lib Dems.  The ward remained marginal in 2010 as the Lib Dems held on with 43.6% of the vote - remarkably, the highest winning score in the ward on its current boundaries - and had a majority of 360 over the Tories on a general election turnout.

Then the Coalition happened and things suddenly got messy.  The 2011 result was a four-way marginal, resulting in a second gain for the Conservatives with majorities of 66 over the Lib Dems, 185 over Labour and 251 over the Green Party.  Labour then suddenly found a way to eat into the Lib Dem vote and ran the Tories close in 2012, the Tory majority being 62 over Labour and 168 over the Greens.  The nadir, in terms of winning vote share, came in 2014 when the intervention of UKIP turned Fant ward into a five-way marginal; it was Labour who gained the Lib Dem seat but with less than 24% of the vote, and only seven percentage points separated the winning Labour candidate and the last-placed Lib Dem.  Despite finishing fourth and fifth in 2014, the Tories and Lib Dems bounced back in 2015 to take first and second place; the winning Tory share was 30%, with 22% for the Lib Dems, 20% for Labour and 18% for UKIP, and the Tory majorities (bearing in mind this was a general election turnout) were 325 over the Lib Dems and 395 over Labour.  Just to confuse matters, at county level this ward is part of the large and (since 2009) safe Lib Dem division of Maidstone Central.

The Tories have gone for youth in selecting Matt Boughton, who narrowly lost out in May's election in his home Downswood and Otham ward; he is on the staff of Maidstone's Tory MP Tom Tugendhat and is a qualified football referee.  The Lib Dems have reselected their May candidate Rosaline Janko, an author and licensee of the Walnut Tree on Tonbridge Road.  Labour's candidate is Keith Adkinson, who fought the ward in 2010 and 2007.  UKIP have reselected Colin Taylor.  Regular Green Party candidate (although he skipped this May) Stuart Jeffery returns to the fray, and independent candidate Mike Hogg completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Maidstone and the Weald
ONS Travel to Work Area: Maidstone and North Kent
Kent county council division: Maidstone Central

May 2015 result C 1255 LD 930 Lab 860 UKIP 742 Grn 434
May 2014 result Lab 595 UKIP 542 Grn 513 C 451 LD 418
May 2012 result C 610 Lab 548 Grn 442 LD 311
May 2011 result C 727 LD 661 Lab 542 Grn 526
May 2010 result LD 1704 C 1344 Grn 480 Lab 382
May 2008 result C 679 LD 562 Lab 470 Grn 326
May 2007 result LD 773 C 454 Grn 342 Lab 245 Ind 109
May 2006 result LD 656 C 460 Lab 301 Grn 223 Ind 120
June 2004 result Lab 693 LD 619 C 437 UKIP 197 Grn 121
May 2003 result LD 724 Lab 593 C 274 UKIP 68
May 2002 result Lab 726/644/621 LD 600/494 C 336/323 Grn 231/202 UKIP 142

Thurrock council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Terry Brookes, who had served as a councillor for less than a year after winning a by-election in October 2014.  Brookes' time as a councillor was not a success, as he had been sacked as cabinet member for public protection for failing to attend meetings; his resignation as a councillor shortly afterwards was originally described as being for personal reasons, but it has since been revealed that Brookes has been arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children.

This ward lies at the north end of the Dartford Crossing, where four levels of viaduct can be seen intersecting with each other; the Dartford Bridge over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link over the Dartford Tunnel escape road which itself is at a higher level than the Fenchurch Street-Tilbury railway line.  That line has one station within the ward at Purfleet, which forms the western corner of this ward; a town with a military history as a gunpowder magazine, Purfleet these days is known for margarine (the world's largest margarine factory is allegedly here), a recently-opened arts centre focusing on scenery for the Royal Opera House and other theatres, and the sport of darts (one flavour of the darts world championships was held here until a few years ago).  Margarine and chalk (which is quarried here) form the ward's main exports, but by far the largest employer within the ward is the Lakeside shopping centre, the UK's seventh-largest shopping mall.

In terms of councillors, this ward returned three Tories in 2004 but has been won by Labour at every election since then.  That statistic masks the fact that this ward is a stronghold of what might be termed the populist right wing.  During the heyday of the BNP in the mid-noughties this was one of the strongest BNP wards in the country, the far-right vote peaking at 35% - just 16 votes behind Labour - at the 2006 election.  Over the following years Labour saw off the threat from the BNP and then from the Tories to make the ward safe, although the populist vote here certainly hasn't gone away: UKIP polled 34% in May 2014 and 35% at the by-election in October 2014 which Terry Brookes won.  At the most recent Thurrock election in May Labour had 47%, UKIP 29% and the Conservatives 24%.

Following a messy Labour selection their candidate is Cliff Holloway, the father of current ward councillor Veronica Holloway and described as an ardent union man.  UKIP's candidate is Helen Adams, the leader of a campaign against a proposed biomass plant in the ward.  Completing the ballot paper is the Tory candidate Tony Coughlin.

Parliamentary constituency: Thurrock
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2015 result Lab 2009 UKIP 1237 C 1034
Oct 2014 by-election Lab 903 UKIP 621 C 270
May 2014 result Lab 1054 UKIP 760 C 340 LD 73
May 2012 result Lab 815 UKIP 321 C 212 Ind 180 LD 47
May 2011 result Lab 951 C 578 BNP 193 LD 87
May 2010 result Lab 1628 C 1193 BNP 574
May 2008 result Lab 668 C 586 BNP 386
May 2007 result Lab 676 BNP 478 C 459
May 2006 result Lab 608 BNP 592 C 471
June 2004 result C 517/477/469 BNP 404 Lab 404/397/246