Sunday, 19 June 2016

By-election Preview: 23 June 2016

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

SUNNINGHILL AND SOUTH ASCOT
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

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