Previews: 26 Oct 2017

There are six by-elections for seven seats on 26th October 2017. Labour are defending four seats, with a rare double by-election in Loughborough joining polls in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. There are also two Conservative defences in Derbyshire and West Sussex. Rather like last week, all of those are in safe wards with the most intersting contest being a defence by a localist party in a city which has become politically weirder and weirder. Read on…

Droylsden East

Tameside council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Jim Middleton, who is retiring after 27 years’ service.

We start this week in that greatest of counties, Greater Manchester. The Tameside district is an agglomeration of small mill towns to the east of Manchester, and Droylsden is the westernmost of them, merging seamlessly into the Manchester urban area just four miles east of the city centre – the town lies within the M60 motorway and has a Manchester postcode, M43. Droylsden is a classic Lancashire milltown which claims to be the birthplace of the terry towel, first machine-woven by W M Christy and Sons in 1851. Robertson’s jam factory, next to the Ashton Canal, was also a major employer. All this is gone now – the site of Christy’s factory is now occupied by a Tesco off Ashton New Road. That Tesco and the proximity to the big city has clearly badly affected Droylsden’s shopping centre, which when your columnist visited a few years ago was a parade of charity shops as bad as anything in Bolton. The Metrolink came here along Ashton New Road in 2013: Droylsden was briefly the terminus of the East Manchester line which now continues to Ashton-under-Lyne. Droylsden tram stop is within Droylsden East ward, which covers the Fairfield area south of Ashton New Road and also extends north along Market Street and Lumb Lane – in general, the further away you get from Ashton New Road, the nicer the neighbourhood becomes.

There was briefly a Droylsden parliamentary constituency, created in the 1950 redistribution and abolished in 1955, and if the Boundary Commisison get their way something similar could be created for the 2022 election. The Droylsden constituency was marginal between Labour and the Conservatives in the 1950 and 1951 elections, but the Conservative vote in Tameside has basically fallen apart over the post-war period – the Tories have only one reliable ward in the borough, Stalybridge South – and it’s the radical right who have filled the runner-up spot in Droylsden East over the last decade. The BNP ran second here from 2006 to 2010, and UKIP were runners-up from 2011 onwards, getting within ten points of Labour in 2014. At Middleton’s last re-election in 2016 his lead over UKIP was 51-34. In May’s mayoral election Andy Burnham beat the Conservative candidate here 67-19.

This by-election will see a change to that pattern, as there is no UKIP candidate this time. Defending for Labour is local resident David Mills, who is opposed by Matt Stevenson for the Tories, Jean Smee for the Greens and Shaun Offerman for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashton-under-Lyne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M11, M34, M43, OL7

David Mills (Lab)
Shaun Offerman (LD)
Jean Smee (Grn)
Matt Stevenson (C)

May 2016 result Lab 1449 UKIP 948 C 256 Grn 166
May 2015 result Lab 2826 UKIP 1698 Grn 399 Ind 299
May 2014 result Lab 1431 UKIP 1168 C 250 Grn 163
May 2012 result Lab 1640 UKIP 480 BNP 236 C 221 Grn 90
May 2011 result Lab 1969 UKIP 595 C 455 Grn 112
May 2010 result Lab 2761 BNP 840 C 824 LD 671 UKIP 269
May 2008 result Lab 1408 BNP 1000 C 648
May 2007 result Lab 1582 BNP 665 C 411 LD 287
May 2006 result Lab 1396 BNP 619 C 453 Local Community Party 410
June 2004 result Lab 1726/1563/1422 Local Community Party 1044 BNP 764 C 714

May 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Lab 1506 C 425 LD 82 EDP 81 UKIP 76 Grn 45 Farmer 22 Aslam 7

Batley East

Kirklees council, West Yorkshire; caused by the disqualification of former Labour councillor Amanda Stubley, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months. Stubley had been suspended from Labour following a confrontation – broadcast by Channel 4 News – with English Democrat supporters in Batley during the Batley and Spen by-election campaign last year. She later quit the party. Stubley had served since 2011.

We move over to the wrong side of the Pennines to another smallish industrial town, although one very different in character from Droylsden. Like Droyslden, Batley is a textile town, but the industry here was shoddy – that is, recycled wool rags and clothes. Unlike Droylsden, which has been relatively little touched by immigration over the decades, Batley attracted large numbers of people from the subcontinent (particularly Gujarat and the Punjab) from the late 1950s to work in the town’s textile mills. Batley East ward – based on the town centre and including its railway station – now has a majority Asian and a majority Muslim population, and there are significant proportions of Gujurati speakers and people born in India or Pakistan.

Textiles are still important to the local economy – one of the local mills has been done up as The Mill, a factory outlet attracting people from all over West Yorkshire – but the largest single employer in the town is Fox’s Biscuits, whose head office and main factory is here. Monty Python fans may remember the Batley Ladies Townswomen’s Guild, but Batley was known for more professional performances than that: Batley Variety Club was a major draw to punters and artists from all over the world, with in its heyday such well-known American acts as Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison and Neil Sedaka treading its boards. However, the club finally closed its doors to live music in 2016, and a gym opened in the building earlier this year. One famous musician from Batley was the late Robert Palmer, while the town has also given us a Nobel laureate, the IVF pioneer Sir Robert Edwards, and the late and much-lamented MP Jo Cox.

This is a safe Labour ward in current political conditions, although the Liberal Democrats did win a seat in the ward in 2003. Boundary changes in 2004 knocked the Lib Dem councillor out and it has generally been plain sailing for Labour since then. At the most recent local election in 2016 – before the parliamentary by-election and snap general election – Labour beat the Conservatives here 70-12.

Defending for Labour is Habiban Zaman, a Pakistan-born local community worker; she was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2014 Birthday Honours for outstanding services to women. The Conservative candidate is Paul Young, from Batley. Also standing are the Liberal Democrats’ Jon Bloom (the Lib Dem councillor here from 2003 to 2004; he has fought the ward on several occasions since losing his seat and gone backwards nearly every time), David Smith of the Green Party and Aleks Lukic, who was the UKIP candidate for Batley and Spen in the 2015 general election, fought that seat as an independent in June and is now standing for his own party, the Heavy Woollen District Independents.

Parliamentary constituency: Batley and Spen
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huddersfield
Postcode districts: WF3, WF12, WF13, WF15, WF16, WF17

Jon Bloom (LD)
Aleks Lukic (Heavy Woollen District Ind)
David Smith (Grn)
Paul Young (C)
Habiban Zaman (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 3487 C 594 Ind 512 LD 248 Grn 156
May 2015 result Lab 5321 C 2194 LD 463 Grn 359 TUSC 122
May 2014 result Lab 2670 Ind 1356 C 527 Grn 386 LD 252 TUSC 181
May 2012 result Lab 3876 C 740 Ind 462 LD 230
May 2011 result Lab 3834 C 1028 LD 333 Ind 295 Grn 212
May 2010 result Lab 4843 C 1774 LD 1274 BNP 678 Grn 186
May 2008 result Lab 3060 C 823 BNP 759 LD 653 Grn 296
May 2007 result Lab 2793 LD 1147 C 852 BNP 754 Grn 185
May 2006 result Lab 2779 LD 1103 BNP 869 C 621 Grn 232
June 2004 result Lab 3024/2697/2370 LD 2008/1750/1564 C 1053/758/639 BNP 958 Grn 553

Ashbourne South

Derbyshire Dales council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Phil Chell, who had served since 2015.

Moving into the Midlands, we come to the week’s first Conservative defence in a picture-postcard Derbyshire town. Variously described as the Gateway to the Peak District or the Gateway to Dovedale, Ashbourne’s South ward doesn’t contain much of the impossibly pretty town centre but is instead based on two areas south of it. The Leys is an area of old houses on low-lying ground along Clifton Road and Station Street, while up on the hill along the Derby Road and Old Derby Road is an area of much newer housing and industrial units on the site of the old RAF Ashbourne airfield, one of the highest military airfields built during the Second World War at an altitude of 610 feet. Manufacturing is important to the ward and the population has grown strongly in recent years.

Unitl 2015 South ward was the political fiefdom of the Conservatives’ Andrew Lewer, who was elected to this ward in 2003, elected to Derbyshire county council in 2005, and in 2009 became leader of the county council at the age of just 37. The Tories lost Derbyshire back to Labour in 2013, but that wasn’t the end of Lewer’s political rise: he was elected to the European Parliament the following year at a time when that was still something for UK politicians to aspire to, and in June’s general election entered Westminster as MP for Northampton South. Lewer retired from Derbyshire Dales council in 2015 and easily passed his seat on to Chell; that year the Tory slate had 54% to 25% for Labour and 22% for the Greens. In May’s county elections the Tories had a huge lead in the local Ashbourne division, which does not have the boundaries you might expect: this is a mostly rural county division which bizarrely does not include Ashbourne town centre. (Ashbourne town centre is in Dovedale division.)

Defending for the Conservatives is local resident Dermot Murphy. The Labour candidate is Andy White, a travel agent, former Ashbourne town councillor (1995-2003) and former Mayor of Ashbourne. There is no Green candidate this time, so the ballot paper is completed by Rebecca Goodall of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Derbyshire Dales
Derbyshire county council division: Ashbourne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Derby
Postcode district: DE6

Rebecca Goodall (LD)
Dermot Murphy (C)
Andy White (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1308/1187 Lab 596 Grn 527
May 2011 result C 883/583 Lab 464
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result C 517/487 Lab 210/165

Loughborough Hastings

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; a double by-election caused by the resignations of Labour councillors Sarah Maynard Smith and Anne Williams. Williams had served since 2011, Maynard Smith since winning a by-election in October 2013.

Four years to the week after the last by-election in Loughborough Hastings we are back with a rare double by-election, as both seats in the ward are up for election. This is Loughborough’s eastern ward, including part of the town centre and based around the preserved Great Central Railway station. Hastings ward is a generally low-lying area and more than half of the ward is left empty as flood plain. Much of the ward’s built-up area is social housing and there has been extensive redevelopment in recent years; with that and high levels of long-term unemployment it’s no surprise to find that Hastings ward includes Loughborough’s most deprived census district. There is also a significant Bangladeshi population in the ward, while Loughborough University provides some employment.

Luffbra has a track record of producing surprising by-election results – most recently, the Conservatives cut the Labour majority in the neighbouring Shelthorpe ward to four votes at a by-election in August – but Hastings ward should be safe Labour under any circumstances. In 2015 the Labour slate won with 45%, to 23% for the Conservatives and 17% for UKIP, and the Labour lead was bigger in May’s county elections in the local division (Loughborough East).

The defending Labour slate is Mary Draycott and Colin Hamilton. Hamilton is a local resident; Draycott is a former Lord Mayor of Leicester and long-serving Leicester city councillor with a curiously bad electoral record in Charnwood. Having lost a Labour-held seat to the Conservatives in a 2012 by-election, she was elected to Charnwood council in a by-election for Loughborough Ashby ward (covering the University campus) in September 2013 but lost her seat two years later to 19-year-old Conservative candidate Harley Hachem. The local Labour party are still smarting over that, with reports in the local press that Hachem’s election agent received a police caution for forging a signature on Hachem’s nomination papers, and that Hachem has been absent from Loughborough for much of the last year. This should be a safer berth for Draycott, who lives in Shepshed. The Conservatives have nominated a single candidate, Jane Hunt: she is a former Charnwood councillor (Loughborough Nanpantan ward, standing down in 2015) who stood here in May’s county elections and also fought Leicester East in the 2010 general election, losing to Keith Vaz. (Apologies to any readers who may have been playing the Keith Vaz game.) UKIP have selected their go-to Charnwood by-election candidate Andy McWilliam, who stood here in the 2013 by-election; his running-mate is Simon Murray. Completing the ballot paper are the Green slate of Mia Woolley and Lewis Wright.

Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Loughborough East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE11

Mary Draycott (Lab)
Colin Hamilton (Lab)
Jane Hunt (C)
Andy McWilliam (UKIP)
Simon Murray (UKIP)
Mia Woolley (Grn)
Lewis Wright (Grn)

May 2015 result Lab 1339/1241 C 690/606 UKIP 506 Grn 416
October 2013 by-election Lab 554 C 127 UKIP 111 British Democratic Party 85 LD 26
May 2011 result Lab 1163/1104 C 612/492
May 2007 result Lab 799/769 C 529/507
May 2003 result Lab 836/693 LD 333 C 272

Kings Acre

Herefordshire council; caused by the resignation of It’s Our County councillor Mark Mansell, who proved unable to balance his council duties with having a full-time job due to Herefordshire council holding all of its meetings in normal working hours. He had served since 2015, and continues to serve the ward on the parish-level Hereford city council.

For our final Midlands by-election we travel west to the Marches. The Kings Acre ward is in the north-west corner of the city of Hereford, between the Kings Acre Road and the Roman Road and covering housing off the Three Elms Road. Also within the ward and the city boundary is some open space, including the village of Huntington, the Whitecross High School and the Hereford Livestock Market, which controversially moved here from the city centre in 2011.

This area is a little difficult to interpret demographically because Herefordshire had ward boundary changes in 2015; at the time of the 2011 census this was the western half of Three Elms ward. The 2011 census found Three Elms ward to have high employment with a working-class profile and a significant Eastern European population, although drilling down to a lower level suggests that the largest non-English country of birth in Kings Acre ward’s population is Wales.

The area is also a little difficult to interpret politically. Pre-coalition Three Elms ward was a Lib Dem stronghold, but in the 2011 election the party lost two of the three seats in the ward to It’s Our County, an anti-Tory localist slate. In the 2015 election It’s Our County mostly swept the non-Tory vote in Herefordshire, performing particularly well in the city of Hereford and the county’s other towns whose residents are unhappy with the Tory farmers running the show – something which goes back to the 1995 local government reform in which Herefordshire’s district councils were abolished. The Tories didn’t stand in King’s Acre in the 2015 election, and It’s Our County beat the Lib Dems in the ward that year 50-33.

Defending for It’s Our County is Matt Bushkes, a Hereford city councillor, teaching assistant at Whitecross High School and director of a roller-skating rink in the city. The Lib Dem candidate is Lucy Hurds, who fought North Herefordshire in the 2010 general election and stood in Hereford and South Herefordshire in the 2015 and 2017 general elections: it shows how far the party has sunk in Herefordshire that Hurds finished fourth on both of those occasions in a seat her party held until 2010. Also standing are independent candidate Clare Fenton, Stuart Anderson for the Conservatives and David Lewer for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford
Postcode district: HR4

Stuart Anderson (C)
Matt Bushkes (It’s Our County)
Clare Fenton (Ind)
Lucy Hurds (LD)
David Lewer (Lab)

May 2015 result It’s Our County 775 LD 517 Ind 257

East Grinstead Imberhorne

Mid Sussex council, West Sussex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bob Mainstone. A long-serving teacher at Imberhorne School, Mainstone was Mayor of East Grinstead in 2016-17; he had served on Mid Sussex council since 2011 and was originally elected as a Liberal Democrat.

We finish with our token southern by-election in by far the least deprived ward of the week. East Grinstead Imberhorne is the western of East Grinstead’s five wards: despite the fact that one of the town’s main arterial routes is called Beeching Way this is a classic railway commuter area, with East Grinstead station (at the end of a branch line from Croydon and also the terminus of the preserved Bluebell Line) lying on the ward’s eastern boundary. Some non-commuter employment is provided by the Birches Industrial Estate, while also here is Imberhorne School which educated Right Said Fred. The ward’s housing stock is postwar and there has been strong population growth in recent years.

This ward has swung a mile to the right over the last decade: in 2007 the Liberal Democrats had 67% of the vote here, but they lost one seat to the Conservatives in 2011, lost the other seat when Mainstone defected to the Tories in 2014, and failed to stand in the 2015 election. In 2015 the Tories beat Labour here 61-21 on their way to winning every single seat on Mid Sussex council, as can be seen from the map above. The Lib Dems have since got a seat back in a by-election earlier this year, breaking the Tory monopoly, and a gain here will give them group status. In May’s county elections the local division (Imberdown) was safely Conservative with an independent in a strong second place.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rex Whittaker who fought the ward in 2011; he is the leader of East Grinstead town council on which he represents this ward. The Labour candidate is David Wilbraham, a chartered civil engineer. Also standing are Tim Martin for the Lib Dems and an independent candidate, 18-year-old local resident Ian Sanders.

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Sussex
West Sussex county council division: Imberdown
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley
Postcode district: RH19

Tim Martin (LD)
Ian Sanders (Ind)
Rex Whittaker (C)
David Wilbraham (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1706/1589 Lab 581 UKIP 531
May 2011 result C 955/794 LD 865/671
May 2007 result LD 995/986 C 404/368 Ind 89
May 2003 result LD 624/565 C 464/429