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...
BANBURY GRIMSBURY AND CASTLE
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