Previews: 23 Nov 2017

All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order…

With another ten by-elections this week in what has been a very busy autumn, this is the largest edition of Andrew’s Previews in what remains of 2017. After last week’s procession of nine safe wards and one marginal, this week looks a little more interesting. Marginal parliamentary seats are a theme: we visit four constituencies (Stroud, Stockton South, Rutherglen and Hamilton West, and Perth and North Perthshire) which were decided in June on majorities of less than 1,000 votes. To deal with the safe seats, there are solid Conservative defences in Kent, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire; Plaid Cymru will defend a seat in Glamorgan; and Labour should have little problem holding seats in Leicester, Wakefield and Teesside. That leaves three stand-out contests: a rare Tory-Green-Labour three-way marginal in the Gloucestershire countryside, and two particularly unpredictable by-elections in Scotland. All four of the main Scottish parties will think they have a genuine chance of winning in either Rutherglen or Perth (or in the case of the SNP, both). Read on…


Perth City South

Perth and Kinross council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Michael Jamieson who had served only since May. He has been charged with possession of indecent images of children.

Welcome to the Fair City of Perth, gateway to the Highlands and the northern end of the UK’s motorway network: the M90 terminates here. Strategically located at head of the Tay estuary and the junction of major roads and railway lines to Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, Perth has been a major city since the 12th century when King William the Lion gave it the status of a Royal Burgh. Perth benefited from its closeness to Scone Abbey, one of the centres of the Scottish monarchy, to become a major port trading with continental Europe. Industry came in the eighteenth century with the founding of Perth Academy, and the city became and remains a major railway junction. Today there is a diverse economy with a significant financial services presence: the largest employers are the local council and the bus company Stagecoach, which is based here, and the city (formally re-created as such for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012) is a major service centre for the local area.

For electoral purposes the city is divided into three wards, with Perth City South electing four councillors by proportional representation. This is the south-west of the city to the west of the railway line, running along the Glasgow Road to the Broxden Roundabout and including the Friarton area to the south. Boundary changes in May this year expanded the ward slightly to the north. This is by a long way the least deprived of Perth’s three wards.

The ward’s politics are dominated by Liberal Democrat councillor Willie Wilson who has a large personal vote and has topped the poll here at every election since PR was introduced in 2007. In that year Wilson got a running-mate elected, with the Conservatives and SNP sharing the other two seats. The Lib Dems lost their second seat to Labour in 2012. In May this year the Liberal Democrats topped the poll with 35%, to 26% for the SNP, 25% for the Conservatives and just 6% for Labour, who were defending a seat; although they picked up most of the Lib Dem and Tory surpluses, that was too far back for Labour to catch the second SNP candidate. That made 2 seats for the SNP to one each for the Lib Dems and Conservatives. The by-election is unlikely to affect control of the council, which is run by a coalition of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and independents.

Despite the Tory near-miss in June’s general election here, when they finished just 21 votes behind the SNP in Perth and North Perthshire, this will be a very difficult defence starting from third place and considering the circumstances of this by-election. Their defending candidate, on a rare all-female ballot paper of six candidates, is Audrey Coates, a businesswoman whose husband Harry is councillor for Perth City North ward. Also keeping it in the family are the Liberal Democrats: their candidate Liz Barrett, who runs a consultancy business, is married to the group leader Peter Barrett. The SNP have selected Pauline Leitch, a former police officer and community councillor. Also standing are Tricia Duncan for Labour, independent candidate Denise Baykal and Elspeth Maclachlan of the Scottish Green Party. A quick reminder that, this being a Scottish local election, the Alternative Vote will be used in this by-election and those aged 16 and 17 are eligible to vote.

Parliamentary constituency: Perth and North Perthshire
Scottish Parliament constituency: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Perth
Postcode districts: PH1, PH2

Liz Barrett (LD)
Denise Baykal (Ind)
Audrey Coates (C)
Tricia Duncan (Lab)
Pauline Leitch (SNP)
Elspeth Maclachlan (Grn)

May 2017 first preferences LD 2417 SNP 1793 C 1757 Lab 444 Ind 253 Grn 213 Ind 96


Rutherglen Central and North

South Lanarkshire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ged Killen, who is now the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West. He had served on South Lanarkshire council since winning a by-election to Rutherglen South ward in February 2013, transferring to this ward in May.

For our second Scottish by-election of the week we are in Greater Glasgow. Rutherglen was in fact part of Glasgow from 1975 to 1996, until it regained independence as part of South Lanarkshire district. The ward is bisected by the West Coast Main Line and the recently-completed M74 motorway; south of these lie the town centre and main shopping district, while to the north next to the River Clyde lies a former heavy industrial area. Here can be found Shawfield, former home of Clyde FC and now Scotland’s only venue for greyhound racing. However, Shawfield’s money came not from sport but from chemicals: the local chemical works supplied the majority of the UK’s chromium products, leading to a legacy of contamination which has taken decades to clean up. Before the dangers were properly realised, Greggs sited their main Scottish bakery here. It should be no surprise from that description that this ward is a seriously deprived area.

Created in 2007, Rutherglen Central and North ward elected two Labour councillors and one SNP councillor that year, and re-elected them in 2012. Ged Killen’s by-election gain of Rutherglen South ward in 2013 had given Labour an overall majority on South Lanarkshire council, which was never likely to withstand the SNP poll surge following the 2014 independence referendum. Labour put up two new candidates in Central and North for the 2017 election including Killen, but didn’t hold their second seat: the SNP topped the poll with 39%, to 31% for Labour and 16% for the Conservatives, who benefited from Unionist transfers to gain the second Labour seat. As in Perth, this seat was a photofinish in June’s general election with Killen enjoying a majority of 265 votes; and the SNP now have the dubious pleasure of running a minority administration on South Lanarkshire council with just 25 out of 64 seats. A Nationalist gain in this by-election might shore their position up a bit.

Defending for Labour is Martin Lennon who was Killen’s running-mate in May but polled a long way behind him. The SNP candidate is David Innes who gives an address a long way up the M74 in Stonehouse. The Conservatives have selected Taylor Muir who isn’t yet 23 but already has the experience of an electoral veteran: he fought Rutherglen and Hamilton West in the 2015 general election and Rutherglen in the 2016 Holyrood election. Also standing are Ellen Bryson for the Liberal Democrats, Brian Finlay for the Scottish Greens and Janice Mackay for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Scottish Parliament constituency: Rutherglen
ONS Travel to Work Area: Glasgow
Postcode districts: G44, G73

Ellen Bryson (LD)
Brian Finlay (Grn)
David Innes (SNP)
Martin Lennon (Lab)
Janice Mackay (UKIP)
Taylor Muir (C)

May 2017 first preferences SNP 2030 Lab 1592 C 835 LD 478 Grn 206


Parkfield and Oxbridge

Stockton-on-Tees council, County Durham; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Allan Mitchell who is moving away from the area. He had served since winning a by-election in January 2016.

We move from Scotland to England. The Tees Valley towns have come out in local by-elections this year like a rash; last week there was a by-election in Hartlepool and two in Darlington, including a rare Conservative gain from Labour. This week the focus turns to Stockton-on-Tees, an old market town and port on the Durham bank of the Tees which, like Rutherglen, was transformed by the Industrial Revolution. The opening of the Stockton and Darlington railway in the 1820s secured Stockton’s ironworking industry by linking the town with the coalmines at Shildon, and a number of blast furnaces grew up next to the Tees. Some of those were in the area now covered by this ward, but redevelopment means that the former ironworks area is now occupied by industrial estates and a link road to the fast-growing new town of Ingleby Barwick. To the north of that area is the ward’s population, in Victorian terracing along Yarm Road and Oxbridge Lane, together with the Victorian Ropner Park whose name commemorates Sir Robert Ropner. Ropner was a Prussian immigrant who became Conservative MP for Stockton, and ran a local shipyard and shipping company.

Politically this is a safe Labour ward, but it is located in the marginal parliamentary seat of Stockton South which was a Labour gain in June by just 888 votes. The swing will therefore be interesting. In the 2015 election here Labour had 46% to 27% for the Tories and 12% for independent candidate Shakeel Noor. One of the Labour councillors resigned shortly afterwards due to work commitments, and the by-election in January 2016 saw very little swing with Labour leading the Conservatives 53-32. Allan Mitchell, who won that by-election, has now resigned in his turn.

Defending for Labour is a candidate with extensive local government experience: Louise Baldock was a Liverpool city councillor until she was selected as Labour’s prospective candidate for the 2015 general election in Stockton South. She failed to win that year, but has stayed on in the town. Hoping to get back on Stockton council is Conservative candidate Aidan Cockerill, who fought this ward in 2005 before serving as councillor for Grangefield ward from 2007 to 2011. (The Tory nomination was not without controversy; although it was accepted by the returning officer, a clerical error meant that one of the signatures on it had been wrongly attributed to someone else with a similar name, who as bad luck would have it turned out to be a prominent Labour member in the ward.) Completing the ballot paper are independent candidate Shakeel Noor, returning to the fray after sitting out the last by-election, and Lib Dem candidate Drew Durning who fought the 2016 by-election and the Stockton South parliamentary seat in June.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockton South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Middlesbrough and Stockton
Postcode district: TS18

Louise Baldock (Lab)
Aidan Cockerill (C)
Drew Durning (LD)
Shakeel Noor (Ind)

January 2016 by-election Lab 598 C 363 UKIP 113 LD 65
May 2015 result Lab 1608/1501 C 950/887 Ind 419 Grn 285 LD 192/179 Libertarian 58
May 2011 result Lab 801/771 Stockton Inds Assoc 451/250 C 444/345 Ind 255 LD 106/93
May 2007 result Lab 820/749 C 410/409 LD 278/276
May 2005 result Lab 1316/1199 C 652/556 LD 482/451


Wakefield West

Wakefield council, West Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ryan Case. Appointed last year as Wakefield’s first LGBT champion, Case had served since 2015.

Moving over the Tees into Yorkshire, we travel south to the city of Wakefield. An ancient market town which in 1888 became a city and headquarters of the old West Riding county council, Wakefield suffered all the usual problems from the collapse of its traditional industries (coalmining, glassmaking and textiles); transport and distribution has become a major sector here thanks to the city’s proximity to the M1 motorway.

The Wakefield West ward’s boundaries can be simply stated: it lies south of the Dewsbury Road, east of the M1 motorway, north of the River Calder and west of the city centre. The main area of population is Lupset, a large inter-war council estate; smaller communities in the ward include Thornes to the south and Clayton Hill – an area with significant Polish and Pakistani populations – near the city centre. Thornes is notable for an athletics stadium, home to Wakefield Harriers, and as the birthplace of the fomer Archbishop of York David Hope, who later became a member of the House of Lords in his own right as Lord Hope of Thornes.

Despite being a deprived council estate ward Wakefield West was solidly Conservative-voting until the advent of Coalition. Labour cut the Conservative majority to 180 votes in 2010 (on a general election turnout) and just 48 votes in 2011 before finally breaking through in 2012. Since 2015 the ward has had a full slate of Labour councillors, and the 2017 parliamentary election saw only a very small swing to the Conservatives across the marginal Wakefield constituency. At the most recent local elections in 2016 Labour led the Conservatives here 49-30.

Defending for Labour is Michael Graham, who describes himself on Twitter as a teacher, school governor, volunteer and tennis enthusiast. The Conservative candidate is Dawn Hunt who is the only candidate to give an address in the ward. Completing the ballot paper are Peter Williams for the Liberal Democrats and Paul Phelps for the Yorkshire Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Wakefield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wakefield and Castleford
Postcode districts: WF1, WF2, WF5

Michael Graham (Lab)
Dawn Hunt (C)
Paul Phelps (Yorkshire Party)
Peter Williams (LD)

May 2016 result Lab 1563 C 962 Grn 324 LD 196 TUSC 143
May 2015 result Lab 2521 C 1714 UKIP 1324 Grn 298 TUSC 69
May 2014 result Lab 1506 C 885 Grn 504 TUSC 189 LD 172
May 2012 result Lab 1456 C 1101 EDP 594 Grn 226
May 2011 result C 1569 Lab 1521 Save Thornes Park and Lightwaves 448 Grn 208 LD 140
May 2010 result C 2432 Lab 2252 LD 909 BNP 559 Grn 208
May 2008 result C 2479 Lab 738 BNP 348 LD 252 Grn 156 British Voice 142
May 2007 result C 2202 Lab 845 LD 366 British Voice 324 Grn 277
May 2006 result C 2318 Lab 1241 LD 500
June 2004 result C 2637/2586/2491 Lab 1620/1218/1133 LD 949


Eyres Monsell

Leicester council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rory Palmer, who has been promoted to the European Parliament to replace retiring MEP Dame Glenis Wilmott. He had served since 2007.

Further down the M1 we come to Leicester and to a ward with very similar demographics to Wakefield West. Eyres Monsell is the southernmost ward of the city of Leicester, although that doesn’t mean it’s the most southerly ward in the Leicester built-up area; the ward merges seamlessly into the suburbs of Glen Parva to the west and South Wigston to the east which are most definitely not Leicester. The ward name commemorates Bolton Eyres-Monsell, the first Viscount Monsell, who served for 25 years as Conservative MP for Evesham, was Conservative chief whip during the turbulent 1920s and later First Lord of the Admiralty. Lord Monsell had some interesting links with travel and exploration: he was the uncle of the Arctic explorer Gino Watkins and father-in-law of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Leicester city council compulsorily purchased Monsell’s land in 1950 in order to build a council estate on it. The ward named after him is one of the areas of Leicester which has been least changed by immigration, with a 95% White British population. Unemployment is high and all of the ward’s census districts score very badly on the deprivation indices.

Politically this ward has been Labour since 2007, when a Lib Dem administration on the city council was almost wiped out – in the 2007 election the Lib Dems actually finished fourth behind Labour, the Conservatives and the BNP. The BNP score that year was 21%, showing potential for the populist right, and UKIP cashed in on that to finish second here in the 2015 election. Shares of the vote in 2015 were 43% for Labour, 26% for UKIP and 18% for the Conservatives.

Defending for Labour is Elaine Pantling, an actress who runs a one-woman theatre company. UKIP have not returned to the fray. The Conservative candidate is Christopher Doyle, a student at De Montfort University. Completing the ballot paper is Tony Faithfull-Wright of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Leicester South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE2

Christopher Doyle (C)
Tony Faithfull-Wright (LD)
Elaine Pantling (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 1439/1229 UKIP 874/778 C 613/376 LD 253/179 Grn 203
May 2011 result Lab 1402/1306 LD 446/406 C 408/401
May 2007 result Lab 1097/870 C 627/611 BNP 620 LD 474/266 Lib 87
May 2003 result LD 1239/1041 Lab 837/762 C 527/385 BNP 299 Grn 72/64


Bryn-côch South

Neath Port Talbot council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Plaid Cymru councillor Janice Dudley, at the age of 73. Dudley had served since 2004, and had previously chaired the Mid and West Wales fire authority. Her death came when she was suddenly taken ill after officially starting the Round the Pier swim at Aberavon Beach.

For our Welsh by-election this week we come to the Vale of Neath. Bryn-côch South division lies on the north bank of the River Neath opposite Neath itself; this is one of the relatively better-off parts of Neath Port Talbot although it does include the Caewern council estate. Bryncoch has an association with the evolutionary scientist Alfred Russell Wallace, who lived here for a time while working as a surveyor for the Great Western Railway.

Since 1999 this division has evolved into a close fight between Labour and Plaid Cymru, with the parties sharing the two seats in the 1999 and 2012 elections. In May the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens stood for the first time since the ward was created in 1983, and that expansion seems to have come at the expense of Labour: Plaid won with 45%, to just 24% for Labour and 19% for the Conservatives.

Defending for Plaid Cymru is Jo Hale, vice-chair of the local Blaenhonddan community council. In a ballot paper with a majority of double-barrelled surnames, Labour have reselected Emma Denholm-Hall who fought the seat in May. The Conservative candidate is Peter Crocker-Jacques, who fought Neath in the 2016 Senedd election and a few months later got four (4) votes in a council by-election in Blaengwrach further up the valley; this should be better territory for him than Blaengwrach. Completing the ballot paper are Sheila Kingston-Jones for the Liberal Democrats and Darren Thomas for UKIP.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Neath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea
Postcode district: SA10

Peter Crocker-Jacques (C)
Emma Denholm-Hall (Lab)
Jo Hale (PC)
Sheila Kingston-Jones (LD)
Darren Thomas (UKIP)

May 2017 result PC 848/808 Lab 460/393 C 366/290 Grn 110 LD 102
May 2012 result Lab 856/703 PC 825/744
May 2008 result PC 1024/841 Lab 820/660
June 2004 result PC 971/958 Lab 691/664
May 1999 result PC 983 Lab 902/863
May 1995 result Lab 915/819 PC 509/485
May 1991 Neath district council result Lab 1026/723 PC 605
May 1987 Neath district council result Lab 1077/832 PC 454 Alliance 428
May 1983 Neath district council result Lab 1031/755 Ratepayers 359 PC 315 SDP 250


Bishops Frome and Cradley

Herefordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Patricia Morgan, who intends to sail around the world with her husband Julian. She was first elected in 2007 for Frome ward and had served for this ward since 2015.

After six urban wards, it’s time for a change of scene as we finish this week with four wards in the English countryside. They don’t get much more rural than Bishops Frome and Cradley, a group of six parishes on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border which essentially fill the space between the Malvern Hills and Bromyard. Despite the order of names, the largest parish within the ward is Cradley with 1526 electors, more than the rest of the ward put together; the smallest parish in the ward, Evesbatch, has just 60 electors on the roll.

Bishops Frome and Cradley ward was created for the 2015 election and has no direct predecessor. At the time of the 2011 census Cradley parish anchored Hope End ward, which seems to have attracted some commuters to Malvern and Worcester, while the rest of the area was covered by Frome and Bromyard wards. Judging from the stats for those wards Bishops Frome and Cradley has a relatively old age profile with high levels of self-employment; typical for a deeply rural area.

Rural Herefordshire tends to be a contest between Conservatives and independents. No independent candidate came forward in Bishops Frome and Cradley ward in 2015, but the Conservatives were opposed by the Green Party and beat them 69-31.

This by-election has a wider field of candidates. Defending for the Conservatives is Robert Carter, who lives in the ward in the village of Acton Beauchamp. He is opposed by three candidates who fought the North Herefordshire constituency in June’s general election: Ellie Chowns for the Green Party, Jeanie Falconer for the Liberal Democrats and Roger Page for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: North Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford
Postcode districts: HR7, HR8, WR6, WR13

Robert Carter (C)
Ellie Chowns (Grn)
Jeanie Falconer (LD)
Roger Page (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1331 Grn 610


Chalford

Stroud council, Gloucestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Elizabeth Peters at the age of 73. A long-serving organiser of the Brimscombe village fete, Peters caused controversy in 2014 by using racially offensive language after a council meeting, for which she apologised. She had served on Stroud council since 2002.

We cross the boundary from Herefordshire into Gloucestershire where there are two polls this week, but for the first of these we keep our connection with Frome – this time, the River Frome which cuts through the Cotswolds in a narrow, gorge-like valley. Clinging to the northern side of that valley is the village of Chalford. Chalford expanded rapidly in the eighteenth century with the arrival of Flemish weavers, who brought with them a high-quality textile industry; and it was made accessible to the outside world by the opening of the now-derelict Thames and Severn Canal. Also within the ward is the village of Bussage, which grew strongly in the 1980s with the development of the Manor Farm Estate.

Through most of this century Chalford ward has had a large Conservative lead with Labour and the Greens splitting the opposition vote fairly evenly. The 2016 election changed things a bit as the Conservative vote markedly declined; although the party held the ward’s three seats, their vote share fell to just 32% to 28% each for the Greens and Labour. There was more bad news for the Conservatives here in 2017: in May’s county elections, they lost the local Minchinhampton county division to the Green Party in a straight fight, by the small margin of 2,320 votes to 2,293; and in June’s general election they lost the Stroud constituency to Labour, again by a small margin (29,994 to 29,307 on a high turnout of 77%). The returning Labour MP, David Drew, has an electoral career going back a long way: he stood against Peters in a Stroud council by-election in 1986.

Defending this intriguing three-way marginal for the Conservatives is Darren Loftus, a 33-year-old property manager from Chalford. The Greens have selected Robin Lewis, a semi-retired college lecturer. The Labour candidate is Karen Pitney, a former long-serving BBC employee now working for the Gloucestershire GP Co-operative. Completing the ballot paper is Kris Beacham for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Stroud
Gloucestershire county council division: Minchinhampton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester
Postcode districts: GL5, GL6

Kris Beacham (LD)
Robin Lewis (Grn)
Darren Loftus (C)
Karen Pitney (Lab)

May 2016 result C 930/927/905 Grn 810 Lab 799/738 UKIP 353
May 2015 result C 1920 Lab 919 Grn 781 UKIP 431
May 2014 result C 878 Grn 546 Lab 406 UKIP 348 TUSC 17
May 2012 result C 945 Lab 481 Grn 381
May 2011 result C 1302 Grn 649 Lab 638
May 2010 result C 2033 Grn 1041 Lab 872
May 2008 result C 1217 Grn 633 Lab 195 UKIP 121
May 2007 result C 1114 Grn 492 Lab 250 UKIP 158
May 2006 result C 1100 Grn 447 LD 259 Lab 220
June 2004 result C 880 Grn 402 LD 325 UKIP 255 Lab 250
May 2003 result C 875 Lab 316 Grn 306 LD 277 UKIP 107
May 2002 result C 941/887/743 Lab 522/473 LD 487 Grn 399/352/232 UKIP 192


Grumbolds Ash with Avening

Cotswold council, Gloucestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jim Parsons at the age of 82. Parsons was first elected in 1999 for the former Avening ward as an independent, gaining the Conservative nomination in 2007 and transferring to Grumbolds Ash with Avening ward in 2015.

For our second Gloucestershire by-election of the week we stay in the Cotswolds but travel to the southern boundary of the county. This is a diffuse ward of eight parishes to the north and west of Tetbury, running from Cherington in the north to Didmarton on the Wiltshire boundary. None of the parishes are called Grumbolds Ash, a name which instead commemorates an ancient Hundred of Gloucestershire. Avening, on the Tetbury-Nailsworth road, is the ward’s largest settlement with 888 electors; by comparison the small parish of Ozleworth has just 34 electors on the register. Here can be found the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt together with Nan Tow’s Tump, a Bronze Age barrow next to the A46 Bath-Nailsworth road.

At the time of the 2011 census most of this area was in the former Grumbolds Ash ward, which made the top 20 in England and Wales for households living rent-free (8.5%) and had high self-employment levels. The present ward was created in 2015. The old Grumbolds Ash ward was strongly Conservative and frequently uncontested, and that has carried through to the present ward where in 2015 the Tories beat the Liberal Democrats 71-29 in a straight fight.

Defending for the Conservatives is Richard Morgan, a Tetbury resident who runs an adventure travel business. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Nicky Baber, a Kemble and Ewen parish councillor. Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate Edward Shelton who is the only candidate to live in the ward (in Didmarton).

Parliamentary constituency: The Cotswolds
Gloucestershire county council division: Tetbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swindon
Postcode districts: GL6, GL8, GL9, GL12

Nicky Baber (LD)
Richard Morgan (C)
Edward Shelton (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1108 LD 442


St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe

Dover council, Kent; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Paul Watkins, who is retiring from politics. A former nurse who later founded a nursing home company, Watkins was first elected in 1983 for Lower Walmer ward; he stood down in 1995 but returned to the council in 1999 from St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe ward. Watkins was chairman of Dover council from 1989 to 1992 and had served as Leader of the Council since 2003.

For our final stop this week, welcome to the front line of Brexit. In fact, welcome to the front line full stop. This is the ward which contains the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, traditionally Britain’s first line of defence against invasion from the Continent, and the first part of the UK which visitors see as they approach the port of Dover on the ferry from Calais. The ward overlooks the point where those ferries reach dry land, Dover Eastern Docks. Not surprisingly for such a strategic location, the military are still here ready for any invasion: St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe ward includes Fort Burgoyne and the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, on the hills behind Dover Castle. A significant number of Gurkhas live in the ward, putting St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for Buddhism, while the Duke of York’s school means that the ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for 16- and 17-year-olds. (That school is one of only three schools in England and Wales to have military colours; the other two are Cheltenham College and, inevitably, Eton.)

The ward itself essentially covers the area between Dover and Deal. At its centre is the village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe itself, which marks the point where the North Sea ends and the English Channel begins. The village was mostly evacuated during the Second World War as it was within range of German artillery in France. Further inland is Martin Mill, home to the ward’s railway station on the Dover-Deal line.

The White Cliffs have been a source of much controversy in recent years. A couple of months ago an appeal by the National Trust raised £1 million to prevent the cliffs being sold to developers, while a few years back a well-known UKIP election poster depicted an escalator going to the clifftop. That didn’t stop UKIP taking second place in this ward in the 2015 local elections: they had 25% to 53% for the winning Conservative slate and 22% for Labour. In May’s county elections the Conservatives pulled away from Labour in the previously marginal division of Dover North, which includes this ward.

Defending for the Conservatives is Peter Jull, who fought his home ward of North Deal in 2015. With UKIP not returning to the polls, in a straight fight Jull is opposed by Charles Woodgate, who fought the local county seat in May and stood in Tunbridge Wells in June’s general election; Woodgate is described as having a strong business background with 30 years working in international trade, finance and banking.

Parliamentary constituency: Dover
Kent county council division: Dover North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Folkestone and Dover
Postcode districts: CT14, CT15, CT16

Peter Jull (C)
Charles Woodgate (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1424/1221 UKIP 684 Lab 590/555
May 2011 result C 1257/1185 Lab 500/467
May 2007 result C 1058/969 LD 343 Lab 276/248
April 2004 by-election C 749 LD 234 Lab 213 Ind 43
May 2003 result C 836/756 Lab 304/274 Ind 235


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