Wednesday, 9 December 2015

By-election Previews: 10 December 2015

Seven local by-elections this week - six taking place in England with one more covered over on the Scottish Elections blog.

Bournemouth council, Dorset
A rare double by-election caused by the elections of Conservative councillors Norman Decent and Roger Marley being voided by the election court.  Both councillors had served only since May.

Sometimes things just go wrong.  When the polls opened on 7th May this year for the ordinary local election in Bournemouth, it quickly became apparent that there was a problem: the books of blank ballot papers which had been sent to the polling stations in Kinson South were actually ballot papers for Kinson North ward, and vice versa.  It took an hour for the problem to be sorted out, and just over 100 voters were affected by what was essentially a printing error.  Unfortunately, these things do happen sometimes.  Even more unfortunately, the votes here in May were close enough that the error might have affected the result, in which two Tory councillors and a UKIP councillor were elected.  The fourth-placed candidate, long-serving Labour councillor Beryl Baxter, took the result to the election court.  The UKIP councillor finished top of the poll, and his majority is large enough that he would have been elected anyway; but the election court has voided the election of the two Conservatives who will now have to go to the electorate all over again.

Kinson itself lies inland, a former village to the north-west of Bournemouth which was annexed by the town in 1931, necessitating a change to what was then the Hampshire/Dorset county boundary.  Kinson South is normally Bournemouth's Labour stronghold, in sharp contrast to the rest of the town which these days votes Conservative; however, the Tories gained one of the three Labour seats in 2011.  The voided 2015 election had a very fractured result: UKIP topped the poll with just 25% of the vote, with the Tories just behind also on 25%, Labour polling 22% and 10% of the vote each for the Bournemouth Independent Alliance and the Green Party.

This double by-election has attracted a field of twelve candidates.  The two outgoing Tory councillors, Norman Decent and Roger Marley, are standing for re-election.  UKIP, interestingly, only have a single candidate, Duane Farr, who according to his Twitter is an "NHS pain management volunteer".  The mind boggles.  On the Labour slate, Beryl Baxter is hoping to complete the job of getting her seat back after winning her case in the election court; she is joined by Mel Semple, a doctor who has fought the ward in the last two elections.  Philip Davenport and Roger West stand for the Bournemouth Independent Alliance: Davenport stood here in May while West is a former Lib Dem borough councillor.  The Greens have two new candidates, Geoffrey Darnton and Carla Gregory-May.  Completing the ballot paper are Phil Dunn and Gill Pardy, who form the Lib Dem slate, and Kevin Dixon who is the candidate of Patria, an obscure far-right group.

Parliamentary constituency: Bournemouth West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bournemouth

May 2015 partially void result UKIP 1224 C 1188/1147/919 Lab 1083/951/875 Bournemouth Independent Alliance 489 Grn 471 LD 378
May 2011 result Lab 1043/992/892 C 922/787/782 LD 308/256
May 2007 result Lab 861/736/711 LD 536/534/523 C 493/486/476 UKIP 233/211 Ind 118
May 2003 result Lab 940/876/862 C 457/448/437 LD 321/268/251

Huntingdonshire district council, Cambridgeshire
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Andrew Hardy on health grounds.  Having served since May 2014, he was about to be disqualified for non-attendance.

Moving north, we take the Great North Road and come to Huntingdon, a thriving market town in Cambridgeshire which was once the centre of its own county.  One of three wards covering the town itself, Huntingdon East ward covers part of the town centre but is based on Hartford, a suburb which now forms the eastern edge of town.

This ward has traditionally been a Tory/Lib Dem marginal: it elected three Conservatives at the first poll in its current form in 2004, with the Lib Dems gaining two of the seats in 2006 and 2008 respectively.  That balance persisted until 2014, when UKIP topped the poll in a close three-way result and gained a seat from the Lib Dems.  At the most recent ordinary election in May the Tory seat was up, and the Conservatives held it with 35% to 28% for the Lib Dems and 23% for UKIP, a Conservative majority of 331.  The ward forms part of a county council division based on Godmanchester which has been trending towards the Lib Dems over the last decade, although the most recent county election was a very close three-way split with Lib Dem majorities of 55 and 24 over UKIP.

Defending for UKIP is Martin Cohen, the runner-up here in 2013's county council election.  Tom Fletcher hopes to make the gain for the Conservatives.  The Lib Dems have selected Ste Greenall, a district councillor for this ward from 2010 until losing his seat to UKIP in 2014.  Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Duncan Williams.

Parliamentary constituency: Huntingdon
Cambridgeshire county council division: Godmanchester and Huntingdon East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huntingdon

May 2015 result C 1595 LD 1264 UKIP 1065 Lab 566 TUSC 52
May 2014 result UKIP 882 LD 848 C 702 Lab 282
May 2012 result LD 823 C 789 UKIP 336 Lab 282
May 2011 result C 1424 LD 989 Lab 492
May 2010 result LD 2075 C 1766 Lab 453 Grn 202
May 2008 result LD 1239 C 1016 Lab 154 UKIP 145 Grn 64
May 2007 result C 1173 LD 901 Lab 188 Grn 125
May 2006 result LD 1326 C 1073 Lab 247
June 2004 result C 1236/1146/1114 LD 1040/988/960 UKIP 442 Lab 297/289/272

Harborough district council, Leicestershire
Caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Callis at the age of 76.  Callis had a long career in local government, sitting on Harborough district council from 1979 to 1983 and continuously since 1991, and also on Leicestershire county council from 1993 to 2009.  Away from politics he worked as a carpet fitter, and leaves behind a wife and two sons.

Moving into the Midlands with another market town on a main line from London.  Market Harborough has a long history as a royal manor and a service centre for Rockingham Forest, an ancient royal hunting forest.  In the early nineteenth century the town was joined to the canal network with a branch of the Grand Union canal terminating here; a century later a National Festival of Boats held in the canal basin kickstarted a revival in the canal network for leisure use.  One of four wards covering the town, Logan ward is the north-west corner, containing part of the town centre and the canal basin, and is named after Logan Street which connects the canal with the Coventry Road.

Peter Callis had a strong personal vote and tended to run well ahead of his Lib Dem running-mate in this ward, which is one reason that the ward's two seats have split Lib Dem/Tory at every election since 2007.  In May's local elections the Lib Dem slate was top with 36% to 35% for the Tories and 15% for Labour, Callis being just 21 votes ahead of the new Tory candidate.  The Conservatives hold the local county council seat, defeating Callis in 2009 by just eight votes and increasing their majority in 2013 to eighteen votes.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Barbara Johnson, a former district councillor for the town's Great Bowden and Arden ward who lost her seat in May.  The Tories' Paul Bremner is also hoping to make a quick return to the council, having been the Tory councillor here from 2007 until standing down in 2015.  The Labour candidate is Anne Pridmore, a disability rights campaigner.  Also standing are UKIP's Robert Davison and Darren Woodiwiss of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Harborough
Leicestershire county council division: Market Harborough East and Foxton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

May 2015 result LD 996/660 C 975/645 Lab 416 Grn 368
May 2011 result LD 734/609 C 729/508 Lab 230/220 Ind 98
May 2007 result C 718/584 LD 663/528
Aug 2004 by-election LD 615 C 570
May 2003 result LD 876/808 C 592/460

North East Derbyshire district council
Caused respectively by the resignation of Conservative councillor Gary Griffin-Chappel and the death of Labour councillor Tricia Williams at the age of 64.  Griffin-Chappel's resignation comes after just five months on the council as he is moving to New Zealand.  Williams was a retired NHS administrator who had served on North East Derbyshire council since 1996.

Continuing our trip north, we come to two Derbyshire wards which despite being within the same district are chalk and cheese.  Centred on junction 29 of the M1, Holmewood and Heath is a rather strange name for a ward which is based on the parish of Heath and Holmewood: the explanation for this reversal is that Holmewood is now the major player in the division, the village having been built essentially from scratch in 1905 by and for the Williamthorpe Colliery Company.  Yes, this is a pit village, which has suffered massive unemployment since the Williamthorpe Colliery closed in 1970.  In response, the Thatcher government and the local council set up an enterprise zone, using the village's proximity to the M1 and a series of financial incentives to lure business to the area.  It's a textbook example of the decline of the former pit villages, and indeed the story of Holmewood was used as an example in a 2004 GCSE geography textbook.  The ward has politics to match, being Labour at every election this century except a by-election in April 2008 which saw a freak Lib Dem win; that seat was recovered by Labour at a further by-election in February 2010 and the Lib Dems haven't been seen here since.  Last May's election was a straight fight between Labour and the Tories, with Labour winning 71-29.

Given what I've just said, you might have expected that Coal Aston would have a similar history and economy.  You'd be wrong: it's a village on the eastern edge of Dronfield and just outside the Sheffield city limits.  In other words, it's a commuter village and has politics to match: it has been trending towards the Tories in recent years and in May the Tories beat Labour here 51-34.

So, two by-elections in safe seats, both of which are straight fights between the Tories and Labour.  In Coal Aston, Dronfield town councillor Gareth Hopkinson (Conservative) is opposed by banker David Cheetham (Labour).  In Holmewood and Heath the Labour candidate, "business advisor, social enterprise expert and employability coach" Suzy Cornwell Ball (appearing on the ballot paper as Suzy Cornwell) is opposed by the Tories' Caroline Ellis.

Coal Aston
Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Eckington and Killamarsh (most); Dronfield East (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sheffield and Rotherham

May 2015 result C 1034/941 Lab 691/608 UKIP 283
May 2011 result C 730/680 Lab 546/543 LD 198
May 2007 result C 569/514 Lab 378/341 LD 221/220
May 2003 result C 484 Lab 439/418

Holmewood and Heath
Parliamentary constituency: Bolsover
Derbyshire county council division: Sutton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield

May 2015 result Lab 925/841 C 376/325
May 2011 result Lab 607/582 C 248
Feb 2010 by-election Lab 373 C 209
Apr 2008 by-election LD 382 Lab 356 C 165
May 2007 result Lab unopposed
May 2003 result Lab unopposed

Fylde district council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Len Davies, who had served on Fylde council since winning a by-election in November 2009.

A bit bracing at this time of year, but welcome to the seaside.  This is the centre of Lytham, covering the East Beach (almost as far as the windmill) and Lytham railway station.  The ward is named after the Clifton family, who controlled Lytham until the middle of the twentieth century, and has a reputation as the rich end of the Blackpool conurbation.

Despite that, this ward hasn't been plain sailing for the Tories who are often run close by independent candidates, and in 2011 for some reason the Conservatives only stood two candidates for the three seats.  In May's election the Conservatives recovered the monopoly on the ward which they had lost in 2007, but outgoing independent councillor Kenneth Hopwood lost his seat by just six votes; he had 36% to 46% for the Tory slate and 18% for Labour.  The Conservatives do better here at county council level where Lytham is a safe seat.

Defending for the Tories is Peter Anthony, a singer, entertainer and bar owner who fought Blackpool South in this year's general election.  Noreen Griffiths stands as an independent candidate.  Labour have selected Jed Sullivan, a youth worker who fought Fylde in this year's general election.  Also on the ballot are Luke Gibbon of the Lib Dems and Tim Wood of UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Fylde
Lancashire county council division: Lytham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackpool

May 2015 result C 1385/1136/1087 Ind 1081 Lab 554
May 2011 result C 828/699 Ind 813/804
Nov 2009 by-election C 386 Fylde Ratepayers 372 LD 241 Lab 80 Grn 13
May 2007 result C 837/739/710 Ind 735 Lab 239
May 2003 result C 874/722/651 Fylde Ratepayers 609/559 Lab 232

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