Previews: 20 Jun 2019

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

There are seven local councils polls on 20th June 2019, with ten seats up for election and plenty of chances for seats to change hands. Read on…


Walkden South

Salford council, Greater Manchester; postponed from 2nd May following the death of Andrew Darlington, who had been nominated as a Conservative candidate.

To start the week on a personal note, I’d like to pay tribute to one of the unsung heroes of psephology. In 2006 a Tory activist called Iain Lindley set up a bulletin board on the Internet for discussion of the local elections that year, and once the polls were over he kept it going. This evolved into the Vote UK Discussion Forum, which is still going strong today as a place for followers of politics both amateur and professional to hang out and discuss elections and whatever else takes our fancy. Your columnist has been a member or lurker since the very earliest days. Because he established Vote UK, I owe all sorts of debts to Iain Lindley which can never adequately be repaid.

While all this was going on, Iain Lindley was a Salford councillor; he was elected in 2004 as a member for Walkden South ward at the top of the Conservative slate. An impressive achievement. Just outside the congested M60 motorway, Walkden is a classic mining and textile centre which has become a dormitory town for the big city; the A580 East Lancashire road, the Atherton railway line and the misguided bus all link Walkden to Salford and that place beyond. The South ward of Walkden, south of the A6 road and including the town’s railway station, is a lot more upmarket than the North ward or (shudder) Lickle Hulton, and parts of it resemble leafy Worsley. A comparison encouraged by the Royal Mail who have been exceptionally helpful to the local estate agents: they don’t recognise Walkden as a town and the whole place has “Worsley, Manchester” addresses.

The present Walkden South ward boundary dates from 2004, and this is likely to be its last election as the Boundary Commission are working on a new map for Salford to come in at the 2020 election. In 2004 Walkden South was close three ways, with one Labour councillor and two Conservatives elected. The Lib Dems, who had been a close third in 2004, then fell away very quickly and Walkden South turned into possibly the only classic marginal ward in Salford. The Conservatives convincingly gained the Labour seat in 2008, but Labour got it back in 2012 (by a majority of 55 votes) and gained a second seat in 2018, defeating the Conservatives by 51% to 40%. Laura Edwards, the Labour candidate who won Walkden South that year, was just 19 years old at the time and became the youngest-ever Salford councillor.

That suggests an uphill task for the Tories in holding this seat, a defence which will be made more difficult by the fact that Iain Lindley is retiring after fifteen years’ service. He had been the parliamentary candidate for the local seat of Worsley and Eccles South in 2015 and 2017, and his results in 2011 and 2015 suggest he had developed a personal vote. To replace Lindley the Conservatives had selected Andrew Darlington, a 68-year-old who had had several goes at unwinnable Salford wards in the past. We’ll never know what sort of a councillor Darlington would have made.

The second replacement Conservative candidate is David Cawdrey. Labour have selected Joshua Brooks. Also standing are Thomas Dylan for the Green Party, John-Paul Atley for the Liberal Democrats and Tony Green for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Worsley and South Eccles ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester Postcode districts: M28, M38

John-Paul Atley (LD) Joshua Brooks (Lab) David Cawdrey (C) Thomas Dylan (Grn) Tony Green (UKIP)

May 2018 result Lab 1460 C 1157 Grn 159 LD 113 May 2016 result Lab 1421 C 1266 UKIP 390 Grn 149 TUSC 29 MAy 2015 result C 2162 Lab 1969 UKIP 749 Grn 238 TUSC 76 May 2014 result C 1186 Lab 1105 UKIP 626 Grn 145 EDP 55 May 2012 result Lab 1169 C 1116 UKIP 269 Grn 159 LD 105 EDP 88 May 2011 result C 1784 Lab 1379 UKIP 167 LD 142 EDP 117 May 2010 result C 2026 Lab 1815 LD 1015 BNP 285 EDP 203 May 2008 result C 1649 Lab 815 LD 458 EDP 336 May 2007 result C 1578 Lab 839 LD 274 BNP 225 Grn 179 May 2006 result C 1385 Lab 900 LD 632 June 2004 result Lab 1031/928/858 C 1010/1008/978 LD 921/855/825 Ind 222


Farington West

South Ribble council, Lancashire; postponed from 2nd May following the death of outgoing Conservative councillor Graham Walton, who had been nominated for re-election. He was first elected in 2011.

For our second postponed poll in Lancashire past and present, let’s recall a name which will have resonance for people who are older than your columnist: British Leyland. An engineering conglomerate which was nationalised in 1975 by the second Wilson government, British Leyland at its peak supplied 40 per cent of the UK car market but also had significant interests in commercial vehicles.

That interest started off in 1896, with the founding of the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in Leyland to manufacture steam-powered vehicles. They quickly diversified into petrol engines, a move which was marked by a change of name to Leyland Motors. The company grew quickly in the 1960s and ultimately over-extended itself, with financial difficulties which led to the nationalisation and the new name “British Leyland”. The new government owners eventually sold off the various bits, with the company’s truck division merging with the Dutch company DAF Trucks to form Leyland DAF. Leyland DAF went bust in the 1990s recession, but the British truck division survived thanks to a management buy-out and is still trading today. Now a subsidiary of the American truck manufacturer Paccar, Leyland Trucks makes around 14,000 lorries every year for the British and European markets.

Those trucks are assembled in the Farington West ward of the South Ribble district. This is a ward of utterly flat land between Leyland and the Preston suburb of Lostck Hall, and as a consequence is rather diffuse; parts of both Leyland and Lostock Hall are included in Farington West ward, together with the village of Farington Moss. The West Coast Main Line forms much of the eastern boundary, and there is an ancient sign here marking the midpoint of the route between London and Glasgow.

Farington West has returned Conservative councillors since 2007 when the Lib Dem vote in South Ribble district fell apart. In 2015, on slightly revised boundaries, the Conservatives had 52% of the vote to 35% for Labour. However, this is another of the districts where the Conservatives lost an overall majority in the May 2019 local elections; the party lost six seats in South Ribble putting them on 21, against 22 for Labour, five Lib Dems and the two vacant seats in this ward. Labour have formed a minority administration with the support of the Liberal Democrats, and that should withstand this final result even if the Conservatives hold both seats and become the largest party. At other levels of government Farington West is within safely-Conservative electoral units; the party polled 68% in the Moss Side and Farington division of Lancashire county council two years ago, while some bizarre boundaries mean that this is not part of the South Ribble parliamentary seat (which covers Leyland and Penwortham) but is instead included in the sprawling Ribble Valley constituency which Nigel Evans holds in the Conservative interest.

Graham Walton’s ward colleague was his wife (now widow) Karen, and she is seeking re-election for a second term along with replacement Tory candidate Steven Thurlbourn. Thurlbourn had contested the Labour-held Seven Stars ward in May, but this should be a better prospect for him. The Labour slate is Emma Buchanan and Ryan Hamilton. Completing the ballot paper are the Lib Dem slate of Judith Davidson and Alison Hesketh-Holt.

Parliamentary constituency: Ribble Valley (almost all), South Ribble (very small part) Lancashire county council division: Moss Side and Farington ONS Travel to Work Area: Preston Postcode districts: PR4, PR5, PR26

May 2015 result C 1045/919 Lab 709/540 LD 255/134


Pelenna

Neath Port Talbot council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of independent councillor Martin Ellis who had served since 2012.

“Pontrhydyfen is, stick for stick and stone for stone, blade of grass for blade of grass, virtually the same, exactly as it was when I was a child.”

For our Welsh by-election this week we are in a particularly remote part of the South Wales Valleys. The short River Pelenna rises in the hills to the east of Neath, flowing south-west through Tonmawr to a confluence with the River Afan at the village of Pontrhydyfen. This is an area of hillsides and woodlands which belie a coalmining past, and as with many coalmining areas the local list of famous sons and daughters is dominated by figures from the entertainment world. The opera singer Rebecca Evans and the actor and singer Ivor Emmanuel (Private Owen in Zulu) were both born in Pontrhydyfen, as was one of the most famous actors of all time: Richard Jenkins junior, born here in 1925, later became known the world over under the name of Richard Burton and supplied the quote at the top of this paragraph. His Appreciation Society is based in Pontrhydyfen.

In 1925 Pontrhydyfen was unusual for South Wales in being a strongly Welsh-speaking area; the census taken six years later found that 85% of the village’s population spoke Welsh. Knowledge of the language is still relatively high today, reflecting the remote nature of the area. Pelenna division makes the top 90 wards in England and Wales for population born in the UK.

Now, don’t let anybody tell you that your vote never changed anything. Martin Ellis had been independent councillor for Pelenna since 2012, taking over after Labour councillor Lance Whiteley retired; he was elected in that year with a narrow majority of 25 votes over Plaid Cymru candidate Jeremy Hurley. The 2017 election here, however, turned up with four strong candidates. Ellis polled just 133 votes, but that was enough to be re-elected by one vote as Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Miles finished on 132. Independent candidate Peter Hughes had 114, while Andrew Jones of Labour came in last with a respectable 90 votes. In terms of vote shares, Ellis and Plaid had 28% each, Hughes had 24% and Labour 19%.

Surely this by-election can’t be that close; but then again it’s difficult to pick a winner from the candidate list. There are two independent candidates vying to succeed Ellis, Peter Hughes (who was third here in 2017) and Jeremy Hurley (who was runner-up as the Plaid Cymru candidate in 2012). Hurley gives an address in Tonmawr, Hughes some distance away in Maesteg. Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Miles, a Pontrhydyfen resident, is also back looking for the one extra vote he needs to win, and Labour’s Andrew Jones returns to the fray as well. Very unusually for a local by-election there is no Conservative candidate, so Frank Little of the Lib Dems completes the Pelenna ballot paper.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Neath ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Postcode districts: SA11, SA12

Peter Hughes (Ind) Jeremy Hurley (Ind) Andrew Jones (Lab) Frank Little (LD) Hywel Miles (PC)

May 2017 result Ind 133 PC 132 Ind 114 Lab 90 May 2012 result Ind 252 PC 227 Lab 64 May 2008 result Lab 279 LD 170 June 2004 result Lab unopposed May 1999 result Lab unopposed May 1995 result Lab 408 PC 206


Newent and Taynton

Forest of Dean council, Gloucestershire; postponed from 2nd May following the death of David Humphreys, who had been nominated as a Green Party candidate.

For our last piece of unfinished business from the May local elections we travel to the beautiful Welsh Marches. The Marches specialise in beautiful tiny market towns, of which Newent is typical. On the northern edge of the Forest of Dean, Newent has had a market since the thirteenth century and its beautiful town centre is still full of the beautiful half-timbered buildings you get all over this beautiful part of England. (Did I say that the Marches are beautiful?) The town was connected to the outside world in the eighteenth century by the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire Canal, which linked the Severn at Gloucester to the Wye at Hereford; the canal was later converted to a railway which is now gone, but there is a canal restoration project ongoing. Tourists now come to Newent for the Onion Fayre every September and the International Birds of Prey Centre, while modern sons and daughters of Newent include the Wales rugby star Alex Cuthbert and the record producer Joe Meek, whom we can thank for producing this…

Newent is in the Forest of Dean district, which this column described as a fragmented political mess a few weeks back. The 2019 elections haven’t noticeably changed this, although there were extensive boundary changes to make detailed comparison difficult; ten seats were abolished by the Boundary Commission, and the Conservatives lost eleven of them. At the moment there are two different independent groups totalling 14 councillors, 10 Conservatives, six Greens and five Labour councillors with the three seats in this ward still to come in. The independents, Greens and Labour have formed a coalition which should command the 20 seats necessary to run the council regardless of this result.

Newent and Taynton is a brand-new ward created by this year’s boundary changes, taking in the old Newent Central ward together with parts of the former Oxenhall/Newent NE and Tibberton wards. In the 2015 election Newent Central elected independent candidate Julia Gooch and Conservative Len Lawton, Oxenhall and Newent North East returned Conservative candidate Craig Lawton and Tibberton also voted for a Conservative, Jane Horne. Craig Lawton stood down at this election, while Horne sought re-election in May in the new Mitcheldean, Ruardean and Drybrook ward where she finished tenth out of eleven candidates. The Conservatives had big leads in the 2017 Gloucestershire county elections for the two divisions covering this ward, and failed Tory leadership candidate Mark Harper has been the local MP since 2005.

Independent councillor Julia Gooch and the Conservatives’ Len Lawton are both seeking re-election; Gooch has served since 2011, Lawton since 2007. Joining Lawton on the Conservative slate are Eli Heathfield – who was runner-up in Newent Central four years ago – and Nick Winter, while Simon Holmes and Edward Wood are also standing as independent candidates alongside Gooch. The Greens had indulged in their occasional practice in multi-seat wards of nominating specific First, Second and Third Choice candidates, and this poll has highlighted a problem with that; the late David Humphreys was originally the First Choice candidate, but it wasn’t possible to change the nominations for this postponed poll so the replacement Green candidate Bob Rhodes has had to go in as First Choice ahead of already-nominated David Price (2nd) and Johnny Back (3rd), both of whom are local residents whereas Rhodes is not. The Liberal Democrats have nominated a slate of Steve Martin, Gill Moseley and Vilnis Vesma, while Labour’s Jean Sampson completes a ballot paper of thirteen candidates chasing three seats.

Parliamentary constituency: Forest od Dean Gloucestershire county council division: Newent (part: Newent parish), Mitcheldean (part: Taynton parish) ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester Postcode districts: GL17, GL18, GL19

Johnny Back (Grn) Julia Gooch (Ind) Eli Heathfield (C) Simon Holmes (Ind) Len Lawton (C) Steve Martin (LD) Gill Moseley (LD) David Price (Grn) Bob Rhodes (Grn) Jean Sampson (Lab) Vilnis Vesma (LD) Nick Winter (C) Edward Wood (Ind)

No previous results on these boundaries


Furzedown

Wandsworth council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Candida Jones who is taking up a politically-restricted job. She had served since 2014.

Back to the by-elections for another year, and it’s time to head to that London. South London is an area of urban sprawl, and Furzedown is typical of this; located to the west of Streatham and the south of Tooting Common, it’s a residential area which was mostly laid out in the Edwardian era on the site of a former golf course. The main local feature is the Graveney School, a secondary school whose former pupils include the England rugby star Kyle Sinckler and the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan; a halls of residence for the University of the Arts London also creates a significant student population in term time.

Furzedown is just over the border from Streatham, represented by noted Labour MP Chuka (checks notes) – oh. Unlike Mr Umunna, Furzedown ward has swung strongly to the left over the last decade, a swing all the more accentuated by the fact that we are in the London Borough of Wandsworth, where normal political rules do not apply. Wandsworth has a long-standing Tory administration which can reach the parts other Tory administrations can’t thanks to aggressive low-tax policies, and the party did well enough to win two out of three seats in Furzedown at the 2002 election. Labour gained one of those seats in 2006 and got a full slate in 2010, since when it has been plain sailing for the left; in the May 2018 local elections Labour led the Conservatives by 64% to 21%.

Top of that Labour slate was Leonie Cooper, who two years earlier had been elected to the London Assembly by gaining the Merton and Wandsworth constituency from the Conservatives at the third attempt; she polled 66% of the vote in her home ward, but that was eclipsed in the mayoral ballot by Sadiq Khan who was MP for the local seat of Tooting at the time. Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in Furzedown by 70-18, a much bigger lead over the Conservatives than the 59-17 margin Labour enjoyed in the London Members ballot.

Labour’s candidate to replace Candida Jones (whose name my typing fingers keep autocorrecting to Candidate Jones; clearly I’ve been doing this too long) is Graham Loveland who, according to his Twitter, has lived in the ward for 27 years. The Conservatives have reselected Nabi Toktas, a local businessman who finished sixth here in the 2018 election. Also standing on an all-male ballot paper are Gerard Harrison for the Green Party and Jon Irwin for the Liberal Democrats. Since May 2019 local election candidates in England have been able to redact their addresses on ballot papers, and this is the first poll covered by Andrew’s Previews where every candidate has chosen to do so; all the electors of Furzedown will see when they cast their vote is the candidate and party name and logo and the words “(address in Wandsworth)”.

Parliamentary constituency: Tooting ONS Travel to Work Area: London Postcode districts: SW16, SW17

Gerard Harrison (Grn) Jon Irwin (LD) Graham Loveland (Lab) Nabi Toktas (C)

MAy 2018 result Lab 3488/3371/3254 C 1174/1167/982 Grn 526 LD 292/197/190 May 2014 result Lab 3101/2852/2829 C 1107/1036/990 Grn 530/511 UKIP 303 LD 254 TUSC 121 May 2010 result Lab 3750/3527/3321 C 2116/2083/1818 LD 1102/908/769 Grn 565/507 May 2006 result C 2033/1856/1837 Lab 2012/2010/1869 Grn 564 LD 316/298/274 May 2002 result Lab 1727/1608/1606 C 1696/1651/1572 Grn 395 LD 298/253/229

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters) Mayor: Lab 3496 C 890 Grn 227 LD 113 UKIP 59 Women’s Equality 55 Respect 39 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 30 Zylinski 30 Britain First 18 BNP 13 One Love 4 London Member: Lab 2930 C 866 Grn 433 Women’s Equality 203 LD 189 UKIP 128 Respect 65 CPA 57 Animal Welfare 42 Britain First 24 BNP 19 House Party 18


Cannon Hill

Merton council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mark Kenny who had served since May 2018.

Hmm. It’s summer (although you wouldn’t know it from the weather forecast) so like clockwork here is Wimbledon (and wouldn’t you know it from the weather forecast). The Cannon Hill ward lies a couple of miles south of Wimbledon town centre around a common of the same name; this is later than Furzedown, with the housing dating from the 1930s when the railways came to this part of London. On the ward boundary is South Merton railway station on the Sutton Loop line, which opened in 1929 as one of the last railway lines to be built within the capital.

From the demographics it sounds like this should be a Conservative area; but Cannon Hill ward jumped a mile to the left in the 2014 election to suddenly return three Labour councillors. The Tories got one seat back in 2018 in a very close result, with both main parties polling 43%; although the Conservatives’ Nicholas McLean topped the poll, the detailed vote split meant that Labour held the other two seats. Mark Kenny was elected to the third and final seat with 1,636 votes, 74 ahead of the second Conservative candidate. Following the 2018 elections Labour remained in control of Merton council; they currently have 33 seats plus this vacancy against 17 Tories, six Lib Dems and three Merton Park residents, so the Labour majority is not in danger. The 2016 GLA results were also close: Zac Goldsmith beat Sadiq Khan 41-38 in the ward’s ballot boxes, while in the London Members ballot Labour led with 35% against 33% for the Conservatives and 10% for UKIP.

So, expect another close result. Defending for Labour is Ryan Barnett, who works in Westminster as an adviser on economic policy. The Conservatives have reselected Michael Paterson who was runner-up here last year. Also standing are Jenifer Gould for the Liberal Democrats, Andrew Mills for UKIP and Suzie O’Connor for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Wimbledon ONS Travel to Work Area: London Postcode districts: SM4, SW20

Ryan Barnett (Lab) Jenifer Gould (LD) Andrew Mills (UKIP) Suzie O’Connor (Grn) Michael Paterson (C)

May 2018 result C 1644/1562/1406 Lab 1642/1636/1445 LD 411/313/303 UKIP 141 May 2014 result Lab 1686/1661/1556 C 1227/1153/1081 UKIP 697 LD 254/227/131 May 2010 result C 2195/1967/1860 Lab 1355/1169/1094 LD 1195/1050/1007 Ind 498 BNP 378 CPA 149 May 2006 result C 1778/1748/1681 Lab 814/812/678 LD 450/423/416 Pensions Action Alliance 383 May 2002 result C 1396/1341/1277 Lab 893/803/785 LD 351/333/319 Ind 215 UKIP 175 Grn 153/119/98

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters) Mayor: C 1279 Lab 1182 Grn 153 LD 150 UKIP 144 Women’s Equality 42 Respect 35 Britain First 32 BNP 25 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 21 Zylinski 13 One Love 8 London Members: Lab 1084 C 1027 UKIP 295 Grn 204 LD 175 Women’s Equality 95 CPA 51 Britain First 50 Animal Welfare 42 Respect 40 BNP 33 House Party 9


Whippingham and Osborne

Isle of Wight council; caused by the resignation of Julia Baker-Smith, who had been elected as an independent candidate and subsequently joined the Labour Party. She has relocated to Manchester. Baker-Smith was first elected in 2013 and was a former leader of the Island Independent group on the Isle of Wight council.

For our final by-election we travel offshore to a place which inspired royalty. In the early nineteenth century the young Princess Victoria spent two holidays on the Isle of Wight; she then inherited the throne as Queen Victoria, and married a German prince who thought the views of the Solent reminded him of the Bay of Naples. The stars aligned. Victoria and Albert bought Osborne House, a minor Georgian mansion on the north coast of the island near the village of East Cowes, demolished it and built something grander.

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on 22nd January 1901, and the new king presented it to the nation. Following a spell as a naval officer training college (Robert Graves and A A Milne convalesced there after being injured in the First World War) Osborne is now open to the public.

Victoria and Albert also took an interest in Whippingham, the nearest village to Osborne. This is reflected in the local church, dedicated to St Mildred, which has a chapel dedicated to the Battenberg/Mountbatten family; several members of that family are buried there. Uffa Fox, the yachtsman and boat designer, is also interred at St Mildred’s; an appropriate location as Whippingham is just across the Medina estuary from the yachting town of Cowes.

The Isle of Wight last went to the polls in May 2017. That was a very good year for the Conservatives who took back control from an independent group that had won the 2013 election – rather the reverse of the trends we have seen this year. Julia Baker-Smith was one of the independents who had defeated the Conservatives in 2013 – under her then name of Julia Hill – and she held her seat quite easily in 2017, beating the Conservatives 57-26.

With Baker-Smith’s defection to Labour this by-election is looking rather more complicated. Defending for Labour is Luisa Hillard, who was an independent councillor for the neighbouring East Cowes ward from 2013 to 2017 when she lost her seat. The Island Independent Network will also want their seat back, and they have selected Ryde town councillor Karen Lucioni. There is another independent candidate in the mix, East Cowes parish councillor Michael Paler who runs a sport photography agency. The Conservatives may well be hoping to come though the middle of all this; their candidate is East Cowes resident Stephen Hendry who stood here in 2013 and got snookered by Baker-Smith. Also standing are Julie Burridge for the Liberal Democrats and Rose Lynden-Bell for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Isle of Wight ONS Travel to Work Area: Isle of Wight Postcode district: PO32

Julie Burridge (LD) Stephen Hendry (C) Luisa Hillard (Lab) Karen Lucioni (Island Ind Network) Rose Lynden-Bell (UKIP) Michael Paler (Lnd)

May 2017 result Ind 692 C 313 Lab 146 LD 62 May 2013 result Ind 646 C 398 June 2009 result C 414 Ind 398 LD 235 Lab 60


Andrew Teale is Britain Elects’ by-election previewer and also edits the Local Elections Archive Project.