Previews: 08 Nov 2018

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

There are four by-elections on Thursday 8th November 2018, with three Labour defences and one Conservative:


Bush Fair; and
Nettleswell

Harlow council, Essex; caused respectively by the resignations of Labour councillors Ian Beckett and Waida Forman. Forman, who was the deputy leader of the council, had served since 2012. Beckett was first elected in 2011; he resigned from the council after being deselected for the 2019 election.

We have now entered November, which means that there are some notices which have to be read out at this time of year. First, by the time you read these words your columnist will be out of the country: I’m off to soggy Venice to play for the Wales national quiz team in the 2018 European Quiz Championships over the weekend, and will not be reading or doing anything to do with elections until I’m back in the UK next week. Anybody who’s corresponded with me over the last few months might say “no change there” and unfortunately they are right: I have been extremely busy with work and things have got left or delayed recently. My apologies to anybody who has written to me and may have been disappointed by a lack of timely response.

Secondly, we are now less than half a year away from the next ordinary local government elections, which are due to take place on Thursday 2nd May 2019. The six-month rule is now in effect, which means that there will be no by-elections for any new vacancies which occur for council terms which are due to end in 2019. Since the majority of English local councillors are up for re-election in May 2019, this means that this column is going to get a lot quieter than normal over the next few months.

However, the six-month rule doesn’t apply retrospectively, and two of today’s four by-elections are for council seats which will be up for re-election again in May. Whoever wins those polls will not be able to rest on their laurels for long. One of those is in the Bush Fair ward of the Essex town of Harlow.

Harlow was one of the first New Towns, with construction beginning in the late 1940s to ease overcrowding in bombed-out London; it was designed with a series of neighbourhoods which were intended to be self-supporting, with their own shops, pubs and facilities. There were also some pre-existing villages incorporated into the town: the village of Tye Green now forms part of the Bush Fair ward, which is a residential area in the south-east of the town either side of Tillwicks Road. Betraying its New Town origins, over 40% of the local housing is still socially rented, and in the 2011 census Bush Fair made the top 50 wards in England and Wales for those educated to Level 1 standard – that is, 1 to 4 GCSE passes or equivalent.

To the north of Bush Fair is Netteswell ward, which lies immediately east of the town centre and was one of the earlier New Town areas to be developed. Again, Netteswell was a pre-existing village. Much of the area of the ward is taken up by the 164 acres of Harlow Town Park, which separates the ward’s housing from Harlow Town railway station.

New Towns are often noted for being politically volatile, and Harlow is a case in point. The Harlow parliamentary constituency has been a bellwether since it was created in 1974, failing to vote for the winning party at a general election since then only once (in 1979). In the May 2017 local elections the Conservatives won all four of Harlow’s seats on Essex county council, gaining three of them from Labour; a month later then-junior minister Robert Halfon was easily re-elected as MP for Harlow with a swing against him that was below the national average. Despite that, Harlow council is a Labour bastion: since coming to power in 2010 the Tories have never won more than five of the town’s eleven wards. Part of that is a boundary effect: a lot of the town’s Conservative voters are packed into two very safe wards, Church Langley and Old Harlow; and the parliamentary seat also includes four reliably-Tory wards outside the town from Epping Forest district. The effect of this is that after the May 2018 elections Labour had 20 seats on Harlow council with the Conservatives holding the other 13.

That wasn’t always the theme, mind. Both Bush Fair and Netteswell wards returned full slates of Lib Dems in 2002, when the current ward boundaries were drawn up. Netteswell developed into a three-way marginal while Bush Fair was more of a Lib Dem versus Labour contest. However, Harlow was one of the places where the Coalition led to the Liberal Democrat vote evaporating, and with the exception of a UKIP win in Bush Fair in 2014 both wards have voted Labour ever since. Not always safely, though: the Conservatives surged in both wards in May this year, with Labour leading 45-39 in Bush Fair (UKIP polling just 11% and losing their seat) and slightly more comfortably by 51-39 in Netteswell.

Not only that, but there are mutterings coming from Harlow about the influence of Momentum in the town’s Labour group. It seems fairly clear from press reports that Councillor Beckett was deselected in favour of a Momentum-backed candidate, and his is not the only recent resignation in Harlow to have been provoked by a clash with that group. This column will be back in town in December for more on that story, and there are some other vacancies coming up in a similar vein. See if you can spot them as they appear in future editions of Andrew’s Previews.

Having defeated Beckett for the Bush Fair Labour nomination, Jodi Dunne now has the chance to become a Harlow councillor rather earlier than she might have expected. Labour’s Dunne is up against the Tories’ Andreea Hardware who returns from May’s election; she is a recent University of Kent graduate and teaching assistant. Also standing are Anita Long for UKIP, Lesley Rideout for the Lib Dems and Nicholas Taylor for a new localist outfit, the Harlow Alliance Party.

In Netteswell both major parties have gone for youth in their candidate selection. Shannon Jezzard defends for Labour; she is a digital marketing administrator and another Momentum figure, and at 22 years of age can claim seniority over her Tory opponent. He is Jake Brackstone, who was just 19 when he fought this ward in May. Also standing are Mark Gough for UKIP, Robert Thurston for the Lib Dems and Alan Leverett for the Harlow Alliance Party.

Bush Fair

Parliamentary constituency: Harlow
Essex county council division: Harlow South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode district: CM18

Jodi Dunne (Lab)
Andreea Hardware (C)
Anita Long (UKIP)
Lesley Rideout (LD)
Nicholas Taylor (Harlow Alliance Party)

May 2018 result Lab 733 C 634 UKIP 180 LD 82
May 2016 result Lab 796 UKIP 429 C 370 LD 111
May 2015 result Lab 1380 C 1124 UKIP 838 LD 164
May 2014 result UKIP 744 Lab 694 C 326 LD 102 Harlow Ind 80
May 2012 double vacancy Lab 1021/877 C 259/182 UKIP 236 LD 109/90
May 2011 result Lab 1113 C 501 LD 256 UKIP 178
May 2010 result Lab 1254 LD 1134 C 1053
May 2008 result LD 860 Lab 652 C 554
May 2007 result LD 855 Lab 796 C 414
May 2006 result LD 995 Lab 693 C 357
June 2004 result Lab 751 LD 690 C 383 Ind 325
May 2003 result LD 663 Lab 624 C 140
May 2002 result LD 1086/1082/1071 Lab 868/845/838 C 224/219/215 Socialist Alliance 87

Netteswell

Parliamentary constituency: Harlow
Essex county council division: Harlow North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode district: CM20

Jake Brackstone (C)
Mark Gough (UKIP)
Shannon Jezzard (Lab)
Alan Leverett (Harlow Alliance Party)
Robert Thurston (LD)

May 2018 result Lab 791 C 601 UKIP 97 LD 65
May 2016 result Lab 749 C 372 UKIP 361 LD 89
May 2015 result Lab 1455 C 1104 UKIP 612 LD 162
May 2014 result Lab 739 UKIP 548 C 401 LD 87
May 2012 result Lab 818 C 538 LD 120
May 2011 result Lab 959 C 636 LD 206
May 2010 result Lab 1329 C 1042 LD 860
May 2008 result C 681 LD 579 Lab 540 UKIP 115
May 2007 result Lab 642 C 613 LD 594
May 2006 result LD 736 Lab 555 C 448
June 2004 result LD 627 Lab 448 UKIP 364 C 260 Ind 141
May 2003 result LD 622 Lab 406 C 153 Socialist Alliance 67
May 2002 result LD 1066/1060/1041 Lab 683/653/643 C 242/234/206 Socialist Alliance 101


Dormers Wells

Ealing council, North London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Tej Ram Bagha. He was first elected in 1994 for Mount Pleasant ward, and had represented Dormers Wells ward since 2006; Bagha was also the Mayor of Ealing in 2014-15.

We move into West London for our final Labour defence of the week. The Dormers Wells area, which is the eastern end of Southall, takes its name from an old farm and watermill called Dorman’s Well, which existed before housing was built here either side of the Second World War. There’s still a lot of open space in this area by London standards: the area east of Greenford Road is a park through which the River Brent flows, while the West Middlesex Golf Course and the Greenford Park Cemetery also provide greenery.

The rest of the ward is, however filled with semi-detached houses which have been a focus for immigration from the subcontinent, particularly the Punjab. Dormers Wells is in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for Sikhism (23% of the population), and also makes the top 100 for those born outside the EU (49%), those holding non-UK qualifications (17%), Hinduism (16%) and Asian ethnicity (58% of the population). The northern end of the ward, around Greenford Park cemetery, also recorded a high population born in Poland: this is overspill from Greenford, home to one of the UK’s longest-established Polish communities. The ward is rather poorly served by rail – the Great Western Main Line forms part of its southern boundary, but there are no convenient railway or Underground stations – and so bus use in the area is very high.

Dormers Wells is covered by Ealing council, which must be doing something right because this is the first local by-election in the borough since May 2008, and accordingly this is the first time Ealing has appeared in Andrew’s Previews. Ealing council has swung a mile to the left since the 2006 election which returned a Tory majority; but this ward was never part of that majority, and is very safe Labour under present conditions. Bagha was first elected for Dormers Wells in that 2006 election with his running-mates on the Labour slate being Tejinder Singh Dhami and Ranjit Dheer. All three of those Labour councillors were re-elected in 2010, 2014 and 2018; the vote shares in the 2018 election were 69% for the Labour slate and 16% for the Tory runners-up. The 2016 London Assembly elections, with a wider field, saw Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward’s ballot boxes 65-21 while the Labour list led 68-17 in the London Members ballot. Finishing ninth in Dormers Wells in the mayoral election was independent candidate Prince Zylinski, a genuine Polish aristocrat who subsequently founded his own political party: Duma Polska, or Polish Pride to give it its English name, finished last in Dormers Wells this May with 3% of the vote.

Defending for Labour is Mohinda Kaur Midha who is seeking to make a quick return to Ealing council: she represented Lady Margaret ward from 2010 until May. The Tories have selected Amandeep Singh Gill, who fought Norwood Green ward in May’s elections and is making action against flytippers part of his campaign. Also standing are Meena Hans for the Green Party and Nigel Bakhai for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Ealing Southall
London Assembly constituency: Ealing and Hillingdon
ONS Travel to Work Area: Slough and Heathrow
Postcode districts: UB1, UB6

Nigel Bakhai (LD)
Amandeep Singh Gill (C)
Meena Hans (Grn)
Mohinda Kaur Midha (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 2890/2842/2751 C 662/618/572 Grn 304 LD 192/136/110 Duma Polska 131/109/105
May 2014 result Lab 3059/3034/3025 C 647/635/518 LD 320/269/201
May 2010 result Lab 3289/3209/3200 C 1790/1481/1445 LD 864/691/574 Grn 290
May 2006 result Lab 1703/1661/1657 C 580/551/524 LD 424/401/336
May 2002 result Lab 1500/1417/1348 C 344/334/313 Socialist Labour 207/129/127 LD 193/174/152

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2445 C 801 Grn 126 Respect 78 UKIP 57 LD 52 Britain First 51 Women’s Equality 50 Zylinski 45 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 37 BNP 34 One Love 13
London Members: Lab 2671 C 666 Grn 124 UKIP 91 Respect 88 LD 63 Women’s Equality 61 Britain First 53 BNP 45 CPA 44 Animal Welfare 20 House Party 19


Holsworthy

Torridge council, Devon; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Ken Carroll.

For our final contest of the week we escape to the country to consider our Conservative defence. Holsworthy is a small and remote market town near the north-west corner of Devon; despite having a population comfortably under 3,000 it is a major centre for the local area. Agriculture is the main economic sector: Holsworthy has one of the largest livestock markets in the West Country, while the slurry produced by the local dairy industry creates renewable energy for the local area via one of the UK’s largest anaerobic digestors. Holsworthy was hit hard by the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, leading to a drive to bring tourists to and diversify the economy of the “Ruby Country”; the jury may be still out on that one, but in the 2011 census Holwworthy ward did come in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for part-time employment.

Holsworthy is the sort of remote place where the candidate can matter more than the party, which makes it surprising that none of the ward’s two district councillors have been re-elected since 2007. The 2015 election here returned two Conservatives, Carroll and Ian Parker, who polled 45% of the vote against 24% for UKIP and 17% for outgoing Lib Dem councillor Howard Ratledge. In 2003 and 2007 the ward returned a Lib Dem and an independent; the Lib Dems lost their seat to a second independent in a 2009 by-election but recovered it in 2011, the other seat at that election being gained by the Conservatives.

A Tory loss would cut their majority on Torridge council to just two seats going into the 2019 elections – following a by-election gain from the Lib Dems in July, they hold 19 seats plus this vacancy against eight independents, three UKIPpers, two Greens, two Lib Dems and a Labour councillor. Their defending candidate is Jon Hutchings, the Mayor of Holsworthy and landlord of the White Hart in the town. UKIP haven’t returned, and the Lib Dems have selected Christopher Styles-Power who gives an address some distance away in Shebbear, so Hutchings’ biggest challenge may come from independent candidate and retired shopkeeper John Allen, who preceded Hutchings as Mayor of Holsworthy in 2016-17 and was a district councillor for this ward from 2003 to 2007. Completing the ballot paper is Tom Hammett for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
Devon county council division: Holsworthy Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bude
Postcode district: EX22f

John Allen (Ind)
Tom Hammett (Lab)
Jon Hutchings (C)
Christopher Styles-Power (LD)

May 2015 result C 1194/816 UKIP 629 LD 464 Grn 371
May 2011 result C 741 LD 493/489
August 2009 by-election Ind 537 LD 471
May 2007 result LD 710 Ind 558/384 C 348/278 Ind 236
May 2003 result LD 784 Ind 531 C 356