Sunday, 17 January 2016

By-elections Preview: 21 January 2016

Six by-elections on 21st January 2016.  Five covered here on English Elections, with one more contest taking place in Scotland covered on the Scottish blog, here.

London Borough of Southwark
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Dan Garfield, after being fined and sentenced to a 12-month community order for beating his wife.  Ironically the Labour group's chief whip, Garfield had served since 2010.

Thurlow Street, Wendover
Welcome to inner-city South London.  Faraday ward lies on the northern edge of Burgess Park, one of London's more controversial parks having been developed since the Second World War from what was a heavily built-up residential and industrial area.  However, the ward is named after one of Southwark's most famous sons: the nineteenth-century scientist Michael Faraday, whose discovery of electromagnetic induction, making practical the use of electricity, has greatly shaped the modern world.  A primary school named after Faraday lies at the centre of the ward.

Faraday's discoveries have not led to great riches for the residents of the ward named after him.  This has always been a poor area of London.  At the same time as the Burgess Park area was being cleared, the area immediately to its north was being redeveloped: the result is that byword for urban decay which is the Aylesbury Estate, now being redeveloped in its turn.  The presence of the Aylesbury Estate means that Faraday ward is in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for social housing; the ward also has one of the top 10 black populations in England and Wales.  Unsurprisingly in the current climate the ward is very safe Labour, although the Lib Dems did come close in 2002; at the most recent local election in 2014 the Labour slate had 62%, with the Green Party best of the rest on 12%.  In the 2012 London Assembly election Ken beat Boris 67-18 in the ward's ballot boxes, while in the London Member ballot Labour led the Green Party 67-9.  One of the more unusual features of the previous results for this ward is the presence on the ballot in 2002 of Piers Corbyn, the colourful weather forecaster and brother of a backbench Labour MP called Jeremy: standing as an independent, Corbyn polled 12% and came seventh out of fourteen candidates.

So, probably not too much of a problem for the defending Labour candidate Samantha Jury-Dada, a recent LSE politics graduate who is presently working in Parliament for the Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury.  She is up against the Greens' Nick Hooper, who works in the software industry; the Tories' David Furze; Alhaji Kanumansa of the All People's Party (essentially a Labour splinter group of former Southwark councillors), Lauren Pemberton-Nelson of the Lib Dems, independent candidate Dean Porter and UKIP's Toby Prescott.

Parliamentary constituency: Camberwell and Peckham

May 2014 result Lab 1590/1567/1508 Grn 302/262/251 C 245/216/210 All People's Party 171/163/124 LD 163/139/106 TUSC 113
May 2010 result Lab 2696/2682/2450 LD 869/704/654 C 547/542/444 Grn 293/255 EDP 157
May 2006 result Lab 1809/1728/1641 LD 870/870/839 Respect 359 Ind 219/207 C 210/176/168 Grn 149/145/134
May 2002 result Lab 1301/1220/1198 LD 1128/1114/1079 Ind 349/313 C 96/80/71 Grn 94/92/74

May 2012 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Ken 1503 Boris 414 Grn 112 LD 80 Ind 76 UKIP 30 BNP 25
London Members: Lab 1517 Grn 202 C 193 LD 113 UKIP 78 CPA 45 BNP 42 TUSC 24 EDP 20 House Party 14 NF 9 Hayat 3 Alagaratnam 0

Thanet district council, Kent
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Vince Munday, who has emigrated to Thailand.  He had served on the council since May last year.

Newington Community Centre
Readers of this column might have noticed that there was a fair bit of attention on Thanet during last year's election campaign, as a result of the UKIP leader Nigel Farage standing for Parliament in the South Thanet constituency, based on Ramsgate and Sandwich.  He didn't get in, but UKIP had the consolation prize of winning an overall majority on Thanet council, which had previously been evenly split between Labour and the Tories.  The Thanet council term in 2011-15 was very fissiparous, with a long list of defections and by-election changes which eventually cost the ruling Tory group their majority and led to Labour taking control part-way through.  Has anything changed in the brave new UKIP-controlled world since May?  On the face of it, no: as well as this vacancy, five UKIP councillors have left the party to form a "Democratic Independent" group and cost UKIP its majority on the council.  Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Judging from the seat count, the UKIP surge in Thanet last year came at the expense of Labour who now hold just four seats on the council.  In that context it's unsurprising that one of the seats to fall was Newington ward, a working-class inland suburb of Ramsgate off the road to Manston, whose closed airport and the future thereof is one of the political hot potatoes in this part of the world.  Previously a safe Labour ward, Newington gave 44% to UKIP last year and just 36% to Labour, the Tories coming in third with 19%.  Labour weren't helped by deselecting their long-serving councillor Mike Harrison over homophobic comments he had made about former Labour councillor Ian Driver, who following a dizzying series of defections has ended up in the Green Party.  UKIP also hold the ward's county council seats, with the two-member Ramsgate division being safe for them in 2013 but previously Labour-inclined.

Defending for UKIP is Duncan Smithson, who narrowly missed out in Cliftonville East ward last year.  Labour have reselected their runner-up from last year Karen Constantine, who somehow juggles the roles of executive coach, magistrate and mother-of-four while working in London for the Royal College of Midwives.  Law teacher Adam Dark stands for the Conservatives.  Also standing on a crowded ballot paper are independent candidate Grahame Birchall, the aforementioned Ian Driver for the Green Party, independent candidate Alan Hodder and Jordan Williams of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: South Thanet
Kent county council division: Ramsgate

May 2015 result UKIP 884/845 Lab 728/713 C 390/363
May 2011 result Lab 705/702 C 370/351
May 2007 result Lab 471/438 Ramsgate First 268/196 C 208/197 UKIP 116
May 2003 result Lab 532/498 Ind 235 C 144/140

Wealden district council, East Sussex
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Peter Cowie at the age of 74.  Cowie had only stepped up to the district council in May, but was first elected in 2007 to Crowborough town council; he was Mayor of Crowborough in 2013-14 and was instrumental in setting up the town's new community centre.  In his working life he had worked for Anglian Water for 21 years and in the Department of the Environment.

Stone Cross Road, Crowborough
Seven miles south-west of Tunbridge Wells, Crowborough is East Sussex' largest inland town, growing in the mid-Victorian period following the completion of the town's rail link to London; at the time it was promoted as health resort thanks to its relatively high altitude and surrounding forest.  Crowborough lies on the eastern edge of Ashdown Forest, the setting for A A Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and also has literary connections as the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who died here in 1930; Conan Doyle has a statue in the town centre and Crowborough once hosted an annual Sherlock Holmes festival.

Crowborough East is in the top five wards in England and Wales for "other religions", a statistic which appears to be explained by the presence of a large Scientology centre.  In the real world, this is a ward which has trended strongly to the Tories over recent years: it elected two Lib Dems in 2003, but the Tories gained one seat in 2007 and picked up the other in 2011 when the remaining Lib Dem councillor (Jane Clark) stood down.  Clark was back in the fray last year, losing 65-35 to the Tory slate.  The ward is located within the two-seat Crowborough county division, which is safe Conservative.

Defending for the Tories is Philip Lunn.  Former Lib Dem councillor Jane Clark again tries to get her seat back, and the ballot paper is completed by Labour's Linda Scotson.

Parliamentary constituency: Wealden
East Sussex county council division: Crowborough

May 2015 result C 1668/1526 LD 885
May 2011 result C 1026/950 Lab 549
May 2007 result C 581/565 LD 579/510
May 2003 result LD 555/540 C 422/408 Lab 118

Hertfordshire county council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Steve O'Brien.  Originally elected in 1998 to Watford borough council, he served on Hertsmere borough council from 2008 to 2015 and was first elected to Hertfordshire county council in 2009.  O'Brien served for ten years as chairman of the Watford branch of the Conservatives, and in the 2015 Birthday Honours was gazetted MBE for voluntary political service.

The Avenue, Bushey
For the last of this week's four by-elections in southern England, we travel immediately to the east of Watford.  Now essentially a Watford suburb, the growth of Bushey was essentially snuffed out by the creation of the Green Belt, and much of this ward is given over to sport and a large Jewish cemetery.  The census figures paint a middle-class commuter profile, with a large Jewish population, and the M1 motorway (which originally terminated here) links the ward to the outside world.

Bushey was a long-standing Lib Dem hotspot up until the late noughties when long-serving district and county councillor Michael Colne retired, and the Lib Dem vote retired with him.  Steve O'Brien gained the county division from the Lib Dems in 2009 and made it safe in 2013, when he had 44% to 23% for UKIP and 19% for Labour.  Last year's election results for the one-and-a-half Hertsmere council wards within the division confirm that the area is now safely Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is Jane West, a borough councillor within the division.  UKIP have selected David Hoy.  Watford councillor Seamus Williams stands for Labour, and the ballot paper is completed by the Lib Dems' Shailan Shah.

Parliamentary constituency: Hertsmere
Hertsmere district council wards: Bushey North, Bushey St James (part)

May 2013 result C 995 UKIP 524 Lab 437 LD 321
June 2009 result C 1510 LD 1257 Grn 277 Lab 234
May 2005 result LD 2559 C 1807 Lab 876 Grn 223

St Helens metropolitan borough council, Merseyside
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Sheila Seddon at the age of 69.  Having previously worked at Beecham's pharmaceuticals, Seddon had served on St Helens council since 1999 and was Mayor of St Helens in 2007-08.

Elephant Lane, Thatto Heath
This is a south-western suburb of St Helens, sandwiched between the recently-electrified Liverpool-Manchester and Liverpool-Wigan railway lines, with Thatto Heath railway station lying on the latter line.  It has a very high Christian population - in a Lancashire context that generally means Catholic - and a working-class profile, as you might expect given that much of the northern corner of the ward is taken up by the enormous Greengate site run by the glass manufacturers Pilkington's.  Traditionally the largest employer in St Helens, Pilkington's has been knocked about a bit by the recent recession, but the Greengate site still produces 180,000 tonnes of glass every year.  Thatto Heath is also responsible for another St Helens export: Johnny Vegas grew up in the ward.

This is a safe Labour ward whose previous election results show little of interest.  In recent years the Labour vote peaked at 75% in 2012, which was Seddon's last re-election.  At the most recent election in 2015 Labour beat UKIP 66-15.

Defending for Labour is Nova Charlton; she is opposed by UKIP's Alastair Sutcliffe, the Tories' Lisa Mackarell and the Greens' Damien Clarke who stood here last year.  Whoever wins this by-election will be straight back onto the campaign trail to seek re-election in May.

Parliamentary constituency: St Helens South and Whiston

May 2015 result Lab 3757 UKIP 871 C 740 Grn 351
May 2014 result Lab 1510 UKIP 483 C 194 Grn 140 LD 85 BNP 51
May 2012 result Lab 1857 Grn 187 C 178 BNP 136 LD 124
May 2011 result Lab 2409 C 395 LD 282
May 2010 result Lab 2995 LD 1071 C 684 BNP 349
May 2008 result Lab 1328 LD 581 C 301 BNP 284
May 2007 result Lab 1274 LD 794 C 201 BNP 187 Community Action 180
May 2006 result Lab 1308 LD 453 Community Action 363 C 217
June 2004 result Lab 1406/1351/1139 LD 713/502/380 UKIP 429 C 326

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