Tuesday, 10 November 2015

By-election Previews: 12 November 2015

Four local by-elections taking place this week - two covered here and another two covered over on the Welsh Elections blog.

Dorset county council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Dan Brember due to work commitments.

Despite the name, this is Weymouth: the southern side of the Wey estuary, running from the Nothe Fort along the edge of Weymouth harbour.  Now Dorset's largest town after Bournemouth and Poole gained unitary status, Weymouth is one of the most long-standing tourist resorts in the world, thanks its being the favoured holiday residence of King George III: the town gained a new audience in 2012 when it was the venue for the sailing events in the London Olmypics.  Tourism and sailing are the mainstay of the town's economy, although it is also the headquarters of the fashion chain New Look.

Weymouth's local elections are a fractured mess, with significant support for all five of the UK's political parties and many wards being won on low shares of the vote.  The Rodwell county division is consistently marginal: in 2005 Labour beat the Tories 37-31, but the Tories made the gain in 2009 by beating the Lib Dems 42-38, Labour falling to third place in their nadir year.  Labour recovered in 2013 to win the division with just 29% of the vote in a four-way marginal result, with the Tories coming second on 24%, the Greens third on 23% and UKIP fourth on 19%.  The division covers two wards of Weymouth and Portland council: Weymouth East is generally a Lib Dem/Tory marginal, but the Lib Dems didn't contest it in May's election and the Tories held their seat, beating the Green Party 38-28 with Labour third on 19%.  Weymouth West is a key Tory/Labour marginal, although the Tories built up a big lead in May (C 44% Lab 33% Grn 22%) having been just five votes ahead of Labour in 2014.  The Tories were clearly ahead across both wards in May and Labour - who are defending Weymouth West next year - might have an uphill struggle to hold this by-election.

The task of holding Rodwell for Labour falls to Hazel Priest, a gardener and designer.  The Tory candidate is Richard Nickinson, treasurer of the local Conservative association.  The Green Party candidate is Clare Sutton, who was the Labour county councillor for this division from 2005 to 2009 and is a regular Green candidate in the area.  UKIP have selected their Weymouth and Portland borough councillor, the wonderfully-named Francis Drake.  The Lib Dems' Graham Winter completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: South Dorset
Weymouth and Portland borough council wards: Weymouth East, Weymouth West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dorchester and Weymouth

May 2013 result Lab 722 C 583 Grn 565 UKIP 467 LD 132
June 2009 result C 1126 LD 1019 Lab 566
May 2005 result Lab 1734 C 1476 LD 1186 UKIP 305

Shropshire council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mansel Williams.

For the second of this week's two English by-elections we are in Shrewsbury.  The Belle Vue division lies on the south bank of the Severn, running from the English Bridge at the north end, through the suburb of Coleham and along the Belle Vue Road - once the main road to Hereford.  This is a built-up ward with mostly nineteenth and early twentieth-century housing stock, which (particularly in Coleham) is prone to flooding due its proximity to the river.

Williams was a long-standing councillor for Belle Vue, having represented the ward for some years on the former Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council which was abolished in 2009.  He seems to have had a large personal vote given that the ward's demographics are fairly mixed: at his last re-election in 2013 he beat the Tories 76-24 in a straight fight.  On the other hand, Labour had the same lead in the Shrewsbury town council elections here on the same day, and the ruling Conservative group on Shropshire council has a rather right-wing reputation.

Defending for Labour is Amy Liebich, although describing herself on Twitter as a "prospective Labour councillor" for the ward is perhaps a little bit presumptive.  The Tory candidate is Andrew Wagner, town councillor for the Quarry and Coton Hill ward which covers Shrewsbury town centre.  Also standing are town councillor Beverley Baker for the Lib Dems and Sam Taylor of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Shrewsbury and Atcham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shrewsbury

May 2013 result Lab 939 C 289
June 2009 result Lab 797 C 571 Grn 161 LD 117

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