Previews: 03 Oct 2019

In a varied week of local by-elections with something for everyone, there are six by-elections for seven seats on 3rd October 2019. The Tories defend three seats, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party defend one each, and there are two free-for-alls. Read on…


Bridge of Don

Aberdeen council, Scotland; a double by-election caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Brett Hunt and the death of Scottish National Party councillor Sandy Stuart. Stuart had served since 2012, Hunt since 2017.

We start this week with a rare by-election for two seats in Scotland – only the third time this has happened since Scottish local elections went over to proportional representation in 2007. Despite what might appear from the name, “Aberdeen” originally referred to a location not at the mouth of the River Dee but at the mouth of the Don, as it quietly flows into the North Sea. As the city grew, the settlement at the mouth of the Don became known as Old Aberdeen to differentiate it from the city centre area.

A fine granite bridge of five arches was thrown over the River Don in the early nineteenth century, and a suburb grew up on the far side of the bridge – named Bridge of Don after the crossing. This is the point of entry to Aberdeen for people arriving from the north, and for those who don’t want to park in the city centre park-and-ride buses cross the bridge at frequent intervals. Bridge of Don has developed into a centre of its own, with a number of business parks for the oil industry within the ward boundary. The completion earlier this year of the much-delayed Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route has also removed some traffic from the area – the original 1930s bypass of Aberdeen had terminated here.

Since the introduction of PR Bridge of Don has been a single ward electing four members of Aberdeen city council; the ward boundaries were slightly expanded this year. The Scottish National Party have topped the poll at all three elections to date, but in the inaugural 2007 election they only had one candidate allowing the Liberal Democrats to win two seats; Labour took the other. Both Lib Dem councillors subsequently left the party and sought re-election as independent candidates: one, John Reynolds, topped the poll in 2012 and was easily re-elected, while the other, Gordon Leslie, finished ninth and lost his seat to Sandy Stuart of the SNP.

The May 2017 local elections saw the Conservatives break through across large swathes of Scotland, including in Bridge of Don where they surged from 6% to 26% of the vote in 2017. Their candidate Brett Hunt was elected in first place. The SNP polled 34% and held their two seats, and Reynolds polled 14% and was re-elected meaning that the Tory gain came from Labour. Labour polled just 11% in the election, although Unionist transfers meant that they weren’t that far away from holding their seat in the final reckoning.

This by-election will however represent a stiffer test for all the parties. Votes at 16 and the Single Transferable Vote apply, and to win one of the two seats candidates will need to poll one-third of the vote – either on first preferences alone, or by attracting transfers from eliminated candidates. As usual Allan Faulds of the Ballot Box Scotland blog has crunched the numbers (link) and found that had the May 2017 election here been for two seats then the SNP and the Tories would have won one seat each, with Reynolds as a rather distant runner-up.

Unionist tactical votes were also important in the Westminster election of June 2017, in which most of the ward is within the Gordon constituency. This was one of the twelve Scottish Conservative gains that enabled the May government to continue after June 2017, and would have been particularly satisfying for the Scottish Tories as the SNP MP they knocked out was Alex Salmond. At Holyrood level the ward is covered by the Aberdeen Donside constituency; this has been represented by Mark McDonald since he won a by-election for the SNP in 2013, but McDonald left the party last year following a scandal over his behaviour towards women. He now sits as an independent MSP.

Aberdeen council has also been the subject of controversy, although of a strictly political nature. The SNP are the largest party with 17 out of 45 seats on the council (plus two vacant seats), but they are short of a majority and were shut out of power following the 2017 election by a coalition agreement between the Tories (10 seats plus one vacancy), Labour (9 seats) and independent councillors (3 seats). That coalition agreement led to the entire Labour group on Aberdeen council being suspended from the national Labour party, because apparently ideological purity is more important than political power. It will be noted that the Tory-Aberdeen Labour-Independent coalition has a majority of one, so if the Tories lose their seat in this by-election we could (depending who picks it up) be in minority administration territory.

None of the parties are standing two candidates for the two vacancies, so this by-election will result in a split decision. Defending the SNP’s seat is Jessica Mennie, a PR worker who fought Northfield/Mastrick North ward in the 2017 city elections. The Tories have a fresh face to defend their seat in the form of local resident Sarah Cross. Aberdeen Labour have had a candidate imposed on them by the Scottish party: he is Graeme Lawrence, who lost his seat in the neighbouring Dyce/Bucksburn/Danestone ward two years ago. Also standing are Michal Skoczykloda for the Liberal Democrats, independent candidate Simon McLean (who stood here in 2017 and was eliminated in eighth place with just 91 votes), Philip Clarke for UKIP, Sylvia Hardie for the Scottish Green Party and Max McKay, the first ever election candidate for the Red Party of Scotland.

Parliamentary constituency: Gordon (most), Aberdeen North (part in Donmouth ward before 2007)
Scottish Parliament constituency: Aberdeen Donside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Aberdeen
Postcode districts: AB21, AB22, AB23

Philip Clarke (UKIP)
Sarah Cross (C)
Syvlia Hardie (Grn)
Graeme Lawrence (Lab)
Max McKay (Red Party of Scotland)
Simon McLean (Ind)
Jessica Mennie (SNP)
Michal Skoczykloda (LD)

May 2017 first preferences SNP 2462 C 1868 Ind 1045 Lab 805 LD 669 Ind 279 Ind 70 Solidarity 28


Whitchurch and Tongwynlais

Cardiff council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Timothy Davies. He had served since 2004, with a break in service from 2012 to 2017.

Would you like to visit a fairytale castle? Well, this column doesn’t have the budget to bring you Schloss Neuschwanstein, Castelul Bran or that structure in the middle of Disneyland (although if you buy the Andrew’s Previews books that situation might change) but we can offer you Castell Coch. Nestled on a steep hillside in South Wales, Castell Coch was literally a fantasy: the site is mediaeval, but the building and its interiors are as High Victorian as they come. Such was the taste of the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who commissioned the buildings we see today in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Below the castle was one of the first modern commercial vineyards in Britain (now occupied by a golf course), and the views over Cardiff from the castle are something to behold. The 5th Marquess of Bute gave Castell Coach to the nation in 1950, and it is now open to the public thanks to the Welsh government’s heritage agency Cadw.

The location was no accident. The Butes were one of the richest families in Britain thanks to their involvement in the South Wales coal trade, and a large area of the Cardiff docklands is still called Butetown to this day. Another rich industrial family whose name is commemorated in an area of Cardiff is the Cory family: Sir Herbert Cory was a Conservative MP for Cardiff from 1913 to 1923, and the Coryton district is named after him. He should not be confused with Sir Clifford Cory, who had a similar biography but was on the Liberal side of politics (he was the Liberal MP for St Ives in Cornwall from 1906 to 1922 and again in the 1923-24 parliament) and was associated with Barry Docks and the Rhondda.

Sir Clifford’s name has been immortalised by one of the best brass bands in the world, the Rhondda-based Cory Band, which won the British Open and European brass band championships this year. You can hear them here in a recent recording, appropriately playing T J Powell’s contest march Castell Coch.

Castell Coch and Coryton can both be found within the same electoral division of Cardiff, Whitchurch and Tongwynlais. This is a wedge of north-western Cardiff along the A470 road, the main arterial route from the city centre towards Merthyr and the north. Whitchurch, a village which has been swallowed up by the growth of Cardiff, is the main component of the division with Tongwynlais being a relatively small village in the valley below Castell Coch. Coryton railway station, a branch line terminus, connects the area to Cardiff city centre.

Like Bridge of Don, this area elects four members of the city council. Unlike Bridge of Don, proportional representation is not in effect meaning that small swings can lead to drastic changes in the seat count. In 2008 the Conservative slate polled 40.5% to 36.5% for Labour, and that 4-point lead gave the Conservatives all four seats. In 2012 a 5% swing to Labour meant that the Labour slate gained all four seats with a lead of 41-36. The most recent Welsh local elections were in May 2017, when the Conservatives had 41% here, Labour 38% and Plaid Cymru 14%; and you guessed it, the Conservatives won all four seats.

Despite that, Labour did bounce back five weeks later to gain the local Cardiff North constituency from the Conservatives in the snap general election after a 7-year Tory interlude. Labour also hold Cardiff North at Welsh Assembly level, where the local AM since 2011 has been Julie Morgan, widow of the former First Minister Rhodri Morgan. Mrs Morgan won her seat by defeating another Morgan, the Tories’ Jonathan Morgan who represented Cardiff North in the Assembly from 2007 to 2011; Jonathan’s mother Linda Morgan is one of the remaining Tory councillors for Whitchurch and Tongwynlais.

A marginal electoral division in a marginal constituency overlooked by a fairytale castle – this is the sort of contest this column dreams of. Watch this one closely. Defending for the Conservatives is Mia Rees, a “youth policy nerd” according to her Twitter, she works for a local charity. Tha Labour candidate is Marc Palmer, an estate agent. Plaid have selected Dan Allsobrook who was on their slate here in 2017. Also standing are Sian Donne for the Lib Dems and David Griffin for the Green Party.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff
Postcode districts: CF14, CF15, CF83

Dan Allsobrook (PC)
Sian Donne (LD)
David Griffin (Grn)
Marc Palmer (Lab)
Mia Rees (C)

May 2017 result C 2905/2900/2856/2753 Lab 2700/2488/2461/2234 PC 962/951/885/856 LD 540/516/365/312
May 2012 result Lab 2529/2454/2354/2290 C 2206/2144/2080/2080 PC 641/623/600 588 Grn 495 LD 265/233/226/183
May 2008 result C 2948/2904/2857/2790 Lab 2658/2147/2023/1962 PC 771/748/715/669 LD 505/471/398/329 UKIP 398
June 2004 result C 2329/2282/2269/2180 Lab 2266/1956/1799/1631 LD 1060/1039/920/905 PC 742/724/720/711 Cardiff Citizens 481


Syston West

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Eric Vardy who had served since 2011.

We move to England for the four remaining by-elections of the week. Syston is a town on the Fosse Way just to the north of Leicester; it’s become become part of Leicester’s built-up area but is yet to be incorporated into the city proper. The main local employer is Pukka Pies, which employs around 250 people in Syston and has made its name as a supplier of pies to football stadiums. According to the company, Rotherham United’s supporters eat the most pies, which is a fact that will raise an eyebrow among anybody who has ever had anything do with Wigan Athletic. Pukka also sponsored the 2009 UK Snooker Championship and gave the winner, Ding Junhui, his body weight in pies; Ding, in a more classy move, donated the pies to a Sheffield homeless charity.

As Syston has not been annexed by Leicester yet, it is for the present two wards of Charnwood council. Both of these are safely Conservative; in the ordinary elections in May this year West ward gave 51% to the Tory slate, 26% to the Labour slate and 23% to the single Green Party candidate. The Tories also hold the local county division of Syston Ridgeway, getting a swing in their favour at a by-election in June last year (Andrew’s Previews 2018, pages 228-9). The late councillor Vardy was no relation of the Leicester City star Jamie Vardy, but the big city has left its mark on Syston in other ways: Syston West was 15% Hindu in the 2011 census, a figure in the top 70 wards in England and Wales.

Defending for the Conservatives is Sue Gerrard, a former Charnwood councillor for East Goscote ward who had gained her seat in 2015 from one of the last BNP councillors in local government. Gerrard had fought Loughborough Hastings (a safe Labour area) in the May 2019 elections, while her old ward of East Goscote went Green. No, I don’t understand it either. Labour have selected Sharon Brown, who stood in May in the other Syston ward (Syston East) and is a Syston town councillor. The Greens, who are rumoured to be making a serious effort at this by-election, have reselected Matthew Wise who stood here in May. He completes a ballot paper of three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: Charnwood
Leicestershire county council division: Syston Ridgeway
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE7

Sharon Brown (Lab)
Sue Gerrard (C)
Matthew Wise (Grn)

May 2019 result C 632/610 Lab 316/236 Grn 290
May 2015 result C 1916/1541 Lab 899/851
May 2011 result C 1062/964 Lab 684/591
May 2007 result C 747/742 Lab 498/495 BNP 348
May 2003 result C 606/526 Lab 376/345 UKIP 132


Clacton East

Essex county council; caused by the resignation of independent county councillor David Sargeant who had served since winning a by-election in March 2016.

Our next pair of by-elections form an interesting contrast with each other as they cover two areas which form stereotypes of the two strands of thought which dominate the national political debate at the moment. In this time of Brexit (or not, as the case may be), it seems to be de rigeur for the media to send journalists out to some provincial town for a few vox pops to “see what Leave voters think” before said journalists retreat back to their safe space in the London bubble. The choice of provincial towns used for these exercises is telling. I note that none of the newspapers or TV stations have yet sent anybody to this column’s own Little Lever, which as the only ward in Lancashire past or present to vote UKIP in 2019 certainly could be labelled as having Leave credentials; on the other hand, Little Lever is one change of public transport from Manchester, two changes from London. There are places out there which are more accessible to the London commentariat.

Despite the last paragraph, this column tries not to label areas as “leave” or “remain” in the Previews for various reasons. First, I’m as sick and tired of the whole business as you are (and given that I’m supposed to going to eastern Europe next month I’ve got to sit up and take notice of what’s going on); second, referendum voting figures are generally not available at ward level; third, referendum voting figures are by definition a one-dimensional statistic and there is much more varied information out there to use; fourth, and probably most importantly, referendum voting figures tend not to translate into local elections very well. To date the number of Brexit Party candidates in local government can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and none of them have won.

Still don’t believe me? Have a look at Clacton East. This division of Essex county council was previewed in this column less than four years ago (Andrew’s Previews 2016, pages 67 and 68) without mentioning the B-word once. Alright, that by-election was on 31st March 2016 so it was pre-referendum, but it was after Douglas Carswell had been twice elected as MP for Clacton on the UK Independence Party ticket. The demographic profile of Clacton East – the eastern end of the Clacton seafront as you might have guessed from the name, based on Holland-on-Sea and Great Clacton which are economically depressed retirement ghettoland – certainly fits the profile of a Leave-voting area.

So, how does it vote at local election time? Probably not how you expected. Clacton East’s election results were previously dominated by the figure of Pierre Oxley, who polled over 4,000 votes and had a big majority here as the Conservative candidate in 2005 but then broke away to found his own localist party, Tendring First. Oxley lost his seat to the Conservatives in 2009 but got it back in 2013.

Pierre Oxley was also the chairman of Clacton Sports Club, and in that role he forged invoices to persuade his own council, Sport England and the Big Lottery Fund to pay out grants totalling £95,000 for capital work at the sports club. This capital work was in fact never carried out, and Oxley instead used the money to pay the club’s running costs. At a trial in early 2016 Oxley pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and received a two-year suspended prison sentence, which disqualifies him from serving as a councillor for five years. Had he made any personal profit from the fraud, he would probably have done time.

The resulting by-election was won very easily by David Colin Sargeant, standing for the Holland-on-Sea Residents Association. Sargeant was re-elected in May 2017 as an independent candidate, polling 41% of the vote to 31% for the Conservatives and 15% for UKIP.

This wasn’t a flash in the plan. The Holland-on-Sea Residents Association are a long-established electoral force at the eastern end of Clacton. In the May 2019 Tendring council elections they were the most successful party within Clacton East, winning the two wards which cover Holland-on-Sea (Eastcliff and St Bartholomew’s wards). Within Great Clacton the Conservatives won St Paul’s ward, while St John’s ward (not all of which is within this division) returned two independent candidates, one of whom – Mark Stephenson – had previously been elected on the UKIP ticket in 2015.

Despite Sargeant’s independent label in 2017 the defending party here is effectively the Holland-on-Sea Residents Association, although they have changed their ballot paper description to “Holland On Sea & Eastcliff Matters”. Their candidate is K T King, one of the Tendring councillors for St Bartholomew’s ward. The Conservatives have reselected Chris Amos who was runner-up here in 2017; he represents Burrsville ward on Tendring council, which is not part of this division. The UKIP candidate who finished third here in 2017, the aforementioned Mark Stephenson, is also standing again but this time as an independent candidate. Completing the ballot paper are Geoff Ely for Labour, Callum Robertson for the Liberal Democrats and Chris Southall for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Tendring
Tendring council wards: Eastcliff, St Bartholomew’s, St Paul’s, St John’s (part), Coppins (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
Postcode district: CO15

Chris Amos (C)
Geoff Ely (Lab)
K T King (Holland-on-Sea and Eastliff Matters)
Callum Robertson (LD)
Chris Southall (Grn)
Mark Stephenson (Ind)

May 2017 result Ind 1906 C 1458 UKIP 705 Lab 440 LD 82 Grn 74
March 2016 by-election Holland-on-Sea Res Assoc 1781 UKIP 961 C 628 Lab 387 LD 49
May 2013 result Tendring First 1528 C 1194 UKIP 1106 Lab 477 LD 77 Grn 70
June 2009 result C 2270 Tendring First 1361 BNP 626 Lab 508 Grn 325 LD 238
May 2005 rsult C 4330 Lab 2427 LD 1206 Grn 263 Community Representatives Party 207


Clarence

St Albans council, Hertfordshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Caroline Brooke who had served since 2018.

Our remaining two by-elections are for wards in the south of England with Liberal Democrat strength, in parliamentary constituencies which the party will have their eye on in the cess of an early general election: one due to a Liberal tradition, the other due to marginality. St Albans is the marginal one, although a Tory majority of nearly 11% in June 2017 still looks a tall order to overturn and the Liberal Democrats have been tilting at this seat for decades without winning. Mind, the Conservatives did very badly here in May’s local elections: they lost eight seats on St Albans council five months ago and went from holding half of the seats to second place behind the Lib Dems, who now run the district as a minority.

St Albans’ Clarence ward is located east of the city centre and named after Clarence Park. It has, as I wrote in this column three years ago (Andrew’s Previews 2016, pages 256 and 257), the middle-class commuter profile to end all middle-class commuter profiles. Despite the vagaries of Thameslink over 30% of the population travel to work by train from St Albans City station, most of them presumably going to London. The 2011 census return put Clarence in the top 25 wards in England and Wales for population with a degree, and in the top 100 for both the ONS higher- and lower-management employment categories. The presence in the ward of the head office of the Campaign for Rail Ale and and a number of businesses catering to the hipster market reinforces the impression that this is a very trendy place to live. Quite the contrast with Clacton in the previous preview.

Since the current St Albans ward boundaries were introduced in 1999 Clarence ward has consistently voted Liberal Democrat, and often very strongly so. In May this was one of the safest Lib Dem wards in the country, with a 64-15 lead for the party over their nearest challengers, the Conservatives. The Lib Dems also hold the local county council seat of St Albans Central, and this is clearly the ward that supplies their majority in that division (the other ward in St Albans Central is St Peter’s ward, which covers the city centre and has bizarre voting patterns).

Defending for the Lib Dems is Josie Madoc, one of the city’s many London commuters and a school campaigner: earlier this year her daughter was told that there were no places available for her in any of the local secondary schools. The Tories have reselected Don Deepthi who stood here in May. Also standing are Rebecca Michel for the Green Party and Gary Chambers for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: St Albans
Hertfordshire county council division: St Albans Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton
Postcode district: AL1

Gary Chambers (Lab)
Don Deepthi (C)
Josie Madoc (LD)
Rebecca Michel (Grn)

May 2019 result LD 1521 C 357 Grn 252 Lab 249
May 2018 result LD 1370 C 533 Lab 308 Grn 159
Oct 2016 by-election LD 916 C 388 Lab 193 Grn 98 UKIP 16
May 2016 result LD 1178 C 490 Lab 397 Grn 226 TUSC 23
May 2015 result LD 1606 C 1375 Lab 683 Grn 399 TUSC 28
May 2014 result LD 764 C 579 Lab 483 Grn 367 UKIP 145 TUSC 14
May 2012 result LD 880 C 494 Lab 383 Grn 312
May 2011 result LD 1021 C 899 Lab 551 Grn 267
May 2010 result LD 1807 C 1115 Lab 556 Grn 297
May 2008 result LD 979 C 629 Grn 237 Lab 211
May 2007 result LD 1070 C 433 Grn 255 Lab 229
May 2006 result LD 918 C 596 Lab 339 Grn 298
June 2004 result LD 985 C 514 Lab 416 Grn 180
May 2003 result LD 1315 Lab 356 C 343
May 2002 result LD 1095 Lab 423 C 331
May 2000 result LD 790 Lab 478 C 403
May 1999 result LD 1089/1018/1006 Lab 619/605/581 C 356/350/340


Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove

Somerset West and Taunton council; caused by the death of independent councillor Jean Adkins.

Our final by-election this week is a free-for-all in one of the new local government districts created in this year’s reorganisations. We’re north-west of the town of Taunton here.

Despite only just creeping over 3,000 population, Norton Fitzwarren has been a hive of industry over the years. There are lots of fast-flowing streams here giving plentiful opportunities for water power, and water-powered textile mills sprang up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – silk weaving was a major local employer. In more recent years the Taunton Cider company’s main factory was here, producing brands such as Blackthorn until production was moved elsewhere in the late 1990s. The coming of the railways led to extensive development at Norton Fitzwarren, which became a junction for the Minehead branch off the Great Western main line and had extensive freight yards. Unfortunately Norton Fitzwarren has been an unlucky place: there were major fatal railway accidents here in 1890 (caused by a signalman’s error allowing two trains to collide), 1940 (caused by a driver misreading the signals, leading to a derailment) and 1978 (when the Penzance to London sleeper train caught fire).

The victims of the 1940 accident included a number of military personnel travelling to Norton Fitzwarren, which that year had seen the development of a large logistics base for the Army. This was a huge site, used during the Second World War partly as a prisoner of war camp and mostly by the US Army. Royal Marines 40 Commando is still here for the time being at Norton Manor Camp, and the Marines show up clearly in the 2011 census return: Norton Fitzwarren parish was a ward of its own at the time, and was ward number 3 in England and Wales for those with 5 or more GCSE passes or equivalent but no further qualifications, was number 3 in England and Wales for the ONS “intermediate” employment category, and made the top 100 for full-time employment. However, these figures may now be rather out of date now because much of the old military site has been redeveloped in this decade: Norton Fitzwarren’s population grew by over 10% between 2011 and 2014.

The creation of Somerset West and Taunton council this year led to the Local Government Boundary Commission drawing new wards for the new council. These merged the Norton Fitzwarren ward of the old Taunton Deane district with most of the previous Staplegrove ward to create a new ward of three councillors. The old Staplegrove ward was based on the north-western corner of Taunton, around the independent Taunton School, together with the parish of Staplegrove which is effectively a western extension of Taunton, and some villages to the north of the town. The presence of Taunton School and its boarders meant that in 2011 Staplegrove ward was in the top 40 in England and Wales for people aged 16 and 17, but the new ward boundaries place Taunton School in a different ward so that’s no longer relevant. The Boundary Commission drew the new Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove ward with quite a low electorate, in order to allow for further population growth in the near future.

The inaugural Somerset West and Taunton council election was a bloodbath for the local Conservatives and to general surprise resulted in a majority for the Lib Dems. The surprise extended to the local Lib Dems themselves, as they had only partial slates in a number of wards which turned out to be extremely winnable. We saw an example of that in this column two weeks ago with the Vivary ward by-election, which the Liberal Democrats gained from the Conservatives to increase their overall majority to three seats; that was one of the wards where the Lib Dems only had a partial slate in May and ended up in an unexpected first place.

Here is another example of that. The old Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove wards had both been quite strongly Conservative, but the new combined ward saw the Lib Dems top the poll with 36% of the vote, against 20% for independent candidate Jean Adkins, 18% for the Green Party candidate Alan Debenham and just 17% for the Conservative slate. The Liberal Democrats had only nominated two candidates for the three seats allowing Adkins to win the final seat; she had been a Conservative councillor for the old Norton Fitzwarren ward since 2011 but it appears that she didn’t get the Tory nomination.for the new council. Her death shortly afterwards has caused this by-election.

There is no independent candidate to replace Adkins so we have a free-for-all! There is an interesting candidate on the ballot paper in Andy Sully, who was Adkins’ colleague as Tory councillor for the old Norton Fitzwarren ward from 2015 to 2019; Sully didn’t seek re-election in May, subsequently joined the Liberal Democrats and now has their nomination for this by-election. The Green Party have selected Staplegrove parish councillor Alan Debenham, who was runner-up here in May’s election; he is a retired maths teacher and local government veteran, having served on the former Taunton Deane council from 1973 to 1983 (as a Labour councillor for Creech St Michael ward) and again from 1991 to 2003 (as an independent and subsequently Green councillor for Bishops Hull ward). The official Conservative candidate is Rod Williams, who stood here in May. Completing the ballot paper is Michael McGuffie for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Taunton Deane
Somerset county council division: Lydeard (Norton Fitzwarren parish); Rowbarton and Staplegrove (Kingston St Mary and Staplegrove parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Taunton
Postcode districts: TA2, TA4, TA5

Alan Debenham (Grn)
Michael McGuffie (Lab)
Andy Sully (LD)
Rod Williams (C)

May 2019 result LD 929/818 Ind 525 Grn 478 C 448/422/383 Lab 195