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.

ALDERSHOT PARK
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


BARKING AND SOMERSHAM
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 BRIDGE
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


SHERBORNE RURAL
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

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