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...

BASILDON LAINDON PARK AND FRYERNS
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


SOUTH
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


GIPSY HILL
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


SURREY DOCKS
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

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