Monday, 21 December 2015

By-election Preview: 23 December 2015

You're probably sick of Christmas by know and wondering when it's going to be over.  Spare a thought for your columnist, who had a hernia repaired last week and is presently laid up in that phase they euphemistically call "recuperation".  Luckily he found time before his operation to preview the last local by-election of 2015, just two days before Christmas.  Brill, you say?  Correct...

GRENDON UNDERWOOD AND BRILL
Aylesbury Vale district council, Buckinghamshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Cartwright at the age of 75.  Cartwright had had a thirty-year career in local government, starting in June 1985 when he won a by-election in the former Grendon Underwood ward, and served as leader of Aylesbury Vale district council from 2001 to 2013.  He also served on Buckinghamshire county council from 1997 to 2013, and his legacy will be the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, whose VIP suite is named after him.

St. Leonards, Grendon Underwood
We come to Buckinghamshire, to a group of eight parishes on the Oxfordshire border.  The village of Grendon Underwood lies within the countryside, away from the main road between Aylesbury and Bicester; a good location for the SOE, which had a base here in the Second World War, and now home to a couple of prisons.  The ward named after it extends to the south to include the villages of Ludgershall and (following boundary changes this year) Brill, previously the centre of its own ward and once rather bizarrely the north-western terminus of the London Underground.  Famous people associated with the ward include Tony and Cherie Blair, who bought a house here in 2008 for £4 million; and the Great Train Robbers who hid out in Leatherslade Farm not far away from the Blairs.

Because of the rewarding this year results from Grendon Underwood ward in previous years are not directly comparable, although it's fair to say that on the 2003-2011 boundaries the ward was safe Conservative and Cartwright was unopposed in 2003.  The only previous result on these boundaries is from May, where the Tories beat UKIP 55-22.  UKIP did better in 2013 in the larger Grendon Underwood county division, cutting the Tory majority to nine points; and this ward lies on the proposed route of HS2 so it will be interesting to see whether that has any effect on the election.

The Blairs (if they are registered to vote here) may be disappointed that there is no Labour candidate.  As it's Christmas, the defending Tories have brought out the Branston: Cameron Branston, a Canadian who is the UK commercial officer for the Government of Alberta.  Voters who find Branston not to their taste can choose between UKIP's Gary Good or the Lib Dems' Julian Newman.  Because Thursday this week is Christmas Eve and (understandably) nobody wants to spend Christmas night counting votes, polling for this by-election will be on Wednesday 23rd December.

And that is that for the UK electoral year of 2015.  This column will return in time for the first local by-election of 2016, to take place in flood-hit Carlisle on 7th January; until then, all that remains is for Kris and I to wish both our readers a very Merry Christmas, and a New Year that's better than the year just gone.

Parliamentary constituency: Buckingham
Buckinghamshire county council division: Grendon Underwood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford

May 2015 result C 1068 UKIP 427 Grn 246 LD 213

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