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

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