Wednesday, 28 October 2015

By-election Previews: 29 October 2015

While last week's by-elections were mostly in super-safe wards, with the exception of an eye-catching Tory gain in Bury, this week's crop of six polls is much more mixed.  Three of them are in north-west England, with a key Labour/Tory marginal fight in Lancashire, a safe Tory ward in Congleton and a safe Labour ward in Cheshire.  The other three polls are in the south: while they all voted Tory in May, one poll in Peterborough is in a ward which is getting more interesting as the years go on, while one seat in East Sussex was a shock gain for the Tories which the Lib Dems will be desperate to regain.  But we start in Essex commuterland with a difficult defence for the Liberal Democrats...


Brentwood borough council, Essex 
Caused by the resignation of Lib Dem councillor Liz Cohen on health grounds.  Cohen had served as a councillor since winning a by-election in December 2012.
Shenfield station
Shenfield is a place probably best known for its railway station.  An outer suburb of the Essex town of Brentwood on the road to Chelmsford, Shenfield is the junction station for Southend-on-Sea off the Great Eastern main line and the terminus of Transport for London's inner-suburban service from Liverpool Street (which will become part of Crossrail in a few years' time).  This gives Shenfield a ridiculously-high thirteen hourly trains to Liverpool Street, making it a perfect location for London commuters.  Shenfield's other claim to fame is that the minister of its church was once Nathanial Ward, who wrote 'The Body of Liberties', the first constitution of Massachusetts.
For much of its recent electoral history, the ward has voted like a London commuter ward as a super-safe Conservative seat; the Tory vote peaked at 77.7% in both 2007 and 2008.  However, in 2012 the Liberal Democrats surprisingly gained two of the ward's three seats, including one in a by-election, capitalising on some disunity within the council's Tory group.  The Lib Dems confirmed the by-election gain in 2014, but the result in May's ordinary election reverted to "safe Tory hold", the Conservatives beating the Lib Dems 58-27.  At county level this is the most Tory part of the Brentwood North division, which the Lib Dems gained from the Conservatives in 2009 and made safe in 2013.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Alison Fulcher, a charity shop manager and secretary of the local bus and rail users' association.  With their lead in May, the Tory candidate Jan Pound will be hopeful of a gain: she is a former councillor for Warley ward who lost her seat to the Lib Dems in 2014.  Also standing are UKIP's Peter Sceats, Labour's Cameron Ball and the ward's first Green candidate John Hamilton.

Parliamentary constituency: Brentwood and Ongar
Essex county council division: Brentwood North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood

May 2015 result C 1965 LD 934 UKIP 285 Lab 223
May 2014 result LD 892 C 783 UKIP 282 Lab 81
Dec 2012 by-election LD 728 C 557 UKIP 119 Lab 31
May 2012 result LD 853 C 611 Lab 116
May 2011 result C 1286 LD 609 UKIP 191 Lab 184
May 2010 result C 1937 LD 1175 Lab 216
May 2008 result C 1303 LD 269 Lab 104
May 2007 result C 1254 LD 281 Lab 79
May 2006 result C 1419 LD 323 Lab 101
June 2004 double vacancy C 1401/1318 LD 405/378 Lab 140/114
May 2003 result C 1141 LD 239 Lab 123
May 2002 result C 964/876/767 Ind 605 LD 337/313/292 Lab 124/118/81


Wealden district council, East Sussex
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Soane, who has fallen out with the council's Conservative group and is standing for re-election as an independent candidate.  He had served as a councillor since May this year.

Entering Upper Dicker
This Sussex ward is slightly misleadingly named.  It does cover a large rural area in the Cuckmere valley, including the parishes of Hellingly and Arlington and the wonderfully-named hamlets of Upper Dicker and Lower Dicker; but most of the ward's electorate actually lies within the town of Hailsham, the largest of Wealden district's five towns and notable for its cattle market.  One of the more surprising elements of the ward's economy is motor racing, with Arlington hosting the Eastbourne speedway team.
During the period from 2003 to 2015 this was a safe Lib Dem ward, although not overly safe: the Lib Dem peaked in 2003 when they defeated the Conservatives 58-42.  That all changed in May when the Tories rode the general election turnout to turn the majority around and beat the Lib Dems by 48-35.  The Conservatives also hold the local county council division, but not safely: they beat the Lib Dems by six points in 2009 and UKIP by four points at the most recent county elections in 2013.

Although he didn't need to resign - he has his own mandate and could have just crossed the floor, lots of councillors do - outgoing councillor Paul Soane is standing for re-election as an independent candidate.  The Tories want their seat back, and have selected Hailsham town councillor Alex Willis.  The Lib Dems, having lost in May, also want their seat back, and their candidate is David White, who has chairman of Hellingly parish council for 25 years and was a district councillor for this ward from 2003 until losing his seat in May.  An interesting fight is in prospect.

Parliamentary constituency: Wealden
East Sussex county council division: Alfriston, East Hoathly and Hellingly
ONS Travel to Work Area: Eastbourne

May 2015 result C 1722/1599 LD 1253/1145 Ind 608
May 2011 result LD 961/954 C 739/647 Lab 268
May 2007 result LD 943/929 C 727/653
May 2003 result LD 817/732 C 583/528

Peterborough city council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Nick Arculus, who is now working in the Falkland Islands as Crown Counsel to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands governments.  He had been a Peterborough councillor since 2010.

Longthorpe Village Cross, Peterborough
Moving north now, and we come to Peterborough.  West ward, as presently constituted, runs west from Peterborough's mainline railway station along the north bank of the River Nene to take in the suburb of Longthorpe.  While Peterborough is a New Town, Longthorpe is old: the Romans were here in the first century AD, and notable buildings within the ward include the fourteenth-century Longthorpe Tower, known for its mediaeval murals, and the mansion of Thorpe Hall, one of the few surviving buildings of the Commonwealth period and now a Sue Ryder hospice.  To the south of the ward is Nene Park with its large watersports centre; the new Peterborough City Hospital occupies the ward's northern corner, while the older Peterborough District Hospital lies in the south-east corner close to the railway station.
This is likely to be the last election on the current set of Peterborough ward boundaries, with boundary changes now before Parliament.  From next year West ward will be cut back to two councillors covering just Longthorpe, with the city hospital moving to an expanded Ravensthorpe ward and the station area moving into Central ward.

West ward's population is an interesting mix of middle-class and Asian.  The middle-class element generally prevails at elections and this is normally a safe Tory ward, although Labour came within seven points of winning at the 2014 election as UKIP ate into the Tory vote.  May's ordinary election was a return to safety, with the Tories winning on 45% to 32% for Labour and 15% for UKIP.

The Conservatives haven't looked far for a new candidate to replace Arculus, having selected Lynne Ayres, a senior partner at the same firm of solicitors and chair of the Peterborough School governors.  Labour's Mohammed Sabir fights the ward for the fifth time; he is a businessman and a former city councillor, representing Central ward from 2004 to 2006.  UKIP's regular candidate for the ward John Myles returns to the fray: he is now retired after working for twenty years as a surgeon at Peterborough District Hospital.  Also on the ballot paper are the Green Party's Alex Airey and the Lib Dems' Malcolm Pollack.

Parliamentary constituency: Peterborough
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough

May 2015 result C 2312 Lab 1619 UKIP 755 Grn 418
May 2014 result C 991 Lab 805 UKIP 614 Lib 210 Grn 133
May 2012 result C 1079 Lab 547 UKIP 499 Ind 304 LD 156
May 2011 result C 1937 Lab 850 UKIP 343 LD 243
May 2010 result C 2664 Lab 1265 EDP 609
Dec 2009 by-election C 1252 Lab 341 LD 224 UKIP 177 EDP 93 Grn 58
May 2008 result C 1683 Ind 758 Lab 466 Grn 99 LD 93
May 2007 result C 1908 Lab 559 Grn 313
May 2006 result C 1988 Lab 766
June 2004 result C 2108/2104/2020 Lab 660/527/524 LD 655


Cheshire East council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Peter Mason at the age of 75.  A long-serving councillor, he was first elected in 1991 to the former Congleton borough council and in 1993 to the former Cheshire county council; he was one of the original Cheshire East councillors elected in 2008 and was Cabinet member for procurement from 2009 to 2012.  Away from the council he was a keen Stoke City fan, and Congleton's leisure centre is to be renamed in his memory.

An orange valley
 For the final three by-elections this week we are in the north-west of England, starting in the Cheshire town of Congleton, a mediaeval market town in the Pennine foothills.  Like many Pennine towns, the traditional industry here was textiles, and many of the old mills still exist.  This ward covers the eastern half of the town: the Hightown, Mossley and Buglawton districts around the town's railway station and the Macclesfield Canal, together with the western slopes of The Cloud, a prominent Peak District hill which dominates the eastern Cheshire Plain.
The ward has the same boundaries as the former Congleton Town East division of the old Cheshire county council, and the 2005 and 2008 results for that division are shown in the table below.  In the days when Congleton borough council existed this area was covered by the Buglawton, Congleton North and Congleton South wards: a look at the old results for that council (which last went to the polls in 2007) shows that the Tory majority comes out of the old Congleton South ward - the Mossley and Hightown areas around the railway station - while the rest of the ward is marginal.  This adds up to a safe Tory ward: in May the Tories won with 39% against evenly divided opposition (20% for Labour, 17% for UKIP, 14% for an independent).

Defending for the Conservatives is Geoff Baggott, an independent financial advisor and Congleton town councillor.  Labour have also selected a Congleton town councillor, psychiatric nurse Robert Boston.  Yet another Congleton town councillor on the ballot is UKIP's Dawn Allen, while the Lib Dem Denis Murphy completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Congleton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stoke-on-Trent

May 2015 result C 2969/2603/2361 Lab 1506/1436/1340 UKIP 1290/1055 Ind 1067 LD 736/666/658
May 2011 result C 2139/1982/1849 Lab 1268/1190/1087 Independent Voice of Congleton 959 LD 632
May 2008 result C 2189/2143/2078 LD 709/625/597 Lab 688
May 2005 county council result C 3098 Lab 1772 LD 1282 Grn 423


Chorley borough council, Lancashire
Caused by the disqualification of Labour councillor Mike Handley who failed to attend any meetings in six months.

Euxton library
First, a pronunciation guide: EX-ton.  This is a village which many pass through but few visit, lying on the old Preston-Wigan road and the West Coast mainline and bypassed by the M6 motorway.  Euxton's traditional industry was munitions: just outside the ward is the site of ROF Chorley, an enormous munitions factory which at its height employed over 40,000 people.  Today the ward has a fairly middle-class, commuter profile with the main oddity from the census figures being a notably high "Christian" figure - in Lancashire this usually indicates a large Catholic population.
This is a key marginal ward: Labour in 2002 and 2004, Tory from 2006 to 2010, Labour since 2012.  The ward last polled in 2014 when Labour had 45%, the Tories 37% and UKIP 19%.  At county level the ward is grouped with Buckshaw Village and Whittle-le-Woods in the Chorley North division - despite the fact that Chorley North has been Tory since 2005, all of this is key marginal territory, and indeed it is part of the marginal Chorley parliamentary constituency, currently held for Labour by the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle.

Defending Euxton North for Labour is Tommy Gray, a former Labour councillor for the ward who lost his seat to the Conservatives in 2006.  His main opposition will come from the Tories' Alan Platt.  UKIP's Christopher Suart, of Whittle-le-Woods, completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Chorley
Lancashire county council division: Chorley North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Preston

May 2014 result Lab 692 C 570 UKIP 289
May 2012 result Lab 847 C 549 UKIP 179
May 2010 result C 1388 Lab 1215
May 2008 result C 908 Lab 745
May 2006 result C 833 Lab 718
June 2004 result Lab 1016 C 890
May 2002 result Lab 1086/989 C 773/769 LD 234


Barrow in Furness borough council, Cumbria
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Lesley Graham, who has a new job as the public health locality manager for Barrow.  She had served as a councillor since 2011.

'Frying Plaice', Barrow-in-Furness
We finish this week in the town of Barrow-in-Furness, a town which neatly demonstrates just how the Conservatives won May's general election by playing on anti-Scottish sentiment.  The census figures bear out that this is a manufacturing town - Risedale ward, as well as having a working-class profile, has one of the UK's populations of people with apprenticeships.  The only game in town here is defence: Barrow has an active shipyard actively preparing to build the next generation of submarines for Britain's nuclear deterrent.  That's why Labour lost the Barrow parliamentary seat in 1983, and there was a 5-point swing to the Conservatives here in May which cut the Labour majority in Barrow and Furness to three figures.
Nonetheless, at exactly the same time Labour kept their grip on Barrow-in-Furness council, losing just two seats to the Tories.  The opposition to Labour is poorly organised in the town - Labour won six seats unopposed - and there was no Tory slate in Risedale ward, an entirely built-up area in the south-eastern corner of town along the Roose Road and Risedale Road.  The Tories actually won one of the ward's three seats in 2008, when the ward was last redrawn, but lost it back to Labour in 2011.  This May the three-person Labour slate was opposed by just two UKIP candidates, who were trounced 77-23.  The Risedale county council division - which has somewhat different boundaries - is also safe Labour.

Defending for Labour is Lee Mack lookalike Michael Cassells, chairman of the Furness branch of Mind among other things.  UKIP have selected Colin Rudd, chairman of the party's South Cumbria branch.  Also standing is Carole Friend for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Barrow and Furness
Cumbria county council division: Risedale (most); Roosecote (part: Roose Gate)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barrow-in-Furness

May 2015 result Lab 1474/1361/1310 UKIP 438/348
May 2011 result Lab 827/820/812 C 326/269/263 UKIP 159
May 2010 result Lab 1647 C 599 Socialist People's Party 252
May 2008 result C 461 Lab 427/395/387

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

By-election Previews: 22 October 2015

Six local by-elections will take place on 22nd October 2015.  Most of these should be safe Tory holds, with the party unlikely to be troubled in Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Essex or central London, while Labour should have little trouble defending one of the grimmer parts of Oxford.  But we start this week with a Labour defence on the edge of Greater Manchester which the Tories have a good chance of gaining.

Bury metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Simon Carter.  A councillor since 2012, Carter's resignation came after pleading guilty to making indecent images of children.

Welcome to the West Pennine Moors.  Up in the hills a few miles to the north-west of Bury, Tottington is essentially an affluent Bury suburb, although like many towns in the area it grew greatly during the Industrial Revolution with some textile working in the town.  Famous entertainers from Totty include the actress Lisa Riley and most of Elbow, while the Tottington Public Band claims to be one of the UK's oldest brass bands having been in continuous existence since 1835.  Also in the ward are the village of Walshaw to the south and the hamlet of Affetside, high on a hill with fantastic views over Manchester, the Cheshire plain and (on a good day) as far as Snowdonia, while the ward also includes a small part of Bury proper around Elton High School, where your columnist's brother-in-law teaches.

In terms of local politics - did I say affluent?  Even in the Tory nadir year of 1995, when they won fewer than twenty wards in the whole of Greater Manchester, Tottington was one of them - although the boundaries were a little more favourable for the Tories then.  In that context the Labour win in 2012 - the only time Labour have won Tottington since the formation of Bury metropolitan borough in 1973 - is even more surprising, but in 2012 the Conservatives underperformed in Bury very badly partly thanks to a planning-related scandal involving two senior Tory councillors.  May's ordinary election saw a return to Tottington's normal safe Tory status, with the Tories winning on 49% to 29% for Labour and 14% for UKIP.  This ward will clearly have provided the Tory majority in Bury North at the general election.  Ladbrokes are taking bets on the outcome of this by-election, and my tip is to back the Tories.

Defending for Labour is Martin Hayes, who stood in neighbouring Elton ward in May's ordinary election and narrowly lost it to the Conservatives.  Retired policeman Greg Keeley is hoping to make the first Tory gain in a metropolitan borough by-election since March 2014.  UKIP's candidate is Ian Henderson, who fought Bury North in the general election.  Completing the ballot paper are the Green Party's John Southworth and the Lib Dems' David Foss.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester

May 2015 result C 2682 Lab 1592 UKIP 785 Grn 247 LD 194
May 2014 result C 1295 Lab 1019 UKIP 605 Grn 109 LD 88
May 2012 result Lab 1085 C 965 UKIP 379 LD 135
May 2011 result C 1646 Lab 1323 LD 283
May 2010 result C 2521 Lab 1608 LD 1098 BNP 337
May 2008 result C 1700 Lab 614 LD 456 BNP 210
May 2007 result C 1565 Lab 726 LD 354 BNP 345
May 2006 result C 1590 Lab 711 LD 478
June 2004 result C 1796/1563/1479 Lab 1111/1044/980 BNP 663 LD 580

Oxford city council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Scott Seamans, who has a new job as a policy advisor at the Treasury.  First elected in 2010 when he was 23 years old, Seamans had served since 2012 as the council's cabinet member for housing and regeneration, forming plans for the refurbishment of Oxford's tower blocks and the regeneration of Blackbird Leys.

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, along comes another Oxford by-election: this is the seventh council by-election in Oxford since the last ordinary elections in the city in 2014, and the second in this ward within twelve months.  Northfield Brook ward is on the city's southern edge, and covers the south-western half of the notoriously deprived and crime-ridden Blackbird Leys estate.

This is a strongly left-wing area, to the extent that during most of the Noughties it was closely fought between Labour and a local left-wing group called the Independent Working Class Association, who gained the Labour seats in 2004 and 2006 and held both seats in the ward from 2006 to 2010.  However, the IWCA stopped contesting elections after 2008 and in their absence the ward has become a Labour monolith.  The most recent poll here was a by-election in November 2014, caused by the ward's other Labour councillor resigning to stand in a county council by-election: on a dismal turnout Labour had 71%, with the Tories' 11% best of the rest.

Defending for Labour is Jennifer Pegg.  Her opposition will come from the Tories' Gary Dixon (returning from last year's by-election), the Greens' Lucy Ayrton, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's James Morbin (who also stood in the by-election last year) and the ward's first UKIP candidate Joe Lawes.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
Oxfordshire county council division: Leys
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

Nov 2014 by-election Lab 401 C 65 Grn 50 TUSC 34 LD 18
May 2014 result Lab 700 C 112 Grn 111 LD 55
May 2012 result Lab 564 Grn 73 LD 68 C 61
May 2010 result Lab 1264 LD 503 C 419 Grn 140
May 2008 result IWCA 537 Lab 471 C 78 LD 56 Grn 44
May 2006 result IWCA 620 Lab 502 LD 91 Grn 62
July 2005 by-election Lab 592 IWCA 300 LD 141 C 31 Grn 19
June 2004 result IWCA 555 Lab 439 C 90 LD 89 Grn 61
May 2002 result Lab 406/308 IWCA 354/328 LD 70/59 Grn 44/38

South Oxfordshire district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Akehurst on health grounds.  A former mayor of Henley-on-Thames, Akehurst joined the Conservatives earlier this year after having previously been a Henley town councillor for the Henley Residents Group.  He remains a Henley town councillor.

Staying within Oxfordshire and we move to the county's most southeasterly ward, essentially occupying the space between Reading and Henley-on-Thames.  Sonning Common itself is a relatively new village in the Chiltern foothills: the Sonning Common parish has existed only since 1952.  The ward's other main population centre is the rather older Shiplake on the banks of the Thames, home to the ward's railway station on the Henley branch (change at Twyford for Reading and Paddington).

South Oxfordshire was re-warded this year so comparisons with previous years are difficult, but the former Shiplake and Sonning Common wards were Tory bastions and this May's election suggests more of the same: in May the Tory slate had 60%, with Labour runners-up on 16%.  The Sonning Common county council division - which covers a larger area - is also safely Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is William Hall, who is seeking to make a quick return to South Oxfordshire council having lost his seat in the neighbouring Henley-on-Thames ward in May; currently a parliamentary assistant, he is the son of Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the present Director-General of the BBC.  His opposition will come from Labour's David Winchester, who was runner-up here in May and is the only candidate to live in the ward, and the Lib Dems' Sue Cooper.

Parliamentary constituency: Henley
Oxfordshire county council division: Sonning Common
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading and Bracknell

May 2015 result C 2444/2432 Lab 651/510 Grn 519 LD 431/424

Hampshire county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative county councillor Colin Davidovitz.

Continuing our trip around the home counties, we now move south to Hampshire.  Effectively a westward extension of Eastleigh, Chandler's Ford is a nineteenth century town which did not become a parish until 1897.  The completion of the M3 motorway has turned the town into a Southampton commuter area and the division's profile is very middle class, particularly so in the two Hiltingbury wards whch make up two-thirds of the division.

Although this division is in Eastleigh district which is a Lib Dem bastion, it forms part of the Winchester parliamentary constituency and so has a slghtly different electoral dynamic to the rest of Eastleigh.  Since 2005 Chandler's Ford has been the only Conservative division in Eastleigh district: at the most recent county elections in 2013 the Tories won with 39%, the Lib Dems were second on 32% and UKIP third on 22%.  At district level the two Hiltingbury wards are the only reliable Tory wards in Eastleigh, while Chandler's Ford East was Conservative in 2002 but has voted Lib Dem ever since.

Defending for the Conservatives is Judith Grajewski, a district and parish councillor for Hiltingbury West ward.  The Lib Dems have selected James Duguid, the vice-chairman of Chandler's Ford parish council.  UKIP's candidate is John Edwards, a self-employed gardener and chairman of UKIP's Winchester branch.  Labour's Sarah Smith completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Winchester
Eastleigh borough council wards: Chandler's Ford East, Hiltingbury East, Hiltingbury West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southampton

May 2013 result C 1919 LD 1557 UKIP 1073 Lab 238 Grn 124
June 2009 result C 2860 LD 1928 UKIP 573 Lab 215
May 2005 result C 3951 LD 3592 UKIP 844 Lab 329

Colchester borough council, Essex
Caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Mark Cable, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.

'Ello 'ello 'ello.  Evenin' all.  We're in Constable country here, running north from the edge of Colchester along the A12 to the River Stour and the Suffolk border.  It was the early nineteenth-century artist John Constable who made this area famous for its beauty: Constable was schooled in Dedham and many of his most famous paintings - notably "Dedham Vale" - are set within the ward.  Given Constable's legacy in bringing tourism to what is still a generally agricultural area, it's fitting that the local county council division is named after him.

Dedham and Langham last went to the polls in 2012, when Mark Cable was elected for the first time.  He inherited a super-safe Tory ward, polling 71% of the vote against evenly split opposition - the Lib Dems and Labour tied for second place.  However, the Tories weren't nearly as dominant in the 2013 county council elections in Constable division, finishing a mere 13 points ahead of UKIP.

Defending for the Conservatives is Anne Brown, Constable division's county councillor since 2009.  She is opposed by George Penny of the Lib Dems, John Spademan of Labour and the ward's first UKIP candidate Bill Faram.

Parliamentary constituency: Harwich and North Essex
Essex county council division: Constable
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester

May 2012 result C 596 LD 81 Lab 81 Grn 78
May 2008 result C 895 LD 102 Lab 46 Grn 38
June 2004 result C 991 LD 180 Lab 84
May 2002 result C 747 LD 197 Lab 73

Westminster city council, London
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Audrey Lewis.

We finish this week in the heart of London: the mansion territory of Marylebone.  The ward's southern end is at Marble Arch, and it includes the western end of Oxford Street, before running up past the narrow Bryanston Square to the Edgware Road, and across it to include Dorset Square and Marylebone station, the terminus for Chiltern Railways' services to Buckinghamshire, Birmingham and (in the next few years) Oxford.  As well as Marylebone, the ward is well-served by the Underground, with Marble Arch and Edgware Road (Circle) within its boundaries: also here is the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street.  Quiz League of London players may be familiar with the Carpenters Arms on Seymour Place, which going into this week's matches was home to the league's top two teams (Broken Hearts and Nomads).

Anyway, who actually lives and (more importantly) votes in these lovely Georgian mansions?  A walk along the southern end of the Edgware Road will persuade you that there's a huge amount of immigration here: in the last census only 39% of the ward's population was British-born and 42% were born outside the EU.  As you might expect from the Edgware Road's shisha bars, Bryanston and Dorset Square has one of the UK's highest populations from the Middle East, with 9% of the population hailing from there.  Most of those people, however won't have the vote - and the fact that the ward's average property price is around £950,000 gives a hint of the sort of people here who do have the vote: rich people.  This is a very safe Tory area: at the most recent borough election in 2014 the Tory slate had 52% to 20% for Labour and 16% for the Green Party.  In the 2012 GLA elections Boris beat Ken here 67-20 and the Tories led Labour 55-21 in the London Member ballot.  Although the Returning Officer for this by-election is called Charlie Parker, the music coming out of the ward's ballot boxes is likely to be blues.

Defending for the Conservatives is Julia Alexander, a community activist who has worked as a writer and in English teaching.  Labour have selected Ananthi Paskaralingam, a former debt advisor who volunteers at an activity centre for older people.  Also on the ballot are Hugh Small of the Green Party, the Lib Dems' Martin Thompson, UKIP candidate Jill de Quincey, and Steve Dollond who is standing on a platform of opposing two-way traffic along Baker Street.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly constituency: West Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2014 result C 1207/1180/1049 Lab 468/415/391 Grn 381 LD 286/240
May 2010 result C 1993/1990/1965 LD 810/728/670 Lab 747/666/621 Grn 475
May 2006 result C 1266/1250/1187 Grn 352 LD 317/263/256 Lab 262/247/233
May 2002 result C 1157/1147/1123 Lab 295/277/264 LD 260/232

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Boris 1309 Ken 396 Ind 95 Grn 76 LD 59 UKIP 22 BNP 6
Assembly: C 1085 Lab 422 Grn 186 LD 130 UKIP 66 CPA 20 EDP 14 House Party 13 BNP 10 TUSC 9 Hayat 5 NF 4 Alagaratnam 1

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

By-election Previews: 15 October 2015

London Borough of Southwark
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Chris Gonde due to a poor work/life balance.  He had served as a Southwark councillor since 2014.

This is an interesting inner-city ward, the sort of typical inner London ward where rich and poor live cheek by jowl.  The centre of the ward is Champion Hill in southern Camberwell, the home of the non-league football club Dulwich Hamlet, and the ward extends to Denmark Hill railway station in the north (a major junction with frequent trains to Victoria, Blackfriars and the East London line of the Overground) and East Dulwich and North Dulwich stations to the south (on the London Bridge-West Croydon/Beckenham Junction line).  The ward's population is heavily multiracial with one of the highest black populations in the UK, and 38% of the households are socially rented, but almost half the adult population has a degree-level qualification and a fair proportion of the rest are studying for one: King's College London has a large halls of residence here.

This population mix normally produces a safe Labour ward, but in the 2006 election the Green Party broke through to take one of the ward's three seats.  That Green councillor was Jenny Jones; now Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Jones has served on the London Assembly since its foundation in 2000.  Jones lost her council seat in 2010 to Labour's Stephen Govier, who was then thrown out of the Labour party after it was revealed that he had served a six-year prison sentence in the USA for shooting a man.  In the 2012 London elections Jones was the Green Party's mayoral candidate, coming in third, and top of the Green list; in that election South Camberwell's ballot boxes voted for Ken Livingstone over Boris by 54-23, but a personal vote for Jones can be seen on the London Member ballot in which the Greens were second on 18%, Labour again polling 54% and the Tories coming third on 13%.  The most recent poll here was the 2014 Southwark council election in which Labour won with 51%, the Greens had 23% and the Conservatives 11%.

Defending for Labour is Octavia Lamb, a picture editor currently working for a new BBC digital project.  The Green Party have reselected their lead candidate from 2014 Eleanor Margolies, a writer and theatremaker.  The Tory candidate is Christopher Mottau.  Also standing are Benjamin Maitland of the Lib Dems and the aforementioned Stephen Govier for the "All People's Party", a group of disaffected former Labour figures.

Parliamentary constituency: Camberwell and Peckham
London Assembly constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London

May 2014 result Lab 1915/1853/1827 Grn 855/619/509 C 421/363/351 LD 315/283/237 All People's Party 176 Ind 96/70/67
May 2010 result Lab 2688/2541/2502 LD 1509/943/872 Grn 1282/822/683 C 835/712/628
May 2006 result Lab 1148/1090/967 Grn 1014/914/832 C 448/425/372 LD 339/315/247
May 2002 result Lab 896/839/836 Grn 417/316/270 LD 314/308/259 C 279/261/258 Socialist Alliance 95

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1617 Boris 696 Grn 303 Ind 168 LD 151 UKIP 20 BNP 15
London Members: Lab 1622 Grn 532 C 387 LD 202 CPA 78 TUSC 62 UKIP 50 BNP 23 House Party 15 EDP 12 Hayat 3 NF 2 Alagaratnam 0

Cambridgeshire county council
Caused by the death of UKIP councillor Sandra Rylance at the age of 69, from a brain tumour.  Described as "extremely competent, intelligent and very caring", Ryland had served as a county councillor since 2013.

Welcome to the Fens: Chatteris is an ancient town which was once an island of dry ground in the middle of the Fens.  The Fens have been drained to become rich agricultural land, and agriculture is accordingly the mainstay of the town's economy: a third of Britain's parsnips and one in six of the country's onions pass through the town.  Notoriously, the town is not home to a Tesco supermarket; one has recently been built, at a cost of £22 million, but failed to open due to Tesco's financial troubles.  The Chatteris division includes much of that agricultural land but only around two-thirds of the town itself, the rest being in the Forty Foot division.

Chatteris was one of twelve seats which UKIP won in the 2013 Cambridgeshire county council elections, with a majority of just five votes in what was previously a Tory/Lib Dem marginal; in that election UKIP had 35%, the Tories 34% and the Liberal Democrats 21%.  Following boundary changes in 2015 the division doesn't neatly match up with the Fenland district ward boundaries, but the Tories hold all five of the wards wholly or partly in the division and two of them were uncontested in May.  Not unusual for Fenland district.

Defending for UKIP is Richard Mandley, a plumber.  His main opposition will come from the Tories' Alan Melton, the previous county councillor for the division who stood down in 2013.  The Lib Dems' John Freeman completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshire
Fenland district council wards: The Mills, Wenneye, Birch (part), Manea (part), Slade Lode (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huntingdon

May 2013 result UKIP 584 C 579 LD 358 Lab 159
June 2009 result C 1140 LD 975 Lab 157
May 2005 result C 1604 LD 955 Lab 926

Cumbria county council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Sue Hayman, who is now the Member of Parliament for Workington.  A Cumbria county councillor since 2013, Hayman had previously worked in social services.

Firmly within West Cumbria, this is the northern end of the Copeland district, although you'd be hard pressed to find a village called Howgate on the map.  The largest population centre here is in fact Distington, a large village off the main road between Workington and Whitehaven.  Other villages within the ward include Moresby and the coastal village of Parton, home to the division's railway station on the Cumbrian Coast line.  Here also can be found Lowca, a former coalmining and ironworking village which now exports electricity thanks to a large windfarm.

This is a consistently Labour area at both district and county level, although it does include a small part of Copeland's Bransty ward which is normally Conservative.  Cumbria was redistricted in 2013 so the only previous result is from that year, with Labour beating the Tories 60-31; the predecessor division (Distington and Moresby) was also Labour since at least 2005, although not so handily.

Defending for Labour is Gillian Troughton, a district councillor for Distington ward.  She is opposed by Andrew Wonnacott for the Conservatives and Eric Atkinson for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Copeland
Copeland district council wards: Distington; Moresby; Bransty (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Workington and Keswick (part); Whitehaven (part)

May 2013 result Lab 692 C 354 Grn 98

Andrew Teale

Thursday, 8 October 2015

By-election Previews: 8 October 2015

By-elections on 8th October 2015:

Woking borough council, Surrey
Caused by the resignations of Liberal Democrat councillors Amanda and Denzil Coulson respectively in order to take up teaching positions in the Middle East.  Amanda was first elected in 2011 (under her previous name of Amanda van Niekerk), while Denzil had served as a Woking councillor since 2006.

We start this week with two polls in the Surrey commuter town of Woking, the first stop out of Waterloo for many of South West Trains' fast services.  Thanks to some weird-looking ward boundaries Woking station and town centre lies at the eastern end of Goldsworth East ward, but Goldsworth East and Goldsworth West wards are actually based on the enormous Goldsworth Park housing estate; essentially the north-western corner of Woking, work started on Goldsworth Park in 1973 and was completed in the 1990s.  Demographically the two wards are very different.  East is one of the most middle-class professional wards in the UK, with over half the adult population holding degree-level qualifications; West is closer to the UK average demographic but does have a very high employment rate.

Woking council elections are traditionally a close fight between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, although the Tories have done very well in the town recently and now have a strong majority.  The two Goldsworth wards were safe Lib Dem until the advent of the coalition, when Goldsworth East in particular turned into a Tory/Lib Dem marginal.  The Tories broke through in East ward in 2011 and gained a second seat in 2014, so the last Lib Dem seat here is up for election.  May's ordinary election makes East ward look safe for the Tories: they had 44% to 24% for the Lib Dems and 21% for Labour.  Goldsworth West last polled in 2014 and again fitted the pattern of a Tory surge, the Lib Dem majority in this previously safe ward being cut to 58 votes: they won with 38% to 33% for the Tories and 19% for UKIP.  At county level the two wards are in different divisions: the division covering Goldsworth East is a Tory/Lib Dem marginal while Goldsworth West is the Lib Dem part of a safe Tory county division.

Defending for the Lib Dems in Goldsworth East is James Sanderson who fought the ward in May; a chartered accountant, he served as a Tower Hamlets councillor from 2002 to 2006 for Bethnal Green North ward.  The Tory candidate is Sonia Elbaraka, who works for a local kitchen design company.  Labour have selected photographer Jay Butcher, and the ballot paper is completed by UKIP's Tim Read.

In Goldsworth West the former Mayor of Woking Tina Liddington seeks to make a quick return to the council after losing her seat in the neighbouring Hermitage and Knaphill South ward in May: she works in a local health centre.  The Conservatives have selected former Gurkha officer Chitra Rana.  UKIP's candidate is business analyst Troy de Leon, and Labour's Rabina Shaheen completes the ballot paper.

Goldsworth East
Parliamentary constituency: Woking
Surrey county council division: Goldsworth East and Horsell Village
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot

May 2015 result C 1592 LD 859 Lab 766 UKIP 377
May 2014 result C 837 LD 687 UKIP 381 Lab 376
May 2012 result LD 783 C 680 Lab 350 UKIP 168
May 2011 double vacancy C 1093/839 LD 947/817 Lab 447/351 UKIP 215
May 2010 result LD 1861 C 1267 Lab 373 UKIP 189
May 2008 result LD 1261 C 654 UKIP 126 Lab 120
May 2007 result LD 1150 C 829 Lab 163 UKIP 72
May 2006 result LD 1062 C 840 Lab 198
June 2004 double vacancy LD 1122/966 C 500/358 Lab 196/135 UKIP 194 Health and Community Issues Party 68
May 2003 result LD 727 C 457 Lab 210
May 2002 result LD 797 C 488 Lab 316

Goldsworth West
Parliamentary constituency: Woking
Surrey county council division: Knaphill and Goldsworth West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot

May 2014 result LD 467 C 409 UKIP 238 Lab 126
May 2012 result LD 515 C 270 Lab 160
May 2010 result LD 1271 C 850 Lab 220 UKIP 121
May 2008 result LD 661 C 369 Lab 116 UKIP 50
May 2006 result LD 810 C 368 Lab 83
June 2004 result LD 561 C 297 UKIP 122 Lab 73 Health and Community Issues Party 22
May 2002 result LD 485 C 266 Lab 83

South Oxfordshire district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jon Woodley-Shead, who had served only since May.

"A very good place to drown yourself in"
- Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

In the heart of the Thames Valley, here we have one of those unwieldy rural wards which are just agglomerations of parishes that happen to fit the numbers.  Effectively the rural area immediately south of Oxford and east of Abingdon, Sandford and the Wittenhams contains eight parishes along both banks of the Thames.  At the northern end of the ward is its largest population centre of Sandford-on-Thames, a commuter village just outside the Oxford city limits which was the location for an unofficial Boat Race during the war (Oxford won, by two-thirds of a length).  Here can be found a lock on the river which, as the above Jerome K Jerome quote suggests, is a notorious suicide location: Michael Llewelyn Davies, adopted son of J M Barrie and inspiration for Peter Pan, drowned here in 1921 while studying at Christ Church, Oxford.  The Wittenhams are Long Wittenham and Little Wittenham, two villages on what was once the Berkshire side of the river.  At the centre of the ward is Culham, the ward's economic centre thanks to a UK Atomic Energy Authority site which is the home of two major nuclear fusion experiments: the Joint European Torus (officially opened in 1984) and the Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (currently closed for upgrading).  Culham is also the location of the ward's railway station, on First Great Western's Cherwell Valley line.

South Oxfordshire council was re-warded in May; previously most of this area was covered by Sandford ward, which was Lib Dem in 2003 but safe Tory by 2011.  May's election is the only previous result on these boundaries, and saw the Tories win with 47% against very evenly split opposition: the Lib Dems came second with 20%, and Labour's third place with 17% only just beat the Greens.  At county level most of the ward is in the safe Tory division of Berinsfield and Garsington, while the two Wittenhams are covered by the independent-held Wallingford county division.

Defending for the Tories is Sue Lawson, from Sandford-on-Thames.  The Lib Dems have reselected their May candidate Simon Thompson, from Long Wittenham.  Labour's candidate is Jim Merritt, and the Greens' Sam Casey-Rerhaye completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Henley (part north of River Thames); Wantage (part south of River Thames)
Oxfordshire county council division: Berinsfield and Garsington (part north of River Thames); Wallingford (part south of River Thames)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

May 2015 result C 1030 LD 445 Lab 367 Grn 343

South Hams district council, Devon
Caused by the resignation of Green Party councillor Barrie Wood, who had served only since May, on health grounds.

The town of Totnes has a large amount of myth and legend around it - going back to Brutus of Troy and Uther Pendragon - but its attested history begins in 907 when King Edward the Elder fortified it.  The town quickly became an important market town thanks to its location at the lowest bridging point of the navigable River Dart, and being on one of the major ancient roads through the West Country, and by 1523 was assessed by the Exchequer as the sixteenth richest town in England - ahead of major cities such as Worcester, Gloucester and Lincoln.  Although Totnes is no longer on the main road through the South West, it is a stop on the Great Western main line from London to Plymouth. Today Totnes is probably better known for its bohemian lifestyle, being declared by Time magazine in 2007 to be the capital of New Age chic; a large number of artists and musicians live here.

South Hams was re-warded this year, and the current Totnes ward is a straight merger of the former Totnes Bridgetown and Totnes Town wards; Bridgetown returned an independent and a Lib Dem councillor from 2003 to 2011, while Town split Lib Dem/Labour in 2003, returned two Lib Dems in 2007 and two Green councillors narrowly in 2011; one of the Green councillors had been elected as a Lib Dem in 2007.  The Greens have also held the county council division covering the town since 2009.  In May the ward was safe Green with the Green Party slate polling 34%; however, they stood only two candidates for the three available seats, and Labour (19%) narrowly beat the Lib Dems (17%) and Tories (14%) for the final seat.

In a fine example of nominative determinism the defending Green candidate is John Green, who gives an address twenty miles away in the village of Newton Ferrers; he is a parish councillor and chair of South Devon Green Party.  The Labour candidate is town councillor Eleanor Cohen.  The Lib Dems have reselected solicitor and travel blogger John Birch, who was the runner-up in May's election.  Also returning from May's election is the Tories' Ralph Clark, and independent Peter Pirnie (a former BNP figure) completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Totnes
Devon county council division: Totnes Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Paignton and Totnes

May 2015 result Grn 2215/1839 Lab 1265/1137/1111 LD 1150 C 928/815/754 UKIP 693 TUSC 349

Bolsover district council, Derbyshire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor James Hall, who had served as a councillor for the ward since 2011.

We move north for the week's final by-election in Derbyshire.  Despite its name, Bolsover South ward is in fact the east of the town of Bolsover, together with the village of Whaley Common to the east.  Bolsover is a pit town of fairly recent vintage, and its population is typical of ex-pit areas: overwhelmingly working-class and British.  The ward has politics to match.  Bolsover council tends to have a large number of unopposed Labour councillors, and this by-election is only the second contested election in Bolsover South this century: the last one came in 2011, when the two-person Labour slate was opposed by a single Tory candidate and won 69-31.

Defending for Labour is Pat Cooper, an Old Bolsover town councillor.  Labour's opposition comes from Juliet Armstrong of the Conservatives, the ward's first UKIP candidate John Bagshaw, and Jon Dale of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary constituency: Bolsover
Derbyshire county council division: Bolsover South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield

May 2015 result 2 Lab unopposed
May 2011 result Lab 787/611 C 351
May 2007 result 2 Lab unopposed
May 2003 result 2 Lab unopposed