Previews: 19 Jul 2018

By-elections on 19th July 2018:


Saron

Carmarthenshire council, Wales; caused by the death of Plaid Cymru councillor Alun Davies at the age of 60. He had served since 2012 and was chairman of the local constituency branch of Plaid; away from politics he was a fundraiser for the Welsh Air Ambulance.

It may feel like summer has been going on for months, but the local by-election season is only now starting to wind down in advance of the summer holidays. There are six polls this week, three in the South Midlands, two in Lancashire and one in Wales, with which we start.

For our Welsh poll we are in rural Carmarthenshire. The Saron division covers five villages immediately to the west of Ammanford, a former coal-mining town and now one of the main centres of eastern Carmarthenshire. For some reason Ammanford appears on the map above under its Welsh name, Rhydaman. Despite the division's name the largest centre of population is not Saron but Capel Hendre, a pit village of quite recent vintage: the Lyndsey Colliery operated in Capel Hendre from the 1960s to 1992, and its site is now occupied by a business park.

We're now a generation or two on from that which worked in the mines here, and that's reflected in a declining Labour vote. Since the creation of the modern Carmarthenshire council in 1995 Saron has been competitive between Labour and Plaid Cymru, who hold the local constituency (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) at both Westminster and Senedd level. In the 2016 Senedd election Plaid's Adam Price returned to politics after a few years away, easily holding the Carmarthen East seat; fourth in that election and elected to Cardiff Bay from the list was UKIP's Welsh leader Neil Hamilton, the former Tory MP who had lived in Ammanford for some years in his youth.

Plaid followed up in 2017 by winning both seats in Saron division for the first time since 1999 (the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections had seen Labour win one seat out of two). Shares of the vote were 49% for Plaid and 36% for Labour.

Defending for Plaid Cymru is Alun Davies' widow Karen, who chairs the local community council (Llandybie). Labour have gone for youth in selecting 25-year-old activist Tom Fallows, a recent graduate in philosophy and religious studies from the University of Roehampton. Completing the ballot are Aled Crow for the Conservatives and the division's first ever Liberal Democrat candidate, Caryl Tandy.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Aled Crow (C)
Karen Davies (PC)
Tom Fallows (Lab)
Caryl Tandy (LD)

May 2017 result PC 810/679 Lab 588/439 C 240/181
May 2012 result Lab 720 PC 616/524 Ind 365 C 95
May 2008 result PC 889/680 Lab 856
June 2004 result PC 786/682 Lab 754/621
May 1999 result PC 920/793 Lab 754/582
May 1995 result Lab 800 PC 677


Bletchley East

Milton Keynes council, Buckinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Alan Webb who had served since 2012, originally being elected for Eaton Manor ward before transferring here in boundary changes in 2014.

Despite that rural Welsh start it's the towns and cities of the southern Midlands which dominate Andrew's Previews this week, and we start our consideration with one of the oldest parts of one of the newest towns. The village of Fenny Stratford lay on Watling Street, which in Roman times was the main route from London to the North; the Romans had a settlement here called Magiovinium from which archaeologists have extracted one of the UK's oldest known coins, a gold Roman stater dated to the middle of the second century BC. James I gave Fenny Stratford a market charter, but the town was badly hit by the Great Plague, lost its market and didn't really recover until the nineteenth century. By that Fenny Stratford was in the shadow of Bletchley, a neighbouring town which was a major railway junction, and never found its independent former glory again.

Population growth came in the 1960s with the development to the south of the Lakes estate, which was built by the Greater London Council to take London overspill and essentially consumed the pre-existing village of Water Eaton. So by the time Milton Keynes New Town was designated in 1967, this ward was already nearly fully developed. The only existing space was north of Watling Street, which mostly got turned into industrial units: there is a large Tesco distribution centre here within the ward boundary.

Milton Keynes is still growing and consequently gets new ward boundaries on a regular basis. At the 2011 census most of this area was in Eaton Manor ward, which was the Lakes estate and whose census return still screams "isolated council estate". Eaton Manor was in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for the under-16 age bracket; Milton Keynes does have lots of jobs for when those kids grow up, but this is definitely one of the working-class ends of the New City. The 2014 boundary changes brought in Fenny Stratford, a more upmarket area which was previously in the Bletchley and Fenny Stratford ward. As can be seen, the name "Bletchley East" is a little misleading.

Eaton Manor was a very safe Labour ward, but Bletchley and Fenny Stratford was a Tory-inclined marginal. The new Bletchley East has turned into a Labour ward, but not a safe one: at its first election in 2014 UKIP won one of the three seats on offer. The Kippers lost their seat to Labour in 2015, but the May 2018 result - 48% for Labour and 39% for the Conservatives - suggests that there is still work to do for the red team here. There's also work to do for the Conservatives: the ward is part of the Milton Keynes South constituency, whose Tory MP Iain Stewart is sitting on a majority of just 1,725.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have selected strong candidates. Defending for Labour is Emily Darlington, a businesswoman and trade unionist who fought the marginal seat of Milton Keynes North in the 2015 general election. The Conservative candidate Angela Kennedy is a former Milton Keynes councillor for the old Bletchley and Fenny Stratford ward. Also standing are Jo Breen for the Green Party (returning from May), Richard Greenwood for the Liberal Democrats and Vince Peddle for UKIP.

And there's one more development to report. If after reading this you'd like to stake some money on the outcome, you can. Your columnist has been in discussions with the betting exchange Smarkets, who have opened a betting market on the winner of the Bletchley East by-election. If you would like to have a flutter, go here for the link and all the instructions.

Parliamentary constituency: Milton Keynes South

Jo Breen (Grn)
Emily Darlington (Lab)
Richard Greenwood (LD)
Angela Kennedy (C)
Vince Peddle (UKIP)

May 2018 result Lab 1483 C 1218 Grn 249 LD 154
May 2016 double vacancy Lab 1434/1088 UKIP 972 C 872/659 LD 190/130
May 2015 result Lab 2105 C 1950 UKIP 1203 Grn 304 LD 239
May 2014 result Lab 1175/1078/1056 UKIP 1077/852 C 899 Grn 444/412/316 LD 121/97


St George

Northamptonshire county council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rachel Cooley after just a year in office.

Chalk, meet cheese. Cheese, say hello to chalk. For our second South Midlands by-election we travel to a division of Northampton whose urban nature conceals some interesting social divides.

The St George county division is centred on The Racecourse, a former centre for horse-racing. The Northampton Racecourse had tight bends and public paths crossing the course, which made it rather dangerous; after a fatal accident in 1904 involving spectators, the Jockey Club had had enough and the course closed. With it closed the Kingsley Park Hotel, a pub on the corner of the park which was owned by the Jockey Club and lay empty until the 1920s; as a result the pub, and the road junction it stood on, became known as the White Elephant.

The area to the north of the White Elephant was developed for housing in the 1930s as the Kingsley Park estate, and now forms the Kingsley ward of Northampton. At the time it would have been at the edge of town; but New Town development in the postwar years means this is no longer the case. This is fairly undistinguished Middle England, full of the sort of swing voters the major parties like to court.

The same cannot be said of the western end of the St George division. This is Semilong, which despite the name is not a district of long semis; it consists of tightly-packed Victorian terraces immediately to the north of Northampton town centre, running down the hill from the Racecourse to the railway line. At the top of the hill is Northampton's Catholic cathedral, dedicated not to St George but to Saints Mary and Thomas. Those terraces don't claim much allegiance to the flag of St George either: Semilong has seen massive population growth in recent years thanks to immigration. In the 2011 census it was in the top 60 wards in England and Wales for those born in the new EU states: the proportion then was 11.5% and it's almost certainly higher now. Poles are particularly strongly represented, and the census return also picked up significant proportions of Chinese, Somalis, Russian-speakers and Gujurati-speakers. Given that Semilong doesn't have many obvious new erections or developments, one suspects that either the terraces are being subdivided into flats or HMOs are a problem here, or both.

So, an interesting mix. The division is split between the two Northampton parliamentary seats, which are both key marginals: the Tories held Northampton North (which covers Kingsley) last year by just 807 votes and Northampton South (which covers Semilong) by 1,159 votes. Despite that it was the Lib Dems which made the local running in Northampton during the Noughties: however, their borough administration became deeply unpopular and they crashed and burned in the 2011 borough election. Nonetheless the Lib Dems did win St George in the first election to be held on these boundaries in 2013, although it was with a low share of the vote: just 32%, to 28% for Labour, 22% for UKIP and 14% for the Conservatives. In the run-up to last year's general election Labour gained St George division, polling 40% to 30% for the Lib Dems and 22% for the Conservatives.

A look at the Northampton council results reveals that Labour hold all of the three wards covering the division. Semilong is the best Lib Dem ward, while Trinity ward (which covers the Racecourse) is a three-way marginal. The Tories' best ward is Kingsley but their attempts to win St George are stymied by the fact that they can't get their vote in Semilong to rise. The well-publicised financial travails of the Tory-run Northamptonshire county council and a huge scandal involving their borough council administration won't help either. Essentially, Northampton Council loaned an eight-figure sum to Northampton Town football club for a stadium redevelopment; but the redevelopment was never finished and the club nearly went belly-up, which raises rather obvious and surprisingly difficult questions about where all the money went. The loan was signed off by then council leader David Mackintosh, who was subsequently elected as MP for Northampton South in 2015 and then was effectively forced to stand down from Parliament over the scandal at the snap election two years later. Last week Northampton council were in court, suing the former football club owner David Cardoza in an attempt to get some of their taxpayers' money back; by coincidence Cardoza's lawyer in those proceedings was Emma Edhem, who appeared in this column a couple of weeks back in a successful attempt to be elected as an Alderman of the City of London.

Defending for Labour is Anjona Roy, an equality activist and Corbynite who last year lost the Labour selection contest for Northampton North (to Sally Keeble, the MP for the seat during the Blair and Brown years, who lost in 2010 and has been trying to get back ever since). The Lib Dem candidate is Martin Sawyer, who performed decently in a borough by-election for Eastfield ward last year. The Conservatives have tried to cover their weak points in the division by selecting someone who no doubt has a good knowledge of the area through her work: she is Ausra Uzukauskaite, a letting agent. Completing the ballot paper are Andy Smiles for UKIP and Scott Marbutt for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Northampton North (part); Northampton South (part)
Northampton council wards: Semilong (part), Trinity (part), Kingsley (part)

Scott Marbutt (Grn)
Anjona Roy (Lab)
Martin Sawyer (LD)
Andy Smiles (UKIP)
Ausra Uzukauskaite (C)

May 2017 result Lab 999 LD 741 C 554 UKIP 185
May 2013 result LD 771 Lab 671 UKIP 553 C 334 Grn 126


Headington

Oxford council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Ruth Wilkinson who had served since 2008.

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the polling station...

No, I don't intend to jump the shark just yet. This is Untitled 1986, or 2 New High Street, Headington, which for almost 32 years has been surprising visitors to Oxford. My thanks to Wikipedia for the photograph.

The Headington Shark lies at the centre of Headington, an eastern suburb of the city of Oxford along the road to London. This is an old area - Stone Age remains have been found by archaeologists, and there was a hunting lodge here for the Anglo-Saxon kings - but its development got going in the early twentieth century, before Headington was incorporated into Oxford in 1929. The ward's economy is dominated by those twin behemoths of left-wing policy, health and education; and Headington is an internationally-noted centre for medical research. Within the boundary are Oxford's main hospital, the John Radcliffe; the Nuffield Orthpaedic Centre; and Ruskin College, which is affiliated to Oxford University and specialises in educating adults with few or no qualifications. Partly because of that history Ruskin College has educated a large number of Labour MPs including two currently serving, Dennis Skinner and Judith Cummins; John Prescott, deputy prime minister under Tony Blair, is another Ruskin College alumnus.

The noted philologist and Lancashire Fusilier J R R Tolkein lived in Headington ward for some years, and he was one of many Oxford dons who have settled in the ward. Over 60% of Headington's workforce hold degrees, a figure in the top 50 wards in England and Wales; and Headington also makes the top 75 for the census "higher management/professional" occupational group.

This column has seen many wards where the Liberal Democrats were competitive or dominant until the Coalition and collapsed thereafter; but Headington is an unusual example of that treatment being meted out to the Conservatives. The Tories polled decently in Headington during the Noughties, and in 2008 came within eighteen votes of beating Ruth Wilkinson at her first election. That was and remains the closest the party has come to winning a council seat in Oxford since the 1990s. Labour took over second place in 2010 but it's a rather distant second: in May the Lib Dems were winning here by the score of 61% to 27%. The local county council seat, Headington and Quarry, is also safely Liberal Democrat.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Stef Garden; as an NHS nurse she is a perfect fit for the ward's employment profile. The Labour candidate is Simon Ottino, a schoolteacher. Completing the ballot paper are Georgina Gibbs for the Conservatives and Ray Hitchins for the Green Party.

Oxfordshire county council division: Headington and Quarry

Stef Garden (LD)
Georgina Gibbs (C)
Ray Hitchins (Grn)
Simon Ottino (Lab)

May 2018 result LD 1140 Lab 504 C 117 Grn 100
May 2016 result LD 1100 Lab 437 C 172 Grn 134
May 2014 result LD 946 Lab 514 C 234 Grn 181
May 2012 result LD 983 Lab 557 C 178 Grn 111
May 2010 result LD 1297 Lab 761 C 572 Grn 275
May 2008 result LD 564 C 548 Lab 266 Grn 215
May 2006 result LD 948 C 285 Lab 216 Grn 162
June 2004 result LD 1061 C 343 Lab 193 Grn 150
May 2002 result LD 637/597 C 459/427 Lab 312/306 Grn 150/112 Socialist Alliance 64


Hesketh-with-Becconsall

West Lancashire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Moon who had served since 2016.

For our rural English by-election we are in a little-visited corner of Lancashire. Look at a map of Lancashire and one thing which sticks out is that there is no crossing of the Ribble estuary downstream of Preston; and one good reason for that is that the estuary's banks are extensive saltmarsh on both sides. The south side is particularly indented thanks to the Douglas estuary, which joins that of the Ribble; between the Douglas and the town of Southport lie a series of small and rather isolated agricultural villages, the so-called Marsh Towns, of which the largest is Hesketh Bank. Hesketh Bank is known for a steam railway museum, and not an awful lot else. As can be seen there's lots of water around here, but unfortunately little of it is drinkable; and as a result of the current dry and hot weather the local water company, United Utilities, is about to impose a hosepipe ban. Fun news for the local farmers.

Although the main service centre for the Marsh Towns is Southport, they are in the South Ribble constituency with Leyland, and they have Preston postcodes, Hesketh Bank lies rather uneasily in the West Lancashire local government district which is based on Ormskirk and Skelmersdale to the south. Which probably rather adds to their sense of isolation. Looking at West Lancs' local election results takes you into a bit of a timewarp, as none of the parties outside the big two are organised here and the level of polarisation between the districts' wards is something to behold. There are wards in Skelmersdale where Labour break 90% in a good year, and village-based wards which can easily turn in an 80% Tory vote.

Hesketh-with-Becconsall is a Tory ward but not to that extent. There have no changes to its boundaries since West Lancashire's founding electoral arrangements in 1973, in which it returned an independent councillor who lost to the Conservatives in 1976. The Tory vote was split by an Independent Conservative in 1984 leading to Hesketh-with-Becconsall being lost to the Liberal-SDP Alliance by just two votes; the Alliance councillor was re-elected in 1988 but lost his seat back to the Conservatives in 1992. Hesketh-with-Becconsall has been consistently Conservative since then, and was granted a second councillor by the Boundary Commission in 2002.

The ward's results since 2010 have all been in the range 60-70% for the Conservatives and 30-40% for Labour, with May's election putting the Tory lead at 60-31. That election saw the Lib Dems contest the ward for the first time since 1992 - and there are good reasons for Labour and the Lib Dems to put some work in here even though a win looks unlikely. If the Boundary Commission proposals go through this ward will transfer into the Southport constituency, which after some huge vote swings in the last couple of years is suddenly looking like a three-way marginal. In May Labour broke through to win council seats in Southport for the first time in decades, so clearly something is going on in the town. One to watch for the future.

Another fly in the ointment is that this by-election might be seen as unnecessary. The outgoing councillor Paul Moon was elected in 2016, at which point he was already a Wyre borough councillor for Preesall ward, on the northern coast of the Fylde peninsula. Preesall is over thirty miles from Hesketh Bank by road, and that will take over an hour to drive even if the traffic in Preston town centre is in a good mood. Perhaps not surprisingly Moon has found that he can't handle both representative jobs at once.

So we have a by-election. Defending for the Conservatives is Joan Witter. The other two candidates both give addresses in Hesketh Bank: Nick Kemp returns from May's election for Labour, and Hesketh-with-Becconsall parish councillor Steve Kirby is standing as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: South Ribble
Lancashire county council division: West Lancashire North

Nick Kemp (Lab)
Steve Kirby (Ind)
Joan Witter (C)

May 2018 result C 622 Lab 322 LD 97
May 2016 result C 578 Lab 333
May 2014 result C 743 Lab 358
May 2012 result C 544 Lab 300
May 2010 result C 1339 Lab 612
May 2008 result C unopposed
May 2006 result C 844 Lab 149
June 2004 result C 820 Ind 466
May 2002 result C 607/592 Ind 295/285 Lab 113
May 2000 result C 622 Ind 330 Natural Law 9
May 1996 result C 707 Lab 401 Natural Law 13
May 1992 result C 747 LD 600 Lab 42
May 1988 result SLD 753 C 453 Lab 61
May 1984 result All 392 C 390 Lab 162 Ind C 133
May 1980 result C unopposed
May 1976 result C 748 Ind 439
May 1973 result Ind 671 C 389


Besses

Bury council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Elizabeth Fitzgerald who had served since 2012.

The BBC have annoyed a lot of politics types this week, with the announcement of cuts to the programming of the BBC Parliament TV channel. The channel's original content is being discontinued, and there will no longer be broadcasts of any sort during weeks when Parliament and the devolved assemblies are not sitting. Professional politicians will have noted that this will mean the end of live broadcasts of the party conferences; amateur psephologists will fear that BBC Parliament's occasional practice of indulging us with repeats of historic election nights may have come to an end. Both of those groups will surely agree that this move is regrettable.

It's not the only BBC programming cut which has annoyed your columnist this year. A couple of months ago, a reorganisation of the Radio 2 schedules spelt an end to a programme which has been going in some form or other since 1946, Listen to the Band. Psephologists may have politicians to speak up for them, but the brass band movement doesn't enjoy that advantage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzkaybYBmvA

Which is a shame, for brass banding has a rich and long history to call its own. As the clip above shows, it was once seen as sufficiently important for the BBC to devote half an hour of TV time to high-quality but amateur ensembles like the Besses o' th' Barn Band. Besses have fallen on hard times in recent years but in their heyday were absolutely in the top rank of banding: the band undertook two world tours in the 1900s, and the programme above gives an idea of their history while also showcasing Besses (and Bury Market) as it was 35 years ago. There aren't many places which have been put on the map by their brass band, but Besses is definitely one of them.

Besses proper is just one corner of the ward named after it. In population terms the core of the ward is the Hillock, Elms and Victoria council estates along Thatch Leach Lane, Ribble Drive and Mersey Drive. Hillock in particular is a Manchester overspill estate and relatively successful as overspill estates go; on the other hand, the Thatch Leach Lane area hasn't recovered from the mid-1990s proposal to flatten the area for a new motorway to be built parallel to the M60. In 2004 an area to the north, as far as Unsworth Pole, was added to the ward; this is a relatively well-off area but doesn't change the characterisation of Besses ward as a whole as strongly working-class.

It's also a safe Labour ward. Recent electoral comment on Bury has focused on Prestwich and Whitefield being strongly Jewish areas and on the impact that might have on the Labour vote, but as far as Whitefield goes that characterisation is only half right. The Jewish population of Whitefield is indeed large but it's concentrated in Whitefield's other ward, the much more affluent area of Pilkington Park. Besses is a safe Labour area, where in May the party led the Conservatives by 60-23. Third place here is traditionally taken by right-wing populist and local resident Stephen Morris of the English Democrats, although his 7% in May was at the low end of recent performances. Morris was also the English Democrats candidate in the Greater Manchester mayoral election last May, finishing fourth in his home ward with 5%; Andy Burnham led the Conservative candidate Sean Anstee 62-22.

Labour have kept it in the family with their selection: their candidate is Prestwich resident Lucy Smith, whose parents John and Stella Smith have both served as mayor of Bury. The Conservative candidate is Jordan Lewis, who lives in Whitefield and works in public transport. Also standing are Stephen Morris for the English Democrats, former Labour Bury councillor Glyn Heath for the Green Party, Gareth Lloyd-Johnson for the Liberal Democrats and Michael Zwierzanski for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury South

Glyn Heath (Grn)
Jordan Lewis (C)
Gareth Lloyd-Johnson (LD)
Stephen Morris (EDP)
Lucy Smith (Lab)
Michael Zwierzanksi (UKIP)

May 2018 result Lab 1414 C 551 EDP 169 Grn 118 LD 117
May 2017 by-election Lab 1371 C 682 LD 415 EDP 188 Grn 86
May 2016 result Lab 1426 C 486 EDP 280 Grn 132 LD 106
May 2015 result Lab 2628 C 1114 UKIP 799 LD 198 Grn 177 EDP 67
May 2014 result Lab 1313 C 479 EDP 412 Grn 172 LD 127
May 2012 result Lab 1484 EDP 367 C 358 LD 185
May 2011 result Lab 1523 LD 468 C 462 EDP 209 UKIP 138
May 2010 result Lab 2076 LD 1252 C 1109 BNP 302 EDP 186
May 2008 result Lab 1084 LD 614 C 584 EDP 354
May 2007 result Lab 1138 C 829 LD 431
May 2006 result Lab 1085 C 597 LD 396 Ind 208
June 2004 result Lab 1724/1514/1424 C 830/783/657 LD 681

May 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Lab 1682 C 584 LD 178 EDP 134 UKIP 53 Grn 50 Aslam 17 Farmer 15


Previews: 12 Jul 2018

It's a Super Thursday on 12th July 2018, this busy news week. As we come down from the drama of England's loss against Croatia last night, and contemplate further instability in the May administration, here's a lowdown on the eleven local polls today:


Rural West

Hartlepool council, Co Durham; caused by the resignation of Ray Martin-Wells who was leader of the Conservative group. He had served since 2010, originally being elected as Ray Wells for Park ward before marrying Andrew Martin and transferring to Rural West ward in 2012. In his resignation announcement Martin-Wells indicated that he was about to become a grandfather and was looking to spend more time with his growing family.

Anybody who has followed this column through the years will know that Hartlepool has a good claim to be the most politically interesting of towns. The prejudices are familiar: Brexit Central; economically deprived provincials; monkey-hangers. And that's just what my dad (a Hartlepudlian himself) gets called. Unbelievable, Jeff. Well, let me take you to a part of Hartlepool which might make you think again about some of those prejudices.

Even a place like Hartlepool has to have a prestigious, desirable area; and Rural West ward is it. Rural West has existed only since 2012; despite what might appear from the name and the map, it is the successor to the former Park ward in west West Hartlepool. The name of Park ward was taken from Ward Jackson Park, which itself takes its name from Ralph Ward Jackson. A classic early-Victorian-era entrepreneur, Ward Jackson had been the driving force behind the Stockton and Hartlepool Railway which linked the ironworks at Stockton-on-Tees to the port at Old Hartlepool, on the headland. Or, at least, that was the plan; but the port at Old Hartlepool needed redevelopment to handle the railway traffic, and the town fathers spent so long arguing over the necessary technological solutions to facilitate their trade policy that Ward Jackson lost patience. Instead he went for the No Deal option, developed a series of railway-connected docks on sand-dunes a couple of miles to the south-west of Old Hartlepool, and founded a new town to serve them - West Hartlepool. Appropriately, Ralph Ward Jackson would later go on to become the first MP for the two Hartlepools, serving under the Conservative banner from 1868 to 1874. The Hartlepools merged into a single town in 1967 and now, still rather uneasily, form one borough.

Ward Jackson Park in turn gave its name to an area of housing called West Park, most of which has sprung up since 1980. This is a series of privately developed housing estates which essentially house the middle-class of Hartlepool; in the 2011 census Park ward had by far the highest owner-occupation rates and the lowest no-qualification rates in the town. This is Hartlepool's least-deprived area and has some of its most expensive housing - although still very cheap if you're looking at property through a London lens, with the median house in the ward going for around £160,000 to £200,000. Drive along Catcote Road into the ward from the Owton Manor estate, and the change in affluence is palpable.

As the name Rural West might suggest, this is not just West Park, and the ward also contains six of the seven rural parishes within the Hartlepool borough boundary. The largest of these is Greatham (Gree-tham, my family always said) on the old road to Stockton, which was a ward of its own until 2012; Greatham ward's 2011 census return had the fifth-highest White British population (99.1%) and the sixth-highest population born in the UK (98.8%) of any ward in England and Wales. The rest of Rural West ward was covered in 2011 by the rural Elwick ward, including a small part of Wynyard Village. A recent and very exclusive development - Duncan Bannatyne and Alan Shearer are reportedly present or former residents - Wynward Village is mostly covered by Stockton-on-Tees council but part of it has spilled over the boundary.

Elwick and Greatham normally returned independent candidates to Hartlepool council, but before 2012 Park ward was the only reliable Conservative area of the town. And it's Conservatism which has characterised Rural West's elections since its formation. UKIP - who were well-organised in Hartlepool - ran second at each election from 2012 to 2018, when they gave up; in May's ordinary election the Conservatives had 58%, with an independent in second on 18% five votes ahead of Labour.

Defending for the Conservatives is Mike Young, who is finally getting a shot at a winnable seat: he fought the Seaton by-election last year and stood in De Bruce ward in May. Independent candidate James Brewer returns to the fray after his second-place finish two months ago. Completing the ballot paper are Yousuf Khan for Labour and Michael Holt for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Hartlepool
Postcode districts: TS22, TS23, TS25, TS26, TS27

James Brewer (Ind)
Michael Holt (Grn)
Yousuf Khan (Lab)
Mike Young (C)

May 2018 result C 1189 Ind 366 Lab 361 Grn 121
May 2016 result C 1058 UKIP 531 Lab 264 Grn 240
May 2015 result C 1797 UKIP 1101 Lab 699 Grn 372
May 2014 result C 918 UKIP 633 Lab 286 Putting Hartlepool First 169
May 2012 result C 1030/1022/1007 UKIP 550 Ind 422 Putting Hartlepool First 416 Lab 379/369/366


Cockerton

Darlington council, County Durham; caused by the death of Labour councillor David Regan at the age of just 46. Described as a committed community activist, Regan had served since 2007; he was originally elected for Cockerton West ward before transferring here in 2015.

Back in the day, when both were league sides, Hartlepool's main football rivalry was with Darlington. A product in large part of the Industrial Revolution, Darlington was of course one end of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which opened in 1825 to link the town with the Durham coalfield; and the railways stayed here to develop Darlington into a major engineering centre. Engineering is still important to the town, but it says something for the post-industrial decline of the North that Darlo's largest employers now are EE, the mobile phone company.

No doubt some of EE's employees are electors in Cockerton ward. Although the ward grew from and is named after a pre-existing village, most of Cockerton ward's electors live in the Branksome area, a post-war council estate suburb on the western edge of Darlington. The present ward was created by boundary changes in 2015, merging the former Cockerton West ward (a safe Labour area) with part of Cockerton East (a key marginal); the 2015 result suggests that the new ward is safe Labour, the party's slate topping the poll with 43% to 25% for the Conservative candidate and 17% for the Green candidate. There have been no local elections in Darlo since then, but the parliamentary constituency - a key marginal - was held by Labour in 2017 with almost no swing on two years before.

For some reason this by-election has attracted a large field of candidates. Defending for Labour is Eddie Heslop, who fought a by-election in the neighbouring Mowden ward last year. The Tories have made the interesting selection of Scott Durham, who is a sitting Durham county councillor for Aycliffe North and Middridge division; despite being an accountant as well, he is apparently confident that he can adequately sit on two different councils at once. (We will return to this subject next week.) The Green candidate is Terri Hankinson, who fought the neighbouring Brinkburn and Faverdale ward in 2015. Also standing are independent candidate Joel Alexander, Kevin Brack (UKIP candidate for Darlington in 2017) for the anti-Islamic For Britain Movement, and Charlie Curry for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Darlington
Postcode district: DL3

Joel Alexander (Ind)
Kevin Brack (For Britain Movement)
Charlie Curry (LD)
Scott Durham (C)
Terri Hankinson (Grn)
Eddie Heslop (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 1463/1405/1239 C 839 Grn 581 LD 511


Old Town

Barnsley council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Anita Cherryholme who had served since 2011.

For our last poll in the North we come to that stereotypical Yorkshire town, Barnsley. The Old Town ward name might suggest a district of noted mediaeval or historic buildings, or an area where trade has gone on for many years; if that is indeed the case it's strange that Barnsley's tourist literature doesn't mention it. There are essentially three parts to this ward: the Old Town district itself, which lies immediately to the north of Barnsley town centre; the Honeywell area to the east of the railway line, a deprived 1960s council estate; and the Smithies area on the far side of the River Dearne, which was administratively part of Monk Bretton until 1974. The major employer within the ward is Barnsley Hospital, in the Old Town area.

For much of the Noughties this ward was a stronghold of the Barnsley Independent Group, a localist party which at its peak threatened Labour's control of the council. However, the BIG were affected by a Labour resurgence from 2010 and have won Old Town ward only once since then, in 2014. The BIG councillor didn't seek re-election in May and the ward was an easy pickup for Labour to restore their monopoly: they defeated an independent candidate by the score of 55-22.

This by-election will have a different feel to it as, for the first time since the ward was created in 2004, there is no independent candidate. Defending for Labour is Jo Newing, who fought her home ward of Penistone West in May and unexpectedly and resoundingly lost it to the Liberal Democrats, who had no track record in that ward. Returning from May's election here are Conservative candidate Clive Watkinson and the Lib Dems' Kevin Bennett. Tony Devoy is hoping to mop up the regionalist vote as candidate of the Yorkshire Party, while the populist or far-right vote (depending on your political tastes) will be squabbled over by Gavin Felton of the Democrats and Veterans Party and Christopher Houston of the British National Party, which had some decent third places here a decade ago.

Parliamentary constituency: Barnsley Central
Postcode districts: S71, S75

Kevin Bennett (LD)
Tony Devoy (Yorkshire Party)
Gavin Felton (Democrats and Veterans)
Christopher Houston (BNP)
Jo Newing (Lab)
Clive Watkinson (C)

May 2018 result Lab 1206 Ind 493 C 334 LD 166
May 2016 result Lab 1020 Barnsley Ind Gp 987 Grn 187 C 176
May 2015 result Lab 2499 Barnsley Ind Gp 1507 C 723 TUSC 259
May 2014 result Barnsley Ind Gp 1133 Lab 1053 C 234 TUSC 134
May 2012 result Lab 1391 Barnsley Ind Gp 665 Ind 214 EDP 206 C 182
May 2011 result Lab 1673 Barnsley Ind Gp 951 C 331 BNP 211
May 2010 result Lab 2067 Barnsley Ind Gp 1767 C 704 BNP 562
May 2008 double vacancy Barnsley Ind Gp 1503/1255 Lab 721 BNP 564/424 C 306/227
May 2007 result Barnsley Ind Gp 1503 Lab 585 BNP 380 C 232
May 2006 result Barnsley Ind Gp 1479 Lab 633 BNP 299 C 203
June 2004 result Ind 1551/1531/1318 Lab 909/862/759 LD 639 BNP 273 C 228


Oakham South West

Rutland council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Richard Clifton. He had served since winning a by-election in October 2014, and is standing down due to a new job.

For our Midlands by-election we are in the county town of England's smallest county. This ward is very well described by its name, being the south-west quadrant of Oakham; the northern boundary is Braunston Road, the eastern boundary is the railway line. Most of the housing in this ward dates from the late 1970s as Oakham expanded.

The Conservatives have consistently held at least one of the two seats in South West ward, but the other seat has been volatile. In 2003 it was won by Cedric Phillips of the Lib Dems, who lost his seat in 2007 to the Conservatives' Heather Wells. In 2011 Wells stood down and the other Tory councillor Peter Jones lost his seat to an independent candidate, David Richardson, by two votes; Joanna Figgis held the other seat for the Conservatives. Figgis resigned in 2014 - she was moving away due to her husband's work - and the Conservatives' Richard Clifton held the by-election. Clifton was re-elected at the 2015 election seven months later; independent councillor David Richardson stood down and his seat went to another independent, Oliver Bird, who topped the poll. Shares of the vote were 51% for the independents and 49% for the Conservatives, so one seat each was an equitable outcome.

Defending for the Conservatives, and in the unaccustomed position for a C of bottom of the ballot paper, is Richard Clifton's mother Patsy who formerly ran the family clothing and tea shop in Oakham. There is an independent candidate, Richard Alderman who used to run a menswear store in the town. Also standing are Chris Brookes for Labour and Joanna Burrows for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough
Postcode district: LE15

Richard Alderman (Ind)
Chris Brookes (Lab)
Joanna Burrows (LD)
Patsy Clifton (C)

May 2015 result Ind 617/571 C 583/575
Oct 2014 by-election C 240 Ind 177 LD 43
May 2011 result C 285/277 Ind 279/266/139 LD 178/131
May 2007 result C 424/404 LD 291
May 2003 result C 336 LD 288 Ind 227


Aldgate

City of London Corporation; an Aldermanic election, with Alderman Peter Hewitt seeking re-election.

We return to the City of London for the second of a two-part series on its Aldermanic elections. Last week Emma Edhem and Robert Hughes-Penney were elected as Aldermen for Candlewick and Cheap wards respectively; Edhem's election leaves a vacancy in the Court of Common Council for Castle Baynard ward, and a by-election will be held there in due course. This week there were due to be two polls where Aldermen had submitted themselves for re-election; it's common for such re-elections to be uncontested, and when nominations closed nobody had opposed Sir Alan Yarrow's re-election as Alderman for Bridge and Bridge Without ward. This column sends its congratulations to Sir Alan, who was formally re-elected at the Wardmote last night.

That leaves a contested election in Aldgate ward. This is in the east of the City, with the name referring to one of the gates in the old London Wall - in this case, leading onto the old Roman road towards Colchester. Queen Matilda of Scotland, wife of Henry I, founded an Augustinian priory here, Holy Trinity Aldgate; Chaucer had an apartment above the gate itself; and the ward was a centre of historical London's Jewish population, with the capital's first synagogue opening in 1698 on Bevis Marks. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the UK's oldest manufacturing company until its closure last year, started life in Aldgate ward in 1420.

This being the City it's business voters that will elect the new Alderman, and in Aldgate ward insurance is the main business in town. Within the ward boundaries lie the "Gherkin" at 30 St Mary Axe, once named after Swiss Re and still home to their UK offices; the Gherkin occupies the site formerly occupied by the old Baltic Exchange building which was destroyed in an IRA bombing in 1992. Despite that the Baltic Exchange is still on St Mary Axe, while at the other end of the ward is 71 Fenchurch Street, home to the Lloyd's Register of Shipping.

Peter Hewitt, who has served as Alderman for Aldgate since 2012, is seeking re-election for a second and final term - he is 65 and will reach the Aldermanic retirement age in 2023. His business background is in corporate finance and property. In a straight fight he is challenged by Susan Langley, whose insurance credentials are impeccable: currently chairman of the UK branch of the American insurers Arthur J Gallagher, Langley has had a long career in the industry and was appointed OBE in 2015 for services to women in business. This could be one to watch.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
Postcode districts: E1, EC3A, EC3M, EC3N

Peter Hewitt (Ind)
Susan Langley (Ind)


Oxshott and Stoke d'Abernon

Elmbridge council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor James Vickers after 26 years' service on Elmbridge council. The Mayor of Elmbridge in 2009-10, Vickers had lived in Stoke d'Abernon for 40 years; in his working life he had been a professional soldier before working in the arts and in commerce.

We started this column with the most desirable and expensive part of Hartlepool; now let's move to one of the most desirable and expensive places within the M25 London orbital motorway. Oxshott and Stoke d'Abernon are Surrey villages which the Green Belt stopped London from swallowing up, and they lie in attractive woodland while being on a fairly quick commuter line into Waterloo. Add to that Chelsea FC: their training ground is in Stoke d'Abernon and the club have a rule that players should not live more than six miles away, so a significant number of the electors are professional footballers with the sort of salary that implies. (It's not clear whether Chelsea's World Cup players Gary Cahill, Thibaut Courtois, Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kanté and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are resident in this ward; if so hopefully they have sorted out an absent vote given that they are still in Russia.) So while the median house in West Park, Hartlepool will come with change from £200,000, the median house in Oxshott and Stoke d'Abernon weighs in at over a million pounds sterling. Unbelievable, Jeff. You could buy your columnist's street for that.

The ward's demographic is pretty much what you would expect from that introduction. In the 2011 census Oxshott and Stoke d'Abernon ward was in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for residents who were "looking after home or family" - which presumably is the Surrey equivalent of the stockbrokers' wives you get in Wilmslow - and was just outside the top 50 for the census "higher management" occupational category, with strong representation from the financial, scientific and technological sectors. 57% of the workforce are in some sort of management position and 53% hold degrees; 18% were born outside the EU, most of those being from the USA. Boundary changes for the 2016 election transferred into the ward much of the former Cobham Fairmile ward, whose social makeup is not dissimilar.

Now this by-election is crucial. Elmbridge council is currently hung; the Tories defeated a coalition of the Residents Associations and Lib Dems last year but only hold 23 out of 48 seats, plus this vacancy, compared with 15 Residents and nine Lib Dems. The Residents are not contesting this by-election (the Stoke d'Abernon Residents Association doesn't stand in elections), but the Lib Dems are; and a gain for them would tip the balance to 23 Tories and 25 opposition councillors.

So, what are the chances of a Tory loss? Short answer: not great. On the former ward boundaries the Conservative party was capable of breaking 80% of the vote in a good year; and they had no trouble winning all three seats on the new boundaries in 2016. This was a three-seat first-past-the-post election with the top candidate due to serve until 2020, the second elected candidate until 2019 and the third elected candidate until 2018; a problem for James Vickers who tied for second place with his running-mate Andrew Burley on 1,474 votes each. Fortunately there wasn't a penalty shoot-out; instead lots were drawn to see who got the three-year term, and Burley clearly lost the tiebreak because he was re-elected in May with 77% of the vote. In last year's county elections the Conservatives did come close to losing one of the county divisions covered by this ward, holding off the Lib Dems in Hinchley Wood, Claygate and Oxshott by just 126 votes; but it's the Claygate part of that division which the Lib Dem vote comes out of.

Defending for the Tories is David Lewis, who has recently retired as a senior manager for a multinational oil company; his wife Mary is the county councillor for Cobham division, which includes Stoke d'Abernon. Lewis is opposed by Dorothy Ford for the Lib Dems and Nicholas Wood for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Esher and Walton
Surrey county council division: Cobham (part); Hinchley Wood, Claygate and Oxshott (part)
Postcode districts: KT10, KT11, KT22

Dorothy Ford (LD)
David Lewis (C)
Nicholas Wood (UKIP)

May 2018 result C 1755 LD 366 Lab 118 UKIP 50
May 2016 result C 1497/1474/1474 LD 366 UKIP 263/261 Lab 232


Chailey and Wivelsfield

Lewes council, East Sussex; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Cyril Sugarman who had served since 2007.

We move out of the immediate London orbit into the Low Weald of Sussex. This is a series of small villages to the south and south-east of Haywards Heath, just outside the South Downs National Park: Wivelsfield Green, North Chailey, Chailey and South Chailey. It should be noted that Wivelsfield railway station is not in the ward; the station is in the town of Burgess Hill.

Despite the ward's presence in a parliamentary constituency held by the Lib Dems until 2015, this is a true blue area. In 2015 the Tory slate had 49% here, to 26% for the Lib Dem slate and 13% for the UKIP candidate; and the Tories were further ahead in the 2017 county elections for the Chailey division.

Defending for the Conservatives is Nancy Bikford, a lawyer from Wivelsfield Green. The Lib Dem candidate is Marion Hughes, who had a near-miss in 2015 in the neighbouring ward of Barcombe and Hamsey. UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper are Brenda Barnes of the Green Party and Nicholas Belcher for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Lewes
East Sussex county council division: Chailey
Postcode districts: BN8, RH15, RH16, RH17, TN22

Brenda Barnes (Grn)
Nicholas Belcher (Lab)
Nancy Bikford (C)
Marion Hughes (LD)

May 2015 result C 1686/1169 LD 893/444 UKIP 463 Grn 417
May 2011 result C 1123/1082 LD 379/360 Grn 250 Lab 188
May 2007 result C 1060/980 LD 394/329 UKIP 170
May 2003 result C 774/754 LD 507/480 Grn 142


Verwood East

East Dorset council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Boyd Mortimer at the age of 71. He had been an East Dorset councillor since 2003, representing Verwood Newtown ward until 2015 and Verwood East since then; in his younger years he was a keen rugby player, turning out at centre for Wimborne RFC.

We finish this column with a series of farewells. Local government reorganisation will come into force in 2019 for several counties in southern England, and this week will almost certainly see the final by-elections to two district councils before their demise. One of those is East Dorset council, which will be subsumed into a larger Dorset council next year.

The last East Dorset by-election comes in Verwood, a town close to the Hampshire boundary. Verwood has been known since ancient times for pottery, but the pots are now gone and the town is rather isolated - the nearest major urban centre is Poole, around fifteen miles away. Consequently Verwood's population tends to the old side, particularly the eastern side of town - Verwood Stephen's Castle, the ward which covered most of this area at the time of the 2011 census, had a 24% retired population in its census return and made the top 50 wards in England and Wales for owner-occupation.

There is absolutely nothing to go on in terms of previous results, as the 2015 contest was the first on these boundaries and no-one opposed the Conservative slate. The ward is part of a two-seat Verwood county division which was very safely Conservative last year. This by-election is however contested: Colin Beck defends for the Conservatives; Sandra Turner challenges for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: North Dorset
Dorset county council division: Verwood
Postcode district: BH31

Colin Beck (C)
Sandra Turner (Lab)

May 2015 result 2 C unopposed


Yare and All Saints

Norfolk county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Cliff Jordan, who has since died at the age of 73. Described as a larger-than-life figure, Jordan was the leader of Norfolk county council until May this year, when he stepped down after being diagnosed with the lung cancer which killed him shortly afterwards. Jordan had served on Norfolk county council since 2001 and was also a Breckland district councillor for 24 years.

We move into East Anglia for our final three polls, starting with a division of twelve parishes in rural Norfolk which covers much of the area between Dereham in the north and Attleborough in the south. This is one of those rural agglomerations of parishes that don't really have much in common, and the name Yare and All Saints rather gives the game away in that respect; it refers to the River Yare, which rises in the division, and a ward of Breckland district council which ceased to exist in 2015. The largest centre of population, accounting for slightly less than a quarter of the electorate, is Shipdham which was a centre for the USAAF during the Second World War; Shipdham Airfield still exists but is now in private ownership.

Cliff Jordan was given a scare by UKIP in 2013, when he held his seat by just 132 votes; but Yare and All Saints is generally a true blue area and returned to that status in 2017 when Jordan beat the Liberal Democrat candidate 73-15. The division boundaries don't match up with the Breckland district council wards introduced in 2015; however, the Conservatives hold all the local district council seats. One of the Tory district councillors, a keen huntsman, resigned in early 2017 after being caught reacting in a less than gentlemanly manner towards a foxhunting protestor; the Conservatives easily held the resulting by-election.

So the Tories should be favoured to hold here. Their candidate is local resident Ed Connolly, a Household Cavalry veteran who has since forged a career in the hotel industry. The Lib Dems have selected another local resident, Andrew Thorpe who has been campaigning hard on an anti-development ticket. Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Harry Clarke.

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Norfolk
Breckland council wards: All Saints and Wayland (Great Ellingham, Little Ellingham and Rocklands parishes), Mattishall (Garvestone, Hardingham, Winburgh and Westfield, and Yaxham parishes), Saham Toney (Bradenham, Saham Toney and Scoulton parishes), Shipdham-with-Scarning (Cranworth and Shipdham parishes)
Postcode districts: IP24, IP25, NR9, NR16, NR17, NR19, NR20

Harry Clarke (Lab)
Ed Connolly (C)
Andrew Thorpe (LD)

May 2017 result C 1991 LD 409 Lab 337
May 2013 result C 1074 UKIP 942 Lab 421
June 2009 result C 2186 Lab 575
May 2005 result C 2391 Lab 1211 LD 964 Grn 331


Pakefield; and
Southwold and Reydon

Waveney council, Suffolk; caused respectively by the resignation of Labour councillor Sonia Barker and the death of Conservative councillor Sue Allen. Barker was first elected in 2011 and had been leader of the Labour group on Waveney council. Allen had served since 2004, originally being elected as an independent before joining the Conservatives in time for the 2008 election.

We finish for the week by looking wistfully out on the North Sea from the Suffolk coast, as we discuss what are likely to be the last by-elections to Waveney district council before it is abolished in April 2019, with its functions transferring to a new East Suffolk district council.

These two wards are both coastal but are very different in character. Pakefield is the southern end of the Lowestoft built-up area, and was incorporated into Lowestoft in 1934; however, the place goes back a lot further, as archaeological remains - specifically, flint tools - have been found which are over 700,000 years old. The Pontin's holiday camp is outside the ward boundary, but there is a caravan park on the rapidly-eroding clifftop if you fancy staying here.

Further to the south is the ward of Southwold and Reydon, which is in slightly better economic condition than Pakefield but has a very old population: the ward is in the top 50 in England and Wales for residents over the age of 64, and the median age is somewhere north of 45. Reydon is now the larger of the two by population, but Southwold is the more important settlement: it is an ancient town, small harbour and resort at the mouth of the River Blyth. The town's major export is beer from Adnams Brewery, which is also its largest employer.

So, two wards which are chalk and cheese; and their political history reflects that. Pakefield has for some time been a key marginal between Labour and the Conservatives although in the last fourteen years the Tories have only won it once, in 2004 with a margin of thirty votes. The 2015 result here had 46% for the Labour slate to 32% for the Conservatives and 13% for the Green Party, but the Tories were closer to winning a seat than those raw figures indicate; and since 2015 the Conservatives have performed very strongly in the Lowestoft area, gaining all of the town's county council seats in May 2017 and gaining a district council by-election in the town since then. This ward is covered by the Waveney constituency, the only seat in England and Wales which voted Leave in 2016 where the Labour vote fell in 2017; so clearly something is going on here politically.

Southwold and Reydon was closely fought between the Conservatives and independent candidates in the early Noughties, but the two former independent councillors - Allen and Michael Ladd - subsequently joined the Conservatives. In consequence there is no longer much of interest in the ward's elections: in 2015 the Conservatives had 50% of the vote to 20% for Labour and 15% each for the Greens, who took third place six votes ahead of UKIP.

The defending Tory candidate in the Southwold and Reydon by-election is David Burrows, who is hoping to make a big noise among the electorate: he is the Southwold town crier. Returning from the 2015 election, where he was runner-up, is Reydon resident John Cracknell who is standing again for Labour. There is no Green candidate this time, so completing the ballot paper are Mike Shaw for UKIP and David Beavan for the Liberal Democrats.

The difficult task of defending Pakefield for Labour falls to Paul Tyack, vice-chairman of the Waveney branch of the party; he works for the Marine Management Organisation, a quango which runs functions such as marine planning and fishing quotas. That occupation will no doubt give extra impetus to the Conservative candidate Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro, who used to run a fishing company with three North Sea trawlers; Mrs Vigo di Gallidoro was formerly a Waveney district councillor from 1979 to 1986, and last year returned to public office by being elected to Suffolk county council from Pakefield division (which is larger than this ward). The Greens' Peter Lang, a Lowestoft town councillor, reportedly won an award recently for losing over six stone in weight, but is hoping that as far as this election is concerned he'll be a winner rather than a loser. Also standing are Adam Robertson for the Lib Dems and UKIP's Phillip Trindall.

Pakefield

Parliamentary constituency: Waveney
Norfolk county council division: Pakefield
Postcode district: NR33

Peter Lang (Grn)
Adam Robertson (LD)
Phillip Trindall (UKIP)
Paul Tyack (Lab)
Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro (C)

May 2015 result Lab 1739/1663/1302 C 1207/1189/1153 Grn 478/261/259 LD 351
May 2011 result Lab 1098/1018/989 C 794/703/657 UKIP 563 Grn 323
May 2010 result Lab 1442 C 1204 LD 547 UKIP 346 Grn 132
May 2008 result Lab 756 C 656 UKIP 412 LD 179 Grn 104
May 2007 result Lab 773 C 539 UKIP 388 LD 238 Grn 113 Ind 76
May 2006 result Lab 677 C 672 UKIP 349 LD 232 Grn 147
June 2004 result C 769 Lab 739 LD 351 Grn 243
May 2003 result Lab 782 C 562 LD 362 Grn 96
May 2002 result Lab 979/913/893 LD 603/531/499 C 505

Southwold and Reydon

Parliamentary constituency: Suffolk Coastal
Suffolk county council division: Kessingland and Southwold
Postcode district: IP18

David Beavan (LD)
David Burrows (C)
John Cracknell (Lab)
Mike Shaw (UKIP)

May 2015 result C 1170/990 Lab 472/310 Grn 347/302 UKIP 341
May 2011 result C 1110/945 Lab 454/293 Grn 265
May 2010 result C 1286 Lab 466 Grn 455
May 2008 result C 708 Ind 660 Lab 130 Grn 93
May 2006 result C 728 Ind 711 Grn 148 Lab 147
June 2004 result Ind 718 C 644 Grn 198 Lab 158
May 2002 result Ind 890 C 877/720 Lab 246/240


Previews: 05 Jul 2018

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

There are five polls on 5th July 2018:


Kingsmead

Bath and North East Somerset council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Chris Pearce. He had served since 2015.

After last week's focus on small towns and villages, this week is going to be mostly a tale of three cities, all of which are of different sizes and have different stories to tell. We start in the West of England with the city of Bath, and urban wards don't come much more picturesque than this.

Rus in urbe - the country in the city - was the watchword of the architect John Wood the Elder, who in the 1760s and 1770s developed a terrace of houses looking south over the Avon valley. The Royal Crescent - as it's now known - is arguably the pinnacle of British Georgian architecture and is a Grade I listed building in its entirety. Bath being Bath, the Crescent has a ridiculous number of associations with the great and the good. A discussion of just one its houses, number 16, will have to suffice: 16 Royal Crescent has been home at various times to Elizabeth Montagu, the social reformer and Bluestocking; the reformist nineteenth-century politician Sir Francis Burdett; his daughter, the Coutts heiress Baroness Burdett-Coutts; and Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany and heir presumptive to the British throne from 1820 to 1827. If you'd like to join the list of residents of 16 Royal Crescent, you can; it's now a hotel.

The Royal Crescent lies in the north-east corner of Kingsmead ward, which is based on the western edge of Bath city centre. Within the ward boundaries can be found Kingsmead Square next to the river, which gives its name to the ward; and three sides of the Palladian Queen Square, another Wood conception which started the trend of Georgian architecture in the city. More modest than the grand houses on those squares is 19 New King Street, a three-storey town house built in the 1770s on a street which at the time would have been unmetalled. In 1777 19 New King Street, Bath became home to a pair of Hanoverian émigrés, noted musician and composer William Herschel and his sister Caroline; the Herschels were also interested in astronomy, and it was from here in 1781 that William Herschel achieved scientific immortality by discovering the seventh planet, Uranus. The Herschels' house is relatively little changed from their day and is now a museum.

In the centre of the ward lies the Royal Victoria Park, which was opened in 1830 by and named after the eleven-year-old Princess Victoria of Kent; as such, it was the first of the countless geographical features to bear the name of Queen Victoria, as the Princess became seven years later. To the west of the park is Lower Weston, a residential area mostly dating from Victorian times.

I could go on about Kingsmead ward, but it would be more appropriate for me to defer to someone who knew the place well. In 2016 the late Councillor Pearce put together a 14-stop walking tour of Kingsmead ward for his friends; if you're visiting Bath and have a couple of hours spare, why not follow in his footsteps? His instructions can be found at https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/memory-chris-pearce-kingmead-councillors-1530152

Bath Corporation did buy up some of the old Georgian properties as council lets in the aftermath of the Second World War, during which the ward was badly affected by the Bath Blitz. One of the properties on the Royal Crescent is reportedly still a council house. Kingsmead ward now has a significant student population; but socially this area is essentially still just as desirable for the educated as it was in the eighteenth century. 44% of the workforce hold degrees and a further 22% are studying for one.

Kingsmead ward has unchanged boundaries since 1976, when it was a ward returning three councillors to the former Bath city council. In the days before the city council's abolition this was generally a safe Conservative ward, although Labour won Kingsmead in 1990 - with a majority of just twelve votes - and in 1994 the Liberal Democrats broke through with a big win for Andrew Furse. Furse wasn't selected here for the 1995 election, the first to the modern Bath and North East Somerset council, in which Kingsmead ward's two seats split between the Tories and Lib Dems.

However, Furse gained the Conservative seat in 1999 and has since developed a large personal vote. His Lib Dem slate had a big lead over the Conservatives in 2007; but Furse's ward colleague Carol Paradise stood for re-election as a Conservative in 2011. Paradise lost, but while the Lib Dems were back up to two seats in Kingsmead their second candidate was over 300 votes behind Furse. The same thing happened in 2015, and this time it cost the Lib Dems their second seat, which went to Chris Pearce of the Conservatives. Shares of the vote in 2015 were 31% for the Lib Dem slate, 28% for the Conservatives, 22% for the Green Party and 13% for the Labour candidate. There have been no local elections in Bath since then, but in June last year the Conservatives lost the Bath parliamentary seat to the Liberal Democrats after two years of Tory representation.

So this could be a difficult defence for the Conservatives. They have selected Tom Hobson, a local resident, young professional and carer who came to Bath as a student in 2013 and stayed on in the city. The Lib Dem candidate is Sue Craig, who is concerned about the city decaying under the rule of the present Tory majority on the council. The Greens have reselected Eric Lucas, who works at the local hospital; he has fought the ward at each election this century, finishing as runner-up in 2015, and also stood for the Bath parliamentary seat in 2005 (saving his deposit) and 2010. Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Sharon Gillings, a GP within the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Bath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bath
Postcode district: BA1

Sue Craig (LD)
Sharon Gillings (Lab)
Tom Hobson (C)
Eric Lucas (Grn)

May 2015 result LD 967/624 C 872/680 Grn 696/625 Lab 404 UKIP 163
May 2011 result LD 924/620 C 469/417 Grn 457 Lab 367 UKIP 94
May 2007 result LD 720/601 C 464/450 Grn 325/272 Ind 95
May 2003 result LD 615/548 C 537/532 Grn 235
May 1999 result LD 652/634 C 528/508 Lab 217/169
May 1995 result LD 583/562 C 578/560 Lab 518/516
May 1994 Bath city council result LD 868 C 584 Lab 240
May 1992 Bath city council double vacancy C 875/807 LD 453/387 Lab 372/367 Grn 346
May 1991 Bath city council result C 841 Lab 653 LD 369 Grn 92
May 1990 Bath city council result Lab 724 C 712 SLD 307 Grn 175 ABC 88
May 1988 Bath city council result C 790 Lab 465 SLD 280 Grn 140
May 1987 Bath city council result C 858 All 664 Lab 365
May 1986 Bath city council result C 750 All 476 Lab 430
May 1984 Bath city council result C 752 Lab 419 All 350
May 1983 Bath city council result C 842 Lab 429 All 356
May 1982 Bath city council result C 881 All 429 Lab 384
May 1980 Bath city council result C 914 Lab 551 Lib 171 Ecology Party 114
May 1979 Bath city council result C 1409 Lab 685 Lib 510 Ecology Party 240
May 1978 Bath city council result C 1011 Lab 723
May 1976 Bath city council result C 1145/1083/953 Lab 830/650/605


Candlewick; and


Cheap

City of London Corporation; elections to the Court of Aldermen following the retirements of Dame Fiona Woolf and Lord Mountevans respectively.

"Where London's column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies."
- Alexander Pope, Moral Essays

From the West of England we travel to what is simultaneously the largest city in the UK and the smallest city in England. I refer, of course, to the ancient City of London, the Square Mile which was the seed from which Greater London grew.

The Square Mile still has its own council whose structures and non-partisan nature are little modified since mediaeval times. The Corporation of London, which is the local government unit covering the old City, is the last UK democratic body to retain Aldermen. The Court of Aldermen has one member for each of the City's 25 wards; technically they are elected for life, but by convention they seek re-election every six years and retire on reaching the age of 70.

Today we hold elections to replace two aldermen who have reached the retirement age. Dame Fiona Woolf - who despite her gender was still an Alderman in City parlance - was the Lord Mayor of London in 2013-14, becoming only the second woman in eight centuries to hold the position. In her professional life Woolf was a noted lawyer, serving as president of the Law Society in 2006-07; more recently she was the first of several chairmen to resign from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Woolf was elected to the Aldermanic bench in 2007 for Candlewick ward, as was Jeffrey Evans for Cheap ward. A shipbroker by trade, and involved with several maritime charities, Evans inherited the title of Lord Mountevans in 2014 when his elder brother died. The following year he was elected to the House of Lords in a hereditary peers' by-election, and capped a successful 2015 by becoming Lord Mayor for 2015-16.

Lord Mountevans' ward was Cheap, in the centre of the old city. For those who may be startled to hear anywhere in London described as cheap, the word here comes from an Old English word meaning "market", and refers to the street of Cheapside which forms its southern boundary. The City these days is a financial district with a hard dependency on modern technology, and Cheap ward was the focus of an early demonstration of that technology: in July 1896 an Italian immigrant called Guglielmo Marconi set up a "wireless telegraphy" transmitter on the roof of a building within the ward on Newgate Street, with a receiver 300 metres away. The demonstration, of what we now call radio, worked.

Appropriately enough, the building where Marconi set up his transmitter is now the head office of BT, opposite St Paul's tube station. Other large employers who will supply business voters for the Cheap Ward List (the City's electoral register) include Nomura and Commerzbank, while part of the Guildhall complex - home of the City's local government - is within the ward boundary.

Candlewick ward has a name which evokes fire in all its forms. Appropriate: in the week or two leading up to this poll we have seen a series of devastating fires on the moors above Manchester, while it was in Candlewick ward that a rather more famous fire - that of September 1666 - burned itself out. The Monument which recalls that fire still stands just outside the ward's south-east corner, and from it King William Street climbs from Cannon Street towards the Bank and London Bridge. Underneath King William Street lie the Northern Line and DLR platforms of Bank/Monument station, presently in the throes of a rebuilding exercise to provide more passenger space.

The City's elections are non-partisan and - in these two wards - dominated by the business vote. These wards have almost no local residents, so it's connections among businesses and within the City establishment which will make or break these Aldermanic elections. Candlewick ward has attracted four candidates, but the establishment candidate would appear to be James de Sausmarez who is one of the two Common Councilmen for the ward. De Sausmarez is the head of Investment Trusts at Janus Henderson Investors, and is a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers. His biggest challenge may well come from Emma Edhem, a Common Councilman for Castle Baynard ward who is a barrister and international lawyer; she chairs the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce. Also standing are Jonathan Bewes, an investment banker with Standard Chartered; and William Charnley, a solicitor and Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Drapers.

Cheap ward is a more open contest with none of the ward's three Common Councilmen seeking election to the Aldermanic bench. There are seven candidates. Taking them in alphabetical order, Timothy Becker is a barrister and regular contender at City elections in recent years without much success. Timothy Haywood, who gives a home address in far-off Rutland, is an investment manager. Andrew Heath-Richardson works in the property industry, although the fact that he's employed by one of the City's greatest rivals - the Canary Wharf Group - might not go down well. Richard Hills is in the private equity industry, while Robert Hughes-Penney is an investment director. Andrew Marsden is a business strategist who sits on several City groups including the Lord Mayor's Charity Appeal and the Livery Committee, which has the important job of organising the mayoral and shrieval elections. Completing the ballot paper is Anthony Samuels, a notary public and vice-chairman of Surrey county council.

Candlewick

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EC3R, EC3V, EC4N, EC4R

Jonathan Bewes (Ind)
William Charnley (Ind)
James de Sausmarez (Ind)
Emma Edhem (Ind)

Cheap

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EC1A, EC2R, EC2V

Timothy Becker (Ind)
Timothy Haywood (Ind)
Andrew Heath-Richardson (Ind)
Richard Hills (Ind)
Robert Hughes-Penney (Ind)
Andrew Marsden (Ind)
Anthony Samuels (Ind)


Curborough

Lichfield council, Staffordshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jeanette Allsopp. Allopp had a long career on Lichfield district council, being first elected for Curborough ward in 1987; she lost her seat in the Tory nadir of 1995, but returned in 1999 and had continuous service since then. From 2003, following boundary changes, Allsopp represented Boley Park ward, returning to Curborough ward in 2015.

For our final city of the week we come to the Midlands. Lichfield has declined a bit since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was the ecclesiastical centre of Mercia; and since Georgian times when it was associated with such luminaries as Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Anna Seward. The Industrial Revolution passed the place by, and it wasn't until after the Second World War that the population started to expand in earnest.

Much of the early expansion in the 1960s and 1970s was concentrated in what's now Curborough ward, which still has a large amount of council housing although it's not the city's most deprived ward. That legacy can be seen in Labour winning Curborough ward in 2003, although the party lost it in 2007: the Tories gained two of the Labour seats and an independent won the other. The Conservatives got a full slate in 2011 but the ward remained a Tory-Labour marginal, and it was still marginal in 2015. The 2015 election was the first on the present boundaries, with only two councillors rather than three as previously: shares of the vote were 41% for the Conservatives, 33% for Labour and 25% for UKIP. On the other hand, Staffordshire has swung strongly towards the Conservatives at all levels of government since 2015; the local county council division, Lichfield City North, was a resounding Tory gain from Labour in last year's county election.

It will be interesting to see whether this by-election reflects the recent pro-Tory trend in Staffordshire. Defending for the party is Jayne Marks, who sits on the parish-level Lichfield city council and is hoping to make the step up to district council level. Labour's Colin Ball, the only candidate to give an address in the ward, returns from the 2015 election and is running hard on a local controversy - the recent cancellation by the council of the Friarsgate project, a shopping and leisure development which would have expanded the city centre but failed to find a private-sector backer. UKIP have withdrawn from the fray, but the Lib Dems have turned up for this by-election by selecting Lee Cadwallader-Allen.

Parliamentary constituency: Lichfield
Staffordshire county council division: Lichfield City North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode district: WS13

Colin Ball (Lab)
Lee Cadwallader-Allen (LD)
Jayne Marks (C)

May 2015 result C 795/790 Lab 637/612 UKIP 488


Shifnal South and Cosford

Shropshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Stuart West. He had thirteen years' service in local government, being first elected in 2005 to the former Shropshire county council from Shifnal division; West had sat on the modern Shropshire council since its creation in 2009.

We finish the week by crossing the county boundary from Staffordshire into Shropshire. Shifnal lies at the eastern end of the county, being a market town between Telford and Wolverhampton. Like Bath and Lichfield, Shifnal flourished in the Georgian era when it was a coaching centre and market town serving the local coal and iron industries. One of those services was the Shropshire Banking Company, created here in 1836 from the merger of four local banks; but in 1856 it was revealed that the bank had suffered one of the biggest frauds in Victorian Britain, with almost £244,000 having been siphoned off by employees. The directors saved the company by putting in a huge cash injection to cover the losses, and it ended up as part of the Lloyds empire.

Financial crime seems to be a theme in Shifnal. A more modern fraud in the town came to light in 2009 with the collapse of Wrekin Construction and the consequent loss of 420 jobs. Wrekin Construction's assets included the Gem of Tanzania, an uncut ruby with a weight of 2 kilograms, which was valued on the balance sheet at £11 million; it transpired that the valuation had been forged, and the Gem was subsequently auctioned off for just £8,000. Lloyds closed the old Shropshire Banking Company premises in 2016, and Barclays pulled out of the town the following year after their branch suffered two armed robberies in four years; as a result, Shifnal no longer has a bank.

As the name suggests this ward isn't just Shifnal. The second half of the name is Cosford, whose economy is dominated by the Royal Air Force. RAF Cosford is used year-round for flight training, and also hosts a branch of the RAF Museum and the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, together with - on the second Sunday in June - the Cosford Air Show. The military presence is reflected in the ward's census return: Shifnal South and Cosford is in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for the ONS "intermediate" occupational group.

Shifnal had an independent tradition before Shropshire's local government was reorganised in 2009, but Stuart West had had a safe seat since then. In 2013 he was opposed only by UKIP, and at the most recent Shropshire election in 2017 West led independent candidate Andy Mitchell - who had been the UKIP candidate here in 2013 - by 57% to 31%.

Defending for the Conservatives is Edward Bird, who works in the further and higher education sector. Andy Mitchell, the present Deputy Mayor of Shifnal, is having another go as an independent; another Shifnal-based independent on the ballot is David Carey, who finished last as the Labour candidate here in 2009. Completing the candidate list, and returning from the 2017 election, is Jolyon Hartin of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: The Wrekin
ONS Travel to Work Area: Telford (part of Shifnal parish), Wolverhampton and Walsall (Boscobel, Donington and Tong parishes)
Postcode districts: ST19, TF11, WV7, WV8

Edward Bird (C)
David Carey (Ind)
Jolyon Hartin (LD)
Andy Mitchell (Ind)

May 2017 result C 668 Ind 368 LD 133
May 2013 result C 658 UKIP 443
June 2009 result C 731 LD 415 UKIP 235 Lab 151


Previews: 28 Jun 2018

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

Before we start this week, I must note an entry for Correction Corner. The Labour candidate for the Kempshott by-election in Basingstoke last week was not Grant Donohoe as I stated; he was Alex Lee, who after 14 years in the Army - serving tours of Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan - is now a project manager and ultra-marathon runner. My apologies to Lee, who finished in second place.

With all of the consequential polls from the May ordinary elections now out of the way, there are four by-elections this week, three of which are in the East Midlands. With two Conservative and two independent defences, it's time to focus on small towns and villages...


Syston Ridgeway

Leicestershire county council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor David Slater. The former leader of Charnwood borough council, Slater was first elected to Leicestershire county council in 2009 for Loughborough South division; he lost that seat in 2013, and returned in 2017 for Syston Ridgeway division.

This is the second by-election in a two-part series, as David Slater sat on both Charnwood borough council and Leicestershire county council. Last week his borough seat was filled in a by-election for the hunting and quarrying village of Quorn, north-west of Leicester; this time we move to the north-east of Leicester to the town of Syston. Located on the Roman Fosse Way, Syston is essentially a Leicester dormitory town, and its demographics are affected by the nearby city: Syston West district ward, which accounts for around half of this county division, was at the time of the 2011 census in the top 70 wards in England and Wales for Hinduism. Also within the division is the small village of Wanlip to the west, over the River Soar.

Slater was the runaway winner here at the 2017 county election, the only previous result on these boundaries; he defeated the Labour candidate 58-21. On the same day the Conservatives held off a Lib Dem challenge in a by-election for the marginal borough ward covering Wanlip, thus preserving their full slate of district councillors for the division.

Defending this county by-election for the Conservatives is Tom Barkley, a Charnwood councillor for Syston West ward and vice-chairman of Syston town council. Labour haven't found a local candidate: their nominee is Claire Poole, chairman of Shepshed town council around twelve miles away to the north-west. Also standing are Matthew Wise for the Green Party, Andy McWilliam for UKIP and Nitesh Dave for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Charnwood
Charnwood district council wards: Birstall Wanlip (part: Wanlip parish); Syston East (part); Syston West

Tom Barkley (C)
Nitesh Dave (LD)
Andy McWilliam (UKIP)
Claire Poole (Lab)
Matthew Wise (Grn)

May 2017 result C 1266 Lab 457 Grn 185 UKIP 156 LD 131


North Hykeham Mill; and
Skellingthorpe

North Kesteven council, Lincolnshire; caused by the resignations of Conservative councillor Andrea Clarke and independent councillor Shirley Pannell respectively. Clarke had served since 2011. Pannell was first elected in 1995 as a Labour councillor for North Hykeham South ward, transferring to Skellingthorpe in 1999; she also sat on the Standards Board for England from 2006 until its abolition in 2011, and had served as an independent member on the Local Government Association.

As the legions did, we progress up the Fosse Way from the edge of Ratae Corieltauvorum (Leicester) to Lindum Colonia (Lincoln). North Hykeham Mill ward marks the point for Fosse Way travellers at which they enter the modern Lincoln built-up area; this is the outermost and most socially upmarket of North Hykeham's four wards. The Mill of the name is a reference to Ladds Mill, one of two ancient windmills that once graced the town; the modern Mill Lane, the main thoroughfare in the ward, also reflects that history.

To the north-west of North Hykeham lies Skellingthorpe, a Lincoln commuter village with a ridiculously expansive Wikipedia entry full of the sort of minor stories that characterise local history for small places. Possibly the most bizarre story relating to Skellingthorpe came in 2005, when a Harry Potter-themed day at the village school was cancelled following complaints from the local rector that it could lead children into "areas of evil".

Make of that what you will. Skellingthorpe ward has unchanged boundaries since 1999, and ever since that point its two councillors had been Christopher Goldson and Shirley Pannell - or Shirley Flint, as she was known until recently. Goldson and Pannell were elected unopposed as Labour councillors in 1999, and in every election this century they had stood as independents. Goldson in particular had a large personal vote, topping the poll at each election; in 2015 he had 50% of the vote to 29% for the Conservatives - whose candidate finished almost 200 votes behind Pannell - and 14% for UKIP. For a clue as to what might happen without Goldson and Pannell on the ballot we have to look up to county level: the village is part of the Eagle and Hykeham West division which was strongly Conservative last year.

North Hykeham Mill took on its current boundaries in 2007, when it split its two seats between Lib Dem Jill Wilson and Conservative Betty Poole. Wilson and Poole both stood down in 2011: the Conservative seat was taken over by Andrea Clarke, while the Lib Dems didn't defend their seat which went to independent Helen Clark; she beat the Lincolnshire Independents candidate by five votes. Clark retired in 2015 and Jill Wilson returned to the council with the Lincolnshire Independents nomination; shares of the vote were 59% for Andrea Clarke and 41% for Wilson, who defeated Andrea's running-mate Michael Clarke by just eight votes. Wilson resigned almost immediately on health grounds, and the Conservatives easily won the resulting by-election: in a larger field, Michael Clarke had 40% to 25% for a Hykeham Independents candidate and 23% for Labour. At county level this ward is divided between two divisions which easily returned Tory county councillors last year.

One of those Tory county councillors, Stephen Roe of Hykeham Forum division, is the defending Tory candidate in North Hykeham Mill; he is also a North Hykeham town councillor for the ward. The Hykeham Independents have not returned, but the Lincolnshire Independents are back in the fray with their candidate Nikki Dillon, a North Hykeham town councillor who works as a counsellor in palliative care. A third North Hykeham town councillor on the ballot is the Labour candidate Mark Reynolds. Corinne Byron of the Lib Dems completes the candidate list.

The Skellingthorpe by-election is a free-for-all. The Lincolnshire Independents have nominated local resident Richard Johnston. The Conservative candidate is Nicola Clarke, who gives an address in Nocton on the far side of Lincoln. UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper are Tony Richardson of the Liberal Democrats and Labour's Matthew Newman.

North Hykeham Mill

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Waddington and Hykeham East (part); Hykeham Forum (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln

Corinne Byron (LD)
Nikki Dillon (Lincs Ind)
Mark Reynolds (Lab)
Stephen Roe (C)

July 2015 by-election C 286 Hykeham Ind 180 Lab 161 Grn 64 LD 22
May 2015 result C 1478/1005 Lincs Ind 1013
May 2011 result C 496/314 Ind 463 Lincs Ind 458
May 2007 result LD 396 C 315/304 UKIP 157

Skellingthorpe

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Eagle and Hykeham West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln

Nicola Clarke (C)
Richard Johnston (Lincs Ind)
Matthew Newman (Lab)
Tony Richardson (LD)

May 2015 result Ind 1181/860 C 682 UKIP 343 LD 166
May 2011 result Ind 975/798 C 263/151 UKIP 78
May 2007 result Ind 988/709 C 265/130
May 2003 result Ind 801/595 C 253
May 1999 result 2 Lab unopposed


Fremington

North Devon council; caused by the death of independent councillor Tony Wood at the age of 78. Described as a true community champion, Wood had been a Fremington parish councillor for many years and had served on North Devon council since 2015.

For our final poll of the week we transfer from the East Midlands to the West Country. Fremington is a large village on the south bank of the Taw estuary, a few miles to the west of Barnstaple. The village has a small quay on the river, and that made it sufficiently important to send members to Parliament for a time during the fourteenth century.

Fremington's main exports were pottery and power. The pottery came from Fremington lying on a large deposit of Ice Age boulder clay: an unusual geological feature for Devon, which is far south enough to have mostly escaped glaciation during the last Ice Age. The power came from a small coal-fired power station in the nearly village of Yelland, one of only a handful of power stations in the South West; the coal to supply it was ferried across the Bristol Channel from the South Wales coalfields until they closed down. The military were also important here: the Royal Marines airfield at Chivenor is just across the water, and until 2009 Fremington was home to an Army camp which was used during the Second World War as a US Army hospital, rehabilitating casualties from D-Day. All this is now gone; the Army camp has been built on and commuting to Barnstaple is now the main economic driver for the area.

Fremington's election results trend towards the parochial. The ward elected two independent councillors in 2003, returned two Conservatives in 2007, and reverted to Independent representation in 2011 and 2015. Top of the poll in the two most recent elections was Frank Biederman, who has a large personal vote and polled almost twice the total of Tony Wood, who was elected to the second seat 105 votes ahead of UKIP. Wood had previously contested a by-election here in August 2011, finishing in third place. Shares of the vote were 50% for Biederman, 22% for UKIP and 19% for the Conservative slate. Biederman is also the county councillor for the local Fremington Rural division, having a similarly commanding lead in last year's Devon county elections.

Defending for the independents is Jayne Mackie, a Yelland resident who is nominated by Biederman. UKIP have not returned. The Conservatives have selected Jim Pilkington, landlord of the New Inn in Fremington. Also standing are Lou Goodger for the Green Party, Blake Ladley for Labour and Graham Lofthouse for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: North Devon
Devon county council division: Fremington Rural

Lou Goodger (Grn)
Blake Ladley (Lab)
Graham Lofthouse (LD)
Jayne Mackie (Ind)
Jim Pilkington (C)

May 2015 result Ind 1573/793 UKIP 688 C 583/421 Grn 307
August 2011 by-election Ind 501 C 308 Ind 196 Grn 64
May 2011 result Ind 1266/969 C 382/323 Ind 235 LD 184/95
May 2007 result C 563/537 LD 383/380 Ind 335/255 Grn 123
May 2003 result Ind 603/500/318 C 312/274 LD 109/105


Previews: 21 Jun 2018

There are eleven polls on Thursday 21st June 2018, all in England and all but one south of the Watford Gap. There should be something for everyone this week, so read on...


Alcombe

West Somerset council; caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor Adrian Behan who had served since 2015.

I'll start this week in the south-west of England by saying farewell. This will almost certainly be the last by-election held to West Somerset district council, which is being abolished in May 2019: it will merge with the neighbouring Taunton Deane district to form a new district council with the appalling name of "Somerset West and Taunton". Most likely it was West Somerset council which drove this merger: with a population under 35,000 it is the smallest second-tier local government district in England. Until last month there were some electoral wards in Birmingham with that sort of headcount, and 35,000 souls in a rugged area of the country, while being a reasonable economic unit - the Minehead Travel to Work Area has the same boundaries as West Somerset council - is not really enough of a base to support the sort of services which local government is expected to provide these days. Several tiny district councils in Dorset are going in 2019 as well; as Rutland has unitary status, Melton borough in Leicestershire will take over next year as the smallest shire district by population.

Alcombe is the south-eastern of the four wards covering Minehead, West Somerset's largest population centre, and is effectively a village which has been swallowed up by the town. The name Minehead is cognate with the Welsh word for mountain, mynydd, nicely describing its location at the foot of Exmoor; indeed parts of Alcombe ward lie within the Exmoor National Park. With Minehead being dependent on tourism for its economy - Butlins is still a major employer - jobs here are not well-paid, and Alcombe ward's census return has high scores in the working-class occupation groups.

Not that you'd guess that from Alcombe's election results, which are fragmented. The ward elects two West Somerset councillors, but since it was created in 2011 no political party has stood more than one candidate here. In 2011 the poll was topped by Ian Melhuish, outgoing independent councillor for the predecessor ward of Alcombe East, with the Tories winning the other seat. Melhuish lost his seat to UKIP in 2015: shares of the vote were 26% for the Conservatives, 22% for UKIP, 19% for Labour, 18% for Melhuish and 14% for the Green Party. At county council level this is part of the Dunster division which is safely Conservative; and next year it will form part of the Dunster ward to elect three Somerset West and Taunton district councillors.

With no defending UKIP candidate we have a free-for-all! The Conservatives have selected Minehead town councillor Andy Parbrook, who is hoping to join on the district council his wife Jean. Another Andrew on the ballot paper is Labour's Andrew Mountford, who runs a B&B in the town. Stephanie Stephens is standing as an independent candidate, and with the Greens not returning Nicole Hawkins of the Liberal Democrats completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Bridgwater and West Somerset
Somerset county council division: Dunster
ONS Travel to Work Area: Minehead
Postcode district: TA24

Nicole Hawkins (LD)
Andrew Mountford (Lab)
Andy Parbrook (C)
Stephanie Stephens (Ind)

May 2015 result C 576 UKIP 487 Lab 422 Ind 405 Grn 306
May 2011 result Ind 409 C 357 Lab 280 Grn 200


Kempshott

Basingstoke and Deane council, Hampshire; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Anne Court, who failed to attend any meetings in six months.

We've been here before, haven't we? Yes, this is the second Kempshott by-election in four months as we make a return visit to the western edge of Basingstoke. This is an area which was developed for housing in the 1970s and early 1980s as the town of Basingstoke greatly expanded thanks to London overspill. Previously this area had been part of Kempshott Park, an estate held from 1789 by the future George IV who spent his honeymoon with Caroline of Brunswick here. A bit of a stepdown from Alberta or Ireland or Namibia or wherever it was that the Sussexes recently honeymooned, but fashions were different in the eighteenth century. George and Caroline's Kempshott House is no more - it was demolished to make way for the M3 motorway - but the modern Kempshott houses are very much here and very much owner-occupied. 91% of the ward's households have that tenure, putting Kempshott in the top 100 wards in England and Wales.

This is a safe Tory ward where the party is not seriously challenged. It's the third time in four months that Kempshott voters have been called to the polls, so there may be an element of voter fatigue; however, the March poll, despite being on the first day of spring, was on a day of heavy snow which clearly affected turnout. With today being the summer solstice, snow is unlikely to be a factor this time - although stranger things have happened in the British summer. The Tory lead here was 59-31 over Labour in the March by-election, rising to 67-21 in the May ordinary election.

The ballot paper has an unusual feature: the defending Conservative candidate is Anne Court, standing for re-election in the by-election caused by her own disqualification. She had been a Basingstoke councillor since 1995, and was Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane in 2015-16. Late last year Court had a routine knee operation which led to severe post-operative complications: a second operation and a prolonged recovery period saved her leg from being amputated, but it was a close-run thing and that prolonged recovery period meant that she fell foul of the six-month non-attendance rule. This column has seen a few examples of councillors standing for re-election in similar circumstances, and they do usually get back in; with the big Tory lead here and Court's long previous service for the ward this is likely to be another such case. Hoping that won't happen is Labour candidate Grant Donohoe, a teacher who stood in March's by-election and is hoping to go from second to first this time round. Completing the Kempshott ballot paper, as she did in March's by-election and May's ordinary election, is the Lib Dems' Stavroulla O'Doherty.

Parliamentary constituency: Basingstoke
Hampshire county council division: Basingstoke South West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Basingstoke
Postcode district: RG22

Anne Court (C)
Grant Donohoe (Lab)
Stavroulla O'Doherty (LD)

May 2018 result C 1298 Lab 412 LD 234
March 2018 by-election C 686 Lab 366 LD 113
May 2016 result C 1366 Lab 405 UKIP 348
May 2015 result C 2669 Lab 672 UKIP 517 LD 319 Grn 204
May 2014 result C 1302 UKIP 474 Lab 385 LD 171
May 2012 result C 1295 Lab 361 LD 165
May 2011 result C 1855 Lab 584 LD 289
May 2010 result C 2586 LD 887 Lab 647 BFCP 549
May 2008 result C 1683/1586/1560 Lab 278/251/197 LD 273/257/253


Bicester West

Cherwell council, Oxfordshire; postponed from 3rd May following the death of outgoing Conservative councillor Jolanta Lis, who was standing for re-election. The Mayor of Bicester in 2016-17, Lis was elected to Cherwell council in 2016 and at the time of her death was vice-chairman of the coucil.

From one fast-growing town we move to another. Bicester has an old history, being established by the West Saxons in the sixth century close to a junction of Roman roads; but its population has exploded since the Second World War. The town has benefited from improved road and rail links to Oxford and London, while its economy has diversified: as well as the local services and a military presence, the designer outlet shopping centre of Bicester Village opened in 1995 and has become mysteriously popular with tourists from the Far East. There are plans for further major expansion of the town, with 14,000 new homes in a garden city-type development; if these come to fruition Bicester could overtake Banbury to become the largest town in Cherwell district.

That population growth led to new ward boundaries for Cherwell council which came in in 2016, so it is difficult to compare with the 2011 census. However, the Bicester West ward of 2011 was the town's most working-class ward; and given that the 2016 boundary changes moved into the ward the town's most deprived census district, that's likely to be even more true now. The old Bicester West was close between the Tories and Labour in 2002, and the Conservatives lost a seat there in 2003 to Labour candidate Les Sibley. Sibley has clearly developed a huge personal vote: he was re-elected in 2007, 2011 and 2015 (by which election he had left Labour and gone independent). In 2016, the only previous result on the present boundaries, Sibley was re-elected at the top of the poll with an enormous 48%, almost 1,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival; the Conservative slate was second with 20% and won the ward's other two seats, with Labour polling 14%. Jolanta Lis was elected in third place and hence was due for re-election in May. Les Sibley is also the county councillor for most of the ward; a small part of this ward is included in the Tory-held county division of Bicester North.

This poll will complete the 2018 Cherwell council election. Defending for the Conservatives is their replacement candidate David Lydiat, an RSPB volunteer who is described by the party as a local community campaigner. Lydiat's main competition may well come from independent candidate John Broad, who has nominated by Les Sibley; Broad was the Labour candidate for the previous Bicester West ward in 2006 and 2010. The official Labour candidate is Stuart Moss, whose Twitter biography simply says "left handed". Make of that what you will. Completing the ballot paper are Mark Chivers for the Liberal Democrats and a candidate who wasn't on the original list for May's cancelled poll, Robert Nixon of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Banbury
Oxfordshire county council division: Bicester West (most), Bicester North (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford
Postcode district: OX26

John Broad (Ind)
Mark Chivers (LD)
David Lydiat (C)
Stuart Moss (Lab)
Robert Nixon (Grn)

May 2016 result Ind 1612/495 C 662/509/484 Lab 464/450/331 UKIP 453 Grn 194


Astwell; and
Whittlewood

South Northamptonshire council; caused respectively by the resignation of Simon Marinker, who is moving away from the area; and the disqualification of Lizzy Bowen, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months. Both were Conservative councillors who had served since 2015.

From Oxfordshire we move over the regional boundary into the East Midlands, but not very far - more South Midlands than East. Both Astwell and Whittlewood wards lie on the Northamptonshire-Buckinghamshire boundary either side of the village of Silverstone. Astwell is on the west side, covering four parishes between Silverstone and Brackley; Whittlewood is on the east side. Neither ward is named after its largest parish. The name Astwell derives from Astwell Castle, a manor house associated with the Earls Temple and the Marquesses of Buckingham, who were active in eighteenth-century British politics. Whittlewood, on the other hand, takes its name from the mediaeval hunting area of Whittlewood Forest, much of which still exists today; the ward's main centre of population is Potterspury, a village on the A5 Watling Street.

The boundaries of Astwell ward are unchanged since the formation of South Northamptonshire district in 1973. In the twelve ordinary elections since then the Conservatives have only lost the ward once, to the Liberal Democrats in 1995; and Astwell ward has frequently been left uncontested. The most recent election in 2015 was contested, the Tories beating Labour 78-22.

Whittlewood ward was formed in 1999 and has unchanged boundaries since then. It was held by Labour at its formation, but Labour lost the ward to the Tories in 2007 by the score of 73-27. Nobody has bothered to challenge the Conservatives here since.

At county level both wards are in safe Conservative divisions: Astwell is covered by the county councillor for Silverstone, while Whittlewood is part of Deanshanger division.

Defending Astwell from the blue corner is Paul Wiltshire, a Brackley town councillor. He is opposed from the red corner by Labour candidate Richard Solesbury-Timms, a train driver who came third in his home Middleton Cheney ward at a by-election two months ago. Neither candidate lives in the ward.

Another candidate associated with the rail industry is William Barter, defending Tory candidate for Whittlewood ward; Barter worked for British Rail for seventeen years and is now an independent rail planning consultant. He is opposed by Potterspury resident Abigail Medina of the Lib Dems and by Labour's Adrian Scandrett.

Astwell

Parliamentary constituency: South Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire county council division: Silverstone
ONS Travel to Work Area: Banbury
Postcode districts: NN12, NN13

Richard Solesbury-Timms (Lab)
Paul Wiltshire (C)

May 2015 result C 937 Lab 268
May 2011 result C 700 LD 137
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C unopposed
May 1999 result C 399 LD 234
May 1995 result LD 341 C 319
May 1991 result C unopposed
May 1987 result C 341 All 266
May 1983 result C unopposed
May 1979 result C unopposed
May 1976 result C unopposed
May 1973 result C 298 Ind 262

Whittlewood

Parliamentary constituency: South Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire county council division: Deanshanger
ONS Travel to Work Area: Milton Keynes
Postcode districts: MK19, NN12

William Barter (C)
Abigail Medina (LD)
Adrian Scandrett (Lab)

May 2015 result C unopposed
May 2011 result C unopposed
May 2007 result C 551 Lab 207
May 2003 result Lab 341 C 303
May 1999 result Lab 417 C 285


Quorn and Mountsorrel Castle

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor David Slater at the age of 70. A former senior manager for an industrial electronics firm, Slater was elected to Charnwood council in a 2001 by-election and was Leader of the Council from 2010 to 2017.

For our East Midlands by-election proper we travel to Leicestershire. The large village of Quorn, or Quorndon as it was known until the Post Office changed the name in 1889 (to avoid confusion with Quarndon in Derbyshire) can be found a few miles to the south-east of Loughborough, with Mountsorrel a little further on. This is an area with an interesting history and mix of industries. Quorn and Mountsorrel are built on granite, and quarrying is the traditional industry here. Mountsorrel is a Norman-French place name, and Hugh Lupus is recorded as building a castle here in 1080; that castle saw action during the Anarchy, but was destroyed in 1217 by Angevin forces during the First Barons' War, still raging despite the death of King John the previous year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OQ5iVdQh0s

In more recent times Quorn was known as a foxhunting centre: Hugo Meynell, the Father of Modern Foxhunting, bought Quorn Hall in 1753 and took over its hunt. Despite the abolition of foxhunting the Quorn Hunt is still going strong today, and has given its name to three Royal Navy ships and indeed the village itself. The presence of the hunt means there is still a large amount of open and green space in Quorn, and that - together with easy access to Loughborough and Leicester - led a property group in 2016 to name Quorn in its top five places in the UK to raise a family. The ward's census return certainly has a commuter profile to match.

Quorn also has a Tory-voting profile. Slater and his ward colleague Richard Shepherd had represented Quorn and Mountsorrel Castle ward since its creation in 2003 and had large majorities. In 2015 they beat the Labour slate 59-27. Most of the ward is within the Quorn and Barrow county division which had a similar result in last year's county elections. The late Councillor Slater also sat on Leicestershire county council, but for a different area which will poll next week.

Those who follow Charnwood by-elections closely will notice some familiar names on the candidate list. The Tories have indulged in some nominative determinism by selecting in this hunting ward Jane Hunt. Hunt was Tory candidate for Leicester East in the 2010 general election, failing to unseat Keith Vaz. (Apologies to any readers who may have been playing the Keith Vaz game.) At the time Hunt was a Charnwood councillor for Loughborough Nanpantan ward; she stood down in 2015 but tried to get back on the council last year by standing in the Loughborough Hastings by-election. That is a safe Labour area; this should be a safer berth for Hunt. Standing for Labour is Chris Hughes, who should not be confused with the Love Island star or Egghead of the same name. Completing the ballot paper are Andy McWilliam of UKIP, who returns from the 2015 election, and Marianne Gilbert of the Lib Dems. All four candidates give addresses in Quorn.

Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Quorn and Barrow (most); Rothley and Mountsorrel (Mountsorrel village)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE12

Marianne Gilbert (LD)
Chris Hughes (Lab)
Jane Hunt (C)
Andy McWilliam (UKIP)

May 2015 result C 2468/2296 Lab 1124/875 UKIP 575
May 2011 result C 1721/1465 Lab 784/637
May 2007 result C 1547/1451 Lab 498/452
May 2003 result C 1076/1021 Lab 501/353 LD 296


Birch

Fenland council, Cambridgeshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Green. Possibly better known as Dave Boy Green or the Fen Tiger, Green is a former professional boxer who retired from the ring in 1982 with a record of 37 wins (29 by knockout) and 4 losses. TWo of those losses were fights for the world welterweight title: the first against Carlos Palomino, the second against Sugar Ray Leonard. Green went on to become a successful businessman in his home town of Chatteris, and in 2012 was appointed MBE for charitable services, particularly to boxing in Cambridgeshire. He was elected to Fenland council in 2015, and is standing down on health grounds.

A market town that lacks quintessence
That's Chatteris without your presence
- Half Man Half Biscuit, For What is Chatteris...

Green represented Birch ward, which covers the eastern quarter of the town of Chatteris. We are deep in the Fens here, and Chatteris lies on one of the few islands of dry ground for miles in any direction. Most of the land surrounding the town is below sea level, but nevertheless has been drained and turned into rich farming ground; agriculture and related services form the bedrock of Chatteris' economy. There is also a weekly market here.

Fenland is a very Tory area and Birch ward is no exception to that. In 2015, the first contest on the ward's current boundaries, the Conservatives beat UKIP here 56-29. The wider Chatteris county division is also safe Tory.

Defending for the Conservatives is Ian Benney, a shopkeeper and Chatteris town councillor. With UKIP not standing, he is opposed by Helena Minton for the Lib Dems and independent candidate Steve Nicholson.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Chatteris
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huntingdon
Postcode district: PE16

Ian Benney (C)
Helena Minton (LD)
Steve Nicholson (Ind)

May 2015 result C 780 UKIP 405 LD 203


Lee Chapel North; and
Pitsea South East

Basildon council, Essex; caused respectively by the resignations of Labour councillor Alan Bennett and UKIP councillor José Carrion. Bennett was first elected in 2010, lost his seat in 2014 and regained it in 2015; he is resigning due to poor health. Carrion had served since 2016.

You wait years and years to write about a by-election to Basildon council, and then like buses two come along at once. According to Keith Edkins' list of council by-elections these are only the third and fourth by-elections in Basildon district since the current ward boundaries were introduced in 2002, and the last by-election here was in 2010. Part of this will be an effect of Basildon's thirds electoral system, which gives an opportunity in most years for vacancies to be combined with the ordinary May election.

Basildon was one of the first New Towns, and Lee Chapel North ward is one of the New Town-type developments: it covers the area between Laindon in the west and Basildon town centre in the east, and Laindon railway station lies on the ward boundary. The New Town origins are betrayed by Lee Chapel North's census return: it is in the top 20 wards in England and Wales for adults with "Level 1" qualifications (in real money, 1-5 GCSE passes or equivalent) and despite a few decades of Right to Buy over 40% of the households are still socially rented.

Not socially dissimilar, although generally with 1970s rather than 1950s housing, is Pitsea South East ward at the eastern end of the New Town. This ward extends beyond the town itself, incorporating the older villages of North Benfleet and Bowers Gifford, the Wat Tyler Country Park and a large area of marshland and landfill opposite Canvey Island. The A13 London-Southend dual carriageway and Pitsea railway station, a junction on the London-Southend line, link the ward to the big city.

Wat Tyler of course led the Peasant's Revolt, and a look at Basildon's electoral history brings to mind another Angry Mob, who "like who they like and hate who they hate but are also easily swayed". As a New Town Basildon has been noted for the volatility of its election results: only two years separated the 1992 and 1994 local elections in which the Conservatives first won every ward and then lost every ward. UKIP won eleven seats in the district in 2014, and lost them all last month.

Lee Chapel North is generally one of the most Labour-inclined wards in Basildon but the headline winner masks a large radical-right vote: the BNP were third at every election here from 2003 to 2008, and UKIP did well here while they were in their pomp. The Kippers won this ward in the 2014 local election, when two seats were up, and finished 70 votes short of picking up the final Labour seat in 2015. However, Labour recovered the UKIP seats in Lee Chapel North in 2016 and last month, when UKIP were a poor third and Labour beat the Tories 56-27.

Pitsea South East also has a UKIP history but is more complicated as it's traditionally a Tory-Labour marginal. The ward splt its three seats two to Labour and one to the Tories in 2002, but the Conservatives picked up the Labour seats in 2003 (by 54 votes) and 2006, and weren't much troubled then until 2012 with the rise of UKIP. Labour gained a seat in 2012 by 57 votes; UKIP then came through the middle in 2014 to beat Labour by 95 votes and turn the ward into a three-way marginal. The Conservatives held their last seat in 2015 by a majority of 204 over UKIP; in 2016 UKIP's José Carrion gained the Labour seat by just 20 votes. Last May's Pitsea South East election was a double vacancy, with the Tories and UKIP defending one seat each: and it was Conservatives who narrowly emerged victorious, polling 46% to 39% for Labour, and winning both seats with majorities of 157 and 124 votes.

So, lots to chew over here. Defending Lee Chapel North for Labour is Kayode Adeniran, a law trainee and Citizens Advice volunteer. Another young candidate on the ballot is 23-year-old Spencer Warner, whose Twitter page - which at the time of writing has a large masthead of Margaret Thatcher - might give a clue that he's the Conservative candidate. Also on the ballot are Frank Ferguson, the UKIP councillor for this ward who lost his seat in May and wants it back; and Christine Winter for the BNP.

Pitsea South East has a shorter ballot paper of three candidates. Defending for UKIP - a phrase this column doesn't write so much any more for some reason - is Richard Morris who was top of the UKIP slate here in May. Hoping to strengthen the new Tory majority on Basildon council is Yetunde Adeshile; according to her website she is an author, coach, speaker and consultant who works extensively with young people, women and BAME people in Basildon. Completing the ballot paper is May's runner-up Andrew Ansell, a political consultant.

Lee Chapel North

Parliamentary constituency: Basildon and Billericay
Essex county council division: Basildon Laindon Park and Fryerns
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend
Postcode district: SS15

Kayode Adeniran (Lab)
Frank Ferguson (UKIP)
Spencer Warner (C)
Christine Winter (BNP)

May 2018 result Lab 1160 C 552 UKIP 369
May 2016 result Lab 1003 UKIP 814 C 363 Ind 26
May 2015 result Lab 1895 UKIP 1825 C 1131 LD 215
May 2014 double vacancy UKIP 983/924 Lab 922/919 C 329/263 LD 99/91 National Front 80
May 2012 result Lab 1048 UKIP 359 C 343 National Front 107 LD 85
May 2011 result Lab 1408 C 740 National Front 244 LD 173
May 2010 result Lab 1818 C 1649 LD 855 BNP 536
May 2008 result Lab 972 C 604 BNP 358 LD 160 Grn 126
May 2007 result Lab 875 C 628 BNP 361 LD 218 Grn 134
May 2006 result Lab 1009 C 610 BNP 560 LD 212 Grn 153
June 2004 result Lab 996 C 604 BNP 519 LD 261 Grn 145 Respect 57
May 2003 result Lab 766 C 434 BNP 285 LD 207 Grn 114 Ind 80
May 2002 result Lab 1165/1159/1085 C 530/518/515 LD 241/229/214 Socialist Alliance 93

Pitsea South East

Parliamentary constituency: South Basildon and East Thurrock
Essex county council division: Basildon Pitsea
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend
Postcode districts: SS7, SS12, SS13, SS16

Yetunde Adeshile (C)
Andrew Ansell (Lab)
Richard Morris (UKIP)

May 2018 double vacancy C 1165/1132 Lab 1008/952 UKIP 283/243 Democrats & Veterans 101
May 2016 result UKIP 811 Lab 791 C 668
May 2015 result C 1841 UKIP 1637 Lab 1572 LD 177
May 2014 result UKIP 1061 Lab 966 C 709 LD 63
May 2012 result Lab 933 C 876 UKIP 375 LD 91
May 2011 result C 1197 Lab 1056 LD 384 LD 110
May 2010 result C 1973 Lab 1577 LD 576 UKIP 422 BNP 417
May 2008 result C 1255 Lab 604 BNP 383 LD 171
May 2007 result C 1151 Lab 767 BNP 375 UKIP 174
May 2006 result C 1579 Lab 1095
June 2004 result C 1199 Lab 722 BNP 526 LD 275
May 2003 result C 771 Lab 717 BNP 332 LD 169 Ind 87 Grn 61
May 2002 result Lab 1142/1007/944 C 1120/1001/995


Oxhey

Watford council, Hertfordshire; caused by the election of Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Taylor as Mayor of Watford in the May ordinary elections. He had served as a councillor since 2012.

We now come to the edge of London. Oxhey is a suburb, but it's not entirely clear whether it's a London suburb or a Watford suburb. It's immediately to the south of Watford town centre but divided from it by the River Colne valley, and Oxhey's original development wasn't much to do with Watford at all. Oxhey grew in the 1830s, housing workers on the London and Birmingham Railway during its construction, and much of its housing stock still dates from that era. The railway remains the lifeblood of the local economy by enabling commuting, as there are fast and slow trains to London from a mainline station in the centre of the ward. Confusingly, that railway station is not called Oxhey, but Bushey after a town a mile away to the east.

That's not the only confusing thing about Watford, which turned Lib Dem at local level around 2000 in a big way but whose parliamentary seat has been Labour or Conservative throughout that time. Watford moved to the elected mayoral system in 2002, with Lib Dem Dorothy Thornhill winning easily; Thornhill was re-elected three times before retiring as Mayor in May, and now sits in the Lords. Peter Taylor held the Watford mayoralty for the Lib Dems in May easily, leading 49-34 over Labour on first preferences and increasing his lead to 62-38 in the runoff. At the same time the Lib Dems led even more emphatically in Taylor's ward, Oxhey, beating the Conservatives 59-23. They also hold the local county council division.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Imran Hamid, a former building manager who came to Watford from Pakistan, where he had been a police officer in Kashmir. The Watford Conservatives are hoping that electrician Joseph Gornicki will connect with the electorate; he was the runner-up here in May. Also returning from May's election is Labour's Sue Sleeman, who completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Watford
Hertfordshire county council division: Central Watford and Oxhey (almost all), West Watford (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton
Postcode district: WD17, WD18, WD19, WD23

Joseph Gornicki (C)
Imran Hamid (LD)
Sue Sleeman (Lab)

May 2018 result LD 1432 C 570 Lab 432
May 2016 result LD 1307/1256/1247 Lab 338/312/243 C 308/275/230 Grn 231 TUSC 69


Willesden Green

Brent council, North London; postponed from 3rd May following the death of outgoing Labour councillor Lesley Jones, who was standing for re-election, at the age of 77. Jones was first elected to Brent council in 1998, and was appointed MBE in June 2015 during her year as Mayor of Brent.

We finish in the capital for the final piece of unfinished business from the 2018 local elections. Willesden Green can be found 5 miles to the north-west of Charing Cross, and is one of the many suburbs which grew up along the railway arteries from the centre of London. In this case the railway was the Metropolitan Railway, now the Jubilee Line, whose Willesden Green and Dollis Hill stations lie on the northern boundary of the ward. Willesden Green underground station opened in November 1879, and by 1906 the population of Willesden parish had increased more than sixfold. The Metropolitan Railway took a look at that population growth and increased season ticket revenue and liked what they saw, and they repeated the trick with suburbs further out around Harrow and beyond - the area still sometimes called "Metroland".

Metroland may have been strictly commuter, but Willesden had industry of its own and people came from all over Britain and the world to staff its factories. That pattern is still in place today: in the 2011 census Willesden Green was in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for population born in the Republic of Ireland, in the top 25 for those with non-UK qualifications, in the top 40 for the White Other ethnic group and in the top 70 for mixed-race population. Like the World Cup, there is a veritable galaxy of nations represented here. However, there are suggestions that this picture may now be a little out of date: the ward has seen large population growth and property price rises since the last census, as estate agents and others cash in on the area's close proximity to middle-class areas like Brondesbury Park.

That gentrification hasn't yet been reflected in the ward's election results. The current ward boundaries were introduced in 2002 at which point this was a very safe Labour ward whose result contained little of interest. The then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who until the previous year had represented most of the ward in Parliament, would have approved.

Livingstone's successor as MP for Brent East was Paul Daisley, who had been a notably effective leader of Brent council. Unfortunately Daisley was in poor health by the time of his election to Parliament, and he died in 2003 from colorectal cancer, aged just 45. The resulting parliamentary by-election was a famous Liberal Democrat victory, and the yellow machine followed up by becoming the largest party on Brent council in the 2006 election. One of the wards which returned Lib Dem councillors was Willesden Green, where the party jumped from fourth to first and won two out of three seats, only Lesley Jones surviving for Labour. The 2-1 split was repeated in 2010, but after that the Lib Dem machine in Brent ran out of steam. In 2014 Labour regained all three seats, polling 43% to 21% for Alex Colas, an independent running under the label "Make Willesden Green", and just 16% for the Liberal Democrats. The 2016 London Assembly elections show Labour tightening their grip on Willesden Green: Sadiq Khan beat the Tories' Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes by 57-20, while in the London Members ballot Labour led with 53% to 15% for the Conservatives and 9% for the Greens.

This poll will complete the 2018 Brent local elections which currently stand at 57 seats to Labour against 3 for the Conservatives. Hoping to make that a 60-3 split are the defending Labour slate. Elliot Chappell, a parliamentary assistant to the Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, has been selected to replace Lesley Jones, and he joins outgoing councillor Tom Miller - seeking re-election for a second term - and new candidate Fleur Donnelly-Jackson, an artist. Alex Colas has not returned for a second go at making Willesden Green. The Lib Dem slate is Felicity Dunn, Ulla Thiessen - a tour guide who came to London in 1971 from her native Schleswig-Holstein - and Christopher Wheatley. Completing the ballot paper are the Green slate of Shaka Lish, Peter Murry and William Relton, and the Conservative slate of Ali al-Jawad (who finished last in this ward in 2014), Shahin Chowdhury and Harry Goodwill.

Parliamentary constituency: Brent Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: NW2, NW10

Ali al-Jawad (C)
Elliot Chappell (Lab)
Shahin Chowdhury (C)
Fleur Donnelly-Jackson (Lab)
Felicity Dunn (LD)
Harry Goodwill (C)
Shaka Lish (Grn)
Tom Miller (Lab)
Peter Murry (Grn)
William Relton (Grn)
Ulla Thiessen (LD)
Christopher Wheatley (LD)

May 2014 result Lab 1730/1628/1446 Make Willesden Green 846 LD 638/480/425 Grn 531/520 C 281/267/251
May 2010 result LD 1860/1753/1698 Lab 1808/1629/1499 C 499/447/398 Grn 454/414/360
May 2006 result LD 1206/1178/1080 Lab 1108/992/977 Grn 396 C 234/233/231
May 2002 result Lab 1033/978/855 C 348/299/273 Grn 246/211 LD 234/199/173

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1778 C 637 Grn 196 LD 159 Respect 96 Women's Equality 93 UKIP 55 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 44 Britain First 34 BNP 21 Zylinski 21 One Love 11
London Members: Lab 1685 C 483 Grn 270 LD 222 Women's Equality 152 UKIP 92 Respect 91 CPA 52 Animal Welfare 46 Britain First 36 BNP 26 House Party 16


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Previews: 14 Jun 2018

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

Two council by-elections on 14th June 2018:


London Bridge and West Bermondsey

Southwark council, London; postponed from 3rd May following the death of Toby Eckersley, who had been nominated on the Conservative slate. Eckersley was a long-standing former Southwark councillor, first being elected for Ruskin ward in a September 1977 by-election; with a break from 1986 to 1990, he sat for Ruskin and later Village ward on Southwark council until losing his seat in 2014.

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
- T S Eliot, The Waste Land

Assuming that the trains are running, we catch the train from Grove Park in Zone 4 (for now) to London Bridge in Zone 1. This is where London began, the heart of it all. The first London Bridge was a Roman one, built as part of their first-century road-building programme to shortcut the route from the Channel Ports to their original capital at Camulodunum - the modern Colchester. As the lowest bridge on the Thames, it was natural for two trading and shipping settlements to spring up at either end: Londinium on the north bank, and what is now Southwark on the south bank.

The early London Bridges were timber, susceptible to being damaged or destroyed by war or natural disaster, and chronically unable to handle the traffic demand placed upon them. In the late twelfth century, Henry II - trying to rebuild his reputation following the murder of Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury - commissioned a new bridge in stone with a chapel in the middle dedicated to St Thomas. The Chapel of St Thomas on the Bridge became the starting point for pilgrimages to Thomas' shrine in Canterbury Cathedral, and from then on Southwark had a tourist trade to add to everything else going on there.

Which was rather a lot. Despite damage in the Peasants' Revolt and the rebellion of Jack Cade, whose severed head turned up on a pike at the southern end of the bridge shortly afterwards pour encourager les autres, London Bridge was a destination in its own right. There were all sorts of buildings on it to obstruct flow of the traffic on top, while the narrow stone arches obstructed the flow of the water below to such an extent that the river on the upstream side was prone to freezing over in winter. Hence the famous "frost fairs".

The 1830s changed all that. A new London Bridge, designed by John Rennie and consisting of five arches, was erected 100 feet upstream of the original one; the old bridge was then demolished. Because of the new alignment new approach roads were needed which, given the price of land in London even then, cost three times as much as the actual bridge. Central government had to pick up some of the tab. This is the London Bridge which was sold to the Americans in 1968 and replaced by the bridge which stands today; contrary to urban legend, the Americans knew exactly what they were buying.

By the 1830s it was certainly high time for the old bridge to be replaced, for Southwark was a major centre. St Thomas of Canterbury gave his name to a hospital in Southwark (since moved to Lambeth opposite the Houses of Parliament) and still here is Guy's Hospital, founded in 1721 by Thomas Guy who had been one of the few people to make a fortune out of the South Sea Bubble. The Pool of London, which had its western end at London Bridge, filled both the north and south riverbanks with wharves and commerce for miles from the city downstream - HMS Belfast, a cruiser moored in the Thames as a floating museum, is the only remaining vestige of this within this ward. And then the railway came. Despite its shining new rebuilt appearance, London Bridge railway station dates from 1836 making it the oldest London terminus and one of the oldest and busiest railway stations in the world; an impressive viaduct carrying eleven parallel tracks links the station with destinations in south London, Surrey and Kent. John Davidson's turn-of-the-century complaint about London Bridge station might no longer be relevant...

Inside the station, everything's so old,
So inconvenient, of such manifold
Perplexity, and, as a mole might see,
So strictly what a station shouldn't be,
That no idea minifies its crude
And yet elaborate ineptitude.

...but Thameslink commuters through the station can no doubt replace this with their own particular definition of crude and yet elaborate ineptitude. Maybe Heidi Alexander can sort it out.

The shiny new London Bridge station is just one of the shiny new buildings which litter this corner of Southwark. In 2002 the Greater London Authority moved into a testicular glass building on the riverbank, City Hall; and in 2012 construction finished on a building which English Heritage had objected to at the planning stage as "a shard of glass through the heart of historic London". The Shard is (for the moment) the tallest building in the European Union, standing 1,016 feet high; for purposes of comparison, that is the same height as the Winter Hill TV mast above Bolton.

Shiny new buildings indeed; but what of the people who live around them? Well, it might not surprise to find that this not exactly an affluent area, although population turnover means that relying on statistics from a census taken seven years ago can be problematic. For example, the census district immediately to the south of London Bridge station saw population growth of over 30% between 2011 and 2014. One corner of the ward turned up with a large Filipino population in the census, which is a feature often seen in the vicinity of major hospitals.

The high population growth also makes things difficult to compare because it meant that Southwark council got new ward boundaries in the May 2018 election. London Bridge and West Bermondsey is one of those brand new wards, mostly based on the old Grange ward (the Grange here referring to the former Bermondsey Abbey) together with part of the more yuppie Riverside ward. In 2011 Southwark Riverside was in the top 25 wards in England and Wales for the 30-44 age bracket, the top 60 for population born in the pre-2004 EU states, the top 80 wards in England and Wales for "higher management" occupations and the top 100 wards for full-time employment. Southwark Grange wasn't quite so extreme but still had a large professional cohort. Yet both wards also turn up with substantial amounts of social housing.

An interesting social mix indeed; and trying to translate this into political runes is made even more difficult by the fact that this is Southwark. Simon Hughes represented this corner of London for over two decades in the Liberal and then Lib Dem interest, and while he may be off the scene now his political machine appears to be still in fairly good working order. This election will complete the 2018 Southwark council election which currently stands at 49 Labour and 11 Lib Dem councillors - those Lib Dem councillors include full slates in the neighbouring wards of Borough and Bankside, and North Bermondsey which are not too socially dissimilar.

Looking at the two predecessor wards, the old Grange ward had a full slate of Lib Dem councillors until 2014 when Labour gained one of the three seats. Shares of the vote that year were 29% each for Labour and the Lib Dems, and 14% each for the Conservatives and UKIP. Riverside was a safe Lib Dem ward; in 2014 the Lib Dems had 40% to 20% for Labour, 15% for the Conservatives and 12% for the Greens. In the 2016 GLA elections both wards voted for Sadiq Khan as Mayor, Grange being 50% Khan, 21% for Zac Goldsmith (C) and 11% for Caroline Pidgeon (LD) and Riverside splitting 43% Khan, 26% Goldsmith and 14% Pidgeon; in the London Members ballot Labour carried Grange with 41% (to 17% for the Conservatives, 15% for the Lib Dems and 11% for the Greens) and Riverside with just 33% (to 21% for the Conservatives, 20% for the Lib Dems and 10% for the Greens).

Game on, you might say. In listing the candidates I'll start with the Lib Dem slate where New Zealand-born Damian O'Brien, outgoing councillor for Grange ward and deputy leader of Southwark's Lib Dem group, is seeking re-election for a second term of office. He is joined on the Lib Dem slate by Humaira Ali (who according to her biography specialises in change management) and William Houngbo (a businessman who was born in West Africa and raised in France). The Labour slate is John Batteson (works for a children's charity), Julie Eyles (employment law solicitor) and Edward McDonagh (works for an education charity). Hannah Ginnett has been nominated to replace the late Toby Eckersley, and she joins on the Tory slate Nathan Newport Gay and Richard Packer. Completing the ballot paper is a two-man Green slate of Bernard Creely and Claude Werner. With UKIP not standing, those are your eleven candidates for the three available seats.

Parliamentary constituency: Bermondsey and Old Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SE1, SE16

Humaira Ali (LD)
John Batteson (Lab)
Bernard Creely (Grn)
Julie Eyles (Lab)
Hannah Ginnett (C)
William Houngbo (LD)
Edward McDonagh (Lab)
Nathan Newport Gay (C)
Damian O'Brien (LD)
Richard Packer (C)
Claude Werner (Grn)

No previous results on these boundaries


Town

Doncaster council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor John McHale on health grounds. He had served since 2006, sitting for Central ward until 2015 and this ward since then.

We come out of the Great Wen to finish in another town founded by the Romans. Doncaster lies at a crossing point of the River Don, on a secondary route between Lincoln and York which avoided the Humber crossing at Brough. The Romans built a fort to protect the Don crossing, with the name Danum. Replace the Roman road with the Great North Road, and the Great North Road with the A1, and Doncaster remains today an important communications centre: it's a junction and major station on the East Coast railway line, and distribution centres and warehouses litter the outskirts of the town. Donny was an industrial centre from the eighteenth century thanks to its transport links together with substantial coal reserves under the town. Tourist money is brought here by Doncaster Racecourse, home of the classic horse race the St Leger each September.

Running from the town centre to the racecourse, Town ward was created by boundary changes in 2015 and has no direct predecessor: it took areas from the former Wheatley, Town Moor and Central wards. All three of those wards had elected Lib Dem councillors at some point before the Coalition years, but by 2014 Labour had a full slate. That carried over to the new Town ward, which voted Labour in 2015 with UKIP in second. UKIP didn't stand in the 2017 election and that produced a very interesting result: Labour held the ward with 39%, but finishing as runner-up was Chris Whitwood, deputy leader of the Yorkshire Party, who had 26%. The Conservatives were third with 21%. Whitwood was simultaneously the Yorkshire Party candidate for Mayor of Doncaster in 2017, coming fifth in that election across the borough and narrowly saving his deposit.

Defending for Labour is an interesting choice of candidate. In an age when every Labour selection seems to be graded on a binary scale of Corbynite or otherwise, Tosh McDonald is as Corbynite as they get: he is the president of the ASLEF railway union, although with his long white hair and biker tattoos McDonald is probably not what you expected a union boss to look like. Returning from last year is Chris Whitwood of the Yorkshire Party; for the benefit of those readers who are not from the wrong side of the Pennines, this is a serious regionalist movement campaigning for a devolved Yorkshire Parliament, and the party put up 21 candidates and qualified for a regional TV debate in last year's general election. The Tories have selected Carol Greenhalgh, who works on various government research studies in child care and education, following a long career as a teacher. Also standing are Julie Buckley for the Green Party, independent candidate Gareth Pendry and Ian Smith of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Doncaster Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Doncaster
Postcode districts: DN1, DN2, DN4, DN5

Julie Buckley (Grn)
Carol Greenhalgh (C)
Tosh McDonald (Lab)
Gareth Pendry (Ind)
Ian Smith (LD)
Chris Whitwood (Yorks Party)

May 2017 result Lab 1818/1677/1603 Yorks Party 1195 C 1003 Grn 637
May 2015 result Lab 2662/2633/2591 UKIP 1500/1452 C 1306 Grn 972 TUSC 394/296


Previews: 07 Jun 2018

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

We are one year on from the snap general election, and there are three by-elections on Thursday 7th June 2018. All of them are Conservative defences contested only by the three main parties. Read on...

Cranmore

Mid Devon council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Clarissa Slade who had served since 2015.

It's now eleven years since the age of candidacy in the UK was cut from 21 to 18, and there are regular calls for this age to be cut further as an offshoot of the Votes at 16 debate. The arguments are familiar. The usual argument against extremely young councillors is that they might not be experienced enough to handle elected office; but the experience of under-21 councillors over the last decade doesn't seem to this observer to bear out that criticism. This column discussed an extreme example a few weeks ago for the ward covering the University of Lancaster campus, which is over 90% university students and quite naturally elected three university students to office in 2015; none of them finished their term, but that's more to do with the unique nature of the ward than the pressures of elected office per se. There are some truly outstanding young councillors out there. Let me point to Jack Brereton, the youngest member of the Conservative intake at the 2017 election: first stood for election at 18, elected to Stoke-on-Trent council at 19, a member of the city council cabinet at 23, a parliamentary by-election candidate at 25, an MP at 26. The former SNP MP Callum McCaig was elected to Aberdeen council at 22 and became leader of the city council at 26.

In the end, if you're good enough you're old enough, and the Mid Devon branch of the Conservatives clearly subscribed to that view when they selected Clarissa Slade for the 2015 local elections. Born on 25th February 1997, she was elected to Mid Devon district council and Tiverton town council on 7th May 2015 at the age of 18 years and 71 days. It's always difficult to keep track of these things, but she was reported at the time to be the UK's youngest councillor. The following September Clarissa accepted a place reading Classics at the University of Winchester, and combined her studies and life in Winchester with her democratic duties in Devon and with starting to follow the traditional career path for someone who wants to get noticed and climb the greasy pole. The local MP, Neil Parish, talked of her drive, ambition and hard work, commenting that politics ran in her blood and veins - appropriate given that Clarissa's parents are both councillors themselves. Councillor Colin Slade, her father, said that her long-term ambition was to be Prime Minister. By all accounts, she was going the right way about it.

On 26th March 2018, councillor Clarissa Slade was found dead at her university home in Winchester. She was 21 years old and in the third year of her degree, and reportedly had been awaiting the results of heart tests. Her death was widely reported at the time because of her age - she is, by a very long way, the youngest councillor whose death has been marked by this column. Reading those press reports it's clear that we lost a bright young prospect who was well thought-of and could have gone very far indeed. Quite how far can forever be only conjecture; to quote her father Colin, to whom I'll give the last word, "who knows what she could have achieved"?

Clarissa Slade's ward was Cranmore, the south-eastern of the four wards covering the town of Tiverton, running from the banks of the Exe along the Grand Western Canal. The ward name recalls Cranmore Castle, an Iron Age earthwork which overlooks the town. The 2011 census picked up a significant Polish community close to the town centre, while manufacturing and administration are important industries. A local issue reported here recently is a militant swan living on the canal, which attacks canoeists and has apparently sunk a kayak.

Located about fifteen miles north of Exeter, Tiverton grew thanks to textiles, and one of Cranmore ward's thoroughfares - Heathcoat Way - recalls the industrialist John Heathcoat. Heathcoat came to Tiverton to escape Luddite attacks on his previous Derbyshire base, and brought with him a lace-making industry. That local influence enabled Heathcoat to become one of the Whig MPs for Tiverton, which even after the 1832 Reform Act was a notorious rotten borough. A flavour of this can be found in the 1847 election here, in which Heathcoat's running-mate was none other than Lord Palmerston, then foreign secretary. Palmerston's re-election was challenged by the Chartist leader George Julian Harney, who according to Friedrich Engels won the hustings on a show of hands. But Palmerston called for a ballot; Harney, knowing he had no chance of winning a poll among the borough's electorate, was forced to withdraw.

Things are a bit different here these days, of course. Cranmore ward is traditionally a Lib Dem-Tory fight: the Lib Dems won all three seats here in 2007, but lost one to the Conservatives in 2011. One of the remaining Lib Dem councillors, Kevin Wilson, was then found guilty of benefit fraud and ended up with a 10-week suspended prison sentence - not long enough to disqualify him from office and he stood for re-election in 2015 as an independent. The Lib Dems didn't defend their remaining seat in the ward and the way was clear for the Conservatives to pick up all three seats in the 2015 election. The Tory slate had 47% of the vote, but a lot of that was a personal vote for their outgoing councillor Sue Griggs who topped the poll; Slade was elected in third place with a majority of just 35 votes over independent candidate Leslie Cruwys who had 31%. Wilson finished fifth, ahead of the Labour slate which polled 23%. It would appear that Wilson is back in the Lib Dem fold now, not that that did him much good - he was their defending candidate for the local Tiverton East division in the 2017 Devon county elections, but the Tories' Colin Slade gained the seat from the Lib Dems by the margin of 42-30.

In defending this by-election the Tories have turned from youth to experience. Their candidate Lance Kennedy is a former police officer who served four times as Mayor of Bodmin in Cornwall; he was a Cornwall councillor for Bodmin East division from 2009 to 2013 and sat on the council's cabinet. Even more experienced is Leslie Cruwys, who was first elected in 1972 to the former Tiverton urban district council; he was runner-up here in the 2015 election, has since been co-opted to Tiverton town council and this time is standing with the Lib Dem nomination. Another town councillor and independent candidate returning is Steve Bush, who finished last here in 2015 and this time is the Labour candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Tiverton and Honiton
Devon county council division: Tiverton East (most), Tiverton West (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter
Postcode district: EX16

Steve Bush (Lab)
Les Cruwys (LD)
Lance Kennedy (C)

May 2015 result C 1102/848/766 Ind 731/625/481 Lab 533/503
May 2011 result C 728/611/589 LD 675/647/575
May 2007 result LD 663/635/622 C 520/510 UKIP 453
May 2003 result C 519/456 LD 440/285/281 UKIP 351 Lab 295/230/187


Benson and Crowmarsh

South Oxfordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Richard Pullen who had served since 2015. He resigned due to political differences with Jane Murphy, who has recently taken over as leader of the council's Conservative group.

For our south-eastern by-election we are in rural Oxfordshire on the left bank of the River Thames, opposite the town of Wallingford on the far bank. Benson is a village with a lot of history: there are prehistoric remains here, and in 573 the West Saxons established here a royal vill - an administrative centre for the local area. The vill was surrendered to Offa of Mercia in the 770s, and by the time of the 1086 Domesday survey Benson was the richest royal manor in Oxfordshire. Charles I held court here during the Civil War, and in the eighteenth century Benson was an important staging post on the route from London to Oxford. The coming of the railway, which bypassed the area, led to economic and population decline; but Benson these days is a commuter village for the Oxfordshire towns, with professional and scientific occupations being strongly represented.

However, that's not the main industry here. Included within the ward is RAF Benson, opened in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of war and still very much in Air Force use today. The airfield saw much action in the war, and Polish and Czechoslovak airmen who were based here are buried in the village churchyard. That church has a clock tower with a clockface that shows two number 11s (the number 9 was mispainted as "XI") and during the war the broadcaster and noted passport fraudster William "Lord Haw Haw" Joyce promised an airraid on "an airfield near the village whose clock had two elevens". RAF Benson was duly bombed shortly afterwards. Away from military use, Benson is in a frost hollow and regularly records unusually low temperatures.

This ward was created in 2015, being based on the former two-seat Benson ward which had rather different boundaries. The 2015 result showed large personal votes for Conservative councillor Felix Bloomfield, who topped the poll, and Lib Dem Susan Cooper who is a former district councillor for Benson ward; both ran a long way ahead of their respective running-mates. The vote shares - 47% for the Conservatives, 30% for the Lib Dems, 13% for the Greens - should probably be seen in that context. Not that the Tories have it all their own way here: at Oxfordshire county level most of the ward is within the Benson and Cholsey division, which elected an independent county councillor in 2017.

Defending or the Conservatives is Domenic Papa, from Benson. The Lib Dem candidate is the aforementioned Sue Cooper who was runner-up here in 2015. There is no Green candidate this time, so completing the ballot paper is Labour's William Sorenson.

Parliamentary constituency: Henley
Oxfordshire county council division: Benson and Cholsey (Benson and Crowmarsh parishes), Berinsfield and Garsington (Shillingford parish), Chalgrove and Watlington (Ewelme parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford (Benson, Ewelme and Shillingford parishes), Reading (Crowmarsh parish)
Postcode districts: OX10, OX49

Sue Cooper (LD)
Domenic Papa (C)
William Sorenson (Lab)

May 2015 result C 2247/1770 LD 1457/618 Grn 606 Lab 513/480


Crown

East Staffordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Stephen Smith who had served since 2015.

Our final poll of the week is another rural ward in the lower Dove valley. Crown ward lies on the Staffordshire side of the valley, roughly halfway between Burton-on-Trent and Uttoxeter. This is a ward of three parishes: in population terms the largest is Marchington, but the census return here is affected by the presence of the private Dovegate prison which can hold up to 1,060 inmates and is the ward's largest employer. The Notice of Poll shows that the largest village in electorate terms is Draycott in the Clay, which clings to the valley side along the A515 Lichfield-Ashbourne road.

Don't bet against a Tory hold here. In 2015 the Conservatives polled 79% in Crown ward against only Labour opposition; at Staffordshire county level most of the ward is in the Uttoxeter Rural division which also voted 79% Conservative in 2017.

Defending for the Conseratives is Gordon Marjoram, a chartered accountant and Marchington parish councillor. He is opposed by Labour's William Walker and the ward's first Lib Dem candidate this century, Michael Pettingale.

Parliamentary constituency: Burton
Staffordshire county council division: Uttoxeter Rural (Draycott in the Clay and Marchington parishes), Dove (Hanbury parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burton upon Trent
Postcode districts: DE6, DE13, ST14

Gordon Marjoram (C)
Michael Pettingale (LD)
William Walker (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1249 Lab 325
May 2011 result C 901 Lab 238
May 2007 result C 719 Lab 128 BNP 117
May 2003 result C 565 Ind 385 Lab 159


Preview: 25 May 2018

One poll on Friday 25th May 2018:

Glascote

Tamworth council, Staffordshire; postponed from 3rd May due to the death of Sarah Walters, who had been nominated as the Green Party candidate.

For an unusual Friday poll we are in the Staffordshire town of Tamworth. Tamworth is not a New Town but in many respects it resembles one: the town has expanded greatly since the 1960s, and one of the first areas to be developed was what's now Glascote ward in the east of the town. This is Tamworth's most deprived ward, and in 2011 it made the top 15 wards in England and Wales for adults with Level 1 qualifications (1-4 GCSE passes or equivalent). Social renting is high and working-class socioeconomic groups are strongly represented.

Another way Tamworth resembles a New Town is that it has volatile voting patterns - and, being in the Midlands, it is strongly trending towards the political right. Labour are still generally in the ascendancy in Glascote ward but haven't had it all their own way: the Conservatives won here in 2008 and came within 30 votes of Labour in 2015. A more potent threat to Labour comes from councillor Chris Cooke, who held a seat here as an independent councillor from 2003 to 2015; he stood down that year but returned to the council in 2016, winning Glascote ward with the UKIP nomination. Shares of the vote in 2016 were 37% for UKIP, 31% for Labour and 27% for the Conservatives.

Omens since 2016 look good for the Conservatives. They won both of the county divisions covering this ward in the 2017 county elections, gaining Amington division from Labour (by 15 votes) and Stonydelph division from Cooke who didn't seek re-election. The Tamworth constituency swung to the Conservatives in June 2017, and earlier this month in the Tamworth borough elections the Tories won eight of the nine Tamworth wards up for election, making a net gain of two seats.

This delayed poll will complete Tamworth's 2018 borough elections by pitting two outgoing councillors against each other. Hoping that Glascote's voters are people who need Peaple is the defending Labour candidate Simon Peaple, who is seeking re-election for a fourth term of office; he was first elected in 2006 and was leader of the council's Labour group going into May's elections. Also seeking re-election is Conservative councillor Allan Lunn, who has represented the town's Castle ward since 2010 but is trying his luck here this time. The UKIP candidate is Dennis Box, who was runner-up in Bolehall ward in the 2016 borough elections. Completing the ballot paper is the replacement Green candidate, Kevin Jones.

Parliamentary constituency: Tamworth
Staffordshire county council division: Stonydelph (part), Amington (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham
Postcode district: B77

Dennis Box (UKIP)
Kevin Jones (Grn)
Allan Lunn (C)
Simon Peaple (Lab)

May 2016 result UKIP 544 Lab 448 C 386 Ind 77
May 2015 result Lab 1003 C 973 UKIP 927 Grn 154
May 2014 result Lab 853 C 651
May 2012 result Lab 588 Ind 436 C 267
May 2011 result Ind 702 Lab 636 sC 419
May 2010 result Lab 1387 C 1140 Grn 447
May 2008 result C 675 Lab 634
May 2007 result Ind 587 Lab 467 C 381
May 2006 result Lab 728 C 630
June 2004 result Lab 593 Ind 568 C 369
May 2003 result Ind 576 Lab 370 C 186
May 2002 result Lab 566/518/507 Ind 416 C 278/277/234


Previews: 24 May 2018

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

A quick entry for Correction Corner before we start this week. Rather to my surprise given its excellent teaching reputation, Lancaster University is not, as I stated last week, a member of the Russell Group. Thanks to the several people who contacted me on Twitter to point that out.

There are six polls on 24th May 2018, one of which is unfinished business from earlier this month. That's a Labour defence in Stockport which looks safe, as do Conservative defences in the Lincolnshire and Sussex countryside. But there is plenty of interest in the other three polls: a residents group will attempt to hold onto a seat in a Surrey town which has been recently taken over by localism, and we have two polls in marginal Conservative versus Liberal Democrat wards. Later we'll discuss the Tory defence in Norfolk, but let's start the week with the Lib Dem defence in a rich part of a big city. Read on...


Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze

Bristol council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Clare Campion-Smith. She had served since 2006, representing Henleaze ward until 2016 and this ward since then. Campion-Smith was Lord Mayor of Bristol in 2015-16, and served twice in the city's cabinet; a former maths teacher, as cabinet member for children's services she was instrumental in creating 10,000 new primary school places in Bristol. She was also the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Bristol North West constituency at the 2015 general election. Campion-Smith is standing down on health grounds after being diagnosed with a lung condition.

We start the week in the largest city and the cultural centre of the West of England. Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze ward is an affluent northern suburb of Bristol, about three miles from the city centre. This area arguably predates Bristol: in Saxon times there was a monastery at Westbury-on-Trym. The monastery became a college in the 13th century and was largely destroyed in the Civil War: the Royalist commander Prince Rupert of the Rhine had used it as his headquarters, and when he left he had the buildings set on fire to prevent the Parliamentarians making use of it.

The area was mostly developed for housing in the Victorian and inter-war period as Bristol expanded, and is and has always been a favoured area of Bristol's rich and educated people. Westbury-on-Trym in particular has some of the city's most expensive housing, and still has the feel of a village which the city has swallowed up. Its list of notable former residents includes the horticulturist John Wedgwood, the Poet Laureate Robert Southey (who wrote his Eclogues here) and the archaeologist Alice Roberts. Future names may well be added to that list: since 1924 the prestigious Badminton girl's boarding school has been located here, and the list of Old Badmintonians includes the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, the film actress Claire Bloom, the novelist Dame Iris Murdoch, the failed Lewisham parliamentary candidate Polly Toynbee and the former Conservative MP for the local Bristol North West constituency, Charlotte Leslie.

Leslie is one of those Tory MPs who is no doubt still cursing Theresa May's decision to go to the country last year: she lost Bristol North West to Labour on a swing of over 9%, a Tory majority of 4,500 being replaced with a Labour lead of the same size. The swing away from the Conservatives last year was most pronounced in young and cosmopolitan areas, but it would be a little misleading to describe Westbury-on-Trym as either of those things. True, the 2011 census did pick up pockets in the ward with high proportions of people born in such exotic locales as Hong Kong, South Korea and Wales, but the first two of those are probably accounted for by Badminton School boarders. We can, however, have more confidence in describing Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze as being characterised by educated people with high-powered or high-paying jobs: in 2011 this area was covered by two wards, both of which were in the top 100 in England and Wales for people in higher management or professional occupations. The former Henleaze ward came in at number 9 on that list and was also just outside the top 50 for population educated to degree level. Truly this is where Bristol's educated wealthy professionals live, although generally not the "trendy" ones: they tend to be closer to the city centre in areas like Clifton or Redland.

Those two wards may have been similar socially but they were divergent politically. The old Westbury-on-Trym ward was one of the strongest Conservative areas of Bristol, but Henleaze was a longstanding Lib Dem ward: the Tories came close to gaining it in 2009 and 2010, but then fell back. The two were essentially merged into one ward in 2016, and those contrasting political traditions collided to produce a split result: the Conservative slate polled 39% and won two seats, the Lib Dems had 32% and won the third seat, and Labour came in third with 16%. There was a clear personal vote in evidence for the Tories' Geoff Gollop, who topped the poll: a local accountant - and thus ftting the Westbury-on-Trym stereotype perfectly - he was a long-serving Westbury-on-Trym ward councillor and was Tory candidate for the inaugural Mayor of Bristol election in November 2012. Campion-Smith also clearly had a personal vote: she polled nearly twice the votes of Graham Donald, third on her party's slate. The Lib Dem seat here is definitely not safe: Campion-Smith had a majority of just 70 votes over the third Conservative candidate.

Defending this difficult seat for the Liberal Democrats is the aforementioned Graham Donald, a retired senior civil servant who ended his working career as deputy clerk of the Privy Council. The Conservatives have selected Steve Smith, a GP surgery manager and scout leader on the Brexit wing of the party. The Labour candidate is Teresa Stratford, an occupational therapist. Completing the ballot paper is Ian Moss of the Green Party.

I am grateful to Neil Harrison, quiz friend and former Bristol city councillor, for help with this preview.

Parliamentary constituency: Bristol North West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bristol
Postcode districts: BS6, BS9, BS10

Graham Donald (LD)
Ian Moss (Grn)
Steve Smith (C)
Teresa Stratford (Lab)

May 2016 result C 4019/3683/3207 LD 3277/2382/1887 Lab 1589/1232/1230 Grn 1305/820


Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead

Horsham council, West Sussex; caused by the death of the Chairman of the Council, Conservative councillor Roger Clarke. He had served since winning a by-election in May 2013.

We move now to south-east England and to Prince Harry's new dukedom. This is a ward based on three eponymous parishes roughly halfway between Horsham and the South Downs. Despite the order of the names, the largest of these parishes is actually West Grinstead which takes in the neighbouring village of Partridge Green and the curiously-named Dial Post on the A24 Horsham-Worthing road. West Grinstead is a minor Catholic place of pilgrimage thanks to the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Consolation and St Francis, built in the late nineteenth century and last resting place of the former Salford MP Hilaire Belloc. The Catholic associations don't end there: Cowfold is home to the only Carthusian monastery built in Britain since the Reformation.

This ward is strongly Conservative and not seriously contested by other parties. In 2015 the two-man Tory slate were opposed only by a single Liberal Democrat candidate, who lost 71-29. The Tories are also safe in the local county council division (Henfield).

Defending for the Conservatives is Lynn Lambert who is the only candidate to live in the ward (in Partridge Green); she is a trustee of the Horsham branch of Age UK. The Lib Dems have selected David Perry, and Labour have thrown their hat into the ring by nominating Kenneth Tyzack.

Parliamentary constituency: Arundel and South Downs
West Sussex county council division: Henfield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley
Postcode districts: BN5, RH13, RH17

Lynn Lambert (C)
David Perry (LD)
Kenneth Tyzack (Lab)

May 2015 result C 2087/2071 LD 837
May 2013 by-election C 873 LD 243
May 2011 result C 1242/1127 LD 628
May 2007 result C 1131/1124 LD 394
June 2005 by-election C 742 LD 253
May 2003 result C 863/746 LD 262/248 Lab 129


Farnham Castle

Waverley council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of Farnham Residents councillor John Williamson, who is relocating to the Cotswolds. He had served since 2015.

We saw some action from the English Civil War earlier, and such is the case again here in the Surrey town of Farnham. Farnham Castle was for centuries the seat of the Bishops of Winchester - one of its residents was the fifteenth-century Cardinal Henry Beaufort, who presided at the trial of Joan of Arc. The castle was slighted after the Civil War but nonetheless saw military use afterwards: in the Second World War it was a centre for training artists in military camouflage. It's now used as a training and conference centre, and in 1974 was the venue for the wedding of a South African exile called Thabo Mbeki, who would go on to succeed Nelson Mandela as president of the country.

The castle gives its name to a ward which combines Farnham town centre with the village of Dippenhall to the west. Located on South Western Railway's Alton branch line, Farnham is possibly the archetype of the Surrey commuter town, and its proximity to the Army town of Aldershot (over the border in Hampshire) helped to secure its prosperity. Today Farnham is the largest town in the Waverley local government district - which is named after a ruined abbey, not the Walter Scott novel.

Now this ward is politically interesting. It voted strongly Lib Dem in 2003, but the Waverley Lib Dems then fell apart. One of their two Farnham Castle councillors sought re-election as an independent in 2007, splitting the Lib Dem vote and helping the Conservatives to gain the ward. The Tories made Farnham Castle safe in 2011, but then lost both of the ward's seats to a new localist party called the Farnham Residents, one in 2015 and the other in an August 2016 by-election. That by-election, which I previewed in pages 162-164 of the Andrew's Previews 2016 book (still available from Amazon!), actually saw the Tories fall into third place: shares of the vote were 41% for the Farnham Residents, 31% for the Liberal Democrats and 24% for the Conservatives. There was a similar result in last year's county elections in the local division of Farnham Central, which the Farnham Residents gained from the Conservatives.

Defending for the Farnham Residents is David Beaman, who works in the transport and haulage industry and won a by-election to Farnham town council two years ago. The Lib Dems have selected textile artist Jo Aylwin. Conservative candidate Rashida Nasir hopes to join her husband Nabeel Nasir on the council. Completing the ballot paper are Labour candidate Rebecca Kaye and independent Mark Westcott.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Surrey
Surrey county council division: Farnham Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot
Postcode districts: GU9, GU10

Jo Aylwin (LD)
David Beaman (Farnham ResidentS)
Rebecca Kaye (Lab)
Rashida Nasir (C)
Mark Westcott (Ind)

August 2016 by-election Farnham Residents 386 LD 292 C 229 UKIP 43
May 2015 result Farnham Residents 1043 C 797/641 LD 736 Lab 438
May 2011 result C 669/600 Ind 218/201 LD 204 Lab 152
May 2007 result C 489/466 Ind 417/387 LD 303/258 UKIP 101 Lab 84
May 2003 result LD 631/630 C 424/402 Lab 78


Aylsham

Broadland council, Norfolk; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ian Graham, who was first elected in 2007. Following the death of his wife last year, Graham intends to dedicate more time to charity.

As we move from the south-east to the east of England, let's reflect that there are some wards which just can't stop having by-elections. This is Andrew's Previews' third trip to Aylsham, a town on the River Bure around halfway between Norwich and Cromer. Because of its location Aylsham was a stop on the coaching route, and the coaching Black Boys Inn is one of the town's oldest buildings; but as with much of Norfolk it was textiles which originally made Aylsham prosperous, as a centre of the linen and worsted industry. To this day Aylsham is a local market town and agricultural centre, and it was one of the first British towns to sign up to the Slow City movement.

The Aylsham ward isn't just Aylsham town, as it takes in five other parishes in the area. One of those is Blickling, a major tourist attraction thanks to the Jacobean stately home of Blickling Hall - the birthplace of a royal bride of yesteryear, Anne Boleyn.

Now, this is a marginal ward with a complicated political history. It was created in 2004 when its three seats split two to the Lib Dems and one to the Conservatives. The Tories went up to two seats after the 2007 election, but lost their second seat to the Lib Dems' Steve Riley in a 2013 by-election following the resignation of Conservative councillor Jo Cottingham. History then repeated itself: the Tories went up to two seats after the 2015 election, but lost their second seat to the Lib Dems' Steve Riley in a 2016 by-election following the resignation of Conservative councillor Jo Cottingham (who had returned to the council in 2015 by defeating Riley). Shares of the vote in that by-election were 48% for the Lib Dems and 38% for the Conservatives. The Lib Dems also hold the Aylsham county council seat, which covers a wider area, and with this by-election have the chance to hold all three Aylsham ward seats for the first time.

The defending Conservative candidate is Hal Turkmen, who will be hoping to make it fourth time lucky after failing to be elected in Aylsham in 2015, the 2016 by-election and the 2017 county election. The Lib Dem candidate is Sue Catchpole, who currently does part-time voluntary work following a varied business career which included running a village post office, setting up a machine manufacturing company and arranging coach tours to France. Completing the ballot paper is Peter Harwood of Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Broadland
Norfolk county council division: Aylsham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR10, NR11

Sue Catchpole (LD)
Peter Harwood (Lab)
Hal Turkmen (C)

March 2016 by-election LD 829 C 654 Lab 243
May 2015 result C 1588/1513/1125 LD 1521/1065/926 Lab 1082 UKIP 719/658
July 2013 by-election LD 688 C 501 Lab 181
May 2011 result C 1336/1253/1010 LD 1182/846/752 Lab 542/471 Grn 446
May 2007 result LD 1137/1067/1024 C 1124/1082/1027 Lab 246/230/199
June 2004 result LD 918/907/845 C 854/822/797 Lab 719/461/421


Kirkby la Thorpe and South Kyme

North Kesteven council, Lincolnshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Julia Harrison on health grounds. She had served since 2015.

For our second eastern by-election we are in the flatlands of Lincolnshire. The Kirkby la Thorpe and South Kyme ward is a rural ward, covering five parishes immediately to the east of Sleaford; indeed the ward includes Sleaford's Poets housing estate, which has spilled over the town boundary. This is a ward dotted with mediaeval buildings: Kirkby la Thorpe's parish church dates from the twelfth century; Kyme Priory, now the parish church of South Kyme, was first attested in 1196; and Kyme Tower is all that's left of a fourteenth-century castle. Clearly this was a bustling place in time immemorial, and Kirkby la Thorpe parish alone is thought to include the sites of three deserted mediaeval villages.

Things have got a bit more sleepy here since, and that goes for the ward's election results too. This is a safely Conservative ward which was uncontested in 2007, the first contest on the present boundaries: in 2015 Harrison was elected by defeating the Lincolnshire Independents candidate 64-36. The Conservatives are also not under serious threat in the local county division (Heckington), and in last year's general election the local MP Caroline Johnson polled 42,245 votes - the highest tally of any Conservative candidate that year.

Defending for the Conservatives is Dean Harlow, who lives in the village of Cranwell and is a parish councillor there. The Lincolnshire Independents have nominated Mervyn Head, a South Kyme parish councillor. Also standing are Sue Hislop for the Lib Dems and James Thomas for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Heckington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln
Postcode districts: LN4, NG34

Dean Harlow (C)
Mervyn Head (Lincs Ind)
Sue Hislop (LD)
James Thomas (Lab)

May 2015 result C 838 Lincs Ind 462
May 2011 result C 491 Ind 254 LD 98
May 2007 result C unopposed


Edgeley and Cheadle Heath

Stockport council, Greater Manchester; postponed from 3rd May due to the death of Maureen Baldwin-Moore, who had been nominated as the Conservative candidate.

We finish for today (but not for the week, as there is a poll tomorrow) with the first of a series of five pieces of unfinished business from the 3rd May elections. These are wards where a candidate died between close of nominations and the election, forcing the poll to be cancelled and the election restarted.

One of those was a contest to Stockport council. Edgeley and Cheadle Heath ward is essentially the western ward of Stockport proper, bounded by the River Mersey to the north, the Manchester-Crewe railway line to the east and (mostly) the Stockport-Altrincham railway line to the south. Edgeley itself lies in the eastern half of the ward, close to the railway station; it's a relatvely well-preserved example of a Manchester-area suburb from the Industrial Revolution era, with closely-packed Victorian terracing and miniature Coronation Streets in abundance. Here can be found the home ground of Stockport County FC, whose relegation from the Football League a few years ago ruined one of your columnist's favourite quiz questions (which league football team plays closest to the River Mersey?).

Don't be fooled by the regular grid nature of Edgeley's road network; the land drops away very sharply towards the Mersey in the north. To overcome this the Victorian railway builders constructed the landmark Stockport Viaduct, which lies on the ward boundary and consumed 11 million bricks. Transport is important to the economy of this area: as well as the major intercity hub of Stockport railway station, there is a large Stagecoach bus garage here. With the ward's easy access to Stockport town centre and central Manchester, employment levels are high.

To the west is Cheadle Heath, a suburb along the Stockport-Cheadle road. Much of the housing here is of interwar vintage, although it wasn't always successful. In particular the Gorsey Bank estate, on the banks of the Mersey, turned into one of the most notorious areas in Greater Manchester for crime and anti-social behaviour. Stockport council eventually got rid of those problems by pressing the nuclear button: the Gorsey Bank estate was completely demolished in 1999 and (after a delay) replaced by industrial units.

Stockport council presently has a Labour minority administration, and once this result comes in the Labour position should be shored up a bit. This is a safe Labour ward which isn't under serious threat in this political climate: at the most recent election in 2016 Labour beat UKIP here 68-12.

Outgoing Labour councillor Philip Harding is seeking re-election for a seventh term of office: he was first elected in 1999 for the former Davenport ward, transferring to Edgeley ward in 2003 and to this ward following boundary changes the following year. UKIP's Peter Behan returns after his second place in 2016. Completing the ballot paper are replacement Tory candidate Pat Leck, regular Green candidate Camilla Luff and Oliver Harrison of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockport
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode district: SK3

Peter Behan (UKIP)
Philip Harding (Lab)
Oliver Harrison (LD)
Pat Leck (C)
Camilla Luff (Grn)

May 2016 result Lab 2214 UKIP 393 C 252 Grn 198 LD 192
May 2015 result Lab 3466 C 945 UKIP 857 LD 549 Grn 506
May 2014 result Lab 1884 UKIP 579 Grn 297 C 267 LD 240
May 2012 result Lab 2205 C 284 LD 250 Grn 217
May 2011 result Lab 2428 C 547 LD 406 Grn 256
May 2010 result Lab 3137 LD 1532 C 1177 BNP 258 Grn 221 Ind 111
May 2008 result Lab 1447 LD 972 C 481 Grn 199
May 2007 result Lab 1558 LD 1139 C 444 BNP 285
May 2006 result Lab 1486 C 548 C 439 Ind 344 Grn 280
June 2004 result Lab 2098/2021/1794 LD 853/835/765 C 565/542/533 BNP 384

Andrew Teale


Previews: 17 May 2018

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

The show may be over, but the game still goes on. There are three by-elections for four seats on Thursday 17th May, as we restart the local by-election cycle after a week off to digest the results and consequences of the 2018 local elections. Later we travel to the east coast for the week's Conservative defence; but we start this column with three Labour defences in Lancaster. Normally I would do these in the same article, but one of the wards up for election in Lancaster this week is so unusual it demands an extended preview all to itself. Read on, as we start in the UK's most millennial ward with an Andrew's Previews Student Special...


University and Scotforth Rural

Lancaster council; a double by-election caused by the resignations of Sam Armstrong and Lucy Atkinson. Both were Labour councillors who had served since 2015, although Armstrong was originally elected for the Green Party.

The rules are as constant as the Northern Star, but I'll go through them anyway. Starter questions are worth ten points and you may not confer. You may confer on bonus questions which are worth fifteen. And remember that there is a five-point penalty for incorrect interruptions to starter questions. Fingers on the buzzers, here's your first starter for ten. Located just to the south of its eponymous city, which campus-style university anchors the UK electoral ward with the highest proportion of students?

Before we buzz in and answer that question, let's start this preview by going back in time sixteen years. (God, that makes me feel old.) In May 2002 I was nineteen years old and coming towards the end of my first year at the University of Warwick. A member of the Russell Group, Warwick is one of the so-called "plate glass" universities, opened in the early 1960s on a self-contained campus site on the outskirts of Coventry. I was attempting to study mathematics and statistics, had been selected for the University Challenge team and had got stuck into the elections committee of the Students' Union. Having gained experience of running a polling station in the Union's elections, I applied for and got a casual job as a poll clerk, helping to run the Coventry city council election of 2nd May 2002.

For polling day we took over a room in the University's Ramphal Building, and the presiding officer and myself were responsible for an electorate of around 4,000: almost all of them first- and third-year students. That covered the majority of the campus, although not all of it - the Warwick campus straddles the border between the city of Coventry and Warwick district, and we did have to turn away a few disappointed students from the wrong side of the county line. 4,000 is a very large electorate for a polling station in the UK, but we were not rushed off our feet: the turnout was 8.4%, around 300-400 people. Then as now Warwick University was part of the Wainbody ward of Coventry: this is a safely Conservative area and it's clear from that sort of student turnout that the main driver for its election results is the permanent population. The Tory candidate turned up at the polling station to see how we were getting on - he seemed a nice sort.

Yes, university students don't generally vote in local elections. This may seem like a heretical question for a psephological piece to ask, but: why should they? Most students won't hang around for a full four-year electoral cycle. Student housing is on lets of one year or less, and it's common for students to move around on and off halls of residence and find themselves in different wards - or even different council areas - from one academic year to the next. Student residences are exempt from council tax. Many students might never intend to return to the place they studied at; and, especially in a campus-based "bubble" place like Warwick, students might not feel much if any affinity towards the city they're nominally studying in.

And these days there's an extra difficulty for the student who wants to become a local election voter. When I was living on the Warwick campus my registration to vote was handled by the University administration, which delivered a list of all the eligible voters to Coventry city council (and Warwick district council) as part of the admissions process without my having to lift a finger. These days Individual Electoral Registration prevents that, and students instead have to fill in forms and send them into the council themselves. The effect of this can rather starkly be seen in the Notice of Poll for the 2018 Coventry city council election: where in 2002 I was responsible for around 4,000 voters, the electoral register reveals that only 167 students on the Warwick campus had sent in the form to register to vote by the qualifying date for the December 2017 roll. Although many students will have registered since, that's still an enormous drop.

Now imagine this sort of drop in enrolment taking place in a ward whose electorate is almost entirely composed of students. Let me take you to Lancaster University. Like Warwick, Lancaster punches above its weight educationally and politically: two current MPs, Alan Campbell (Lab, Tynemouth) and Cat Smith (Lab, Lancaster and Fleetwood) are alumni, while the former cabinet minister Alan Milburn - another alumnus - is the present Chancellor. Like Warwick, Lancaster is a member of the Russell Group. Like Warwick, it's one of the 1960s "plate-glass" universities. Like Warwick, it's set on its own self-contained campus, on a hill just to the south of Lancaster between the West Coast Main Line, the A6 road and the M6 motorway. Like Warwick, it's on a growth spurt and new buildings have outgrown the original campus - in particular, a new south-west campus has sprung up in recent years.

Unlike Warwick, the Lancaster University campus was from 2003 to 2015 its own electoral ward. The 2011 census makes the point that this was a unique ward, quite unlike any other in the UK. 94% of the population were aged between 18 and 29, 94% were full-time students, 68% were educated to A-level but not (yet) further - all of those statistics were the highest for any ward in England and Wales by a very large margin. University ward also made the top 100 in England and Wales for households living rent-free, although this may be a side-effect of the fact that the census only recognised sixty-two households here. (Perhaps the colleges count as one household each?)

In recent years oceans of ink, acres of pixels and man-years of debate have been consumed by the analysis of how millennials vote and behave. Readers may be relieved to hear that I have nothing substantive to add to that argument. However, anybody who has taken a cursory look at the subject will have little trouble guessing that the UK's most millennial ward was politically left-wing. And given that Lancaster's campus has an almost completely new electorate from one year to the next, it shouldn't be surprising that University ward's election results were volatile. It voted Lib Dem on its creation in 2003, Green in 2007, Labour in 2011 and Green in a 2014 by-election.

The building and expansion of Lancaster University has made a mess of the administrative boundaries in the area, which have struggled to keep up with the changed times. A boundary review tried to sort this out for the 2015 election, expanding University ward to take in the south-west campus and the two parts of the non-student parish of Scotforth, which covers some lovely but sparsely-populated countryside. It might not be sparsely populated for long, though, as the city council is consulting on plans for Bailrigg Garden Village: a new settlement of 3,500 homes to be built within this ward.

The new University and Scotforth Rural ward had three councillors rather than two, and split them politically: in the 2015 election Labour polled 35% and won two seats, the Greens polled 32% and won one seat, and the Tory slate (one of whom rejoiced in the name of Ice Dong) were third with 24%. Further boundary changes for the 2017 county election brought all of the ward within the Lancaster South East county division, which was safe Labour last year but whose political tone is set by non-students in Lancaster itself.

After the 2015 election Individual Electoral Registration came in, and this affected University and Scotforth Rural possibly more than any other ward in the UK. The ward suffered an enormous drop in enrolment for the first affected register, in December 2015; and that prompted the University administration to get creative for the 2016-17 academic year. The University's solution to boost registration was to bring it back in-house, with an opt-out available for students who for whatever reason don't want to be registered to vote. That has got the student electorate back up near where it was before - the Notice of Poll for this by-election shows an electorate of 3,789, of which the two parts of Scotforth parish contribute 257 - but it does introduce a delay because the applications can't go to Lancaster electoral services until after term has started.

A problem for Matt Mann, a Labour councillor for University and Scotforth Rural, who had started a job outside Lancaster in September 2016 and wanted to resign to allow a new councillor to be elected in his place. Councillor Mann ended up having to delay his resignation in an attempt to ensure that the campus register was as complete as possible. The by-election was eventually held in December 2016, and featured a campaign visit from no less a figure than Jeremy Corbyn. Labour held the seat with 98, to 79 for the Greens and 68 for the Conservatives. Those figures are not percentages but votes, and new Labour councillor Nathan Burns holds the dubious distinction of being the only English district councillor this century (outside the City of London and the Isles of Scilly) to be elected with fewer than 100 votes in a contested election. Turnout was reportedly around 7%. Remember what I was saying about students not voting in local elections?

The other two councillors elected in 2015 have now resigned in their turn. Lucy Atkinson, who topped the poll for Labour in the 2015 election, was just 18 at the time and became the youngest ever Lancaster city councillor. She is stepping down from the council on health grounds, and her resignation statement (https://twitter.com/LucyAtkinson_/status/975994510806306816) gives a rare insight into the difficulties which face councillors elected at a very young age. Despite those difficulties Atkinson was clearly a very effective councillor: the University's Conservative and Liberal Democrat societies put their partisan differences aside to pay generous tribute to her service and wish her well for the future. Labour are defending both seats up in this rare double by-election, as Green councillor Sam Armstrong had defected to the party since his election; Armstrong intends to leave the city in order to pursue his intended career.

The cliché is that student politics are vicious because the stakes are so small, but this by-election is unusually serious business for Labour. They are the majority party on Lancaster city council, holding 28 out of 60 seats, plus these two vacancies, plus a further vacancy in Skerton West ward which will be covered in the next section. The Conservatives are in second with 18 seats, the Green Party have seven and the other four are held by independents of various stripes. If Labour lose any of the three Lancaster city council seats they are defending today, their majority is gone - and this ward is definitely not safe.

You need eight people to contest an episode of University Challenge, and that's what we have here as Lancaster take on Lancaster in this by-election. The defending Labour slate is Amara Betts-Patel and Oliver Robinson, both of whom live on the campus. The Greens have indulged in their occasional practice in multi-seat First Past the Post elections of nominating "first choice" and "second choice" candidates: their first choice, according to the ballot paper, is Martin Paley who is reading Earth and Environmental Science, while relegated to second is Jan Maskell who is the only non-student on the candidate list. A part-time lecturer at the University's Management School, Maskell came within two votes of winning a by-election to Lancaster city council last year in her home ward of Halton-with-Aughton.

The University's Conservative Society have nominated their general secretary Callum Furner (who is reading economics) together with Guy Watts (management). Some of the points in their five-point manifesto - such as improved bus frequencies for the campus and "protecting and enhancing the night-time economy" might not sound like traditional Tory policies, but then again a ward which is over 90% student needs bespoke policies wherever you are on the political spectrum. (I still fondly remember the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for Warwick SU president, who understood this point perfectly. He wanted to improve student health by among other things (a) converting the Union's fruit machines to pay out in real fruit, and (b) installing central heating at the bus stop. Sensible stuff. I wonder what he's doing now.) Completing the ballot paper are the Lib Dem slate of Iain Embrey (studying for a PhD in economics) and Jade Sullivan (reading History and Politics). Let's hope for a better turnout than in the 2016 by-election. As Jeremy Paxman so rightly says, "come on!"

Parliamentary constituency: Lancaster and Fleetwood
Lancashire county council division: Lancaster South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
Postcode districts: LA1, LA2

Amara Betts-Patel (Lab)
Iain Embrey (LD)
Callum Furner (C)
Janet Maskell (Grn)
Martin Paley (Grn)
Oliver Robinson (Lab)
Jade Sullivan (LD)
Guy Watts (C)

December 2016 by-election Lab 96 Grn 79 C 68 LD 36
May 2015 result Lab 605/500/480 Grn 555/440/417 C 405/391/339 LD 143/79/66


Skerton West

Lancaster council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Roger Sherlock at the age of 79. One of Lancaster's longest-serving councillors, Sherlock was first elected in 1995 and was Mayor of Lancaster in 2009-10. An engineer during his working life, he had lived in Lancaster since 1978; he leaves behind three grandchildren, a daughter and his wife Ethel, to whom he was married for 59 years.

For our other by-election in Lancaster we cross to the north bank of the River Lune. This is Skerton, the part of the Lancaster-Morecambe conurbation where one ends and the other begins: the Torrisholme Road and the Morecambe Road link the two centres. The last time I drove along the Morecambe Road the congestion on it had to be seen to be believed: it was then the main access road for both Morecambe and Heysham Port, and plugged straight into Lancaster city centre at the eastern end. The recent opening of the Lancaster Northern Bypass - the Bay Gateway road on the map - has hopefully provided some much-needed relief for the area; on the other hand, Lancaster council have taken the opportunity to close the Greyhound Bridge, one of the two road bridges across the Lune, for most of this year to allow for major repair work. The ward has high levels of social renting and in 2011 was in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for part-time employment.

This is generally a safe Labour ward which has returned a full slate of Labour councillors every year since 2003 with the exception of 2011, when Roger Sherlock was re-elected as an independent without Labour opposition. He was back in the Labour fold for his last re-election in 2015, in which the Labour slate won with 37% to 26% for the Conservatives and 20% for UKIP. That was also the year that the ward took on its present boundaries, gaining a small part of Torrisholme ward in Morecambe. There's a high councillor attrition rate here: this is the fifth Skerton West by-election in the last twelve years, and the previous one was only last September. Labour improved their position in that poll, defeating the Conservatives 61-35. That by-election was won by Hilda Parr, who four months earlier had been elected as county councillor for the safe-Labour Skerton division.

Hoping to hold this Labour seat in Skerton West is Peter Rivet, an independent architecture and planning professional who spent twenty years working for Lancaster city council, and now has the chance to sit on it. In 2015 Rivet fought the city's Bulk ward. Tory candidate Andy Kay returns from September's by-election; since there is already a Lancaster Labour councillor called Andrew Kay expect lots of scope for entertaining confusion if the Tories manage to gain this one. Also returning from September is the Lib Dems' Derek Kaye, who completes the ballot paper along with Cait Sinclair of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Morecambe and Lunesdale
Lancashire county council division: Skerton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
Postcode districts: LA1, LA2, LA3

Andy Kay (C)
Derek Kaye (LD)
Peter Rivet (Lab)
Cait Sinclair (Grn)

September 2017 by-election Lab 512 C 288 LD 33
May 2015 result Lab 1481/1331/1241 C 1037 UKIP 816 Grn 380/360 Ind 295


Leiston

Suffolk Coastal council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ian Pratt who had served since 2015.

We finish the week by moving from the west coast to the east, and to the countryside of Suffolk. Leiston is a rather isolated town with a population of around 5,500, set back a couple of miles from the North Sea coast. Despite that isolation it was a major manufacturing centre in days gone by: the agricultural machinery firm Richard Garrett and Sons set up one of the first ever industrial assembly lines here in the late 19th century, manufacturing traction engines and other steam-powered vehicles. Garrett's works closed down in 1981, but the assembly line building - known as the "Long Shop" because of its length - survives and is now a museum. It's one of the polling stations for this by-election.

Leiston has been at the centre of more modern technology as well. Within the ward boundary, overlooking the North Sea, are the nuclear power stations at Sizewell. Sizewell A, a Magnox plant, generated electricity from 1967 to 2006 and is now being decommissioned; Sizewell B, which came online in 1995, is the UK's only commercial nuclear power plant of the Pressurised Water Reactor type. The UK government and various energy companies have their eyes on the Sizewell site for a third nuclear power station, although construction seems several years off at best.

One consequence of all this industry is that Leiston has a much more working-class demographic profile than its hinterland. That was definitely true for the ward which existed at the time of the 2011 census; there was a redraw for the 2015 election which cut Leiston from three councillors to two on different boundaries, but its unlikely that the class profile changed much as a result of that.

Despite all that Leiston ward had a full slate of Tory councillors from 2003 until 2011, when one of the seats was gained by independent candidate Anthony Cooper. On the new boundaries in 2015 Cooper was re-elected at the top of the poll with 30%, Pratt won the other seat at the top of the Tory slate with 29%, Labour polled 22% and the Green slate had 10% of the vote.

So this looks like an interesting contest. We have an all-female ballot paper of four candidates, three of whom are Leiston town councillors. The Conservatives have selected Susan Geater to hold the seat; her nomination papers have been signed by John Geater, former leader of Suffolk Coastal council and former Conservative councillor for this ward. I have not been able to confirm whether there is a family connection. She may be under threat from independent candidate Sammy Betson, former chair of the Leiston Business Association, who won a by-election to Leiston town council in 2016. The third town councillor on the ballot is Labour candidate Freda Casagrande, who gave up a high-flying career in the City to found a charity for poor Nepali children. In last year's county elections Casagrande was a rather distant runner-up in the Tory division of Aldeburgh and Leiston, which covers most of this ward. There is no Green candidate in this by-election so it will be interesting to see where the Green vote from 2015 goes. Completing the ballot paper is Jules Ewart of the Liberal Democrats.

This may well (touch wood) be the last Suffolk Coastal by-election discussed in Andrew's Previews. Last week both Houses of Parliament approved a merger of the council with the neighbouring district of Waveney to create a new East Suffolk district council, which - once all the paperwork is sorted out - should come into being next year. This column looks forward to discussing the first East Suffolk council by-election in due course.

Parliamentary constituency: Suffolk Coastal
Suffolk county council division: Aldeburgh and Leiston (Leiston parish), Blything (Middleton and Theberton parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ipswich (Leiston and Theberton parishes), Lowestfot (Middleton parish)
Postcode districts: IP15, IP16, IP17

Sammy Betson (Ind)
Freda Casagrande (Lab)
Jules Ewart (LD)
Susan Geater (C)

May 2015 result Ind 918/305 C 887/845 Lab 691/619 Grn 320/309 LD 264/162

If you liked this preview, why not buy the Andrew's Previews books, which contain much more of the same? Search Amazon for Andrew's Previews 2016 and Andrew's Previews 2017.