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

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