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

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