Previews: 05 Jul 2018

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

There are five polls on 5th July 2018:


Kingsmead

Bath and North East Somerset council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Chris Pearce. He had served since 2015.

After last week’s focus on small towns and villages, this week is going to be mostly a tale of three cities, all of which are of different sizes and have different stories to tell. We start in the West of England with the city of Bath, and urban wards don’t come much more picturesque than this.

Rus in urbe – the country in the city – was the watchword of the architect John Wood the Elder, who in the 1760s and 1770s developed a terrace of houses looking south over the Avon valley. The Royal Crescent – as it’s now known – is arguably the pinnacle of British Georgian architecture and is a Grade I listed building in its entirety. Bath being Bath, the Crescent has a ridiculous number of associations with the great and the good. A discussion of just one its houses, number 16, will have to suffice: 16 Royal Crescent has been home at various times to Elizabeth Montagu, the social reformer and Bluestocking; the reformist nineteenth-century politician Sir Francis Burdett; his daughter, the Coutts heiress Baroness Burdett-Coutts; and Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany and heir presumptive to the British throne from 1820 to 1827. If you’d like to join the list of residents of 16 Royal Crescent, you can; it’s now a hotel.

The Royal Crescent lies in the north-east corner of Kingsmead ward, which is based on the western edge of Bath city centre. Within the ward boundaries can be found Kingsmead Square next to the river, which gives its name to the ward; and three sides of the Palladian Queen Square, another Wood conception which started the trend of Georgian architecture in the city. More modest than the grand houses on those squares is 19 New King Street, a three-storey town house built in the 1770s on a street which at the time would have been unmetalled. In 1777 19 New King Street, Bath became home to a pair of Hanoverian émigrés, noted musician and composer William Herschel and his sister Caroline; the Herschels were also interested in astronomy, and it was from here in 1781 that William Herschel achieved scientific immortality by discovering the seventh planet, Uranus. The Herschels’ house is relatively little changed from their day and is now a museum.

In the centre of the ward lies the Royal Victoria Park, which was opened in 1830 by and named after the eleven-year-old Princess Victoria of Kent; as such, it was the first of the countless geographical features to bear the name of Queen Victoria, as the Princess became seven years later. To the west of the park is Lower Weston, a residential area mostly dating from Victorian times.

I could go on about Kingsmead ward, but it would be more appropriate for me to defer to someone who knew the place well. In 2016 the late Councillor Pearce put together a 14-stop walking tour of Kingsmead ward for his friends; if you’re visiting Bath and have a couple of hours spare, why not follow in his footsteps? His instructions can be found at https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/memory-chris-pearce-kingmead-councillors-1530152

Bath Corporation did buy up some of the old Georgian properties as council lets in the aftermath of the Second World War, during which the ward was badly affected by the Bath Blitz. One of the properties on the Royal Crescent is reportedly still a council house. Kingsmead ward now has a significant student population; but socially this area is essentially still just as desirable for the educated as it was in the eighteenth century. 44% of the workforce hold degrees and a further 22% are studying for one.

Kingsmead ward has unchanged boundaries since 1976, when it was a ward returning three councillors to the former Bath city council. In the days before the city council’s abolition this was generally a safe Conservative ward, although Labour won Kingsmead in 1990 – with a majority of just twelve votes – and in 1994 the Liberal Democrats broke through with a big win for Andrew Furse. Furse wasn’t selected here for the 1995 election, the first to the modern Bath and North East Somerset council, in which Kingsmead ward’s two seats split between the Tories and Lib Dems.

However, Furse gained the Conservative seat in 1999 and has since developed a large personal vote. His Lib Dem slate had a big lead over the Conservatives in 2007; but Furse’s ward colleague Carol Paradise stood for re-election as a Conservative in 2011. Paradise lost, but while the Lib Dems were back up to two seats in Kingsmead their second candidate was over 300 votes behind Furse. The same thing happened in 2015, and this time it cost the Lib Dems their second seat, which went to Chris Pearce of the Conservatives. Shares of the vote in 2015 were 31% for the Lib Dem slate, 28% for the Conservatives, 22% for the Green Party and 13% for the Labour candidate. There have been no local elections in Bath since then, but in June last year the Conservatives lost the Bath parliamentary seat to the Liberal Democrats after two years of Tory representation.

So this could be a difficult defence for the Conservatives. They have selected Tom Hobson, a local resident, young professional and carer who came to Bath as a student in 2013 and stayed on in the city. The Lib Dem candidate is Sue Craig, who is concerned about the city decaying under the rule of the present Tory majority on the council. The Greens have reselected Eric Lucas, who works at the local hospital; he has fought the ward at each election this century, finishing as runner-up in 2015, and also stood for the Bath parliamentary seat in 2005 (saving his deposit) and 2010. Completing the ballot paper is Labour’s Sharon Gillings, a GP within the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Bath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bath
Postcode district: BA1

Sue Craig (LD)
Sharon Gillings (Lab)
Tom Hobson (C)
Eric Lucas (Grn)

May 2015 result LD 967/624 C 872/680 Grn 696/625 Lab 404 UKIP 163
May 2011 result LD 924/620 C 469/417 Grn 457 Lab 367 UKIP 94
May 2007 result LD 720/601 C 464/450 Grn 325/272 Ind 95
May 2003 result LD 615/548 C 537/532 Grn 235
May 1999 result LD 652/634 C 528/508 Lab 217/169
May 1995 result LD 583/562 C 578/560 Lab 518/516
May 1994 Bath city council result LD 868 C 584 Lab 240
May 1992 Bath city council double vacancy C 875/807 LD 453/387 Lab 372/367 Grn 346
May 1991 Bath city council result C 841 Lab 653 LD 369 Grn 92
May 1990 Bath city council result Lab 724 C 712 SLD 307 Grn 175 ABC 88
May 1988 Bath city council result C 790 Lab 465 SLD 280 Grn 140
May 1987 Bath city council result C 858 All 664 Lab 365
May 1986 Bath city council result C 750 All 476 Lab 430
May 1984 Bath city council result C 752 Lab 419 All 350
May 1983 Bath city council result C 842 Lab 429 All 356
May 1982 Bath city council result C 881 All 429 Lab 384
May 1980 Bath city council result C 914 Lab 551 Lib 171 Ecology Party 114
May 1979 Bath city council result C 1409 Lab 685 Lib 510 Ecology Party 240
May 1978 Bath city council result C 1011 Lab 723
May 1976 Bath city council result C 1145/1083/953 Lab 830/650/605


Candlewick; and


Cheap

City of London Corporation; elections to the Court of Aldermen following the retirements of Dame Fiona Woolf and Lord Mountevans respectively.

“Where London’s column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies.”
– Alexander Pope, Moral Essays

From the West of England we travel to what is simultaneously the largest city in the UK and the smallest city in England. I refer, of course, to the ancient City of London, the Square Mile which was the seed from which Greater London grew.

The Square Mile still has its own council whose structures and non-partisan nature are little modified since mediaeval times. The Corporation of London, which is the local government unit covering the old City, is the last UK democratic body to retain Aldermen. The Court of Aldermen has one member for each of the City’s 25 wards; technically they are elected for life, but by convention they seek re-election every six years and retire on reaching the age of 70.

Today we hold elections to replace two aldermen who have reached the retirement age. Dame Fiona Woolf – who despite her gender was still an Alderman in City parlance – was the Lord Mayor of London in 2013-14, becoming only the second woman in eight centuries to hold the position. In her professional life Woolf was a noted lawyer, serving as president of the Law Society in 2006-07; more recently she was the first of several chairmen to resign from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Woolf was elected to the Aldermanic bench in 2007 for Candlewick ward, as was Jeffrey Evans for Cheap ward. A shipbroker by trade, and involved with several maritime charities, Evans inherited the title of Lord Mountevans in 2014 when his elder brother died. The following year he was elected to the House of Lords in a hereditary peers’ by-election, and capped a successful 2015 by becoming Lord Mayor for 2015-16.

Lord Mountevans’ ward was Cheap, in the centre of the old city. For those who may be startled to hear anywhere in London described as cheap, the word here comes from an Old English word meaning “market”, and refers to the street of Cheapside which forms its southern boundary. The City these days is a financial district with a hard dependency on modern technology, and Cheap ward was the focus of an early demonstration of that technology: in July 1896 an Italian immigrant called Guglielmo Marconi set up a “wireless telegraphy” transmitter on the roof of a building within the ward on Newgate Street, with a receiver 300 metres away. The demonstration, of what we now call radio, worked.

Appropriately enough, the building where Marconi set up his transmitter is now the head office of BT, opposite St Paul’s tube station. Other large employers who will supply business voters for the Cheap Ward List (the City’s electoral register) include Nomura and Commerzbank, while part of the Guildhall complex – home of the City’s local government – is within the ward boundary.

Candlewick ward has a name which evokes fire in all its forms. Appropriate: in the week or two leading up to this poll we have seen a series of devastating fires on the moors above Manchester, while it was in Candlewick ward that a rather more famous fire – that of September 1666 – burned itself out. The Monument which recalls that fire still stands just outside the ward’s south-east corner, and from it King William Street climbs from Cannon Street towards the Bank and London Bridge. Underneath King William Street lie the Northern Line and DLR platforms of Bank/Monument station, presently in the throes of a rebuilding exercise to provide more passenger space.

The City’s elections are non-partisan and – in these two wards – dominated by the business vote. These wards have almost no local residents, so it’s connections among businesses and within the City establishment which will make or break these Aldermanic elections. Candlewick ward has attracted four candidates, but the establishment candidate would appear to be James de Sausmarez who is one of the two Common Councilmen for the ward. De Sausmarez is the head of Investment Trusts at Janus Henderson Investors, and is a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers. His biggest challenge may well come from Emma Edhem, a Common Councilman for Castle Baynard ward who is a barrister and international lawyer; she chairs the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce. Also standing are Jonathan Bewes, an investment banker with Standard Chartered; and William Charnley, a solicitor and Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Drapers.

Cheap ward is a more open contest with none of the ward’s three Common Councilmen seeking election to the Aldermanic bench. There are seven candidates. Taking them in alphabetical order, Timothy Becker is a barrister and regular contender at City elections in recent years without much success. Timothy Haywood, who gives a home address in far-off Rutland, is an investment manager. Andrew Heath-Richardson works in the property industry, although the fact that he’s employed by one of the City’s greatest rivals – the Canary Wharf Group – might not go down well. Richard Hills is in the private equity industry, while Robert Hughes-Penney is an investment director. Andrew Marsden is a business strategist who sits on several City groups including the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal and the Livery Committee, which has the important job of organising the mayoral and shrieval elections. Completing the ballot paper is Anthony Samuels, a notary public and vice-chairman of Surrey county council.

Candlewick

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EC3R, EC3V, EC4N, EC4R

Jonathan Bewes (Ind)
William Charnley (Ind)
James de Sausmarez (Ind)
Emma Edhem (Ind)

Cheap

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EC1A, EC2R, EC2V

Timothy Becker (Ind)
Timothy Haywood (Ind)
Andrew Heath-Richardson (Ind)
Richard Hills (Ind)
Robert Hughes-Penney (Ind)
Andrew Marsden (Ind)
Anthony Samuels (Ind)


Curborough

Lichfield council, Staffordshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jeanette Allsopp. Allopp had a long career on Lichfield district council, being first elected for Curborough ward in 1987; she lost her seat in the Tory nadir of 1995, but returned in 1999 and had continuous service since then. From 2003, following boundary changes, Allsopp represented Boley Park ward, returning to Curborough ward in 2015.

For our final city of the week we come to the Midlands. Lichfield has declined a bit since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was the ecclesiastical centre of Mercia; and since Georgian times when it was associated with such luminaries as Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Anna Seward. The Industrial Revolution passed the place by, and it wasn’t until after the Second World War that the population started to expand in earnest.

Much of the early expansion in the 1960s and 1970s was concentrated in what’s now Curborough ward, which still has a large amount of council housing although it’s not the city’s most deprived ward. That legacy can be seen in Labour winning Curborough ward in 2003, although the party lost it in 2007: the Tories gained two of the Labour seats and an independent won the other. The Conservatives got a full slate in 2011 but the ward remained a Tory-Labour marginal, and it was still marginal in 2015. The 2015 election was the first on the present boundaries, with only two councillors rather than three as previously: shares of the vote were 41% for the Conservatives, 33% for Labour and 25% for UKIP. On the other hand, Staffordshire has swung strongly towards the Conservatives at all levels of government since 2015; the local county council division, Lichfield City North, was a resounding Tory gain from Labour in last year’s county election.

It will be interesting to see whether this by-election reflects the recent pro-Tory trend in Staffordshire. Defending for the party is Jayne Marks, who sits on the parish-level Lichfield city council and is hoping to make the step up to district council level. Labour’s Colin Ball, the only candidate to give an address in the ward, returns from the 2015 election and is running hard on a local controversy – the recent cancellation by the council of the Friarsgate project, a shopping and leisure development which would have expanded the city centre but failed to find a private-sector backer. UKIP have withdrawn from the fray, but the Lib Dems have turned up for this by-election by selecting Lee Cadwallader-Allen.

Parliamentary constituency: Lichfield
Staffordshire county council division: Lichfield City North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode district: WS13

Colin Ball (Lab)
Lee Cadwallader-Allen (LD)
Jayne Marks (C)

May 2015 result C 795/790 Lab 637/612 UKIP 488


Shifnal South and Cosford

Shropshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Stuart West. He had thirteen years’ service in local government, being first elected in 2005 to the former Shropshire county council from Shifnal division; West had sat on the modern Shropshire council since its creation in 2009.

We finish the week by crossing the county boundary from Staffordshire into Shropshire. Shifnal lies at the eastern end of the county, being a market town between Telford and Wolverhampton. Like Bath and Lichfield, Shifnal flourished in the Georgian era when it was a coaching centre and market town serving the local coal and iron industries. One of those services was the Shropshire Banking Company, created here in 1836 from the merger of four local banks; but in 1856 it was revealed that the bank had suffered one of the biggest frauds in Victorian Britain, with almost £244,000 having been siphoned off by employees. The directors saved the company by putting in a huge cash injection to cover the losses, and it ended up as part of the Lloyds empire.

Financial crime seems to be a theme in Shifnal. A more modern fraud in the town came to light in 2009 with the collapse of Wrekin Construction and the consequent loss of 420 jobs. Wrekin Construction’s assets included the Gem of Tanzania, an uncut ruby with a weight of 2 kilograms, which was valued on the balance sheet at £11 million; it transpired that the valuation had been forged, and the Gem was subsequently auctioned off for just £8,000. Lloyds closed the old Shropshire Banking Company premises in 2016, and Barclays pulled out of the town the following year after their branch suffered two armed robberies in four years; as a result, Shifnal no longer has a bank.

As the name suggests this ward isn’t just Shifnal. The second half of the name is Cosford, whose economy is dominated by the Royal Air Force. RAF Cosford is used year-round for flight training, and also hosts a branch of the RAF Museum and the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, together with – on the second Sunday in June – the Cosford Air Show. The military presence is reflected in the ward’s census return: Shifnal South and Cosford is in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for the ONS “intermediate” occupational group.

Shifnal had an independent tradition before Shropshire’s local government was reorganised in 2009, but Stuart West had had a safe seat since then. In 2013 he was opposed only by UKIP, and at the most recent Shropshire election in 2017 West led independent candidate Andy Mitchell – who had been the UKIP candidate here in 2013 – by 57% to 31%.

Defending for the Conservatives is Edward Bird, who works in the further and higher education sector. Andy Mitchell, the present Deputy Mayor of Shifnal, is having another go as an independent; another Shifnal-based independent on the ballot is David Carey, who finished last as the Labour candidate here in 2009. Completing the candidate list, and returning from the 2017 election, is Jolyon Hartin of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: The Wrekin
ONS Travel to Work Area: Telford (part of Shifnal parish), Wolverhampton and Walsall (Boscobel, Donington and Tong parishes)
Postcode districts: ST19, TF11, WV7, WV8

Edward Bird (C)
David Carey (Ind)
Jolyon Hartin (LD)
Andy Mitchell (Ind)

May 2017 result C 668 Ind 368 LD 133
May 2013 result C 658 UKIP 443
June 2009 result C 731 LD 415 UKIP 235 Lab 151