Previews: 08 Mar 2018

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

We have eight council by-elections on 8th March 2018, which fall neatly into a southern half and a north and Midlands half. There are three Labour defences, two of which are to replace outgoing council leaders: the leader of Tameside council has recently died and the leader of Harlow council has had enough of the Labour Party’s factional disputes. The other five polls are Tory defences including the week’s standout marginal ward in the city of Nottingham – or is it Gotham? – with safer wards up in Rutland, Rochester, Hertfordshire and Hampshire. Along the way we will visit some award-winning concrete, a prison whose name has entered the lexicon, and the birthplace of the terry towel; travel to England’s largest second-hand bookshop; and indulge in some puns which even the Election Maps UK Twitter account might think better of. But there’s really only one place to start this week…


Bolton council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Asif Ibrahim due to pressure of work. He had served since 2012.

Between Manchester and Bolton, the ugliness is so complete that is almost exhilarating. It challenges you to live there.

Challenge accepted. That was J B Priestley writing in his English Journey of the early 1930s, and laying the foundation for a whole genre of “it’s grim up north” travel books which has been extensively mined ever since by a variety of authors.

Your columnist’s first reaction to this quote is to think that anybody from the industrial West Riding – as Priestley was – must have necessarily been biased. There are plenty of beautiful places between Manchester and Bolton if you know where to look. A quarter of an hour’s walk from your columnist’s house leads to Nob End, a beauty spot overlooking the Croal and Irwell valleys at the point where they meet. From the banks of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal I can look over the Croal valley towards Farnworth on the other side, and think…

…yes, maybe Priestley had a point.

Of course, it’s a post-industrial landscape which I’m looking over now. When Priestley was writing Nob End wasn’t the haven for rare orchids it is today: it was an active chemical waste dump overlooked by a narrowboat repair centre. Moses Gate country park, of which Nob End is a part, was filled by paper mills and a colliery. Those industries gave Farnworth a wider economic base than the average Lancashire textile town, but won’t have given it any beauty points. It says a lot for the town that Farnworth’s most famous son is Alan Ball, the youngest member of England’s World Cup-winning football team and later a long-serving football manager; Farnworth Town Hall has been restored as an office building named after Ball.

Some indication of what Farnworth was like in the 1930s can be gleaned from a surprisingly comprehensive internet archive. This is courtesy of Mass Observation, which covered the Farnworth parliamentary by-election of January 1938. The Mass Observation archives have all been digitised and published on their own website, Bolton Worktown (, from which the above photograph of children outside a polling station is taken. Kids grew up quick in them days. Mass Observation were interested in learning how election propaganda could influence people, and newsletters from both the Conservative and Labour candidates are in their archives. Look at the Conservative newsletter below: yes, election newspapers have been going for over eighty years now, and with some changes to the names and dates you could drop this into any letterbox in the town today and still get the message across.

The polling station the 1938 kids were standing outside is a building on Bentinck Street which still stands today. You get a good view of it as you queue up to traverse one of the disaster areas of modern Farnworth, the hole at Moses Gate. Moses was, of course, a Biblical patriarch who led the Israelites out of Egypt by holding back the waters of the Red Sea. His Gate was breached in August last year by a landslip, which undermined a busy road bridge over the Manchester-Bolton railway line and broke the water main supplying your columnist’s house. The resulting hole closed the main road between Farnworth and Bolton for six months, leading to appalling travel delays, and still hasn’t been completely filled in yet.

In fact, quite a lot of Farnworth is a disaster area. The town centre is one of the most sorry-looking parades of charity shops it’s possible to imagine. Its condition hasn’t noticeably been improved by £325,000 of Section 106 money paid by Tesco, who opened a large store in Farnworth in 2013. Bolton council are claiming that the money has been spent, although it’s difficult for locals to work out what is was spent on.

Just one of many controversies involving Bolton council, whose Labour administration – it’s fair to say – is unpopular. In 2016, the council lost a legal case forcing it to disclose the names of two of its councillors who had been summonsed for council tax arrears. The Labour administration then got into very serious hot water by using emergency powers to pay a grant of £300,000 to a firm of personal injury lawyers. The council got the money back, but it was a close-run thing as the firm involved has since been shut down by the legal regulator. Those of you who read the preview of January’s Hulton ward by-election – a ward with a planning issue to add to all the other controversies – will not be surprised to find that Hulton is the only by-election which Labour have lost to the Conservatives so far this year. And if you read that preview you’ll have drawn the right conclusions from that gain: it’s nothing to do with Brexit, very little to do with Jeremy Corbyn, and mostly to do with just how unpopular the Bolton Labour administration is.

As well as these financial and political scandals, it’s clear from the most cursory of looks around the town centre that the Greatest Town in the Known Universe is falling behind compared to its rivals in Greater Manchester. Bolton town centre might have just gained a sparkling new bus station, but clearly not many people are choosing to travel to a town centre that’s not worth visiting on buses which they can’t afford to pay the fare for. They’re voting with their feet, and the result is that Bolton is a place where charity shops – charity shops – are closing down because they can’t make ends meet.

In that context it’s not surprising that while Farnworth ward is safe Labour the main opposition to them in recent years has come from that most populist of populist movements, UKIP. At the most recent Bolton election, in 2016, the Labour lead over the Kippers was 48-36. Now UKIP are in a state of general collapse at the moment – as well as their national travails, there was not one UKIP candidate in last week’s four council by-elections. (UKIP running scared of a load of snowflakes, who’d have thowt it?) So it will be interesting to see how well the Kipppers can do this time or whether some new opposition will come forward. In last year’s Greater Manchester mayoral election the Conservatives ran second in Farnworth, Labour leading 68-19, and the Bolton News have been giving some prominence to a new localist party, Farnworth and Kearsley First – and it’s surprising in retrospect that nobody has previously tried to form a localist party in Bolton borough given its residents’ reputation for insularity.

One thing we can be sure of: getting details of the by-election is going to be difficult. Bolton council have a reputation among local government watchers for being one of the worst councils in the country when it comes to publishing information on upcoming elections, and somebody really needs to tell Electoral Services that, in this digital age, sticking the relevant notices on a board outside the town hall is not enough. Everybody else is putting the legal notices on their website; Bolton, there’s nothing to stop you spending a few pennies of my council tax doing the same. Your columnist eventually resorted to getting hold of the candidate list by getting a bus into the town centre – in the snowy weather we had last week – and photographing the noticeboard:

The things I do for democracy. As shown, defending for Labour is Rebecca Minors, partner of former Labour councillor Darren Whitehead whose sudden death caused the Hulton by-election in January. The UKIP candidate is Dave Harvey, a former soldier. Also standing are 18-year-old Matthew Littler for the Conservatives, David Figgins for the Green Party, David Walsh for the Lib Dems and Paul Sanders for Farnworth and Kearsley First. We wait to see if this by-election is close enough to warrant getting the loudspeaker car out…

Parliamentary constituency: Bolton South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: BL3, BL4, BL5

David Figgins (Grn)
Dave Harvey (UKIP)
Matthew Littler (C)
Rebecca Minors (Lab)
Paul Sanders (Farnworth and Kearsley First)
David Walsh (LD)

May 2016 result Lab 1417 UKIP 1066 C 253 Grn 103 LD 89
May 2015 result Lab 2703 UKIP 1626 C 723 Grn 178 LD 144
May 2014 result Lab 1454 UKIP 1108 C 211 Grn 115 LD 73
May 2012 result Lab 1557 C 320 Grn 263 LD 178
May 2011 result Lab 1855 C 383 Grn 231 LD 226
May 2010 result Lab 2612 C 1040 LD 994 Grn 260
May 2008 result Lab 1151 LD 955 C 531 You Party 138
May 2007 result Lab 1107 LD 920 C 399 Grn 179
May 2006 result Lab 1296 C 509 LD 394
June 2004 result Lab 1484/1454/1334 LD 899/723/616 C 733/530/525

May 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Lab 1470 C 364 UKIP 91 EDP 75 LD 70 Grn 37 Aslam 34 Farmer 10

Droylsden East

Tameside council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Kieran Quinn, at the age of 57. He had suffered a heart attack while out delivering Christmas cards. Quinn had served on Tameside council since 1994, and became leader in 2010. As well as council leader, he was also chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Tameside’s representative on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

We make a return visit to Droylsden, a place where Andrew’s Previews has been very recently: there was a by-election in this ward last October. Droylsden is the westernmost of the agglomeration of mill towns east of Manchester which forms the Tameside district: it lies inside the M60 motorway and is very much a part of the Manchester built-up area which somehow never got annexed by the city.

A classic Lancashire milltown, Droylsden claims to be the birthplace of the terry towel, which was 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 Farnworth. The Metrolink came here in 2013, running along Ashton New Road to link the town to Manchester city centre and outwards 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 less deprived the neighbourhood becomes.

There was briefly a Droylsden parliamentary constituency, created in the 1950 redistribution and abolished in 1955, and if the Boundary Commission 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 generally 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 to 2016. The Kippers got within 10 points of Labour in 2014 but by 2016 the Labour lead had improved to 56-34.

In the 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Andy Burnham led the Conservative candidate here 67-19. The Tories did better in October’s by-election in which there was no UKIP candidate: Labour beat them 60-33 on that occasion.

Defending Droylsden East’s second by-election in six months is Laura Boyle, a primary school teacher. Also working in the education sector is IT professional and Conservative candidate Matt Stevenson, who returns after his second place in last October’s by-election. Shaun Offerman of the Lib Dems and Annie Train of the Green Party complete the ballot paper.

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

Laura Boyle (Lab)
Shaun Offerman (LD)
Matt Stevenson (C)
Annie Train (Grn)

Oct 2017 by-election Lab 1064 C 577 LD 63 Grn 60
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

Wollaton West

Nottingham council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Georgina Culley at the age of 65. The leader of Nottingham’s Conservative group, Culley was first elected in 1991, representing Wollaton ward until 2003 and Wollaton West since then.

We enter the Midlands and travel to the city of Nottingham for an area which is very different in character to Farnworth or Droylsden. Wollaton West ward lies in the west of the city, with around half its acreage being taken up by Wollaton Park and the ward’s housing lying to the north and west of the park. This is one of the most desirable places to live in Nottingham, with the city’s highest proportion of people in the “higher management” employment bracket and competition for places at the local schools being fierce.

One rather unexpected local resident is Batman: Wollaton Hall, former home of the Willoughby family in the middle of Wollaton Park, was used as the exterior of Wayne Manor in the 2012 Batman film, ?The Dark Knight Rises. An appropriate location: the real-life Gotham village is not far away, and by a strange coincidence the surnames of the actors who played Batman and Robin in the famously camp 1960s TV series combine to give “West Ward”.

Not that I’m suggesting that all the local residents of this particular West ward are as rich as Bruce Wayne, but this is the strongest Conservative ward in Nottingham and the party traditionally had a lock on the ward’s three seats. That, however, changed in 2013 when one of the Conservative councillors died – having suffered a stroke while out campaigning in a by-election for a neighbouring ward – and a by-election was forced. In retrospect the Conservatives made a poor choice of candidate, pitting a 22-year-old working in media and living in the city centre against a Labour candidate with firm roots in the local community. That Labour candidate, Steve Battlemuch, won the by-election by the score of 47-34, a swing of 14% since the 2011 election and a staggering 20% swing compared with 2007.

The 2015 election represented no change to the party split of two Conservatives and one Labour. Battlemuch topped the poll with an enormous personal vote – he was over a thousand votes ahead of his running-mates – and overall the Labour lead over the Conservatives was 42-39. The two Conservatives elected from this ward in 2015 form two-thirds of the Tory opposition on Nottingham city council.

So, who do Batman and the other electors have to choose from this time round for this marginal ward? The defending Conservative candidate is local resident Paul Brittain. Labour have selected Cate Woodward, who works for a Parkinson’s disease charity. Tony Sutton stands for the Lib Dems and Adam McGregor for the Greens. We have to have a DC Comics villain to complete the ballot paper, and it would appear that it’s the Joker: regular frivolous by-election candidate David Bishop is standing once again for his Bus-Pass Elvis Party and campaigning to turn a disused pub in the ward into a vegetarian casino called Viva Las Vegans. Perhaps this time the electorate will finally Love him Tender?

Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: NG8

David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis)
Paul Brittain (C)
Adam McGregor (Grn)
Tony Sutton (LD)
Cate Woodward (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 3855/2516/2492 C 3513/3501/3215 Grn 973 UKIP 928 LD 701/526/513
Oct 2013 by-election Lab 2211 C 1594 UKIP 565 LD 216 Grn 106 Church of the Militant Elvis 28
May 2011 result C 2870/2646/2593 Lab 2018/1938/1753 LD 770/601/506
Aug 2008 by-election C 2769 Lab 1042 LD 424 UKIP 220
May 2007 result C 2670/2408/2305 Lab 1169/1097/1013 LD 805/744/667 Grn 498 UKIP 483 Church of the Militant Elvis 115
May 2003 result C 2630/2563/2433 Lab 1197/1118/1087 LD 688/678/676

Oakham South East

Rutland council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tony Mathias who had served since 2015.

For our other Midlands by-election of the week we move from one county town to another. Rutland claims to be England’s smallest county (although this does rather depend on how you define “smallest” and “county”) and Oakham is its main service centre. The South East ward includes the council offices and the County Museum, and has seen some population growth in recent years with the building of new twenty-first century housing estates.

Rutland is not the most politically exciting of counties: the first election to this ward on its present boundaries, in 2003, was uncontested. The Conservatives won that one, and easily held a by-election two days before Christmas 2004 against Lib Dem opposition. Things got interesting here in 2015 when an independent slate took one of the ward’s two seats: shares of the vote were 39% each for the independent slate and the Conservatives and 22% for the Liberal Democrats.

This by-election is a straight fight with the Lib Dems withdrawing. Defending for the Conservatives is Christopher Clark, who runs a training company and is involved with the Federation of Small Businesses: he sits on a group working on the growth of local market towns and (for the moment) on an EU grant panel. Challenging Clark is independent councillor Adam Lowe, an Oakham town councillor and twice Mayor of Oakham.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough
Postcode district: LE15

Christopher Clark (C)
Adam Lowe (Ind)

May 2015 result Ind 573/468 C 570/524 LD 327
May 2011 result C 602/489 LD 449
May 2007 result C 510/501 UKIP 256
Dec 2004 by-election C 339 LD 187
May 2003 result 2 C unopposed

Little Parndon and Hare Street

Harlow council, Essex; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Jon Clempner, who had served since 2012. Clempner has also quit the Labour Party; in his resignation statement he blamed a campaign against him of harassment and bullying by the Momentum faction of the party.

For the second half of this week’s column we are in the Home Counties. We start in Harlow, one of the many New Towns developed to the north of London in the 1950s and 1960s. The Little Parndon and Hare Street developments are from those decades, and still have a large amount of social housing betraying their New Town origin. This is Harlow’s north-western ward, located immediately to the north and west of the central business district; within the ward are the Princess Alexandra Hospital, the local football and greyhound stadiums and the Pinnacles industrial area.

Harlow may have had a Conservative MP since 2010, but the constituency includes a small rural area outside the town and Harlow town itself is more Labour-inclined. Labour control the council with 18 out of 33 seats (plus this vacancy) and some of that majority comes from Little Parndon and Hare Street. This is a safe Labour ward, lost only at the low point of the Brown government in 2008 when the Conservatives won it. Clempner regained the Tory seat in 2012; in 2016 he was re-elected for a second term, beating the Conservatives 54-28. However, the Conservatives gained the local Harlow West county division in May so the Labour machine does have work to do – and losing your council leader over a factional dispute won’t help the Labour defence.

That defence is led by Chris Vince, who has experience of big campaigns: he was the Labour candidate for Essex Police and Crime Commissioner in 2016, topping the poll in Harlow borough, and fought Chelmsford in the last two general elections. The Conservative candidate is John Steer, who fought Toddbrook ward at the most recent borough election in 2016. Completing the ballot paper is Patsy Long for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Harlow
Essex county council division: Harlow West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode districts: CM19, CM20

Patsy Long (UKIP)
John Steer (C)
Chris Vince (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 1021 C 492 UKIP 365
May 2015 result Lab 1800 C 1232 UKIP 711
May 2014 result Lab 879 UKIP 680 C 442
May 2012 result Lab 1099 C 521 LD 100
May 2011 result Lab 1270 C 722 LD 137
May 2010 result Lab 1635 C 1267 LD 613
May 2008 result C 829 Lab 708 LD 163
Oct 2007 by-election Lab 794 C 598 LD 117
May 2007 result Lab 771 C 700 LD 211
May 2006 result Lab 743 C 613 LD 365
June 2004 result Lab 869 C 589 LD 404
May 2003 result Lab 707 LD 372 C 293 Socialist Alliance 66
May 2002 result Lab 911/884/859 C 446/426/410 LD 390/350/311 Socialist Alliance 175


Dacorum council, Hertfordshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Alan Fantham at the age of 82. He had served on Dacorum council since 2003, and was chairman of Northchurch parish council for more than thirty years. Away from the councils he was described as a cricket legend, having scored 27,000 runs and taken 3,500 wickets for Northchurch cricket club and serving as club secretary for over forty years.

For the only by-election of the week in a ward which could be described as rural, we travel to western Hertfordshire. Northchurch is an old settlement – a Roman villa from the first century has been excavated here – in the valley of the River Bulbourne. The Bulbourne isn’t much more than a stream but its valley forms a major artery through the Chiltern Hills, and the Roman Akeman Street, the Grand Union Canal and the West Coast Main Line all traverse the ward. As can be seen, this is an area where many pass through but few visit. Now effectively a suburb of Berkhamsted, the ward is close enough to London to have a commuter demographic.

Northchurch ward has unchanged boundaries since 1979, and in all of the ten previous elections the Conservatives have won with the Lib Dems or their predecessors in a distant second place. At the most recent poll in 2015 the Conservative lead was 60-19. The local county division (confusingly named Bridgewater) is also safe Tory.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rob McCarthy, an Aldbury parish councillor representing Tring Station ward. The Lib Dems have selected Lara Pringle, a barrister with 25 years’ experience. Completing the ballot paper are Gareth Hawden for Labour and Joe Pitts for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire county council division: Bridgewater
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton
Postcode districts: HP4, HP23

Gareth Hawden (Lab)
Rob McCarthy (C)
Joe Pitts (Grn)
Lara Pringle (LD)

May 2015 result C 980 LD 305 Lab 199 Grn 141
May 2011 result C 731 LD 190 Lab 144
May 2007 result C 627 LD 203 Lab 66
May 2003 result C 403 LD 247 Lab 53
May 1999 result C 537 LD 145 Lab 109
May 1995 result C 378 LD 282 Lab 256
May 1991 result C 578 LD 211 Lab 120 Grn 75
May 1987 result C 694 All 214 Lab 76
May 1983 result C 507 All 210 Lab 79
May 1979 result C 868 Lib 393

Rochester West

Medway council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Kelly Tolhurst. The MP for Rochester and Strood since 2015, Tolhurst is taking up a junior position in the Government Whips office.

Your columnist likes Rochester. For many years the UK quiz circuit had a regular event at the Vines United Reformed Church in this ward, which gave me an excuse to come back year after year. (The fact that the event was always in July with hot weather helped!) Rochester always rewards a visit: the well-preserved High Street, ruined castle and magnificent cathedral reek of history, while the Baggins bookshop – which claims to be England’s largest second-hand bookshop – will often reward a browse.

All these and more are within the Rochester West ward, which stretches from the town* centre south-west along the banks of the Medway. Within the ward boundaries are the village of Borstal – still home to a prison which gave its name to a former type of youth detention centre – and the impressive feats of engineering which are the Medway Bridges, taking the M2 motorway and the High Speed 1 railway line over the river. During testing of High Speed 1 in June 2003 a Eurostar train set a new UK rail speed record by crossing the Medway Bridge at 208 miles per hour, while in the same year the new M2 bridge won an award from the Concrete Society. The prison shows up in the ward’s census return, in which Rochester West makes the top 60 wards in England and Wales for the “inactive: other” economic category. Prisoners, of course, are not eligible to vote.

This is a safe Conservative ward. Kelly Tolhurst was first elected in 2011, taking over a seat vacated by Mark Reckless who had gained the parliamentary seat the previous year. Three years later Tolhurst found herself standing against Reckless in the Rochester and Strood parliamentary by-election; she lost that round, but got the better of the UKIP defector in the 2015 general election a few months afterwards. On the same day Tolhurst was re-elected to Medway council at the top of the Tory slate in Rochester West; shares of the vote were 43% for the Conservatives, 21% for Labour and 20% for UKIP.

Defending for the Conservatives is Alan Kew, a civil engineer who lives in Borstal village. The Labour candidate is Alex Paterson, who has recently joined the party’s staff after a fifteen-year career at the Daily Mirror. The UKIP candidate – in one of only two constituencies the party has ever won at Parliamentary level – is Rob McCulloch Martin. Completing the ballot paper are Sonia Hyner for the Green Party and Martin Rose for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Rochester and Strood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Medway
Postcode districts: ME1, ME2, ME3

Sonia Hyner (Grn)
Alan Kew (C)
Rob McCulloch Martin (UKIP)
Alex Paterson (Lab)
Martin Rose (LD)

May 2015 result C 2418/1884 Lab 1169/1054 UKIP 1131/1066 Grn 575/405 LD 206/142 TUSC 65
May 2011 result C 1658/1336 Lab 1029/851 Grn 280/208 LD 246/195 EDP 88
May 2007 result C 1484/1320 Lab 830/725 UKIP 328 Medway Independent Party 315/313
May 2003 resutl C 1297/1218 Lab 581/572 LD 229/228 Ind 149/121 UKIP 59

Petersfield Bell Hill

East Hampshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Thomas Spencer who had served since 2015.

We finish our progress from north to south in Hampshire within the South Downs National Park. The largest town within the National Park is possibly Petersfield, a coaching town on the London-Portsmouth road which now functions as a rural market town and tourist centre, with some commuting along the A3 to Portsmouth and London. Judging from the census return a lot of those commuters will live in Bell Hill ward, which is the western end of town between the railway station and the A3 bypass. The largest local employer is probably East Hampshire council, whose offices are within the ward.

This is a consistently Conservative ward and the main interest in its results is usually in who comes second. In 2015 that was Labour: shares of the vote were 47% for the Tories, 15% for Labour and 14% for the Lib Dems.

UKIP got within 80 votes of the Conservatives at a by-election here in mid-March 2014, but the turnout for that poll was so poor that the Conservative majority was safer than it sounds. The winner of that by-election, Peter Marshall, didn’t seek re-election the following year, so this is clearly a ward with a high councillor attrition rate. Hopefully we’ll do better this time on the turnout front, although the fact that the ward’s usual polling station is unavailable might not help in that regard. Voters are asked to attend the council offices instead.

Defending for the Conservatives is Clive Shore, who is hoping to become the ward’s fourth councillor in as many years: he is a former Petersfield town councillor and runs a consulting company. The Labour candidate is Steve Elder. David Podger is the Liberal Democrat candidate. Completing the ballot paper are Jim Makin for UKIP (who gives an address diagonally opposite that of the Labour candidate) and independent Jamie Matthews.

Parliamentary constituency: East Hampshire
Hampshire county council division: Petersfield Butser
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth
Postcode district: GU32

Steve Elder (Lab)
Jim Makin (UKIP)
Jamie Matthews (Ind)
David Podger (LD)
Clive Shore (C)

May 2015 result C 612 Lab 196 LD 181 UKIP 157 Grn 144
March 2014 by-election C 190 UKIP 110 Lab 75 LD 74
May 2011 result C 572 LD 235 Lab 193
May 2007 result C 396 LD 311 Lab 37
May 2003 result C 250 LD 210 Lab 103