Thursday, 30 June 2016

By-election Previews: 30 June and 1 July 2016

Five local by-elections this week, four in England, and one covered over on the Welsh Elections blog.  Of the four in England, three are being held on 30th June, and the other on 1st July.

Three by-elections on Thursday 30th June:

Bexley council, South London
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Joe Pollard, who is now working abroad.  Pollard had served since 2006.

Holmesdale Road, Bexley
Your columnist is writing this on Friday afternoon last week, as the UK dissolves into political and financial meltdown.  In this immediate wake of Brexit, it's not immediately clear what the impact of the Leave vote on the UK party system will be (if this is even an important consideration right now).  It's ironic that the first electors to get the chance to react to Brexit are those of St Michael's ward, covering the north-eastern corner of Welling.  This is a ward populated by London's aspirant working class: St Michael's is in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for intermediate-level jobs and Level 1 qualifications (ie fewer than five GCSEs), but also has high owner-occupation rates. Not surprisingly given this demographic, Bexley as a whole was 63% Leave last week - a rebuke to the political legacy of Sir Edward Heath, who was MP for this area (then part of the Bexley constituency) at the time he was leading Britain into the Common Market in 1973.

St Michael's election results are now almost unrecognisable from those in 2002, when Labour won all three seats in a three-way marginal result.  The Conservatives decisively gained the ward in 2006 and held all three seats until 2014 when they lost a seat to UKIP who only stood one candidate in the ward; shares of the vote were 35% for the Tories, 33% for UKIP and 22% for Labour.  This is the third time the ward has been to the polls in two months following the referendum and the London elections in May, in which the Tories' Zac Goldsmith carried the ward's ballot boxes with 51% to 25% for Labour's Sadiq Khan and 11% for UKIP's Peter Whittle; the GLA list vote was closer with 39% for the Conservatives, 23% for Labour and 20% for UKIP, while further down the results Britain First had 3% and finished sixth (out of twelve) on both ballots.

Defending for the Conservatives is Ray Sams, a councillor for this ward from 2006 until he lost his seat to UKIP in 2014; he was Mayor of Bexley in 2011-12.  The UKIP candidate is Keith Forster, the treasurer of the party's Bexley branch.  Labour have gone for youth in selecting Sam Marchant, a social media analyst.  Also on the ballot paper are Michael Jones of the BNP (whose head office used to be in Welling), Derek Moran for the Green Party and the Lib Dems' Simone Reynolds.

Parliamentary constituency: Bexleyheath and Crayford

May 2014 result C 1352/1314/1140 UKIP 1280 Lab 857/769/720 BNP 407
May 2010 result C 2692/2623/2298 Lab 1554/1392/1269 LD 884/724/615 BNP 813 EDP 562
May 2006 result C 2062/1907/1890 Lab 1101/1090/1023 LD 457/450/413
May 2002 result Lab 1023/981/972 C 887/775/766 LD 831/760/752 UKIP 134

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 1402 Lab 701 UKIP 302 LD 119 Grn 80 Britain First 74 BNP 35 Women's Equality 23 Respect 12 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 12 One Love 5 Zylinski 1
List: C 1099 Lab 657 UKIP 546 LD 124 Grn 99 Britain First 91 Women's Equality 49 BNP 46 Animal Welfare 32 CPA 31 Respect 18 House Party 5

Mole Valley council, Surrey
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Santiago Mondejar Flores, an IT professional, who has served since 2015.

The Royal Oak, Leatherhead
Moving out of London, we come to the market town of Leatherhead, beloved of radio traffic reporters thanks to its location just off the congested M25 motorway.  The motorway's junction 9 lies within this ward, prompting several multinational companies to locate their UK offices here including CGI, Halliburton and Unilever; also here is the headquarters of the Police Federation.  That's not the only police connection to this ward as it was the former location of Surrey Sound Studios, where The Police recorded many of their early songs.  The ward also includes the town's railway station (a junction for the Victoria-Dorking and Waterloo-Epsom-Guildford lines) and its town centre; Leatherhead High Street came in the top five of a 2002 BBC poll for the UK's worst shopping street, but Wikipedia suggests it has improved a bit since then.  The ward's census statistics show that employment is high, with 48% of the workforce being employed full-time.

Former councillor Mondejar's Twitter feed is filled with Remain retweets, and Mole Valley - perhaps thanks to all those multinationals and the importance of research to its economy - voted 53% Remain last week.  At council level this ward and the council as a whole tends to be a close fight between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, the Lib Dems having won here eight times since 2002 to four times for the Conservatives and there have been some close majorities (including a couple of close three-way fights); since 2014 the score is 2-1 in the Tories' favour, but the Lib Dems won the most recent contest in May's ordinary election on a low share of the vote, 33% to 29% for the Tories, 18% for UKIP and 16% for Labour.  The ward is part of the Conservative-held county division of Leatherhead and Fetcham East, although the Tory majority comes from elsewhere in the division.

Defending for the Conservatives is Tracy Keeley, who stood in Fetcham West ward in May and had a very bad result in what previously had been a Tory-held ward; a violin teacher, she has previous local government experience as a town councillor in Yorkshire.  The Lib Dem candidate is Joe Crome, general manager of the Leatherhead Youth Project.  UKIP's Simon Chambers and Labour's Marc Green try again after their third- and fourth-place finishes here in May, and the Green Party's Vicki Elcoate completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Mole Valley
Surrey county council division: Leatherhead and Fetcham East

May 2016 result LD 528 C 453 UKIP 279 Lab 255 Grn 66
May 2015 result C 1064 LD 915 UKIP 571 Lab 455 Grn 122
May 2014 result C 525 LD 519 UKIP 512 Lab 248
May 2012 result LD 535 C 495 Lab 270 UKIP 213
May 2011 result LD 820 C 669 Lab 278 UKIP 209
May 2010 result LD 1125 C 1113 Lab 353 Ind 275 UKIP 187
May 2008 result LD 866 C 621 UKIP 170
May 2007 result LD 829 C 577 Lab 190 UKIP 105 Grn 43
May 2006 result C 757 LD 754 Lab 221
June 2004 result C 511 LD 492 Lab 489
May 2003 result LD 517 C 364 Lab 343
May 2002 result LD 721 Lab 438 C 317

Luton council, Bedfordshire
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Aysegul Gurbuz.  Just 20 years old and having served since 2015, Gurbuz resigned after a series of anti-Semitic tweets by her were revealed.

High Town Road, Luton
The High Town area of Luton lies immediately to the north of the town centre, a hilly area dominated by Victorian terraces.  The local economy was originally based on hat-making, and there are still a number of hatters here.  Wardown Park, the home of the minor cricket county of Bedfordshire, lies within the ward, and High Town's Wikipedia entry paints a Bohemian picture with a large number of small shops and businesses.  Luton railway station, a major stop on the Midland main line from St Pancras to Bedford and Leicester, lies on the ward's southern boundary.  Students at Bedfordshire University form a large part of the population, and High Town is a highly multiracial area (41% White British, 21% White Other, 18% Asian, 12% Black); the ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for population from the new EU states (13%) and private renting (46% of households).

A ward like this is of course safe Labour, although the Tories came close to gaining High Town in the 2007 election.  At the most recent poll in 2015 Labour beat the Tories here 53-29, although on the Labour slate Gurbuz was a long way behind her running-mate Andy Malcolm who was standing for re-election.  In last week's referendum Luton voted 56.5% Remain.

To replace Gurbuz Labour have selected another young Asian woman, but this time one whose equality credentials are impeccable: Maahwish Mirza graduated last year from the University of Warwick, in which she was Education Officer and Deputy President of the Students' Union in 2014-15.  (Declaration of interest: your columnist has honorary life membership of Warwick Students' Union.)  The Tory candidate is Sue Garrett, who runs the party's Luton branch office.  Also standing are Lyn Bliss for the Green Party, independent candidate John French, UKIP's Grace Froggatt and Clive Mead for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Luton South

May 2015 result Lab 1442/1039 C 791/748 Grn 479/329
May 2011 result Lab 1008/899 C 491/437 Grn 191 LD 176/126
May 2007 result Lab 672/617 C 592/563 Grn 248 LD 195/191
May 2003 result Lab 647/497 C 462/461 LD 205/149 Grn 175 Ind 114

One by-election on Friday 1st July:

Thanet council, Kent
Caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Mo Leys, who said in a resignation statement that he could no longer stand under the UKIP banner.  A former soldier, he had served since 2015.

St James Avenue, Ramsgate
For the second time in six months we return to the Isle of Thanet, but in a rather different political context to our last visit.  We're in the South Thanet constituency from which Nigel Farage sought election to Parliament last year; although he didn't get in, 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.  The Kipper takeover appears to have made not a jot of difference to this political culture, with four or five UKIP councillors wandering off to form a splinter group and wiping out the Kipper majority; on top of that, a further UKIP councillor emigrated to Thailand shortly after his election last year, and the resulting by-election was lost to Labour.  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 five seats on the council, following that by-election win.  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 ended up in the Green Party.  This was the ward where the by-election was held after a UKIP councillor emigrated; the by-election took place in January and resulted in a Labour gain with 38% of the vote, to 30% for UKIP and 20% for the Tories.  UKIP hold the ward's county council seats, with the two-member Ramsgate division being safe for them in 2013 but previously Labour-inclined.

Faced with the prospect of losing their last seat in the ward, UKIP have selected Roy Potts to defend this by-election.  Having got one of their 2015 slate elected in January, Labour are hoping to do the double by selecting their other candidate from 2015, former Mayor of Ramsgate David Green, who has sixteen years' services on Thanet council as a member for Eastcliff ward (1999-2015).  The Conservatives have reselected their January candidate Adam Dark, a law teacher, while the Lib Dems' Matthew Brown completes the ballot paper, hoping to improve on the 12 votes his party got in January.

Parliamentary constituency: South Thanet
Kent county council division: Ramsgate

Jan 2016 by-election Lab 288 UKIP 229 C 156 Ind 49 Grn 20 LD 12 Ind 10
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

Sunday, 19 June 2016

By-election Preview: 23 June 2016

Only one local by-election on referendum day, 23 June.

Windsor and Maidenhead council, Berkshire
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor George Bathurst, who had served since 2011.  He is concentrating his time on promoting the Windsor Link railway project, which aims to link together Windsor's two railway stations and connect them to Heathrow Airport.

Sunninghill Post Office
As many disappointed bondholders in Lloyds Bank found out last week, it's always important to read the small print.  Electoral law has a lot of small print in it, and it's in a rather sorry state at the moment: the law governing elections in the UK was last consolidated in 1983, and the many electoral changes and constitutional innovations that have happened since then (the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and London, postal voting on demand, elected mayors, police and crime commissioners, the short-lived Inner London Education Authority) have resulted in bits and pieces being bolted on to the 1983 law until it's started to sag under its own weight.  One of the most impenetrable parts of electoral law relates to combination of polls, with the point of this being to streamline two elections which take place simultaneously: for example, allowing both ballot papers to be issued by the same polling staff.  Not all possible poll combinations are allowable, and the Government had to rush out new rules earlier this year to allow Welsh Assembly elections to be combined with Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

You might have noticed that this week there is a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.  Perhaps in order that there aren't any distractions from the referendum, the Government didn't make any provision for this referendum to be combined with any other poll, and the Electoral Commission tried to persuade returning officers and local parties not to schedule any local by-elections for this week. Unfortunately, either the message didn't reach Ascot or the local parties didn't bother to read the small print; whatever the reason, the electors of Sunninghill and South Ascot are going to have to queue up at two separate polling stations in order to cast their votes and the returning officer is going to have to incur the hassle of accommodating and the expense of staffing two separate polling stations.  Not good.

Anyway, this ward is fairly well described by its name, and is generally built-up and residential although it does include the Georgian country house of Tittenhurst Park, home at various times to the philanthropist Thomas Holloway, the prison reformer and London county councillor Xenia Field, the entrepreneur and failed Liberal Party candidate Peter Cadbury, John Lennon (who built a recording studio in the grounds), fellow Beatle Ringo Starr and Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed.  South Ascot is the less fashionable part of Ascot (if such a thing can be said to exist) although it was once home to the exiled King Zog of Albania; its census statistics are skewed by the presence of St Mary's boarding school, which propels the ward into the top 100 in the UK for population aged 16 or 17.  Ascot railway station (which lies on the Waterloo-Reading line and is a junction for trains to Guildford) can be found on the ward's northern boundary.

The ward is as Tory as you might expect and has got more so over the course of this century.  At the most recent election in 2015 the Tories had 42% of the vote here, with the Lib Dems (13%), an independent candidate (13%) and the Green Party (11%) leading a five-way fight to be runner-up.

Defending for the Conservatives is Julian Sharpe, who lives in Sunninghill and is an organiser for the local carnival.  The Lib Dem candidate is Tamasin Barnbrook, who fought Ascot and Cheapside ward last year.  The Independent candidate from last time is not trying again and neither are the Greens, so the ballot paper is completed by Spike Humphrey for Labour and Nicole Fowler for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Windsor

May 2015 result C 2012/1852/1635 LD 621/499 Ind 604 Grn 542 Lab 504 UKIP 492
May 2011 result C 1334/1326/1318 LD 430/268/235 Lab 420 Grn 339
May 2007 result C 1076/1072/1058 LD 542/455/441 Lab 163
May 2003 result C 914/904/896 LD 698/686/678 Grn 145 Lab 136

Thursday, 16 June 2016

By-election Preview: 16 June 2016

Only one local by-election this week, covered below.

King's Lynn and West Norfolk council
Caused by the death of long-serving independent councillor Mike Tilbury at the age of 80. One of the original King's Lynn and West Norfolk councillors from 1973, Tilbury had served as both Leader and Mayor of the council, and it was largely his efforts which saved the Dabbling Duck pub in Great Massingham, which was bought by the council to prevent its conversion into housing.  For some of his time on the council Tilbury had been a Labour figure, and he was the Labour candidate for North West Norfolk in the 1983 general election, coming third with 19% of the vote.

Sandringham House
In a week in which Britain has celebrated the (official) ninetieth birthday of its monarch, it's appropriate that the only local by-election to take place on 16th July 2016 is in a ward with royal connections.  The Valley Hill ward - answers on a postcard as to what this name represents - is a collection of seven parishes a few miles to the north-west of King's Lynn.  Furthest inland lie Great Massingham, home to an RAF airfield during the Second World War, and its sister village of Little Massingham; in the centre of the ward are Congham, Hillington, Flitcham with Appleton and Anmer, while the ward meets the Wash coastline at Peter Black Sand near the village of Wolferton.

Until 1969 Wolferton had a railway station, a grand structure with Tudor-style waiting rooms completely out of kilter with the rural surroundings and sparsely-populated catchment area; the reason for this becomes clear when you consider that Wolferton was the railhead for Sandringham House, bought in 1862 by Queen Victoria as a residence for the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, and now traditionally the winter home for the Queen and the Royal Family.  Also within the ward is Anmer Hall, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their family live when not in London.

The Royal Family might not vote, but one notable resident who will vote in this by-election is the local MP and Congham resident Sir Henry Bellingham, who has represented this area (with broken service) since 1983 when he defeated Tilbury and the outgoing MP Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, who had been the only Conservative to defect to the SDP.  Sir Henry's home ward hasn't seen much change in its last three elections, with Mike Tilbury cruising to re-election against only Tory opposition: at his last re-election in 2015 Tilbury won by the margin of 66-34.  For a clue as to the ward's political leanings without Tilbury's personal vote, we can look up to county level: Valley Hill is in the Dersingham county division, where the Tories increased their majority in 2013 in what was generally a poor election for them in Norfolk.  In that year Dersingham gave 47% to the Conservatives, 28% to UKIP and 21% to Labour.

There is no independent candidate to succeed Mike Tilbury, so this seat is up for grabs.  Probably best placed is the Conservative candidate Tim Tilbrook, a financial advisor.  Taking the other candidates alphabetically, UKIP's Andrew Carr runs a dental company, the Green Party's Michael de Whalley is a computer software professional who stood here in the 2015 general election, Labour's Edward Robb gives an address in Great Massingham and the Lib Dems' Kate Sayer is a former Hillington parish councillor.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Dersingham

May 2015 result Ind 899 C 466
May 2011 result Ind 766 C 238
May 2007 result Ind 597 C 299
May 2003 result Ind 701 C 344 Lab 97

Thursday, 9 June 2016

By-election Previews: 9 June 2016

The four local by-elections on 9th June 2016 are all in urban wards and fall into two pairs.  Two, appropriately given the pre-eminent political topic of the moment, are in towns in the East of England where UKIP have done well in recent years.  The other pair are two wards in south London, one of which had an unusual distinction in last month's Mayor and Assembly elections.  Read on...

Essex county council
Caused by the death of Labour councillor William Archibald at the age of 84. Archibald was a veteran of local government who started his career in 1963 on the former Basildon Urban District Council, and was leader of the UDC from 1971 to 1973 and its last chairman in 1973-74; in 1973 he was elected to Essex county council, serving as its chairman in 1986-87, and had served since then with the exception of the 2009-13 term.  He returned to Basildon district council in 2002 and served two further terms of office (2002-4 and 2010-14).  Away from local government he was an electrician and a passionate supporter of vocational education.

Royal Court, Laindon
For the first of this week's four local by-elections, all of which are in England, we travel to Basildon, an Essex new town which will forever be etched in psephologists' hearts thanks to its early declaration in the 1992 general election, indicating that the Major government was on course for re-election.  Like many New Towns, Basildon has shown some instability in its voting patterns over the years, and a series of swingy elections in recent years (UKIP did well in 2014, the Tories in 2015 and Labour in 2016) have left Labour as the largest party on Basildon council but the Tories, with half as many seats and being the third largest group, running a minority administration with the support of UKIP and two UKIP splinter groups.

This two-seat county division, which covers the northern third of Basildon between the A127 road and the railway line, takes in some of Labour's best wards in the town - Fryerns and Lee Chapel North voted Labour even during the nadir years of the last government while the Tories do best in Laindon Park ward - but that didn't stop Labour losing both seats in the county division in the calamitous county elections of 2009, the Tories gaining the division with just 32% of the vote to 29% for Labour, 22% for the BNP (remember them?) and 17% for the Lib Dems. Labour staged a recovery over the 2009-13 term, gaining Laindon Park ward on the district council in 2012, but then UKIP got organised in Basildon: in the 2013 county elections Labour gained one of the Tory seats, but UKIP gained the other; shares of the vote were 37% for the Labour slate, 36% for UKIP and 16% for the Conservatives.  Since 2013 we've had a full cycle of elections to Basildon district council; UKIP carried all three wards in 2014, 2015 was back to the status quo ante, while in May this year UKIP gained Laindon Park from Labour, who held Fryerns and recovered a by-election loss to UKIP in Lee Chapel North; shares of the vote across the division in May were 39% for Labour, 36% for UKIP and 22% for the Conservatives.

Defending for Labour is Gavin Callaghan, the leader of the Labour group on the district council and re-elected for another four years in Pitsea North West ward in May.  The UKIP candidate is Frank Ferguson, UKIP's district councillor for Lee Chapel North ward since 2014.  The Conservatives have selected Gary Maylin, a mature student studying sociology at the LSE who came second in Laindon Park ward in May's district elections.  Completing the ballot paper is Philip Rackley of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Basildon and Billericay
Basildon district council wards: Fryerns, Laindon Park, Lee Chapel North

May 2013 result Lab 2277/1980 UKIP 2175/1684 C 958/784 LD 215/187 NF 171 Grn 138/116 Ind 119 TUSC 73
June 2009 result C 2349/2282 Lab 2094/1686 BNP 1612/1608 LD 1240/1215
May 2005 result Lab 6707/5349 C 4107/3904 LD 1903/1539 Grn 1177

North East Lincolnshire council
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Chris Stanland, who had served since 2015.

Dame Kendal Grove, Nunsthorpe
We travel north to what is still called, for historical reasons, the South ward of Grimsby although that name is no longer geographically accurate.  Grimsby has been dealt a rough hand by geography, history and culture; although the Grimsby-Cleethorpes conurbation is one of the largest urban centres in Lincolnshire, it's a long way from anywhere else of importance; the major local industry (fishing) was destroyed by the Cod Wars with Iceland; and the town has recently suffered the indignity of having Sacha Baron Cohen satirise it in a film (which was filmed not here but in Tilbury, Essex).  Recent media which was filmed here included the 2006 film This Is England, a story of young skinheads set in 1983, and the second series of Skint, a Channel 4 reality TV series following the long-term unemployed.

As you might have guessed from those last two items, this is not a rich town.  South ward in particular, a tract of housing off the A46 Laceby Road, has all the demographic hallmarks of a sink council estate: unemployment is extremely high (nearly 11% at the time of the 2011 census, putting the ward in the top 40 in England and Wales), those jobs that exist are all at the bottom end of the social scale, 41% of the workforce have no qualifications, 40% of the households are socially rented, and 25% of the population are under 16.  Awful though those indicators are, this isn't even the worst ward in Grimsby for multiple deprivation.

Put all this together with the current political climate, and you can see why UKIP made the Great Grimsby constituency a top target for the 2015 general election; they had a track record in the town's local elections, the long-serving Austin Mitchell, who had succeeded Tony Crosland in a 1977 by-election, was retiring, and UKIP had recruited as their parliamentary candidate the former Tory who had lost to Mitchell by just 714 votes in the 2010 election.  In fact UKIP finished third and Labour increased both their majority and their share of the vote.  That good 2015 result was reflected in South ward, which Labour comfortably held after having lost the ward to UKIP by 30 votes in 2014; the UKIP councillor elected that year was a Labour defector, re-elected under her new colours.  Created on its current boundaries in 2003, South ward was a Labour/Lib Dem marginal in the Blair and Brown years, the Lib Dems being helped in the Blair years by an electoral pact with the Tories who didn't stand in the ward.  The ordinary election results in May suggest that UKIP have peaked in Grimsby, Labour beating them in South ward 54-28.

Defending for Labour is Janet Goodwin, who finished a close second in May in the normally-Tory Scartho ward, immediately to the south of South ward.  The UKIP candidate is Stephen Whittingham, chairman of the party's Great Grimsby branch.  Also standing are Paul Batson for the Tories, Val O'Flynn for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Loyd Emmerson for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Great Grimsby

May 2016 result Lab 913 UKIP 483 C 251 TUSC 54
May 2015 result Lab 1681 UKIP 1278 C 742 Lab 172 TUSC 83
May 2014 result UKIP 690 Lab 660 Ind 238 C 200 LD 97 Grn 52
May 2012 result Lab 968 UKIP 421 LD 264 Ind 198
May 2011 result Lab 1411 LD 496 UKIP 456
May 2008 result LD 689 Lab 563 C 338 Ind 175 Ind 135 Ind 68
May 2007 result Lab 763 LD 735 C 314
May 2006 result LD 770 Lab 675 Ind 529
June 2004 result LD 929 Lab 824 Ind 507 Ind 249
May 2003 result Lab 719/562/516 LD 714 Ind 656/613/574

Lambeth borough council, South London
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Niranjan Francis at the age of 59.  A former Merchant Navy captain who ran the Gipsy Hill post office and a Kent care home, Francis had served on Lambeth council since 2010.

Northwood House, Hamilton Road
We move into London for the second half of this week's previews.  Gipsy Hill is the south-eastern corner of the London Borough of Lambeth, covering most of the West Norwood area and served by Gipsy Hill and West Norwood stations on the Crystal Palace line.  West Norwood was traditionally rather middle-class, and Gipsy Hill was a safe Conservative ward as recently as 2006, but rapid demographic change in recent years has turned the ward into a Labour fortress: in the 2011 census 29% of the population was black and 9.3% (the fifth-highest figure in England and Wales) were mixed-race, and social renting and unemployment are fairly high.

In the 2014 local elections the Labour slate beat the Tories 67-13, which is an amazing swing of 34% since the 2006 elections; at the GLA elections in May Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith 59-18 in the ward's ballot boxes, while the list ballot gave Labour 50% with the Greens second on 16% and the Tories third on 15%.

Defending for Labour is Luke Murphy, an "irregular hiker" according to his Twitter who gives an address in Brixton.  The Tory candidate is Leslie Maruziva, a black Zimbabwean working in regeneration.  Also standing are Pete Elliott for the Green Party, Rose Jesse for the Lib Dems, Elizabeth Jones for UKIP, independent candidate Robin Lambert and Steve Nally of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary constituency: Dulwich and West Norwood

May 2014 result Lab 2242/2202/2183 C 436/434/423 Grn 364/317/257 LD 164/161/133 UKIP 142
May 2010 result Lab 2670/2597/2588 C 1654/1611/1585 LD 1055/1016/852 Grn 462/347/332
May 2006 result C 1402/1352/1283 Lab 915/838/790 Grn 631 LD 521/408/368
May 2002 result C 1579/1571//1509 Lab 1034/1001/899 Grn 251/182/178 LD 237/180/165

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2102 C 622 Grn 376 LD 153 Women's Equality 118 UKIP 62 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 36 Britain First 28 Respect 24 BNP 11 One Love 9 Ind 6
List: Lab 1795 Grn 581 C 522 LD 209 Women's Equality 206 UKIP 107 CPA 39 Animal Welfare 29 Britain First 29 Respect 26 House Party 17 BNP 13

Southwark borough council, South London
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Lisa Rajan, who is moving to Manchester where her husband has a new job.  She had served since 2002.

Lavender Pond, Rotherhithe
Low-lying, marshy and close to the river, unsuitable for farming but close to the City and downstream of London Bridge, the Rotherhithe peninsula was a natural location for dockbuilding.  In 1696 the Howland family, the local landowners, had built here the largest dock of its kind in the world, able to accommodate 120 sailing ships.  The dock became successful as a base for Arctic whalers, eventually being renamed Greenland Dock in their honour, and expansion over the years led to the peninsula being covered by nine docks at the time of the Second World War.  Damage caused by wartime bombing and the advent of containerisation, which the Surrey Docks couldn't handle, led to the docks closing in 1969 and most of the docks themselves were filled in.

From the Thatcher years the derelict Surrey Docks area was extensively redeveloped under the auspices of the London Docklands Development Corporation, with a huge number of yuppie flats for young professionals springing up together with some new industry (including the printworks for the Daily Mail and Evening Standard), while the remaining docks were turned into London's largest marina.  And so it came to pass that there is now enough population in the Surrey Docks to form an electoral ward, although the ward name is now an anachronism, "Surrey Quays" (as in the East London Line station which serves the ward) being more generally applied to the area nowadays.

The yuppie flats have left their mark on the ward's demographics: Surrey Docks ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for population aged 30-44 (33%), White non-British (23%), Buddhism (1.75%), degree-level qualifications (56%) and full-time employment (55%), just outside the top 100 for population born in other EU-15 countries (7%) and over half the workforce are at management or professional level.  Politically this adds up to a Lib Dem ward, particularly given that Simon Hughes was the local MP until last year.  At the most recent local elections in 2014 the Lib Dem slate topped the poll with 31% of the vote, Labour were second on 21%, the Tories (who were the main challengers in the ward through the Noughties) fell to 19% and UKIP had one of their better figures in inner London with 15%.

In the GLA elections in May this was the ward with the strongest Lib Dem vote share in London on all three ballots, and the Lib Dems actually carried the ward (by 9 votes over Labour) on the constituency ballot - not something you see very often in a GLA election.  Sadiq Khan led here in the mayoral ballot with 37% to 29% for Zac Goldsmith and 17% for the Lib Dem candidate Caroline Pidgeon, while Labour won the list vote with just 27% to 24% for the Lib Dems, 21% for the Conservatives and 13% for the Green Party.

So the Lib Dems still appear to be in relatively good shape in this corner of London.  Their defending candidate is Dan Whitehead, a solicitor whose manifesto includes more buses for Surrey Quays and a footbridge over the river to connect the ward with the Isle of Dogs. The Labour candidate is Will Holmes, a trade union official and charity trustee.  The Tories have selected Craig Cox, a strategy consultant advising government departments who has local government experience as a councillor in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire in 2011-2012 (for the by-election-prone Toton and Chilwell Meadows ward, for which see this column passim).  Toby Prescott is the UKIP candidate, fighting his third Southwark by-election of the year.  Completing an all-male ballot paper are Colin Boyle of the Green Party and John Hellings, an independent candidate who was on the UKIP slate in 2014, an independent candidate in 2010 and on the Labour slate in 2006.

Parliamentary constituency: Bermondsey and Old Southwark

May 2014 result LD 1039/837/780 Lab 712/697/632 C 655/562/548 UKIP 502/468 Grn 486/360
May 2010 result LD 2385/2310/1986 C 1463/1331/1259 Lab 942/902/788 Grn 445 Ind 185
May 2006 result LD 1100/1037/1009 C 735/702/665 Lab 441/384/340 Grn 334/244
May 2002 result LD 1034/1012/966 C 351/339/311 Lab 268/210/189 Grn 124/84/76

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1140 C 901 LD 538 Grn 267 UKIP 108 Women's Equality 65 Respect 27 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 17 Britain First 16 BNP 11 Ind 10 One Love 6
List: Lab 857 LD 752 C 668 Grn 398 UKIP 204 Women's Equality 122 CPA 36 Animal Welfare 31 Britain First 29 Respect 20 BNP 15 House Party 12

Thursday, 2 June 2016

By-election Preview: 2 June 2016

Seven by-elections on 2nd June 2016, one of which is unfinished business from May. Four are covered here, one over on the Scottish Elections blog, and two more on the Welsh Elections blog.

Rushmoor borough council, Hampshire
Postponed from 5th May due to the death of the Conservative candidate Ron Hughes.  Hughes was an outgoing councillor with ten years' service in Manor Park ward, and had served as the council's cabinet minister for housing; he had been deselected in Manor Park and had found a new berth in this ward.

Aldershot Park
The large May elections usually generate various pieces of unfinished business; with tens of thousands of candidates standing, there are usually a few candidates who sadly die between their nomination being submitted and polling day.  That causes the election in the ward to be postponed to a later date with nominations reopened.  Aldershot Park is the only ward to suffer this fate this year, which is an unusually low figure for even-numbered May elections (odd-numbered years are on different scales and not really comparable).

Aldershot Park is a working-class ward covering the south-eastern corner of the army town of Aldershot.  I say "working-class", but the Army presence makes interpreting the census statistics fairly difficult; there are high rates of social renting and "lower supervisory, technical" work, but employment rates are unusually high for such an area.  There is also a fast-growing Buddhist population in the ward, an effect of Gurkha immigration in recent years which has been concentrated in the Aldershot area.

Rushmoor's wards were redrawn in 2012 but this ward had only minor changes from the Heron Wood ward which existed from 1979 to 2012.  For much of this period Heron Wood was a three-way marginal, but Labour only lost the ward twice: to the Lib Dems in 2004 and 2008 (in both cases Labour won the seats back in by-elections).  The Lib Dem challenge disappeared in the Coalition years, but the Tory vote has remained strong and they gained a seat from Labour in Aldershot Park in 2015; the shares of the vote last year were 38% for the Tories, 35% for Labour and 27% for UKIP who fought the ward for the first time.  At county level almost all of the ward is within the Aldershot East division, a marginal which Labour gained from the Tories in 2013.

The outgoing Labour councillor Mike Roberts, a veteran councillor who has represented this ward and Heron Wood since 1979, is standing for re-election to what would be his eleventh term of office.  The replacement Tory candidate, following Ron Hughes' death, is Matthew Collins.  Jeffery Boxall is the UKIP candidate, and the Green Party - who weren't on the original candidate list - have entered the fray with Lucy Perrin.

Parliamentary constituency: Aldershot
Hampshire county council division: Aldershot East (most)

May 2015 result C 1153 Lab 1065 UKIP 840
May 2014 result Lab 877 C 693
May 2012 result Lab 811/754/677 C 451/406/401 LD 202

Mid Suffolk district council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Card, who had served since 2015.

Somersham from the Air
This is a rural ward covering seven parishes in central Suffolk, a few miles north-west of Ipswich.  Despite the order of names, the largest of these (with 597 electors) is Somersham, although Barking is perhaps more accessible with Somersham being in the middle of nowhere and accessible only by country lanes.  Also within the ward is a small corner of the town of Needham Market.  The ward has a old age profile and a large retired population.

If you thought that this bucolic description meant a sleepy Tory ward, you'd be wrong: 2015 was the first time there had been a Tory councillor for this area.  The old Barking ward was independent-held up to 1995, and then Lib Dem from 1995 to 2007 (several elections before 2007 were uncontested).  In 2007 the ward was gained by a localist party which is in contention for the title of "most risible party name on the register", being called "Suffolk Together".  It took the general election turnout in 2015 for the Tories to knock out the Suffolk Together councillor; the result last year was 42% for the Conservatives, 32% for Suffolk Together and 15% for UKIP.  The Tories do not hold the local county division (Bosmere), which has been Lib Dem for some years.

Defending for the Tories is a young candidate, Jemma Lynch of Needham Market.  Neither Suffolk Together nor UKIP have returned to the fray, so completing the ballot paper are Lib Dem Mark Valladares, Anne Killett of the Green Party and Labour's William Marsburg.

Parliamentary constituency: Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Suffolk county council division: Bosmere

May 2015 result C 542 Suffolk Together 411 UKIP 194 LD 154
May 2011 result Suffolk Together 493 C 310 LD 121
May 2007 result Suffolk Together 362 C 286 LD 266
Oct 2004 by-election LD 281 C 183 UKIP 86
May 2003 result LD unopposed

Lewes district council
Caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Daisy Cooper who had served only since 2015.

Chapel Hill, Lewes
Here we have an old and rather beautiful town, located within the South Downs National Park at the point where the River Ouse cuts through the South Downs.  Tourism, together with administration (East Sussex county council and Sussex Police Authority are based here) and manufacturing are major employers, with tourists drawn not just by the town's old buildings and beautiful location but also by the Lewes Bonfire, a celebration of Guy Fawkes Night in which well-known figures are burned in effigy.  Fawkes himself and Pope Paul V are always on the bill, but there are also more up-to-date characters - recent Lewes Bonfires have burned Osama bin Laden, Sepp Blatter, Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron (complete with a pig).  Despite or perhaps because of this, Lewes Bridge ward has a high proportion of people claiming no religious affiliation. The Bridge ward, one of three covering the town, covers part of the town centre and railway station together with the suburbs of Cliffe and South Malling on the east bank of the Ouse.

The local Lib Dems are no doubt still smarting from the 2015 election in which they lost not only the Lewes parliamentary constituency but also one of the two seats in Lewes Bridge ward, which was gained by the Green Party.  In a fractured 2015 result, the Lib Dem slate had 28% of the vote in Lewes Bridge, the Greens 21%, an independent 16%, Labour 16% and the Tories 12%.  The Lib Dems do still hold the local county division (Ringmer and Lewes Bridge).

Defending for the Lib Dems is Will Elliott, who represents the ward on Lewes town council.  The Greens have selected Johnny Denis, a business management consultant.  The Labour candidate is acupuncturist Richard Hurn.  Completing the ballot paper is Roy Burman for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Lewes
East Sussex county council division: Ringmer and Lewes Bridge

May 2015 result LD 905/641 Grn 677/410 Ind 540 Lab 529/447 C 395/359 UKIP 240
May 2011 result LD 735/620 Grn 576/424 Lab 324/318 C 280/255
May 2007 result LD 687/532 Ind 402 Seagulls Party 262 Grn 249/246 C 203/201 Lab 113
May 2003 result LD 585/583 C 239/212 Grn 196/192 Lab 160/159

Dorset county council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Michael Bevan who had served since 2009.

Local Shop and Post Office, Yetminster
Large rural division time: Sherborne Rural county division covers no fewer than forty parishes completely surrounding the town of Sherborne. The largest centre of population is Yetminster, a stop on the Heart of Wessex railway line about four miles south of Sherborne, whose population just creeps above 1,000.

Sherborne Rural has been a tight Tory-Lib Dem battle at county level for many years: Bevan gained it from the Lib Dems in 2009 and held it in 2013 with 37% of the vote, to 35% for the Lib Dems and 22% for UKIP. Recent boundary changes in West Dorset mean that the wards and county divisions no longer match up, but in the wards wholly or partly in the division the Tories hold five council seats and the Lib Dems one (in Yetminster and Cam Vale ward).

Defending for the Tories is Mary Penfold (oh crumbs!), district councillor for Frome Valley ward which covers part of the division.  The Lib Dems have selected Matthew Hall, a district and town councillor in Sherborne.  UKIP have not returned to the fray, so the Labour candidate Geoff Freeman completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: West Dorset
West Dorset district council wards: Beaminster (part), Frome Valley (part), Queen Thorne, Yetminster and Cam Vale

May 2013 result C 1258 LD 1168 UKIP 746 Grn 129 Lab 85
June 2009 result C 2080 LD 1871 Lab 112
May 2005 result LD 2993 C 2809