Previews: 29 Jun 2017

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

Four by-elections on 29th June 2017:


Derby

West Lancashire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Greenall. He was first elected to West Lancashire council in 2000 for Scott ward, transferring to Derby ward in 2002, and was Conservative candidate for West Lancashire in the 2015 general election. In May’s elections Greenall was elected to Lancashire county council and he is standing down from the district council to concentrate on his county seat.

To start off this week we pay our respects to a family which has been important through the generations of English history. From the twelth century onwards the Lathoms were an important landowning family in southern Lancashire, but their lands passed by marriage in 1385 to Sir John Stanley, who despite being a convicted murderer was able to use his marriage to climb the greasy pole of mediaeval politics: he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and King of Mann, and was a supporter of Henry Bolingbroke’s usurpation of the English throne. That influence and the Stanley family’s control over Lancashire made them important power brokers during the Wars of the Roses: John’s son Thomas, as well as being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and King of Mann like his father, was called to the Lords as the first Lord Stanley; his son the 2nd Lord, also called Thomas, decisively intervened in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field in favour of Henry Tudor, his son-in-law, and was created as first Earl of Derby of the modern creation. The Lancastrian victory at the Battle of Stoke, which decisively ended the Wars of the Roses, consolidated the Stanleys’ dominance of Lancashire as they took over lands in the county confiscated from Yorkist landowners.

The Stanleys, as Earls of Derby, didn’t end their importance there. Various Earls of Derby tried Mary, Queen of Scots; sat in Parliament and in Cabinet offices up to including Prime Minister; served as Lords-Lieutenant of Cheshire and Lancashire and Governor-General of Canada; patronised William Shakespeare and Edward Lear; and made their mark in all manner of different sports with competitions as diverse as the Lord Derby Cup (in French rugby league), the Stanley Cup (in North American ice hockey) and that classic horse race, the Epsom Derby. It wasn’t for nothing that Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby (1865-1948), who served as Postmaster-General under Salisbury and as War Secretary under Lloyd George, Bonar Law and Baldwin, and one of the few people who could criticise George V to his face and get away with it, was known as the Uncrowned King of Lancashire, and it’s no coincidence that the county is littered with buildings and streets named Derby or Stanley and with pubs named after the Derby crest, the Eagle and Child. Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl, and James Stanley, 7th Earl, are among many members of the family buried in Ormskirk parish church – James was beheaded in Bolton during the Commonwealth for his Royalist views, and his head and body are in separate caskets.

So it’s fitting that one of Ormskirk’s three electoral wards should be named after the Derby family. Ormskirk is an old market town known for its gingerbread on the road and railway line from Liverpool to Preston, and very much under the influence of Liverpool; it is part of Liverpool’s postcode area and one of the termini of Merseyrail’s Northern line. Ormskirk was the centre of a parliamentary constituency from 1885 to 1983 which was very much under the Stanleys’ influence: Sir Arthur Stanley, son of the 16th Earl, was MP for the seat from an 1898 by-election until 1918 and frequently unopposed. One of the two Liberal candidates who stood against Sir Arthur was the soap magnate William Lever of Lever Brothers, in the first 1910 election; Lever had been elected MP for the Wirral in the Liberal landslide of 1906 but was contesting an unwinnable seat so he could go back to concentrating on his business. Other famous names associated with Ormskirk included future Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who won the seat in the Labour landslide of 1945 but transferred to Huyton in 1950 (along with his electoral powerbase, Kirkby) and the well-known tangerine Robert Kilroy-Silk, who was Labour MP here from February 1974 to 1983 before beginning his adventures into TV chat shows and UKIP. Boundary changes for the 1983 election brought in the New Town of Skelmersdale and prompted a name change for the constituency to West Lancashire, creating a seat which has been in the Labour column since 1992.

West Lancashire district has some of the most polarised election results in the country. Labour are capable of breaking 80% in most of the Skelmersdale wards in a good year and the Tories regularly carry the district’s rural wards with similarly commanding shares of the vote, which leaves Ormskirk and Burscough as the only marginal areas in the district. Derby, which is Ormskirk’s eastern ward and also includes some hinterland villages such as Westhead, tends to be the most Conservative of the town’s three wards but its demographics are dominated by students at Edge Hill University, whose campus is within the ward; founded in 1885 as the UK’s first teacher-training college for women, Edge Hill gained university status in 2005 and its alumni include the outgoing UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.

Derby ward has existed throughout the life of West Lancashire district and took on its current boundaries in 2002. It was normally Conservative from 1976 to 2014 except for an SDP win in 1986 which was held by the Social and Liberal Democrats (as they were then) in 1990, and during the 1994-96 nadir of the Major government during which Labour gained all three seats in the ward. The Tories recovered their full slate in 2000, but since 2014 Derby ward’s election results have gone haywire partly thanks to the intervention of OWL – a new localist party called Our West Lancashire. In 2015 OWL appears to have split the Tory vote allowing Labour to win; while in 2016 OWL won Derby ward itself with 42%, to 37% for Labour and just 18% for Conservatives. In May’s county council elections half of the ward was in the Labour-held Ormskirk division and half (including the Edge Hill campus) in the rural-focused West Lancashire East division which comfortably elected Greenall to his new post in May. Edge Hill is in the middle of its summer term (which finishes on 31 July), so it will be interesting to see if Labour can mobilise the student vote at local level in the same way that they did in the general election three weeks ago.

Even without that aspect, Derby is an interesting ward which has been won by three different parties in the last four years. Defending for the Conservatives is Jane Houlgrave, a former councillor for Rufford ward who was elected at a 2011 by-election but in 2016 retired by standing for the unwinnable Up Holland ward; she gives an address in Parbold, some distance away. Our West Lancashire have selected Ian Davis, who fought the ward in 2015 and fought West Lancashire East in May; the only candidate to live within the ward, he is an accountant and treasurer of the village hall in Westhead, where he lives. Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate George Oliver, a former councillor for Knowsley ward (covering western Ormskirk) who gained his seat from the Conservatives in 2012 but stood down in 2016.

Parliamentary constituency: West Lancashire
Lancashire county council division: Ormskirk (part); West Lancashire East (part)

May 2016 result Our West Lancs 806 Lab 710 C 339 Grn 72
May 2015 result Lab 1177 C 1055 Our West Lancs 460 Grn 323 UKIP 302
May 2014 result C 832 Lab 585 Grn 245
May 2012 result C 883 Lab 575 Grn 160 UKIP 91
May 2011 result C 1002 Lab 674 Grn 219
May 2010 result C 1396 Lab 1195 Grn 445
May 2008 result C 904 Lab 336 Grn 223
May 2007 result C 792 Lab 367 Grn 225
May 2006 result C 867 Lab 394 Grn 237
June 2004 result C 987 Lab 550 Ormskirk Party 298 LD 190 Grn 146
May 2003 result C 618 Lab 541 Grn 141
May 2002 result C 811/750/734 Lab 610/571 Grn 321


Dawdon

Durham council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Leanne Kennedy who was ineligible to be a councillor as she was employed at a school run by Durham council. She was first elected in May 2017.

Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales. But I saw the sea once more in all the glories of surf and foam.

That was Lord Byron writing in 1815 on the Durham coast during a short-lived and acrimonious marriage to Anne Isabella Milbanke, later Baroness Wentworth, daughter of the local landowner, social reformer and mother of their daughter Ada Lovelace. Clearly the local coast has caught imaginations through the generations – a local beach used for coal dumping was used as a location for the film Alien 3, while the Sunderland Echo reported in 1999 that scenes from Saving Private Ryan had also been planned to be filmed on the local coastline.

The Milbanke family never recovered financially from their daughter’s marriage to Byron and sold the area shortly afterwards to the Marquess of Londonderry, who had big plans. He built a harbour – called Seaham Harbour after the local village – and sunk a series of major and sucessful coal mines, founding a new community called Dawdon to serve Dawdon Colliery. From essentially nothing in 1821 Dawdon had a population over 9,000 in the 1891 census, and a church – dedicated to St Hild and St Helen – was opened in 1912 thanks to donations from local pitmen. Dawdon Colliery closed in 1991 creating major unemployment in the area, and it was in that depressed state that scenes from the film Billy Elliot, set on the Durham coast, were filmed in the town.

The electoral history of this area is a little difficult to follow as the division includes the town centre of Seaham, which over the years has migrated towards the harbour. The closure of Dawdon Colliery led to a population decline in the area and by 1999 Dawdon was the smallest of Durham’s 63 divisions, 35% below the electoral quota. The division was increased in size in 2005 and again in 2013 when it took on its current boundaries. This being the Durham coalfield, Labour are in the ascendancy but they don’t have an unblemished record: in the 2008 election, the first to the unitary Durham council, the division’s two seats split one for Labour and one to independent candidate Bob Arthur, who topped the poll. Arthur lost his seat to Labour in 2013 and tried to get back in May as lead candidate of the Seaham Community Party slate; he finished 102 votes behind Leanne Kennedy, the Labour slate winning 46-37.

Having resigned her employment, Leanne Kennedy is standing for re-election to the council, and this by-election – the first caused by the resignation of a councillor elected in May 2017 – is a straight fight between her and Bob Arthur.

Parliamentary constituency: Easington

May 2017 result Lab 886/812 Seaham Community Party 710/520 C 209 Grn 117
May 2013 result Lab 1115/992 Ind 829


Hedge End Grange Park

Eastleigh council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Louise Bloom. She had served on Eastleigh council since 2002 and sat on the council’s cabinet until 2015; before then she was a founder member of the Greater London Authority, being elected in 2000 from the Liberal Democrat list and serving on the GLA until resigning in 2002.

From the Durham coast we travel to somewhere completely different. Hedge End is an outer suburb of Southampton which reached town status only in 1992; Grange Park is the outermost of Hedge End’s three wards adjacent to the railway station, opened in 1990 on the Eastleigh-Fareham line, and the ward’s age profile betrays that its housing stock is even younger than that. Hedge End Grange Park ward makes the top 200 in England and Wales for the 0-15 and 30-44 age brackets, for those educated to what is classified by the Census as “Level 2” which equates to 5 or more GCSEs, and for both full-time and part-time employment, and its economic profile is middle-class. Clearly this is a commuter ward full of young families, although an incident here in 2011 in which a local zoo was asked for help in tranquilising an escaped white tiger – which turned out to be a stuffed toy – shows that you can fool even some of the most educated people some of the time.

Despite their recent travails at parliamentary level the Liberal Democrats have been Winning Here in Eastleigh for a very long time – their council leader Keith House, who was in a relationship with Bloom for many years, has led Eastleigh council for 23 years and counting. The Lib Dems have won this ward at every election since it was created in 2002, and also hold the local county council seat. In May 2016 the winning Lib Dem score was 47%, to 33% for the Conservatives and 12% for UKIP.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Clifford Morris – no relation to the controversial Bolton council leader of the same name – who was elected to Hedge End town council in a by-election just before Christmas. The Conservatives have selected Jay Haythorne who gives an address in Botley. Peter House, from Chandler’s Ford, is the UKIP candidate – the first UKIP by-election candidate of this Parliament – and the ballot paper is completed by Keith Day for Labour and Rosanna Campbell for the Greens.

Parliamentary constituency: Eastleigh
Hampshire county council division: Botley and Hedge End

May 2016 result LD 1127 C 795 UKIP 301 Lab 141 Grn 52
May 2015 result LD 1649 C 1512 Lab 452 UKIP 408
May 2014 result LD 1035 UKIP 485 Lab 208
May 2011 result LD 1039 C 501 Lab 193 Ind 176 UKIP 100
May 2010 result LD 2306 C 1117 Lab 169 UKIP 97
May 2007 result LD 882 C 473 Lab 54 UKIP 46
May 2006 result LD 1019 C 562 Lab 46 UKIP 39
May 2003 result LD 618 C 461 Lab 46
May 2002 result LD 750/695 C 526/457


William Morris

Waltham Forest council, North London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Nadeem Ali at the age of just 34. The youngest ever Mayor of Waltham Forest in 2013-14, Ali was first elected in 2010.

We started this week with a discussion of a ward named after one of Britain’s most famous families, and finish with a ward named after one of Britain’s most famous artists. William Morris was born in the Essex town of Walthamstow in 1834; in his lifetime he was best known for his poetry, with epic poems on classical and fantasy subjects, and for socialist activism, but Morris is now best known as a designer of textile, wallpaper and decorative arts in the Arts and Crafts style, which became very fashionable in the late Victorian period. Morris’ former home in Walthamstow, the Georgian Water House, was opened in 1950 as an art gallery dedicated to his work, and has recently been greatly redeveloped.

Walthamstow has changed a lot since then, of course; it became an urban district in 1894, gained borough status in 1929 and was incorporated into Greater London in 1965. The ward named after Morris, which runs east from the River Lea along Forest Road, was mostly built up by the end of the First World War. There are no railway or Underground stations within the ward, but Blackhorse Road station (on the Victoria and GOBLIN lines) lies just outside its boundary. Walthamstow has not escaped the major demographic changes which have taken place in London in recent years: Willam Morris is an ethnically diverse ward with a particularly high population born in the new EU states (10.9%).

Morris, and Clement Attlee who represented Walthamstow in Parliament, would probably have been pleased to note that William Morris ward (and its predecessor ward, Lloyd Park) normally vote Labour. The only exception to this Labour rule came in a by-election in September 2003 which saw a Lib Dem gain, and the Lib Dems held their seat at the following ordinary election in 2006 before Labour took it back in 2010. Since then the Lib Dem vote in this ward has disappeared and the Greens have taken over second place. At the last borough elections in 2014 this was a strongly Labour ward with the Labour slate leading the Greens 57-17; in the 2016 London Assembly elections Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith 64-14 while Labour led the Greens 58-12 in the ward’s ballot boxes.

Defending for Labour is Umar Ali, brother of the late councillor Nadeem and son of Waltham Forest councillor Liaquat Ali (High Street ward). The Green candidate is Rebecca Tully, a trainer and volunteer who fought Chingford and Woodford Green in the 2015 general election. Completing the ballot paper is Afzal Akram, a former Labour councillor and cabinet member (Lea Bridge ward, 2006-14) until being suspended from the party for trying to fix a planning vote; he subsequently stood as the UKIP candidate for Ealing North in the 2015 general election and was on the UKIP list for the 2016 GLA election, but this time round Akram has the Conservative nomination.

Parliamentary constituency: Walthamstow
London Assembly constituency: North East

May 2014 result Lab 2441/2421/2287 Grn 724 UKIP 333 LD 317/222/176 C 290/256/233 TUSC 185/149/142
May 2010 result Lab 2467/2387/2300 LD 1714/1543/1487 Grn 713 C 596/592/508 TUSC 228
May 2006 result Lab 1421/1409/1253 LD 1288/1217/1144 Grn 496 C 322/319/293
September 2003 by-election LD 1051 Lab 932 C 188 Grn 151 Socialist Alliance 84
May 2002 result Lab 1326/1285/1256 LD 648/554/505 C 391/363/303 Socialist Alliance 256

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2232 C 479 Grn 301 LD 110 Women’s Equality 86 Respect 70 UKIP 65 Zylinski 40 Britain First 35 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 34 BNP 18 One Love 4
London Members: Lab 2047 Grn 417 C 346 Women’s Equality 186 LD 142 UKIP 131 Respect 84 Britain First 43 Animal Welfare 37 CPA 35 House Party 27 BNP 19


Previews: 22 Jun 2017

Welcome to the (first?) 2017 parliament. After a week off while we digested the consequences of that general election result – congratulations to any readers of Andrew’s Previews who saw the hung parliament coming – we are back on the by-election trail with five polls on 22nd June 2017. There have already been lots of knock-on effects from the 8th June election, as those of us resident in Great Britain apply the tin-opener to the can of worms which is the DUP, but the electoral timetable turns more slowly than the 24-hour news cycle and this week will deal not with the fallout from May’s election defeat, but from May’s election wins – the metro mayors elected in the May local government elections, that is. Conservative defences in Gloucestershire, Cambridgeshire and northern Yorkshire come under this category, and we will also discuss a Sheffield by-election where the Greens will be looking to catapult themselves back into relevance following a disappointing general election campaign. But we start in mid-Wales with the first by-election arising from a vacancy among the 2017 intake of councillors – or not, as the case may be. Read on…


Yscir

Powys council; caused by no nominations being received for the May 2017 ordinary election.

What if they had an election and nobody came? Well, a by-election is the result. It’s fairly common at parish council level for insufficient candidates to come forward to fill vacancies, but principal council level is another matter; the most recent example your columnist can remember is from 2012, when there were no candidates for a deeply rural ward in Merioneth.

It’s no coincidence that this vacancy is in a deeply rural area too. Yscir division, named after Yscir community which takes its name from the Ysgir river, covers the Mynydd Epynt, a large upland plateau to the north-west of Brecon rising to a maximum height of 1,568 feet. Much of this is Army land covered by SENTA, the Sennybridge Training Area, which is generally out of bounds to the public because the MoD use it for training with live ammunition and explosives. In consequence the villages on or around the Epynt – Merthyr Cynog, Upper Chapel, Lower Chapel – are tiny, with most of the ward’s population living in the Usk valley to the west of Brecon in larger villages such as Aberyscir and Trallong. These may be larger villages, but that’s not saying much: Yscir is one of the smallest wards in England and Wales with comfortably under 900 electors on the register. That tiny, rural population base propels Yscir into 7th place of all the wards in England and Wales for self-employment (30% of the workforce) and 10th in England and Wales for the 45-64 age group (38% of the population). There was probably a larger population here in Roman times, when the Cicucium fort had accommodation for up to 500 cavalrymen recruited from Spain. One wonders what they would have made of the typical Welsh summer.

This first by-election generated by the Class of 2017 councillors comes after the retirement at the 2017 election of independent councillor Gillian Thomas, who is now 79 and had represented the area since the establishment of the modern Powys council in 1996. Thomas was unopposed in the 1999 and 2004 elections, beating another independent candidate easily in 2008 but at her last re-election in 2012 she beat the Lib Dems narrowly, by 255 votes to 241.

With nominations reopened six candidates have come forward for this second opportunity to replace Thomas. Three of them are independents. Chris Davies is a sheep farmer from Lower Chapel who was profiled by the BBC in 2003 as a mentor helping fellow farmers to become computer-literate. Steve Davies is a two-time independent councillor for the neighbouring Bronllys ward, who stood for re-election in May with the Conservative nomination and was defeated. Daniel Evans is from Lower Chapel. The official Conservative candidate is Iain McIntosh who contested Brecon St John ward in May. Plaid Cymru’s Kate Heneghan, from Aberyscir, is even hotter off the campaign trail after contesting Brecon and Radnorshire in the general election two weeks ago, while Bethan Irwin completes the ballot paper for the Green Party – who won their first ever Powys council seat last month and are looking to this by-election to form a Green group on the council.

Parliamentary constituency: Brecon and Radnorshire

May 2017 result No candidates
May 2012 result Ind 255 LD 241
May 2008 result Ind 358 Ind 82
June 2004 result Ind unopposed
May 1999 result Ind unopposed


Winterbourne

South Gloucestershire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tim Bowles, who was elected Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority last month. An events company manager, he had served since 2011.

Moving into England, we come to the first of three by-elections caused by the newly elected metro mayors resigning their former council seats. Three of the six metro mayors were local councillors, with two (Burnham in Greater Manchester and Rotheram in Liverpool City Region) being MPs who stood down from Parliament in June and one (Street in the West Midlands) having no previous electoral experience.

Tim Bowles leaves behind a vacancy in Winterbourne ward, a large village just outside the Bristol built-up area to the north of the junction where the M32 starts its journey into Bristol. Winterbourne is set in countryside between the River Frome and the Bradley Brook, and is was the childhood home of J K Rowling, who allegedly based Albus Dumbledore on the then headmaster of St Michael’s primary school. However, the ward is probably best known for the scandal at the former Winterbourne View care home, where a 2011 BBC Panorama investigation exposed physical and psychological abuse of people with learning difficulties.

The ward bearing Winterbourne’s name was cut back in boundary changes for the 2007 election – it had previously included Frenchay and the University of the West of England campus and had three councillors rather than two. The 2007 version of Pagford – sorry, Winterbourne ward, has been safe Conservative since its creation: the last election here in 2015 had 46% for the Tory slate to 22% for the Lib Dems and 16% for UKIP.

Defending for the Tories is Nic Labuschagne, an IT manager originally from South Africa. The Lib Dems have selected Peter Bruce, who fought Filton and Bradley Stoke in the 2015 general election. There is no UKIP candidate this time – in fact there are no UKIP candidates for any of this week’s by-elections, which says something abot the organisational hole the party finds itself in – so the ballot paper is completed by 18-year-old A-level student George Angus for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Filton and Bradley Stoke

May 2015 result C 2302/1954 LD 1099/554 UKIP 811 Lab 754/683
May 2011 result C 1704/1630 Lab 632/563 LD 466/452
May 2007 result C 1516/1512 LD 897/806 Ind 196 Lab 178/165


Soham North

East Cambridgeshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor James Palmer, who was elected Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority last month. He had served since 2007.

Soham is a town defined rather by tragedy and lost opportunity. It could have been so much more than it is, a small agricultural town on the edge of the fens: there is extensive archaeological evidence to show the prehistory of the area, but Soham’s recorded history begins in AD 630 when St Felix of Burgundy, the first Bishop of the East Angles, founded an abbey here. The abbey was upgraded to a cathedral around AD 900, but the cathedral status didn’t stick: parts of the Saxon cathedral were later incorporated in the twelfth-century St Andrew’s Church. In 1792 St Andrew’s was the scene for the wedding of a local girl called Susannah Cullen to a black African called Gustavus Vassa, better known to history as the freed slave Olaudah Equiano, while another man associated with the town is William Case Morris, who emigrated from Soham to Argentina and founded several children’s homes there – a district of Buenos Aires is named after him. The town’s railway station was destroyed in 1944 when a railway wagon carrying ammunition caught fire and exploded; good work by the train crew, who divided the train and pulled the burning wagon clear at great risk to themselves, stopped the entire train going up which would have flattended the town altogther. Despite all this history, Soham is still indelibly known in the national psyche for the murder of two ten-year-old girls by their school caretaker in 2002.

This ward has seen large population growth since it was created in 2003 from the division of the former Soham ward, which was the last five-councillor ward in England – the notice of poll gives an electorate of 4,002, which is 40% higher than fourteen years ago. (The polling stations are at the local football club Soham Town Rangers, who play in the Isthmian League first division and narrowly escaped relegation last season.) That population growth has been to the advantage of the Conservatives who first contested the ward in 2007, defeating an independent slate, and have since made the ward safe: in 2015 the Tory lead was 64-20 over the Lib Dems. The Tories had a slightly larger lead over the Lib Dems in the local county division (Soham North and Isleham) in May. Economically the ward is doing well, with over 50% of the workforce in full-time employment as of the 2011 census.

Defending for the Conservatives is Mark Goldsack, who runs a property insurance claims company and chairs the Isleham community association. The Lib Dem candidate is Alec Jones, and the ballot paper is completed by Labour’s candidate Peter Tyson, who will presumably pull no punches.

Parliamentary constituency: South East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Soham North and Isleham

May 2015 result C 1346/1231 LD 431/415 Lab 329/283
May 2011 result C 719/613 LD 252/247 Lab 182
May 2007 result C 581/422 Ind 274/175 LD 155/68
May 2003 result Ind 252/228 LD 151/119 Lab 119


Nether Edge & Sharrow

Sheffield council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Nasima Akther. She had served snce 2014 for the former Nether Edge ward and since 2016 for this ward.

We finish this week with two by-elections at opposite ends of Yorkshire. Nether Edge and Sharrow ward lies just to the south of Sheffield town centre, covering two rather contrasting areas. Nether Edge itself is an attractive Victorian suburb, a leafy place with lots of stone villas. However, it’s getting less leafy as time goes on: council tree felling is a major controversy in the ward, and Akther was suspended from the Labour group in January for abstaining on a council motion supporting the council’s tree management strategy. Sharrow, by contrast, is an inner-city area of Victorian terraces and council housing around Bramall Lane football ground.

This ward was only created in 2016 when Sharrow was transferred from Sheffield’s Central ward, which had seen enormous population growth and was grossly oversized, to the former Nether Edge ward. The old Nether Edge was an ethnically diverse area with large Asian, Muslim and student populations and high education levels – over 50% of the workforce had degrees, another 13% were studying for one, and the old ward just made the top 1000 in England and Wales for the ONS “higher management” employment category. The former Central ward was dominated by students at Sheffield’s universities who made up a majority of the workforce, and was even more ethnically diverse than Nether Edge.

Politically the area voted more or less as you’d expect. Before 2004, when Nether Edge and Sharrow were separate wards, Sharrow was solidly Labour while Nether Edge voted Tory until the mid-1980s, Labour until the 1990s and Lib Dem after that. From 2004 to 2015 Nether Edge ward was Lib Dem until the coalition and Labour after that, but at its last election in 2015 Labour were run close by the Green Party. Central ward was generally Green from its creation in 2004, although Labour were capable of winning it, and Sharrow was reckoned by local observers to be the strongest Green part of Central ward, so there was speculation that the new Nether Edge and Sharrow ward could have been notionally Green in 2015. It didn’t quite work out like that: Labour won in the 2016 election, the only previous poll on these boundaries, with 38% to 34% for the Green Party and 15% for the Lib Dems, and the seats split 2 to Labour and 1 to the Greens who beat the third Labour candidate by eight votes. Two weeks ago the Greens finished third across the Sheffield Central constituency with 8%, which despite having former leader Natalie Bennett as their candidate was half of what they had managed two years earlier.

So this is an early test for the Greens, who will be keen to get back to relevance after Corbyn successfully parked his tanks on their lawn during the general election campaign (not that Corbyn necessarily endorses the use of tanks, you understand). The Labour candidate is Jim Steinke, a former Labour councillor (Netherthorpe ward, 1986-91, Intake ward 1991-95) and more recently chief executive of the Northern Refugee Centre. The Greens have selected Rob Unwin, who works for an educational charity. The Lib Dem candidate is Shahid Ali, who according to his Twitter is a community development practitioner, Sheffield United fan and sports presenter for a local radio station. None of the other parties – including the Conservatives – have bothered to put up a candidate, so that is your ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Sheffield Central

May 2016 result Lab 2850/2646/2555 Grn 2563/2403/2231 LD 1091/904/796 C 294 UKIP 274 Ind 254 TUSC 146


Yarm

Stockton-on-Tees council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ben Houchen, who was elected Mayor of the Tees Valley Combined Authority last month. He had served since 2011.

From the southern end of Yorkshire we move to the northern end. Yarm is an old town within a bend of the River Tees which was once the river’s tidal limit and lowest crossing point. The A19 passed through the town centre until the 1970s when its current route to the east was built, while the town centre is overlooked by a long railway viaduct. Yarm has had a railway station since 1996, on Transpennine Express’s York-Middlesbrough route, and the town’s good road connections have made it an attractive commuter area for the Teesside conurbation. Also within the ward are the parishes of Castlelevington and Kirklevington; Kirklevington is home to HMP Kirklevington Grange, a low-security prison for inmates approaching the end of their sentences and intending to settle in the north-east.

Yarm is included in the Tees Valley mayoral area and the Stockton South parliamentary constituency, which have delivered some very strange and unexpected election results over the last two months: the Tories won the Tees Valley mayoralty in May, but Labour gained Stockton South in the general election two weeks ago. In both cases Yarm is likely to have been in the Conservative column, but examination of the town’s election results reveals tensions within the Conservative group: of the three councillors elected here on the Tory slate in 2011, one (Mark Chatburn) ended up in UKIP and a second (Andrew Sharris) sought re-election in 2015 at the head of the Yarm Independent Association slate, the Tories’ traditional rivals in this ward. Sherris, who had represented Yarm ward on Stockton council from 1983 to 1995 and since 2005, had been deselected for the 2015 election and suspended from the Tory group over a series of scandals, including non-payment of council tax on a second home and the sale of railings belonging to Yarm town council

In 2015 the Conservatives held the ward with 46% to 32% for the Yarm Independent Association and 21% for Labour, with both Houchen and Sherris having clear personal votes and running well ahead of their running-mates.

So without Houchen on the ballot, the Yarm Conservatives have a difficult task to pick themselves up from the unexpected loss of the parliamentary seat and hold this by-election. Their candidate is Tony Hampton, chair of Kirklevington and Castlelevington’s joint parish council and hoping to join his wife Elsi as a Stockton councillor for Yarm. Andrew Sherris, who still sits on Yarm town council, is standing as independent candidate. The Labour candidate is Kevin Nicholas, who contested his home ward of Ingleby Barwick East in 2015. Completing the ballot paper is Graham Robinson for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockton South

May 2015 result C 2629/2275/2227 Yarm Ind Assoc 1852/1591/1433 Lab 1219/1027/890
May 2011 result C 1829/1721/1556 Yarm Ind Assoc 1287/1218/1101 Lab 666/620/610 LD 186/152/141
May 2007 result C 1358/1268/1223 Yarm Ind Assoc 1005/817/740 LD 493/455/452 Lab 301/297/294
May 2005 result C 2127/1856/1739 LD 1453/1351/1199 Yarm Ind Assoc 1327/886 Lab 1002/978/942


Previews: 08 Jun 2017

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

Millions of words, acres of pixels and oceans of ink have already been expended on the 2017 general election. But you’ll find very little information about the downballot races: the by-election to the Scottish Parliament and the thirty-four local by-elections that are taking place in England and Wales on 8th June. This post seeks to change that, although with 34 polls to go through there is not the usual level of detail here that regular readers of Andrew’s Previews will be accustomed to. Read on…


Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

Scottish Parliament; caused by the resignation of Conservative MSP John Lamont, who is seeking election to the House of Commons in the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency. He had served since 2007.

When it comes to tourism in Scotland, the Highlands and the cities get most of the attention. The Borders may not be able to compete with the Highlands for grandeur, but they do have a picturesqueness all their own, with their own unique history and charm, as well as being (for obvious reasons) better placed for English tourists. Rather like that other Borderland area, the Welsh Marches, the Scottish Borders are dominated by small towns: Eyemouth, Coldstream, Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick, Selkirk.

What the Borders have never had is a large population, and certainly not a large enough population to sustain the administrative mess left here by the Middle Ages. In the seventy or so miles between Edinburgh and the Border there are no fewer than six traditional counties: Midlothian, East Lothian, Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire, Roxburghshire and Berwickshire. It says something about how the population has shifted here that Selkirk is no longer the largest town in its county (that’s Galashiels), Berwickshire no longer includes the town it lays claim to and Roxburgh, as a location, no longer exists at all. This patchwork of small counties has been a problem for redistributions of seats since Victorian times, and the solution has been a series of rather inelegant groupings of two or three of the old counties (or some approximation thereof) to form constituencies. The groupings tend to shift slightly with every redistribution, and the pairing of Roxburghshire with Berwickshire only dates from 1983.

Before 1983 there were two parliamentary constituencies covering this area. The Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles constituency had started off in 1955 as a Conservative seat, returning Unionist Charles Donaldson who had first been elected to the Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency in 1951. Donaldson had a safe seat and 1959 fought off challenges fom two other famous figures: former SNP figure John MacCormick, by now in the Liberal Party, and future Labour MP Tam Dalyell. In 1964 Donaldson had a larger scare against a young Liberal Party candidate called David Steel, whom he fought off by 1,739 votes, and future Labour MP Ronald Murray (Edinburgh Leith 1970-79 and Lord Advocate for much of that time, later Lord Murray). That boded ill when Charles Donaldson died less than two months after the 1964 election, forcing a by-election.

We all know what happened next. The 1965 Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election was a famous Liberal gain for David Steel, who finished with a majority of 10.5% over the Tory candidate Robert McEwen. Steel had close calls in the next two elections – in 1966 he beat the Tory candidate Ian McIntyre, later controller of Radio 4, but 4.9%; in 1970 he fought off future Tory MP Russell Fairgrieve (West Aberdeenshire, 1974 (Feb)-1983) with a majority of just 550. After that it was plain sailing for Steel, although the Conservatives did put up one more future MP against him: their candidate in 1979 was the accident-prone Gerry Malone, who would go on to lose the 1982 Glasgow Hillhead by-election to Roy Jenkins, lose Aberdeen South in 1987 after one term and famously lose Winchester in 1997 after one term.

In the meantime Berwickshire had been paired with East Lothian to form a constituency since 1918 (before 1950 with the name Berwick and Haddington). Berwick and East Lothian was a key marginal parliamentary constituency which changed hands several times during this period. Its first MP was John Deans Hope, a chartered accountant who had first been elected in the 1900 Khaki election for West Fife. Hope lost his seat to Labour in the December 1910 election, but the following year returned to the Commons by winning the Haddingtonshire by-election after the War Secretary Richard Haldane, founder of the Territorial Army, was elevated to the peerage.

The 1918 election, and the creation of Berwick and Haddington, pitted the former Liberal MPs for the two counties against each other, putting Deans up against outgoing Berwickshire MP Harold Tennant, who had briefly been Scottish secretary under Asquith. Both candidates were on the ballot paper, but Deans had the coupon and won easily.

This was a time of great political flux, and this cannot be better illustrated than by the 1922 ballot paper in Berwick and Haddington which featured no fewer than three Liberal candidates. Hope, having been deselected, stood as an Independent Liberal: he finished last but saved his deposit. In third place was the official Liberal candidate Willian Henderson Pringle, a barrister and university lecturer. In second place was Robert Spence of Labour, who lost by 500 votes to the National Liberal candidate Walter Waring, a Boer War and Great War veteran who had been Liberal MP for Banffshire from 1907 to 1918 and for Blaydon from 1918 to 1922. It was a close race, and Waring’s winning score was just 32%.

A second general election was held just a year later, in which Waring was the unity Liberal candidate; but he finished in third place. The Conservatives, contesting the seat for the first time, came second with their candidate Lt-Col Chichester Crooksbank, but Crooksbank lost by just 68 votes to Robert Spence, who became the constituency’s first Labour MP. Spence didn’t have long to savour his victory, as again there was another general election within a year: the 1924 election returned Crooksbank with a decisive majority.

But Labour hadn’t finished with this seat. Crooksbank retired in 1929 (he would later serve as Conservative MP for Bootle from 1931 to 1935) and the Conservatives lost the seat to the new Labour candidate George Simkinson; the Liberal candidate in that election, the last Liberal in the seat for many years, was Sir James Greig, a barrister who had been MP for Western Renfrewshire from January 1910 to 1922.

Again Labour didn’t have long to savour their victory: the Tory landslide of 1931 and the Liberal withdrawal delivered a huge majority for Captain John McEwen, who had been a prisoner of war during the Great War before joining the Diplomatic Service. The laird of the eighteenth-century Marchmont House in Berwickshire, McEwen had several minor ministerial posts in the Chamberlain and Churchill administrations, and had an large family; one of his sons, Rory McEwen, was a well-known folk singer and artist of the 1960s.

Having been swept in by the Tory landslide of 1931, McEwen senior was swept away by the Labour landslide of 1945, losing by 3,157 votes to Labour’s John Robertson, who represented the seat throughout the Attlee governments. In 1950, the first election under the seat’s new name of Berwick and East Lothian, he saw off new Tory candidate William Anstruther-Gray by 1,728 votes despite the intervention of the Liberal candidate Antony Stodart (who later joined the Conservatives and was MP for Edinburgh West from 1959 to February 1974, and ended his days in the Lords). There was no Liberal intervention in 1951 and Robertson lost his seat to Anstruther-Gray.

Sir William Anstruther-Gray was another of the Tory MPs for Berwick and East Lothian with a military background: Eton, Christ Church Oxford, Coldstream Guards where he rose to the rank of Lieutanant. He left the Army in 1930 and the following year was elected as Conservative MP for North Lanarkshire, defeating Jennie Lee. During this time Anstruther-Gray rejoined the Coldstreams on the outbreak of war, ending the Second World War with the rank of Major and a Military Cross to his name, but that didn’t stop him losing his Lanarkshire seat in 1945. During his tenure as MP for Berwick and East Lothian he stayed on the backbenches, serving as a Deputy Speaker from 1959 to 1964 and as chairman of the 1922 Committee during the first Wilson parliament. He never had a safe seat here, winning by 2,358 at his first election in 1951; 2,710 in 1955, 2,850 in the Macmillan landslide of 1959 and just 625 in 1964 before losing his seat in the Wilson landslide of 1966. Anstruther-Gray was granted a peerage shortly afterwards and ended his days in the Lords as Lord Kilmany.

The new MP for Berwick and East Lothian was John Mackintosh, an advocate of devolution who during his time as MP became professor of politics at Edinburgh University. Again he did not have a safe seat: Mackintosh was re-elected in 1970 by 641 votes, but lost his seat against the national swing to the Conservatives in February 1974.

Mackintosh’s loss was to someone who would become one of the big beasts of the Conservative Party. Michael Kerr, generally known at this time as Michael Ancram from his courtesy title of Earl of Ancram, was 28 years old, heir to the Marquess of Lothian and a young barrister with a distinguished education: Ampleforth, Christ Church Oxford (where he was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club) and Edinburgh. Ancram would later serve as MP for Edinburgh South (1979-87) and Devizes (1992-2010), taking various minor ministerial posts under Thatcher and Major. Hague promoted Ancram to the Shadow Cabinet where he was spokesman for constitutional affairs and then Conservative Party chairman; this didn’t stop him finishing last in the 2001 leadership election which produced Iain Duncan Smith, but IDS promoted Ancram to Shadow Foreign Secretary and Michael Howard kept him there. Ancram, who by now had succeeded to his father’s titles, retired from the frontbench on the election of David Cameron as party leader and retired from the Commons in 2010; he immediately entered the Lords by virtue of a life peerage, although he is referred to in House of Lords business as the Marquess of Lothian. Chief of the Clan Kerr, Lothian married within the aristocracy – his wife, Lady Herries, is a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk – and his daughter Lady Clare Kerr is married to the Tory MP Nick Hurd.

All this lay in the future, and when Ancram lost his seat back to Mackintosh in the October 1974 election after just eight months in office the future didn’t look quite so rosy for him. However, John Mackintosh suddenly died in 1978, a time when the Callaghan government was subsisting on little or no majority. The scene was set for a by-election in October 1978, just before the Winter of Discontent. Labour selected John Home Robertson, a 29-year-old farmer and Berwickshire district councillor, one of whose distant ancestors had been the last MP for Berwickshire in the pre-Union Scottish Parliament. The Tory candidate was Margaret Marshall. The Scottish National Party, starting from third place, selected party staffer, sociology lecturer and anti-war campaigner Isobel Lindsay over the wishes of the local party, and the Liberal candidate was Tam Glen. Lindsay and Glen lost their deposits, but Home Robertson increased the Labour majority to 3,112 votes; along with the Labour hold in the Pontefract and Castleford by-election on the same day, the Callaghan government was saved to fight another day. And we all know how that turned out.

Home Robertson was re-elected in 1979 with a reduced majority of 1,673, but now leaves our story; the redistribution of 1983 made East Lothian a seat of its own, and since essentially all the Labour vote in Berwick and East Lothian came out of East Lothian Home Robertson moved his political base there. A europhile and devolution campaigner who was one of only five Labour MPs to vote for the third reading of the Maastricht treaty, he remained MP for East Lothian until 2001 and served as MSP for the same seat from 1999 to 2007.

So, rather than East Lothian, the new Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency created in 1983 took its cue from the old Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles seat. With Home Robertson moving to the new East Lothian seat and David Steel to the new seat of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, the new seat was open and a contest developed between the Conservative MP Iain Sproat, who had done the chicken run from Aberdeen South which he had represented since 1970, and new Liberal candidate Archy Kirkwood, a solicitor from Hawick. The chicken run went wrong: not only did Sproat lose to Kirkwood, but his replacement in Aberdeen South (the aforementioned Gerry Malone) held that seat.

Kirkwood would go on to have a long parliamentary career, seeing off in 1987 future Tory MP, leadership candidate and globetrotter Liam Fox and in 1997 future Labour MSP Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East 1999-2011, Cowdenbeath 2011-13). He served as Lib Dem chief whip during the 1992 Parliament.

The Lib Dem strength in this area at the time carried forward to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Euan Robson winning Roxburgh and Berwickshire easily over Conservative Alasdair Hutton, who had been MEP for the South of Scotland from 1979 to 1989 and was later involved in organising the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The 2005 redistribution in Scotland reduced the number of constituencies in the Borders, creating a new seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Archy Kirkwood was translated to the Lords and replaced as Lib Dem candidate by his former researcher Michael Moore, a chartered accountant who had succeeded David Steel as MP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale in 1997 but whose seat was being abolished. Moore won easily over the new Tory candidate John Lamont, a solicitor.

The first indication that not all was well for the Lib Dem machine in the Borders came in 2007 when Euan Robson lost the Holyrood seat of Roxburgh and Berwickshire to Lamont. Lamont stood again against Moore in 2010 to little effect, and Michael Moore, having gone back to his constituency and prepared for government, became Scottish secretary in the May 2010 reshuffle after the fall of David Laws from grace.

A year later Lamont was re-elected as Holyrood MSP for the redistributed seat of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire with a large swing in his favour: Euan Robson dropped to third place behind the SNP’s Paul Wheelhouse, who was elected on the South Scotland list and since 2012 has served in the Scottish Government, since 2016 as business, innovation and energy minister.

The stage was set for John Lamont to have a third crack at the Westminster seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, for which he was a hot favourite given the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. Michael Moore, having been dropped from the frontbench in 2013 after a torrid time as Scottish secretary, lost more than half his vote and finished third, but it was the SNP’s Calum Kerr who came from fourth place to make the gain by 328 votes over Lamont – the smallest majority in any Scotland seat that year – in what appears to have been the peak for the Scottish nationalists. Kerr is on the SNP frontbench as environment spokesman, and is seeking re-election to Westminster.

What has happened in those intervening two years? In the 2016 Holyrood election Lamont was re-elected for a third term in Holyrood, beating the SNP by an increased majority of 55-32; the SNP candidate was again Paul Wheelhouse who was again elected from the South Scotland list.

Just five weeks ago the Scottish Borders council went to the polls, and it was more good news for the Conservatives who carried five of the constituency’s seven wards (namely the two Berwickshire wards, Kelso, Jedburgh and Selkirkshire; the two Hawick wards voted for independent candidates). The local elections were another triumph for the Conservatives, who polled 46% of the first preferences across the constituency to 24% for independents and 18% for the SNP; this was a PR election, but the Conservatives still came out with an overall majority of councillors in the seat, winning 11 seats to 5 for the SNP, 4 Independents and one Lib Dem (in Kelso). There is no overall majority for the Tories in the Scottish Borders as a whole (they are weaker in the four wards not in this seat, particularly so in Galashiels) but they have formed the administration with support from independents.

So, the omens are good for John Lamont, who has increased the Tory share in all six Holyrood or Westminster elections he has previously fought. He has resigned his Holyrood seat to concentrate on his Westminster campaign, so the stakes are high.

The stakes are also high for the new Tory Holyrood candidate Rachael Hamilton, an English-born agronomist who was elected to Holyrood from the regional list in 2016 (having come third in the East Lothian constituency) and became the Tory spokeswoman for tourism in their Holyrood group: Hamilton has resigned her seat on the list in order to contest this by-election. (Her list seat has been taken over by Michelle Ballantyne, councillor for Selkirkshire ward.)

The SNP candidate in the by-election is Gail Hendry, who (although it’s not obvious from the name) is Alex Salmond’s sister. She is a lecturer at Borders College and chairs the SNP’s Hawick branch.

For Holyrood the Lib Dems have selected Catriona Bhatia, who (although it’s not obvious from the name) is David Steel’s daughter; she is married to Rajiv Bhatia, director of a whisky company. Bhatia was a Scottish Borders councillor from 2003 to 2017, representing Peebles and District East ward from 2003 to 2007 and Tweeddale West ward from 2007 to 2017; she was depute leader of the council from 2012 to 2017 and in 2010 stood for Westminster as Lib Dem candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. Completing an all-female ballot paper is Labour’s Sally Prentice, who was the Labour candidate for Kelso and District ward in May and polled 2.7%.

So, two high-profile resignations as the Conservative Party attempt to play musical chairs in their top Scottish target seat. We shall see on 8th June whether this represents confidence or hubris.

Parliamentary constituency: Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

May 2016 result C 18257 SNP 10521 LD 2551 Lab 1766
May 2011 result C 12933 SNP 7599 LD 4990 Lab 2986 Ind 308


Northern England

We now turn to local by-elections on 8th June. There is a definite Northern bias in the 34 polls on this list, with eight of them cropping up in the North West region and a further five in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The northernmost one is in a parliamentary seat which has already seen a famous by-election this year: Copeland. In the Newtown ward, one of three covering the town of Millom at the southern tip of what was once Cumberland, Ged McGrath defends for the Conservatives against Labour’s Angela Rayner in a ward which in 2015 split its representation between two Tories and one Labour candidate.

Moving south into Lancashire, the Liverpool outer commuterland of Aughton Park ward in West Lancashire, on the outskirts of Ormskirk, is normally a Tory monolith (West Lancashire district tends to be like that, with Tory monolith wards, Labour monolith wards and very little in between); although UKIP got within ten points of the Conservatives in 2014 their withdrawal from the fray should ensure a very easy hold for the Tories’ Doreen Stephenson. Meanwhile in Blackburn, Marsh House ward (see this column passim) is having its third by-election in seven months after two Labour councillors died at an early age and the winner of the second by-election turned out to have a job which disqualified him from being a Blackburn councillor; he is not standing again and Labour’s replacement candidate Matt Gibson is favoured to hold a by-election which, had the Labour selection been competent, wouldn’t have been taking place at all.

No fewer than four local by-elections take place in Greater Manchester. In the Tory target seat of Bury South, Radcliffe East ward is up; this is the old part of Radcliffe (if such a thing can be said to exist) around the Tower, running from the modern town centre to the east along Dumers Lane. This area was badly affected in the Boxing Day 2015 floods. Although the Tories won here in 2006 and 2008 this is in essence a safe Labour ward which should elect their candidate Karen Leach. In Salford there is a poll in Claremont ward, covering terraces old and less old in Irlams o’ th’ Height; this column will return to Claremont in more detail soon as there is a second by-election pending in the ward, but this was an area which was turned from Lib Dem to Labour by the Coalition, and with the Lib Dems having been wiped out in Salford Labour’s Neil Reynolds should have few problems. On the far side of the conurbation in Stockport we cross to Brinnington and Central ward, which although it covers Stockport town centre takes its cue from the rather isolated council estate of Brinnington to the north-east; notwithstanding a freak Lib Dem win in 2008 this is another safe Labour ward and should be easily winnable for their candidate Becky Crawford. Overlooking all this on the eastern horizon is a fourth safe Labour ward, Royton North in Oldham; unlike the other three wards in this paragraph this is consistently Labour and should elect the wonderfully-named Labour candidate Clint Phythian.

Further down the Mersey from Stockport is our last North West poll this week, Kirkdale ward in Liverpool. This is the old docks heartland of the city along the Derby, Stanley and Scotland roads, and has suffered from massive depopulation over the decades – sixty years ago the area covered by this ward formed the majority of the Liverpool Scotland parliamentary constituency (the Liverpool Kirkdale constituency of those days covered a different area). The Labour vote here, of course, is weighed rather than counted (last year it was 79%), and it would be a major shock if Labour candidate Lisa Gaughan loses this one.

Gathering our passports and steeling ourselves for the journey into Yorkshire, we take the train out of Manchester Victoria (now open again following the appalling events of 22 May) into the Pennines for two by-elections in Calderdale district. Todmorden is a rather handsome town at the head of the Calder valley which was once on the Lancashire/Yorkshire boundary (the neoclassical Town Hall straddles the old boundary) and still has something of a split personality; all three main parties have won Todmorden within the last decade, but Labour are in the ascendancy at the moment and their candidate Carol Machell is favoured. At the other end of the Calder Valley constituency lies Rastrick ward, the southern half of Brighouse and, when the nearby M62 is in a good mood, commuterland for the cities of West Yorkshire: this is a consistently Conservative ward, although Labour did (just) get within 10 points last year, which the Tories’ Sophie Whittaker defends from Labour’s Colin Hutchinson.

The city of York sees two polls on 8th June. Micklegate ward is the first part of York that arrivals to the city’s handsome railway station see: located to the west of the Ouse, the ward runs south from the city centre to include York racecourse (next meeting 16 and 17 June). Appropriately for a racecourse ward this looks rather exciting: in 2015 Micklegate’s three seats split between an independent, Labour and the Green Party. That was a poor performance by Labour who had previously held all three seats in a Labour/Green marginal, and their candidate Jonny Crawshaw will be looking for a good performance to defend the Labour seat from the Greens’ Rosie Baker. On the eastern edge of the city, boundary changes in 2015 to Hull Road ward saw it gain the picturesque University of York campus and a third councillor; it might have needed four councillors if ducks had the vote, but they don’t so three councillors it is. This is likely to be another Labour/Green battle between Labour’s Michael Pavlovic and the Greens’ John Cossham, who wasn’t far off winning a seat here two years ago.

Our final by-election in the three Northern regions of England is in Scunthorpe in what used to be called South Humberside. Brumby ward lies on the western edge of Scunthorpe amd its election results are as flat and nondescript as its landscape: this is a safe Labour ward which should elect Stephen Swift. UKIP ran second here in 2015 and have proved that there is still a Carswell in the party by selecting Dave Carswell.


The Midlands and Wales

Staying in Lincolnshire but across the regional boundary, there are two by-elections on 8th June to North Kesteven district council. One is in Heighington and Washingborough, a safe Tory ward covering two villages on the outskirts of Lincoln and within the marginal Lincoln parliamentary seat: Edward Herring is the defending Conservative candidate. The other is in Ashby de la Launde and Cranwell, which has appeared in this column before; this rural ward elected two Conservatives in 2015 but one of them, WW2 Bomber Command veteran Geoffrey Whittle, subsequently resigned on age grounds – he was 92 – and the Conservatives lost the resulting by-election in March 2016 to the Lincolnshire Independents. Most of the electors for this ward are servicemen and -women at RAF Cranwell, who are unlikely to turn out for a local by-election but may be tempted by the general election. The remaining Conservative seat is up in this by-election: Dan Gray defends for the Conservatives while Pearl Clarke is the Lincolnshire Independents candidate.

The other East Midlands local by-election this week is for the by-election prone ward of Castle in Leicester. This ward covers Victoria Park, the De Montfort University complex and the city centre, which has seen something of a renaissance in recent years thanks partly to the discovery and reburial of the remains of King Richard III. In 2003 Castle ward produced an extraordinarily close result for the final seat, with the lead Green and second Labour candidate tied on 708 votes each and the second Lib Dem candidate on 707; the second Labour candidate won the drawing of lots to split the three seats 2 Labour and 1 Lib Dem. In 2007 the Green Party gained the Lib Dem seat and one of the Labour seats, but Labour gained both Green seats in by-elections during the 2007-11 term – one of them coming after one of the Green councillors, who in real life was a tree surgeon, fell out of a tree he was working on and was killed. The 2011 election was plain sailing for Labour, but the Greens did get back within ten points at the most recent poll in 2015. Danny Myers defends for Labour against the Greens’ Oli Young-Jones.

There is just one by-election in the West Midlands region, to Bromsgrove council from the ward of Alvechurch Village, a Birmingham commuter area on the Cross-City railway line, just off the M42 motorway and sufficiently close to the city to have a Birmingham postcode. This was safe Tory in 2015, the only previous contest on these boundaries, and Luisa Nixon should have little trouble holding the seat.

This brings us to this column’s first visit to Wales since December 2016. The Class of 2017 has already generated two pending by-elections that your columnist is aware of, but it’s too soon for those to be held yet; instead we have two pieces of unfinished business from May’s ordinary election. Labour were widely reported in May as having lost control of Merthyr Tydfil, but they have an immediate chance to get control back as Cyfarthfa ward has yet to poll: the election there on 4th May was cancelled after the death of Ieuan Harris, who had been nominated as an independent candidate. This is a ward of hamlets and estates overlooking Merthyr from the west side of the Taff valley. Cyfartha normally votes for an independent slate (known in 2004 as “People Before Politics”, since then as “Merthyr Independents”) but Labour gained one of the ward’s three seats from the independent slate in 2012. With only this result to come independents hold 16 seats on Merthyr council to 14 for Labour, so a clean sweep for Labour will return them to overall control. On the Labour slate David Chaplin is seeking re-election and is joined by Margaret Davies and Carol Estebanez; the Merthyr Independents have only a two-man slate with Paul Brown seeking re-election and joined by Terry Thomas. (I say!) There are also two other independent candidates and a Plaid nominee on the ballot paper.

Once the Cyfarthfa poll is complete, the 2012 local elections will finally pass into history. There was due to be a second postponed poll in Ceredigion after the death of Neil Flower, Liberal Democrat candidate for Llandyfriog ward in the Teifi valley; but as no new candidates have come forward Plaid’s James Thomas, who was the only remaining candidate, has been declared elected unopposed. This column sends its congratulations to Councillor Thomas.


London and the South

We move into East Anglia by way of Peterborough, where there is a poll in East ward, which covers the area east of the city centre to the point where the Fens get too wet and marshy to build on (which is not very far). There has only been one previous election on these boundaries, in 2016 when the ward’s three seats split two to the Conservatives and one to Labour. Defending this marginal ward for the Conservatives is Jay Beecher, while Matthew Mahabadi seeks to gain for Labour.

Our East Anglian by-election this week is in Norfolk. Coltishall ward, a deeply rural part of Broadland district, is another ward with an RAF base in it which might have trouble voting for Corbyn; not that there’s much of a Labour vote here in any event and there was no Labour candidate for this ward in 2015. It’s safe Tory and their candidate Jo Copplestone, fighting her second Norfolk by-election in eleven months (she stood for election to North Norfolk council last July), should have a safe berth this time.

Turning our attention to the West Country, we come to the last of our pieces of unfinished business from the ordinary May local elections. The Bodmin St Petroc division of Cornwall did not go the polls on 4th May because of the death during the election campaign of the outgoing Lib Dem councillor Steve Rogerson, who was seeking re-election. He was the father of Dan Rogerson, who was Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall from 2005 to 2015 and is trying to get back in 2017. Rogerson senior was defending a large majority from 2013 in this, the eastern of Bodmin’s three divisions. This is the only Lib Dem by-election defence of the week; while nobody ever got rich trying to predict election results in Cornwall the replacement Lib Dem candidate Leigh Frost should be favourite to hold. Once this poll is complete, the 2013 local elections will pass into history.

The prize for the most bizarre candidate list on 8th June is won hands down by the Hartland and Bradworthy ward of Torridge council in Devon, a deeply rural area covering the north-western corner of Devon at Hartland Point. Hartland is the location of a British Geological Society observatory monitoring the strength and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field. The local parties haven’t exactly been magnetically attracted to the ward’s ballot papers in recent years: in 2015 Hartland and Bradworthy easily returned an independent councillor who had been first elected in 2011 as a Liberal Democrat, with the ward’s other seat going to UKIP narrowly ahead of the Green Party. The UKIP seat is up in this by-election but they haven’t nominated anyone to replace their late councillor, and despite the Conservatives winning the local county council seat in May they have not put a candidate up either; so this seat is up for grabs in a straight fight between Jane Leaper of the Liberal Democrats (from Hartland) and John Sanders of the Green Party (from Bradworthy).

As we progress into the Home Counties, slightly more normal but much more tragic is the poll to West Berkshire council in Thatcham South and Crookham ward, an outer commuter area around Thatcham railway station on the Reading-Westbury line. The by-election has been caused by the recent death of the Leader of the Council Roger Croft, as a result of injuries sustained in a road accident while on holiday in France; his wife was also killed in the crash. Croft leaves behind a ward which was Lib Dem in 2003 and 2007 but which by 2015 had become safe Conservative; Jason Collis is the defending candidate.

Moving north of London there are two defences in Hertfordshire for the Conservatives. Bovingdon, Flaunden and Chipperfield ward of Dacorum council is a safe Tory collection of villages between Hemel Hempstead and the Buckinghamshire border which should elect the Conservatives’ Graham Barrett without much trouble. Despite poor Conservative performances in Welwyn Hatfield district in May they can also expect to win in Hatfield Villages ward, which despite the name is not a series of villages but primarily a collection of housing estates that form a part of Hatfield which has spilled over to the western side of the A1 motorway. Peter Hebden is the defending Tory candidate there.

Further out in Bedfordshire we come to Sundon Park ward, running from Leagrave railway station up to the northern edge of Luton. This is the only Labour versus Lib Dem fight of this week’s by-elections, with the two parties having split the ward’s two seats since 2011. Martin Rogers defends for Labour, Clive Mead looks to gain for the Lib Dems.

From Leagrave railway station we take the Thameslink route trains (if they’re in a good mood) down the Brighton Line (if it’s in a good mood). There are two by-elections along the Brighton Line, one being a double by-election for two of the three seats in Hassocks ward, located in the shadow of the North Downs in Mid Sussex district. Mid Sussex council is a one-party Conservative state and although the Lib Dems did win one seat in Hassocks in 2007 and hold it in 2011, there is little sign of them regaining a foothold here based on the 2015 result. The defending Conservative slate is Michelle Binks and Jessica Edwards. If anything, the other Brighton Line by-election looks even less competitive: it is to the safe Tory ward of Pound Hill South and Worth in Crawley, running east from Three Bridges station to the M23 motorway; Alison Pendlington is the Tory candidate there.

Once we cross from West to East Sussex things start to get more interesting. The Seaford West ward of Lewes district is up, one of five wards in Seaford and centred on Bishopstone railway station: this is more Conservative than Seaford as a whole and had a big Tory lead in 2015. Unhelpfully for comparison with May the ward is split between three county divisions, two of which (Newhaven/Bishopstone and Seaford South) voted Lib Dem five weeks ago. With this ward being in the Lewes parliamentary seat, which is high up the Lib Dem target list, a full-on campaign can be expected although the formbook suggests that Tory candidate Liz Boorman is favourite.

The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, just after Christmas 1170, turned Canterbury into a place of pilgrimage to rival Rome and Compostela. Literature from across the centuries, from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, owes its debt to the cult of Thomas, and and the passage of eight-and-a-half centuries has done little to stem the flow of pilgrims. A nice little business for Canterbury over the years, then. Your columnist is hoping to make his own pilgrimage to Thomas’ last stand soon; in the meantime we are here on by-election duty, for the Tories have a difficult defence in the city-centre Westgate ward. This was Lib Dem up until 2015, when one of their three seats disappeared in boundary changes and a second was gained by Conservative candidate John Brazier (brother of the local MP Julian Brazier). Brazier is standing down; Luke Whiddett attempts to hold for the Conservatives while Daniel Prevett looks to gain for the Lib Dems.

Staying in Kent, there are two Tory by-election defences in Ashford. Victoria ward, covering the town centre and parts of South Ashford close to the railway station, was Lib Dem until 2011 when the ward suddenly became three-way marginal and the Conservatives gained a seat in the ward; in 2015 the Lib Dems seem to have given up their remaining seat without a fight, but it was gained by Labour with the Tories holding their seat and UKIP close behind. Goodness knows what might happen here this time; David Robey (who gives an address in a village on the way to Faversham) defends for the Conservatives, Charles Suddards is the Labour candidate and Serge Goldenberg stands for UKIP. The Tories shoud have an easier ride in Bockhanger ward, located in northern Ashford around M20 junction 9; they had a big lead there in 2015 and their candidate for Bockhanger is Simon Howard-Smith.

That completes our tour around the shires of England; yes, Londoners, I’ve made you wait to the end, but I think you’ll agree that the wait will be worth it. There are two local by-election London, both in marginal wards in the marginal council of Hammersmith and Fulham. Labour are defending their seat in Avonmore and Brook Green ward, covering the West Kensington area and including the Olympia exhibition centre, which voted Conservative from 2002 to 2014 before Labour gained one of the three seats; David Norton defends for Labour, Will Marshall will try and gain for the Conservatives. Down by the riverside in Fulham the Conservatives are defending Sands End ward, around Wandsworth Bridge and Imperial Wharf station, which was so close for the final seat in 2002 (the Tories were declared as winning by three votes) that the election court voided that seat for procedural irregularities (by the election staff, I hasten to add), leading to a by-election in September 2002 which Labour gained by four votes. The Tories gained all three seats in Sands End ward in 2006 and have held them ever since, but the 2014 result was close again with Conservative majorities of 110, 86 and 53 votes. Jackie Borland defends this seat for the Conservatives, Ann Rosenberg will try to gain for Labour.

Britain Elects will of course endeavour to bring you all the action from these local by-elections and the 2017 general election as it is reported. It’s been a strange old campaign and no doubt it’ll be a strange old election night at the end of which, in each constituency, there can be only one winner. It’s a brutal form of job interview, and successful and unsuccessful candidates alike should reflect that the electorate, like Parliament, always has the right to change its mind; there will be another chance to win or lose in a few years’ time. That’s what democracy is, and we shouldn’t change it for the world. Democracy can’t proceed without elections, but elections (as we saw in Ceredigion) can’t proceed without candidates, and candidates can’t proceed without hard work. The electors (or a subset thereof) might not be aware of the hard work that candidates put in, but this column is, and is grateful for it. It is only right that we, as electors, celebrate and recognise all that hard work by casting our votes at the end of it all – whoever you cast them for.

It only remains for me to say that this column will return for the first local by-elections of the 2017 Parliament, to be held on 22nd June 2017 in Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire, North Yorkshire and Powys as we continue to work through the fallout of the May elections. Until then, whoever you support, have a good election night and I’ll see you on the other side.


Andrew Teale edits the Local Elections Archive Project and sometimes tweets at @andrewteale.

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

Millions of words, acres of pixels and oceans of ink have already been expended on the 2017 general election. But you’ll find very little information about the downballot races: the by-election to the Scottish Parliament and the thirty-four local by-elections that are taking place in England and Wales on 8th June. This post seeks to change that, although with 34 polls to go through there is not the usual level of detail here that regular readers of Andrew’s Previews will be accustomed to. Read on…


ETTRICK, ROXBURGH AND BERWICKSHIRE

Scottish Parliament; caused by the resignation of Conservative MSP John Lamont, who is seeking election to the House of Commons in the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency. He had served since 2007.

When it comes to tourism in Scotland, the Highlands and the cities get most of the attention. The Borders may not be able to compete with the Highlands for grandeur, but they do have a picturesqueness all their own, with their own unique history and charm, as well as being (for obvious reasons) better placed for English tourists. Rather like that other Borderland area, the Welsh Marches, the Scottish Borders are dominated by small towns: Eyemouth, Coldstream, Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick, Selkirk.

What the Borders have never had is a large population, and certainly not a large enough population to sustain the administrative mess left here by the Middle Ages. In the seventy or so miles between Edinburgh and the Border there are no fewer than six traditional counties: Midlothian, East Lothian, Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire, Roxburghshire and Berwickshire. It says something about how the population has shifted here that Selkirk is no longer the largest town in its county (that’s Galashiels), Berwickshire no longer includes the town it lays claim to and Roxburgh, as a location, no longer exists at all. This patchwork of small counties has been a problem for redistributions of seats since Victorian times, and the solution has been a series of rather inelegant groupings of two or three of the old counties (or some approximation thereof) to form constituencies. The groupings tend to shift slightly with every redistribution, and the pairing of Roxburghshire with Berwickshire only dates from 1983.

Before 1983 there were two parliamentary constituencies covering this area. The Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles constituency had started off in 1955 as a Conservative seat, returning Unionist Charles Donaldson who had first been elected to the Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency in 1951. Donaldson had a safe seat and 1959 fought off challenges fom two other famous figures: former SNP figure John MacCormick, by now in the Liberal Party, and future Labour MP Tam Dalyell. In 1964 Donaldson had a larger scare against a young Liberal Party candidate called David Steel, whom he fought off by 1,739 votes, and future Labour MP Ronald Murray (Edinburgh Leith 1970-79 and Lord Advocate for much of that time, later Lord Murray). That boded ill when Charles Donaldson died less than two months after the 1964 election, forcing a by-election.

We all know what happened next. The 1965 Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election was a famous Liberal gain for David Steel, who finished with a majority of 10.5% over the Tory candidate Robert McEwen. Steel had close calls in the next two elections – in 1966 he beat the Tory candidate Ian McIntyre, later controller of Radio 4, but 4.9%; in 1970 he fought off future Tory MP Russell Fairgrieve (West Aberdeenshire, 1974 (Feb)-1983) with a majority of just 550. After that it was plain sailing for Steel, although the Conservatives did put up one more future MP against him: their candidate in 1979 was the accident-prone Gerry Malone, who would go on to lose the 1982 Glasgow Hillhead by-election to Roy Jenkins, lose Aberdeen South in 1987 after one term and famously lose Winchester in 1997 after one term.

In the meantime Berwickshire had been paired with East Lothian to form a constituency since 1918 (before 1950 with the name Berwick and Haddington). Berwick and East Lothian was a key marginal parliamentary constituency which changed hands several times during this period. Its first MP was John Deans Hope, a chartered accountant who had first been elected in the 1900 Khaki election for West Fife. Hope lost his seat to Labour in the December 1910 election, but the following year returned to the Commons by winning the Haddingtonshire by-election after the War Secretary Richard Haldane, founder of the Territorial Army, was elevated to the peerage.

The 1918 election, and the creation of Berwick and Haddington, pitted the former Liberal MPs for the two counties against each other, putting Deans up against outgoing Berwickshire MP Harold Tennant, who had briefly been Scottish secretary under Asquith. Both candidates were on the ballot paper, but Deans had the coupon and won easily.

This was a time of great political flux, and this cannot be better illustrated than by the 1922 ballot paper in Berwick and Haddington which featured no fewer than three Liberal candidates. Hope, having been deselected, stood as an Independent Liberal: he finished last but saved his deposit. In third place was the official Liberal candidate Willian Henderson Pringle, a barrister and university lecturer. In second place was Robert Spence of Labour, who lost by 500 votes to the National Liberal candidate Walter Waring, a Boer War and Great War veteran who had been Liberal MP for Banffshire from 1907 to 1918 and for Blaydon from 1918 to 1922. It was a close race, and Waring’s winning score was just 32%.

A second general election was held just a year later, in which Waring was the unity Liberal candidate; but he finished in third place. The Conservatives, contesting the seat for the first time, came second with their candidate Lt-Col Chichester Crooksbank, but Crooksbank lost by just 68 votes to Robert Spence, who became the constituency’s first Labour MP. Spence didn’t have long to savour his victory, as again there was another general election within a year: the 1924 election returned Crooksbank with a decisive majority.

But Labour hadn’t finished with this seat. Crooksbank retired in 1929 (he would later serve as Conservative MP for Bootle from 1931 to 1935) and the Conservatives lost the seat to the new Labour candidate George Simkinson; the Liberal candidate in that election, the last Liberal in the seat for many years, was Sir James Greig, a barrister who had been MP for Western Renfrewshire from January 1910 to 1922.

Again Labour didn’t have long to savour their victory: the Tory landslide of 1931 and the Liberal withdrawal delivered a huge majority for Captain John McEwen, who had been a prisoner of war during the Great War before joining the Diplomatic Service. The laird of the eighteenth-century Marchmont House in Berwickshire, McEwen had several minor ministerial posts in the Chamberlain and Churchill administrations, and had an large family; one of his sons, Rory McEwen, was a well-known folk singer and artist of the 1960s.

Having been swept in by the Tory landslide of 1931, McEwen senior was swept away by the Labour landslide of 1945, losing by 3,157 votes to Labour’s John Robertson, who represented the seat throughout the Attlee governments. In 1950, the first election under the seat’s new name of Berwick and East Lothian, he saw off new Tory candidate William Anstruther-Gray by 1,728 votes despite the intervention of the Liberal candidate Antony Stodart (who later joined the Conservatives and was MP for Edinburgh West from 1959 to February 1974, and ended his days in the Lords). There was no Liberal intervention in 1951 and Robertson lost his seat to Anstruther-Gray.

Sir William Anstruther-Gray was another of the Tory MPs for Berwick and East Lothian with a military background: Eton, Christ Church Oxford, Coldstream Guards where he rose to the rank of Lieutanant. He left the Army in 1930 and the following year was elected as Conservative MP for North Lanarkshire, defeating Jennie Lee. During this time Anstruther-Gray rejoined the Coldstreams on the outbreak of war, ending the Second World War with the rank of Major and a Military Cross to his name, but that didn’t stop him losing his Lanarkshire seat in 1945. During his tenure as MP for Berwick and East Lothian he stayed on the backbenches, serving as a Deputy Speaker from 1959 to 1964 and as chairman of the 1922 Committee during the first Wilson parliament. He never had a safe seat here, winning by 2,358 at his first election in 1951; 2,710 in 1955, 2,850 in the Macmillan landslide of 1959 and just 625 in 1964 before losing his seat in the Wilson landslide of 1966. Anstruther-Gray was granted a peerage shortly afterwards and ended his days in the Lords as Lord Kilmany.

The new MP for Berwick and East Lothian was John Mackintosh, an advocate of devolution who during his time as MP became professor of politics at Edinburgh University. Again he did not have a safe seat: Mackintosh was re-elected in 1970 by 641 votes, but lost his seat against the national swing to the Conservatives in February 1974.

Mackintosh’s loss was to someone who would become one of the big beasts of the Conservative Party. Michael Kerr, generally known at this time as Michael Ancram from his courtesy title of Earl of Ancram, was 28 years old, heir to the Marquess of Lothian and a young barrister with a distinguished education: Ampleforth, Christ Church Oxford (where he was a member of the notorious Bullingdon Club) and Edinburgh. Ancram would later serve as MP for Edinburgh South (1979-87) and Devizes (1992-2010), taking various minor ministerial posts under Thatcher and Major. Hague promoted Ancram to the Shadow Cabinet where he was spokesman for constitutional affairs and then Conservative Party chairman; this didn’t stop him finishing last in the 2001 leadership election which produced Iain Duncan Smith, but IDS promoted Ancram to Shadow Foreign Secretary and Michael Howard kept him there. Ancram, who by now had succeeded to his father’s titles, retired from the frontbench on the election of David Cameron as party leader and retired from the Commons in 2010; he immediately entered the Lords by virtue of a life peerage, although he is referred to in House of Lords business as the Marquess of Lothian. Chief of the Clan Kerr, Lothian married within the aristocracy – his wife, Lady Herries, is a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk – and his daughter Lady Clare Kerr is married to the Tory MP Nick Hurd.

All this lay in the future, and when Ancram lost his seat back to Mackintosh in the October 1974 election after just eight months in office the future didn’t look quite so rosy for him. However, John Mackintosh suddenly died in 1978, a time when the Callaghan government was subsisting on little or no majority. The scene was set for a by-election in October 1978, just before the Winter of Discontent. Labour selected John Home Robertson, a 29-year-old farmer and Berwickshire district councillor, one of whose distant ancestors had been the last MP for Berwickshire in the pre-Union Scottish Parliament. The Tory candidate was Margaret Marshall. The Scottish National Party, starting from third place, selected party staffer, sociology lecturer and anti-war campaigner Isobel Lindsay over the wishes of the local party, and the Liberal candidate was Tam Glen. Lindsay and Glen lost their deposits, but Home Robertson increased the Labour majority to 3,112 votes; along with the Labour hold in the Pontefract and Castleford by-election on the same day, the Callaghan government was saved to fight another day. And we all know how that turned out.

Home Robertson was re-elected in 1979 with a reduced majority of 1,673, but now leaves our story; the redistribution of 1983 made East Lothian a seat of its own, and since essentially all the Labour vote in Berwick and East Lothian came out of East Lothian Home Robertson moved his political base there. A europhile and devolution campaigner who was one of only five Labour MPs to vote for the third reading of the Maastricht treaty, he remained MP for East Lothian until 2001 and served as MSP for the same seat from 1999 to 2007.

So, rather than East Lothian, the new Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency created in 1983 took its cue from the old Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles seat. With Home Robertson moving to the new East Lothian seat and David Steel to the new seat of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, the new seat was open and a contest developed between the Conservative MP Iain Sproat, who had done the chicken run from Aberdeen South which he had represented since 1970, and new Liberal candidate Archy Kirkwood, a solicitor from Hawick. The chicken run went wrong: not only did Sproat lose to Kirkwood, but his replacement in Aberdeen South (the aforementioned Gerry Malone) held that seat.

Kirkwood would go on to have a long parliamentary career, seeing off in 1987 future Tory MP, leadership candidate and globetrotter Liam Fox and in 1997 future Labour MSP Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East 1999-2011, Cowdenbeath 2011-13). He served as Lib Dem chief whip during the 1992 Parliament.

The Lib Dem strength in this area at the time carried forward to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Euan Robson winning Roxburgh and Berwickshire easily over Conservative Alasdair Hutton, who had been MEP for the South of Scotland from 1979 to 1989 and was later involved in organising the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The 2005 redistribution in Scotland reduced the number of constituencies in the Borders, creating a new seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Archy Kirkwood was translated to the Lords and replaced as Lib Dem candidate by his former researcher Michael Moore, a chartered accountant who had succeeded David Steel as MP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale in 1997 but whose seat was being abolished. Moore won easily over the new Tory candidate John Lamont, a solicitor.

The first indication that not all was well for the Lib Dem machine in the Borders came in 2007 when Euan Robson lost the Holyrood seat of Roxburgh and Berwickshire to Lamont. Lamont stood again against Moore in 2010 to little effect, and Michael Moore, having gone back to his constituency and prepared for government, became Scottish secretary in the May 2010 reshuffle after the fall of David Laws from grace.

A year later Lamont was re-elected as Holyrood MSP for the redistributed seat of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire with a large swing in his favour: Euan Robson dropped to third place behind the SNP’s Paul Wheelhouse, who was elected on the South Scotland list and since 2012 has served in the Scottish Government, since 2016 as business, innovation and energy minister.

The stage was set for John Lamont to have a third crack at the Westminster seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, for which he was a hot favourite given the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. Michael Moore, having been dropped from the frontbench in 2013 after a torrid time as Scottish secretary, lost more than half his vote and finished third, but it was the SNP’s Calum Kerr who came from fourth place to make the gain by 328 votes over Lamont – the smallest majority in any Scotland seat that year – in what appears to have been the peak for the Scottish nationalists. Kerr is on the SNP frontbench as environment spokesman, and is seeking re-election to Westminster.

What has happened in those intervening two years? In the 2016 Holyrood election Lamont was re-elected for a third term in Holyrood, beating the SNP by an increased majority of 55-32; the SNP candidate was again Paul Wheelhouse who was again elected from the South Scotland list.

Just five weeks ago the Scottish Borders council went to the polls, and it was more good news for the Conservatives who carried five of the constituency’s seven wards (namely the two Berwickshire wards, Kelso, Jedburgh and Selkirkshire; the two Hawick wards voted for independent candidates). The local elections were another triumph for the Conservatives, who polled 46% of the first preferences across the constituency to 24% for independents and 18% for the SNP; this was a PR election, but the Conservatives still came out with an overall majority of councillors in the seat, winning 11 seats to 5 for the SNP, 4 Independents and one Lib Dem (in Kelso). There is no overall majority for the Tories in the Scottish Borders as a whole (they are weaker in the four wards not in this seat, particularly so in Galashiels) but they have formed the administration with support from independents.

So, the omens are good for John Lamont, who has increased the Tory share in all six Holyrood or Westminster elections he has previously fought. He has resigned his Holyrood seat to concentrate on his Westminster campaign, so the stakes are high.

The stakes are also high for the new Tory Holyrood candidate Rachael Hamilton, an English-born agronomist who was elected to Holyrood from the regional list in 2016 (having come third in the East Lothian constituency) and became the Tory spokeswoman for tourism in their Holyrood group: Hamilton has resigned her seat on the list in order to contest this by-election. (Her list seat has been taken over by Michelle Ballantyne, councillor for Selkirkshire ward.)

The SNP candidate in the by-election is Gail Hendry, who (although it’s not obvious from the name) is Alex Salmond’s sister. She is a lecturer at Borders College and chairs the SNP’s Hawick branch.

For Holyrood the Lib Dems have selected Catriona Bhatia, who (although it’s not obvious from the name) is David Steel’s daughter; she is married to Rajiv Bhatia, director of a whisky company. Bhatia was a Scottish Borders councillor from 2003 to 2017, representing Peebles and District East ward from 2003 to 2007 and Tweeddale West ward from 2007 to 2017; she was depute leader of the council from 2012 to 2017 and in 2010 stood for Westminster as Lib Dem candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. Completing an all-female ballot paper is Labour’s Sally Prentice, who was the Labour candidate for Kelso and District ward in May and polled 2.7%.

So, two high-profile resignations as the Conservative Party attempt to play musical chairs in their top Scottish target seat. We shall see on 8th June whether this represents confidence or hubris.

Parliamentary constituency: Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

May 2016 result C 18257 SNP 10521 LD 2551 Lab 1766
May 2011 result C 12933 SNP 7599 LD 4990 Lab 2986 Ind 308


NORTHERN ENGLAND

We now turn to local by-elections on 8th June. There is a definite Northern bias in the 34 polls on this list, with eight of them cropping up in the North West region and a further five in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The northernmost one is in a parliamentary seat which has already seen a famous by-election this year: Copeland. In the Newtown ward, one of three covering the town of Millom at the southern tip of what was once Cumberland, Ged McGrath defends for the Conservatives against Labour’s Angela Rayner in a ward which in 2015 split its representation between two Tories and one Labour candidate.

Moving south into Lancashire, the Liverpool outer commuterland of Aughton Park ward in West Lancashire, on the outskirts of Ormskirk, is normally a Tory monolith (West Lancashire district tends to be like that, with Tory monolith wards, Labour monolith wards and very little in between); although UKIP got within ten points of the Conservatives in 2014 their withdrawal from the fray should ensure a very easy hold for the Tories’ Doreen Stephenson. Meanwhile in Blackburn, Marsh House ward (see this column passim) is having its third by-election in seven months after two Labour councillors died at an early age and the winner of the second by-election turned out to have a job which disqualified him from being a Blackburn councillor; he is not standing again and Labour’s replacement candidate Matt Gibson is favoured to hold a by-election which, had the Labour selection been competent, wouldn’t have been taking place at all.

No fewer than four local by-elections take place in Greater Manchester. In the Tory target seat of Bury South, Radcliffe East ward is up; this is the old part of Radcliffe (if such a thing can be said to exist) around the Tower, running from the modern town centre to the east along Dumers Lane. This area was badly affected in the Boxing Day 2015 floods. Although the Tories won here in 2006 and 2008 this is in essence a safe Labour ward which should elect their candidate Karen Leach. In Salford there is a poll in Claremont ward, covering terraces old and less old in Irlams o’ th’ Height; this column will return to Claremont in more detail soon as there is a second by-election pending in the ward, but this was an area which was turned from Lib Dem to Labour by the Coalition, and with the Lib Dems having been wiped out in Salford Labour’s Neil Reynolds should have few problems. On the far side of the conurbation in Stockport we cross to Brinnington and Central ward, which although it covers Stockport town centre takes its cue from the rather isolated council estate of Brinnington to the north-east; notwithstanding a freak Lib Dem win in 2008 this is another safe Labour ward and should be easily winnable for their candidate Becky Crawford. Overlooking all this on the eastern horizon is a fourth safe Labour ward, Royton North in Oldham; unlike the other three wards in this paragraph this is consistently Labour and should elect the wonderfully-named Labour candidate Clint Phythian.

Further down the Mersey from Stockport is our last North West poll this week, Kirkdale ward in Liverpool. This is the old docks heartland of the city along the Derby, Stanley and Scotland roads, and has suffered from massive depopulation over the decades – sixty years ago the area covered by this ward formed the majority of the Liverpool Scotland parliamentary constituency (the Liverpool Kirkdale constituency of those days covered a different area). The Labour vote here, of course, is weighed rather than counted (last year it was 79%), and it would be a major shock if Labour candidate Lisa Gaughan loses this one.

Gathering our passports and steeling ourselves for the journey into Yorkshire, we take the train out of Manchester Victoria (now open again following the appalling events of 22 May) into the Pennines for two by-elections in Calderdale district. Todmorden is a rather handsome town at the head of the Calder valley which was once on the Lancashire/Yorkshire boundary (the neoclassical Town Hall straddles the old boundary) and still has something of a split personality; all three main parties have won Todmorden within the last decade, but Labour are in the ascendancy at the moment and their candidate Carol Machell is favoured. At the other end of the Calder Valley constituency lies Rastrick ward, the southern half of Brighouse and, when the nearby M62 is in a good mood, commuterland for the cities of West Yorkshire: this is a consistently Conservative ward, although Labour did (just) get within 10 points last year, which the Tories’ Sophie Whittaker defends from Labour’s Colin Hutchinson.

The city of York sees two polls on 8th June. Micklegate ward is the first part of York that arrivals to the city’s handsome railway station see: located to the west of the Ouse, the ward runs south from the city centre to include York racecourse (next meeting 16 and 17 June). Appropriately for a racecourse ward this looks rather exciting: in 2015 Micklegate’s three seats split between an independent, Labour and the Green Party. That was a poor performance by Labour who had previously held all three seats in a Labour/Green marginal, and their candidate Jonny Crawshaw will be looking for a good performance to defend the Labour seat from the Greens’ Rosie Baker. On the eastern edge of the city, boundary changes in 2015 to Hull Road ward saw it gain the picturesque University of York campus and a third councillor; it might have needed four councillors if ducks had the vote, but they don’t so three councillors it is. This is likely to be another Labour/Green battle between Labour’s Michael Pavlovic and the Greens’ John Cossham, who wasn’t far off winning a seat here two years ago.

Our final by-election in the three Northern regions of England is in Scunthorpe in what used to be called South Humberside. Brumby ward lies on the western edge of Scunthorpe amd its election results are as flat and nondescript as its landscape: this is a safe Labour ward which should elect Stephen Swift. UKIP ran second here in 2015 and have proved that there is still a Carswell in the party by selecting Dave Carswell.


THE MIDLANDS AND WALES

Staying in Lincolnshire but across the regional boundary, there are two by-elections on 8th June to North Kesteven district council. One is in Heighington and Washingborough, a safe Tory ward covering two villages on the outskirts of Lincoln and within the marginal Lincoln parliamentary seat: Edward Herring is the defending Conservative candidate. The other is in Ashby de la Launde and Cranwell, which has appeared in this column before; this rural ward elected two Conservatives in 2015 but one of them, WW2 Bomber Command veteran Geoffrey Whittle, subsequently resigned on age grounds – he was 92 – and the Conservatives lost the resulting by-election in March 2016 to the Lincolnshire Independents. Most of the electors for this ward are servicemen and -women at RAF Cranwell, who are unlikely to turn out for a local by-election but may be tempted by the general election. The remaining Conservative seat is up in this by-election: Dan Gray defends for the Conservatives while Pearl Clarke is the Lincolnshire Independents candidate.

The other East Midlands local by-election this week is for the by-election prone ward of Castle in Leicester. This ward covers Victoria Park, the De Montfort University complex and the city centre, which has seen something of a renaissance in recent years thanks partly to the discovery and reburial of the remains of King Richard III. In 2003 Castle ward produced an extraordinarily close result for the final seat, with the lead Green and second Labour candidate tied on 708 votes each and the second Lib Dem candidate on 707; the second Labour candidate won the drawing of lots to split the three seats 2 Labour and 1 Lib Dem. In 2007 the Green Party gained the Lib Dem seat and one of the Labour seats, but Labour gained both Green seats in by-elections during the 2007-11 term – one of them coming after one of the Green councillors, who in real life was a tree surgeon, fell out of a tree he was working on and was killed. The 2011 election was plain sailing for Labour, but the Greens did get back within ten points at the most recent poll in 2015. Danny Myers defends for Labour against the Greens’ Oli Young-Jones.

There is just one by-election in the West Midlands region, to Bromsgrove council from the ward of Alvechurch Village, a Birmingham commuter area on the Cross-City railway line, just off the M42 motorway and sufficiently close to the city to have a Birmingham postcode. This was safe Tory in 2015, the only previous contest on these boundaries, and Luisa Nixon should have little trouble holding the seat.

This brings us to this column’s first visit to Wales since December 2016. The Class of 2017 has already generated two pending by-elections that your columnist is aware of, but it’s too soon for those to be held yet; instead we have two pieces of unfinished business from May’s ordinary election. Labour were widely reported in May as having lost control of Merthyr Tydfil, but they have an immediate chance to get control back as Cyfarthfa ward has yet to poll: the election there on 4th May was cancelled after the death of Ieuan Harris, who had been nominated as an independent candidate. This is a ward of hamlets and estates overlooking Merthyr from the west side of the Taff valley. Cyfartha normally votes for an independent slate (known in 2004 as “People Before Politics”, since then as “Merthyr Independents”) but Labour gained one of the ward’s three seats from the independent slate in 2012. With only this result to come independents hold 16 seats on Merthyr council to 14 for Labour, so a clean sweep for Labour will return them to overall control. On the Labour slate David Chaplin is seeking re-election and is joined by Margaret Davies and Carol Estebanez; the Merthyr Independents have only a two-man slate with Paul Brown seeking re-election and joined by Terry Thomas. (I say!) There are also two other independent candidates and a Plaid nominee on the ballot paper.

Once the Cyfarthfa poll is complete, the 2012 local elections will finally pass into history. There was due to be a second postponed poll in Ceredigion after the death of Neil Flower, Liberal Democrat candidate for Llandyfriog ward in the Teifi valley; but as no new candidates have come forward Plaid’s James Thomas, who was the only remaining candidate, has been declared elected unopposed. This column sends its congratulations to Councillor Thomas.


LONDON AND THE SOUTH

We move into East Anglia by way of Peterborough, where there is a poll in East ward, which covers the area east of the city centre to the point where the Fens get too wet and marshy to build on (which is not very far). There has only been one previous election on these boundaries, in 2016 when the ward’s three seats split two to the Conservatives and one to Labour. Defending this marginal ward for the Conservatives is Jay Beecher, while Matthew Mahabadi seeks to gain for Labour.

Our East Anglian by-election this week is in Norfolk. Coltishall ward, a deeply rural part of Broadland district, is another ward with an RAF base in it which might have trouble voting for Corbyn; not that there’s much of a Labour vote here in any event and there was no Labour candidate for this ward in 2015. It’s safe Tory and their candidate Jo Copplestone, fighting her second Norfolk by-election in eleven months (she stood for election to North Norfolk council last July), should have a safe berth this time.

Turning our attention to the West Country, we come to the last of our pieces of unfinished business from the ordinary May local elections. The Bodmin St Petroc division of Cornwall did not go the polls on 4th May because of the death during the election campaign of the outgoing Lib Dem councillor Steve Rogerson, who was seeking re-election. He was the father of Dan Rogerson, who was Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall from 2005 to 2015 and is trying to get back in 2017. Rogerson senior was defending a large majority from 2013 in this, the eastern of Bodmin’s three divisions. This is the only Lib Dem by-election defence of the week; while nobody ever got rich trying to predict election results in Cornwall the replacement Lib Dem candidate Leigh Frost should be favourite to hold. Once this poll is complete, the 2013 local elections will pass into history.

The prize for the most bizarre candidate list on 8th June is won hands down by the Hartland and Bradworthy ward of Torridge council in Devon, a deeply rural area covering the north-western corner of Devon at Hartland Point. Hartland is the location of a British Geological Society observatory monitoring the strength and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field. The local parties haven’t exactly been magnetically attracted to the ward’s ballot papers in recent years: in 2015 Hartland and Bradworthy easily returned an independent councillor who had been first elected in 2011 as a Liberal Democrat, with the ward’s other seat going to UKIP narrowly ahead of the Green Party. The UKIP seat is up in this by-election but they haven’t nominated anyone to replace their late councillor, and despite the Conservatives winning the local county council seat in May they have not put a candidate up either; so this seat is up for grabs in a straight fight between Jane Leaper of the Liberal Democrats (from Hartland) and John Sanders of the Green Party (from Bradworthy).

As we progress into the Home Counties, slightly more normal but much more tragic is the poll to West Berkshire council in Thatcham South and Crookham ward, an outer commuter area around Thatcham railway station on the Reading-Westbury line. The by-election has been caused by the recent death of the Leader of the Council Roger Croft, as a result of injuries sustained in a road accident while on holiday in France; his wife was also killed in the crash. Croft leaves behind a ward which was Lib Dem in 2003 and 2007 but which by 2015 had become safe Conservative; Jason Collis is the defending candidate.

Moving north of London there are two defences in Hertfordshire for the Conservatives. Bovingdon, Flaunden and Chipperfield ward of Dacorum council is a safe Tory collection of villages between Hemel Hempstead and the Buckinghamshire border which should elect the Conservatives’ Graham Barrett without much trouble. Despite poor Conservative performances in Welwyn Hatfield district in May they can also expect to win in Hatfield Villages ward, which despite the name is not a series of villages but primarily a collection of housing estates that form a part of Hatfield which has spilled over to the western side of the A1 motorway. Peter Hebden is the defending Tory candidate there.

Further out in Bedfordshire we come to Sundon Park ward, running from Leagrave railway station up to the northern edge of Luton. This is the only Labour versus Lib Dem fight of this week’s by-elections, with the two parties having split the ward’s two seats since 2011. Martin Rogers defends for Labour, Clive Mead looks to gain for the Lib Dems.

From Leagrave railway station we take the Thameslink route trains (if they’re in a good mood) down the Brighton Line (if it’s in a good mood). There are two by-elections along the Brighton Line, one being a double by-election for two of the three seats in Hassocks ward, located in the shadow of the North Downs in Mid Sussex district. Mid Sussex council is a one-party Conservative state and although the Lib Dems did win one seat in Hassocks in 2007 and hold it in 2011, there is little sign of them regaining a foothold here based on the 2015 result. The defending Conservative slate is Michelle Binks and Jessica Edwards. If anything, the other Brighton Line by-election looks even less competitive: it is to the safe Tory ward of Pound Hill South and Worth in Crawley, running east from Three Bridges station to the M23 motorway; Alison Pendlington is the Tory candidate there.

Once we cross from West to East Sussex things start to get more interesting. The Seaford West ward of Lewes district is up, one of five wards in Seaford and centred on Bishopstone railway station: this is more Conservative than Seaford as a whole and had a big Tory lead in 2015. Unhelpfully for comparison with May the ward is split between three county divisions, two of which (Newhaven/Bishopstone and Seaford South) voted Lib Dem five weeks ago. With this ward being in the Lewes parliamentary seat, which is high up the Lib Dem target list, a full-on campaign can be expected although the formbook suggests that Tory candidate Liz Boorman is favourite.

The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, just after Christmas 1170, turned Canterbury into a place of pilgrimage to rival Rome and Compostela. Literature from across the centuries, from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, owes its debt to the cult of Thomas, and and the passage of eight-and-a-half centuries has done little to stem the flow of pilgrims. A nice little business for Canterbury over the years, then. Your columnist is hoping to make his own pilgrimage to Thomas’ last stand soon; in the meantime we are here on by-election duty, for the Tories have a difficult defence in the city-centre Westgate ward. This was Lib Dem up until 2015, when one of their three seats disappeared in boundary changes and a second was gained by Conservative candidate John Brazier (brother of the local MP Julian Brazier). Brazier is standing down; Luke Whiddett attempts to hold for the Conservatives while Daniel Prevett looks to gain for the Lib Dems.

Staying in Kent, there are two Tory by-election defences in Ashford. Victoria ward, covering the town centre and parts of South Ashford close to the railway station, was Lib Dem until 2011 when the ward suddenly became three-way marginal and the Conservatives gained a seat in the ward; in 2015 the Lib Dems seem to have given up their remaining seat without a fight, but it was gained by Labour with the Tories holding their seat and UKIP close behind. Goodness knows what might happen here this time; David Robey (who gives an address in a village on the way to Faversham) defends for the Conservatives, Charles Suddards is the Labour candidate and Serge Goldenberg stands for UKIP. The Tories shoud have an easier ride in Bockhanger ward, located in northern Ashford around M20 junction 9; they had a big lead there in 2015 and their candidate for Bockhanger is Simon Howard-Smith.

That completes our tour around the shires of England; yes, Londoners, I’ve made you wait to the end, but I think you’ll agree that the wait will be worth it. There are two local by-election London, both in marginal wards in the marginal council of Hammersmith and Fulham. Labour are defending their seat in Avonmore and Brook Green ward, covering the West Kensington area and including the Olympia exhibition centre, which voted Conservative from 2002 to 2014 before Labour gained one of the three seats; David Norton defends for Labour, Will Marshall will try and gain for the Conservatives. Down by the riverside in Fulham the Conservatives are defending Sands End ward, around Wandsworth Bridge and Imperial Wharf station, which was so close for the final seat in 2002 (the Tories were declared as winning by three votes) that the election court voided that seat for procedural irregularities (by the election staff, I hasten to add), leading to a by-election in September 2002 which Labour gained by four votes. The Tories gained all three seats in Sands End ward in 2006 and have held them ever since, but the 2014 result was close again with Conservative majorities of 110, 86 and 53 votes. Jackie Borland defends this seat for the Conservatives, Ann Rosenberg will try to gain for Labour.

Britain Elects will of course endeavour to bring you all the action from these local by-elections and the 2017 general election as it is reported. It’s been a strange old campaign and no doubt it’ll be a strange old election night at the end of which, in each constituency, there can be only one winner. It’s a brutal form of job interview, and successful and unsuccessful candidates alike should reflect that the electorate, like Parliament, always has the right to change its mind; there will be another chance to win or lose in a few years’ time. That’s what democracy is, and we shouldn’t change it for the world. Democracy can’t proceed without elections, but elections (as we saw in Ceredigion) can’t proceed without candidates, and candidates can’t proceed without hard work. The electors (or a subset thereof) might not be aware of the hard work that candidates put in, but this column is, and is grateful for it. It is only right that we, as electors, celebrate and recognise all that hard work by casting our votes at the end of it all – whoever you cast them for.

It only remains for me to say that this column will return for the first local by-elections of the 2017 Parliament, to be held on 22nd June 2017 in Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire, North Yorkshire and Powys as we continue to work through the fallout of the May elections. Until then, whoever you support, have a good election night and I’ll see you on the other side.


Andrew Teale edits the Local Elections Archive Project and sometimes tweets at @andrewteale.


Previews: 25 May 2017

So, there are just two weeks to go now before 2017’s main electoral course of the general election. There is just one local by-election remaining before then, but if you were looking for insights into the national picture you’re likely to be disappointed for this is a ward that behaves in its own way. Without further ado, we’re off to the end of the Thames Estuary…


Shoeburyness

Southend-on-Sea council, Essex; caused by the death of independent councillor Mike Assenheim at the age of 74. He had served since 2008 and was a cabinet member in 2014-15, holding the regulatory services portfolio.

Defence is a subject we have already heard a lot about in this general election campaign, mainly thanks to the issues the present Labour leadership has over the Trident missile system; no doubt we shall hear more about this when the Conservatives (as appears likely) gain Barrow and Furness on 8th June with an enormous majority. In an earlier age of naval-based conflict Shoeburyness was in the front line, as the northern gateway to the Thames Estuary. The army have been here for centuries, and the East Beach still contains the remains of a Second World War defence boom to stop enemy ships progressing towards London; the discovery in the offshore mud of an enemy magnetic mine around this time enabled the Navy to take countermeasures against hitherto unexplained ship losses (such as making minesweepers out of wood).

The Army’s work in Shoeburyness didn’t just extend to wartime. We discussed last week the impact of the various Enfield rifles on the area where they were manufactured; since the Crimean War Shoeburyness has been an artillery testing and training centre, and MOD Shoeburyness is still in operation today for weapons testing and bomb-disposal training. The effect of all this is that Shoeburyness is traditionally a garrison town, although there was some fishing here (as depicted two centuries ago in Turner’s painting Shoeburyness Fishermen Hailing a Whitstable Hoy, the town’s high-quality beaches bring some tourists and its location at the end of the London, Tilbury and Southend railway line results in some commuting to Fenchurch Street in London.

Southend in the 1930s and the present ward was created in 2001. It has an interesting educational profile, making the top 100 wards in England and Wales for those educated to what the census codes as “Level 1”, which in real money translates to 1-4 GCSEs or equivalent, and making the top 200 wards for “Level 2” education (5 or more GCSEs or equivalent); both of these levels account for between 19% and 20% of the workforce, and may be explained by the military effect.

At its first election in June 2001, on the day of Tony Blair’s second landslide, Shoeburyness ward split its three seats. Two went to the Conservatives and one to the lead Labour candidate Anne Chalk, who was immediately forced to resign as at the time she was ineligible to be a councillor. The Conservatives gained the resulting by-election a month later, and Chalk made several attempts to get her seat back as a Labour candidate in the following years. In the meantime Mike Assenheim arrived on the scene, finishing fourth behind Chalk in the 2006 election (which was a double vacancy) as an “Alliance Southend” candidate, then second in the 2007 election as an independent before finally winning the ward in 2008.

With the Tory stranglehold on Shoeburyness broken, Anne Chalk returned to the fray as an independent candidate, finishing second in 2010 and finally winning in 2011. By now in some disarray, the Conservatives lost their final Shoeburyness seat in 2012 to a third independent, and have since won the ward only with the general election turnout in 2015, when they narrowly defeated Chalk 39-35 with 18% for Labour. This prompted Chalk to try to return to Southend council in 2016 by challenging Mike Assenheim: while Assenheim was re-elected it was only with 29% of the vote, to 24% for the Conservatives, 21% for Chalk and 12% for UKIP. Going into that election Assenheim had been part of an independent-led coalition running Southend council, but the Conservatives are now in minority control with UKIP support which may make this ward more difficult to gain. In case you’re wondering what all this means for the local parliamentary seat in two weeks’ time, the answer is “not a lot”: Rochford and Southend East is a safe Tory constituency.

So, an interesting contest is in prospect. Anne Chalk is the defending independent candidate. The Tories have selected Val Jarvis, who is the husband of Roger Jarvis (councillor for the neighbouring West Shoebury ward) and fought St Luke’s ward in 2015. UKIP, who won five seats on Southend council in 2014 only for their group to fall apart in typical UKIP fashion, have reselected their 2016 candidate for this ward Edward McNally. Completing the ballot paper are Maggie Kelly for Labour, Paul Hill for the Greens and Gavin Spencer for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Rochford and Southend East

May 2016 result Ind 728 C 607 Ind 527 UKIP 309 Lab 236 Grn 57 LD 50
May 2015 result C 1991 Ind 1783 Lab 929 Grn 289 LD 138
May 2014 result Ind 1243 C 909 Lab 404 LD 77
May 2012 result Ind 1098 C 610 Lab 271 EDP 145
May 2011 result Ind 1326 C 960 Lab 328 Grn 110
May 2010 result C 1782 Ind 1132 Lab 579 LD 556 BNP 265 UKIP 242 Grn 73
May 2008 result Ind 1009 C 659 Lab 250 BNP 211 LD 75
May 2007 result C 788 Ind 658 Lab 481 BNP 315 LD 107
May 2006 double vacancy C 1071/884 Lab 707/438 Alliance Southend 629 LD 232/150
June 2004 result C 1274 Lab 561 LD 283
May 2003 result C 810 Lab 472 LD 147
May 2002 result C 675 Ind 535 Lab 479 LD 103
July 2001 by-election C 509 Lab 400 LD 133
June 2001 result C 1877/1536/1415 Lab 1485/1264/1148 LD 419/347

Andrew Teale edits the Local Elections Archive Project and sometimes tweets at @andrewteale.

So, there are just two weeks to go now before 2017’s main electoral course of the general election. There is just one local by-election remaining before then, but if you were looking for insights into the national picture you’re likely to be disappointed for this is a ward that behaves in its own way. Without further ado, we’re off to the end of the Thames Estuary…


SHOEBURYNESS

Southend-on-Sea council, Essex; caused by the death of independent councillor Mike Assenheim at the age of 74. He had served since 2008 and was a cabinet member in 2014-15, holding the regulatory services portfolio.

Defence is a subject we have already heard a lot about in this general election campaign, mainly thanks to the issues the present Labour leadership has over the Trident missile system; no doubt we shall hear more about this when the Conservatives (as appears likely) gain Barrow and Furness on 8th June with an enormous majority. In an earlier age of naval-based conflict Shoeburyness was in the front line, as the northern gateway to the Thames Estuary. The army have been here for centuries, and the East Beach still contains the remains of a Second World War defence boom to stop enemy ships progressing towards London; the discovery in the offshore mud of an enemy magnetic mine around this time enabled the Navy to take countermeasures against hitherto unexplained ship losses (such as making minesweepers out of wood).

The Army’s work in Shoeburyness didn’t just extend to wartime. We discussed last week the impact of the various Enfield rifles on the area where they were manufactured; since the Crimean War Shoeburyness has been an artillery testing and training centre, and MOD Shoeburyness is still in operation today for weapons testing and bomb-disposal training. The effect of all this is that Shoeburyness is traditionally a garrison town, although there was some fishing here (as depicted two centuries ago in Turner’s painting Shoeburyness Fishermen Hailing a Whitstable Hoy, the town’s high-quality beaches bring some tourists and its location at the end of the London, Tilbury and Southend railway line results in some commuting to Fenchurch Street in London.

Southend in the 1930s and the present ward was created in 2001. It has an interesting educational profile, making the top 100 wards in England and Wales for those educated to what the census codes as “Level 1”, which in real money translates to 1-4 GCSEs or equivalent, and making the top 200 wards for “Level 2” education (5 or more GCSEs or equivalent); both of these levels account for between 19% and 20% of the workforce, and may be explained by the military effect.

At its first election in June 2001, on the day of Tony Blair’s second landslide, Shoeburyness ward split its three seats. Two went to the Conservatives and one to the lead Labour candidate Anne Chalk, who was immediately forced to resign as at the time she was ineligible to be a councillor. The Conservatives gained the resulting by-election a month later, and Chalk made several attempts to get her seat back as a Labour candidate in the following years. In the meantime Mike Assenheim arrived on the scene, finishing fourth behind Chalk in the 2006 election (which was a double vacancy) as an “Alliance Southend” candidate, then second in the 2007 election as an independent before finally winning the ward in 2008.

With the Tory stranglehold on Shoeburyness broken, Anne Chalk returned to the fray as an independent candidate, finishing second in 2010 and finally winning in 2011. By now in some disarray, the Conservatives lost their final Shoeburyness seat in 2012 to a third independent, and have since won the ward only with the general election turnout in 2015, when they narrowly defeated Chalk 39-35 with 18% for Labour. This prompted Chalk to try to return to Southend council in 2016 by challenging Mike Assenheim: while Assenheim was re-elected it was only with 29% of the vote, to 24% for the Conservatives, 21% for Chalk and 12% for UKIP. Going into that election Assenheim had been part of an independent-led coalition running Southend council, but the Conservatives are now in minority control with UKIP support which may make this ward more difficult to gain. In case you’re wondering what all this means for the local parliamentary seat in two weeks’ time, the answer is “not a lot”: Rochford and Southend East is a safe Tory constituency.

So, an interesting contest is in prospect. Anne Chalk is the defending independent candidate. The Tories have selected Val Jarvis, who is the husband of Roger Jarvis (councillor for the neighbouring West Shoebury ward) and fought St Luke’s ward in 2015. UKIP, who won five seats on Southend council in 2014 only for their group to fall apart in typical UKIP fashion, have reselected their 2016 candidate for this ward Edward McNally. Completing the ballot paper are Maggie Kelly for Labour, Paul Hill for the Greens and Gavin Spencer for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Rochford and Southend East

May 2016 result Ind 728 C 607 Ind 527 UKIP 309 Lab 236 Grn 57 LD 50
May 2015 result C 1991 Ind 1783 Lab 929 Grn 289 LD 138
May 2014 result Ind 1243 C 909 Lab 404 LD 77
May 2012 result Ind 1098 C 610 Lab 271 EDP 145
May 2011 result Ind 1326 C 960 Lab 328 Grn 110
May 2010 result C 1782 Ind 1132 Lab 579 LD 556 BNP 265 UKIP 242 Grn 73
May 2008 result Ind 1009 C 659 Lab 250 BNP 211 LD 75
May 2007 result C 788 Ind 658 Lab 481 BNP 315 LD 107
May 2006 double vacancy C 1071/884 Lab 707/438 Alliance Southend 629 LD 232/150
June 2004 result C 1274 Lab 561 LD 283
May 2003 result C 810 Lab 472 LD 147
May 2002 result C 675 Ind 535 Lab 479 LD 103
July 2001 by-election C 509 Lab 400 LD 133
June 2001 result C 1877/1536/1415 Lab 1485/1264/1148 LD 419/347

Andrew Teale edits the Local Elections Archive Project and sometimes tweets at @andrewteale.


Previews: 18 May 2017

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

New surroundings, new colours, new styles, a new host, but the same old Andrew’s Previews. After nearly a year of this column being kindly hosted by Ian Warren of Election Data, Ian has decided to move in a different direction. I’d like to place on record my thanks to Ian for allowing me to share his platform over the last few months and for organising an orderly transition to the strong and stable website that is Britain Elects: thanks Ian, and best wishes for the future.

For those who may not have seen this column before, welcome! Andrew’s Previews has been going for over five years now in various corners of the internet examining one of the nerdiest parts of British politics and geography: upcoming by-elections to local councils. Each week we’ll shine a spotlight on an average of four or five tiny corners of Great Britain, describing the reasons why you might want to visit (or not, as the case may be), the demographic makeup, the political colours and how they have changed over the years, and finish with profiles of the candidates involved: for without candidates, there can’t be an election. That is the reason why one of the two local by-elections originally scheduled for today has been cancelled, and this column sends its congratulations to Ian Scott, who has been elected unopposed to Richmondshire council for the Yorkshire Dales ward of Reeth and Arkengarthdale. This cancellation leaves just one ward up for discussion this week, so it’s off to North London we go to relaunch this column with a bang…


Enfield Lock

Enfield council, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ozzie Uzoanya, who had served since 2010. He is standing down for family reasons.

Bang! Welcome to Enfield, a part of Greater London which many pass through (the West Anglia railway line runs through the ward, while the M25 and A10 roads form the ward’s northern and western boundaries) but few visit. Until the nineteenth century there wasn’t much here to visit, as the ward consisted of marshy ground on the west side of a lock on the Lee Navigation. Napoleon was indirectly responsible for changing all that: the Army was dissatisfied with the performance, quality and cost of its weapons in the Napoleonic Wars, and in time-honoured tradition the government decided that Something Must Be Done. The outcome was the Royal Small Arms Factory, opened in 1816 at an ideal location: close to the river to provide water power and transport of goods and materials, and in an isolated area which could be turned into a weapons testing range without much disturbance.

RSAF Enfield designed and built many of the Army’s most famous weapons of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from the Lee-Enfield rifle through the Bren and Sten guns to the modern SA80. However, the factory itself is no longer here: it closed in 1988 and has since been redeveloped into a landmark brownfield housing estate known as Enfield Island Village, which was transferred into Greater London by boundary changes in 1994 having previously been part of Essex. Also from the late 1990s onwards much of the area north-east of Enfield Lock railway station was developed into a large and important industrial estate known as Innova Business Park.

So, much has changed in this area over the last two decades or so; and the population is changing as well. Enfield Lock is one of the youngest wards in England and Wales – under-18s outnumber over-44s – and at the last census 26% of the population were black. Despite the large industrial estates, unemployment is relatively high (7.8% in 2011). The effect of the demographic change can be seen in the ward’s election results: the 2002 borough election here, in which the Conservative slate beat Labour 55-45 and won all three seats, seems a long time ago now. Labour gained one seat in 2006 and the other two in 2010, and the ward now looks very safe for them: at the last borough elections in 2014 the Labour slate had 51% to 18% for UKIP and 15% for the Conservatives. In the 2016 GLA election Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith here 59-23, and Labour led the Conservatives 59-17 in the London Members ballot: these figures are for ballot box votes only and do not include postal votes, which are not broken down to ward level.

A history like that helps to explain why the local parliamentary seat, Enfield North, was one of the few Labour gains in the 2015 general election. Labour’s Joan Ryan defends a majority of 2.4% going into next month’s snap election which will be the fifth contest between her and Conservative candidate Nick de Bois, who has only one previous win to his name (in 2010). This is the last local by-election in a marginal parliamentary seat before 8th June (the poll in Shoeburyness next week is a rather different kettle of fish), so although a Labour loss in this ward looks unlikely the poll is still one to watch.

Defending for Labour is Elif Erbil: a radiographer who was born in Turkey and came to the UK at the age of 3, she is hoping to join on the council her aunt Nesimi Erbil, who represents Lower Edmonton ward. The UKIP candidate is Gary Robbens, who fought Turkey Street ward in 2014. The Tories have selected Christine Bellas, and completing the ballot paper are Kate McGeevor for the Green Party and Richard Morgan-Ash for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Enfield North

May 2014 result Lab 2395/2203/2189 UKIP 829 C 725/683/537 Grn 443 BNP 296
May 2010 result Lab 3073/2794/2665 C 1939/1859/1754 LD 934 Grn 577 UKIP 540 BNP 477
May 2006 result C 1318/1162/1125 Lab 1143/991/936 Save Chase Farm 893 LD 507 UKIP 485
May 2002 result C 1555/1446/1385 Lab 1256/1204/1200

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1839 C 712 UKIP 188 Grn 107 LD 72 Britain First 52 Respect 48 Women’s Equality 39 BNP 28 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 27 Zylinski 18 One Love 5
London members: Lab 1876 C 549 UKIP 287 Grn 112 LD 79 Britain First 69 CPA 53 Women’s Equality 53 Respect 45 BNP 30 Animal Welfare 29 House Party 8


Newtown

Stockton-on-Tees council, County Durham; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rachael Proud. She had served since 2015.

It’s worth pointing out a few things here to start this one. There is no definitive official list of upcoming local by-elections. Instead there are a number of unofficial lists put together (mainly) by the political parties from press reports and suchlike. This crowdsourcing effort is good at identifying future vacancies, but not infallible; and this vacancy slipped through the net, not coming to your columnist’s attention until very late on the day before polling day, by which time (after a 17-hour day and a horror journey home) I was too exhausted to write a preview in time. These things happen sometimes, and I’m sorry that it happened in the first week of Britain Elects hosting these previews. Must do better next time.

Anyway, we’re in Stockton-on-Tees here. Newtown ward is inner Stockton, running north-west along the Durham Road from Stockton railway station. This is a ward of Victorian and Edwardian terraces with lots of social housing, a declining population and very high unemployment: in the 2011 census 10.8% of the workforce were looking for a job, putting Newtown in the top 40 unemployed wards in England and Wales. Something, no doubt, for the new Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen to loook at – and it says something for how far Labour have sunk in the North East that they contrived to lose the inaugural Tees Valley mayoral contest to the Conservatives two weeks ago.

Not that this is likely to have been one of the Tory-voting wards in that election. Newtown was a close Labour versus Lib Dem contest in the early years of this century, but in 2007 the Lib Dem campaign team declared UDI as the Newtown Independent Party, coming a more distant second to Labour in that year and in 2011 before disappearing from the scene. The 2015 election saw UKIP take over second place in Newtown, with Labour winning comfortably by the score of 56-23.

Defending for Labour is Marilyn Surtees, who runs the Elm Tree community centre in Stockton. With no Kipper on the ballot this time, she is opposed by Miguel Rodrigues for the Conservatives, independent candidate David Kirk and Lib Dem Jason Rossiter.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockton North

May 2015 result Lab 1568/1208 UKIP 657 C 481/303 Libertarian 90
May 2011 result Lab 736/684 Newtown Independent Party 407/366 C 159/132 LD 78
May 2007 result Lab 620/565 Newtown Independent Party 369/347 BNP 189 C 154/87 UKIP 131/106
May 2005 result Lab 1120/1033 LD 952/859 C 206


Andrew Teale edits the Local Elections Archive Project and sometimes tweets at @andrewteale.

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

New surroundings, new colours, new styles, a new host, but the same old Andrew’s Previews. After nearly a year of this column being kindly hosted by Ian Warren of Election Data, Ian has decided to move in a different direction. I’d like to place on record my thanks to Ian for allowing me to share his platform over the last few months and for organising an orderly transition to the strong and stable website that is Britain Elects: thanks Ian, and best wishes for the future.

For those who may not have seen this column before, welcome! Andrew’s Previews has been going for over five years now in various corners of the internet examining one of the nerdiest parts of British politics and geography: upcoming by-elections to local councils. Each week we’ll shine a spotlight on an average of four or five tiny corners of Great Britain, describing the reasons why you might want to visit (or not, as the case may be), the demographic makeup, the political colours and how they have changed over the years, and finish with profiles of the candidates involved: for without candidates, there can’t be an election. That is the reason why one of the two local by-elections originally scheduled for today has been cancelled, and this column sends its congratulations to Ian Scott, who has been elected unopposed to Richmondshire council for the Yorkshire Dales ward of Reeth and Arkengarthdale. This cancellation leaves just one ward up for discussion this week, so it’s off to North London we go to relaunch this column with a bang…


ENFIELD LOCK

Enfield council, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ozzie Uzoanya, who had served since 2010. He is standing down for family reasons.

Bang! Welcome to Enfield, a part of Greater London which many pass through (the West Anglia railway line runs through the ward, while the M25 and A10 roads form the ward’s northern and western boundaries) but few visit. Until the nineteenth century there wasn’t much here to visit, as the ward consisted of marshy ground on the west side of a lock on the Lee Navigation. Napoleon was indirectly responsible for changing all that: the Army was dissatisfied with the performance, quality and cost of its weapons in the Napoleonic Wars, and in time-honoured tradition the government decided that Something Must Be Done. The outcome was the Royal Small Arms Factory, opened in 1816 at an ideal location: close to the river to provide water power and transport of goods and materials, and in an isolated area which could be turned into a weapons testing range without much disturbance.

RSAF Enfield designed and built many of the Army’s most famous weapons of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from the Lee-Enfield rifle through the Bren and Sten guns to the modern SA80. However, the factory itself is no longer here: it closed in 1988 and has since been redeveloped into a landmark brownfield housing estate known as Enfield Island Village, which was transferred into Greater London by boundary changes in 1994 having previously been part of Essex. Also from the late 1990s onwards much of the area north-east of Enfield Lock railway station was developed into a large and important industrial estate known as Innova Business Park.

So, much has changed in this area over the last two decades or so; and the population is changing as well. Enfield Lock is one of the youngest wards in England and Wales – under-18s outnumber over-44s – and at the last census 26% of the population were black. Despite the large industrial estates, unemployment is relatively high (7.8% in 2011). The effect of the demographic change can be seen in the ward’s election results: the 2002 borough election here, in which the Conservative slate beat Labour 55-45 and won all three seats, seems a long time ago now. Labour gained one seat in 2006 and the other two in 2010, and the ward now looks very safe for them: at the last borough elections in 2014 the Labour slate had 51% to 18% for UKIP and 15% for the Conservatives. In the 2016 GLA election Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith here 59-23, and Labour led the Conservatives 59-17 in the London Members ballot: these figures are for ballot box votes only and do not include postal votes, which are not broken down to ward level.

A history like that helps to explain why the local parliamentary seat, Enfield North, was one of the few Labour gains in the 2015 general election. Labour’s Joan Ryan defends a majority of 2.4% going into next month’s snap election which will be the fifth contest between her and Conservative candidate Nick de Bois, who has only one previous win to his name (in 2010). This is the last local by-election in a marginal parliamentary seat before 8th June (the poll in Shoeburyness next week is a rather different kettle of fish), so although a Labour loss in this ward looks unlikely the poll is still one to watch.

Defending for Labour is Elif Erbil: a radiographer who was born in Turkey and came to the UK at the age of 3, she is hoping to join on the council her aunt Nesimi Erbil, who represents Lower Edmonton ward. The UKIP candidate is Gary Robbens, who fought Turkey Street ward in 2014. The Tories have selected Christine Bellas, and completing the ballot paper are Kate McGeevor for the Green Party and Richard Morgan-Ash for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Enfield North

May 2014 result Lab 2395/2203/2189 UKIP 829 C 725/683/537 Grn 443 BNP 296
May 2010 result Lab 3073/2794/2665 C 1939/1859/1754 LD 934 Grn 577 UKIP 540 BNP 477
May 2006 result C 1318/1162/1125 Lab 1143/991/936 Save Chase Farm 893 LD 507 UKIP 485
May 2002 result C 1555/1446/1385 Lab 1256/1204/1200

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1839 C 712 UKIP 188 Grn 107 LD 72 Britain First 52 Respect 48 Women’s Equality 39 BNP 28 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 27 Zylinski 18 One Love 5
London members: Lab 1876 C 549 UKIP 287 Grn 112 LD 79 Britain First 69 CPA 53 Women’s Equality 53 Respect 45 BNP 30 Animal Welfare 29 House Party 8


NEWTOWN

Stockton-on-Tees council, County Durham; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rachael Proud. She had served since 2015.

It’s worth pointing out a few things here to start this one. There is no definitive official list of upcoming local by-elections. Instead there are a number of unofficial lists put together (mainly) by the political parties from press reports and suchlike. This crowdsourcing effort is good at identifying future vacancies, but not infallible; and this vacancy slipped through the net, not coming to your columnist’s attention until very late on the day before polling day, by which time (after a 17-hour day and a horror journey home) I was too exhausted to write a preview in time. These things happen sometimes, and I’m sorry that it happened in the first week of Britain Elects hosting these previews. Must do better next time.

Anyway, we’re in Stockton-on-Tees here. Newtown ward is inner Stockton, running north-west along the Durham Road from Stockton railway station. This is a ward of Victorian and Edwardian terraces with lots of social housing, a declining population and very high unemployment: in the 2011 census 10.8% of the workforce were looking for a job, putting Newtown in the top 40 unemployed wards in England and Wales. Something, no doubt, for the new Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen to loook at – and it says something for how far Labour have sunk in the North East that they contrived to lose the inaugural Tees Valley mayoral contest to the Conservatives two weeks ago.

Not that this is likely to have been one of the Tory-voting wards in that election. Newtown was a close Labour versus Lib Dem contest in the early years of this century, but in 2007 the Lib Dem campaign team declared UDI as the Newtown Independent Party, coming a more distant second to Labour in that year and in 2011 before disappearing from the scene. The 2015 election saw UKIP take over second place in Newtown, with Labour winning comfortably by the score of 56-23.

Defending for Labour is Marilyn Surtees, who runs the Elm Tree community centre in Stockton. With no Kipper on the ballot this time, she is opposed by Miguel Rodrigues for the Conservatives, independent candidate David Kirk and Lib Dem Jason Rossiter.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockton North

May 2015 result Lab 1568/1208 UKIP 657 C 481/303 Libertarian 90
May 2011 result Lab 736/684 Newtown Independent Party 407/366 C 159/132 LD 78
May 2007 result Lab 620/565 Newtown Independent Party 369/347 BNP 189 C 154/87 UKIP 131/106
May 2005 result Lab 1120/1033 LD 952/859 C 206


Andrew Teale edits the Local Elections Archive Project and sometimes tweets at @andrewteale.