Previews: 15 Nov 2018

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

Before we start this week there are a couple of entries for Correction Corner. Firstly, this column would like to apologise to Jodi Dunne, the winning Labour candidate in the Harlow, Bush Fair by-election last Thursday; Councillor Dunne is in fact a man ("Jodi" being short for "Joseph") and not, as I had incorrectly assumed and wrote in last week's column, a woman. Also, the Dormers Wells by-election last week was not in fact the first by-election in Ealing for ten years; there was a poll in Northfield ward on general election day in 2015 which I had overlooked. Unfortunately this lack of basic research also fed through into my performance in the European Quiz Championships over the weekend in Venice, with my Wales team finishing tenth out of fifteen nations. My apologies for the mistakes; must do better in future.

The four by-elections on 15th November 2018 have something for everyone in partisan terms with two Labour defences and one each for the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Appropriately for these volatile political times three of the by-elections are in marginal wards and the other may not be as safe as it looks. We travel to two areas which were Labour gains in the snap general election, one area which swung strongly to the Conservatives at the same time, and an area which the Conservatives will be hoping to take off the Liberal Democrats after many years of trying. Read on...


Canterbury North

Kent county council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Simmonds. A long-serving member of Kent county council, Simmonds had entered politics in 2001 after retiring from a career in banking and finance: he put that experience to good use by serving for eight years as Kent's cabinet member for finance, only stepping down shortly before his death. He also served for twelve years on the council of the University of Kent, and in the 2014 New Year Honours was appointed MBE for services to local government. He had represented Canterbury North since its creation in 2017, before then sitting for the predecessor division of Canterbury West.

"Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a little girl and her name was Emily, and she had a shop."

For our first by-election we are in a division whose name may be misleading at first sight. This is not the northern division of the ancient Kent city of Canterbury; the city does have a northern county division, but that is called Canterbury City North. The Canterbury North division, by contrast, is almost entirely outside the city and rather diverse.

This division is based on three wards of the Canterbury district. At the northern end is Chestfield ward, based on a village of the same name and also including part of the town of Whitstable. To the west of Canterbury lie the villages of Rough Common and Chartham, which are within the Chartham and Stone Street ward and are satellite villages for the city; Chartham is in the Stour valley and has a railway station on the Canterbury-Ashford line. Between them can be found a thickly-wooded area, the Blean Forest ward, within which is the village of Blean on the Canterbury-Whitstable road; this was the home of Smallfilms, the production company which gave us such classics of children's television as Ivor the Engine, the Clangers and, of course, Bagpuss.

But don't be fooled into thinking that this is a bucolic true-blue ward, even if the 2017 county election result - 55% for the Conservatives, 16% each for Labour and the Lib Dems - might give that impression. Not all the electors here are old enough to remember Bagpuss - indeed, a sizeable number won't have parents who are old enough to remember Bagpuss. Canterbury North division contains most of the main campus of the University of Kent. One of the plate-glass universities of the 1960s, Kent houses over 6,000 students at its campus on the northern edge of Canterbury. An early Kent student was a young lad called Gavin Esler, who graduated in 1974 with a BA in English and American literature; Esler subsequently worked for forty years as a BBC journalist, and is now the chancellor of the university he once studied at. His predecessor as chancellor was one of the UK's most eminent psephologists, the opinion pollster and founder of MORI Sir Robert Worcester.

The university certainly has a large impact on the electoral roll here. Both county and district ward boundaries have changed here since the 2011 census, but at the time Blean Forest ward (which covers the campus together with Blean) was 70% student, the eighth-highest figure for any ward in England and Wales; in consequence it was in the top fifteen wards in the country for the 18-29 age group and for those educated to A-level but no further. It would appear that the students generally didn't turn out for the Kent county council election in May 2017, but they must have turned out for the snap general election five weeks later; the Labour gain of the Canterbury constituency, which had returned Conservatives or Independent Conservatives continuously since 1857, was one of the most surprising results of last year. In order for Labour to have won Canterbury last year they would have most likely carried this county division. Suddenly that 55-16 Tory lead in May 2017 doesn't look all that safe, does it? However, it will be difficult for Labour to repeat that trick for a local election: firstly, there appear to be issues within the local Labour party with talk that their MP Rosie Duffield could be deselected; secondly, the campus electoral roll has turned over twice since the general election and very few of the 2017 students will still be living within the division boundaries.

Defending for the Conservatives is a latter-day Thomas of Canterbury: Robert Thomas is an accountant who since 2011 has been a Canterbury city councillor, representing Chartham and Stone Street ward. Labour have reselected Dr Ben Hickman who, as a senior lecturer in poetry at the University of Kent, is somebody with excellent connections to the party's core electorate in the division. The Lib Dems, who were just one vote behind Hickman at the 2017 county elections, have selected Alex Lister who works in digital communications and is a governor of the local NHS hospital trust: he is campaigning strongly for a new hospital for Canterbury. Also standing are teacher Henry Stanton for the Greens (who was their parliamentary candidate here last year), University of Kent student Joe Simons for UKIP and independent candidate Joe Egerton, who was a Conservative candidate for Canterbury City South in last year's county elections.

Parliamentary constituency: Canterbury
Canterbury council wards: Blean Forest (part), Chestfield, Chartham and Stone Street (part)

Joe Egerton (Ind)
Ben Hickman (Lab)
Alex Lister (LD)
Joe Simons (UKIP)
Henry Stanton (Grn)
Robert Thomas (C)

May 2017 result C 2321 Lab 700 LD 699 Grn 287 UKIP 240


Grove and Wantage

Oxfordshire county council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Zoé Patrick who had served since 2001. She was a former chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, and also served from 2007 to 2011 on Vale of White Horse district council.

From the modernity of the University of Kent we travel west and back in time, to the ancient town of Wantage. The birthplace of Alfred the Great, Wantage was a Berkshire town until 1974 and benefited from its location, at the foot of the Berkshire Downs within the Vale of White Horse. The Ridgway, by some metrics England's oldest road, ran along the escarpment above the town; however, the Industrial Revolution rather passed Wantage by, and it is poorly served by rail and road. It took until the Second World War for major development to come, with the RAF opening Grove Airfield to the north of the town in 1942. The airfield subsequently became a USAAF base before passing into the hands of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which ran a laboratory here for a time and built a large housing estate to provide accommodation for its employees. That turned Grove into a very large village, although it is still just about separate from Wantage.

Since 2005 Grove and Wantage have jointly elected two Oxfordshire county councillors. Throughout that period both of them have been Liberal Democrats, although the Conservatives have always been close behind - particularly so in 2005 and a 2008 by-election. The 2017 result had an eight-point lead for the Lib Dems which represented very little change from four years previously: the winning Lib Dem slate polled 43% to 35% for the Conservatives and 13% for Labour. Mind, there is something strange going on with the Labour result as recorded here in 2017, which had 745 votes for their regular candidate Jean Nunn-Price and just 127 for her running-mate George Etherington despite his being top of the ballot paper. One wonders whether something has gone wrong there. The Conservatives performed better in the last Vale of White Horse district council election in 2015, winning five of the division's six district council seats to the Lib Dems' one.

There is extra impetus for the Tories here: they presently hold 30 of Oxfordshire county council's 63 seats, and this is the first of two county council seats the Lib Dems are defending in by-elections this month. If the Tories can gain this seat and the Wheatley by-election in two weeks' time, they will have an overall majority on the county council.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Jane Hanna, a qualified barrister who was the first female Fellow of Keble College, Oxford and taught at Oxford University for twenty years. Hanna is the founding chief executive of a charity providing advice and bereavement support to families of those who fall victim to Sudden Unexpected Death of Epilepsy, and in 2010 was appointed OBE for her contribution to health services. She was a Vale of White Horse councillor from 2003 to 2013, representing Marcham and Shippon ward. The Tories have selected Ben Mabbett, a district councillor for Grove North ward within the division and Wantage town councillor. The Labour candidate is Dave Gernon, an Oxford University IT professional who also does computer repairs. Completing the ballot paper is Kevin Harris for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Wantage
Vale of White Horse council wards: Grove North, Wantage and Grove Brook, Wantage Charlton

Dave Gernon (Lab)
Jane Hanna (LD)
Kevin Harris (Grn)
Ben Mabbett (C)

May 2017 result LD 2403/2153 C 1958/1738 Lab 745/127 Grn 436
May 2013 result LD 1700/1651 C 1309/1106 Lab 610/464 UKIP 599/593 Grn 346
June 2009 result LD 2340/2143 C 1664/1619 UKIP 614 Grn 551/447 Lab 494/339
March 2008 by-election LD 1901 C 1786 Lab 372
May 2005 result LD 3414/3317 C 3152/3148 Lab 2270/2044 Grn 742/393


Dursley

Stroud council, Gloucestershire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Alison Hayward, who has moved away from the district. She had served since 2016.

Henry BOLINGBROKE: How far is it, my lord, to Berkeley now?
NORTHUMBERLAND: Believe me, noble lord,
I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire:
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles, and makes them wearisome,
And yet your fair discourse hath been as sugar,
Making the hard way sweet and delectable.
-William Shakespeare, Richard II, II, iii.

Act II, scene III of Shakespeare's Richard II is set in the "Wilds in Gloucestershire" which is a fair description of the setting of Dursley. Shakespeare may have known it well: there is a local tradition that he spent some years in Dursley working as a schoolteacher. The Berkeley which Bolingbroke and Northumberland were travelling to was Berkeley Castle on the banks of the Severn, where some decades earlier Richard II's great-grandfather Edward II had met his end, most likely through foul play although the bit about the red-hot poker is probably apocryphal; but Dursley had a castle as well, built in 1153 during the last days of the Anarchy by Roger de Berkeley. The location was good, guarding a valley in the Cotswold hills; and it's the proximity of the Cotswolds which is proving a boon to the estate agents of southern Gloucestershire.

The scenery is certainly nice by all accounts; but despite its setting Dursley was a surprisingly industrial town. That was mainly thanks to R A Lister and Company, whose engine factory was based here and which until quite recently employed many of the local residents. Inevitably, most of the factory site is now houses. Lister's brought to Dursley the Danish inventor Mikael Pedersen, who invented his eponymous bicycle here; Pedersen bikes are still in production, although they're not made in Dursley any longer. The exit of most of Dursley's industry, despite the best efforts of Labour-led Stroud council which is apparently keen to keep some heavy industry going here, has left a post-industrial town which is slightly too far away from the M5 motorway to be attractive to commuters to Gloucester and Bristol.

Stroud council elected by thirds until 2016 when it moved onto the whole council elections cycle, but unusually Stroud holds its whole council elections in leap years (the only other councils with that electoral arrangement are Gloucester and Warrington). Dursley ward has unchanged boundaries since the modern Stroud council held its first election in 1973. Despite its industrial recent past it has been for most of its existence a closely-fought three-way marginal ward, although since the Coalition was formed Labour have risen somewhat at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Since 2014 Labour have held all the ward's councillors; at the most recent election in 2016 the Labour slate led here with 37% to 25% for the Conservatives and 24% for the single Lib Dem candidate. The Dursley division of Gloucestershire county council has some more genuine Cotswold rural territory making it more Conservative-inclined, and the Tories gained it from Labour in the 2017 county elections. Nonetheless, Labour did bounce back from that to gain the Stroud constituency at the snap general election five weeks later.

Defending for Labour is Trevor Hall, a retired trade union official who had been a shop steward at the Lister's factory. Living on the same road as Hall is the Conservative candidate Loraine Patrick, who has been a Stroud councillor for this ward twice before (2002-03 and 2007-11), was runner-up here in 2016 and since 2017 has been the town's county councillor. The Lib Dems have selected Richard Blackwell-Whitehead who is an engineer working with lasers. Completing the ballot paper is Stroud resident Yvon Dignon, representing the Green Party.

My thanks to local Labour and Liberal Democrat campaigners for their help with this preview.

Parliamentary constituency: Stroud
Gloucestershire county council division: Dursley

Richard Blackwell-Whitehead (LD)
Yvon Dignon (Grn)
Trevor Hall (Lab)
Loraine Patrick (C)

May 2016 result Lab 932/851/757 C 623/583/565 LD 606 Grn 359
May 2015 result Lab 1679 C 1282 LD 632
May 2014 result Lab 598 C 484 LD 386 UKIP 329 Grn 175 TUSC 20
May 2012 result Lab 880 C 543 LD 277
May 2011 result Lab 1026 C 679 LD 416 Grn 112
May 2010 result LD 1136 C 1120 Lab 1026 Grn 163
May 2008 result C 647 LD 608 Lab 531 Grn 97
May 2007 result C 653 Lab 639 LD 603
May 2006 result C 816 Lab 639 LD 462
June 2004 result Lab 667 C 614 LD 473 UKIP 137 Grn 83 EDP 64
May 2003 result LD 727 C 582 Lab 364 UKIP 37
November 2002 by-election C 652 LD 609 Lab 382
May 2002 result C 723/600/499 Lab 683/548/525 LD 573/528/497
May 2000 result C 605 Lab 537 LD 330
May 1999 result Lab 698 LD 457 C 349
May 1998 result LD 616 Lab 526 C 402
May 1996 result Lab 686 LD 515 C 447 Residents 200
May 1995 result Lab 642 LD 494 C 374 Ind 310
May 1994 result LD 806 Lab 654 C 531
May 1992 result C 781 LD 511/384 Grn 508 Lab 436/415
May 1991 result LD 978 Lab 697 C 599
May 1990 result Lab 1447 C 840
May 1988 result Lab 1086 C 876/752 SLD 823
May 1987 result C 933 Lab 818 All 614
May 1986 result All 1087 C 801
May 1984 result C 775 All 589 Lab 526
May 1983 result Lab 1009/714 C 988/988/924 All 759/654
May 1979 result C 1833/1714 Lab 1533/1327/1107
May 1976 result C 936/787 Lab 828/669/484 Ind 822/596
May 1973 result Ind 808/695/403/312 Lab 725/676/390 C 631 Lib 483


East Retford West

Bassetlaw council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the disqualification of Alan Chambers, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months. Twice Mayor of Retford, Chambers had served since 2012; he was elected for Labour but had been sitting as an independent councillor since May 2017.

We finish the week in a town within the debatable lands where the Midlands end and the North begins. It's certainly been fought over for a long time: the Venerable Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, described the AD 617 Battle of the River Idle in which Raedwald, king of East Anglia, defeated and killed Aethelfrith, king of Northumbria. According to local legend, the Idle ran red with blood afterwards giving a name to a local crossing point: the red ford, or Retford.

A nice folk story there, but it doesn't quite stack up: although the name Retford clearly relates to a ford on the River Idle, there's all sorts of debate among toponymists as to the actual meaning of the name. It's certainly a town whose name can be rather confusing even now. Bill Bryson, in his Notes from a Small Island, which less than 25 years after its publication is now worryingly dated, visited Retford and noted that the place was so obscure that it didn't feature in the AA Book of British Towns. Let the record state that Retford is in that book, but it appears there under the name of East Retford which is still the town's official name. The compass point comes from the fact that the town was originally founded on the western side of the ford ("West Retford"), but the eastern side ("East Retford") eventually became more important and developed into the town centre with lots of nice Georgian buildings.

(East) Retford is in fact another old town, having been given a borough charter by Henry I in 1105; that status gave the town independence from the sheriffs of Nottingham, and Retford still guards that independence today by generally looking north, over the Yorkshire boundary. Bassetlaw council is associated with the Sheffield City Region, although it doesn't (yet) get a vote for the city region's mayor; and Retford is the only Nottinghamshire town to have Doncaster (DN) postcodes. Today it remains a rural market town with some passing trade: the Great North Road once ran through the town, and the East Coast Main Line and Sheffield-Lincoln railway lines still stop here. The railway station is at the heart of the East Retford West ward, which is based on the old West Retford but also extends over the Idle to take in part of the town centre.

In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries East Retford was a notorious rotten borough, generally held to be in the pocket of the Duke of Newcastle. An attempt was made in 1830, before the Great Reform Act, to disenfranchise Retford for corruption; that was eventually fended off by extending the boundaries of the East Retford constituency to take in the whole of the Wapentake of Bassetlaw, including the town of Worksop. With some boundary tweaks and a name change to Bassetlaw, the constituency has been roughly the same ever since. Since 2001 it has returned to Parliament the Labour MP John Mann, whose politics may not be to the taste of everyone within the Labour movement but are clearly a good fit for the area.

As with much of the Midlands Bassetlaw is swinging towards the right at parliamentary level; in June 2017 Mann's lead was down to 9.3 percentage points. However, but that hasn't yet been reflected on Bassetlaw council which returned a large Labour majority at its last election in 2015. Poor organisation from the Conservatives will have helped in that: although the Tories topped the poll in East Retford West in every election from 2002 to 2008, there was only one Conservative candidate here for the ward's two seats in the 2015 election. In that poll Labour held both of those seats with 37%, to 29% for the Conservative candidate and 21% for UKIP. The Tories did gain the local county division of Retford West from Labour in May 2017¸ but only by 54 votes; it seems clear that favourable boundary changes, which brought the rural and Conservative-inclined Sutton ward into the division, made the difference there.

Defending for Labour is local resident Matthew Callingham. The Conservatives will be hoping to show they have the momentum in what is now a marginal parliamentary seat: they have selected Emma Auckland, who works in a local supermarket having previously run her own business. Completing the ballot paper is Helen Tamblyn-Saville of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Bassetlaw
Nottinghamshire county council division: Retford West

Emma Auckland (C)
Matthew Callingham (Lab)
Helen Tamblyn-Saville (LD)

May 2015 result Lab 1011/889 C 778 UKIP 576 LD 348
May 2014 result Lab 544 UKIP 292 C 232 LD 53
May 2012 result Lab 707 C 353
May 2010 result Lab 782 C 767 LD 515
May 2008 result C 570 Lab 324
May 2006 result C 602 Lab 317
June 2004 result C 575 Lab 399 LD 276
May 2002 result C 412/378 Lab 396/332


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


Previews: 01 Nov 2018

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order..."

There are three by-elections on 1st November 2018, with something for everyone. All the major parties have a seat each to defend, and we go from villages to a town to the big city; from the North to the West to East Ham. We'll go down the pub, talk politics and football, and - like so much of politics at the moment - indulge in rather a lot of fantasy. But before then, if you'd just like to step into this police box...


Denby Dale

Kirklees council, West Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Billy Jewitt on health grounds. He had served only since May.

https://youtu.be/2jRB49rOfec

I don't make any apology for starting this week with the Yorkshire stereotype of a brass band. I like this sort of stuff, and so - it appears - do the residents of Skelmanthorpe where brass has been played for generations. The Skelmanthorpe band is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, making it one of the oldest brass ensembles in the country. The performance above, at the Bolsover Festival of Brass last year, won second prize in the First Section with Dan Jackson, on euph, picking up the prize for best soloist. Skelmanthorpe are not in the top rank of banding - the First Section is one level below the top or Championship Section - but I think you'll agree from listening to them that their quality is excellent nonetheless.

Particularly so given their catchment: an obscure village of around 3,000 souls in the foothills of the Pennines, which is perhaps best known as the birthplace of the current Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker. Skelmanthorpe doesn't even merit a parish of its own: along with Clayton West, a settlement of similar size, it's included in the parish of Denby Dale.

These are all villages on or close to the River Dearne, and they greatly expanded in population due to the Industrial Revolution. Although Denby Dale is known for its giant pies - the tenth and most recent one, baked in 2000 to celebrate the Millennium, served 22,000 people - the main industry here in the upper Dearne valley was not food but textiles, with some coalmining in Clayton West and Emley to throw into the mix. Emley may be a fairly tiny village, but anybody from the West Riding can tell you where it is thanks to this thing on the horizon:

That's the UK's tallest freestanding structure, the Emley Moor tower, which broadcasts television signals to the whole of Yorkshire.

To some extent you have to wonder how a place as small-town as this ended up in a Metropolitan Borough. There are no good roads connecting the ward to anywhere else; the main railway connection is the little-used Penistone Line to Huddersfield, Barnsley and Sheffield. Nonetheless this area comes under the jurisdiction of Kirklees council - based in Huddersfield, ten miles to the north-west - and is part of the Dewsbury constituency.

Dewsbury is a marginal parliamentary seat which was a Tory gain in 2010 but which Labour recovered in 2015 against the national trend. And you can see that Labour recovery written in the annual election results for Denby Dale, which was a Tory ward - mostly reasonably comfortably - until 2010 and then turned into a key marginal. Labour gained the ward by 85 votes in 2012 and held that gain in 2016, but so far haven't been able to pick up the other two Tory seats. Billy Jewitt was first elected in May in succession to long-serving Tory councillor Jim Dodds; he beat the Labour candidate by 47% to 43%, a majority of 237 votes. A Labour gain here will improve the party's small majority on Kirklees council where they currently hold 37 out of 69 seats, with the Conservatives forming the official opposition on 18 (plus this vacancy).

So, this is one to watch because it might tell us something about the national picture in these unstable political times. Defending for the Conservatives is Paula Kemp, a Denby Dale parish councillor (for Emley ward) who has lived and worked in the ward for 25 years. In a clash of the generations Labour have reselected their candidate from May Will Simpson, a 21-year-old from Clayton West who worked on the 2015 Labour election campaign for Dewsbury despite being too young to vote at the time. Also standing are Isabel Walters for the Green Party and Alison Baskeyfield for the Lib Dems.

The picture of Emley Moor tower is by Chris Charlesworth and released under this Creative Commons Licence.

Parliamentary constituency: Dewsbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huddersfield
Postcode districts: HD8, WF4

alison Baskeyfield (LD)
Paula Kemp (C)
Will Simpson (Lab)
Isabel Walters (Grn)

May 2018 result C 2592 Lab 2355 Grn 391 LD 153
May 2016 result Lab 2631 C 2484 LD 320
May 2015 result C 4126 Lab 2886 UKIP 1320 Grn 662 LD 400
May 2014 result C 2251 Lab 2036 Grn 660 LD 194
May 2012 result Lab 2128 C 2043 Grn 576 LD 253
May 2011 result C 2514 Lab 2285 Grn 443 LD 392 EDP 276 BNP 206
May 2010 result C 3875 Lab 2684 LD 1666 BNP 612 Grn 513
May 2008 result C 2474 Lab 1711 BNP 394 LD 372 Grn 288 EDP 172
May 2007 result C 2144 Lab 1564 LD 433 Grn 372 BNP 365 EDP 310
May 2006 result C 2012 Lab 1391 LD 558 EDP 436 BNP 434 Grn 414
June 2004 result Lab 2196/1907/1871 C 2092/2069/1758 BNP 914 Grn 804/773/586 LD 701/606/578


Dodington

South Gloucestershire council; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Gloria Stephen who had served since 2015.

"Y is for Yate, the kind of town that referees come from."
- Half Man Half Biscuit, The Referee's Alphabet

There's a fair amount of literature which has written been about elections, and here I don't mean leaflets or manifestos but bona fide fiction. Dickens and Joyce both indulged in the practice, and one recent effort in this subgenre was The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling - who was born in 1965 in the Gloucestershire town of Yate. Despite my best efforts, this column can't claim that every local by-election is as gripping as Rowling's prose; but the best ones give off an air of "you couldn't make this up" which is all the better because the characters are real and the stories actually happened.

The setting for this contest is Rowling's home town. Yate is one of the largest towns you've probably never heard of, with a population of over 35,000: it has absorbed the better-known settlement of Chipping Sodbury and partially spilled over the parish boundary into the neighbouring parish of Dodington. This quasi-New Town overspill development is the area which comprises Dodington ward; essentially one of the four wards covering Yate and Sodbury, Dodington ward should not be confused with the village of the same name, which is some miles away and in a different ward.

Most of Dodington ward was developed in the 1970s when Yate was growing strongly as a commuter and overspill town for Bristol. The place could have become even bigger: just outside the ward boundary is the Road to Nowhere, a dual carriageway crossing Yate Common which has never been finished because there was no money to take it over the railway line. With the Road to Nowhere being still unfinished, Dodington ward is rather cut off from the outside world but nonetheless has some unusual demographics. In the 2011 census it was number 9 of all the wards in England and Wales for those with 1 to 4 GCSE passes or equivalent, and number 20 for those with 5 or more GCSE passes but nothing higher. Dodington makes the top 100 wards in England and Wales for part-time employment (18.25% of the workforce) and also scores highly for full-time employment.

Presumably many of those jobs are in the big city of Bristol, since Yate's traditional industries were winding down around the time of the town's expansion. Those industries included an aircraft factory next to the railway station (the factory is still going but now makes white goods rather than aircraft) and a mine which at its height supplied 95% of the world's supply of celestine. Celestine is one of the major sources of the metal strontium, which you're probably seeing a lot of at the moment: strontium is the material which burns red in fireworks.

The fireworks of the political variety in Dodington tend to burn not red but yellow, and there have been plenty of them recently. Yate was named in a parliamentary seat for the first time in 2010 with the creation of the Thornbury and Yate constituency: that seat was won easily in 2010 by the Liberal Democrats' Steve Webb, who subsequently entered government as the minister responsible for pensions in the Coalition. The Lib Dems had a stranglehold on most of the wards in the constituency, and Dodington swung strongly towards them in the 2011 local elections and a September 2012 by-election, in which the Tories fell to fourth place behind UKIP. UKIP were still ahead of the Conservatives in Dodington at the 2015 local elections, where the Lib Dems polled 41% to 24% for UKIP and 23% for the Tories; however, on the same day Steve Webb lost his seat to the Conservatives, and in the snap general election two years later there was a further big swing to the blue team. There have been no local elections in South Gloucestershire since 2015, so it remains to be seen in what shape the Lib Dem machine is in after that sort of reverse.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is a candidate notable enough to merit her own Wikipedia page, although you'd have a hard time finding it from the statement of persons nominated alone. Louise Bloom's elected career started in 2000 when she was a founder member of the Greater London Authority; she resigned from the GLA less than two years later and shortly afterwards turned up on Eastleigh council in Hampshire. Bloom served for fifteen years on that council, including in the council's cabinet, and for a time was in a relationship with the Eastleigh council leader Keith House. That didn't end well: following the breakdown of that relationship, health problems, a police warning for harassment and controversy over missing nine consecutive cabinet meetings, Bloom resigned from Eastleigh council in 2017. She has now returned to her native West Country and reverted to her maiden name of Louise Harris. Harris was co-opted to Dodington parish council in July and works for a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities. UKIP have not returned but the Tories have, and they have been making hay over that personal history as you might expect; their candidate is Ian Livermore who, like Harris, gives an address in Chipping Sodbury. Completing the ballot paper is the only local resident on the ballot paper, RAF veteran and retired IT technician John Malone who has the Labour nomination.

Parliamentary constituency: Thornbury and Yate
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bristol
Postcode district: BS37

Louise Harris (LD)
Ian Livermore (C)
John Malone (Lab)

May 2015 result LD 1592/1375 UKIP 920 C 879/734 Lab 498/371
September 2012 by-election LD 787 Lab 243 UKIP 213 C 139
May 2011 result LD 1340/1324 C 452/429 Lab 294/285
May 2007 result LD 1294/1229 C 719/665 Lab 112/101


Boleyn

Newham council, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Veronica Oakeshott, who is moving away from the borough. She had served since winning a by-election in December 2015, and is probably better known as the sister of the political journalist Isabel Oakeshott.

For our final by-election we are in the big city, two stops short of Barking. The Domesday Book recorded an Essex settlement called Hame; in the twelfth century this got subdivided into two settlements called East and West Ham, with Green Street serving as the boundary between them. It still does, but the coming of the railway in 1859 led to increasing urbanisation in an area just eight miles from Charing Cross. In 1877 a property developer called Mr Read persuaded the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway to open a new station called Upton Park; this has since been transferred to London Underground, with very frequent services on the District Line linking the area to the City and beyond.

Upton Park station is at the northern end of Boleyn ward, a name which betrays royal connections. Or at least supposed royal connections: we do know that the Victorian housing which fills the ward was built around the stately home and gardens of Green Street House. Local legend had it that Anne Boleyn lived there, or her family owned it, or there was some other connection; in any event the building ended up being called Boleyn Castle, and gave its name to a nearby pub called the Boleyn Tavern. In the early 20th century West Ham United football club started playing in the grounds of Boleyn Castle; the grounds became a stadium called the Boleyn Ground, and the house itself was used as a social club before being demolished in the 1950s. Part of it - a freestanding structure known locally as Anne Boleyn's Tower - lives on in the club logo.

West Ham United joined the Football League in 1919, and were promoted to the First Division in 1923 - in the same year they lost to Bolton Wanderers in the first FA Cup final to be held at Wembley. The Hammers have rarely been out of the top flight since; they had particular success in the mid-1960s, winning the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1965. The following year three West Ham players, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, were in the only England side to date to win the World Cup; all three of those players can be seen in the "Champions" statue on the corner of Green Street and Barking Road. West Ham United moved out of the Boleyn Ground in 2016 and now play out of the Olympic stadium in Stratford; their old stadium has since been demolished and (inevitably) redeveloped for housing.

Anne Boleyn may or may not have visited the East Ham ward which bears her name, but one surprising visitor to the ward was one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who based himself nearby during the 1931 Round Table conference on the future of India. Gandhi is recorded as visiting the Boleyn Tavern, talking football and radical politics with the locals while supping cream soda. Mahatma Gandhi had a personal connection to West Ham United: in the late 1880s, while a young man practising as a barrister in London, he had served with the club's founder Arnold Hills on the committee of the London Vegetarian Society.

Gandhi surely can't have foreseen what was to happen to the area around the Boleyn Tavern. After Indian independence was achieved, this part of East Ham became a major centre of immigration from the subcontinent to London, with Gujaratis and Bangladeshis particularly strongly represented. In 2011 Boleyn ward was in the top 30 wards in England and Wales for population born outside the EU (47%), in the top 60 for those with non-UK qualifications (16%), in the top 70 for Islam (40%) and in the top 75 for Asian ethnicity (55%). Many of those people will shop at Queen's Market, which is open every day of the week; although Queen's Market is on the West Ham side of Green Street, by a quirk of the boundaries it is included in this ward. Another business in the ward gives us an unexpected link back to Skelmanthorpe at the start of the preview: the Who Shop, a museum and gift shop dedicated to Doctor Who, can be found on Barking Road.

This adds up to a Labour ward in present conditions, but that's not unusual for Newham: it's now over twelve years since any party other than Labour won any elected office within Newham borough. Labour have held Boleyn ward since it was created in 2002 and had a monopoly on every predecessor ward from 1994 onwards. In the May 2018 borough elections Labour beat the Conservatives here 70-19; the GLA elections in 2016, with a wider field, saw Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes 71-15 and Labour beating the Tories in the London Members ballot 70-11.

Defending for Labour is Moniba Khan; she is the wife of former Newham councillor Obaid Khan, who was elected here on the Labour slate in 2014 but subsequently got kicked out of the party for bullying and intimidation. The Tories have reselected Md Fazlul Karim, a businessman who fought the ward in May and runs two shops on Barking Road. Also standing are performance artist Frankie-Rose Taylor for the Green Party and Arunasalam Pirapaharan for the Liberal Democrats.

I am grateful to Tim Roll-Pickering, a Newham Conservative campaigner, for help with this preview; and also belatedly acknowledge his assistance with the Sutton, Belmont preview last week.

Parliamentary constituency: East Ham
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: E6, E13

Md Fazlul Karim (C)
Moniba Khan (Lab)
Arunasalam Pirapaharan (LD)
Frankie-Rose Taylor (Grn)

May 2018 result Lab 2624/2544/2280 C 693/450/384 Grn 405
Dec 2015 by-election Lab 1440 LD 181 C 171 Grn 117 UKIP 98 Ind 10
May 2014 result Lab 2658/2505/2425 C 869/823/756 TUSC 342 CPA 270/259
May 2010 result Lab 3261/3221/3107 C 1354/1177/844 CPA 386/314/275 Kamran Malik Communities Welfare Party 116/81
May 2006 result Lab 1627/1547/1514 Respect 1219/1082/1007 C 528/484/426 CPA 308
May 2002 result Lab 1321/1224/1122 C 579 Grn 507 CPA 289

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2423 C 528 Grn 116 Respect 95 LD 70 UKIP 51 Britain First 35 Women's Equality 33 BNP 22 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 22 One Love 8 Zylinksi 8
London Members: Lab 2451 C 373 Grn 137 Respect 108 UKIP 100 LD 98 Women's Equality 68 CPA 43 Britain First 41 Animal Welfare 28 BNP 22 House Party 8


Previews: 25 Oct 2018

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order..."

There are ten by-elections on 25th October 2018, with eight Conservative defences and two for Labour. There are lots of marginal wards and chances for gains this week, so let's dive straight in with the first Labour defence. Read on...


Coatbridge South

North Lanarkshire council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Gordon Encinias at the age of 73. Although he had only served on North Lanarkshire council since May 2017, Encinias was described as a lifelong political activist whose political efforts were very much focused on fighting for the people of Coatbridge.

We start the week with by far the northernmost of our ten by-elections, in the Central Belt of Scotland. In the centre of the Central Belt, just to the east of Glasgow, can be found the town of Coatbridge. This is one of those places that was called into being by the Industrial Revolution: the industries in Coatbridge were coalmining and iron, and it was also one of the first towns to experience post-industrial bust. By the 1930s the coal underneath Coatbridge was almost exhausted, while the Great Depression did for many of the local ironworks; but it says something for the state of the local housing that even after that and an exodus of many Coatbridge residents to find work south of the border (particularly in Corby), this was still the most overcrowded town in Scotland. Much of that substandard housing has been swept away over the years in favour of more modern suburbs and satellite villages: the Coatbridge South ward is based on three of those neighbourhoods, Whifflet, Shawhead and Carnbroe. Coatbridge town centre lies just outside the northern boundary of the ward; the southern boundary is the A8 dual carriageway, until recently - when it was replaced by a motorway - the main road between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

At its industrial height Coatbridge saw huge immigration from Ireland, and that's resulted in a very left-wing and Catholic demographic profile which persists to this day. Within the South ward Carnbroe is relatively well-off these days, but Whifflet and Shawhead are deprived areas; and that mix created a majority-Labour ward which in 2007 and 2012 returned two Labour councillors and one SNP. Top of the poll in both those elections was Labour's Jim Brooks, who was first elected in 1974. Brooks had been the leader of the former Monklands council in the early 1990s while it was consumed by a row over sectarianism (as well as Coatbridge, Monklands council included Airdrie which is a strongly Protestant town).

There were changes for the 2017 election. A boundary review resulted in Coatbridge South ward going up from three seats to four with expanded boundaries. There was the independence referendum and the subsequent revolution in Scottish politics which saw the Scottish National Party become the country's major political force: the SNP gained the local parliamentary constituency (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) in 2015 on a swing from Labour of 36%, and followed up by gaining the Holyrood constituency (Coatbridge and Chryston) in 2016. And the political veteran Councillor Brooks, together with his ward colleague John Higgins, were deselected by Labour; they did not take it well, and both of them stood for re-election under the label of "Independent Alliance North Lanarkshire".

When the votes came out of the ballot boxes in May 2017 the SNP had become the largest party, with 43% of the first preferences to 30% for Labour, 12% for the Conservatives and 11% for the Independent Alliance North Lanarkshire. The SNP candidates Tracy Carragher and Fergus MacGregor (brother of the local MSP Fulton MacGregor) were quickly elected together with Labour's Tom Castles, and a close fight developed for the final seat between Labour's second candidate Gordon Encinias, the Tories' John Cameron and Jim Brooks. At the penultimate count, after independent candidate (and former SNP figure) Gerry Somers was eliminated, Cameron was in scoring position on 588.20 votes; Encinias had 517.25, and Brooks was eliminated a fraction of a vote behind on 517.13. Encinias picked up Brooks' transfers to win the final seat by 692 votes to 653 for the Conservatives. Had Brooks been able to get ahead of Encinias, he would have won the final seat on the Labour transfers. That might not look like an impressive performance from Labour, who lost their majority on North Lanarkshire council and are now running a minority administration, but the party did bounce back from that to regain the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill seat in the general election just five weeks later.

It will take a similar bounceback for Labour to hold this by-election. Their candidate, selected from an all-women shortlist, is Geraldine Woods who is standing for election for the first time in fifteen years: she contested North Lanrkshire's Orbiston ward, then held by the SNP, in the 2003 council elections. The SNP councillor she lost to then, Richard Lyle, is now in the Scottish Parliament representing Uddingston and Bellshill. The Nationalists, who will draw level with Labour as the largest party on North Lanarkshire council if they gain this by-election, have had to fend off accusations of cronyism over their selection of Lesley Mitchell, who is reportedly the ex-partner of councillor Fergus MacGregor and works in Fulton MacGregor MSP's constituency office. The Conservatives have selected self-styled "Working Class Tory" (hold that thought, they do exist) Ben Callaghan, who is the secretary of the party's North Lanarkshire branch and contested Coatbridge North ward in last year's council elections. Completing the ballot paper are Rosemary McGowan for the Scottish Greens, Christopher Wilson for the Lib Dems and Neil Wilson for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Scottish Parliament constituency: Coatbridge and Chryston
ONS Travel to Work Area: Motherwell and Airdrie
Postcode district: ML5

Ben Callaghan (C)
Rosemary McGowan (Grn)
Lesley Mitchell (SNP)
Christopher Wilson (LD)
Neil Wilson (UKIP)
Geraldine Woods (Lab)

May 2017 result SNP 1985 Lab 1372 C 552 Ind Alliance N Lanarks 522 Ind 216


Linton

South Derbyshire council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bob Wheeler at the age of 67. The leader of South Derbyshire council from 2011 until January this year, Wheeler had served on the council since 2007 and had been suffering from cancer. His widow, Heather, has served since 2010 as the Conservative MP for South Derbyshire.

We travel south of the border to a Midlands location which shares a lot of history with Coatbridge. There are a few Lintons dotted around the country; this particular one is a village at the southern end of Derbyshire, south-west of Swadlincote and south of Burton-on-Trent. From the map it might appear that this is a rural ward of five parishes, but don't be fooled. There's a lot of coal under those fields and forests, and many of the settlements within the ward - such as Castle Gresley - are ex-pit villages. Cadley Hill colliery, just outside the ward boundary, remained open as late as 1988; and many of its workers lived within this ward in places like Coton Park, a very grim estate developed by the National Coal Board. Much of the coal stayed within the ward to be consumed by Drakelow Power Station, a former coal-fired plant at the western end of the ward overlooking the River Trent; the power station was built on the site of Drakelow Hall, a stately home which was held by the Gresley family (as in Sir Nigel Gresley, the locomotive engineer).

All very working-class. Now I asked you in the previous section to hold the thought of working-class Tories, and with the end of coalmining in the Midlands this area is changing rapidly. As well as Burton and Swadlincote, Linton is within relatively easy reach of Derby and (at a stretch) Birmingham; and accordingly most of the new development that has taken place here in recent years (particularly in Linton itself) has been rather upmarket. It says something that the Tory candidate for this by-election gives an address in Coton Park.

This gentrification was already well advanced by the time of the 2003 election, the first on these boundaries, in which the Conservatives tied for the final seat with the second Labour candidate on 520 votes each, but lost the drawing of lots. The Conservatives broke through in 2007 but haven't made the ward safe; and the arrival of UKIP in 2015 complicated things further. The 2015 result was 39% for the winning Tory slate, 30% for Labour and 27% for UKIP. The 2017 county elections were good for the Conservatives: they convincingly gained the wider Linton division from Labour after UKIP had split the right-wing vote four years earlier, and Mrs Wheeler held the South Derbyshire constituency (which has the same boundaries as the district) five weeks later with almost no swing from 2015.

Defending for the Conservatives is Dan Pegg, or Danny Pegg-Legg to give him his full name, who as stated is from Coton Park and was co-opted to Linton parish council last year. The Labour candidate is Ben Stuart, a food technologist from Castle Gresley. UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper is another Castle Gresley resident, Lorraine Johnson of the Lib Dems who was their local parliamentary candidate last year.

Parliamentary constituency: South Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Linton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burton upon Trent
Postcode districts: DE11, DE12, DE15

Lorraine Johnson (LD)
Dan Pegg (C)
Ben Stuart (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1032/1028 Lab 798/660 UKIP 726/519 LD 111/102
May 2011 result C 784/746 Lab 727/687 LD 171
May 2007 result C 928/841 Lab 604/589
May 2003 result Lab 540/521 C 520/508


Bosmere

Suffolk county council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Anne Whybrow. A former mayor of Stowmarket, Mrs Whybrow was first elected to Suffolk county council in a 2006 by-election for Stowmarket South division; she lost that seat in 2013, but returned in 2017 by gaining this division.

Having got the main Labour-Tory contest of the week out of the way, we now come to the first of our four contests this week between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. We travel to Suffolk, to a county council division named after a small lake near Needham Market which back in the day gave its name to a Hundred of Suffolk. The main centre of population here is Needham Market, on the main road and railway line from Ipswich to Norwich and Bury St Edmunds; this is a mediaeval town based around the wool-combing industry, but the town has never really recovered from the Great Plague which killed two-thirds of its inhabitants between 1663 and 1665. The division isn't all Needham Market; there are thirteen other parishes within the boundary to the south and west of the town.

Bosmere had been a Liberal Democrat stronghold for many years. From 1993 to 2005 its county councillor was Ros Scott, who has progressed from leader of the county council's Lib Dem group to the House of Lords (as Baroness Scott of Needham Market); she was President of the Liberal Democrats from 2009 to 2011. Baroness Scott stood down from Suffolk county council in 2005 and was succeeded by the Lib Dems' Julia Truelove, who herself retired in 2017. At that 2017 election the Bosmere seat was gained by the Conservatives after many years of trying; shares of the vote were 45% for Anne Whybrow and 39% for the Lib Dems' Steve Phillips. District council elections here have had a more mixed picture: in the 2015 Mid Suffolk council elections the Lib Dems won Needham Market and the Conservatives carried the two rural wards within the division; but one of those, Barking and Somersham ward, was subsequently lost in a 2016 by-election - to the Green Party. (The Lib Dem candidate in that by-election was Mark Valladares, Baroness Scott's husband,)

Defending for the Conservatives is Kay Oakes, twice mayor of Needham Market and rather unlucky not to be elected to Mid Suffolk council in 2015 - she finished eight votes behind the second Lib Dem candidate. The Lib Dems have reselected Steve Phillips, another former mayor of Needham Market. Completing the ballot paper is Emma Bonner-Morgan of the Labour party.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury St Edmunds (Needham Market and Ringshall wards), Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Barking and Somersham ward)
Mid Suffolk council wards: Barking and Somersham, Needham Market, Ringshall
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ipswich
Postcode districts: IP6, IP7, IP8, IP14

Emma Bonner-Morgan (Lab)
Kay Oakes (C)
Steve Phillips (LD)

May 2017 result C 1149 LD 987 Lab 198 Grn 185
May 2013 result LD 851 C 678 UKIP 584 Lab 236 Grn 160
June 2009 result LD 1308 C 867 UKIP 450 Suffolk Together 432 Lab 150
May 2005 result LD 1640 C 1453 LAb 779 Ind 648 Ind 428


Three Rivers Rural

Hertfordshire county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative county councillor Chris Hayward. He had served on the county council since 2009, sitting for the Chorleywood division until 2017, and was a former Deputy Leader of the council. Hayward had come to Hertfordshire from Dorset, where he was also deputy leader of the county council; and he was the Conservative candidate for Hull North in the 1983 general election. He appears to be concentrating on his work in London, where he was elected in 2013 to the City of London Corporation and chairs the Corporation's planning and transportation committee.

The Local Government Boundary Commission have a difficult job to do, but when you look at divisions like Three Rivers Rural the first impression has to be to question what the thought process was behind it. In truth the shape and population distribution of Three Rivers district, which is essentially the parts of Hertfordshire's south-west corner that aren't in Watford town, are very unhelpful to the boundary-drawers; the present division is an extension of the Chorleywood division which existed until 2017, but the only place available to extend it into was Bedmond, a village to the north of Abbots Langley and back in the day the birthplace of Adrian IV, the only English pope. In order to link Bedmond to Chorleywood the division has a very narrow neck under the Gade Valley Viaduct, which takes the M25 motorway over the eponymous river and the West Coast Main Line. Successive boundary reviews have left this division covering parts of four Three Rivers district wards without having any of them in whole, and it sprawls over three parliamentary constituencies (South West Hertfordshire, St Albans and Watford). All this creates a challenge for the armchair psephologist.

Things were rather simpler at the time of the 2011 census, in which the area now covered by this division was four-and-a-half wards of Three Rivers. Two of those wards covered Chorleywood; this town gave its name to the Chorleywood bread process, which is used to make four-fifths of the UK's bread, and there's certainly a lot of dough here. This is a stereotypical London commuter town, being on the Metropolitan Line despite its location outside the M25 motorway; the old Chorleywood East ward made the top 50 wards in England and Wales for owner-occupation and (interestingly) the top 100 for Hinduism, while Chorleywood West was in the top 70 for the ONS "lower management" economic group; in fact both Chorleywood wards had a majority of residents in management or professional occupations. At the far end of the division lie Bedmond and Hunton Bridge, next to the River Gade and the West Coast main line, whose Kings Langley station is within the division; also in this area is the redeveloped Ovaltine factory next to the railway line, whose housing now provides 5% of the division's electorate. In between are a series of expensive villages to the north-west of Watford, such as Loudwater; until 2012 these formed the district's Sarratt ward. Readers of John le Carré may recognise Sarratt as the home of the Circus training and interrogation centre in the early Smiley novels.

Sarratt and its associated villages are Tory monoliths, but the rest of the division is good territory for the Liberal Democrats. The old Chorleywood county division had been Conservative for many years, but the boundary changes improved the Lib Dem position and Hayward did well to hold in 2017: he had 47% to 44% for the Liberal Democrat candidate. Three of the four Three Rivers wards partly covered by the division voted Lib Dem in May this year, but the Conservatives had a very large lead in Chorleywood North and Sarratt ward so the vote shares across the division were probably fairly even once again.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems have both selected district councillors for Chorleywood South and Maple Cross ward, who both give addresses on the same street in Chorleywood. Defending for the Tories is Angela Killick, who was elected to the district council in 2015. Killick may not have been a minister in the UK government but one level she has represented it: from 1974 to 1990 she was a Westminster city councillor, latterly sitting for St James's ward which covers all the government buildings in Whitehall and Downing Street. She's up against the Lib Dems' Phil Williams, a restaurateur who was the unsuccessful candidate for this county division in May last year; two months afterwards Williams was elected to Three Rivers council in a by-election, holding Chorleywood South and Maple Cross ward for the Lib Dems. Completing the ballot paper are Jeni Swift Gillett for Labour, Roan Alder for the Green Party and David Bennett for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Hertfordshire (parts of Chorleywood North and Sarratt, and Chorleywood South and Maple Cross wards), St Albans (part of Abbots Langley and Bedmond ward, part of part of Gade Valley ward), Watford (part of part of Gade Valley ward)
Three Rivers council wards: Abbots Langley and Bedmond (part), Chorleywood North and Sarratt (part), Chorleywood South and Maple Cross (part), Gade Valley (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: London (part: Chorleywood); Luton (rest of division)
Postcode districts: HP3, HP8, SL9, UB9, WD3, WD4, WD5

Roan Alder (Grn)
David Bennett (UKIP)
Angela Killick (C)
Jeni Swift Gillett (Lab)
Phil Williams (LD)

May 2017 result C 2244 LD 2091 Lab 202 Grn 144 UKIP 91


Belmont

Sutton council, South London; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Patrick McManus, who had served since 2014.

For our third Tory versus Lib Dem contest of the week we move around London from north-west to south-west. Belmont ward lies on the southern edge of Greater London, just to the south of Sutton; it's a classic railway suburb which essentially did not exist before 1865 when the London, Brighton and South Coast railway opened its branch line to Epsom Downs, to take Londoners to the Derby. That branch line included a railway station known as "California", after a local pub, but the name was quickly changed to "Belmont". Healthcare is and always has been a prominent feature of Belmont's economy: back in the day there were two large psychiatric hospitals in the area (one of them, Banstead Asylum just outside the ward and Greater London boundary, has since been redeveloped as a prison), while Belmont is the location of the Sutton branches of the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research, two hospitals which specialise in cancer treatment.

Sutton is one of the longest-standing Lib Dem-controlled boroughs, held by the party in the 2018 elections despite local controversies, particularly over an incinerator plan. The Belmont ward is a stronghold of the Conservative opposition to the Lib Dems; in 2014 it was one of only two Sutton wards where the Lib Dems did not top the poll, and in May the Tories led here 57-26. In the 2016 London Assembly elections the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith led Sadiq Khan here 56-25; while in the London Members ballot the ward's ballot boxes gave 47% to the Conservatives, 19% to Labour and 11% to the Liberal Democrats.

Defending for the Conservatives is Neil Garratt, who was the deputy leader of the Sutton Conservative group until May when he lost his seat in Beddington South ward. This should be a safe return for him. The Lib Dems have reselected Dean Juster who was runner-up here in May's election. Also standing are Marian Wingrove for Labour, who was finished last in every Belmont election so far this decade; John Bannon for UKIP; Ashley Dickenson for the Christian Peoples Alliance; and Claire Jackson-Prior for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Sutton and Cheam
London Assembly constituency: Croydon and Sutton
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SM2, SM5

John Bannon (UKIP)
Ashley Dickenson (CPA)
Neil Garratt (C)
Claire Jackson-Prior (Grn)
Dean Juster (LD)
Marian Wingrove (Lab)

May 2018 result C 2001/1900/1836 LD 956/786/748 Lab 595/524/503
May 2014 result C 1687/1534/1389 LD 881/809/738 UKIP 653 Lab 432/406/376
May 2010 result C 2629/2544/2355 LD 2210/2087/1785 UKIP 621 Lab 519/412/343
May 2006 result C 2115/1987/1933 LD 1095/959/896 Grn 222 Lab 211/184/174
May 2002 result C 1708/1689/1628 LD 1312/1303/1287 Lab 182/164/159

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 1568 Lab 699 LD 188 Grn 123 UKIP 102 Women's Equality 54 Britain First 26 Respect 20 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 17 BNP 7 Zylinski 7 One Love 2
London Members: C 1321 Lab 544 LD 315 UKIP 220 Grn 178 Women's Equality 81 CPA 40 Britain First 35 Respect 29 Animal Welfare 24 BNP 15 House Party 4


Kennington

Ashford council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Philip Sims. He had served since 2011, originally being elected for the Ashford Independents, and his resignation came in protest against a major housing development planned for his ward.

We break away from the Tory-Lib Dem contests to travel to Kent. The Kennington ward lies on the north-eastern edge of the town of Ashford, beyond the M20 motorway on the road to Canterbury; it's essentially a village which was swallowed up by the growth of Ashford, particularly so in the 1950s and 1960s as London overspill estates filled in the gaps between Kennington and the town centre. Not that Kennington could be described as being a council estate: it had notably high levels of owner-occupation in the 2011 census. Perhaps in recognition of the area's history and identity, work is well advanced to create a parish council for Kennington whose inaugural elections are scheduled for 2019.

This is the sort of area that should be rock-solid Conservative in current conditions. Indeed, in the 2007 election the Tories won Kennington ward unopposed because no other candidates came forward. So it would be interesting to know what the Conservatives' excuse was for losing this ward in the 2011 election to the Ashford Independents candidate Phil Sims, who won by just 25 votes. Sims was subsequently recruited to the Conservative cause, and in 2015 was re-elected easily with the Tory nomination: he polled 48% to 15% each for the Ashford Independents and UKIP. The local Kent county council division (Ashford Rural East) is even safer for the party.

There are four candidates in this by-election, none of whom live particularly near the ward. Nathan Iliffe defends for the Conservatives; he is a business development manager for a food service company. The Ashford Independents have nominated Ian Anderson, who runs an irrigation and engineering firm and is a Bethersden parish councillor. UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper are Labour's Dylan Jones and the Greens' Peter Morgan.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashford
Kent county council division: Ashford Rural East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ashford
Postcode districts: TN24, TN25

Ian Anderson (Ashford Ind)
Nathan Iliffe (C)
Dylan Jones (Lab)
Peter Morgan (Grn)

May 2015 result C 684 Ashford Ind 213 UKIP 212 Lab 177 LD 133
May 2011 result Ashford Ind 440 C 415 Lab 107
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 465 LD 186


Norden

Basingstoke and Deane council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor George Hood. The Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane in 2008-09, Hood had served since 1992; he is retiring from politics having passed the age of 80.

For our only safe Labour defence of the week we travel from one fast-growing quasi-New Town to another: from Ashford to Basingstoke. Like Ashford, Basingstoke is on the main road and railway line from London to a major Channel port, in this case Southampton; like Ashford, Basingstoke expanded strongly in the 1960s as a result of London overspill. The Norden ward includes a fair amount of this overspill; it's immediately north of the South Western railway line and is based on the Oakridge estate together with the more industrial areas of Daneshill and Houndmills. Employment is high in the ward - there are an awful lot of industrial units, and Basingstoke town centre is just over the boundary - but Oakridge has seen a fair amount of redevelopment in recent years to replace housing which aged poorly.

Norden ward has unchanged boundaries since at least 2002, and is provisionally proposed for no change in the review the Local Government Boundary Commission are working on at the moment. All but one of its elections in the period since 2002 have been won by Labour with the Tories second; the exception was 2014, when UKIP were runners-up. In May the Labour lead here was 66-24. At Hampshire county council level the ward is split between two divisions, Basingstoke Central and Basingstoke North, which in 2017 were the only two Hampshire county divisions to vote for Labour.

Hoping it'll be alright on election night in Norden ward is the defending Labour candidate Carolyn Wooldridge, a former Basingstoke and Deane councillor (Brighton Hill North ward) who stood down in 2015 and is now seeking to return. The Tories have selected Mike Archer, and completing the ballot paper are Lib Dem Zoe Rogers and another former councillor seeking to make a comeback. Phil Heath was a Basingstoke and Deane councillor from 1992 to 2011, serving as leader of the Conservative group and as Deputy Mayor in 2010-11, and also sat on Hampshire county council until 2009; since then Heath had worked for the local MP Maria Miller before joining UKIP, but he is standing here as an independent candidate. Whoever wins this by-election will need to be straight back onto the campaign trail, as they will be due for re-election in May 2019.

Parliamentary constituency: Basingstoke
Hampshire county council division: Basingstoke Central (part), Basingstoke North (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Basingstoke
Postcode districts: RG21, RG24

Mike Archer (C)
Phil Heath (Ind)
Zoe Rogers (LD)
Carolyn Wooldridge (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 1183 C 428 LD 89 Ind 68 TUSC 36
May 2016 result Lab 1191 C 308 UKIP 260 LD 96 TUSC 47
May 2015 result Lab 1797 C 940 UKIP 514 Grn 194 LD 183 TUSC 41
May 2014 result Lab 1148 UKIP 446 C 333 LD 97
May 2012 result Lab 1100 C 272 LD 160
May 2011 result Lab 1328 C 642 LD 211
May 2010 result Lab 1695 C 1206 LD 773
May 2008 result Lab 1005/997/990 C 548/522/510 LD 244/225/213
May 2007 result Lab 1057 C 615 LD 270
May 2006 result Lab 1023 C 527 LD 261
June 2004 result Lab 793 C 532 LD 325
May 2003 result Lab 761 C 386 LD 271
May 2002 result Lab 909/906/796 C 404/363/339 LD 389


Wells St Thomas'

Mendip council, Somerset; caused by the death of councillor Danny Unwin, who had been elected for the Liberal Democrats but was sitting as a Conservative. A funeral director, he had served on Mendip council since 2007 and formerly led the Lib Dem group; he was Mayor of Wells in 2011-12.

Returning to the Tory versus Lib Dem contests, we travel to what claims to be England's smallest city. Wells has been a city since the days of the Kingdom of Wessex, whose kings founded a church here at the start of the eighth century. The church became the seat of a bishop in 909; the see of Wells was later moved to Bath in a move which upset an awful lot of people, and in the spirit of compromise the diocese has been known since 1245 as Bath and Wells. Also founded here in AD 909 was a school which became the Wells Cathedral School and claims to be one of the oldest continuously-operating schools in the world: Wells Cathedral School is an independent school with a national reputation for music teaching, and its alumni run the, er, gamut of modern music from the countertenor Iestyn Davies to the dairy farmer and failed parliamentary candidate Michael Eavis. The presence of the school means that St Thomas' ward, which covers the northern and eastern parts of the city, is in the top 50 wards in England and Wales for people in the 16-17 age bracket.

Wells may be a city, but its city council is only a parish-level body; district council functions are handled from Shepton Mallet which is the seat of Mendip council. The Wells St Thomas' ward of the district council is closely fought between the Lib Dems and Tories: the Liberal Democrats won both seats in 2007, the Tories gained one in 2011 but lost it back four years later. Shares of the vote in 2015 were 44% for the Lib Dems, 35% for the Conservatives and 21% for the single Green Party candidate. Wells as a whole elects a single Somerset county councillor: in the 2017 election that was the Lib Dems' Tessa Munt, who had been the MP for Wells during the Coalition years. Munt narrowly defeated the Tories' John Osman, who had been leader of the county council going into the election.

So, this is shaping up to be another close one. Hoping to convert the Tories' defection gain into a by-election gain is teacher and supermarket worker Richard Greenwell; he was controversially co-opted onto Wells city council last year to replace a departing Green Party councillor, thereby giving the Conservatives a majority on the council. The Lib Dems want their seat back and have selected Thomas Ronan, a businessman and local resident. The Greens have not returned, but Labour have entered the fray with their candidate Den Carter who completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Wells
Somerset county council division: Wells
ONS Travel to Work Area: Street and Wells
Postcode district: BA5

Den Carter (Lab)
Richard Greenwell (C)
Thomas Ronan (LD)

May 2015 result LD 1172/1123 C 938/895 Grn 546
May 2011 result LD 826/803 C 808/706 Grn 345 Lab 256
May 2007 result LD 952/910 C 756/643


Ferdown

Dorset county council; and

Ferndown Central

East Dorset council; both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Steve Lugg at the age of 54. The Mayor of Ferndown at the time of his death, Lugg had served on East Dorset council since 2015 and on Dorset county council since winning a by-election in September 2016. Away from the council he was a former soldier, a management accountant and a live music fan.

We finish this week in the second-largest inland town in Dorset. Despite that, Ferndown is essentially a satellite town for Bournemouth and Poole, being located at a major road junction where the roads to Poole and Dorchester diverge. This is a relatively new town - until 1972 the parish council was called Hampreston - and it's interesting to speculate why that is. Wikipedia has an interesting answer: its article on West Parley, a suburb of Ferndown included in the county division, asserts - as I pointed out two years ago in Andrew's Previews 2016 - that "the largest increases were during the Baby Boom from 1921 to 1951, this was when everyone was procreating tenfold due to welfare benefits and due to lower income jobs". Two years on, nobody has yet seen fit to edit that to something which might be seen as more befitting an encyclopedia.

Several generations after the Baby Boom, it would appear that many of the people who were born in Parley and Ferndown during those days of tenfold procreation are not only still with us but still living here. There have been extensive boundary changes in Ferndown since the last census which make things difficult to compare, but the Ferndown Central ward which existed in 2011 ranked ninth of all the wards in England and Wales for population aged 65 and over, with 44% of the population being of that age. Pension day must be fun in the local post office. Parley ward - which covers West Parley - was also in the top 100 for that statistic, and made the top 20 wards in England and Wales for owner-occupation.

With that sort of age profile, it's not too surprising that this area was fertile ground for UKIP at their peak. The Kippers won one of the two county council seats in Ferndown at the 2013 county elections, splitting the division with the Conservatives. The Conservative councillor died in 2016 and Steve Lugg held the by-election in September of that year; the UKIP councillor resigned shortly afterwards and the Tories gained the resulting second by-election in December 2016. On new boundaries, the Conservative slate was easily re-elected in the 2017 county election with 67% of the vote, UKIP coming a poor second on 17%.

By contrast, UKIP never won a seat on East Dorset council whose Ferndown representatives, in recent years, have been solidly Conservative. The map above shows the present ward boundaries for Ferndown Central, introduced for the 2015 district elections in which the Conservatives beat the UKIP slate 50-32 in that ward.

As well as a farewell to Steve Lugg, these by-elections also mark a farewell to the current system of local government in Dorset. Dorset county council and East Dorset council (seen above) will both be abolished on 1st April 2019, replaced by a new Dorset unitary council which will cover all the county outside the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole conurbation. These will be the last by-elections in Dorset before that restructuring takes place.

Whoever succeeds Steve Lugg will, like him, sit on both Dorset county council and East Dorset council; for there is an identical candidate list for the county and district by-elections. (This also means that Lugg's successor will get two votes on the shadow authority which will fill the gap between the creation of the new Dorset council in April next year and its first elections in May 2019. Isn't democracy great?) Defending for the Conservatives is retained firefighter Mike Parkes, who is relatively young by Ferndown standards; he was elected to Ferndown town council in 1999 at the age of 26, and was Mayor of Ferndown in 2014-15. UKIP have selected Ferndown town councillor and retail worker Lawrence Wilson, who was runner-up in the December 2016 county by-election and the 2017 county elections - in which he beat the alphabet by polling more votes than his running-mate Peter Lucas. Completing the ballot papers is Matthew Coussell for the Liberal Democrats,

Ferndown

Parliamentary constituency: Christchurch
East Dorset council wards: Ameysford, Ferndown Central, Parley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bournemouth
Postcode district: BH22

Matthew Coussell (LD)
Mike Parkes (C)
Lawrence Wilson (UKIP)

May 2017 result C 3090/2950 UKIP 795/657 LD 508/429 Lab 244/203

Ferndown Central

Parliamentary constituency: Christchurch
Dorset county council division: Ferndown
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bournemouth
Postcode district: BH22

Matthew Coussell (LD)
Mike Parkes (C)
Lawrence Wilson (UKIP)

May 2015 result C 2645/2351/2315 UKIP 1336/1334/1100 Lab 744


If you liked this, there are plenty more previews like it in the Andrew's Previews books. Search Amazon for Andrew's Previews 2016 and 2017.


Previews: 18 Oct 2018

There are just three by-elections on 18th October 2018. One is for a safe Labour ward in inner London, but the other two are very interesting. We have a close contest for Oxfordshire county council between Labour and the Green Party, which in the week that fracking resumed in the UK could result in a rare Green gain. But we start this week with a new venture. Passports at the ready, as we cross what may become a future customs border...


Carrick Castle

Mid and East Antrim council, Northern Ireland; caused by the death of independent councillor Jim Brown at the age of 68. Brown was a veteran of local government, having been first elected in 1981 to the former Carrickfergus council; he was an Ulster Unionist Party figure until the mid-1990s and had been elected as an independent since then. Brown was appointed MBE in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to local government.

This has been a long time coming. The Andrew's Previews series is now in its ninth year, and in that time the number of by-elections previewed is somewhere in four figures. There aren't many local government districts that have escaped the attention of this column over the years. But in that time there has been hardly a word about one entire province of what remains for now the United Kingdom. It's time to put that right. Welcome to Northern Ireland.

You might reasonably ask why it's taken so long to make the leap across the Irish Sea. It's a good question. I'd like to think that the answer isn't "cowardice"; but then again, when I was a growing lad Northern Ireland wasn't just another place. It seemed like there was scarcely a day when the news bulletins didn't have bad news: a shooting here, a bomb there, an atrocity somewhere else. It was the time of Troubles, of a galaxy of abbreviations representing paramilitaries and terrorists, of Gerry Adams' and Martin McGuinness' words being spoken by an actor, of Manchester city centre being blown up; and it left an impression in my young mind that this was a dangerous place best kept away from. Unfair, I know; and I'm hoping to visit the province next year for the first time.

This isn't the place to go into a full-blown history of the Troubles: a book would struggle to do that subject justice, and it would be difficult to write such a book without offending somebody. But at the same time, it's important to know something about their genesis in order to understand Northern Ireland's local government as it works today.

British rule in Ireland has been going on for a long time, and Carrickfergus was at the centre of it. The Fergus of the name was Fergus Mór, a semi-legendary king who ruled in the fifth century over the kingdom of Dál Riata, which roughly corresponded to what is now called Argyll in Scotland but at its height extended across the sea to present-day County Antrim. The town was founded in the 1170s as the first town in County Antrim by John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight who essentially carried out a private invasion of Ulster and constructed Carrickfergus Castle - which still stands today and is one of the best-preserved mediaeval structures in the province. From its promontory into the sea the castle dominated Carrickfergus Bay - as Belfast Lough was then known - and for the entire mediaeval period Carrickfergus was the main administrative centre for the northern end of the island. That made the town an important military prize: in 1597 the English Crown lost the Battle of Carrickfergus to the forces of the Clan MacDonnell during the Nine Years War, the castle was besieged by William of Orange's forces in 1689 - the Prince of Orange himself entered Ireland through Carrickfergus the following year - and the town saw action in the Seven Years War (during which it was briefly occupied by the French) and the American War of Independence. Carrickfergus sold its customs rights in 1637, and subsequently was rather left behind by the growth of Belfast at the head of the bay during the Industrial Revolution.

Ireland was incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801, and two attempts at Home Rule for the island during the late nineteenth century came to nothing. A third opportunity for Home Rule presented itself in 1910, as the rejection of Lloyd George's 1909 budget by the Tory-dominated House of Lords provoked a constitutional crisis and two general elections in that year. Both of those elections resulted in hung parliaments in London with Irish MPs holding the balance of power. So far, so familiar. A third Home Rule Bill was the result, and despite the prospect that it might provoke a civil war it got through Parliament: but by the time the Home Rule Bill received Royal Assent in September 1914 the First World War had broken out, and implementation was postponed until after the war on the grounds that it would all be over by Christmas. It wasn't.

By the time the war was over, four long years later, the Easter Rising had happened and republicanism was the order of the day. In the 1918 general election Sinn Féin - which had won nothing in 1910 - virtually swept the board in Ireland outside the Protestant-majority areas of Ulster. However, most of their seats in that election were uncontested, and Sinn Féin polled just less than 50% of the vote across the constituencies which saw a contest. The British government hoped to illustrate that Sinn Féin support across the island was not as monolithic as the seat count suggested, and they did this by introducing proportional representation - using the Single Transferable Vote - for the 1920 Irish local government elections, the first since the war. It's questionable whether this move had the effect desired, but it did entrench proportional representation as the electoral system in what became the Republic of Ireland.

Events intervened. By the end of 1922 Ireland had been partitioned into a Free State and "Northern Ireland", being the six north-eastern counties of the island and a polity with a Protestant majority and sizeable Catholic minority. The Protestants and Unionists quickly moved to consolidate their power: proportional representation was immediately abolished for Northern Irish local government and First Past the Post was introduced for the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1929.

Not only that, but every trick in the book was employed to perpetuate that Unionist advantage, and local government was at the heart of it. It's no accident that many of the complaints of the civil rights marchers of the late 1960s related to local government in some way. Even the franchise was manipulated: in Northern Irish local elections only property owners or tenants and their spouses were ordinarily eligible to vote, so adult children living with their parents, lodgers, sub-tenants and servants were excluded from the local electoral register. The province's stark political divide between Protestant and Catholic thus meant that if a local authority gave a council house to a Protestant family, it was pretty much guaranteeing two Unionist votes in the relevant ward. Anti-Catholic discrimination in other fields, such as employment (in 1971 the unemployment rate for Catholics was more than double that for Protestants), thus fed into political control. And gerrymandering was rife: the most notorious example was that of Londonderry county borough, whose population had a large Catholic majority that was safely packed into a few supersafe wards, producing a council permanently controlled by the Unionist minority.

It took the introduction of direct rule for these abuses to be countered. By the late 1960s the Victorian system of local government in the province - counties, county boroughs, urban and rural districts - was just as fragmented and unfit for purpose in Northern Ireland as it was in the rest of the UK. The Northern Ireland Parliament, before events intervened, had been working on a local government reform to sweep away the old map and introduce twenty-six new unitary councils, and single-member wards had been drawn up for the first elections on the new lines. One of those councils was based on Carrickfergus. The Heath government, having imposed direct rule, acceded to the demands of the civil rights protesters that proportional representation be reintroduced; needing a quick way of doing it, they simply grouped together the single-member wards to form District Electoral Areas. Several decades and boundary reviews later, proportional representation and this boundary-drawing process are still with us: the modern Carrick Castle District Electoral Area is a grouping of the single-member wards of Boneybefore, Castle, Kilroot, Love Lane and Victoria, and returns five members to Mid and East Antrim council. This council was created by a further local government reform in 2014 which reduced the number of councils in Northern Ireland to eleven, and as well as Carrickfergus the district includes Larne and Ballymena.

In the meantime Carrickfergus became a commuter town for Belfast, eleven miles away down the Lough. As well as the castle, the Kilroot coal-fired power station dominates the view from the sea here: this is Northern Ireland's largest power plant and produces a third of the province's electricity. The town also had some industry in the postwar period, with textiles, chemicals and cigarette factories.

Proportional representation is all well and good, but it does give you a problem when it comes to casual vacancies. Among the small minority of places which have implemented the Single Transferable Vote, there is no consensus on what to do when a vacancy arises. The Irish Dáil and Scottish local government hold single-member by-elections; Malta and some Australian implementations go back to the original ballot papers and see who would have been elected if the former councillor's votes are redistributed. Irish and Northern Irish local government, together with the Northern Ireland Assembly, do neither of these: instead they operate a system where the party of the departed councillor are asked to nominate a replacement to serve in their stead. This is handled in the province by the centralised Electoral Office of Northern Ireland, and you can see news of replacements on their website as they happen. Over in the Republic, a young man called Leo Varadkar got his leg-up into public office in this way some years ago. Independent councillors, who don't have a party machinery to do this kind of thing, instead get to file an ordered list of substitutes who, in the event of a vacancy, are contacted in turn to see if they are (a) eligible and (b) still interested in being a councillor. Independent councillor Jim Brown had lodged a list of three substitutes, none of whom passed these tests after Brown died earlier this year; and so we are having a by-election, the first local by-election in Northern Ireland since 2010.

Which brings us on to Northern Ireland's wonderful political parties. The province has not moved on politically in the last century in the sense that its elections are still sectarian headcounts rather than based on such decadent notions as policy and ideology; but unlike the 1910s there is no longer a monolithic Unionist Party and a monolithic Nationalist Party on the two sides of the religious divide. In what's already a long piece I'm not going to spend any time discussing the Nationalist side of the party system, for the simple reason that it's not relevant in Carrickfergus. In the 2011 census the town reported a religious split of 85% Protestant to just 10% Catholic; the Nationalist parties are not organised in the town and there has never been a nationalist candidate in Carrickfergus' local elections going back to the 1973 reorganisation (and probably beyond). This by-election hasn't ended that streak. So let's talk Unionism.

Top of the poll in Carrick Castle in 2014, as so often happens across the province these days, was the Democratic Unionist Party which won 27% of the vote and two out of five seats. This was of course the party of the Big Man, "Papa Doc", the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley who juggled leading the party with leading his own Christian denomination and preaching fire and brimstone on everyone. Until he got into government and became a Chuckle Brother. The DUP are now the major Unionist party: their vote base tends towards working-class and hardline Protestants, and some of their views wouldn't look out of place in the US Republicans with a big NO to gay rights, abortion and all that jazz and a warm reception for creationism and other such stuff you find in the Bible. They've had their fair share of scandals in recent years, from the affair between Mrs Robinson and a younger man while Mrs Robinson was married to the First Minister; through Ian Paisley's son Ian Junior or "Baby Doc" (altogether now: Baby Doc do do do-do do-do Baby Doc do do do-do do-do...) becoming the first MP to have a recall petition opened on him; to the Renewable Heat Incentive affair which brought down the Northern Ireland devolved government early last year. Two inconclusive elections later, and the DUP are propping up Theresa May's government in Westminster while Stormont remains in limbo; with Arlene Foster having a veto on much of what the Tories want to do at the moment, Mrs May doesn't have much of an incentive to force the DUP back around the table with the Shinners to get the Northern Ireland government going again.

This is the first poll in Northern Ireland since the 2017 general election, and it will be interesting to see if the success of the DUP in influencing the Westminster government has any effect on the vote shares. Hoping for an increase is the DUP candidate Peter Johnston, a 30-year-old IT entrepreneur who came back to Carrickfergus after founding a software company in Silicon Valley.

Second here in 2014 were the Ulster Unionist Party, the province's traditional party of government and in increasing disarray as they desperately try to work out how to get top spot back from the DUP. The UUP candidate here John Stewart had 16% of the vote last time out, polling more first preferences than any other candidate; and subsequently he was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly last year. This time the UUP nominee is John McDermott, another local businessman who claims to have been endorsed by Jim Brown as his successor before Brown died.

Brown himself polled 15% of the first preferences in 2014, being the second candidate to be elected: he made quota after the Traditional Unionist Voice candidate was eliminated. The TUV are a fundamentalist DUP splinter group, so goodness knows what they make of the independent candidate in this by-election: Will Sibley is a practitioner of alternative health therapies such as reiki and trance healing.

Coming in fourth last time, also with 15% of the first preferences, were the Alliance Party. The Alliance badge themselves as a cross-community party, with policies not dissimilar to the Liberal Democrats across the water; being "cross-community" in Carrickfergus probably means that Alliance are mopping up whatever Catholic vote exists in the town. 15% would normally get you one out of five seats in a Single Transferable Vote election, but not in Carrick Castle in 2014: the Unionist transfers stayed within the Unionist parties, the Alliance couldn't get the 2% of transfers they needed to make quota and they were shut out. Their candidate for this by-election is Lauren Gray, a former journalist and Girl Guide leader.

Instead the remaining seat went to, surprisingly enough, UKIP who had 13% of the first preferences. The last Northern Irish local elections being on Euro-election day in 2014 will have helped in that, but UKIP councillor Noel Jordan must have been well thought-of in Carrickfergus to do so well. Jordan was subsequently the UKIP candidate for the East Antrim constituency at the 2015 general election and the 2016 and 2017 Assembly elections: in 2015 he broke 10% and the following year he finished as runner-up. He has since left UKIP, but there is a continuity Eurosceptic candidate in the form of Si Harvey, who has been nominated for the UKIP splinter Democrats and Veterans Party.

Harvey completes a five-strong ballot paper for this very rare Northern Ireland local by-election. It only remains to say that the Alternative Vote will be in use; and don't wait up all night for the result, as the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland won't start counting the votes until Friday morning.

I am grateful to the broadcaster, Round Britain Quiz team member and all-round good guy Paddy Duffy for help with this preview.

Parliamentary constituency: East Antrim
ONS Travel to Work Area: Belfast
Postcode district: BT38

Lauren Gray (All)
Si Harvey (Democrats and Veterans)
Peter Johnston (DUP)
John McDermott (UUP)
Will Sibley (Ind)

May 2014 first preferences DUP 1586 UUP 939 Ind 882 All 846 UKIP 749 TUV 338 PUP 248 Ind 131 Ind 105


Iffley Fields and St Mary's

Oxfordshire county council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Helen Evans, who is moving away from the area. She had served since May 2017.

We return to the more familiar surroundings of Great Britain for a discussion of two very left-wing and urban wards. First and most interesting is the city of Oxford, with a by-election to Oxfordshire county council. The Iffley Fields and St Mary's county division is based along the Iffley Road, the southern of the three roads into Oxford from the south-east that converge at Magdalen Bridge.

The area around Magdalen Bridge to the west of Iffley Road is "gown" territory. Much of this area is open space next to the River Cherwell, occupied by the University of Oxford's rugby ground and athletics track. The rugby ground, which was used by Oxford's rugby league team until earlier this year, has hosted international sides playing the University on numerous occasions; but it's the athletics track for which the area is world-famous. In 1948 a medical student at Exeter College was elected president of the University's Athletic Club with a promise to bring the Iffley Road track up to modern standards; six years later he turned up for a meet here on the track he'd had built, and 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds afterwards Roger Bannister's name was in the history books. The Iffley Road running track was refurbished in 2007; now called the Roger Bannister running track, it awaits its next world record.

At the northern end of the ward can be found Magdalen College School, a private school dating from 1480 and associated with the Oxford college of the same name on the far side of Magdalen Bridge. (Which explains a few things. Last Saturday your columnist was at Magdalen playing quizbowl; as well as the quiz, there was a Matriculation ceremony going on at the same time, and the college cloister was filled with students in full academic dress, proud parents clutching glasses of wine and at least one crocodile of schoolchildren in uniform - presumably from that school. As with so much of what goes on at Oxbridge, all very bizarre.) Magdalen College School educated the Lord Chancellor and Catholic martyr St Thomas More, and other Old Waynfletes include the physician, journalist and Bad Scientist ben goldacre, who really needs to learn to use Capital Letters in his correspondence. Around May goldacre tried to get your columnist involved in an election research project while making it clear that he had no money to pay for it - I think he found it's a bit more complicated than that. Next to Magdalen College School is the only Oxford University college east of the Cherwell, St Hilda's; dating from 1893, St Hilda's became in 2007 the last single-sex Oxford college to admit men and accordingly all of its well-known political alumni are women. They include three members of the House of Lords, the academic Susan Greenfield, the former London Mayoral candidate Susan Kramer and Gillian Shephard, the education and employment secretary in the Major government; and one Member of Parliament currently serving, the Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier.

All this has left its mark on the demographics. The St Mary's ward of Oxford, which is the northern end of this division and includes St Hilda's College, was 46% student at the 2011 census, making top 100 lists in the UK for private renting (54% of households), the 18-29 age bracket (56%), those educated to A-level or equivalent but no higher (34%) and those born in the EU-14 (7.6%). Iffley Fields ward, the southern end of the division, is more "town" than "gown" with only 18% full-time students. This sort of profile tends to mean a very volatile electorate because the student population turns over from year to year; and since Oxford's 2018 Michaelmas term is only in its second week it's questionable how many of this academic year's students have made their way onto the electoral register in time for this by-election.

At county level this area is closely fought between Labour and the Green Party and has been for many years. Until 2013 St Mary's ward was in the East Oxford division and Iffley Fields ward was represented by county councillors for Isis, which in those halcyon days was not a name that has the connotations it does now. East Oxford and Isis both voted Green in 2005 before splitting their two seats between Green and Labour in 2009. The present division was created by a boundary review for the 2013 election and has continued in that vein: the Greens won Iffley Fields and St Mary's by 77 votes in 2013, but Labour gained it by 199 votes four years later as the Green Party was wiped out of Oxfordshire county council. In percentage terms the Labour lead that year was 47-41. May's Oxford city council elections saw the Greens hold St Mary's ward and Labour hold Iffley Fields, both results being marginal: across both wards the Greens led 47-45 in votes. That's not a direct comparison as this county division doesn't cover all of Iffley Fields ward; but it does indicate that the Green Party may be within range of a rare by-election gain.

Defending for Labour is Damian Haywood, who works for Oxford University in NHS clinical research and is the treasurer of a national charity supporting families with disabled children. The Green Party have reselected (Arthur) David Williams, a veteran of local government: he was first elected in 1979 as a Labour member of Rochdale council, and he stood for Parliament three times as a Labour candidate (in Colne Valley in 1983, and Rochdale in 1987 and 1992). Williams came to Oxford in the 1990s, joined the Green Party in 2003, and was a Green member of Oxford city council for Iffley Fields ward from 2006 to 2014; he was elected to Oxfordshire county council for this division in 2013, lost his seat in 2017, and wants it back. Completing the ballot paper are Josie Procter for the Lib Dems and Conservative candidate Paul Sims.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford East
Oxford city council wards: St Mary's; Iffley Fields (most)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford
Postcode district: OX4

Damien Haywood (Lab)
Josie Procter (LD)
Paul Sims (C)
Arthur Williams (Grn)

May 2017 result Lab 1525 Grn 1326 LD 222 C 181
May 2013 result Grn 1111 Lab 1034 C 134 LD 90 Ind 49


Victoria

Hackney council, North London; caused by the resignation on health grounds of Labour councillor Alex Kuye. He had served only since May this year.

For our last by-election today we travel to inner-city London, from Meg Hillier's alma mater to her constituency. Hackney's Victoria ward covers South Hackney, along Victoria Park Road and Well Street in the E9 postcode district; it covers the housing immediately to the north-west of Victoria Park but not the park itself, which is in the Borough of Tower Hamlets. Hackney has a reputation as a poor, crowded and multicultural part of London, and Victoria ward is no different from the rest of the borough: it is in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for social housing (52%), black population (24%) and mixed-race population (6.7%). That was on the boundaries which existed at the time of the 2011 census; there were boundary changes here for the 2014 election but Victoria ward was little changed by that review.

In the current political climate that creates a very safe ward for Labour. In the May 2018 London borough elections the Labour slate led here with 67% of the vote, the Greens running second on just 17%. The 2016 Mayor and Assembly elections saw Sadiq Khan leading Zac Goldsmith 68-11 in the ward's ballot boxes, while in the London Members ballot Labour beat the Greens 60-14. At parliamentary level, Hillier - who in 2000 was elected as the first London Assembly member for this area, which is part of the Assembly's North East constituency - is similarly untroubled.

Defending for Labour is Penny Wrout, a journalist and Essex University lecturer. The Greens have reselected a candidate from their slate here in May, Wendy Robinson who works in publishing. Also standing are Pippa Morgan for the Liberal Democrats, veteran election candidate Christopher Sills for the Conservatives and Harini Iyengar, who has been nominated by the Women's Equality Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Hackney South and Shoreditch
London Assembly constituency: North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: E8, E9

Harini Iyengar (Women's Equality)
Pippa Morgan (LD)
Wendy Robinson (Grn)
Christopher Sills (C)
Penny Wrout (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 2271/1880/1709 Grn 575/384/302 LD 299/270/160 C 229/212/210
May 2014 result Lab 2096/2059/1921 Grn 640/586/572 C 278/269/151 UKIP 256 LD 186/165/114
May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2098 C 338 Grn 310 Women's Equality 85 LD 82 Respect 54 UKIP 35 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 25 Britain First 19 BNP 9 Zylinski 5 One Love 4
London Members: Lab 1873 Grn 446 C 239 Women's Equality 163 LD 149 UKIP 74 Respect 55 Britain First 26 CPA 22 Animal Welfare 20 House Party 17 BNP 12


Previews: 11 Oct 2018

And each town looks the same to me
-Paul Simon, Homeward Bound

It's a common complaint these days that all towns look the same. Let me try and persuade you otherwise, for the five local by-elections on 11th October 2018 are all in towns. For connoisseurs of towns there's a bit of everything here: small towns and large ones, north and south, old and New; politically this week's selection leans to the left, with four Labour defences in the North and a free-for-all in the South. In this column's time-honoured tradition of covering all the right votes but necessarily in the right order, let's start with that one...

Southlands

Adur council, West Sussex; caused by the resignation of Paul Graysmark, the leader of the UKIP group on the council, who was first elected in 2000 and had continuous sevice since a May 2013 by-election. He is retiring and moving to Scotland.

"A fine and cultivated city containing buildings and flourishing activity"

That was the Arab Muslim geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, writing in the middle of the twelfth century; and I'm not going to contradict his assessment of Shoreham-by-Sea. Mind, in the intervening years Shoreham has been overtaken in importance by the neighbouring towns of Brighton, Hove and Worthing. Worthing has escaped the normal depressed fate of seaside resorts by diversifying into financial services; Hove is, well, Hove; and despite the vagaries of Thameslink Brighton has become a favoured location for London commuters. In some ways Brighton is becoming a victim of its own success in that regard, as the cost of living there is now almost as prohibitive as in the Great Wen itself. Supply and demand being what it is, that means that those people who want to live on the south coast and commute to London are having to look to places which are not Brighton.

Places like Shoreham, which has swung a mile to the left politically within the last electoral cycle: between the 2015 and 2017 general elections the Labour share in the East Worthing and Shoreham constituency doubled from 20% to 40%, turning the seat into a Tory-Labour marginal for the first time. That wasn't achieved by taking votes off the Conservative MP Tim Loughton, whose share was unchanged at 49%; instead the main losers were UKIP, who fell from 17% of the vote in 2015 to just 3% two years later.

Clearly something very interesting is going on in this corner of the world, but then again if you look at Southlands ward on its own it might appear as if little has changed on the surface. The ward is a tract of eastern Shoreham around Southlands Hospital; much of it is ex-council housing from the postwar period and its demographic profile is rather more working-class than neighbouring wards. Southlands is, and has been for several electoral cycles now, a knife-edge marginal. In the 2004 election, the first on the current boundaries, it split its two seats between the Conservatives and Labour; on the Tory side, that meant that Paul Graysmark lost his seat to his wife Laura. Awkward. The Tories convincingly gained the Labour seat in 2006 and things then looked set fair for them, until Paul Graysmark made a political comeback. Mr Graysmark was elected in 2012 for the Conservatives against a strong Labour resurgence, with a majority of just eight votes; but then he decided to gamble by defecting to UKIP and resigning to seek re-election in his new colours. The gamble paid off: Graysmark easily held the by-election in May 2013, and got a running-mate elected the following year.

But things then started to get difficult for UKIP in Southlands. Graysmark was re-elected in 2016, but only just on an almost perfect three-way split: he finished twelve votes ahead of the Conservatives and twenty votes above Labour. UKIP then collapsed here in the 2017 West Sussex county elections, in which Shoreham North was a very safe Tory division. That collapse fed through to the 2017 general election the following month and to the May 2018 Adur district elections, in which UKIP resoundingly lost Southlands by finishing last with just 5%. But it wasn't the Tories who picked up - it was Labour, winning a seat in Southlands for the first time in fourteen years with 42% to the Tories' 41%, a majority of eleven votes. That was one of four Labour gains in this district in MAy, as the party became the official opposition on Adur council.

So Paul Graysmark has resigned his seat for the second time in five years. This time he is not seeking re-election; not only that, there is no defending UKIP candidate so we have a free-for-all! The Labour candidate is Debs Stainforth, who is currently training as a psychologist and, according to Labour's press release, has worked in housing, homelessness and family work for many years. The Tories' Tony Nicklen returns after his near-misses in 2016 and 2018; he is a technical coordinator in food manufacturing. Completing the ballot paper is Andrew Bradbury, for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: East Worthing and Shoreham
West Sussex county council division: Shoreham North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Worthing
Postcode district: BN43

Andrew Bradbury (Grn)
Tony Nicklen (C)
Debs Stainforth (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 425 C 414 LD 69 Grn 57 UKIP 52
May 2016 result UKIP 301 C 289 Lab 281 LD 95
May 2014 result UKIP 371 C 353 Lab 220 LD 55 Grn 50
May 2013 by-election UKIP 354 Lab 254 C 228 LD 51
May 2012 result C 329 Lab 321 UKIP 131 LD 85
May 2010 result C 720 Lab 547 LD 442 UKIP 171
May 2008 result C 522 Lab 205 LD 110 Grn 87
May 2006 result C 500 Lab 337 LD 174
June 2004 rsult C 555/517 Lab 535/498


Ditton

Halton council, Cheshire; caused by the disqualification of Labour councillor Shaun Osborne, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months. A former Mayor of Halton who had served for over twenty years, Osborne has been unable to attend meetings due to poor health over the last eighteen months.

"If you'd ever seen Widnes, then you'd know why I was keen to get back to London as quickly as possible."

We start our tour of the Labour North with a quote attributed to the singer-songrwriter Paul Simon, and I'm not going to contradict his assessment of Widnes. Back in the 1960s Simon travelled to Widnes to play a gig and then had a long and depressing wait for a train home, during which he started to a write a song which became Homeward Bound, a huge hit for Simon and his then musical partner Art Garfunkel.

https://youtu.be/m0oJ8_VTu3c

A plaque on Widnes railway station commemorates the writing of the song with a slightly worrying lack of irony; but it seems more likely that Simon was actually at Ditton railway station, on the Crewe-Liverpool line, which subsequently closed in 1994 - the first railway station to close after the privatisation of British Rail.

To the south of the former Ditton station is Halebank, an industrial village on the north bank of the Mersey; while to the north lies part of Widnes proper, the Ditton and Hough Green areas. Parts of Hough Green are quite well-off, but the political tone of this ward is set by Ditton and Halebank which are strongly Labour. The Labour party have only lost Ditton ward once in this century, to the Conservatives in 2006 by twenty-nine votes; and that must be put down to a personal vote for the Tory candidate Colin Rowan. After losing his seat in 2010 Rowan became chairman of Halebank parish council, and he made an attempt to get back onto Halton council as an independent candidate in May's ordinary election: in a straight fight, Labour defeated him by 62-38, which is a relatively low Labour score for the area.

Defending this by-election for the Labour Party is Edward Dourley. Rowan has not returned, but there will be a contested election as Dourley is opposed by Daniel Clarke for the Conservatives and David Coveney for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Halton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode district: WA8

Daniel Clarke (C)
David Coveney (LD)
Edward Dourley (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 934 Ind 575
May 2016 result Lab 1105 Ind 202 C 171
May 2015 result Lab 2678 C 748
May 2014 result Lab 1251 C 308
May 2012 result Lab 1209 C 286
May 2011 result Lab 1372 C 494
May 2010 result Lab 2180 C 925
May 2008 result Lab 650 C 495 LD 346
May 2007 result Lab 784 C 485 LD 318
May 2006 result C 722 Lab 693
June 2004 result Lab 1185/1051/864 C 681


Penketh and Cuerdley

Warrington council, Cheshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Allin Dirir at the age of 79. Born in Somalia, where he became the country's youngest-ever political party leader aged 16, Dirir studied at Alexandria University in Egypt before coming to Britain to study at Lancaster University. He married his wife Linda - who still sits on Warrington council - in 1970, and they settled down in Penketh to raise a family and become pillars of the community. Allin Dirir was the first Somali ever to be elected to public office in the UK - winning a seat on Penketh parish council in 2000 - and he was elected to Warrington borough council in 2012, some years after acting as consort to Linda during her mayoral year. He leaves behind Linda and their four children.

We travel across Widnes from west to east and cross the border into the Borough of Warrington. Penketh marks the western end of Warrington, and is a rather affluent part of the New Town. There is some commuting to Liverpool and Manchester from Sankey railway station just outside the ward boundary, although this is expected to reduce once the new Warrington West station opens later this year. Much of the housing is postwar, but owner-occupation here is extremely high. As is, by all accounts, pride in the community; a local resident and quiz friend of mine reports that Penketh parish council is well-off enough to own and run a well-used community centre and swimming pool. By contrast, Warrington borough council are trying to concentrate their services in this part of town in Great Sankey, to which there is no bus service from Penketh; the main council services in the ward are schools and Penketh library, which is under threat of closure. However, Penketh and Cuerdley are probably best known to the world outside Warrington for exporting electricity: here can be found the giant coal-fired power station at Fiddler's Ferry, whose cooling towers dominate much of the Cheshire and Lancashire plain.

This has historically been one of the better wards for the Conservatives in Warrington; the party won one seat out of three here in 2004, held it in 2006 and gained a second seat in 2008. Since then it's been all Labour - Allin Dirir completing the wipeout of the Tories in 2012 - but the Conservative vote has not utterly collapsed here as it has elsewhere within the cultural orbit of Liverpool. There were new boundaries here for the 2016 election in which Labour beat the Conservatives by 51% to 41%; so despite the good Labour result in the local Warrington South constituency in the following year's general election, the party cannot afford to be complacent.

Defending for Labour is Kenny Watson, chairman of the party's Momentum branch. The Tory candidate is Philip Hayward, who fought Chapelford and Old Hall ward in the 2016 borough elections and again in a by-election last October where he performed poorly. Also standing are David Crowther for the Lib Dems, Stephanie Davies for the Green Party, independent candidate Geoff Fellows - who won a by-election to Penketh parish council in April - and UKIP's Ian Wilson.

Parliamentary constituency: Warrington South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode districts: WA4, WA5, WA8

David Crowther (LD)
Stephanie Davies (Grn)
Geoff Fellows (Ind)
Philip Hayward (C)
Kenny Watson (Lab)
Ian Wilson (UKIP)

May 2016 result Lab 1622/1511/1486 C 1317/1087/1030 LD 254


Tanhouse

West Lancashire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Robert Pendleton. Pendleton was a veteran of local government, having been first elected to West Lancashire council in 1983; he was only re-elected in May for his tenth term of office. He had served as chairman of West Lancashire council in 2008-09, and had also been a Lancashire county councillor until 2009 when he lost Skelmersdale East to the Conservatives.

https://youtu.be/GuIhaAmDyZ0

Would you like a commute without traffic lights to punctuate your journey? Where the traffic always flows freely? Well, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for: for we finish our mini-tour of towns between the Ribble and the Mersey with a place which - while it doesn't contain a single traffic light - not many people seem to have a good word for. Like Warrington, Skelmersdale is a New Town, but unlike Warrington it's a New Town that never realised its full potential: fewer than 40,000 people live there and they still get lost in the maze of roundabouts that is the town's road network. Skem was built for and almost entirely populated by people rehoused from Liverpool and its satellite towns, and despite its short life has inspired one of the major works of British musical theatre: the second act of Willy Russell's Blood Brothers, which ran in the West End for nearly a quarter of a century, is set in Skelmersdale. Listen to the song above - which closes the first act of Blood Brothers - and you'll get some idea of how a new life in Skem could seem appealing. Of course, that's only Act One, and there's plenty of time in Act Two for things to go as pearshaped as some of Skem's roundabouts.

Skem votes like it's a part of Merseyside and always has done. The town supplies the Labour majority on West Lancashire council and in the West Lancashire constituency, and Tanhouse ward in the east of town - despite a scare from the Tories in a 2008 by-election - is no different to the general pattern. This is the sort of place where the Labour votes are not counted but weighed; in May's ordinary election the readout from the Tanhouse scales was 85% for Labour's Robert Pendleton against only Conservative opposition. Last year's county council elections suggest that this is a relatively weak Labour area within the Skelmersdale Central county division, across which Labour polled 88% of the vote.

So don't expect electoral fireworks here. Defending this by-election for Labour is Ron Cooper, who is opposed by the Tories' Alexander Blundell and independent Aaron Body.

Parliamentary constituency: West Lancashire
Lancashire county council division: Skelmersdale Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode district: WN8

Alexander Blundell (C)
Aaron Body (Ind)
Ron Cooper (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 714 C 125
May 2015 result Lab 1644 C 316
May 2014 result Lab 759 UKIP 121 C 74
May 2011 result Lab 726 C 187
May 2010 result Lab 1416 C 433
May 2008 by-election Lab 402 C 368
May 2007 result Lab 412 C 180 Grn 89
May 2006 result Lab 482 C 179 Grn 88
May 2003 result Lab 368 C 114
May 2002 result Lab 374/321 Ind 163 C 129


Hart

Hartlepool council, County Durham; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Paul Beck who had served since 2012. The Mayor of Hartlepool in 2017-18, Beck is standing down partly to care for his wife, who is in poor health; and partly due to a row over candidate selection for the 2019 elections which has seen several Hartlepool Labour councillors deselected.

We finish the week as we started it, in a coastal town. The much-misunderstood town of Hartlepool is the major settlement on the Durham coast, having been founded in the seventh century by St Aidan; the name derives from "hart" as in "stag", and the north of the town still has a large number of "hart" placenames. Chief among those is Hart village, a rather nice place bypassed by the main road west towards Durham. Hart has a very old history: its church, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, predates the Norman conquest, and in the twelfth century the lords of the manor here were the de Brus family, one of whom - Robert de Brus VII - is better known to history as one of the famous kings of Scotland.

However, Hart village has only formed part of the Hart ward since 2012. Hart ward is instead focused on the northern end of the town of Hartlepool, along the Hart Road and the Coast Road. This is a fast-growing area where a lot of new housing estates have sprung up over the last thirty years or so. Hart ward has high employment levels - very high by Hartlepool standards - and the version of the ward which existed at the time of the 2011 census made the top 70 wards in England and Wales for Apprenticeship qualifications, reflecting the town's manufacturing base.

Local politics in Hartlepool has never been quite the same since, well, since the Major government. Even before the Monkey Mayor came on the scene in 2002 the Labour party's grip on the town had been well and truly loosened, and the story of the last decade and a half here has been one of political fragmentation between a galaxy of localist groups, independents and UKIP. Hart ward is no different: it was a Lib Dem hotspot until the Coalition put paid to the Lib Dem vote in Hartlepool, and the 2012 election - the first on these boundaries - returned two Labour councillors and an ex-Lib Dem independent. In a close four-way result, the independent councillor lost his seat in 2014 to the localist party Putting Hartlepool First; Labour held the other two seats in 2015 in 2016, with UKIP close behind on both occasions. In May 2018 Putting Hartlepool First didn't defend their seat, but it went to another independent rather than reverting to Labour; shares of the vote were 44% for the independent candidate Thomas Cassidy, 39% for Labour and 17% for the Conservatives.

Defending this by-election for Labour is Aileen Kendon, who returns to the campaign trail after being the losing Labour candidate here in May. The independent charge is led by James Brewer, who was runner-up in a by-election last July for the neighbouring Rural West ward. The Tories have gone for youth by selecting 19-year-old Cameron Stokell, a politics student at Sheffield Hallam University and talented field hockey player. Completing the ballot paper is Michael Holt for the Green Party. Whoever wins this by-election is unlikely to be able to rest for long, as they will be up for re-election next May.

Parliamentary constituency: Hartlepool
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hartlepool
Postcode districts: TS26, TS27

James Brewer (Ind)
Michael Holt (Grn)
Aileen Kendon (Lab)
Cameron Stokell (C)

May 2018 result Ind 778 Lab 685 C 304
May 2016 result Lab 568 UKIP 529 Ind 394 C 383 Grn 70
May 2015 result Lab 1186 UKIP 981 C 798 Putting Hartlepool First 787 Ind 547
May 2014 result Putting Hartlepool First 534 UKIP 446 Ind 435 Lab 376 C 234
May 2012 result Lab 713/571/522 Ind 532/368/333/257 C 417 Putting Hartlepool First 266 UKIP 262


Preview: 09 Oct 2018

One by-election on Tuesday 9th October 2018:

 

Castle Baynard

City of London Corporation; caused by the election of Common Councilman Emma Edhem to the Court of Alderman.

For a rare Tuesday by-election we come to the western end of the ancient City of London. In medieval times London ended at the River Fleet, a tributary of the Thames which has now completely disappeared into London's sewer network. However, the Fleet formed a natural first line of defence which was supplemented by London's Roman walls and, from the Norman conquest onwards, Baynard's Castle.

The name refers to Ralph Baynard, who came over with the Conqueror and became Sheriff of Essex. He built a castle on the corner of the Fleet and Thames, next to what became (after Edward III moved his store of arms, personal items and clothing nearby) the church of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. Baynard's Castle was destroyed in the wars that marked the reign of King John, and a new castle was then built very close by on land which had been reclaimed from the river; this ended up in the hands of the Dukes of York, and became royal property when the Lancastrian king Henry VI was deposed. Richard III was proclaimed king here after having his nephew Edward V declared illegitimate; Henry VIII gave the castle to his first wife Catherine of Aragon as a wedding present; while the Privy Council met here in 1553 to proclaim their daughter Mary as Queen and end the ill-fated reign of Lady Jane Grey.

The Great Fire of London destroyed Baynard's Castle, and all remains of the mediaeval building had gone by the twentieth century. Its site was extensively redeveloped in the 1970s and is now occupied by the brutalist Baynard House, an office block occupied by BT. If you watched Mission: Impossible - Fallout when it came out earlier this year, you've probably seen Baynard House: Tom Cruise broke his ankle jumping off the roof of the building while shooting a scene for that film.

Of course, it's not just BT who are important players within the Castle Baynard ward. On the riverbank are the railway and Underground stations at Blackfriars, which bring thousands of people into the area every weekday. To the north-east, St Paul's Cathedral lies within the ward boundary; while to the north-west the ward covers another of Wren's churches, the wedding cake of St Bride's, together with the area around Fleet Street. This was traditionally the home of London journalism, but the press have been priced out over the years - the last Fleet Street newspaper office, for the Sunday Post, closed in 2016 - and it's now sandwich shops and financial institutions that rule the roost here. Boundary changes in this decade have expanded the ward into the Farringdon area, traditionally a district dominated by lawyers.

Under the City of London's unique system of business voting, it's electors nominated by businesses and sole traders within the ward who will elect the winner of this by-election - there are very few people who actually live here. The Corporation of London has non-partisan politics rather like a largish parish council; despite Labour having won a few seats on the Court of Common Council in recent years, political parties are generally not important in the City's elections. So this by-election will provide a breath of fresh air from the polarised politics of the modern day - although, as we shall see, there are some party political figures here despite the "Independent" ballot paper description.

The business voters here certainly can't complain that they don't have choice: there are eight candidates for this by-election, which is the longest ballot paper in an English local by-election for a single vacancy since February 2017 (when eight candidates stood for Dinnington ward in Rotherham). Many of these names will be familiar to City watchers. Timothy Becker may be at the top of the ballot paper but he has made a habit of finishing at the bottom of City local by-election results: he was last in Bishopsgate ward last November and in Billingsgate ward in March this year, on the latter occasion polling just six votes. Merlene Emerson may be on the ballot paper as an independent, as is traditional in the City, but she is a prominent Liberal Democrat: of Chinese extraction, Emerson is a City solicitor turned mediator who fought Hammersmith in the 2010 general election, and she was appointed MBE in the 2016 Birthday Honours for political and public service. Richard Humphreys, who commutes into the city from rural Northamptonshire, is a QC specialising in public law. Two candidates give addresses in the City of London, on the Barbican estate: barrister Natasha Lloyd-Owen is an official Labour Party candidate, while Deborah Oliver works in corporate relations and communications and was recently appointed to the City of London Police Committee. They sandwich on the ballot paper Julian Malins, the younger brother of the former Tory MP Humfrey Malins; Malins junior was the Conservative candidate for Pontefract and Castleford in the 1987 general election and is a barrister and Crown Court recorder who has represented Elton John and Lord Archer in libel cases, and more recently conducted an investigation into Cambridge Analytica just before it went bust. Malins is trying to get back onto the Common Council after losing his seat in Farrington Without ward in last year's City elections. Those elections also saw Alpa Raja missing out in Castle Baynard after coming ninth out of nine candidates, with the top eight winning; Raja is back for another go. Completing the ballot paper is another former Common Councilman who lost her seat in 2017, Virginia Rounding who is an author, literary critic and Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Builders' Merchants. Good luck choosing a winner out of that field.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EC1N, EC4A, EC4M, EC4V, EC4Y

Timothy Becker (Ind)
Merlene Emerson (Ind)
Richard Humphreys (Ind)
Natasha Lloyd-Owen (Lab)
Julian Malins (Ind)
Deborah Oliver (Ind)
Alpa Raja (Ind)
Virginia Rounding (Ind)


Previews: 04 Oct 2018

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

After last week's tale of three cities, the three by-elections on 4th October 2018 are all in or based on towns. It's a vintage week for octogenarian veterans of local government, as we discuss two Tory and one Labour defence in the eastern half of England. Read on...


Moor

Chesterfield council, Derbyshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Keith Brown at the age of 62. He had served since 2011 for Moor ward, and was also a Chesterfield councillor for St Helen's ward from 1983 to 1991. His working life was spent in social services: he had retired a few years ago from the adult care service of Derbyshire county council.

It's Tory Conference week, so the obvious place to start is with, yes, a contest between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We're in Chesterfield, the largest town (as opposed to city) in Derbyshire; this is an old market town which became an industrial centre during the Industrial Revolution. There was lots of coal under Chesterfield, and associated industries grew up taking advantage of the raw material and the transport links offered by the River Rother, the Chesterfield Canal and the railways. One of those industries was a large glassworks on Lockford Lane, located in the Whittington Moor area a mile or two north of the town centre. The glass factory closed in the early 2000s and the site has since been redeveloped: it's now home to a supermarket and the Proact Stadium, which since 2010 has been the home ground of Chesterfield FC. Overlooking this from the west is a rather deprived ward, although not by any means the worst-off area of town.

Chesterfield has been a rather unlikely Liberal Democrat hotspot in recent decades, going back to 2001 when the party gained the Chesterfield parliamentary seat; that was after Tony Benn retired as the town's MP to spend more time with his politics. The Lib Dems followed up by gaining the borough council in 2003 and held it until 2011. One of the wards which sustained that Lib Dem majority was Moor ward; this was also gained by Labour in 2011, and the 2015 result saw a slight further swing in favour of the Labour party who had 49% to 35% for the Lib Dem slate. The Lib Dems were nowhere here in the 2017 Derbyshire county elections - Moor ward is part of St Mary's division which is safe for Labour - but did win the last by-election to Chesterfield council, gaining Holmebrook ward from Labour in September last year.

As the defending Labour candidate here Ron Mihaly knows well: he was the defending Labour candidate in that by-election too. Readers of Andrew's Previews 2017 - available now from Amazon, and all purchases will help to support this column - may recall that Mihaly is a Derbyshire county councillor, representing Boythorpe and Brampton South in western Chesterfield. Appropriately enough for the location, Mihaly is a former professional footballer who played in central defence for Chesterfield and QPR in the 1970s. He's also well-placed to keep an eye on the Lib Dem campaign, because he gives an address four doors away from the Lib Dem candidate.

That Liberal Democrat candidate is Tony Rogers, a political veteran who is fighting his thirtieth election campaign and celebrated his eightieth birthday this year. Rogers was the Liberal or Liberal Democrat candidate for Chesterfield in the 1987, 1992 and 1997 general elections, and in a long political career which started in his native West Country has reportedly sat on six different local authorities. The two most recent of those were Derbyshire county council and Chesterfield borough council, on which he represented this ward until losing his seat in 2011. Completing the ballot paper are Gordon Partington for the Conservatives and Barry Thompson for UKIP.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Chesterfield
Derbyshire county council division: St Mary's
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield
Postcode district: S41

Ron Mihaly (Lab)
Gordon Partington (C)
Tony Rogers (LD)
Barry Thompson (UKIP)

May 2015 result Lab 943/927 LD 669/551 C 301
May 2011 result Lab 846/788 LD 646/565
May 2007 result LD 893/829 Lab 514/449
May 2003 result LD 1149/1003 Lab 717/613


Thirsk

Hambleton council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councilor Janet Watson who had served since 2015.

We move to two polls in the Tory shires, starting in the north. Thirsk is one of the major towns in the Vale of Mowbray, that low ground between the Pennines and the North York Moors through which all the major transport routes to the North East flow. Thirsk lies on two of those, the A19 road to Teesside and the West Coast Main Line, giving it excellent communication links. But at heart this is still a rural and agricultural market town - as you might have guessed from some well-known works of literature set here. Jim Wight was a veterinary surgeon in Thirsk for many years but found fame as a writer of semi-autobiographical books, which were televised under the name All Creatures Great and Small.

The local government district here is Hambleton, one of England's less-cohesive districts in that it fills the Vale of Mowbray, running from the edge of York all the way to the edge of Darlington and Teesside. Hambleton had a boundary review for 2015 with a big cut in the number of councillors, so while Thirsk ward is now larger than it was before 2015, having gained five rural parishes, it has one fewer councillor. With three Tories representing true-blue Thirsk going into the 2015 election someone had to lose out from the boundary change, and the outgoing Tory councillor who missed the cut was clearly Andrew Robinson who stood for re-election in 2015 as an independent candidate. He lost rather resoundingly: the Tory slate had 66% and Robinson just 34%. Things were even easier for the Conservatives in the 2017 county council elections, in which they won the Thirsk county division unopposed.

Defending for the Conservatives is Dave Elders who is the only candidate to give an address in the ward. Returning from the 2015 election here is Trish Beadle, who that year finished fourth out of four candidates standing as an independent; this time Beadle has the Labour nomination. Completing the ballot paper is Northallerton resident Stewart Barber, standing for the Yorkshire Party.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Thirsk and Malton
North Yorkshire county council division: Thirsk (Carlton Miniott and Thirsk parishes), Sowerby (Catton, Kirby Wiske, Newsham with Breckenbrough, Sandhutton and Skipton-on-Swale parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northallerton
Postcode district: YO7

Stewart Barber (Yorks Party)
Trish Beadle (Lab)
Dave Elders (C)

May 2015 result C 1940/1423 Ind 1009/778


Soham North and Isleham

Cambridgeshire county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Raynes, who is now working in a politically-restricted post at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. A former diplomat, he had served only since May 2017.

We finish in the fens of East Anglia to another small agricultural market town, but one which will be more familiar to readers of Andrew's Previews 2017. Soham began recorded life in AD 630 with the building of an abbey by St Felix of Burgundy, who was the first Bishop of the East Angles. The abbey later got promoted to cathedral status, and then was relegated back down again. One of many misfortunes to visit Soham, which was nearly destroyed in 1944 when a train carrying munitions caught fire, and is still probably best known to the outside world for the 2002 murder of two ten-year-old girls by their school caretaker.

Sohan is in the economic orbit of Cambridge, whose hinterland which has seen huge amounts of population growth over the last few decades. For the most part this has been achieved by tacking new housing estates onto pre-existing towns and villages, and Soham has not escaped that process: the electorate of its North ward grew by 40% between 2003 and 2017. That demographic change has been to the benefit of the Tories, who have made safe what had been a competitve area for the Liberal Democrats until the mid-2000s.

This county division was created by a 2017 redistribution which divided into two the old Soham and Fordham Villages division. That was a Tory division and the May 2017 result here doesn't suggest anything different: the Conservatives had 66%, the Lib Dems finishing a distant second with 17%. On the same day James Palmer, the leader of East Cambridgeshire district council, was elected as Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority: that created a vacancy in Soham North ward on the district council, and the resulting by-election in July 2017 was also an easy Conservative hold. In the 2015 district council elections the Conservatives had a clean sweep in Soham, while Isleham ward re-elected a long-serving independent councillor who was not opposed by the Conservatives.

Defending this by-election for the Conservatives is Isleham resident Mark Goldsack, who won the Soham North district council by-election in July last year and now has the chance to double up at county council level. The Lib Dems have selected Victoria Charlesworth. Also on the ballot paper are Lee Jinks for Labour - who has attracted controversy during the campaign for dubious social media posts from a few years ago - and Geoffrey Woollard, a former East Cambridgeshire district and Cambridgeshire county councillor who is seeking to make a political comeback at the age of 80 by standing as independent candidate.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: South East Cambridgeshire
East Cambridgeshire wards: Isleham, Soham North, Soham South (part)
Postcode district: CB7
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge

Victoria Charlesworth (LD)
Mark Goldsack (C)
Lee Jinks (Lab)
Geoffrey Woollard (Ind)

May 2017 result C 1504 LD 396 Lab 371


Previews: 27 Sep 2018

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Charles Dickens wrote these words many years ago to open A Tale of Two Cities; and they still resonate today. The binary choice between the Age of Wisdom and the Age of Foolishness, the epochs of belief or incredulity (or as we call it these days, fake news), Light versus Darkness, Hope as opposed to Despair - all these can find modern parallels in how politics is set up today. In so many aspects, there seems to a choice of one alternative or the other.

Let's have a third way. Andrew's Previews this week is a tale of three cities, in which both the extremes and the centre ground are represented. There is one northern, one southern, and one in the middle. One old, one new, and one in the middle. One rich, one poor, and one in the middle. One left-wing, one right-wing, and one in the middle. To some extent we are covering familiar ground as all three wards have appeared in Andrew's Previews before, but that doesn't necessarily mean the same thing will happen this time. Midfield is of course where all the action tends to be, so let's shun the geographical and political wings and start with the one in the middle...


Clifton North

Nottingham council; caused by the resignation of councillor Pat Ferguson on health grounds. Ferguson had served since winning a by-election in March 2014; she was elected for Labour but had been sitting as an independent.

We start this week on the banks of the River Trent. One of many claimants for the title of "Europe's largest housing estate", Clifton lies on the south bank of the Trent a few miles to the south-west of the city of Nottingham. The area was incorporated into Nottingham in 1952 by which time construction of the estate was well advanced; but despite its location on the main road from Nottingham to the south Clifton remains rather isolated from the city, which for the most part is on the far side of the river. Communications to Clifton were improved in 2014 by the opening of an extension to Nottingham's tram network, with trams running through the estate to the city centre via an old railway line and the Wilford Toll Bridge. Clifton never had much industry, and the main employer in this ward is Nottingham Trent University which has a campus here.

The contrast between council-estate Clifton and wealthy West Bridgford, just a few miles to the east, is stark. One side-effect of this is something you often see in run-down industrial areas: the list of famous locals is dominated by sports stars and entertainers. The singer Jake Bugg and the England footballer and pundit Jermaine Jenas grew up on the estate, but in fame terms they may be outranked by one-half of the UK's most famous figure-skating pair: Jayne Torvill was born in Clifton.

Clifton might be an isolated council estate, but Clifton North ward doesn't vote like one. That's partly because it also includes the much more upmarket village of Wilford, which ensures that this is one of the strongest Conservative wards in the city of Nottingham. However, the Labour party surged in Nottingham after the formation of the Coalition turning this ward into a tight marginal: they gained one of Clifton North ward's three seats in 2011, held it in a 2014 by-election and gained a second seat in 2015. The remaining Conservative councillor, Andrew Rule, is one of a group of two Tories - following a by-election loss to Labour in Wollaton West ward - which forms the only opposition to Labour rule on Nottingham city council.

The March 2014 by-election here made the national press thanks to the performance of frequent Nottingham by-election candidate and Elvis impersonator David Bishop; the electorate didn't exactly love him tender and he only polled 67 votes, but that was enough to beat the Liberal Democrats who were in government at the time. The Lib Dems were sufficiently all shook up by that performance that they didn't turn up for the last election here in May 2015; the Labour slate topped the poll with 38% and two seats, the Conservatives had 36% and one seat, and third place went to UKIP on 22%.

Defending for Labour is Shuguftah Quddoos, who fought Wollaton West ward in the 2015 election and was one of only three Nottingham Labour candidates that year who failed to get elected; she runs a social enterprise that promotes equality. The Tory candidate is Roger Steel, who was a councillor for this ward from 2011 until losing his seat in 2015; he wants his seat back. There is no official UKIP candidate, but their lead candidate from 2015 Kevin Clarke is standing as an independent with the label "Nottingham Independents Putting Clifton First"; Clarke and Stone are the only candidates to give addresses in the ward. Elvis has made yet another comeback with David Bishop again hitting the local tarmac in his blue suede shoes for his Bus-Pass Elvis Party; completing the ballot paper along with Bishop are Kirsty Jones of the Green Party and Rebecca Procter of the Lib Dems, who will be looking to get revenge on Elvis.

Current parliamentary constituency: Nottingham South
Proposed parliamentary constituency: North Rushcliffe and Clifton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: NG11

David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis)
Kevin Clarke (Nottingham Inds)
Kirsty Jones (Grn)
Rebecca Procter (LD)
Shuguftah Quddoos (Lab)
Roger Steel (C)

May 2015 result Lab 2397/2291/1959 C 2249/1790/1772 UKIP 1389/1247/1200 Ind 278
March 2014 by-election Lab 1179 C 1025 UKIP 536 Elvis 67 LD 56
May 2011 result Lab 1902/1720/1589 C 1834/1772/1767
May 2007 result C 1883/1749/1694 Lab 1265/1164/1087 LD 389/320
May 2003 result C 1714/1610/1560 Lab 1335/1317/1124 LD 372


Stowe

Lichfield council, Staffordshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Joanne Grange, who had served only since winning a previous by-election in February this year.

For our second by-election this week we move south and to the political right. Stowe is the city centre ward for Lichfield, which has been an ecclesiastical centre since ancient times. St Chad, bishop of the Mercians, settled his diocese at Lichfield in 669, and by modern standards it was an enormous diocese - during the Middle Ages Lichfield was the mother cathedral for a huge swathe of the north midlands and the north-west all the way to the Ribble. The present cathedral dates from the 12th century and is known for its three spires.

The city remained important as a coaching and intellectual centre - Samuel Johnson was from here - up to the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution largely passed it by. Nonetheless Lichfield has greatly expanded since the Second World War thanks to its good rail links to Birmingham and London. A lot of that expansion initially took place in Stowe ward, which runs from the city centre to the east past the reservoir of Stowe Pool and along the Burton Road. Lichfield's two railway stations, City and Trent Valley, both lie on the ward boundary.

This is a safely Conservative area at all levels of government: at the last district elections in 2015 the Tory slate led Labour here 54-27. Most of the ward is covered by the Lichfield City North county division, which was Labour in 2013 (it also includes Lichfield's most downmarket ward, Chadsmead) but a Tory gain last year. February's by-election took place following the retirement of David Smedley, who had been Leader of the Council: the Tories safely held the seat with 45% against 26% for Labour and 19% for the Liberal Democrats, who hadn't stood here in 2015.

But since February things have been going wrong for the ruling Lichfield Conservatives. In June the council voted to cancel the Friarsgate development, an ambitious scheme for a new shopping area to expand and regenerate the city centre, after its developers couldn't raise the finance required; this despite the fact that some of the necessary demolition work had already been carried out at a cost to council taxpayers of around £7 million. Feelings were running high over this in July, when Labour gained a seat from the Tories at a by-election in the city's Curborough ward. Joanne Grange, who had won the February by-election in Stowe ward, resigned shortly afterwards in a row over planning rules; and to add extra spice she has endorsed the Labour candidate for this by-election.

So, interesting times ahead. The new Conservative candidate is Angela Lax, who won this ward in December 2017 in a by-election to the parish-level Lichfield city council; she is now seeking to repeat the trick on the district council. Labour have reselected Donald Palmer who stood here in February's by-election and was top of the Labour slate here in 2015. The Lib Dem candidate is Richard Rathbone, who stood in Lichfield Rural West in the county council elections last year; he completes a three-strong ballot paper.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Lichfield
Staffordshire county council division: Lichfield City North (most); Lichfield Rural North (part transferred from Boley Park ward in 2015)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode districts: WS13, WS14

Angela Lax (C)
Donald Palmer (Lab)
Richard Rathbone (LD)

February 2018 by-election C 513 Lab 299 LD 217 Something New 59 Grn 56
May 2015 result C 1791/1484/1443 Lab 898/862/857 Grn 635


Eccles

Salford council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Peter Wheeler who is moving away from the area. He had served since 2012.

(telephone rings)
RECEPTIONIST: Hello?
JON CULSHAW (impersonating Tom Baker as Doctor Who): Hello, is that the Galaxy Bingo Hall?
R: Yes, it is.
JC: Tell me, in what part of the Galaxy are you?
(pause)
R: Eccles...

Jon Culshaw there, causing mayhem as usual for the BBC comedy show Dead Ringers around the year 2000. Yes, this week we finish up in Eccles which is something your columnist often does: the Centenary Bridge, Gilda Brook Road and Lancaster Road can become the quickest way home from work on evenings when the M60 motorway is having one of its moments. That sort of thing is liable to block Eccles up, and I once spent a very non-merry half-hour on Half Edge Lane in the evening rush hour going absolutely nowhere.

Another reason for this sort of congestion might surprise you. This ward is changing fast, and one reason for that is none other than the BBC. This is due to the opening of the MediaCity studios a few miles away in Salford Quays, from which the BBC Breakfast programme and Radio 5 Live are broadcast; along with the Sport and Children's departments, that made 2,000 BBC jobs transferred from London to the City of Salford around seven years ago. Those people and their families have got to live somewhere; and the area immediately next door to Salford Quays is, er... so a fair number of BBC types ended up in Eccles with its good road and tram links to the studios.

No doubt those London BBC types were astounded by how low their housing costs were when they moved up north, but that's changing fast as well. House prices in Eccles' M30 postcode have risen by 42% in the last five years; the median house in the ward goes for around £160,000 which is already above average for Greater Manchester, but a four-bed detached - and there are a fair few of those in leafy Ellesmere Park and trendy Monton - might be snapped up within a few days of coming onto the market for a million pounds. The Manchester Evening News regularly prints articles comparing Monton to traditionally trendy places like Didsbury, and not without good reason.

So, lots of money coming into the ward, but this is not the old money you find over the ward boundary in Worsley; this is Guardianista, urban professional money. And Eccles' election results suggest that all this gentrification has been to the benefit of Labour. The ward did elect a Lib Dem in 2004 and voted Conservative in 2007 and 2008, but it's the Labour party who have made all the running since then. In May's ordinary election Labour had 60% of the vote, the Tories trailing in second with just 22%.

Defending for Labour is local resident Mike McCusker. The Tories have selected Andrew Darlington. Also on the ballot paper are regular Green candidate Helen Alker, Jake Overend for the Lib Dems, Keith Hallam for UKIP (who stood here in May) and Caroline Dean of the Women's Equality Party, who gives an address from the wrong side of the Pennines in Marsden, West Yorkshire. And I thought my commute was bad.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Salford and Eccles
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode district: M30

Helen Alker (Grn)
Andrew Darlington (C)
Caroline Dean (Women's Equality)
Keith Hallam (UKIP)
Mike McCusker (Lab)
Jake Overend (LD)

May 2018 result Lab 1748 C 638 Grn 185 LD 169 UKIP 134 TUSC 23
May 2016 result Lab 1873 C 707 Grn 284 TUSC 173
May 2015 result Lab 2612 C 1347 UKIP 739 Grn 327 LD 257 TUSC 122
May 2014 result Lab 1861 C 827 LD 287
May 2012 result Lab 1462 C 662 UKIP 281 LD 212 Ind 127
Oct 2011 by-election Lab 1227 C 701 BNP 147 LD 125 Ind 53
May 2011 result Lab 1877 C 950 UKIP 368 LD 213
May 2010 result Lab 2216 C 1625 LD 1298 Ind 214
May 2008 result C 1422 Lab 1144 LD 479
May 2007 result C 1303 Lab 1180 LD 489
May 2006 result Lab 1038 C 975 LD 632
June 2004 result Lab 1247/1167/928 LD 1019/814 C 919/785


Previews: 20 Sep 2018

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order..."

Six by-elections on 20th September 2018:


Ottery St Mary Rural

East Devon council; caused by the disqualification of Matt Coppell, a councillor elected for the Independent East Devon Alliance, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months. He had served since 2015.

We start this week in the Devon countryside with one of those unwieldy rural wards which group villages that don't have much in common other than that they are in the right place to make up the numbers. The Ottery St Mary Rural ward wraps around three sides of the town of Ottery St Mary; it consists of villages in the Otter Valley such as Taleford and Tipton St John, together with the parishes of Aylesbeare and West Hill to the west. West Hill is the ward's largest centre of population with around 2,000 residents; it declared independence in 2017 to become a parish of its own, having previously been part of Ottery St Mary parish.

This was a safe Conservative ward until 2011 when the poll was comprehensively topped by independent candidate Claire Wright, who defeated the Tory council leader Sara Randall Johnson. Clearly a formidable campaigner, Wright was elected to Devon county council in 2013 and contested the 2015 and 2017 parliamentary elections as an independent candidate for the East Devon constituency, finishing a strong second on both occasions. Wright stood down from the district council in 2015 but her cause has been taken up by an independent slate, the Independent East Devon Alliance, which took over Wright's seat in the 2015 election and finished just 29 votes behind the Tories for the other seat. In a straight fight, shares of the vote were 55% for the IEDA and 45% for the Conservatives. Claire Wright was re-elected to Devon county council last year in the local Otter Valley division, and she leads the council's non-aligned group.

The independents are defending this by-election, and their candidate is Geoff Pratt, a property lawyer and Ottery St Mary town councillor - he represents Tipton St John parish ward which is part of this area. The Tory candidate is John Sheaves, a businessman from West Hill. Also standing on a longer ballot paper than last time are Margaret Bargmann for the Green Party, Nick Benson for the Lib Dems and Labour candidate Richard May.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: East Devon
Devon county council division: Otter Valley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter (Aylesbeare parish, West Hill parish and Ottery St Mary North); Sidmouth (Tipton St John)
Postcode districts: EX5, EX10, EX11, EX14

Margaret Bargmann (Grn)
Nick Benson (LD)
Richard May (Lab)
Geoff Pratt (Ind)
John Sheaves (C)

May 2015 result Ind East Devon Alliance 1507/1226 C 1255/896
May 2011 result Ind 1364 C 822/797 Lab 263
May 2007 result C 1213/1196 UKIP 386
May 2003 result C 1001/985 UKIP 363


Upper Meon Valley

Winchester council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Amber Tresahar. She had served since winning a by-election to Cheriton and Bishops Sutton ward in 2015, transferring here following boundary changes in 2016; and was elected under her former name of Amber Thacker.

We move east to another rural ward, this time in the South Downs National Park. The River Meon rises in the South Downs west of Petersfield, flowing north-west and then south to join the Solent west of Gosport; since 2010 it has given its name to a parliamentary seat, but despite that there are no major urban centres located on the river. The main centres of population on the river's upper reaches, Meonstoke and West Meon, can muster fewer than 1,000 souls each.

Meonstoke and West Meon formed the core of the Upper Meon Valley ward until 2016, when a boundary review led to the ward being greatly expanded and going up from one councillor to two. The largest centre of population is now Owslebury with 684 electors; the ward sprawls as far as Chilcomb on the outskirts of Winchester and Tichborne just outside Alresford. The name of Tichborne recalls a notorious legal case regarding the heir to the Tichborne baronets, who were lords of the manor; the Tichbornes' manor is not open to the public, but tourists can visit the National Trust stately home and gardens of Hinton Ampner and the Marwell Zoo.

This by-election is crucial for control of Winchester council, where a recent defection to the Liberal Democrats has left the Conservatives with 22 seats plus this vacancy; the opposition is made up of 21 Lib Dems and an independent, so if the Tories lose this by-election their majority will go with it. However, this is a very safe Tory ward: in May's ordinary election the Conservatives beat the Lib Dems here by the score of 70-21 - so the chances of any change in control before the 2019 election look slim unless there are more defections. Most of the ward is included within safe Tory divisions of Hampshire county council, although Chilcomb prish is included in the Itchen Valley county division which is Lib Dem-held.

Defending for the Conservatives is Hugh Lumby, from Meonstoke The Lib Dem candidate Lewis North, a local resident from Cheriton, is standing here for the second time after contesting the 2016 election in this ward. Also standing are June Kershaw for Labour and Andrew Wainwright for the Green Party.

Current parliamentary constituency: Meon Valley (all except Chilcomb parish), Winchester (Chilcomb parish)
Proposed parliamentary constituency: Winchester
Hampshire county council division: Bishops Waltham (part: Beauworth, Bramdean and Hinton Ampner, Cheriton, Kilmiston, Owslebury, Tichborne and Upham parishes), Itchen Valley (part: Chilcomb parish), Meon Valley (part: Corhampton and Meonstoke, Exton, Warnford and West Meon parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southampton
Postcode districts: GU32, SO21, SO24, SO32

June Kershaw (Lab)
Hugh Lumby (C)
Lewis North (LD)
Andrew Wainwright (Grn)

May 2018 result C 1260 LD 378 Lab 172
May 2016 result C 1134/1010 LD 319/286 Lab 265/198


Nonsuch

Epsom and Ewell council, Surrey; caused by the death of Nonsuch Residents Association councillor David Wood at the age of 71. He was first elected in 1995, and was Mayor of Epsom and Ewell in 2006-07.

On the shore of Cardigan Bay in North Wales can be found an impressive collection of Italianate buildings. Portmeirion, as it's known, was the brainchild of the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who was a fashionable architect of the inter-war years and a very eccentric man. One of his eccentricities was to erect a plaque in The Village dedicated to the summer of 1959 "in honour of its splendour". That was followed by further plaques dedicated to 1975 and 1976; the 1976 memorial, commemorating a notoriously hot summer whose temperature record for England remained unbroken until the season just gone, reads simply "Nonsuch".

A word which recalls an impressive building project of an earlier era. In 1538 work started on a palace in the Surrey countryside, for which the village of Cuddington had been cleared to make way. The developer was none other than King Henry VIII, who chose a location close to a royal hunting ground and chose a name which showed just how ambitious the project was meant to be - Nonsuch Palace. The Palace was the scene of a treaty signed in 1585 between Elizabeth I and the Dutch rebels against Spanish rule, an alliance which ultimately helped to provoke the disastrous Spanish Armada three years later; a 1596 catalogue of the palace library reveals "a song of fortie partes, made by Mr. Tallys", which is the earliest known reference to one of the greatest pieces of English early music, Thomas Tallis' Spem in alium.

https://youtu.be/7Cn7ZW8ts3Y

If you'd like to visit Nonsuch Palace, I'm afraid you're out of luck. In 1670 Charles II gifted it to his mistress Barbara, countess of Castlemaine, who ultimately didn't give a XXXX about the place; she had it demolished and sold off the building materials to pay her gambling debts. However, the surrounding park is still in existence and is now a public park. The country house of Nonsuch Mansion dates from a later era, the eighteenth century.

The railway came here in 1847 with the opening of Ewell East railway station, and the area around Nonsuch Park was mostly developed for housing in the 1930s as London expanded - Ewell remained outside Greater London, but has 020 telephone numbers and was until 2000 in the Metropolitan Police district. Two statistics are indicative of what the area is like socially: Ewell's Nonsuch ward comes in at number 2 of all the wards in England and Wales for owner-occupation, at 95% of households; and the average house in the ward will set you back over half a million pounds. Yes, we're talking rich and successful people here: over half of the workforce in Nonsuch are in the census' professional and managerial occupational groups.

Since Epsom and Ewell were developed in the 1930s the area has been a stronghold at local level for Residents' Associations. Despite some consolidation in recent years, there are several different Residents' Associations from the borough on the Electoral Commission register who join forces to form a single group on the council. That leads to messy election results in aggregate - in 2011 the Conservatives were the largest single party with 23% of the vote and won three seats out of a possible 38 - but less of a problem in understanding individual wards. Nonsuch ward has not one but two Residents Associations, Nonsuch Park and District, and Ewell Downs; its Residents slate in 2015 easily won with 59% to 26% for the second-placed Conservatives. The Residents had a larger majority in the 2017 county elections, where they hold the local Ewell division. However, the local parliamentary seat (Epsom and Ewell) is safe for the accident-prone Conservative cabinet minister Chris Grayling.

For this by-election the defending Residents candidate is Colin Keane, chairman of the Nonsuch Park and District residents association; he has the nomination of the umbrella group Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell. The Tory candidate is Alastair Whitby who has recently moved to the area from the Midlands - he was a candidate for Tamworth council in the 2014 and 2015 elections, and now is the Deputy Chairman (Political) of the party's Epsom and Ewell branch. Also standing are Julian Freeman for the Liberal Democrats and Labour's Rosalind Godson.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Epsom and Ewell
Surrey county council division: Ewell
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: KT17, SM2, SM3

Julian Freeman (LD)
Rosalind Godson (Lab)
Colin Keane (Res Assocs of Epsom and Ewell)
Alastair Whitby (C)

May 2015 result Res 2134/2060/2008 C 929/838 LD 301 Lab 256/240/215
May 2011 result Res 1447/1416/1397 C 378/354/342 LD 145/117/97 Lab 130/129
May 2007 result Res 1206/1197/1164 C 252/251/217 LD 94/90/86 Lab 47/46
Oct 2005 by-election Res 539 C 183 LD 95 Lab 12
May 2003 result Ind 1149/1125/1115 LD 175 Lab 78/77/73


Limbury

Luton council, Bedfordshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Jennifer Rowlands who had served since 2015.

From one 1930s commuter area to another for our Labour defence this week. We have arrived in Luton, one of the most downmarket and industrial towns in the South of England. Limbury was an old village on the Icknield Way about two miles to the north of Luton, which has been swallowed up by the growth of the town; Limbury was incorporated into Luton in 1928 and much of its housing dates from the 1930s. In the 2011 census Limbury was in the top 5 wards in England and Wales for population born in the Republic of Ireland, at 4.2%; and other immigration has resulted in a significant Asian (mostly Pakistani Muslim) minority. However, one of the main economic drivers here is commuting: Leagrave railway station, on the Thameslink line at the western end of the ward, handles over 1.8 million passengers every year.

That commuting element creates a Conservative vote which was significant enough to elect a Tory councillor in the 2007 election. The Labour vote has risen since then, but the Conservatives weren't that far off getting a seat back in 2015: the vote shares show that Labour won that election 60-40 in a straight fight, but the Labour percentage here was inflated by a personal vote for their other councillor Steve Lewis. Things haven't been going too well for Labour in Luton since; the local MP Kelvin Hopkins greatly increased his majority in the 2017 general election, but he is currently suspended from the party over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Defending for Labour is Amy Nicholls. The Tory candidate is Heather Baker, who has lived in the ward for almost half a century; she is a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator and family historian. Completing the ballot paper is Steve Moore for the Liberal Democrats.

Current parliamentary constituency: Luton North
Proposed parliamentary constituency: Luton North and Houghton Regis
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton
Postcode district: LU3

Heather Baker (C)
Steve Moore (LD)
Amy Nicholls (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 2099/1597 C 1382/902
May 2011 result Lab 1245/1226 C 965/908 UKIP 246
May 2007 result Lab 857/816 C 844/687 Eng Dem 263 UKIP 214/138 LD 176/143 Grn 124
May 2003 result Lab 732/676 C 644/585 Ind 274 LD 203/203


Wenhaston and Westleton

Suffolk Coastal council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Raymond Catchpole. A retired property developer and chairman of the UK Feng Shui Society, Catchpole had served on Suffolk Coastal council since 2015 and was vice-chairman of the planning committee. No funeral was held for Councillor Catchpole, as he left his body to Cambridge University for medical research.

For our third visit this year to the Suffolk coast we say goodbye not just to Councillor Catchpole, but also to Suffolk Coastal district council. This will definitely be the last Suffolk Coastal by-election, as the council is due to be abolished next May: it will merge with Waveney council to the north to create a new East Suffolk district council.

Catchpole represented a ward of eight parishes at the northern end of the old district. Wenhaston, on the south back of the River Blyth, is the largest centre of population with around 1,700 electors. In the eleventh century there were more people more than that living in Dunwich, a thriving and important port at the mouth of the Dunwich River, which was essentially destroyed by coastal erosion in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Despite that Dunwich kept its two Members of Parliament until the Great Reform Act, as one of the most publicised rotten boroughs.

The electorate in the Dunwich constituency was restricted to thirty-two freemen; the modern ward has a much larger roll than that, thank goodness. It has existed only since 2015, when the former Walberswick and Wenhaston ward was expanded to take part of Yoxford ward. Yoxford - which was in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for retired population at the 2011 census - had been Lib Dem and then independent-held since a 2004 by-election, but Walberwick and Wenhaston was solidly Tory and the present ward was no different. In 2015 Catchpole won with 53% of the vote, against evenly-divided opposition: 24% for the Lib Dems and 23% for Labour. However, that doesn't mean the Conservatives should be complacent: a couple of months ago they had a very embarrassing by-election loss to the Lib Dems in the neighbouring ward based on Southwold.

Defending for the Tories is Michael Gower, who was the Suffolk county councillor for the local division (Blything) until standing down last year. The Lib Dems' Andrew Turner returns after finishing as runner-up here in 2015. Labour have stood down, but there will still be a three-cornered ballot paper thanks to the Green Party, who have nominated Carl Bennett.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Suffolk Coastal
Suffolk county council division: Blything
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lowestoft
Postcode district: IP17, IP18, IP19, NR34

Carl Bennett (Grn)
Michael Gower (C)
Andrew Turner (LD)

May 2015 result C 907 LD 402 Lab 393


Bewdley and Rock

Wyre Forest council, Worcestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Rod Wilson at the age of 72. A native of Rochdale who spent most of his working life in the West Midlands with National Grid, Wilson's passion was fishing: he fished for salmon in the Severn, and was Bailiff for the Kidderminster District Angling Association. He had served on Wyre Forest council since 2016.

We finish for the week in the West Midlands. We're in Bewdley, a town on the banks of the River Severn to the west of Kidderminster. By all accounts this is a very nice part of the world, as the name itself - from the Norman French "beau lieu" or "beautiful place" - might suggest. The town's riverside location leads to a regular flooding problem - the main bridge across the Severn here was put up by Thomas Telford after the previous mediaeval bridge was swept away in a flood - and it's appropriate that the National Flood Forum charity has its headquarters here.

The Bewdley and Rock ward is entirely west of the river, and the Rock name refers to the rural Rock parish to the west. Within the ward can be found the Worcestershire half of one of England's largest ancient woodlands: this the Wyre Forest which gives its name to the local district and parliamentary seat. It's not spoken how you probably assumed: the local pronunciation of "Wyre" rhymes with "mirror".

Bewdley will forever be politically associated with Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative Prime Minister who represented the town in Parliament for thirty years. Next week the Duke of Gloucester is due to be in town to unveil a statue of Baldwin in the town centre. Appropriately enough the modern Bewdley ward and its predecessors are Conservative-held, this being one of the parts of Wyre Forest district that were least affected by the rise of the Health Concern party over the downgrading of Kidderminster Hospital. That downgrading is now the best part of two decades in the past, and Health Concern's recent election results have generally been showing a decline. In May 2018 the Conservatives held Bewdley and Rock with 46%, to 25% for Labour and 21% for Health Concern, who fell to third place.

Defending for the Conservatives is Anna Coleman, a former Mayor of Bewdley; she had reportedly defected to the Green Party two years ago but appears now to be back in the Tory fold. Labour have reselected their regular candidate for the ward Rod Stanczyszyn, who is politically on the up at the moment after winning a by-election to Bewdley town council last month. Health Concern have not nominated a candidate, so completing the ballot paper are John Davis for the Green Party and Clare Cassidy for the Liberal Democrats.

Current and proposed parliamentary constituency: Wyre Forest
Worcestershire county council division: Bewdley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Worcester and Kidderminster
Postcode districts: DY12, DY13, DY14, WR6

Clare Cassidy (LD)
Anna Coleman (C)
John Davis (Grn)
Rod Stanczyszyn (Lab)

May 2018 result C 1179 Lab 651 Health Concern 551 Grn 101 LD 101
May 2016 result C 851 Health Concern 565 UKIP 479 Lab 478 Grn 107
May 2015 result C 2194/1953/1874 Health Concern 1080/959/837 Lab 904/730 Grn 566