Previews: 11 Jul 2019

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

Before we start this week, there is an entry for Correction Corner. Last week’s Middlesbrough preview clearly touched a nerve with some Teesside Corbynites on Twitter, who have asked me to clarify that although the Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston did move back up north his residence is outside the borough boundary. I am happy to make this clear, although I am tempted to point out that if you came across to the electorate the same way you came across to me then that might go some way towards explaining just how badly the Labour Party did in the by-election. I used to resolve complaints for a living, so let me give you a tip: if the person resolving your complaint has to make a decision which could reasonably go either way, it will be easier to make a case in favour of the complainant if the complaint is a polite one.

There are two local by-elections on 11th July 2019:


Bridlington North

East Riding council, East Yorkshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Richard Harrap. A retired travel agent and former Mayor of Bridlington, Harrap had served since 1999 and had been a member of the East Riding cabinet since 2003, latterly holding the adult and carer services portfolio.

It’s July, it’s holiday season, so let’s go to the beach. Bridlington is a good location for that, with its wide sandy beach produced by extensive coastal erosion. At Bridlington the geology changes and with it the coast, as the soft clay cliffs of East Yorkshire are replaced by the harder chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head which lie within this ward. These are the only chalk seacliffs in the North of England, and they’ve seen a lot of history. Danes Dyke, a prehistoric ditch, forms a defensive barrier across the headland; while in September 1779 you could look from the cliffs onto the Battle of Flamborough Head, a victory for John Paul Jones and his Franco-American naval squadron during the American War of Independence. These days those who cast their gaze on the cliffs tend to be birdwatchers, on the lookout for migrant birds and the seabirds that nest here.

Just outside the protection of Danes Dyke is Sewerby Hall, a Georgian country house in extensive gardens which has recently reopened to the public as a museum. The hall lies on the outskirts of Bridlington, a minor port and classic seaside resort which is home to most of the ward’s population. Bridlington lies on a bay which has been known since antiquity: Ptolemy, in his 2nd-century AD atlas, described it as a “bay suitable for a harbour”, and 2nd-century BC Greek coins have been found by archaeologists in the modern Bridlington harbour area.

The modern population of Bridlington may not be Greek but does tend towards the ancient. In the 2011 census Bridlington North ward ranked 12th in England and Wales for retired population (37% of the workforce) and made the top 50 wards for those aged 65 or over. Anybody under 45 living here is young.

In that context it should not be a surprise to find that this is a strongly Conservative ward in normal conditions, although UKIP did take a seat off the Tories in 2015. The Kipper councillor didn’t seek re-election in May this year and the three-strong Conservative slate was opposed only by a single Labour candidate, who was crushed 71-29. Bridlington is the major town in the East Yorkshire parliamentary seat, which provides a secure base for Tory MP Sir Greg Knight.

This by-election has much more choice for the local electors with eight candidates standing. Defending for the Conservatives is Martin Burnhill who has recently retired after a 46-year career at Sewerby Hall, rising from 16-year-old assistant gardener to senior manager at East Riding council which owns the hall. Standing for Labour is Mike Dixon, a Bridlington town councillor. Former Mayor of Bridlington Terry Dixon is standing as an independent candidate, as he did in 2015 (finishing last out of six candidates in this ward with a creditable 18%). Mike Heslop-Mullins is the ward’s first Lib Dem candidate since 2007; he is a Bridlington town councillor, as is independent candidate Thelma Milns who was the UKIP councillor here from 2015 to 2019. Former town councillor David Robson is a third independent candidate on the ballot; he is another former UKIP East Riding councillor, representing Bridlington South ward from 2015 to 2019. Official UKIP candidate Gary Shores comes hotfoot from the recent European Parliament elections, when he was on the party’s list for Yorkshire and the Humber. Completing the ballot paper is Paul Walker, a businessman standing for the devolutionist Yorkshire Party which won two seats on East Riding council in May.

Parliamentary constituency: East Yorkshire ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridlington Postcode districts: YO15, YO16

Martin Bunhill (C) Mike Dixon (Lab) Terry Dixon (Ind) Mike Heslop-Mullins (LD) Thelma Milns (Ind) David Robson (Ind) Gary Shores (UKIP) Paul Walker (Yorks Party)

May 2019 result C 2101/2050/1929 Lab 855 May 2015 result C 3115/2505/1904 UKIP 2185 Lab 1796 Ind 1533 May 2011 result C 2713/2449/2161 Lab 1313/1085/990 May 2007 result C 2231/1921/1894 LD 1225/1223 BNP 1162 Lab 757/675 May 2003 result C 1487/1319/1275 Ind 718/546/517/239 LD 520/588 Lab 571/499 SDP 426/202/183


Whitecross

Herefordshire council; caused by the disqualification of It’s Our County (Herefordshire) councillor Sue Boulter, who was elected to Herefordshire council on 2nd May 2019 while ineligible to stand. The Mayor of Hereford in 2018-19, Boulter is disqualified from being a Herefordshire councillor as she has a support role with the council’s education department.

For our other by-election this week we travel to the southern capital of the beautiful Welsh Marches, the city of Hereford. Whitecross ward lies in the west of the city along the main road towards Brecon and Radnorshire, which we shall hear rather more of in this column in due course. The ward covers housing which is mostly from the 1950s and which includes a large Welsh-born population.

This ward was created in 2015 having previously been the western half of St Nicholas ward. St Nicholas had a high councillor attrition rate, with by-elections taking place in 2004, 2010 and 2012; the 2010 election was the first success for a localist party called It’s Our County, which quickly established itself after that as the major opposition to the Conservatives on Herefordshire council. It’s Our County held the 2012 by-election with a celebrity candidate, the classical music composer Anthony Powers who is notable enough to have his own Wikipedia page. The first election for Whitecross ward in 2015 was held by It’s Our County on a low share of the vote against fragmented opposition; Sue Boulter made the ward safe in May by polling 48% of the vote, against 20% for UKIP and 18% for the Liberal Democrats.

That 2019 Herefordshire council election saw the county’s Conservative administration, which had an appalling reputation locally, deservedly crash and burn. Similar to what we saw in Middlesbrough last week, the new independent-led administration has had a few teething problems with defections, as a five-strong splinter group called “True Independents” has been been formed since the election reducing the coalition’s majority to just three seats. The Herefordshire Independents lead the administration with 13 seats; their junior coalition partners are It’s Our County (seven councillors plus this vacancy) and the Greens (seven councillors). The Tories (13), Lib Dems (7) and True Independents (5) form the opposition.

Sue Boulter wasn’t able to seek re-election as Herefordshire council required her to work her notice period. Instead her husband Dave Boulter will seek to hold Whitecross ward for It’s Our County. UKIP have not returned after their second-place finish two months ago. The Lib Dems have reselected Tricia Hales, who came third here in May; she is involved in various charities and for many years has organised an annual raft race on the River Wye here. Completing the ballot paper is Rob Williams for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford Postcode district: HR4

Dave Boulter (It’s Our County) Tricia Hales (LD) Rob Williams (C)

May 2019 result It’s Our County 400 UKIP 169 LD 148 C 122 May 2015 result It’s Our County 444 C 358 UKIP 318 LD 291 Ind 119


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