Nine by-elections on 26th November 2015, five in England, two in Wales and two in Scotland. In England the Conservatives are defending seats in Essex and Lancashire, the Liberal Democrats one in Salisbury, and two by-elections in Nottinghamshire are caused by the resignation of the same Independent councillor.
CARNFORTH AND MILLHEAD
Lancaster city council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Christopher Leadbetter at the age of 64, while on holiday in Croatia. Leadbetter had served on Lancaster city council only since May, having previously been a teacher at Our Lady's Catholic College in Lancaster for thirty years.
We start in the north this week at Carnforth, a small town a few miles north of Lancaster. This is a railway town based around a major junction at which branch lines to Barrow-in-Furness and Skipton join the West Coast Main Line. The railways are still an important part of the town's economy: the West Coast Railway Company has its headquarters here, maintaining and overhauling steam locomotives and charter trains; and the station itself is a focus for tourism as a result of its being used as a set for the wartime David Lean film Brief Encounter. Legend has it that one of the extras in that film was a thirteen-year-old lad called Cecil Parkinson, the son of the stationmaster; he would go on to greater things as a fixture of Margaret Thatcher's cabinets in the 1980s.
Lancaster got new ward boundaries this year, in which the former Carnforth ward was expanded by taking in the Crag Bank area on the A6 at the south end of town, together with the village of Millhead - a nineteenth-century company village originally built to house local ironworkers who had come from a failing ironworks in Dudley. The previous two-member Carnforth ward had been Labour in 2003, but split Tory/Independent in 2007, Labour regaining the independent seat in a 2011 result which was close between the two main parties. The new ward boundaries would appear to have helped the Tories, who beat Labour 48-35 in the expanded ward in May. The Tories also hold the local county council division, although this is not the best part of the division for them.
Defending for the Tories is George Askew, from the village of Warton just outside the ward. Labour have reselected Paul Gardner, their councillor who lost his seat in May. Also standing are Christopher Coates of the Green Party, Philip Dunster of the Lib Dems and UKIP's Michelle Ogden.
Parliamentary constituency: Morecambe and Lunesdale
Lancashire county council division: Lancaster Rural North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
May 2015 result C 1405/1238/1184 Lab 1027/981/921 Grn 495
SELSTON and SELSTON
Nottinghamshire county council and Ashfield district council, Nottinghamshire
Both caused by the resignation of Selston Independent councillor Gail Turner.
We're in what Nottinghamshire county council is slightly hopefully calling the Hidden Valleys area in hope of encouraging tourism to an area which has been blighted by the decline of Nottinghamshire's heavy industry. Selston itself is a large village on a hilltop just off the M1 motorway, around nine miles south-west of Mansfield, with a population of around 12,000; it is centred on Nottinghamshire's oldest church, dating to 1150 and dedicated to St Helen. The county division, as well as Selston itself, takes in the former mining village of Jacksdale (Nottinghamshire's most westerly village) and almost all of the increasingly desirable Underwood ward.
Gail Turner had a very strong personal vote, having topped the poll in every district and county election in Selston since 2005, when she finished close behind Labour in the county election. That makes it rather difficult to assess what will happen now she is gone. The district ward has returned two independents at every election this century, usually under the Turnerite banner of "Selston Area Independent"; however, the other Selston Area Independent councillor, Sam Wilson, was re-elected in May as a plain-vanilla independent. At county level, Turner beat Labour 72-23 in the last county council election in 2013. Turner changed her description in May to "Selston Parish Independent".
In the county by-election the defending Selston Parish Independent candidate is David Martin, who fought Jacksdale ward in May's district elections and finished third. He is opposed by Labour's Mike Hollis, Paul Saxelby of the Tories, independent district councillor Sam Wilson and UKIP's Ray Young.
The district by-election sees Christine Quinn-Wilcox, the runner-up in May's ordinary election, defend for the Selston Parish Independents. She is opposed by Labour's Donna Gilbert, the Tories' Michelle Sims, independent Anna Wilson and UKIP's Ray Young (again).
Selston (County council)
Parliamentary constituency: Ashfield
Ashfield district council wards: Jacksdale, Selston, Underwood (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield (Jacksdale and Selston wards); Nottingham (Underwood ward)
May 2013 result Selston Area Ind 2427 Lab 794 Ind 161
June 2009 result Selston Area Ind 1593 LD 1037 BNP 734 Lab 557 C 343 Grn 79
May 2005 result Lab 2523 Ind 2272 LD 1013
Selston (District council)
Parliamentary constituency: Ashfield
Nottinghamshire county council division: Selston
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield
May 2015 result Selston Parish Ind 1977/738 Ind 1427 Lab 617/564 LD 306 TUSC 95
May 2011 result Selston Area Ind 1678/1463 Lab 380/347 LD 124/95
May 2007 result Selston Area Ind 1402/1114 Lab 391 Ind 366
May 2003 result Ind 750/708 Lab 596/570
Rochford district council, Essex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Gillian Lucas-Gill, who had served as a councillor since 2008.
Moving into the Thames Estuary now and the small town of Rochford, just north of Southend-on-Sea. This is a popular commuter town thanks to its location on the Liverpool Street-Southend railway line, and its transport links have only got better in recent years thanks to the development of Southend Airport, which lies within the ward and links Rochford to more than twenty holiday destinations across Europe. Rochford is also notable for Sister Jean Ward, a nurse at the former Rochford General Hospital who discovered the phototherapy treatment for jaundice in newborn babies.
However, Rochford doesn't vote like a commuter ward. Labour won one of the three seats here in 2002, losing it to the Tories fairly narrowly in 2006. Since 2012 the ward has become marginal, Labour cutting the Tory majority to 45 votes in 2012 and gaining the ward in 2014 with a majority of 58; however, the Tories held the ward in May's ordinary election with 40% and a majority of 325, UKIP (31%) moving into second place just ahead of Labour (29%). The ward is also part of a three-way marginal county division which was held by the Tories in 2013, just ahead of Labour with UKIP close behind in third.
This is the last time that Rochford's current ward boundaries will be used, as new boundaries come in for May's election next year; whoever wins this by-election is likely to be straight back on the campaign trail to seek re-election in May 2016. Defending for the Tories is Gillian's widower Michael Lucas-Gill, who formerly ran a hardware shop in the town and is a former Rochford parish councillor. UKIP's candidate is Nicholas Cooper, who fought Ashingdon and Canewdon ward in May. Labour have selected Rochford parish councillor Matt Softly. Daniel Irlam, the ward's first Lib Dem candidate since 2003, completes the ballot paper.
Parliamentary constituency: Rochford and Southend East
Essex county council division: Rochford South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend and Brentwood
May 2015 result C 1372 UKIP 1047 Lab 998
May 2014 result Lab 653 C 595 UKIP 495 Ind 149
May 2012 result C 735 Lab 690
May 2011 result C 801 Lab 588 Grn 357 Ind 187
May 2010 result C 1813 Lab 834 Grn 607
May 2008 double vacancy C 864/796 Lab 361/357 EDP 347 Grn 205
May 2007 result C 970 Lab 442
May 2006 result C 877 Lab 782
June 2004 result C 957 Lab 625
May 2003 double vacancy C 455/406 Lab 412/409 Ind 220/193 LD 91/68
May 2002 result Lab 701/653/594 C 672/660/587
SALISBURY ST EDMUND AND MILFORD
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Helena McKeown, who had served as a Wiltshire councillor since 2013 and as a Salisbury district councillor from 2007 to that council's abolition in 2009.
This is Salisbury's city centre ward, containing the city's main shopping area, the bus station, and the (parish-level) city council offices. It lies generally to the east of the railway station and the north of the cathedral, without containing either. The census figures show a fairly middle-class ward with high levels of immigration and private renting - an interesting mix. This area has been a Lib Dem stronghold throughout the twenty-first century, and that pattern continued in the most recent poll in 2013 when the Lib Dems had 43% to 23% for the Tories and 14% for Labour.
Defending for the Lib Dems is Greg Condliffe, an architect and chairman of the local party branch. He is opposed by the Tories' Atiqul Hoque, Labour's Frank Timbrell, Michael Pope of the Green Party and independent candidate Diana Dallimore.
Parliamentary constituency: Salisbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Salisbury
May 2013 result LD 526 C 281 Lab 177 UKIP 148 Grn 92
June 2009 result LD 849 C 364 UKIP 201 Lab 119