Thursday, 3 March 2016

By-election Previews: 3 March 2016

Four by-elections on 3rd March 2016:

Blackpool council, Lancashire
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor John Jones.  He had served on Blackpool since winning a by-election in May 2012; a former hotelier, he was Blackpool's cabinet member for school improvement and children's safeguarding.

Rigby Road Tram Depot
It's March, the sea's biting cold, the weather forecast isn't much better, so let's go to the seaside to cheer ourselves up.  Yes, here we are on the Golden Mile between the Central Pier and the South Pier, in a ward which includes the old Blackpool tram depot on Rigby Road (which now services only the "heritage" trams following a recent modernisation programme) and the home ground of Blackpool FC.  The ward is generally in two halves: behind the Promenade is a warren of terraces most of which are now hotels, while behind that is the former site of Blackpool Central railway station, now demolished with the space occupied by a large car park.  Blackpool FC were in the Premier only a few years ago but have horribly fallen from grace since then, and the same is true of Blackpool itself which has never recovered from the package holiday revolution of the late twentieth century.  In consequence Bloomfield's wards demographics do not make for pleasant reading: the ward is in the top 50 in England and Wales for unemployment (11%), long-term sickness (13%) and private renting (54% of households), the last clearly being an effect of all the hotels in the area.

Despite all this Bloomfield ward was a three-way marginal during the last Labour government, and in 2007 the Lib Dems - who are very weak in Blackpool - gained a seat off Labour.  Four years later the Lib Dem vote was down to 4 (four) percent and this ward is now very safe for Labour.  Last year the Labour slate had 45% here to 25% for a single UKIP candidate and 20% for the Tories.

Jim Hobson is Labour's choice to defend the by-election; he has been inspired by his selection to start blogging.  The UKIP candidate is the wonderfully-named Spencer Shackleton.  Tony Jones stands for the Tories, and the ballot paper is completed by the Greens' Phill Armstrong and the Lib Dems' Neil Close.

Parliamentary constituency: Blackpool South

May 2015 result Lab 1045/902 UKIP 585 C 463/294 Grn 202 Ind 37
May 2012 by-election Lab 731 C 216 Ind 193 LD 73
May 2011 result Lab 849/777 C 322/282 UKIP 159/146 LD 54
May 2007 result LD 555/414 Lab 502/466 C 317/274 Ind 202 UK Fags 193
May 2003 result Lab 822/793 LD 779/662 C 675/657

Rutland council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Sam Asplin on health grounds.  Still in his early twenties, Asplin was first elected in a by-election in October 2014 when he was a 21-year-old teaching assistant at Whissendine primary school.

Whissendine Windmill
Here we have Rutland's most north-westerly ward, a tiny village in a tiny county.  Whissendine lies off the Oakham-Melton road, about 30 miles north-west of Peterborough, and is probably best known for its thirteenth-century church and nineteenth-century windmill.  The ward has a relatively old and British demographic and a largish retired population.

Whissendine ward has a high councillor attrition rate and this is the ward's third by-election in eight years.  It had voted Tory in 2003 and nobody opposed the Conservatives in 2007, but in 2008 Brian Montgomery, the first chairman of the Rutland unitary council, won a by-election as an independent with a majority of just six votes.  He made the ward safe in 2011 but died in 2014, and the pattern then repeated itself: the Tories again narrowly lost the by-election, this time to the Lib Dems by 13 votes, and the new Lib Dem councillor increased his majority in 2015 to 66-34.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Kevin Thomas.  Christopher Clark is the Conservative candidate, and Marietta King stands for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton

May 2015 result LD 511 C 265
Oct 2014 by-election LD 192 C 179
May 2011 result Ind 335 C 247
Nov 2008 by-election Ind 154 C 148 LD 71
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 285 Lab 186

Havant borough council, Hampshire
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Frida Edwards at the age of 55.  Havant's first black councillor, Edwards had been the owner of the Hayling Ferry, which connects Hayling Island with Portsmouth, until it went bust last year.  She had been a Havant councillor since 2010.

Whitsbury Road, Havant
Moving to the south coast and the town of Havant.  Havant was greatly expanded in the 1960s by the building of a large council estate in conjunction with Portsmouth Corporation, and Bondfields, covering the West Leigh area, is the eastern of the wards covering that estate; 42.5% of the ward's households are still socially rented and there is a definite working-class profile, although unemployment is reduced by the presence in the ward of a large Pfizer pharmaceutical plant which packages over a million doses of vaccines and other injectable medicines every week.  The ward's other main feature is West Leigh Park, the home ground of the non-league football team Havant and Waterlooville.

This is not a safe Labour area.  Bondfields ward has voted for all three major parties in the last eight years, with the Lib Dems gaining a seat from Labour in 2006 before losing it to the Tories in 2010.  Edwards was re-elected in 2014, the last time this ward went to the polls, in a close three-way marginal result with 34% for the Tories, 28% for Labour and a surprising 27% for the Green Party who had not previously fought the ward.  To add to the confusion, the local county division (Bedhampton and Leigh Park) elected one UKIPper and one Tory in the 2013 county elections.

Defending for the Tories is Lance Quantrill, an electricity and gas meter reader and former Richmond upon Thames councillor (West Twickenham ward, 2002-6).  Labour, who will be defending this ward in the ordinary elections in two months' time, have selected Tony Berry who has fought unwinnable wards in the last two Havant elections.  The Greens are not standing again so it will be interesting to see where their votes go.  Completing the ballot paper are the Lib Dems' Catherine Billam and UKIP's Geoff Whiffen.

Parliamentary constituency: Havant
Hampshire county council division: Bedhampton and Leigh Park

May 2014 result C 401 Lab 340 Grn 318 LD 135
May 2012 result Lab 503 C 335 LD 134
May 2010 result C 882 LD 845 Lab 669 EDP 190
May 2008 result Lab 385 C 318 LD 257 UKIP 121 EDP 71
May 2006 result LD 608 Lab 479 C 228
June 2004 result Lab 555 C 293 LD 285
May 2002 result Lab 803/741 C 226/209 LD 187

East Dorset district council
Caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Ian Monks, who had fallen out with his council group and the Conservative MP for Christchurch over local government reorganistion.  Monks had been in favour of subsuming his council into some larger unitary council area.  He had been Leader since September 2013 and a councillor since winning a by-election in October 2008.

Oak Road, Alderholt
We finish this week in Alderholt, a large village on the Dorset/Hampshire border around fifteen miles north of Bournemouth.  There's not really much to say about Alderholt either from a points of interest or a demographic point of view, although owner-occupation in the village is quite high.

The ward's previous election results aren't very interesting either, with Monks having a very safe seat; in 2011 he was returned unopposed, and last year he beat UKIP 63-19.  The local county council seat (Cranborne Chase) is just as safe.

So this by-election is unlikely to be a problem for the Tory candidate Gina Logan, who chairs Alderholt parish council.  She is up against Chris Archibold for Labour and David Tooke for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: North Dorset
Dorset county council division: Cranborne Chase

May 2015 result C 1133 UKIP 338 Grn 332
May 2011 result C unopposed
Oct 2008 by-election C 499 LD 442
May 2007 result C 582 LD 242 UKIP 63
May 2003 result C 530 LD 169

1 comment:

  1. Although the Lib Dems may be weak in Blackpool it may be of interest to note that Lord McNally, Leader of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords from 2004 to 2013, and Chris Walmsley, the narrowly-defeated Liberal candidate in the West Derbyshire by-election in 1986 both attended the same grammar school in Blackpool. The school was demolished in the 1980s.