Previews: 15 Feb 2018

“All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order”

There is something for everyone in this week’s edition of Andrew’s Previews. In the largest week of local by-elections not combined with something else for many years, there are fourteen by-elections on Thursday 15th February 2018, with nearly 90,000 people eligible to vote in them. The Conservatives are defending half of the seats up for election, with four Labour defences and one defence each for the Scottish National Party, a residents group and UKIP – although that last one should come with an asterisk. We have cities, towns, villages, suburbs and military bases; old towns and New Towns. We have the south, the Midlands, the north and Scotland. We replace a councillor who served for 45 years, one who served for less than seven months, one who is resigning to improve his mental health, and one who is now in prison for attacking his wife with a mallet. We visit some of the greatest engineering achievements of the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries: canals, railways, roads and bridges. While most of the polls this week may look safe at first glance, there is always the potential for a surprise or few. Read on, as we start with one of the biggest local government failures of recent times…


Higham Ferrers

Northamptonshire county council; and

Higham Ferrers Lancaster

East Northamptonshire council; both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Glenn Harwood. A veteran of the Falklands War who served for forty years in the Army, retiring with an MBE and the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, Harwood was elected to East Northamptonshire council in 2007, and at the time of his death was deputy leader of the council. In May 2017 he was elected to Northamptonshire county council.

It’s appropriate to start this week in Northamptonshire, which is the location for the biggest and most controversial story to have come out of local government so far in this young year. Earlier this month Northamptonshire county council issued a Section 114 notice, banning all new expenditure with the exception of statutory services for protecting vulnerable people. Essentially, the council has run out of money and gone bust. Proposals for remedying this include raising council tax by almost 6%, and selling the council’s new headquarters building which was built at a cost of �53 million and has only been open for four months. These proposals haven’t gone down well with Northamptonshire’s seven MPs – all Conservatives – who have called for the government to send in commissioners, nor have they gone done well with half of the county council’s ruling Conservative group, with 21 backbench councillors signing a statement saying that they are appalled by what has been revealed regarding the council’s finances.

Thankfully – polls being rather expensive items to run – Northamptonshire does not have the responsibility of running these by-elections, which is a job for the district council. So the voters of Higham Ferrers will have an early chance to say what they think of all this, as well as proposals for a large “US-style” chicken farm in the area. Higham Ferrers is a market town in eastern Northamptonshire, overlooking the River Nene, which is just north of and has fused with the larger town of Rushden. Higham – from Old English words meaning “high homestead” is a common placename in the UK and so the suffix “Ferrers” was added; this is a reference to William de Ferrers, fifth earl of Derby of the first creation, who created the borough in 1251. The present Earl Ferrers, the senior Earl in the British peerage, is a descendant of William de Ferrers – although the upper class is not what it was and the present earl has to go to work as an accountant. Higham Ferrers’ economy was traditionally based on shoemaking and footwear, and some of this trade still survives in the town today.

Lancaster ward is the eastern of Higham Ferrers’ two district wards and also takes in the parish of Chelveston cum Caldecott to the east. The county division covers the whole of Higham Ferrers together with part of Rushden to the south.

This is a very Conservative area. Higham Ferrers Lancaster ward was created on its current boundaries in May 2007, when the Conservative slate beat Labour 71-29 in a straight fight. Nobody has challenged the Tories in the ward since then, so you have to look to county level for clues as to how the town’s political allegiances have changed over the last eleven years. Last year’s county election in the Higham Ferrers division suggest that the changes since 2007 don’t amount to much: the Conservatives beat Labour 60-19.

Defending the county seat for the Conservatives is Jason Smithers, a cafe-owner and deputy mayor of Higham Ferrers. The Labour candidate is Gary Day. At district level the Lancaster ward by-election is contested: the Conservatives have gone for youth in selecting Harriet Pentland to defend the seat, while the Labour candidate is businessman Mark Green. Both ballot papers are completed by Suzanna Austin for the Lib Dems, Bill Cross for UKIP and Simon Turner for the Green Party.

Higham Ferrers

Parliamentary constituency: Wellingborough
East Northamptonshire council wards: Higham Ferrers Chichele, Higham Ferrers Lancaster, Rushden Spencer (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kettering and Wellingborough
Postcode districts: NN9, NN10

Suzanna Austin (LD)
Bill Cross (UKIP)
Gary Day (Lab)
Jason Smithers (C)
Simon Turner (Grn)

May 2017 result C 1762 Lab 552 LD 327 UKIP 290
May 2013 result C 1184 UKIP 697 Lab 385 Ind 299 LD 116

Higham Ferrers Lancaster

Parliamentary constituency: Wellingborough
Northamptonshire county council division: Higham Ferrers
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kettering and Wellingborough
Postcode districts: NN9, NN10

Suzanna Austin (LD)
Bill Cross (UKIP)
Mark Green (Lab)
Harriet Pentland (C)
Simon Turner (Grn)

May 2015 result 2 C unopposed
May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
July 2007 by-election C unopposed
May 2007 result C 812/787 Lab 335/316


Worstead

North Norfolk council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Glyn Williams on health grounds. He was first elected in 2011 as a Liberal Democrat and defected to the Conservatives in 2013.

We travel east to consider two by-elections in East Anglia. Worstead is a village with a famous name but not a population to match. The village came to prominence in the twelfth century when Flemish weavers arrived in the area; they became so successful that a type of yarn – worsted – was named after the village. At 922 souls Worstead is too small to be a ward on its own, and the ward named after it contains five other parishes wrapping around the south and west of North Walsham. Worstead railway station – on the Bittern Line from Norwich to Sheringham – links the ward to the outside world.

By-elections in Liberal Democrat constituencies don’t come around very often, so savour this one. The Liberal Democrats held this ward from 2003 (when the current ward boundaries came in) to 2013 when their councillor Glyn Williams defected to the Conservatives. Williams was re-elected under his new colours in 2015, polling 42% to 33% for the Lib Dems and 13% for the Green Party. The 2015 election re-elected the Conservatives to majority control of North Norfolk, but they have since suffered a mass of defections: of the 33 Conservative councillors elected in 2015 only 22 remain plus this vacancy, and the party has lost overall control of the council. The local county division – North Walsham East and Erpingham – is a three-way marginal with a strong Labour vote but has consistently voted Lib Dem since 2005.

Defending for the Conservatives is Robin Russell-Pavier, who has travelled the world working in the holiday industry and now works as a tourism consultant. The Lib Dems will want this seat back and have selected Saul Penfold (oh crumbs!), who is the chair of governors at Worstead CofE primary school, a former teacher and former head of education at Norwich Cathedral. With the Greens withdrawing, completing the ballot paper is carpenter, builder and former district councillor David Spencer for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: North Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: North Walsham West and Erpingham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR10, NR11, NR28

Saul Penfold (LD)
Robin Russell-Pavier (C)
David Spencer (Lab)

May 2015 result C 597 LD 475 Grn 180 Lab 175
May 2011 result LD 465 C 287 Lab 159 Grn 84
May 2007 result LD 555 C 369
May 2003 result LD 372 C 333


St Pauls

Tendring council, Essex; caused by the resignation of councillor Jack Parsons. Parsons was originally elected for UKIP in a May 2016 by-election, had defected to Labour, and at the time of his resignation was sitting as an independent. Last year he was sentenced to 70 hours’ unpaid work by Colchester magistrates for possessing a knife in a public place.

Parsons’ resignation from the council was bizarre; he had sent a draft resignation email to council bosses by mistake, and unsuccessfully tried to retract it. Unlike a case we shall come to next week, Parsons has decided that resignation is the best course of action for him as he battles problems with depression and anxiety. This column wishes Parsons the best of luck in recovering good mental health.

It’s a while since we’ve looked at Tendring, isn’t it? We’re in Clacton-on-Sea here, in a ward on the Essex seafront just to the east of Clacton town centre. Much of the housing in the ward dates from the 1930s or 1950s, and much of the population does too: St Pauls ward makes the top 100 in England and Wales for population in the 65+ age bracket.

Politically this corner of Essex votes perhaps not like you might expect it to. From 2003 to 2015 this was the local fiefdom of Pierre Oxley, who was initially a Conservative but by 2007 had formed his own localist party called Tendring First. However, in early 2016 Oxley pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, for which he has given a suspended two-year prison sentence. As a result he was kicked off Essex county council, and the resulting by-election was won by Colin Sargeant who had the nomination of the Holland-on-Sea Residents Association. Sargeant was re-elected in last year’s county elections, on that occasion as an independent candidate.

Oxley had already lost his Tendring council seat in 2015, as the local UKIP group rode the coattails of Douglas Carswell (remember him?) to gain one of the two seats in St Pauls ward. It was a close three-way result: UKIP had 37% and one seat, the Conservatives 33% and the other seat, with Tendring First on 30%.

Across Tendring district UKIP ended up with 22 seats to the Conservatives’ 23, with 31 needed for a majority. Experience has shown that large UKIP council groups tend not to have much truck with such boring notions as discipline and coherence, but in Tendring the split and collapse in the UKIP group started immediately thanks to an inspired decision by the Conservatives to offer a coalition deal. Two years, nine months and lots of defections later, UKIP are down to eight seats in Tendring while the Conservatives hold 32 and an overall majority, although the coalition between them and the UKIP splinters who accepted the deal remains in place.

In the meantime the St Pauls UKIP councillor John Mooney decided to emigrate, and a by-election was held for his seat in May 2016. UKIP held that seat, again with 37% of the vote, to 27% for the Conservatives and 22% for independent candidate William Hones. Jack Parsons, the winner of that by-election, has now resigned in his turn.

Given Parsons’ unusual political journey during his year and a half in office, it’s difficult to identify a defending party for this by-election. UKIP will want their seat back and are hoping to win their first council by-election in over a year: the last Kipper win was in Great and Little Oakley ward, also in Tendring district, on 9th February 2017, and in all the elections since then UKIP have won a grand total of one seat, in Burnley last May. Their defending candidate is Mike Vaughan-Chatfield, chairman of the North Essex Photographic Workshop and former chairman of Tendring Neighbourhood Watch. Labour will also want their seat back and have selected Rosie-Roella Kevlin, an artistic coordinator at Colchester Arts Centre. The Conservative candidate is Sue Honeywood, who was a district councillor for Clacton’s Pier ward from 2007 until losing her seat to UKIP in 2015. William Hones, who finished third in the 2016 by-election, returns for another try; another independent on the ballot paper is Stephen Andrews, co-owner of the local football club FC Clacton. Completing the ballot paper are Robert Cockroft of the Green Party, who is described as a regulatory ecotoxicologist, whatever that is; and former Sutton councillor Keith Pitkin (Worcester Park North 1986-90, Sutton Central 1990-98) for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Clacton East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
Postcode district: CO15

May 2016 by-election UKIP 424 C 311 Ind 248 Lab 148
May 2015 result UKIP 944/760 C 838/611 Tendring First 766/754
May 2011 result Tendring First 945/928 C 680/618
May 2007 result Tendring First 1106/1086 C 440/384
May 2003 result C 793/701 Lab 239 Ind 219 LD 177/154


Ruxley

Epsom and Ewell council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of Keith Partridge who was a councillor for the West Ewell and Ruxley Residents Association. He had served since 2015.

For our London-area by-election this week we travel to Surrey. The town of Ewell has been swallowed up by the growth of London but remains outside the Greater London boundary. Ewell is an affluent commuter area but Ruxley ward is perhaps its most downmarket part: located in West Ewell and named after Ruxley Lane, the ward is hard up against the Greater London boundary at Chessington and has Epsom and Ewell’s lowest proportion of the workforce in the census “higher management” occupational group.

For many years now Epsom and Ewell has been dominated at borough level by Residents Association candidates. Ruxley ward is no different: in the 2015 election the Residents had a clean sweep, gaining two seats from the Conservatives against the national trend. That year the Residents polled 45% to 32% for the Conservatives and 14% for Labour. The Residents also hold the local county division, West Ewell.

Defending for the Residents is Alex Coley, a former civil servant who was the first Head of Digital Services for the Metropolitan Police, and now runs a digital communications and technology company. The Conservative candidate is Stephen Pontin who was a councillor for this ward from 2007 to 2011, and is seeking to return to the council. Labour have selected Themba Msika, a mental health nurse. Completing the ballot paper is Julia Kirkland for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Epsom and Ewell
Surrey county council division: West Ewell
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: KT19

Alex Coley (Residents Assocs of Epsom and Ewell)
Julia Kirkland (LD)
Themba Msika (Lab)
Stephen Pontin (C)

May 2015 result Residents 1353/1110/1018 C 983/930/928 Lab 429/420/383 LD 265
May 2011 result Residents 795/609/571 C 711/680/656 Lab 216/212 LD 128/125/79
May 2007 result Residents 605/521/503 C 518/480/479 Lab 125/125/108 LD 104/92/90
May 2003 result Residents 579/484/437 Lab 391/387/376 C 243 LD 131


Carterton South

West Oxfordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Mick Brennan. He had served since 2011, and was a contractor at RAF Brize Norton after 30 years’ service in the Royal Air Force.

We move west from London to a ward which is dominated by the military. The town of Carterton has grown to become the second-largest town in West Oxfordshire district (after Witney), and the main reason for that is its proximity to RAF Brize Norton. The UK’s largest RAF base, Brize Norton opened in 1937 and saw much activity in the Second World War, before being used by the US Air Force who deployed nuclear bombers here. The RAF took the base back in 1965, and it is now the point of embarkation for British troops overseas and the main operating base for the RAF’s transport and refuelling aircraft.

Many of Brize Norton’s buildings and part of its apron are within the ward boundary, and the military personnel have left their mark on its demographics. Carterton South is in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for full-time employment (a staggering 62% of the workforce), in the top 10 wards for those educated to Level 2 (five or more GCSE passes or equivalent), and in the top 20 wards for the census “intermediate” employment category.

What the military tend not to do is turn out in local elections, so the town will punch above its weight when the votes are counted. Despite a Liberal Democrat win in 2007 – by one vote – this is a safe Conservative area like the other two Carterton wards. At the most recent district election in 2015 the Conservatives beat UKIP here 62-15, and in May’s county elections the Tories had a 70-12 lead over Labour in the Carterton South and West division. One of the former Conservative councillors for this ward was Windell “Joe” Walcott, who served as Mayor of Carterton and was appointed MBE but is perhaps better known as the grandfather of the footballer Theo Walcott.

Defending for the Conservatives is Michele Mead, a Carterton town councillor. With UKIP not returning, she is opposed by Simon Adderley for Labour and Ben Lines for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Witney
Oxfordshire county council division: Carterton South and West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford
Postcode district: OX18

Simon Adderley (Lab)
Ben Lines (LD)
Michele Mead (C)

May 2015 result C 1363 UKIP 342 Lab 254 LD 133 Grn 124
May 2014 result C 536 UKIP 285 Lab 91 Grn 72
May 2011 result C 893 LD 184 Lab 129 Grn 83
May 2010 result C 1642 LD 464
May 2007 result LD 493 C 492
May 2006 result C 892 LD 206
May 2003 result C 430 LD 364 Lab 77
May 2002 result C 793/448 LD 402


Chudleigh; and
Dawlish Central and North East

Teignbridge council, Devon; caused respectively by the resignations of Doug Laing and Graham Price, who were both Conservative councillors. Laing had served since 2015, Price – a former chairman of Teignbridge council – since 2007.

Laing, who was the council’s outgoing cabinet member for economy and tourism, is now serving a three-year prison sentence for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. That charge related to an attack on his wife Susan at their home on 29 October last year. Laing had originally been charged with attempted murder, but denied that charge and a trial was not pursued after he pleaded guilty to the lesser offence.

Not the most propitious of circumstances for one of our two by-elections in the West Country today. Both of these are in the Teignbridge district. Chudleigh can be found on the eastern slopes of Dartmoor; it’s a commuter town for Exeter which is bypassed by the A38 Exeter-Plymouth road – and the importance of that bypass to the local road network is demonstrated by the fact that before it was built, the road closures for the Chudleigh carnival each summer could lead to 25-mile tailbacks. Although the Chudley Cannons have been playing Quidditch in the village since 1753 (according to J K Rowling, and I’m not going to contradict that), there is no word on how the team was affected by a major fire in 1807 which essentially destroyed Chudleigh, leaving only the church and seven houses standing. The ward also extends to the north to take in Hennock parish, part of which is within the Dartmoor National Park – although that parish will move out of the ward in boundary changes to be implemented next year.

Down on the seafront can be found the town of Dawlish, which developed in the eighteenth century as a seaside resort. Jane Austen spent a long holiday here in 1802, complaining at length at the state of the town’s library, and the place appears in novels by both her and Dickens. Running along the seafront is the West of England main line, opened by Brunel in 1846 and with its trains originally run by pneumatic tubes – a failed experiment. The main line is one of the most scenic in Britain thanks to its seafront location, but also expensive to maintain – part of it was washed away in a storm in 2014, leaving the West Country cut off from the rail network for several weeks. The North and East ward covers the northern half of the town plus the village of Dawlish Warren, whose economy is entirely geared towards holidays and tourism.

Chudleigh ward has unchanged boundaries since 1979. It has traditionally returned independent candidates to Teignbridge council, with the first party candidate to break that pattern being Labour in their zenith year of 1995; the Labour seat was lost back to the independents in a November 1996 by-election. It took until 2003 for party candidates to get in on the act again with the election of a Lib Dem to one of the two seats; the Tories gained the Lib Dem seat in 2007 and the remaining independent seat in the 2015 election to hold both seats in the ward for the first time. That 2015 election was a rather fragmented result, with 33% for the Tory slate of Laing and Patricia Johnson-King, 25% for outgoing independent councillor Richard Keeling and 15% each for Labour and the Greens. Johnson-King died in 2016 and the Conservatives lost the resulting by-election to Keeling, who stood with the Liberal Democrat nomination: he beat the Conservatives 52-36. Keeling was also the local Lib Dem candidate in the county elections last year, coming a strong second in the safe Conservative division of Chudleigh and Teign Valley.

The Conservatives are generally stronger in Dawlish North and East where they have won two or all of the three seats in every election this century. The exceptions were a Lib Dem win in 2003 and an independent win in 2011. The Conservatives regained the independent seat in 2015 in a fragmented result: they had 30% to 23% for the Lib Dems, 17% for the independent slate and 15% for the Greens. The Tories had a larger lead over the Lib Dems in May’s county elections in Dawlish division.

Dawlish town council’s website advertises the place as the “home of the black swan”, and having one of your councillors sent to prison for attacking his wife with a mallet certainly counts as a black swan event for the Teignbridge Conservatives. The difficult task, given those circumstances, of holding Chudleigh for the Tories falls to Pam Elliott. Hospital manager Lorraine Evans is hoping to gain for the Liberal Democrats: an interesting selection as Evans was the ward’s Conservative councillor from 2007 to 2015, losing re-election in 2015 as an independent candidate. Returning from the 2016 by-election is Labour candidate Janette Parker, who completes a rare all-female ballot paper.

The Dawlish Central and North East by-election is a straight fight with no independent or Green candidates. Defending in the blue corner is Angela Fenne, a Dawlish town councillor and traffic officer at Highways England. Challenging in the yellow corner is Martin Wrigley, the present Mayor of Dawlish, who works in the telecom and IT sector.

Chudleigh

Parliamentary constituency: Central Devon
Devon county council division: Chudleigh and Teign Valley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter
Postcode districts: EX6, TQ13

Lorraine Evans (LD)
Pam Elliott (C)
Janette Parker (Lab)

December 2016 by-election LD 680 C 470 UKIP 89 Lab 81
May 2015 result C 1308/1159 Ind 985/592/516 Lab 597 Grn 585 LD 508
May 2011 result C 889/720 Ind 884/561 LD 500 Lab 475
May 2007 result Ind 1120/597 C 909 LD 799
May 2003 result Ind 645/566 LD 570/423 C 399/371
May 1999 result Ind 798/682 C 442 Lab 257
Nov 1996 by-election Ind 480 LD 230 Lab 171 (Ind gain from Lab)
May 1995 result Lab 586 Ind 570/479 LD 482 C 347 Loony 53
May 1991 result Ind 827/757/721
May 1987 result Ind 1046/667/574 Lab 179/119
May 1983 result Ind 739/403/349 Alliance 382
May 1979 result Ind 1251/805/713/652

Dawlish Central and North East

Parliamentary constituency: Newton Abbot
Devon county council division: Dawlish
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter
Postcode districts: EX6, EX7

Angela Fenne (C)
Martin Wrigley (LD)

May 2015 result C 1687/1645/1406 LD 1295/1274 Ind 940/817/687 Grn 858 Lab 827
May 2011 result C 1197/1095/1041 Ind 1129/1065 LD 599/569/535
May 2007 result C 1221/1214/1169 LD 1106/1022/953
May 2003 result C 1020/985/946 LD 1010/946/866 Lab 377


Grassmoor

North East Derbyshire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Julie Hill who had served since 2015.

It’s time to go north as we consider the first of this week’s five by-elections in England north of the Trent. We stay in the Midlands for the first Labour defence of the week, which is in a ward based on the villages of Grassmoor and Temple Normanton just to the south-east of Chesterfield. This was a coalmining area, with a series of deep and opencast pits which have now all gone; much of the former mining sites, including the once-severely polluted Grassmoor Lagoons, have been landscaped into the Grassmoor Country Park. Grassmoor’s most famous son is Paul Burrell, the former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales.

This is a ward where Labour are not seriously challenged at district council level. The Labour slate was unopposed in 2003, and in 2015 beat UKIP here 59-24. However, it is part of the North East Derbyshire constituency which was a rare Conservative gain in June 2017, and part of this ward is covered by the Clay Cross North county division which was marginal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in May 2017. Clay Cross North also includes the neighbouring Tupton ward, where the Lib Dems came from nowhere to win a council by-election in 2016.

Defending for Labour, who will be hoping for a good result to show that they are back on track in this constituency, is Dick Marriott. With UKIP not returning for this by-election, Marriott is opposed by Josh Broadhurst for the Conservatives and Ben Marshall for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Sutton (part: Temple Normanton parish and Hasland and Winswick ward of Grassmoor, Hasland and Winswick parish); Clay Cross North (part: Grassmoor ward of Grassmoor, Hasland and Winswick parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield
Postcode districts: S41, S42, S44

Josh Broadhurst (C)
Dick Marriott (Lab)
Ben Marshall (LD)

May 2015 result Lab 1103/901 UKIP 439 C 319/275
May 2011 result Lab 928/891 C 230/212
May 2007 result Lab 760/677 C 218
May 2003 result 2 Lab unopposed


Armthorpe

Doncaster council, South Yorkshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Tony Corden at the age of 71. He was first elected in 1992 with continuous service since 2011, and had served on the Doncaster cabinet.

Showing our passports at the county boundary, we enter into Yorkshire but stay with coal. The large village of Armthorpe can be found just off the eastern edge of Doncaster. Traditionally an agricultural area – this is flat, rich farming land – Armthorpe was mostly developed from the 1920s onwards as accommodation for workers at the large Markham Main colliery, which extracted its first coal in 1924 and closed in 1996. The site of the pit is now a housing estate, but the Markham Main Colliery brass band is still going strong. With the demise of mining Armthorpe’s main industry is now distribution: the ward is directly connected to the M18 motorway at junction 4, and IKEA and Next have warehouses here.

Armthorpe ward has unchanged boundaries since 2004 and survived a boundary review in 2015 unscathed. From 2004 to 2010 its council seats were held by an independent slate, but Labour gained the ward’s seats from 2010 to 2012 and have yet to relinquish them. In the 2017 election Labour had 41% here to 29% for UKIP and 22% for the Conservatives.

Defending for Labour is Frank Tyas, a joiner and Armthorpe parish councillor. UKIP and the Conservatives are not standing again, so Tyas is opposed in a straight fight by independent candidate Martin Williams, a former Community Group councillor for Thorne ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Doncaster Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Doncaster
Postcode district: DN3

Frank Tyas (Lab)
Martin Williams (Ind)

May 2017 result Lab 1479/1336/1314 UKIP 1045/767 C 787 Grn 328
May 2015 result Lab 2709/2496/2386 UKIP 2260 C 1247 LD 638 Grn 605 Ind 575
May 2014 result Lab 1286 UKIP 975 Ind 666 C 231 TUSC 116
May 2012 result Lab 1677 Ind 1289 C 226
May 2011 result Lab 1958 Ind 1410 C 415
May 2010 result Lab 2369 Ind 1258 LD 877 C 848 English Democrats 692
May 2008 result Ind 1860 Lab 941 C 416
May 2007 result Ind 2047 Lab 1105
May 2006 result Ind 1602 Lab 1260 C 276
June 2004 result Ind 2140/1884/1821 Lab 1664/1244/1172 C 357


Holgate

York council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Sonja Crisp who had served since 2007. The Lord Mayor of York in 2015-16 – being suspended from the party during her mayoral year in a row over refurbishment of the Mansion House – Crisp is suffering from a neurological condition, and is moving to Scotland to be closer to her family.

For our second Yorkshire by-election we are in tourist central. Holgate ward is not the beautiful and much-visited centre of York; instead we are on the west side of town just beyond the railway station. This is a ward which is dominated by York’s extensive railway yards and includes one of the UK’s largest and most-visited museums, the National Railway Museum. The ward’s population lies to the south of the railway yards along the Poppleton and Acomb Roads; this is generally a relatively well-off part of the city.

Despite that, Holgate has been held by Labour since 2007 when they gained the ward from the Liberal Democrats. There were minor boundary changes for the 2015 election which turned in a fragmented result: just 27% for the winning Labour slate, 19% for the Conservatives, 16% for the Green Party, 13% for the Liberal Democrats and 12% for UKIP.

With vote shares like that all the parties will think that they have a genuine chance of winning, with the exception of UKIP who have not nominated a candidate. Defending for Labour is 27-year-old Kallum Taylor, a former president of York University Students’ Union who now works for a local housing association. Also in his late 20s is Conservative candidate Joe Pattinson, a local man who studied French and German at the University of Chester. Returning from the 2015 election is Green candidate Andreas Heinemeyer, a senior environmental researcher at the University of York with a particular interest in soil, peat and their effects on the carbon cycle. Completing the ballot paper is Liberal Democrat candidate Emma Keef, a communications officer for a local charity.

Parliamentary constituency: York Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: York
Postcode districts: YO24, YO26

Andreas Heinemeyer (Grn)
Emma Keef (LD)
Joe Pattinson (C)
Kallum Taylor (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 2183/2037/1789 C 1516/1221/957 Grn 1273/954/876 LD 1018/849/812 UKIP 924 Ind 729 TUSC 326


Halton Castle

Halton council, Cheshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Arthur Cole at the age of 82. One of the few survivors of local government from before the 1974 reorganisation, Cole was first elected to Runcorn urban district council in 1972 while working as a bricklayer on the construction of the New Town’s housing estates, and had served continuously on Runcorn UDC and Halton council since then with the exception of 2007-11. He had previously done National Service in Malaya with the Royal Engineers, and away from the council worked in training for many years, finishing his working life in 1997 as a disability employment advisor. He also served from 1976 to 1997 as a magistrate, and for several years was chairman of Runcorn Citizens Advice Bureau.

We move to the right side of the Pennines and to the town of Runcorn. A minor health resort in the early nineteenth century – something which is rather difficult to believe now – Runcorn is a major chemicals centre which became a New Town in the 1960s. Halton Castle ward is one of the New Town areas, overlooking the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. One major addition to the landscape in recent years is the Mersey Gateway Bridge, connecting the ward to Widnes over the river on payment of a toll of �2 – rather a step up on Stanley Holloway’s “tuppence per part of a person per part of a trip”.

At the time of the 2011 census this ward was called Castlefields, after its main New Town development. It is a seriously deprived area, with 13% of the workforce being long-term sick or disabled and 51% of the households being socially rented – both figures are in the top 100 wards in England and Wales.

Despite all that deprivation the ward was closely fought until 2010 between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, although the Lib Dems only won it once – in 2007 when they defeated Cole by just three votes. Coalition put paid to the Lib Dem vote here (the Liberal Democrat councillor sought re-election in 2011 under the banner of the Halton Local Independent Party, and got nowhere) and there is now no serious challenge to Labour in the ward. In 2016 Labour polled 76% of the vote against opposition from UKIP and left-wing independent candidate Darrin Whyte.

Defending for Labour is Christopher Carlin, who works in the health sector; he fought Halton Brook ward as an independent in 2012. He is opposed by independent candidate Darrin Whyte who is fighting the ward for the fourth time (he had the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition nomination in 2014 and 2015) and Conservative candidate Ian Adams.

Parliamentary constituency: Halton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode district: WA7

Ian Adams (C)
Christopher Carlin (Lab)
Darrin Whyte (Ind)

May 2016 result Lab 1035 UKIP 211 Ind 115
May 2015 result Lab 1985 UKIP 487 LD 220 TUSC 142
May 2014 result Lab 956 UKIP 413 TUSC 72
May 2012 result Lab 1124 LD 195
May 2011 result Lab 1067 HLIP 281 LD 175
May 2010 result Lab 1398 LD 714 C 283
May 2008 result Lab 555 LD 461 C 122
May 2007 result LD 565 Lab 562 C 99
July 2006 by-election Lab 359 LD 345 Ind 87 C 52
May 2006 result Lab 448 LD 332 Ind 156 Ind 122 C 105
July 2005 by-election Lab 355 LD 249 C 98 Ind 15
June 2004 result Lab 1045/833/816 Ind 440 LD 369 C 300 BNP 232


Morecambe North

Lancashire county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tony Jones, who had fallen out with the party and was sitting as an independent. One of the longest-serving Lancashire county councillors, Jones was first elected in 1985 for Lancaster Rural Central division, transferring to Morecambe North in 2005.

For our final English by-election of the week we travel to the west coast. Morecambe Bay, in its nice moods, can be a rather nice beauty spot, and Morecambe North is a good place from which to appreciate it. Archer’s Café, on the seafront at Bolton-le-Sands next to a campsite, comes particularly recommended. Tell them this column sent you.

Despite its name, the Morecambe North county division is based on Bolton-le-Sands, which was added to the division in boundary changes last year. Bolton-le-Sands and its twin village of Hest Bank are commuter villages for the Lancaster-Morecambe conurbation, and a quick look at some of the new houses going up next to the Lancaster Canal in Hest Bank will persuade you that there is some serious money here. The same cannot be said of Bare, the part of Morecambe proper included in the division; this is a retirement area, and in the 2011 the old Bare ward made the top 75 in England and Wales for population in the 65+ age bracket.

As previously detailed in Andrew’s Previews, the Conservative group which took over County Hall in Preston last year has been beset with all sorts of problems, which go all the way up to the Leader of the Council Geoff Driver. Driver is being investigated by police on suspicion of witness intimidation, and is due to answer bail later this month. Jones resigned from the Conservative group over Driver’s leadership, and in September was speaking in support of a no-confidence motion against Driver when he collapsed with a suspected heart attack. Jones lived to tell the tale, but he has decided not to return to the council chamber. For the record, the no-confidence debate was reconvened in October and was defeated by 45 votes to 34.

Tony Jones had a safe result in the 2017 election, the only previous contest on these boundaries, when he beat Labour 63-22. At Lancashire city council level the Conservatives are safe in Bolton and Slyne ward, but only hold two out of three seats in Bare ward with the other held by the Morecambe Bay Independents.

Defending for the Conservatives is Stuart Morris, who works in the constituency office of the Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris. (They are not related.) Seeking to return to County Hall is Labour candidate Darren Clifford, who lost re-election in Morecambe South division last year; he is a Lancaster city councillor for Morecambe’s Harbour ward. Completing the ballot paper is diehard Andrew’s Previews fan Andrew Severn for the Liberal Democrats (thank you for the fan mail Andrew!).

Parliamentary constituency: Morecambe and Lunesdale
Lancaster council wards: Bolton and Slyne, Bare (part: Bare North and Bare South East wards of the parish of Morecambe)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
Postcode districts: LA1, LA2, LA4, LA5

Darren Clifford (Lab)
Stuart Morris (C)
Andrew Severn (LD)

May 2017 result C 2404 Lab 838 LD 310 Grn 253


Bonnybridge and Larbert

Falkirk council; caused by the death of the Provost of Falkirk, Scottish National Party councillor Tom Coleman, who was in his early seventies. He was first elected in 1999 for Larbert ward, transferring to Bonnybridge and Larbert ward in 2007.

For our first Scottish by-election of the 2018 we are in the Falkirk council area. This is a ward covering two villages to the west of Falkirk at the middle of the central belt. The Antonine Wall, the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Carlisle-Perth railway lines and the M876 motorway all pass through the ward. Bonnybridge – as in a bridge on the Bonny Water – developed in the industrial revolution as an ironworking centre. Larbert has a similar industrial past but is now growing strongly in population as a commuter base for Falkirk, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow: the town’s population increased by 42% between 2001 and 2011. Lying on the ward boundary is one of the symbols of modern Scotland, the Falkirk Wheel on the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Since the introduction of proportional representation for Scottish councils in 2007, the SNP have topped the poll in each election in Bonnybridge and Larbert. In both 2007 and 2012 the ward’s three seats went to Tom Coleman of the Nationalists, independent Billy Buchanan and Labour’s Linda Gow. In the 2017 election the Conservatives greatly increased their vote and gained Gow’s seat; first preferences were 34% for the SNP, 24% for the Conservatives, 20% for Buchanan and 16% for Labour. The SNP hold the local Westminster and Holyrood constituencies, although they suffered nearly a 12% swing against them in the Falkirk constituency last June.

A quick reminder that Scottish local election rules apply here: the Alternative Vote is in use for this by-election, and 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible to vote. Defending for the SNP is Tom Coleman’s son Niall, a married father-of-three who is described as a well-known personality within the party. The Conservative candidate is George Stevenson. Labour’s Linda Gow, a former leader of Falkirk council and the woman who blew the whistle on the disputed Falkirk Labour selection for the 2015 general election, is seeking to make a quick return to the council. Also standing are David Robertson for the Scottish Greens and Stuart Martin for UKIP.

Photograph of the Falkirk Wheel by Phil Webber (CC BY 2.0)

Parliamentary constituency: Falkirk
Scottish Parliament constituency: Falkirk West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Falkirk and Stirling
Postcode districts: FK1, FK2, FK4, FK5

Niall Coleman (SNP)
Linda Gow (Lab)
Stuart Martin (UKIP)
David Robertson (Grn)
George Stevenson (C)

May 2017 first preferences SNP 1898 C 1368 Ind 1134 Lab 884 Grn 216 Ind 128
May 2012 first preferences SNP 1686 Lab 1235 Ind 1018 C 376 Ind 166
May 2007 first preferences SNP 1916 Ind 1566 Lab 1557 C 576 Grn 302 Ind 143 SSP 72