Thursday, 26 May 2016

By-election Previews: 26 May 2016

North Yorkshire county council; and
Hambleton council
Both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tony Hall at the age of 66.  A structural engineer by trade, Hall had dedicated many years of his life to public service: four times Mayor of Northallerton, he joined Hambleton council in 1999 and served in its cabinet from 2006 to 2010; at the time of his death he was vice-chairman of Hambleton council.  Hall had been a North Yorkshire county councillor since 2005, and was the county council's executive member for children's services from 2012 to 2015.

Northallerton Market
Northallerton has been in the news this week, as North Yorkshire county council - based in the town and its largest employer - approved a proposal to carry out fracking in the Ryedale district.  It might seem strange that this small town - population around 16,000 - is the county town of North Yorkshire rather than such larger and more important towns as Scarborough, Harrogate and York itself, but Northallerton became a major town in mediaeval times under the auspices of the Bishops of Durham.  Later the town became a stopping point on the Great North Road from Edinburgh to London, and for the East Coast Main Line, and its location in the centre of the Vale of Mowbray - the wide valley between the Pennines and the North York Moors - meant it became a major agricultural and market centre.  Agriculture and light industry still underpin Northallerton's economy today.

The population figure above is slightly misleading, as the Northallerton urban area has outgrown the parish boundary and much of the built-up area to the south of the railway station - including County Hall - is part of Romanby parish rather than Northallerton proper.  Just to make things even more confusing, there have been recent ward boundary changes in Hambleton which means that the ward and county division boundaries don't match up.  The Northallerton county division covers all of Northallerton parish except for the part of the town centre which was within Northallerton Broomfield ward before 2015; Northallerton South ward covers the town centre and east of the town but not the south of the built-up area so might better have been called Northallerton Central (as the predecessor ward was before 2015).

Tony Hall had a safe county council seat; at his the most recent re-election in 2013 he beat UKIP 52-31.  On the district council, from 2003 to 2015 Hall shared representation of Northallerton Central ward with independent councillor John Coulson.  In 2015 Coulson retired and Hall easily topped the poll in the new Northallerton South ward with an enormous personal vote, polling nearly twice as many votes as his running-mate Huw Jones who finished just four votes behind UKIP for the second seat; shares of the vote were 49% for the Conservatives, 26% for UKIP and 25% for Labour who weren't far off winning a seat themselves.

There's a large degree of crossover between the candidates in these two by-elections.  Defending both seats for the Conservatives is Caroline Dickinson.  UKIP have selected Stephen Place to contest the county by-election, while their candidate in the district poll is Northallerton town councillor Dave Robertson.  The Labour candidate in by-elections is David Tickle.  Completing the ballot papers are Chris Pearson of Yorkshire First, standing in both polls, and the Greens' Michael Chaloner who stands only in the county by-election.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)

May 2013 result C 825 UKIP 489 Lab 259
June 2009 result C 1191 Lab 431
May 2005 result C 1311 Lab 983 Ind 925

Northallerton South
May 2015 result C 1414/758 UKIP 762 Lab 739/654

East Staffordshire council
Caused by the resignation of East Staffordshire's only UKIP councillor Steven Dyche after less than a year on the council.  Dyche was elected in 2015 and served on the council's audit and health scrutiny committees.

Main Street, Stapenhill
Stapenhill is essentially a suburb of Burton upon Trent located on the far side of the river.  Traditionally a brickmaking settlement, Stapenhill's character was greatly changed from the interwar period by the construction of large council estates by Burton Corporation, and this can still be seen in the ward's demography: Burton's economy being based on brewing and manufacturing, the ward has very high levels of routine and semi-routine working; however, unemployment is not particularly high.

This demographic mix creates a Labour ward with UKIP potential in the current political climate.  The BNP had come second in Stapenhill in the 2007 election with 30% of the vote, demonstrating the potential for a radical right-wing party to break through here; and so it came to pass that UKIP did indeed break through in 2015, polling 31% with their single candidate Dyche; the Labour slate topped the poll with 32%, but their third candidate lagged a long way between the two councillors seeking re-election.  The Tories were third, not far behind on 25%. Labour have a lock on the local county division, the badly-drawn Burton Trent which was one of only three seats the party won in the 2009 county elections; in 2013 Labour had 47% to 29% for UKIP and 19% for the Tories.

Defending UKIP's toehold on East Staffordshire council is Sally Green, who was runner-up here in the 2013 county elections.  Labour want their seat back, and have selected their Burton party secretary Craig Jones who is still in his twenties.  The Tory candidate is Michael Teasel, secretary of the Staffordshire Regimental Association.  Also standing are Thomas Hadley of the Green Party, Stapenhill parish councillor Susan Paxton - the only candidate to give an address in the ward - standing as an independent, and former district councillor Hugh Warner for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Burton
Staffordshire county council division: Burton Trent

May 2015 result Lab 1251/1235/865 UKIP 1228 C 963/819/714 Grn 488
May 2011 result Lab 913/891/825 C 584/487/474 BNP 342 Ind 269
May 2007 result Lab 962/707/685 BNP 592 C 473/468/400
Sept 2005 by-election Lab 624 C 268 UKIP 45
May 2003 result Lab 1436/1180/1139 C 585/569/518

Thursday, 19 May 2016

By-election Preview: 19 May 2016

Merton council, South London
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Maxi Martin.  A councillor for St Helier ward since 1998, Martin had been Mayor of Merton in 2003-04 and had served since 2010 as Merton's cabinet member for children's services.

St Helier Hospital
With the May elections now safely out of the way for another year, the local by-election calendar resumes this week with a single contest in South London.  We're in the St Helier estate here, one of several 1930s "cottage" housing estates built on garden-city principles by the London County Council; in this case 40,000 people were homed by 1936 on what had previously been lavender fields between the village of Morden and the town of Carshalton.  The estate straddles what is now the border between Merton and Sutton boroughs, and confusingly both boroughs have a St Helier ward; this is the Merton one.  At the centre of this ward lies St Helier railway station, opened in 1930 to serve the estate on what is now the Sutton Loop line, while the northern end of the ward is better served by the London Underground's southernmost station, Morden on the Northern Line.  The name of the estate, incidentally, is in honour of the former London County Council alderman Baroness St Helier.

The demographics of St Helier ward bear all the usual London hallmarks of a diverse population, and also show high levels of social renting and long-term unemployment.  This is, as you might expect from those statistics, a working-class area and a safe Labour ward.  In the 2014 local elections the Labour slate polled 59% of the vote here, with UKIP's 20% best of the rest despite their candidate, Andre Lampitt, having been disowned by the party during the campaign for racist tweets.  Two weeks ago London was at the polls for the Mayor and Assembly elections; Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes 45-33, while the list votes split 48% for Labour, 23% for the Tories and 10% for UKIP (the ward breakdowns for the Mayor and Assembly elections don't include postal votes, so these figures aren't directly comparable with 2014).

Defending for Labour is Jerome Neil, a co-founder of a multimedia company and the only candidate to give a Morden address.  Continuing the theme of UKIP candidates here with distinctly dubious tweets is Richard Hilton, a former Tory councillor (Lower Morden ward, 2010-14) who fought the local parliamentary seat in last year's general election and got into trouble then for a tweet saying that "Jihadi John" should have killed himself; he gives an address over 70 miles away in Newbury, Berkshire.  Also standing are Susan Edwards for the Conservatives, Asif Ashraf for the Lib Dems and John Barraball for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Mitcham and Morden

May 2014 result Lab 2010/1916/1673 UKIP 663 C 505/435/421 LD 203
May 2010 result Lab 2385/2206/2185 C 1373/1189/1161 LD 762 BNP 426/358
May 2006 result Lab 1347/1246/1196 C 974/931/778 BNP 599 Ind 583 LD 430
May 2002 result Lab 958/947/840 C 532/519/509 LD 324 BNP 302 Grn 192/178 UKIP 164

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1222 C 907 UKIP 188 Grn 112 LD 94 Britain First 50 Respect 47 Women's Equality 35 CISTA 32 Ind 26 BNP 23 One Love 7
List: Lab 1335 C 638 UKIP 286 Grn 134 LD 114 Women's Equality 67 Britain First 63 Respect 45 CPA 33 BNP 26 Animal Welfare 23 House Party 10