There are three by-elections on 27th July 2017, and we have a nice mix with one big-city ward, one market-town ward and one rural ward. The big-city ward in Manchester is solidly Labour but the other two tend to be close Tory versus Lib Dem fights, with the rural ward in Lincolnshire seeing a Tory defence in a ward where the Lib Dems hold one of the three councillors. But we start in a Dorset market town with Britain Elects’ favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all…


Blandford Central

North Dorset council; caused by the death of independent councillor Esme Butler at the age of 61. Four times Mayor of Blandford Forum, Butler was first elected to the district council in 2011 for Blandford Damory Down ward, transferring to Blandford Central ward after boundary changes in 2015.

Welcome to Blandford Forum, an attractive Dorset town on the River Stour noted for its Georgian town centre, rebuilt by local architects John and William Bastard following a disastrous fire in 1731, and described in 1970 as the most complete and cohesive surviving example of a Georgian country town in England. Blandford has been a service centre for the local area for centuries; it was a market town by the thirteen century and had traditional industries including lacemaking, button-making and brewing. Brewing remains important to the local economy – Hall and Woodhouse’s Badger brewery is based here – but the traditional textile industries have declined and been replaced by administration (North Dorset district council is based in the town), services and the Army: the Royal Corps of Signals, who are responsible for the Army’s telecommunications, are based in Blandford. Blandford also gives its name to an insect: the Blandford fly (Simulium posticatum), a particularly nasty type of biting blackfly which is endemic to the area.

Blandford’s Central ward is rather misleadingly named, in that while it is the centre of the town’s built-up area it does not cover the Georgian town centre, which is by the riverside at the southern end of town. The present Central ward was created in 2015 as a merger of the former Damory Down and Station wards; in the 2011 census Damory Down, a mostly 1970s development on the north-western edge of town, made the top 80 wards in England and Wales for part-time work (18.4% of the workforce), while Station ward – covering older housing along the Salisbury Road and named after a railway station which was a casualty of Beeching – had less remarkable demographics.

The Liberal Democrats have had a significant vote in Blandford for many years and won all five of the town’s district council seats in 2007. The 2011 election was less successful for the Lib Dems who lost Hilltop ward to the Conservatives and Damory Down ward to independent Esme Butler. In the 2015 election to the new Central ward Butler stood for election without opposition from the Lib Dems, who ran only their outgoing Station ward councillor John Tanner; shares of the vote were 30% for Butler, 27% for the Lib Dem candidate, 20% for the Tory slate and 12% for the Green candidate. In the Dorset county elections in May Blandford Forum division was a narrow Conservative gain from the Liberal Democrats.

With no defending independent candidate Butler’s seat is up for grabs. The Liberal Democrats, from whom Butler gained her seat in 2011, have selected Hugo Mieville; a Blandford Forum town councillor and the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for North Dorset in 2015, Mieville teaches French and Spanish at the independent Milton Abbey school. The Tory candidate is Noc Lacey-Clarke, a town councillor who runs a gamers’ shop (Nocs Box). There is no Green candidate so the ballot paper is completed by Labour’s Haydn White.

Parliamentary constituency: North Dorset
Dorset county council division: Blandford Forum

May 2015 result Ind 931 LD 842 C 627/436 Grn 373 Lab 348


Scotter & Blyton

West Lindsey council, Lincolnshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Adam Duguid. A lawyer and farmer, Duguid was first elected to West Lindsey council in 2002 for Market Rasen ward, and was Leader of the Council from 2009 until he lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats in 2010. He returned to the council for Scotter and Blyton ward in 2015, and has now resigned due to work commitments.

For our rural by-election this week we are in the north-western corner of Lincolnshire. This ward sprawls over most of the territory from Gainsborough to Scunthorpe but in population terms is dominated by the village of Scotter, whose 2,441 electors comprise 40% of the ward’s electorate. There are 11 other parishes in the ward, several of which are tiny: East Ferry parish has 87 electors, Wildsworth 67, Walkerith 63 (and an area under one square kilometre), Pilham 51 and Thonock, despite giving its name to a ward of West Lindsey district until 2015, has just 26 people on the electoral roll. Many of these villages (Walkerith, East Stockwith, Wildsworth, East Ferry and also Susworth which is part of Scotter parish) are located on the east bank of the River Trent and in days gone by derived their income from ferries to the Nottinghamshire bank of the river. Scotter has a relatively old age profile, but most of the ward (except for Morton parish, which is essentially an extension of Gainsborough) is within the Scunthorpe Travel to Work Area and the population has a high takeup of apprenticeship qualifications, suggesting that many people from this ward commute to the steelworks there.

Scotter and Blyton ward was created in 2015 as a straight merger of the former Scotter and Thonock wards and has the same boundaries as the Scotter Rural county council division which existed from 2005 to 2017. Before 2015 Thonock was represented by Lib Dem councillor Lesley Rollings who had a large personal vote, while Scotter ward was normally Conservative but in 2007 stayed Tory only on the toss of a coin after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates tied on 781 votes each. In the winter of 2013-14 there were two by-elections in Scotter ward after its Tory councillors both died within a couple of months of each other. The first by-election, held in the week before Christmas 2013, seems to have caught the Tories napping as they lost the district council seat to independent candidate Chris Day and a simultaneous county council by-election in Scotter Rural to the Lib Dems’ Lesley Rollings; but by the time of the second by-election in February 2014 the Conservatives were back in control with their new councillor Pat Mewis. In the 2015 district council election Mewis (C) and Rollings (LD) were re-elected with large personal votes, but Chris Day (Ind) lost his seat to the second Tory candidate Adam Duguid; shares of the vote were 35% for the Tory slate, 26% for the Lib Dems, 23% for Day and 16% for Labour. The Lincolnshire county elections in May suggested that the Tories are back on top as they comfortably recovered an expanded Scotter Rural division from the Lib Dems.

Defending for the Tories is Bruce Allison, a retired Metropolitan Police officer and Morton parish councillor. (His wife Christine formerly sat on Lewisham council in London, representing Grove Park ward from 2010 to 2014.) The Lib Dems have selected Liz Clews, a Gainsborough town councillor and fitness instructor from Morton. Chris Day is not standing again. The Labour candidate is Jonathan Harper, who gives an address in Scotter and fought Scotter Rural in May’s county elections. Also standing is one of that increasingly rare breed of election candidates, a UKIP representative: Neville Jones from Gainsborough.

I am grateful to Giles McNeill, the Conservative election agent, for help with this preview.

Scotter and Blyton
May 2015 result C 1752/1281/1134 LD 1314/999/725 Ind 1136 Lab 794/583
Scotter Rural (county council)
Dec 2013 by-election LD 726 C 348 UKIP 264 Lincs Ind 137
May 2013 result C 717 UKIP 428 LD 392 Lab 172
June 2009 result C 1447 LD 791 Lab 204
May 2005 result C 1844 LD 1674


Fallowfield

Manchester city council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mike Amesbury, who was elected as MP for the Cheshire constituency of Weaver Vale in June’s general election. He had served as a Manchester city councillor since 2006 and before becoming an MP was a Unison convenor and parliamentary aide to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.

For our urban by-election this week we finish in the city of Manchester. The Fallowfield ward is rather misnamed, as Fallowfield itself covers a small area at its eastern end; instead Fallowfield ward runs west along Wilbraham Road (essentially Manchester’s middle ring road) across Princess Road into the eastern end of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, almost as far as City’s old Maine Road ground. There is a strong education lean to the ward’s economy, with William Hulme’s Grammar School (which educated present MP Ivan Lewis and former MPs Andrew Bennett, Leslie Haden-Guest and Michael Lord), the Manchester High School for Girls (Labour MP Louise Ellman and, in an earlier era, the Pankhurst sisters), Whalley Range High School (former Labour MPs Estelle Morris and Christine McCafferty) and several Manchester University buildings and halls of residence located within the ward boundaries; 41% of the workforce are full-time students. Interestingly Fallowfield makes the top 100 wards in the UK for population born in the Republic of Ireland (2.4%).

Fallowfield ward was created in 1982 roughly as the successor to Lloyd Street ward, which from the creation of the present Manchester council in 1974 was consistently Labour but close between Labour and the Tories on several occasions in the 1970s. One of the Tory candidates who tried and failed to break through was David Sumberg, later MP for Bury South 1983-97, who finished 130 votes behind Labour here in 1975. The Conservative remained stubborn here through the 1980s and it took until 1998 for them to fall to third place behind the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dem vote in the ward remained low but they managed to sneak a freak win in the ward by gaining one seat in 2004, the first election on the present boundaries. Labour’s Mike Amesbury recovered that seat in 2006, and with the Coalition government pulling the floor from under Manchester’s Lib Dem vote this is now a very safe Labour ward with the Greens running second; in 2016 the Labour lead here was 71-15.

Defending for Labour is Ali Ilyas, whose Twitter describes him as a 25-year-old poet, writer and solicitor-advocate. On the red side of Manchester, at least as far as football is concerned, is 29-year-old Green candidate Adam King who fought Oldham West and Royton in June’s general election; King is described as a scientist and entrepreneur. Completing the ballot paper are David Semple for the Conservatives (who fought another by-election to Manchester city council in the neighbouring Rusholme ward in May) and Alex Warren for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Manchester Gorton

May 2016 result Lab 1932 Grn 408 C 197 LD 125 TUSC 53
May 2015 result Lab 3617 Grn 1367 C 661 LD 269 TUSC 86
May 2014 result Lab 2181 Grn 780 C 362 LD 140 TUSC 80
May 2012 result Lab 1733 Grn 198 C 144 LD 80 TUSC 70
May 2011 result Lab 2167 Grn 351 C 340 LD 196 TUSC 83
May 2010 result Lab 2534 LD 1716 C 746 Grn 286
May 2008 result Lab 1178 LD 643 C 263 Grn 207
May 2007 result Lab 1215 LD 478 Grn 251 C 230
May 2006 result Lab 1357 LD 1086 C 171 Grn 168 BNP 140
June 2004 result Lab 1233/1121/1005 LD 1066/1064/1036 Grn 331/299/294 C 283/269/254