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

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