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

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