Monday, 25 July 2016

Thank You to Andrew Teale

A very warm thank you to our former preview blogger Andrew Teale, who has given us years worth of fascinating facts here for local by-elections, week in, week out for over three years.

His weekly work is now being hosted over on the Election Data blog, here, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

We will be having a full website relaunch here soon with all sorts of new content, so watch this space!

Monday, 11 July 2016

By-election Previews: 14 July 2016

Ten by-elections on 14th July 2016.  Six covered below, two on the Welsh Elections blog, and another two on the Cornish Elections blog.

Newham council, North London
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ellie Robinson, who has taken up a new post with the London Assembly as an advisor to Mayor Sadiq Khan.  She was first elected to Newham council in 2010.

Woodford Road, Forest Gate
It's worth saying a few things here to start this week's column.  June is normally a busy month for local by-elections, as vacancies from April and May are cleared before the summer holidays and we start to deal with what might be termed "collateral damage" from the May elections as councillors move on to bigger and better things which they have been newly elected to.  The Labour takeover of City Hall in May has led to quite a lot of such collateral damage, with two by-elections this week arising from councillors leaving to take up posts in Mayor Khan's administration and several more in the pipeline, including a by-election for the elected mayoralty of Hackney which will see an entire London borough go to the polls.  However, this year the EU referendum - with which no other poll could be combined, although the returning officer for Windsor and Maidenhead didn't get that message - has had the effect of pushing most of June's vacancies back into July where they are being compressed into a much shorter period before the summer holidays.  This means that your columnist has twenty wards to write about over this week and the next, so apologies to my readers (hello Sid, hello Doris) if there is less detail here and next week than you might have come to expect.  Having said that, in the case of Forest Gate North your columnist is very grateful for help received this week from Tim Roll-Pickering, who is the election agent for the Conservative candidate.

So it is that we start the week in West Ham.  Forest Gate North is the part of Forest Gate lying to the north of the Great Eastern railway line, with Forest Gate station on the ward's southern boundary and Maryland station just off the south-western corner; wholly within the ward is Wanstead Park station on the Gospel Oak-Barking line, although that's currently closed for electrification works.  This is a long and thin ward running from west to east which has been left relatively untouched by the redevelopment seen in Stratford and the Royal Docks area; much of the housing is still Victorian, with the effect of wartime bombing still visible in many streets where replacement houses are in a different style to the original.  The "village" area at the eastern end of the ward, close to the heathland of Wanstead Flats, is gentrifying quickly, although that effect hasn't yet reached the centre of the ward or the Maryland area at the western end.  Nearly all of the ward is built up, although it does contain Forest Lane Park and West Ham Cemetery.

While the census statistics perhaps might not catch the full effect of the recent gentrification, they are very typical of Newham as a whole; the White British population is just 21%, with consequent very high scores for pretty much every other ethnic group.  The ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for black population (25%), people born in the new EU states (11%) and those with non-UK qualifications (15%); the over-45 population is very low, 60% of households are rented in some way or another and there is also a significant student population.

The political complexion of the ward should be obvious from the word "Newham", where it's now ten years since anyone other than Labour won an election.  There's not much indication this is going to change in Forest Gate North, whose predecessor wards last failed to return a full Labour slate in the Tory landslide of 1968.  One of the past candidates who tried and failed to break the Labour monopoly was local resident Gerard Batten of UKIP, who finished last here in 2002 but has since gone on to greater things as an MEP for London (for how long, who knows?).  At the most recent borough elections in 2014 Labour had 58% of the vote, with the Greens best of the rest on 14% only just ahead of the Tories.  Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith here 65-15 in May, while in the London Members ballot the Greens ran second in the ward's ballot boxes with Labour winning 61-11.

So, not much for the Labour candidate Anamul Islam, who is described as a long-standing trade union and community activist, to worry about here.  The Greens, who will be looking to put down a marker in one of their best Newham wards, have selected conservation campaigner Elisabeth Whitebread.  Also standing are Conservative candidate John Oxley, a barrister working in family law, and the Lib Dems' James Rumsby who has withdrawn from the campaign for personal reasons but will still appear on the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: West Ham

May 2014 result Lab 2324/2126/2120 Grn 562/559 C 548/490/480 TUSC 222 LD 206 CPA 174/146
May 2010 result Lab 3652/3631/3335 Grn 905 C 836/730/710 CPA 411/347 Ind 267
May 2006 result Lab 1678/1552/1443 Respect 757/720/673 Grn 603 C 517/454/418 CPA 409
May 2002 result Lab 1333/1265/1253 Grn 628 C 344 Socialist Alliance 272 UKIP 233

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2238 C 507 Grn 272 LD 95 Respect 79 UKIP 79 Women's Equality 65 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 36 Britain First 35 BNP 16 Zylinski 15 One Love 5
London Member: Lab 2138 Grn 369 C 312 UKIP 144 Women's Equality 133 LD 129 Respect 91 CPA 55 Britain First 36 Animal Welfare 34 BNP 25 House Party 19

Islington council, North London
Caused by the resignation of Labour councillor James Murray, who has taken up a new post with the London Assembly as Deputy Mayor for Housing.  He was first elected in 2006.

Chapel Market, Islington
Moving further into London, Barnsbury ward is stereotypical Islington running from the Angel at the southeast corner to the Caledonian Road and Barnsbury North London Line station at the northwest corner. Barnsbury developed from the nineteenth century onwards as an escape from the overcrowded City and industrial Clerkenwell, and as the first staging post out of London on the Great North Road.  Wikipedia's list of famous Barnsbury residents reads like a rollcall of the great and good: Tony Blair, Benjamin Britten, Ian Holm, Walter Sickert, Simon Rattle, Grayson Perry.  Although Barnsbury's census statistics are overall similar to Forest Gate North, there are two major differences: the White British population here is still (just) over 50%, and 51% of the workforce have degrees with another 11% being full-time students - very much middle class.  The ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for population born in the pre-2004 EU states (7.6%) and, interestingly, for those who did not answer the census question on religion (16.2%).

The first Barnsbury ward election on the current boundaries in 2002 was safe Lib Dem, with Labour a long way behind in second; tied for the runner-up spot that year was human rights barrister and Labour candidate Emily Thornberry, who has since gone on to greater things as MP for the local Islington South and Finsbury constituency and (at the time of writing, this may have changed since) Shadow Foreign Secretary.  Labour did very well to gain all three seats in 2006 on a 14% swing, 22-year-old James Murray beating the alphabet to top the poll, and with the implosion of the Islington Lib Dems this has become a safe ward for them.  The Tories took over second place at the most recent borough elections in 2014, Labour winning 56-19; in May Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith here 55-22 while in the London Members ballot Labour had 47% to 18% for the Tories and 10% for the Greens.

Defending for Labour is Rowena Champion, a family law barrister. Another barrister, Edward Waldegrave, is the Conservative candidate; also standing are physics teacher and former asylum-seeker Ernestas Jegorovas for the Green Party, Lib Dem candidate Bradley Hillier-Smith and independent Robert Capper.

Parliamentary constituency: Islington South and Finsbury

May 2014 result Lab 2110/1948/1910 C 710/604/594 Grn 467/447/327 LD 400/309/286 TUSC 100
May 2010 result Lab 2399/2165/2064 LD 1460/1358/1221 C 1204/1198/1111 Grn 557/528/490 Ind 87
May 2006 result Lab 1072/986/973 LD 888/789/744 C 445/437/426 Grn 432/394/391
June 2003 by-election LD 940 Lab 311 C 182 Grn 136
May 2002 result LD 1127/1046/1036 Lab 600/600/561 Grn 238/227 Ind 199 C 183/174/153

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1798 C 722 Grn 240 LD 172 Women's Equality 119 UKIP 105 Britain First 34 Respect 27 Cannabis is Safer than Alchohol 21 BNP 14 One Love 8 Zylinski 2
London Member: Lab 1548 C 590 Grn 341 LD 240 Women's Equality 213 UKIP 185 Britain First 53 Animal Welfare 31 Respect 31 House Party 20 CPA 16 BNP 14

Wiltshire council
Caused by the death of independent councillor Jeff Osborn at the age of 73.  Osborn started his career at fifteen by joining the Merchant Navy; in 1962 he enlisted in the Royal Engineers with whom he served in Germany, Cyprus and Aden, and with the SAS in Hereford.  He started his political career in the 1980s as a Labour figure and was their candidate in Somerton and Frome in the 1983 general election; after that he ended up in the Liberal Democrats, representing Trowbridge for twenty years initially on the former West Wiltshire district council.  Twice Mayor of Trowbridge and a long-serving member of Wiltshire council's health committee, Osborn left the Liberal Democrats over the coalition's health policy, and his final re-election was as an independent.  He leaves behind his wife Helen, also a Wiltshire councillor, and two daughters.

Chestnut Grove, Trowbridge
Moving out of London, we come to Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire and headquarters of Wiltshire county council.  Although Trowbridge is an old market town, its economy was traditionally based on textiles; in 1820 Trowbridge had over twenty factories producing woollen cloth, a similar level to several northern industrial towns.  Today the town's largest employers are the council and Apetito, a frozen food company.

The Grove ward covers south-western Trowbridge and has been the Osborns' personal fief for many years, both under its original guise (as the Trowbridge South West ward of West Wiltshire council) and now.  At the inaugural Wiltshire council election in 2009 Osborn (then a Lib Dem) beat the Tories 68-26; in 2013 as an independent he was not opposed by the Lib Dems and polled 86% in a straight fight with the Tories. Wiltshire's district councils were abolished in 2009, so there's not much else to go on to give clues as to what might happen here without an Osborn on the ballot.

Defending for the independents is Robert Wall.  The Tories have selected David Halik, a town councillor and former Mayor of Trowbridge.  The Lib Dems have returned to the fray by selecting Chris Auckland, who works in social housing.  Also standing on a crowded ballot paper are Shaun Henley for Labour, Philip Randle for the Greens and UKIP's Simon Selby.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Wiltshire

May 2013 result Ind 842 C 142
June 2009 result LD 816 C 311 Lab 70

North Norfolk council
Caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Steven Ward due to pressure of work.  He had served since May last year.

Tower Mill, Hindolveston
For the first of today's rural by-elections we're in Norfolk.  The Astley ward contains seven parishes, none of which are called Astley; instead the name commemorates the Astley family of Melton Constable Hall, an at-risk stately home regarded as the finest example of the Christopher Wren style.  Melton Constable itself was the most important settlement in the ward, being a junction of four railway lines and home to the main workshops for the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway; but the works closed in 1934 and thirty years later the railway was gone as well, and the loss of that work means that Melton Constable's population has halved since 1911.  Today Astley ward as a whole has a relatively old age profile and high levels of self-employment (17% of the workforce were self-employed in the 2011 census).

The ward has had a volatile recent political history, with the four ordinary elections since 2003 electing four different councillors. Astley elected an independent in May 2003, but went Lib Dem in a by-election just two months later; the Lib Dems lost the ward to the Conservatives in 2011 and didn't stand in the 2015 election, in which the Tories beat the Green Party 56-26.  The ward is part of the Melton Constable county council division, which is just as volatile: Lib Dem in 2005, Tory gain in 2009, UKIP gain in 2013; the predecessor county division of Erpingham and Melton Constable was Labour-held from 1993 to 2001 in what was perhaps the last hurrah of Labour strength in agricultural Norfolk.

Defending for the Tories is Jo Copplestone, an artist.  The Greens have selected Mandy Huntridge who is the only candidate to give an address in the ward.  Callum Ringer is the Labour candidate, the Lib Dems return to the fray with Pierre Butifoker, and the UKIP county councillor David Ramsbotham completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Broadland
Norfolk county council division: Melton Constable

May 2015 result C 734 Grn 344 Lab 233
May 2011 result C 359 LD 257 Lab 156 Grn 134
May 2007 result LD 475 C 331 Grn 75
July 2003 by-election LD 441 C 346 Ind 38 Lab 32
May 2003 result Ind 349 C 267 LD 144 Grn 54

Selby council, North Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Jack Crawford at the age of 69.  First elected in 1995 for the former Byram cum Sutton ward (although with broken service), Crawford had been chairman of Selby council in 2012-13.

Brotherton Church and War Memorial
Anybody who has travelled up the old A1 through Yorkshire has passed through this ward.  Generations of travellers will be familiar with Ferrybridge, the crossing point of the A1 and the M62 motorway, and its large power station.  On the other side of the power station, the River Aire and the county boundary is Brotherton, bypassed by the old A1, and its twin village of Byram cum Sutton; further up the Great North Road is Fairburn, once sliced in two by a busy dual carriageway but now enjoying some relief thanks to the completion of a motorway bypass for the area. Just outside the ward boundary is Kellingley, home to the UK's last deep coal mine until its closure last Christmas; the presence of the now former coalfield gives this area a working-class economic profile.

Selby council got new ward boundaries in 2015 which makes comparison rather difficult; this new ward is a cut-down version of the former two-seat Fairburn with Brotherton ward, with Birkin and Burton Salmon parishes having moved out in the boundary changes.  Fairburn with Brotherton was a key Labour/Tory marginal, but the new ward appears to be better for Labour: in 2015 Crawford had 44% of the vote to 33% for the Conservatives and 23% for UKIP.  At county council level this ward is combined with better Tory territory to form the reliably Conservative Mid Selby division.

Defending for Labour is Steven Shaw-Wright, a former coalminer, Selby town councillor and present Mayor of Selby.  He is opposed by Bryn Sage, the Tory candidate, who runs a digital health company.  UKIP have not nominated a candidate, so the ballot paper is completed by Chris Whitwood of the regionalist movement Yorkshire First.

Parliamentary constituency: Selby
North Yorkshire county council division: Mid Selby

May 2015 result Lab 648 C 480 UKIP 345

Bradford council, West Yorkshire
Caused by the death of Labour councillor Lynne Smith.  Smith had spent twenty years working in the voluntary sector with disabled people and also taught at university before being elected to Bradford council in 2006; in her council role she was chairman of the council's governance and audit committee.

Wibsey Liberal Club
Wibsey ward is the first part of Bradford that drivers see when they come off the M606 motorway.  A relatively late part of the West Yorkshire conurbation to develop, Wibsey was not incorporated into Bradford until 1899 and much of its housing stock is inter-war.  As well as Wibsey village, the ward also includes much of the Odsal area including the Richard Dunn sports centre, named after a local boxer who fought Muhammad Ali.

The red corner have held the upper hand in recent fights for the Wibsey ward title, with opposition to Labour in recent years coming from the populist right: the BNP took one of the three seats in 2004 but lost it back to Labour in 2006.  In 2012 UKIP took over as runners-up here; they were close in 2014 but Labour were well ahead in May's ordinary election, polling 47% to 21% for UKIP and 16% for the Conservatives.

Defending for Labour is Joanne Sharp, chair of the party's Wibsey branch.  UKIP's candidate is Jason Smith, chair of the party's Bradford branch who fought the ward in 2015.  The Tories have reselected their regular candidate for the ward Richard Sheard, who works for a software company.  Lib Dem candidate Angharad Griffiths completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Bradford South

May 2016 result Lab 1651 UKIP 739 C 547 Ind 310 LD 156 Grn 121
May 2015 result Lab 2683 UKIP 1795 C 1228 LD 247 Grn 216 TUSC 55
May 2014 result Lab 1467 UKIP 1355 C 499 LD 191
May 2012 result Lab 1753 UKIP 781 C 399 LD 384
May 2011 result Lab 1814 C 809 UKIP 373 LD 243 EDP 226
May 2010 result Lab 2454 C 1422 LD 1158 BNP 765 UKIP 291
May 2008 result Lab 1397 C 921 BNP 595 LD 410 EDP 183 UKIP 100 Democratic Nationalists 26
May 2007 result Lab 1546 BNP 1128 C 821 LD 558
May 2006 result Lab 1427 BNP 1251 C 928 LD 513
June 2004 result Lab 1460/1426/1331 BNP 1355 C 1341/1279/1234 LD 581/380

Thursday, 7 July 2016

By-election Preview: 7 July 2016

Three local by-elections taking place this week.  Two covered here and one over on the Welsh Elections blog.

Eden council, Cumbria
Caused by the death of Independent councillor Keith Morgan at the age of 73.  Morgan was a veteran of local government, having been first elected to Eden district council in 1991 as a leader of the campaign to save the Settle-Carlisle railway; he had represented this ward since 1999.  Also an Appleby town councillor since 1983, Morgan served twice as chairman of Eden council in 2007-08 and 2012-13.

Chapel Street, Appleby
For the first of this week's three by-elections we take a trip up to the old county town of Westmorland.  Appleby-in-Westmorland (as the town was renamed following local government reform in 1974) can be found in the shadow of the High Pennines within a bend of the River Eden; this curiously-named ward is the half of the town lying to the south-west of the river, with the other half forming Appleby (Bongate) ward.  With the demise of the town as a county town (although Westmorland county council was never based here, instead being run from Kendal) Appleby has been left with tourism as the driver for its economy, together with the Appleby Horse Fair, dating back to at least the twelfth century, which brings to the town each June gypsies and travellers from all over the UK and Ireland.  The census statistics show an old and almost uniformly British population: 32% of the population are aged over 64 and 98% were born in the UK, 25% of the workforce are retired, and those jobs which exist are generally routine work; the ward also has high levels of Christianity (73%).  The general area is still recovering from the effects of Storm Desmond last December; a major landslip caused by the storm means that Appleby has been the effective northern terminus of the Settle-Carlisle line so far this year, and trains to Carlisle are not expected to resume before 2017.

Appleby was once a pocket borough controlled by the Lowther family (the Earls of Lonsdale) whose MPs included Pitt the Younger and Viscount Howick (later Earl Grey), although that didn't stop Appleby from becoming the only county town disenfranchised by Grey's Great Reform Act.  As a remote area of England, Eden is one of the last strongholds of the rural independent councillor and has a very large number of unopposed elections: this appears to be only the third contested election to Appleby (Appleby) ward since it was created in 1973, and the first since 2003 when Morgan was re-elected by a majority of just one vote, 192 to 191.  Looking up to county level, the Appleby county division was safe Tory in 2013 but covers a large rural area outside the town itself.

Defending for the independents is Karen Greenwood, who works in Appleby's tourist information centre.  In the first contested election in this ward for thirteen years, she is opposed by the Tories' Philip Guest, an IT marketer.

Parliamentary constituency: Penrith and the Border
Cumbria county council division: Appleby

May 2015 result Ind unopposed
May 2011 result Ind unopposed
May 2007 result Ind unopposed
May 2003 result Ind 192 Ind 191

Suffolk county council
Caused by the death of Conservative councillor Peter Bellfield.  A Suffolk county councillor since winning a by-election in 2003, Bellfield had formerly worked in the financial services industry and was chairman of the councils pensions  committee.

Moat House, Debach
This is a large rural division which essentially covers the countryside between Ipswich, Woodbridge and Framlingham.  It contains twenty-six parishes, none of which are called Carlford; the name instead commemorates the former Carlford Hundred, which took in much of this area.  The largest centre of population in the division is probably Grundisburgh, a village of around 1600 souls notable for its fourteenth-century church which contains a mediaeval mural of St Christopher.

Bellfield had a safe seat; at his last re-election in 2013 he polled 59%, with UKIP's 19% being best of the rest.  Unfortunately recent ward boundary changes in the local district (Suffolk Coastal) completely fail to match up with the county division boundaries and as a result it is not possible to draw conclusions from them.  The Suffolk Tories are having a horrible run at the moment, having lost five by-elections and control of the county council in the last two months, but this should be more fruitful territory for them.

Defending for the Tories is Robin Vickery, an Ipswich borough councillor.  UKIP have not followed up their second-place finish in 2013, so Vickery is opposed by Revd Canon Graham Hedger, priest-in-charge for much of the division, who is the Labour candidate; Jon Neal for the Liberal Democrats; and Jacqueline Barrow for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Suffolk Coastal district council wards: Framlingham (part), Fynn Valley (part), Grundisburgh, Hacheston (part), Wickham Market (part), Woodbridge (part)

May 2013 result C 1565 UKIP 504 Lab 374 LD 208
June 2009 result C 2172 LD 865 Lab 236
May 2005 result C 2828 LD 1324 Lab 916