Monday, 4 January 2016

By-election Preview: 7 January 2016

Welcome to the 2016 psephological year in the United Kingdom.  Thanks to the two people who enquired after your columnist's health: he had a hernia operation just before Christmas and recovery has been rather slow.  However, there is no problem in putting together a preview for the first council by-election of the year.

Carlisle city council, Cumbria
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Terry Scarborough.  A former chairman of the Botcherby Community Centre who had played football for Carlisle United, Scarborough had served on Carlisle city council since 2003.

St Andrews Church, Botcherby
Northern-based readers of this column might have noticed that the weather over the last two-and-a-half months has been filthy.  Rain upon rain upon rain upon rain upon rain upon rain continuously since at least the middle of October or so.  Your columnist still shudders at the memory of the back half of 2009, when it rained continuously from Wimbledon to Christmas.  What happens when you get all this rain?  Flooding, that's what.  A big problem in a low-lying place like Botcherby ward, an eastern Carlisle suburb incorporated into the city in 1912 and located along the A69 road towards Newcastle, between the rivers Eden and Petteril.  And so it came to pass that when Storm Desmond hit Carlisle on 6th December, Botcherby ward's flood defences - installed at a cost of tens of millions of pounds following a similarly appalling flood in 2005 - were overtopped.

It so happened that while all this devastation was going on, nominations were open for a council by-election in Botcherby ward.  It remains to be seen how many electors are left to vote here, and it is notable that two of the four polling stations for this by-election are portakabins.  The ward itself runs south from the A69 Warwick Road and includes not just Botcherby but also part of the Harraby area, across the Newcastle-Carlisle and Settle-Carlisle railway lines to the south.  It's a very working-class part of Carlisle, with high levels of social renting and in the top 60 wards in England and Wales for semi-routine occupations and part-time working.

Botcherby ward has existed since 1983 and was traditionally as safe Labour as you'd expect with that demographic profile; even at the Labour low point of 1995 they beat the Tories here 82-18.  In fact, the only year in which the Tories carried Botcherby was 1999 - fortunately for them, that was the year the current ward boundaries came into effect, so Labour had to spend the next four years getting their seats back, Terry Scarborough completing the process in 2003.  In recent years Labour have come under pressure in the ward from independents: Robert Betton became the ward's county councillor in 2009 and was elected to the city council in 2010.  In his final re-election in May Scarborough was only 97 votes ahead of independent candidate John (Jack) Paton: in terms of votes Labour had 33%, Paton 29%, the Tories 21% and UKIP 14%.  Until 2013 the ward had the same boundaries as the Botcherby division of Cumbria county council (the present Botcherby division is rather different), and the relevant county council results are shown in the table below.

Defending for Labour is Stephen Sidgwick, who in May contested his come ward, the hopeless Longtown and Rockliffe.  Jack Paton stands again as an independent, and the Tories have selected Robert Currie who in May was on the wrong side of a photofinish in the city's Belle Vue ward.  UKIP aren't bothering this time, so those are your three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Cumbria county council division: Botcherby (most), Harraby North (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Carlisle

May 2015 result Lab 822 Ind 725 C 516 UKIP 345 Grn 75
May 2014 result Ind 773 Lab 358 UKIP 217 C 131
May 2012 result Lab 693 Ind 311 C 141 UKIP 107 Grn 24
May 2011 result Lab 720 Ind 432 C 287
May 2010 result Ind 1119 Lab 822 C 443 BNP 134
June 2009 county council result Ind 507 Lab 428 C 366 BNP 116 LD 85 Grn 38
May 2008 result Lab 509 C 443 Ind 313 BNP 145
May 2007 result Lab 618 C 400 BNP 217
May 2006 result Lab 602 C 314 Ind 168
May 2005 county council result Lab 1456 C 591
June 2004 result Lab 813 C 602
May 2003 result Lab 698 C 452
May 2002 result Lab 761 C 445
May 2001 county council result Lab 1361 C 581 LD 320
May 2000 result Lab 484 C 456 Socialist Alternative 305
May 1999 result C 611/609/576 Lab 575/557/549

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