Previews: 23 May 2019

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

It's time to go outside this column's comfort zone of Great Britain and talk about politics over the seas, as our three previews for 23rd May 2019 compare and contrast the largest and smallest elected bodies with remits in the British Isles. Read on...


St Mary's

Isles of Scilly council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Ted Moulson.

We'll rant and we'll roar, like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas;
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly 'tis thirty-five leagues.
- Traditional, Spanish Ladies

Welcome to the second-biggest democratic festival of 2019, only the Indian general election being larger in electorate terms. The ninth European Parliament election takes place this week, staggered over four days across the twenty-eight member states of the European Union. The Netherlands and the UK kick things off today; the Republic of Ireland will poll tomorrow; Saturday is polling day in Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and certain French overseas territories; the Czech Republic will hold two days of voting on Friday and Saturday; and the rest of the continent will take to the polling stations on Sunday. Hundreds of millions of people will be eligible to vote, and their efforts will return 751 members of the European Parliament. Delegations range from six MEPs for the smallest EU member states, to 96 for the largest (Germany).

The UK and Gibraltar, for the moment, gets 73 of these MEPs in an election which has been hastily put together at the last possible moment. And it shows. This is not to mean any disrespect to those hard-working returning officers and administrators who have toiled hard to put this on for your benefit and will do their usual fantastic job; instead the disrespect is aimed at those politicians (on both sides of the Remain-Leave divide) whose failure to reach agreement means that these elections are going ahead in such a rushed fashion.

Mind, this isn't the first year that there have been shenanigans in Parliament affecting European Parliament elections. The Act which brought in proportional representation for the 1999 election was one of only seven pieces of legislation ever passed under the Parliament Acts, in which the Commons overrode the Lords' objections. That 1999 election introduced the system of twelve regional constituencies whose boundaries remain unmodified today. The UK's delegation of MEPs has shrunk over the years as a result of EU enlargement, but this has been achieved by simply changing the number of seats elected by each region rather than by having a disruptive boundary review. The North East and Northern Ireland are the smallest constituencies, electing three MEPs each; the South East is the largest, with ten seats up for election.

The 1999 election was also marked by low voter turnout which rather worried the Labour government of the day. Its response for the following election in 2004 was to improve turnout by delaying the local elections to June so that they took place on Euro-election day, and also to introduce all-postal voting in several English regions in a pilot scheme that was not repeated. The 2009 and 2014 local elections were also delayed to coincide with European Parliament elections, but this year's local elections were not; and that's because of the last-minute nature of the organisation of this poll. By the time it became clear that the European elections would be going ahead, preparations for the local elections were too far advanced to allow a general postponement.

We can also see the effects of this procrastination in the list of local by-elections today. Local by-elections cost money and money is something which local government doesn't have an awful lot of, so piggybacking a local by-election onto a general or European election is normally an opportunity that's too good to miss. A combined poll helps the returning officer keep costs down, and helps the local parties by driving up turnout for the by-election. In ordinary times a big nationwide poll would have dozens of local by-elections combined with it; but not this one. There were just four local elections organised today. One of those is not a by-election at all but is our first piece of unfinished business from the ordinary local elections three weeks ago, and another is not taking place because only candidate stood. Llongyfarchiadau and congratulations to Gareth Tudor Morris Jones, newly elected unopposed to Gwynedd council as Plaid Cymru councillor for Morfa Nefyn, a tiny beach resort on the Llŷn.

That leaves just three polls on the undercard of the 2019 European elections, and a word is in order about how we're going to get the results this week. The local by-elections will come through on Thursday night or Friday morning in the usual fashion, and they will have a very different complexion to the European results by dint of having a shorter ballot paper. We are yet to see an official Brexit Party or Change UK candidate in a local government election. The European result declarations can't start until the rest of the continent has finished voting on Sunday evening (although the Netherlands usually ignores that rule and counts straight away...), and so counting in Great Britain and Gibraltar will start early on Sunday evening with two exceptions. One is the Western Isles, because the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar isn't interested in breaking the Sabbath for something as important as an election count; they will phone their votes in to the returning officer for Scotland on Monday morning and allow Scotland to declare its result then. The other is Northern Ireland, which will start counting at 8am on Bank Holiday Monday morning and finish when it finishes. (I wonder if the Chief Electoral Officer will be paying bank holiday rates to the count staff?) Otherwise, as usual, the European results will come in bit by bit from the UK's 400 or so local government districts.

The smallest of those European election counts, with comfortably under 2,000 electors on the roll, will be that taking place on the Isles of Scilly. Yes, I promised you politics over the seas, didn't I? There are certainly worse places to be: the Isles are the warmest part of the UK with a climate bordering on the subtropical. Agriculture - particularly cut flowers, which bloom earlier in the season here than in the rest of the British Isles - was a traditional mainstay of the local economy, but there is now a hard dependence on tourism and administration; a tenth of the islands' adult population are either Scilly councillors or employed by the council, and most of the rest cater to tourists. If the Scilly Isles were a ward, they would make the top 40 wards in England and Wales for self-employment. There is a lot here for the tourists: the weather as already mentioned, some outstanding birdwatching, and for the politically-inclined the chance to pay your respects at the grave of the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson liked the Scilly Isles; he had a holiday home on St Mary's and is buried in the Old Town churchyard. Following the death of his widow Mary last year, Wilson's Scilly home went on the market a couple of months back; if you have £425,000 in your back pocket, it could be yours (link).

The islands have a unique and rather complicated legal status, perhaps best illustrated by the only slightly tongue-in-cheek Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War. This goes back to the middle of the seventeenth century, when Cornwall was a stronghold of the Royalist side in the Civil War. The Royalist fleet had based itself in the archipelago after being driven out of the Cornish ports, and was having a good time raiding the Dutch navy (which was in alliance with the Roundheads); eventually the Dutch Lt-Admiral Maarten Tromp lost patience with this and turned up in the Scilly Isles in 1651 demanding reparations. Not getting the answer he wanted, Tromp emulated his modern-day near-namesake by declaring war - specifically on the Isles of Scilly. This war was essentially resolved within a month without a shot being fired thanks to the Royalist Navy's surrender to the Parliamentarians; but no treaty was signed at the time, and it was not until 1986 that the Dutch ambassador turned up on the islands to formally declare peace between Holland and Scillonia.

However, the Scilly Isles were the scene of a serious loss for the Royal Navy in 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, when a fleet on its way home from raiding Toulon was wrecked after mistaking Scilly for Ushant. Only 35 leagues wrong, but that error led to the loss of four ships and at least 1,400 sailors. Numbered among the dead was Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the MP for Rochester and one of the most senior commanders in the Royal Navy. The Scilly naval disaster was cited a few years later in the Parliamentary debates on the Longitude Act, which offered large financial rewards for an answer to the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War is not the only legal or administrative oddity arising from the archipelago's remoteness and small population. Income tax did not apply here until 1954; road tax was first levied in 1971; the island's vehicles are still exempt from the MoT test. Although there are no full-time firefighters, the Isles have their own independent fire brigade staffed entirely by retained firefighters. The local sixth-form pupils get free travel to and a grant towards accommodation on the mainland, there being no sixth-form college here; presumably this is by special arrangement with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which has held a monopoly on travel to the islands since the helicopter link to Penzance was withdrawn in 2012. The Steamship Company's passenger ferry, Scillonian III, is one of only three ships in the world which still carry the title of Royal Mail ship; the other two are the Segwun, a nineteenth-century steamship navigating the lakes of northern Ontario in Canada, and the modern ocean liner Queen Mary 2.

The Isles of Scilly Council is an oddity in itself, a democratic body like no other within the remit of Andrew's Previews. It was created in 1890 as the Isles of Scilly Rural District Council, but despite that name has always had a sui generis unitary status independent of Cornwall county council. The council was left untouched by the Heath local government reforms and the 2009 Cornish local government reorganisation, and has never had a ward boundary change. In fact the Isles of Scilly doesn't have wards at all: instead its five parishes (corresponding to the five inhabited islands) serve as its electoral districts. As of 2013 St Mary's elected thirteen councillors and Bryher, St Agnes, St Martin's and Tresco returned two each. At least, that was the theory; however in the 2013 election only one candidate stood for Bryher, and nobody ever called a by-election to fill the vacant second seat. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England took a look at the Isles in advance of the 2017 election, and cut the council's membership from 21 to 16 councillors; the island/parish of St Mary's continues to form a single electoral district, electing 12 councillors. Given that the LGBCE never ordinarily draws wards with more than three councillors, you can see that the islands are very much an exceptional case.

The 2014 European elections saw UKIP carry the Isles of Scilly with 150 votes, equating to 28% of the total; the Conservatives had 26%, the Green Party 16% and the Lib Dems 15%. However, this won't have much bearing on the council by-election as Scilly local elections are non-partisan. It's rather fitting that a district with the population of a medium-sized parish should have politics to match those of a medium-sized parish.

In the 2017 Isles of Scilly election eighteen candidates contested the twelve seats on St Mary's (a nineteenth candidate withdrew). Robert Francis topped the poll with 576 votes; Ted Moulson was elected in sixth place with 481 votes; and Stephen Sims (who had topped the poll in the 2013 election) won the twelfth and final seat on 376 votes, ahead of Amanda Martin who polled 321 and lost her seat. There wasn't much love for Thomas Mitchell who finished last by a very long way after giving a home address in Northolt, west London; one wonders what his qualification for office would have been. Moulson became chairman of the council following the 2017 election, but was challenged for the position a year later and lost to Francis. Ted Moulson is standing down for personal reasons which have left him struggling to get to council meetings.

So we have this by-election, in which three-quarters of the Isles of Scilly's electors will be eligible to vote. There are four candidates whom I shall take in alphabetical order. Former councillor Andrew Coombes was the only candidate in this by-election who contested the 2017 Scilly elections; he finished seventeenth in St Mary's, polling 250 votes. Tim Dean is a shuttle bus driver. Jeanette Ware is a manager at the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. Completing the ballot paper is another former Isles of Scilly councillor, Steve Whomersley.

Parliamentary constituency: St Ives
ONS Travel to Work Area: Penzance
Postcode district: TR21

Andrew Coombes (Ind)
Tim Dean (Ind)
Jennifer Ware (Ind)
Steve Whomersley (Ind)


St Osyth

Tendring council, Essex; postponed from 2nd May due to the death of Anita Bailey, who had been nominated as a Conservative candidate.

We now come to our first piece of unfinished business from the 2nd May 2019 local elections. There were seven wards in England this year where a candidate died between close of nominations and polling day. In this situation what happens is that the poll is called off, nominations are reopened (previously-nominated candidates don't have to fill in a new form) and a new polling day is set by the returning officer.

St Osyth is an Essex village to the west of Clacton with an old history. The name refers to a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon saint called Osgyth, who was married to King Sighere of Essex against her wishes before separating from him and establishing a convent at a village then called Chich. Legend has it that St Osgyth was beheaded by some pirates raiding the area, and she is normally depicted carrying her own head. The nunnery fell into disuse, but in the early twelfth century an Augustinian priory was founded on its site and some of its buildings still exist today. Channel 4's Time Team were here in the summer of 2004 investigating the early history of the village, but didn't find much that was ritual, ceremonial or sacrificial.

If the Scilly Isles have the warmest climate in the UK, St Osyth claims to be the country's driest location with average rainfall of around 20 inches per year. Despite that there's plenty of water around, as the parish lies on a peninsula to the west of Clacton-on-Sea. Here can be found the villages of Point Clear and Lee-over-Sands together with a very large number of static caravans and a couple of preserved Martello towers. Those towers could have provided some inspiration for Somerset de Chair, the father-in-law of Jacob Rees-Mogg and a Tory MP during the Second World War; after leaving Parliament de Chair owned St Osyth's Priory for four decades until he died in 1995, and edited the English translations of Napoleon's memoirs.

Somerset de Chair might look at the modern election results for this area with some bemusement. This ward is part of the Clacton parliamentary seat which until a couple of years ago was the political home of Douglas Carswell, the only MP ever to be elected and re-elected as a UK candidate. Carswell's UKIP had done very well on his coat-tails to become the second-largest party on the local Tendring council in 2015 before the inevitable split, and this column was expecting the retreat of the UKIP tide to result in a reasserted Tendring Conservative majority in May. That didn't happen; the May 2019 local elections were instead marked by big gains for independents and localist parties, and Tendring has often had large caucuses for both of these groups in the past. The 2019 Tendring election ha so far returned 16 Conservative councillors, 9 independents, seven localists from two different parties, 6 Labour councillors, 5 UKIPpers, two Lib Dems and one seat for the Foundation Party (no, me neither). This poll will complete the picture by electing the final two councillors. With 25 seats needed for a majority, there is clearly a lot of work to do to put an administration together before the council's AGM next week.

There were boundary changes for the 2019 Tendring election which created this ward, but it is essentially the former ward of St Osyth and Point Clear plus a small part of Clacton to the north of St John's Road; this was added to make up the numbers, the ward being rather undersized. The old St Osyth and Point Clear ward went back all the way to the founding electoral arrangements of Tendring district in 1974, and its previous election results were all over the place: over the years it elected members of all three main parties, although not that many Conservatives. The Liberal/SDP Alliance won the two St Osyth seats in 1983, before losing one seat in 1987 to Conservative candidate Carlo de Chair, son of Somerset. (Carlo de Chair subsequently fought a European Parliament election, turning up in 2009 in fourth place on the Eastern list of Libertas, a short-lived pro-EU party which polled 0.6% of the vote in the Eastern region; he wasn't elected.) The Liberal Democrats (as they were by now) regained de Chair's seat in 1991, but then lost the ward to Labour in 1995.

The Labour slate in St Osyth and Point Clear was defeated in 1999 by independent candidates Michael Talbot and John White, who have been re-elected at every election since with the exception of 2007 (when White lost his seat to the Conservatives by one vote). The 2015 election re-elected Talbot and White by a score of 54-29 over the Conservatives. For Essex county council purposes the ward is part of the Brightlingsea county division, which the Tories gained from UKIP in the 2017 county elections.

Talbot and White are both standing for re-election in this slightly redrawn ward. Also seeking re-election, albeit not in his previous ward, is Mick Skeels senior who had previously sat for St Johns ward in Clacton; Skeels was first elected there in a 2014 by-election for the Conservatives, but then defected to UKIP under whose banner he was re-elected in 2015. It would appear that he is back in the Tory fold now, and were he to win this election there would be all sorts of scope for confusion as his son, Mick Skeels junior, is already a Tendring Conservative councillor (for Burrsville ward). Following Anita Bailey's death the replacement Conservative candidate is Mick senior's wife Dawn, herself a former Tendring councillor (Little Clacton and Weeley ward, 2011-15, having defeated her husband in the 2011 election). Completing the ballot paper is the ward's regular Labour candidate, and councillor for this ward from 1995 to 1999, Tracy Osben.

Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Brightlingsea
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
Postcode districts: CO7, CO16

Tracy Osben (Lab)
Dawn Skeels (C)
Mick Skeels (C)
Michael Talbot (Ind)
John White (Ind)

No previous results on these boundaries


Resolven

Neath Port Talbot council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Labour councillor Des Davies. A veteran of local government, Davies had started his career in public office in 1981 when he was elected to West Glamorgan county council, and he had been a member of Neath Port Talbot council continuously since its creation in the 1996 reorganisation. At the time of his death he was Neath Port Talbot's cabinet member for community safety and public protection.

We finish in the Vale of Neath, one of the industrial South Wales Valleys which will be familiar to many as the western end of the Heads of the Valleys Road. Halfway up the Vale of Neath lies the small village of Resolven, which was one of the many villages in south Wales called into existence by coalmining. The mines are long gone now, but the hills draw visitors; within the division boundary is the beauty spot of Melincourt Falls, an 80-foot high waterfall which was painted by Turner. Also within these wooded hills, on occasion, can be heard the sound of car engines; Resolven was formerly the home of one of the most challenging stages of the Wales Rally GB. The division's census return sneaks into the top 100 wards in England and Wales for White British population and those born in the UK.

Des Davies had represented this division since the modern Neath Port Talbot council was created in 1996. He had easily defeated both outgoing Neath district councillors for the old ward in the inaugural 1995 election, with Dennis Williams coming a distant second as an Independent Labour candidate and Plaid Cymru's David Trefor Jones third. Subsequent elections were normally just as easy for Davies, but he was run close for his final re-election in May 2017: in that year Davies polled 41% of the vote against 35% for independent candidate Darren Bromham-Nichols and 24% for Plaid Cymru (David Trefor Jones, again). Labour have not performed impressively in recent by-elections in the Valleys, so this is one to watch.

Defending for Labour is (Mark) Neal Francis, a Resolven community councillor and trustee of Resolven Library. Francis was the subject of a question in Parliament in 2015, after being told he would have to give up his Motability car following a benefits assessment; the car was subsequently reinstated. There is a new independent candidate, Dean Lewis who lives in Resolven asd is a trustee of the local Miners Welfare club. Plaid Cymru have selected Andrew Hippsley, a community councillor from further up the valley in Cwmgwrach. Also standing are Jonathan Jones for the Conservatives and Sheila Kingston-Jones for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Neath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea
Postcode district: SA11

Neal Francis (Lab)
Jonathan Jones (C)
Sheila Kingston-Jones (LD)
Andrew Hippsley (PC)
Dean Lewis (Ind)

May 2017 result Lab 461 Ind 388 PC 265
May 2012 result Lab 729 PC 278
May 2008 result Lab 611 PC 469
June 2004 result Lab 729 PC 297
May 1999 result Lab 850 PC 411
May 1995 result Lab 874 Ind Lab 334 PC 278
May 1991 Neath council result Lab 877/535 PC 650 Ind 426
May 1987 Neath council result 2 Lab unopposed
May 1983 Neath council result Lab 906/890 SDP 418


Previews: 09 May 2019

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

The ordinary local elections are over for another year. Thanks to all those who read and who commented on the preview and retrospective pieces which I wrote; you might not agree with all of it but disagreement is what politics is all about. There are some errors which have been pointed out to me which I shall note here for the record. The Yorkshire Party have sent a message from the wrong side of the Pennines pointing out that they won four seats in Selby district, not one as I had said; and congratulations to them for that. Newly-elected Guildford councillor George Potter also writes to point out that the independents in Guildford were elected on multiple tickets and the Lib Dems are the largest single group on the new Guildford council.

We're back to the normal diet of local by-elections now, and there are two by-elections on 9th May 2019 in areas which did not go to the polls last week. Read on...

Cranham

Havering council, London; caused by the death of councillor Clarence Barrett at the age of 61, after suffering a heart attack during a meeting at Havering town hall. A former Havering cabinet member for finance, Barrett was the leader of the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association group on the council and was also treasurer of the independent group on the Local Government Association. He had served on Havering council since 2006.

One of the reasons I write this column is for quiz revision. Sometimes it works. Having noted that this Cranham ward vacancy was coming up, last month your columnist was in Edinburgh playing at "Scotbowl", a day-long tournament of quizzes on University Challenge rules. Our second game (of nine in total; we won six and lost three) was against a strong team of Edinburgh University students who included the captain of their recent UC winning team, Max Fitz-James. Going into the final starter question we were twenty points down, meaning that in order to win we needed to pick up the starter and all three bonuses.

This was the starter:

Which company spun off EOG Resources, which now has a market capitalisation of $57 billion, in 1999? For six years in a row between 1995 and 2000 Fortune magazine named it as America's Most Innovative Company, and it also won an Ig Nobel Prize for adapting "the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world"-

-which was enough for me to buzz in the right answer. That gave us the following bonuses on 20th-century English composers and hymns:

1. Which lifelong agnostic was the musical editor of the 1905 English Hymnal? In it he arranged the folk tunes Dives and Lazarus and the Ploughboy's Dream for the hymns I heard the voice of Jesus and O Little Town of Bethlehem respectively.

2. [The answer to question 1] also commissioned other composers to write hymn tunes, including Gustav Holst, who penned Cranham for which Christina Rosetti Christmas carol?

3. Based on the poem The Brewing of the Soma by the Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier, which hymn claims that God is found "not in the earthquake, wind or fire" but in the "still, small voice of calm"? It's often set to an aria from the oratorio Judith by Hubert Parry, a teacher of [the answer to question 1].

Yes, we got all of them and won the game by five points, 200 to 195. Let me tell you, writing this column works as quiz revision; and one reason for this is that the UK is, on the whole, lucky to have descriptive and imaginative ward and constituency names. Not for us the American or French "34th district of California" or "cinqième circonscription du Rhône"; here in the UK we have wards and constituencies named after cities, towns, villages, islands, hills, rivers, roads, parks, churches, bridges, buildings past or present, administrative units of the present day, administrative units that were abolished decades or centuries ago, notable families, famous people, even works of art, literature or music. I could go on; the list of things which have inspired ward names is almost endless.

And every one of those names is a hook on which you can hang a fact for future use, like the fact that Gustav Holst wrote a tune with the name "Cranham" for a Christmas carol. He was probably thinking of the Gloucestershire village of that name; but there is more than one Cranham in the UK and the one with a ward named after it is in Greater London.

This particular Cranham is at the point where London ends and Essex begins, one of the last parts of London before you hit the Green Belt. Cranham is an Anglo-Saxon name and the village was recorded in the Domesday Book, but most of the modern Cranham ward's housing dates from the 1950s when families bombed out of the East End were rehoused. Demographically this is one of the parts of London most like the rest of the UK, with a low non-white population by London standards and high levels of owner-occupation. In the 2011 census Cranham ward made the top 15 wards in England and Wales for the "intermediate" employment category, with financial and insurance jobs forming a major part of the local economy; most of those people will commute into Canary Wharf and the City along the railway and Underground lines from Upminster station, which lies on the ward's southern boundary and is the eastern terminus of the District Line.

Greater London wasn't part of last week's local elections, which saw big gains for independent candidates, localist parties and Residents Associations. We'll continue that theme here as the London Borough of Havering, which Cranham is a part of, is the only London Borough with a strong Residents' Association presence; and throughout this century Cranham ward has voted strongly for the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association slate. The most recent London borough elections were in 2018, when the Residents polled 59% here with the Conservative slate a poor second on 20%. Without the Residents on the ballot this is a safely Conservative area: in the 2016 London Mayor elections Zac Goldsmith beat Sadiq Khan here 62-16, while in the London Members ballot the Tories polled 48%, to 19% for UKIP and 14% for Labour.

Not that that's particularly relevant for this by-election, as the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association are defending their seat. Their candidate is Linda van den Hende, who was previously a Havering councillor for the neighbouring Upminster ward from 2006 to 2018 and was Mayor of Havering in 2017-18. The Conservatives have selected Ben Sewell, who is 20 years old and fighting his first election campaign. Also standing are Adam Curtis for Labour, Peter Caton for the Green Party, Ben Buckland for UKIP and Thomas Clarke for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Hornchurch and Upminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: RM11, RM14

Ben Buckland (UKIP)
Peter Caton (Grn)
Thomas Clarke (LD)
Adam Curtis (Lab)
Ben Sewell (C)
Linda van den Hende (Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc)

May 2018 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 2932/2817/2502 C 974/769/593 Lab 475/415/287 Grn 325 UKIP 274
May 2014 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 3243/3159/3090 UKIP 1014 C 857 Lab 362/353/338 Grn 343
May 2010 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 4160/4120/3923 C 2202/2085/1993 Lab 635/625/445 UKIP 482 Grn 412 Ind 94
May 2006 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 3109/3023/3014 C 1012/913/838 Lab 378/375/356 Grn 269 Third Way 99/86/75
May 2002 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 4060/4042/4004 C 1048/900/883 Lab 616/615/590 Grn 306

May 2016 GLA result (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 2408 Lab 635 UKIP 357 LD 173 Grn 159 Britain First 70 Women's Equality 37 Respect 23 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 23 BNP 17 One Love 6 Zylinski 6
London Members: C 1910 UKIP 768 Lab 552 Grn 220 LD 187 Britain First 97 Women's Equality 66 Animal Welfare 48 CPA 40 BNP 28 Respect 27 House Party 11


Haddington and Lammermuir

East Lothian council, Scotland; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Brian Small who had served since 2017. He has also left the Conservative party.

From East London we move to East Lothian. Haddington may not look like a major town days but it has a more glorious past. The town has been a burgh since the twelfth century when King David I gave it a royal charter, and it became the fourth-largest town in Scotland; during the Middle Ages only Aberdeen, Roxburgh and Edinburgh had larger populations.

This has been a revolutionary place throughout the centuries. The great Protestant reformers of the early sixteenth century John Mair (also known as Haddingtonus Scotus) and his pupil John Knox were both born in Haddington, and a century later the town was at the centre of the Scottish Agricultural Revolution, with local landowners like John Cockburn working to replace the traditional runrig system of agriculture with better methods. New plants and ploughs were introduced from England, crop rotation became an important technique, fields were enclosed, and Haddington and the surrounding area became a major centre for grain production. Cockburn also had built Scotland's first planned village, Ormiston, to house his workers as part of what became known as the Lowland Clearances.

Not all of the land around Haddington is fertile though. To the south lie the Lammermuir (or Lammermoor) Hills, which may not be particularly high but are steep and difficult to cross; they form a natural barrier between this ward and the border counties to the south. Sheep farming is the main industry in the Lammermuirs now just as it was in the days of St Cuthbert, who was a shepherd up here in his youth. The hills are the setting for Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which shortly after its publication was turned into the ever-popular opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.

https://youtu.be/92jiitUEahg

Haddington once give its name to the county it's at the centre of, but Haddingtonshire is now almost always known as East Lothian. This is politically an unusual area, in that the East Lothian constituency is one of the very few to have returned Labour candidates in all five Scottish Parliament elections to date; since 2007 it has been represented by Iain Gray, who was leader of the Scottish Labour Party from 2008 to 2011. Labour also regained the East Lothian parliamentary seat (which has the same boundaries as the modern council area) in the 2017 general election.

The Haddington and Lammermuir ward was created for the 2007 East Lothian council election and turned in a fragmented result, with the Conservatives topping the poll on just 23% of the vote. This was a PR election so that entitled the Tories to one out of three seats, the other two going to the Lib Dems and the Scottish National Party. In the 2012 election Labour more than doubled their share of the vote to top the poll on 33%, and they gained the Lib Dem seat.

There were boundary changes here for the 2017 election, which brought in Ormiston from the former Fa'side ward and awarded a fourth councillor. That changed the nature of the ward significantly, as Ormiston and its associated villages had been a former coalmining centre. It helped Labour to top the poll in Haddington and Lammermuir in the 2017 local elections, the first on these boundaries; Labour polled 34%, the Conservatives 29% and the SNP 26%, and Labour won two seats with the other parties getting one each. The indefatigable Allan Faulds of Ballot Box Scotland has gone through the preference profile (link), and found that had the 2017 election here been for one seat Labour would have beaten the Conservatives by 57% to 43% in the final count.

So the Tories will be doing well to hold this. Their candidate is Haddington resident Craig Hoy, a former Westminster lobby correspondent and co-founder of an events company based in Hong Kong. Labour have selected Neal Black, who works at Edinburgh College and is vice-chair of the Ormiston community council. Lorraine Glass, who gives an address in Haddington, stands for the SNP. Completing the ballot paper are Stuart Crawford for the Lib Dems and David Sisson for UKIP. A quick reminder that, as this is a Scottish local by-election, the Alternative Vote and Votes at 16 will apply.

Parliamentary constituency: East Lothian
Scottish Parliament constituency: East Lothian
ONS Travel to Work Area: Edinburgh
Postcode districts: EH33, EH34, EH35, EH36, EH37, EH39, EH41, TD11

Neal Black (Lab)
Stuart Crawford (LD)
Lorraine Glass (SNP)
Craig Hoy (C)
David Sissons (UKIP)

May 2017 first preferences Lab 2627 C 2262 SNP 2013 LD 568 Grn 302


And the answers to the quiz questions:

STARTER: Enron

BONUSES: 1. Ralph Vaughan Williams; 2. In the Bleak Midwinter; 3. Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

There are no by-elections next week, so I'll give my typing fingers a rest and this column will return on 23rd May.

Andrew Teale


Preview: 25 Apr 2019

One by-election on 25th April 2019:


Belle Vue

Shropshire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Harry Taylor, who had served since 2017.

There is just one week to go now to the May 2019 ordinary elections, in which 248 councils in England and 11 in Northern Ireland will go to the polls to elect some or all of their councillors. That doesn't cover the whole of England; London and several English councils sit out this round of elections, and of those councils which misses out on the fun this year is Shropshire. Which is why this by-election is being held today.

The Belle Vue division of Shropshire is in the county town of Shrewsbury; this is the south bank of the Severn opposite the town centre, running from the English Bridge along the Belle Vue Road - which was once the main road to Hereford - through the suburb of Coleham. The ward was mostly built up by the early twentieth century, although this can be a bad move when the River Severn is having one of its frequent floods.

At local level this is a long-standing Labour area which had been represented by Labour councillor Mansell Williams before and after the reorganisation of 2009 which created the present Shropshire council. Williams had a large majority over the Conservatives at his final re-election in 2013; he resigned in 2015 and the resuling by-election was held by Labour candidate Amy Liebich very comfortably. Liebich didn't seek re-election in 2017, and Harry Taylor took over the seat.

Taylor has an interesting biography: he worked in journalism and the car industry before entering politics, and served as Mayor of Coleshill in Warwickshire from 2014 to 2015 before moving to Shrewsbury. At the 2017 local elections he held the Shropshire council seat of Belle Vue with 43% of the vote, to 28% for the Liberal Democrats who moved into second place and 24% for the Conservatives. Taylor subsequently became deputy leader of the praish-level Shrewsbury town council and deputy leader of the Labour group on Shropshire council; he combined this with postgraduate study at Liverpool University and with writing a biography of Victor Grayson, and at the end of last year he was appointed as deputy regional director for the Labour Party in the West Midlands.

Harry Taylor leaves behind a ward which looks safe enough for the third Belle Bue Labour candidate in four years. Defending the seat for Labour this time is Kate Halliday, a social worker campaigning on NHS issues. The Liberal Democrats have selected James McLeod. Ross George is the Conservative candidate. Completing the ballot paper are Dave Latham for the Green Party and Bob Oakley for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Shrewsbury and Atcham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shrewsbury
Postcode district: SY3

Ross George (C)
Kate Halliday (Lab)
Dave Latham (Grn)
James McLeod (LD)
Bob Oakley (UKIP)

May 2017 result Lab 643 LD 423 C 362 Grn 67
Nov 2015 by-election Lab 546 C 282 LD 240 Grn 75
May 2013 result Lab 939 C 289
June 2009 result Lab 797 C 571 Grn 161 LD 117


Previews: 11 Apr 2019

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

There are four by-elections on 11th April 2019, and it's an interesting selection with two cities, some villages and a town. Let's start with the town:


Rosehill with Burnley Wood

Burrnley council, Lancashire; caused by the resignation of Christine White, who was elected as a Liberal Democrat but was sitting for the Burnley and Padiham Independents.

Welcome to this week's by-elections. Please park your car in the car park and join Andrew's Previews on a tour of that corner of the country which seems to be determinedly forgotten by the metropolitan élite, Lancashire. Last week the BBC's flagship Question Time programme was due to be broadcast from Bolton; but at the last minute Auntie Beeb decided to cancel this and find a new venue in South London for the benefit of its panellists. What about the benefit of the audience? Pulling out of the Greatest Town in the Known Universe is a heinous offence in and of itself; but in this time of Brexit (or not, as the case may be) that section of the population which voted to leave were unlikely to be impressed by the decision to switch from a Leave-voting town to a Remain-voting city. A Question Time from Bolton last week would have been a very different programme to the one that eventually went out, and would have been the better for it.

One group which understands the concept that the show must go on is the thinktank Centre for Towns, which last month organised a workshop in the Greatest Town in the Known Universe. All sorts of speakers and academics turned up, some of them even from the south! The subject was, of course towns: their past, their future, their identity, their economics. Provincial towns are very much on the unfashionable side of the great divides of our time - Labour versus Tory, progressive versus conservative, urban versus rural, north versus south, young versus old, harmony versus discord, and of course Leave versus Remain - but it's important to understand towns to know Britain as it is today and as it will be in the future. Apart from anything else, the list of the key marginal constituencies which will decide the next general election (whenever that is) is dominated by English provincial towns. Anybody whose first instinct is to denigrate provincial towns just because they voted to leave the EU those three long years ago needs to put those prejudices away and start thinking and acting in terms that are less insulting.

One of those Leave-voting towns in the north is Burnley, that East Lancashire location where the fish and chips come with red salt, the tipple of choice is Bénédictine with hot water and the accent is distinctively rhotic. Burrnley is typical for Lancashire in that its fortune was made by textiles and coalmining and facilitated by good transport links: the Leeds and Liverpool Canal came here in 1801, and the town's fortunes boomed. One of the effects of this was the development of the Burnley Wood district on moorland to the south-east of the town. Rather cut off from the town centre because of the canal, this was an area of Coronation Streets off the Todmorden Road, terraces to house millworkers. Politics was important here, and back in the day Burnley Wood had both Conservative and Liberal clubs to serve the locals.

Rather different in character is Rosehill, a later, higher-quality and much more upmarket area off the Manchester Road. Different again are Towneley Park and Towneley Hall, for centuries home to and named after the Towneley family. The Towneleys were influential in Lancashire for generations, but their male line died out in 1878 leaving the Hall in the hands of Alice, the dowager Baroness O'Hagan. She eventually sold the Hall and Park to Burnley Corporation. Towneley Hall is now a Grade I listed building, and run by the council as a museum.

Overlooking all this from the moorland above the ward is the Singing Ringing Tree, a sculpture which was built in 2006 as part of the "Panopticon" series of sculptures dotted around the moors of East Lancashire to mark the area's recent renaissance. The Singing Ringing Tree is a series of steel pipes into which holes have been cut, allowing the ever-present wind to play the sculpture like an instrument. It's a discordant noise.

https://youtu.be/dRYlblqXUmk

As can be seen from the video, Burnley was doing discordance long before it became fashionable at the national level. The collapse of the town's textile and coal industries left a void: there is still a lot of manufacturing in Burnley but the sector doesn't employ as many people as it used to. The town's nineteenth-century housing stock declined as well; much of Burnley Wood's terraces were cleared from the 1970s onwards, and house clearance was still going on here in the twenty-first century as part of the controversial Housing Market Renewal Initiative. Anywhere else in the country these houses would have been snapped up, refurbished and put to use; but not in Burnley.

Also in the opening years of this century there were racial tensions going on. Burnley has an Asian population which is not particularly large by Lancashire standards but is almost entirely concentrated in one ward of the town, leaving wards like Rosehill and Burnley Wood as 96% white. Ghettoisation in all but name. The town suffered race riots in 2001, and in the 2003 local elections the British National Party won the most votes and the most seats across Burnley borough. The BNP are no longer a factor in British politics but the radical right-wing vote in Burnley has not gone away: in the 2017 local elections the town's Padiham and Burnley West county division was the only seat in the country to return a UKIP councillor.

Rosehill and Burnley Wood saw the BNP finish second in the 2003 and 2004 polls (on the first occasion just 45 votes behind Labour); but the 2006 local elections marked a decisive shift in the ward's politics, as it suddenly became a Liberal Democrat area. The Lib Dems became strong across the town: they gained the Burnley parliamentary seat (which has the same boundaries as the borough) from Labour in 2010, and despite five years of Coalition their MP Gordon Birtwistle wasn't all that far off holding his seat in 2015. Birtwistle still leads the Lib Dem group on Burnley council.

One suspects that Rosehill and Burnley Wood ward was a major contributor to Birtwistle's 2010 majority. Since 2006 this ward has voted Labour only twice, once in 2012 and later by two votes on the general election turnout in 2015. The Liberal Democrats gained a seat from Labour here in 2016, and in the May 2018 elections held the ward by six votes over Labour, 699 votes to 693. In percentage terms that was a 43-42 lead.

On Lancashire county council this ward is split between two divisions. Rosehill is in the Burnley South West division which was one of only four Lancashire divisions to vote Lib Dem two years ago; but Burnley Wood is bizarrely included in the Burnley Rural division which is based on moorland villages to the east of the town. In 2017 Burnley Rural returned a Conservative county councillor, Cosima Towneley (yes, of the Burnley Towneleys).

But looking at the election results misses one major factor. The Burnley Lib Dems have split, with several of their councillors walking off to form a new group called the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party. This group have not previously contested this area at the ballot box but do have form; they held Gannow ward in Padiham at the 2018 local elections. One of their members was Christine White, who had gained Rosehill and Burnley Wood from Labour in the 2016 local elections as a Lib Dem candidate; she has now resigned from the council, citing abuse and harassment from one of her constituents.

That idiot who thought it was a good idea to abuse, harass and threaten an elected member has ended up costing Burnley council a lot of money and causing a lot of inconvenience for the residents of Rosehill with Burnley Wood. In just three weeks' time this ward will be going to the polls again for the May 2019 local elections. By the time you read this, it may have become clear that there will be another election in Rosehill with Burnley Wood three weeks after that, for the European Parliament. One wonders what effect this will all have on the respective turnouts.

This is the last by-election before May in a council which goes to the polls in May, so everybody will be looking for a good impression. Defending for the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party is Paula Riley, a parish councillor in Cliviger outside the ward and former Burnley councillor; she represented Lanehead ward as an independent from 2002 until losing her seat in 2006. The Lib Dems will want their seat back, and their nominee is the candidate who defeated Riley in Lanehead ward in 2006: he is Peter McCann, a former Mayor of Burnley (2007-08) who had previously stood down from the council in 2014. Labour, who are defending this ward at the ordinary elections in May, have selected Andy Devanney, a Worsthorne with Hurstwood parish councillor. Completing the ballot paper are Phil Chamberlain for the Conservatives (who fought this ward last year, and is also nominated for the ordinary election here in May) and Victoria Alker for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Burnley
Lancashire county council division: Burnley Rural (Burnley Wood), Burnley South West (Rosehill)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burnley
Postcode district: BB11

Victoria Alker (Grn)
Phil Chamberlain (C)
Andy Devanney (Lab)
Peter McCann (LD)
Paula Riley (Burnley and Padiham Ind Party)

May 2018 result LD 699 Lab 693 C 188 Grn 62
May 2016 result LD 625 Lab 587 Grn 112
May 2015 result Lab 878 LD 871 UKIP 550 C 236 Grn 127
May 2014 result LD 970 Lab 541
May 2012 result Lab 725 LD 586 UKIP 151
May 2011 result LD 817 Lab 691 BNP 180
May 2010 result LD 1173 Lab 755 C 460 BNP 338
May 2008 result LD 742 Lab 353 C 316
May 2007 result LD 564 Lab 462 BNP 300 C 264
May 2006 result LD 812 Lab 466 C 339
June 2004 result Lab 694 BNP 443 LD 435 C 332 Ind 252
May 2003 result Lab 679 BNP 634 LD 285 C 255
May 2002 result Lab 1106/1083/1013 Ind 890 BNP 812 C 660 Socialist Alliance 314


Cyfarthfa

Merthyr Tydfil council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of independent councillor Paul Brown. The Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil in 2011-12, Brown was first elected in 2004 as a candidate of the People Before Politics slate; he lost his seat in 2012 but returned to the council in 2017.

For our other non-city by-election this week we are in the south Wales valleys. The Cyfarthfa division has a name which recalls the white heat of the Industrial Revolution: specifically the Cyfarthfa Ironworks. High up in the Taff valley, the Cyfarthfa Ironworks were one of several plants which made the town of Merthyr Tydfil boom. The works themselves were founded in 1765 by Anthony Bacon and William Brownrigg, who leased the mineral rights on the west bank of the Taff and won a contract to supply cannon to the Army and Navy; by the time of the Napoleonic Wars this ware the largest ironworks in the world, with visitors including Admiral Lord Nelson and an official representative of the Tsar of Russia turning up to see how the place worked. An idea of the heyday of the ironworks can be seen in the painting above, Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night, which was painted by Penry Williams in 1825.

The Crawshay family, who took over the works after Bacon's death, made enough money out of the ironworks to spend £30,000 building a crenellated mansion overlooking the valley. Cyfarthfa Castle, as it became known, was sold to Merthyr Tydfil council in 1908, who turned it into a school and museum. The Cyfarthfa ironworks closed a century ago, leading to large-scale unemployment, and were dismantled in 1928. Some of the site has since been reused for a business park, but much of it remains relatively untouched since.

The ironworks give their name to a modern electoral division of villages and estates overlooking Merthyr Tydfil from the west side, above the A470 trunk road. The largest settlements in the ward are Gellideg and Heolgerrig.

Since the 1996 reorganisation of local government in Wales Cyfarthfa has returned three councillors to Merthyr Tydfil council. Its elections have been dominated by independent slates throughout the last two and half decades, and the only time that Labour topped the poll here was during a by-election held on Police and Crime Commissioner election day in November 2012.

The May 2017 election here had to be postponed after independent candidate Ieuan Harris died during the campaign; with Labour defending two seats and an independent one, this led to a crucial postponed poll in June 2017. A clean sweep for Labour in Cyfarthfa would have given the party control of Merthyr Tydfil council; but in the event they lost a seat to independent candidate Geraint Thomas, and independent councillors took an overall majority in the town. Geraint Thomas was top of the poll with 1,369 votes, Brown was second with 1,300 and the lead Labour candidate David Chaplin won the final seat with 1,202; those vote totals are higher than normal because this was snap general election day. Since June 2017 Labour have lost a by-election to the independents in the Gurnos division, increasing the Independent majority on the council to 18-14 (plus this vacancy).

There are two independent candidates seeking to follow in Brown's footsteps, although your columnist hasn't been able to find out much about them. David Tudor Griffiths was a Plaid Cymru candidate in the 2012 Merthyr Tydfil elections, while Michelle Ellen Jones gives an address in Heolgerrig. The Labour candidate is motorcycle enthusiast Mark Prevett, who has a high local profile, he is the Church in Wales priest-in-charge for a parish in Merthyr. Completing the ballot paper is Paul Phillips, who has somehow found ten people in the ward who are prepared to nominate him as a Conservative candidate.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
ONS Travel to Work Area: Merthyr Tydfil
Postcode districts: CF44, CF47, CF48

David Griffiths (Ind)
Michelle Jones (Ind)
Paul Phillips (C)
Mark Prevett (Lab)

June 2017 postponed poll Ind 1369/812 Merthyr Ind 1300/1068 Lab 1202/1137/1072 PC 685
November 2012 by-election Lab 385 Ind 364 Ind 289 PC 101 C 26
May 2012 result Merthyr Ind 797/760/655 Lab 683/640/601 PC 318
May 2008 result Merthyr Ind 1108/933/784 Lab 586/533 Ind 422 LD 276
June 2004 result People Before Politics 1174/942/830 Lab 468/453 Ind 444/326
May 1999 result Ind 1483/1140/989 Lab 754/679/517
May 1995 result Ind Res 1118/823/608 Lab 1030/864/732


Thornton

Lambeth council, South London; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Lib Peck, who is taking up a new politically-restricted post in City Hall.

From two by-elections in Leave-voting areas we come to two by-elections in Remainia, in the capital cities of Scotland and England. Our London poll is a return visit to the Thornton ward of Lambeth, where this column was covering a by-election as recently as 7th February this year. To set the scene, I'll quote from what I wrote two months ago:

Thornton ward lies on the South Circular road just to the north of Tooting Common; it's based on the Hyde Farm estate, which was developed in and around the Edwardian era and remains mostly well-preserved; much of it is now a conservation area. Many of the houses on the estate are now owned by the E Hayes-Dashwood Foundation, which is named after the original architect and leases them to disabled ex-servicemen. The ward has a large black population but also has high employment levels; perhaps a reflection of the fact that it borders Clapham which is going up the social scale very quickly.

Thornton ward was contested in 1971 by a Tory councillor called John Major, who had been chairman of Lambeth's housing committee; but the voters chose to reject the future Prime Minister in favour of the Labour slate. The current ward boundaries were introduced in 2002 when the Lib Dems won two out of three seats and were five votes away from a third; but since 2006 Thornton has voted Labour and is now very safe for the party; in May last year Labour led the Tories here 63-16. That was an improvement on the London Mayoral election two years earlier, where Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in Thornton's ballot boxes 58-25; in the London Members ballot Labour polled 50%, the Conservatives 23% and the Greens 11%. ...

Let me pause there for the moment. The news of Lib Peck's resignation had already come through before the 7th February by-election, which left your columnist wondering what the heck I could say for this second poll that would be different. I shouldn't have worried. In hindsight, the clue to what was to happen next was already there in the very next sentence of my previous preview:

... Thornton is in the Streatham constituency of Chuka Umunna, who is one of those people that those on the Leave side of the referendum debate and the Corbyn side of the Labour debate love to hate; so this by-election might well be watched closely.

Well, that by-election turned up with an interesting result. The Labour majority was sharply cut by a Liberal Democrat surge back into second place: the winning Labour candidate Stephen Donnelly had 45% of the vote, to 33% for the Liberal Democrats and 10% for the Green Party, who narrowly beat the Tories for third place. A big anti-Labour swing there, and there was speculation that the local Labour membership might have taken their eye off the ball by concentrating on annoying Chuka rather than defending the by-election. Momentum (in particular) have form for that sort of thing.

In the week before the poll, the Streatham branch of the Labour party had passed a motion changing its structure to all-member meetings, in what was seen as a takeover by the left of the party. Given that Umunna was firmly planted on the right wing of the Labour party, you can see why the left wing might have wanted to get rid of him. Disquiet in Lambeth Labour is clearly a thing at the moment, given that Umunna's fellow Lambeth Labour MP Kate Hoey is not exactly flavour of the month among her local party either.

But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Within two weeks of the February by-election, Umunna had quit the Labour party to set up the Independent Group, which now numbers eleven members of the House of Commons. Lib Peck has gone as well, taking the route of several London Labour council leaders to new jobs in the Khan administration. And Labour still have to defend this by-election, which will be the first poll in a constituency held by the Independent Group - or Change UK, or whatever they're called this week. It's too early for the name "Change UK" to be appearing on our ballot papers yet, but nonetheless we can expect this poll to be closely watched yet again.

Defending this by-election for Labour in this new political context is Nanda Manley-Browne, who is chair of the BAME forum in Labour's Dulwich and West Norwood branch. The Lib Dems have changed candidate to Matthew Bryant, who has spent most of his career in the NHS and is a long-serving school governor. Returning from February's by-election is Green candidate Adrian Audsley, a chiropractor and reflexologist according to his Twitter. Three other candidates from February return to complete the ballot paper: Martin Read for the Conservatives, Leila Fazal for the Women's Equality Party and John Plume for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Streatham
London Assembly constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SW2, SW4, SW12

Adrian Audsley (Grn)
Matthre Bryant (LD)
Leila Fazal (Women's Equality)
Nanda Manley-Browne (Lab)
John Plume (UKIP)
Martin Read (C)

February 2019 by-election Lab 1154 LD 845 Grn 251 C 247 Women's Equality 46 UKIP 36
May 2018 result Lab 2140/1999/1990 C 545/511/489 Grn 388/364/292 LD 329/328/235
May 2014 result Lab 2280/2220/2113 UKIP 764 C 664/570/481 Grn 360/336/272 LD 271/258/227
May 2010 result Lab 2614/2609/2399 LD 1705/1670/1383 C 1188/1101/1004 Grn 504/373/311
May 2006 result Lab 1494/1445/1354 LD 1094/946/925 C 490/462/457 Grn 470/372/363
May 2002 result LD 1291/1191/1137 Lab 1142/1080/1057 Grn 277 C 268/257/197

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2051 C 884 Grn 255 LD 138 Women's Equality 69 UKIP 54 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 24 Respect 23 Britain First 23 BNP 12 Zylinski 9 One Love 4
London Members: Lab 1762 C 817 Grn 401 LD 207 Women's Equality 146 UKIP 73 CPA 30 Animal Welfare 27 Britain First 24 Respect 23 House Party 17 BNP 15


Leith Walk

Edinburgh council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Marion Donaldson, who had served since winning a by-election in September 2015.

To finish this week, it's time to mount the pulpit and read out some notices about future by-elections. The candidate lists for the 2nd May ordinary elections in England came out last week, and as usually happens a number of councillors have been elected unopposed. One of those was the Conservatives' Mike Johnson, who was the only candidate nominated in the by-election scheduled for 2nd May for the Thursby division of Cumbria county council; accordingly that poll is no longer necessary and Mike Johnson is now a county councillor. This column sends its congratulations. We haven't even started the 2019-23 council term yet, but the Class of 2019 has already generated its first vacancy: a ward in Lincolnshire attracted only one candidate for two available seats. Andrew's Previews will take you to the villages of Billinghay, Martin and North Kyme in due course.

There are no by-elections next week: as well as the fact that most parts of England are having local elections in just three weeks' time, next Thursday is Maundy Thursday and accordingly the count staff for any by-election next week would have to be paid bank holiday rates. Holding polls on Maundy Thursday, while it's no longer banned outright as it used to be, is as can be seen not an attractive option for anyone involved. So this column will therefore be taking a well-deserved week off to think about what to write for the May 2019 ordinary elections; if you have a particular subject you'd like me to cover, do please get in touch at the usual address.

I'm celebrating that week off by going to Edinburgh this weekend to play some quizbowl; and by coincidence Edinburgh is the subject of this week's final by-election. We're in the north of the city here in a ward named after one of the longest streets in the city: Leith Walk, the main route between the city centre and the port of Leith. The Leith Walk ward covers most of the Walk, although not its extremities at Picardy Place and the Foot of the Walk; instead within the ward boundaries can be found the Easter Road and the districts of Pilrig, Cannonmills and Bonnington.

The part of the ward north of Pilrig Street was once part of Leith proper, and that caused problems for tram passengers: Leith's and Edinburgh's tram systems weren't compatible with each other, so passengers had to change trams partway along the Walk. There is a tram system in Edinburgh again now, although it doesn't go to Leith thanks to the financial and other chaos which was the tram construction project; the original plan was for trams to go down Leith Walk, and there have been mutterings recently about finally building that route.

At the last first-past-the-post elections for the City of Edinburgh council in 2003, Labour won 30 seats and an overall majority on the city council with just 27.4% of the city-wide vote, while the Scottish National Party's 16% got them nothing at all. In 2007 Scotland moved to a proportional representation system which has got rid of terrible election results like that and properly reflects that Edinburgh is a pluralistic city with large amounts of support for all five major parties in Scotland. The 2017 election resulted in a minority coalition of the SNP and Labour running the city; those two parties together had 45% of the vote and won 49% of the seats, an outcome that is a fair reflection of what people voted for. Some defections since then mean that the governing coalition currently has 27 seats plus this vacancy (16 SNP and 11 Labour), against an opposition of 17 Conservatives, 8 Greens, 6 Lib Dems and four independents. Of those independents, three were elected for the SNP while the other was elected as a Conservative but now supports Scottish independence.

The Leith Walk ward is just as politically fragmented as the city as a whole. At its first election in 2007 it returned one councillor each from Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Green Party; the Lib Dems lost their seat to the second Labour candidate in 2012. In 2015 the SNP's Deirdre Brock resigned, having been elected to Westminster as MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, and the Greens' Maggie Chapman resigned to move to a new job as rector of the University of Aberdeen (she was and still is co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, and sought election to Holyrood from North East Scotland in 2016, unsuccessfully). A single by-election was held for both seats; the SNP topped the poll and held their seat, while the Greens lost their seat to Labour's Marion Donaldson.

That gave Labour three seats in Leith Walk and the SNP one, which was not a sustainable position when the 2017 election came around on slightly revised boundaries. Labour lost two seats in that election: one went to the SNP, which polled the most votes of any party with 34%; the other went to the Greens, whose nominee Susan Rae polled 20% and was the first candidate to be elected. Labour's 22% was only good enough for one seat, which went to Marion Donaldson; while the Conservatives came in as runner-up with 14%. One of the ward's SNP councillors, Lewis Ritchie, has since left the party to sit as an independent as a result of some dubious behaviour: the allegation is that he punched somebody in a taxi.

As can be seen, although Edinburgh as a whole was strongly No in the 2014 independence referendum Leith Walk gave 54% of the vote to pre-independence parties two years ago. So it looks a tall order for Labour, as a pro-Union party, to defend this by-election. Their candidate is Nick Gardner, who was a Labour councillor for the ward from 2012 to 2017 when he lost his seat. The SNP have selected Rob Munn, another former Edinburgh councillor; he represented Leith ward from 2007 to 2012 when he lost his seat to his running-mate Adam McVey. McVey has since gone on to become leader of Edinburgh council. The Scottish Greens' candidate is Lorna Slater, who fought Edinburgh North and Leith in the 2017 Westminster election. The Tory nominee Dan McCroskrie is well-travelled both physically and politically: a former chair of the Aberdeen University Labour club who later joined the Conservative party, McCroskrie was unlucky not to be elected to South Ayrshire council in a 2015 by-election, and fought Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the constituency formerly known as the Western Isles) in the 2017 general election. In between McCroskrie was a staffer for the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, and now he runs the office of Tory MSP Donald Cameron. Completing a very long ballot paper, with eleven candidates in all, are independent candidates Kevin Illingworth and John Scott (Scott fought the 2015 by-election here), Jack Caldwell for the Liberal Democrats, David Jacobsen for the Socialist Labour Party (who stood here in 2017), Steven Alexander for UKIP (who gives an address in Broxburn, West Lothian), Tom Laird for the Libertarian Party and Paul Stirling of the For Britain Movement. And a quick reminder that this is a Scottish local by-election, so Votes at 16 and the Alternative Vote apply here.

Parliamentary constituency: Edinburgh North and Leith (part generally west of Easter Road); Edinburgh East (part generally east of Easter Road)
Holyrood constituency: Edinburgh Northern and Leith (almost all), Edinburgh Central (a few buildings on the southern boundary)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Edinburgh
Postcode districts: EH3, EH6, EH7

Steven Alexander (UKIP)
Jack Caldwell (LD)
Nick Gardner (Lab)
Kevin Illingworth (Ind)
David Jacobsen (Soc Lab)
Tom Laird (Libertarian)
Dan McCroskrie (C)
Rob Munn (SNP)
John Scott (Ind)
Lorna Slater (Grn)
Paul Stirling (For Britain Movement)

MAy 2017 first preferences SNP 3670 Lab 2395 Grn 2097 C 1536 Ind 432 LD 398 Soc Lab 96 Ind 55


Andrew Teale


Previews: 28 Mar 2019

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

There are two local council by-elections on 28th March 2019, with meaningful and/or indicative votes in Scotland and London. This week the spotlight is reserved for the minor parties, with a defence for the Liberal Democrats later and one for the Scottish National Party to start...


Clackmannanshire Central

Clackmannanshire council, Scotland; caused by the resignation of Scottish National Party councillor Phil Fairlie who had served since 2017. The deputy leader of the council, Fairlie is resigning for personal and professional reasons; away from the council he is the Scottish chairman of the POA, the trade union formerly known as the Prison Officers' Association.

For our Scottish poll this week we are in the Wee County of Clackmannanshire, one of the many tiny counties which the Middle Ages left Scotland with; subsequent waves of local government reform have swept most of them away, but Clackmannanshire remains intact. With a population of just over 50,000, it is the smallest local government district on the Scottish mainland.

The Wee County's Central ward is based on the northern end of the town of Alloa together with the villages of Sauchie and Fishcross to the north. Alloa railway station, opened in 2008 and recently electrified, lies on the ward's southern boundary and links the area to Stirling and Glasgow. The county town of Clackmannanshire, Alloa is an industrial centre particularly associated with the brewing industry; while Fishcross is a former mining village. Sauchie is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Alan Hansen, the former Liverpool and Scotland defender who later served for many years as a pundit on Match of the Day; Hansen learned to play the beautiful game with the local youth side Sauchie Juniors.

Clackmannanshire has long been one of the stronger areas for the Scottish National Party, who have held the Scottish Parliament seat covering the county since 2003 and had a near-miss at the inaugural Holyrood election four years earlier. However, the parliamentary seat covering Clackmannanshire (currently Ochil and South Perthshire) remained with Scottish Labour until their collapse following the independence referendum of 2014. The Central ward was created some years before that poll in 2007, Labour beating the SNP 57-37 in votes and (this being Scotland, where they use proportional representation) 2-1 in seats; in 2012 the Labour lead narrowed to 49-41 but the seat count remained the same.

By the May 2017 local elections the context had changed, the SNP having gained Ochil and South Perthshire in their 2015 landslide; but the Nationalists couldn't translate this into a seat gain in Clackmannanshire Central. Labour remained on top in the ward with 40% of the vote, and the SNP remained second with 38%; however, the drops in both parties' vote shares were to the benefit of the Conservatives, whose 17% was enough for them to gain the final seat in the ward off Labour. Both Labour and the SNP had piled lots of votes on their lead candidates, and better balancing by either party would have shut the Tories out. The Conservatives followed up on that by gaining the Ochil and South Perthshire parliamentary seat in the general election five weeks later, although one suspects that this is not the strongest area of the constituency for them.

This by-election will be an SNP defence, and could be crucial for control of the council. The party runs Clackmannanshire as a minority, with 7 out of 18 councillors plus this vacancy; Labour have 5, the Tories 4 and the remaining seat is held by an independent. The defending SNP candidate is Jane McTaggart, who runs a social enterprise in the area and fought Clackmannanshire East in the 2017 elections. The Labour candidate is Margaret Brookes, who is described as a Sauchie community stalwart; given the Labour lead here two years ago she probably starts as favourite, particularly if she can pick up Unionist transfers from the Conservatives. The Tories have selected William Marlin, who works for his family's manufacturing business. Completing the ballot paper are Marion Robertson for the Greens, John Biggam for the Liberal Democrats and Dawson Michie for UKIP. A quick reminder that this is a Scottish local by-election, and so Votes at 16 and the Alternative Vote apply.

Parliamentary constituency: Ochil and South Perthshire
Scottish Parliament constituency: Clackmannanshire and Dunblane
ONS Travel to Work Area: Falkirk and Stirling
Postcode district: FK10

John Biggam (LD)
Margaret Brookes (Lab)
William Marlin (C)
Jane McTaggart (SNP)
Dawson Michie (UKIP)
Marion Robertson (Grn)

May 2017 first preferences Lab 1029 SNP 987 C 428 Grn 133
May 2012 first preferences Lab 1204 SNP 1082 Ind 88 C 77
May 2007 first preferences Lab 1777 SNP 1138 C 190


Wallington North

Sutton council, South London; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Joyce Melican who had served since 2014. She is resigning on health grounds, having suffered a stroke while on holiday abroad.

We travel south for our other by-election this week, which is in the seat of the longest-serving Liberal Democrat MP. Tom Brake is one of three MPs from the party who were first elected in 1997; however, he is the only one of those with continuous service, as Vince Cable and Ed Davey lost their seats in 2015.

Appropriately, Brake's seat of Carshalton and Wallington is in the local government district with the longest continuous Liberal Democrat majority: the London Borough of Sutton. This is an area of London outer suburbia created by the railways. Wallington railway station opened in 1847 (originally with the name "Carshalton") on the Victoria-West Croydon-Sutton line in an agricultural area which specialised in lavender cultivation. By the outbreak of the First World War the lavender fields were gone, replaced by Victorian and Edwardian villas which, for the most part, still exist today. The Wallington North ward lies to the north of the railway line, and includes a remaining area of open space: the Grange Gardens, a public park in the Wandle valley.

For much of this century Wallington North has been a Liberal Democrat-held ward of Sutton council with the Conservatives close behind and not far off winning a seat. The 2016 London Assembly elections, however, showed a rather different picture: Zac Goldsmith carried the ward's ballot boxes with 40%, to 29% for Sadiq Khan and 15% for Lib Dem mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon; while an unusually-fragmented London Members ballot had 29% for the Conservative list, 22% for Labour, 21% for the Lib Dems and 13% for UKIP.

So it must have been disappointing for the Sutton Tories that the 2018 election here saw a big swing to the Liberal Democrats, while elsewhere in the borough the Tories were gaining nine seats and doubling their Sutton council group. Shares of the vote in Wallington South last year were 46% for the Liberal Democrats, 26% for the Conservatives and 17% for Labour, which was a 6% swing to the Lib Dems compared with 2014 (when they had 34%, the Tories 26%, UKIP 20% and Labour 12%).

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Barry Lewis, a long-standing Scout leader and businessman in the travel industry; that latter aspect has attracted adverse comment from other candidates after the Inside Croydon blog reported that two companies associated with Lewis have gone into liquidation with debts running into millions of pounds. The Tories have reselected Charlotte Leonard who was runner-up here last year; she is a corporate fundraiser for an international development charity. Labour have selected a candidate with local government experience in Sheila Berry, who was an Epsom and Ewell councillor until 2015 (under her former name of Sheila Carlson); she was Mayor of that borough in 2011-12, and was the Labour candidate for the Epsom and Ewell constituency in the 2015 general election, coming second to international laughing stock Chris Grayling. Completing the ballot paper are Verity Thomson for the Green Party (who stood here last year), John Bannon for UKIP, Ashley Dickenson for the Christian Peoples Alliance and independent candidate Gervais Sawyer.

Parliamentary constituency: Carshalton and Wallington
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SM5, SM6

John Bannon (UKIP)
Sheila Berry (Lab)
Ashley Dickenson (Christian Peoples Alliance)
Charlotte Leonard (C)
Barry Lewis (LD)
Gervais Sawyer (Ind)
Verity Thomson (Grn)

May 2018 result LD 1637/1587/1505 C 912/888/827 Lab 594/526/516 Grn 300/222 UKIP 119/104/72
May 2014 result LD 1363/1317/1247 C 1033/865/737 UKIP 823 Lab 470/447/415 Grn 341/280/205
May 2010 result LD 2658/2481/2031 C 1801/1785/1573 UKIP 629 Lab 566/529/497 Grn 410/291/189
May 2006 result LD 1541/1532/1451 C 1298/1262/1194 Lab 244/229/229 Grn 242/221/217
May 2002 result LD 1127/1073/1046 C 961/940/915 Lab 333/305/290 Grn 181/139
May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 1128 Lab 833 LD 421 UKIP 190 Grn 129 Women's Equality 50 Britain First 38 Respect 24 BNP 16 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 16 Zylinski 6 One Love 3
London Member: C 819 Lab 630 LD 612 UKIP 375 Grn 197 Women's Equality 72 Britain First 46 CPA 41 Respect 29 Animal Welfare 25 BNP 16 House Party 12


Previews: 21 Mar 2019

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

Before we start this week's column, there is an entry for Correction Corner to note. Integrity Southampton have been in touch objecting to my description of them last week as a "UKIP splinter group". They point out, and I accept, that none of their candidates have any connection with UKIP. My apologies for the error.

There are six by-elections on 21st March 2019, with Labour defending four seats, the Liberal Democrats one and the Thurrock Independents one. We'll be in County Durham, Staffordshire and west London, but the only way to start the week is Essex...


Aveley and Uplands

Thurrock council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Thurrock Independents councillor Tim Aker.

Our first poll is in a council with a political situation which may be familiar. The Conservatives are in power, but not in control of Thurrock council; they run the council as a minority administration, three seats short of an overall majority. This means that the Thurrock Conservatives have to rule by consensus and compromise, and it would seem that they have learned the trick of how to do so: the council's budget for 2019-20, which included a freeze in council tax, was passed unanimously last month with support from the opposition Labour and independent councillors.

It takes a certain kind of politician to do consensus and compromise well. Remember David Cameron? Wen he came to power in 2010 Cameron had the choice of trying to govern by minority or trying to forge a consensus with other parties for a more lasting government. He chose the coalition route. Readers might not agree with everything or indeed anything the Coalition government did, but it's difficult to argue that the May administration is more strong, stable and effective at what it does that the Coalition was.

When it comes to political crises, there's one party that in recent years has reliably kept the purple touchpaper almost continually alight. It's a while since Andrew's Previews talked about UKIP, isn't it? This column has a complicated relationship with the UK Independence Party, which monopolised your columnist's local councillors until 2018 when councillor Paul Richardson lost his seat. Richardson wasn't alone in that: every UKIP councillor who stood for re-election in May 2018 lost their seat.

And it's not just at the ballot box where UKIP are losing. Since getting popular support for their signature policy nearly three years ago the party is on its fifth permanent leader and has suffered defections like there's no tomorrow. Nearly every sizeable UKIP council group has split down the middle at some point, and one such split cost the party control of Thanet council which had returned a UKIP majority in 2015. As the correction at the top of this column demonstrates, the party has spawned so many splinter groups it's difficult for your columnist to keep up. Even Nigel Farage has had enough and formed his own new party in an attempt to rise like a phoenix from the UKIP ashes.

One of the more sizeable UKIP council groups was in Thurrock. The party polled the most votes across Thurrock in the 2014 council elections, although it only won five out of sixteen wards; Labour carried six and the Conservatives the other five. One of the newly-elected UKIP councillors, Maggie O'Keeffe-Ray, died shortly afterwards; and the resulting by-election in December 2014 was won by a rising star of the party. Timür "Tim" Aker was born in Thurrock in 1985 to British and Turkish parents, and grew up in the village of Aveley. He read History and Politics at the University of Nottingham, and shortly after completing his studies stood for election to his home ward of Thurrock council, Aveley and Uplands.

This ward is the point on the north bank of the Thames estuary where Greater London ends and Essex begins; the M25 motorway is the ward's eastern boundary, while the A13 arterial road, the Tilbury railway line and High Speed 1 all pass through. Aveley is the main centre of population; a village which has received some London overspill over the years, it was a Conservative area until the advent of Coalition although not always safely so. A 31% score for the BNP in 2007 illustrated the potential for the populist right here.

Things started to go wrong for the Aveley Tories in 2011, when a former Tory councillor for the ward stood as an independent and split the Conservative vote. The official Tories did hold the seat, but they polled only 28% of the vote in a close four-way result; coming in third with 24% was a 25-year-old Tim Aker standing for UKIP. UKIP broke through to gain Aveley and Uplands the following year in another close four-way result; with Aker now head of the party's policy unit, it was Robert Ray who made the gain for them. Ray's wife, Maggie O'Keeffe-Ray, made a second gain in May 2014 and turned Aveley and Uplands into a safe UKIP ward; on the same day Tim Aker was elected to the European Parliament, winning the sixth of the seven seats allocated to the East of England.

When O'Keeffe-Ray died five months later Aker was the natural candidate to succeed her, and as stated he comfortably won the resulting by-election in December 2014 with 41% of the vote, to 29% for the Conservatives and 19% for Labour. By this point Aker was already the UKIP PPC for the Thurrock constituency, which even without the UKIP factor would have attracted lots of attention in the 2015 general election; the Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price, who had gained Thurrock for the Conservatives in the 2010 election, was sitting on a majority of just 92 votes.

If UKIP had performed just a little better in May 2015, Tim Aker would have entered Parliament as part of a UKIP group with Douglas Carswell. He finished third in the 2015 Thurrock election in a very close three-way result, polling 32% against 34% for Doyle-Price and 33$ for Labour. UKIP did have the consolation prize of winning the 2015 Thurrock council election, polling 36% across the wards which held polls and winning seven of the sixteen seats up for election. One of those was the final Tory seat in Aveley and Uplands, gained by a 40-28 margin over the Conservatives.

UKIP did even better in Aveley and Uplands in 2016, Ray being re-elected with 55% of the vote against 24% for Labour and 21% for the Tories. The party gained four more seats on Thurrock council to draw level with the Conservatives as the largest party on 17 seats; UKIP fell one vote short of gaining Little Thurrock Blackshots ward at the ballot box, and subsequently fell one vote short of winning the leadership in the council chamber.

And then it all fell apart. Against a backdrop of UKIP collapses in polls and council chambers, Thurrock's UKIP group unusually remained united; but the June 2017 general election showed that the bubble had burst. Aker was third again for UKIP, but this time finished a long way behind yet another Tory-Labour photofinish. (Jackie Doyle-Price has now won three terms as MP for Thurrock with majorities totalling 973 votes. And you thought your job was stressful.)

By January 2018 the Thurrock UKIP group had had enough of the national party's antics, and seceded from the party en masse to form a new party called the Thurrock Independents. One of the Thurrock Independents' councillors resigned immediately, and the resulting by-election in Ockendon ward resulted in a tie between the Conservatives and Labour on 696 votes each. The Tories won the drawing of lots and the seat.

The May 2018 local elections saw Tim Aker being the only Thurrock Independents candidate to hold his seat, as the group lost three seats to Labour and one to the Conservatives. He was nevertheless re-elected fairly comfortably with 43% of the vote, to 27% for a rather interesting choice of Tory candidate and 24% for Labour. Aker has since resigned from Thurrock council causing this by-election; he has moved house away from Thurrock, and in his resignation statement also said that the ongoing political crisis had left him unable to properly fulfil his duties on the council. He remains for now a member of the European Parliament, having joined Nigel Farage's new vehicle, the Brexit Party. Aker is only 33, so we may not have heard the last of him yet.

In the meantime the Thurrock Independents have the job of defending this by-election. Their candidate is Alan Field, an RAF veteran and one of the driving forces behind the new Aveley community centre, being built by the council at a cost of £2 million. The Tories have reselected their candidate from 2018, a man who is already notable enough for his own Wikipedia entry. David Van Day found fame as a member of the pop group Dollar, scoring five Top 10 hits in the 1970s and 1980s, and after that became a minor celebrity. Day finished fourth in the 2008 series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here; that was a much higher placing than he managed in the 2007 local elections in which he was on the Conservative slate for the East Brighton ward of Brighton and Hove council, to little discernible effect. There have been three by-elections in East Brighton since then so this is not Day's first appearance in Andrew's Previews, but it is his first starring role. More orthodox is the Labour candidate Charles Curtis, who is hoping to return to Thurrock council after nearly four years away; he represented Belhus ward from 2007 to 2015. Completing the ballot paper is the ward;'s first Liberal Democrat candidate since May 2014, Tomas Pilvelis.

Parliamentary constituency: Thurrock
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: RM15, RM19

Charles Curtis (Lab)
David Van Day (C)
Alan Field (Thurrock Ind)
Tomas Pilvelis (LD)

May 2018 result Thurrock Ind 1037 C 653 Lab 570 UKIP 141
May 2016 result UKIP 1011 Lab 449 C 392
May 2015 result UKIP 1598 C 1120 Lab 896 Ind 373
December 2014 by-election UKIP 747 C 520 Lab 338 Ind 217
May 2014 result UKIP 1085 C 683 Lab 372 LD 161
May 2012 result UKIP 495 C 448 Lab 385 Ind 350 LD 29
May 2011 result C 626 Ind 551 UKIP 528 Lab 497 LD 45
May 2010 result C 1264 Lab 902 Ind 734 UKIP 553 BNP 369
May 2008 result C 845 BNP 521 Lab 363 LD 128
May 2007 result C 671 BNP 562 Lab 436 LD 146
May 2006 result C 941 Lab 509 Grn 202 LD 173
June 2004 result C 1152/1107/924 Lab 471/399/388 Grn 324


Vange

Basildon council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Kayte Block, who is taking up a new politically-restricted job as a prosecutor. She had served since 2016.

For the second of our three by-elections in south Essex we come to a New Town. Vange is an old village - parts of its church, dedicated to All Saints, date from the late 12th century - but its housing is New Town development from the late 1960s. This is a ward with high levels of deprivation and low qualification levels; in fact Vange is in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for adults with fewer than five GCSE passes or equivalent, and social housing rates are very high.

In a town noted for its political volatility, Vange has been one of the more constant Labour areas of Basildon. During the Blair and Brown years it was a Labour-Tory marginal but the Conservatives only won it once, at the Labour low point of 2008. The Tory vote has generally fallen away since then, although the 2015 result here was close three ways between Labour, UKIP and the Conservatives; the most recent district poll in Vange ward was another close result in 2016, when Labour's Kayte Block polled 41% to 37% for UKIP and 21% for the Conservatives. The 2016 map is shown below.

Since then we have had the 2017 Essex county elections in which this is part of the Basildon Pitsea division; in that year UKIP fell back and Labour lost one of the division's two seats to the Conservatives. The 2017 general election a few weeks later saw a strong swing to the Tories in the local seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock, with UKIP (whose candidate was London Assembly member Peter Whittle) falling back badly and only narrowly saving their deposit. UKIP had done very well in Basildon in the 2014 local elections (in which Vange ward had a year off) but were wiped out in May 2018, and some poor by-election results since then have persuaded Basildon UKIP to throw in the towel.

That leaves us with a straight fight in the Vange by-election. Defending in the red corner for Labour is somebody who will almost certainly have the backing of some sectors of the press: Aidan McGurran is the managing editor of the Mirror Group of newspapers. McGurran is looking to return to Basildon council, having sat for the neighbouring Pitsea South East ward from 2012 to 2016 when he stood down. Pitsea South East ward had a by-election last June which saw a narrow Labour gain, the party defeating the Conservative candidate by just eight votes; and that losing Conservative candidate from that by-election is back for another go. Challenging from the blue corner, she is Yetunde Adeshile, an author, coach, speaker and consultant who works extensively with young people, women and BAME people in Basildon. Neither candidate gives an address in the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: South Basildon and East Thurrock
Essex county council division: Basildon Pitsea
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend
Postcode districts: SS13, SS14, SS16

Yetunde Adeshile (C)
Aidan McGurran (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 616 UKIP 557 C 321
May 2015 result Lab 1289 UKIP 1136 C 1009 LD 110 TUSC 39
May 2012 result Lab 919 C 320 UKIP 274 LD 51
May 2011 result Lab 1089 C 554 UKIP 338 LD 102
May 2008 result C 590 Lab 508 BNP 289 LD 104
May 2007 result Lab 704 C 636 BNP 481
June 2004 result Lab 612 C 502 LD 224
May 2003 result Lab 507 C 452 LD 163 Ind 88
May 2002 result Lab 772/665 C 403/380 BNP 189 LD 178/167


Milton

Southend-on-Sea council, Essex; caused by the death of Labour councillor Julian Ware-Lane who had served since 2012.

We finish our progression through South Essex in Southend-on-Sea. Milton is Southend's town centre ward, covering the Central station, the northern half of the pier, the Western Esplanade and the suburb of Westcliff-on-Sea. This being a seaside resort, Milton ward is in the top 60 wards in England and Wales for private renting. Southend does have some jobs of its own in financial and other services (the Revenue's VAT Central Unit is based here) but entertainment is the main economic sector in Milton ward; while Wescliff-on-Sea in particular attracts high numbers of commuters to London on the "misery line" into Fenchurch Street.

Southend-on-Sea council, along with Thurrock, declared independence from Essex as a unitary council back in the 1990s. The new unitary status led to boundary changes in 2001 with a much-increased council size; the 2001 result was on the same day as the general election that year and Milton ward was close between the Tories and Labour, but after that Milton was a safely Conservative ward until 2011. Since then however it has swung a mile to the left: Labour gained two seats in the ward in 2012 and 2014, and only the general election turnout saved the final Tory seat in 2015 which was held with a majority of just 51 votes. Milton's two Labour councillors were easily re-elected in 2016 and 2018, in the latter year with a 51-32 lead over the Tories. However, that didn't stop the Conservatives regaining an overall majority on Southend council in 2018 after a period of no overall control, for part of which a "rainbow coalition" of everybody but the Tories had been running the town.

Defending for Labour, who will be hoping for a good performance to show that they can knock out the final Conservative councillor here in May, is Stephen George who is looking to return to Southend council after a long absence: he represented the former Milton ward from 1999 to 2000, and Kursaal ward from 2001 to 2010. His 1999 win in Milton ward was with a majority of one vote over outgoing Tory councillor Joyce Lambert, who had been absent for much of the campaign recovering from emergency surgery. For this by-election the Tories have reselected their candidate from last year Garry Lowen, who runs a guest house in the ward. Also standing are Carol White of the Liberal Democrats and James Quail for the For Britain Movement.

Parliamentary constituency: Rochford and Southend East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend
Postcode districts: SS1, SS0

Stephen George (Lab)
Garry Lowen (C)
James Quail (For Britain Movement)
Carol White (LD)

May 2018 result Lab 1305 C 832 Ind 177 Grn 146 LD 116
May 2016 result Lab 1020 C 593 UKIP 297 Grn 142 Ind 124 LD 78
May 2015 result C 1709 Lab 1658 Grn 476 Ind 295 LD 247
May 2014 result Lab 848 C 582 UKIP 486 Ind 259 LD 156
May 2012 result Lab 675 C 607 Ind 361 LD 123 EDP 122
May 2011 result C 998 Lab 800 Ind 446 LD 221
May 2010 result C 1502 Lab 905 LD 901 Ind 243 UKIP 207 BNP 171
May 2008 result C 928 Lab 502 LD 321 BNP 185
May 2007 result C 837 Lab 528 LD 187 Ind 134 Grn 125 Ind 77
May 2006 result C 818 Lab 431 Alliance Southend Party 318 LD 269 Grn 208
June 2004 result C 1068 Lab 576 LD 441
May 2003 result C 785 Lab 403 LD 201 Grn 118
May 2002 result C 1069 Lab 682 Grn 216
June 2001 result C 1355/1344/1310 Lab 1285/1214/1192 LD 490/466


Dalgarno

Kensington and Chelsea council, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Robert Thompson who had served since 2014. A Church of England priest, Revd Thompson is taking up a post as the new vicar of a parish elsewhere in London.

For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen;
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.
- G K Chesterton, The Rolling English Road

For our London by-election we travel to the north end of Kensington and Chelsea, the smallest and most socially divided of the 32 London Boroughs. North Kensington is the working-class end; Dalgarno ward is the northern end of North Kensington, along Barlby Road and Dalgarno Gardens. The London Evening Standard described Dalgarno Gardens in 2000 as being one of the UK's worst housing ghettos, with high levels of youth crime blighting the well-maintained 1930s flats which form much of the ward's housing. This is certainly one of the more remote corners of London, a long way from the nearest Underground station; the Great Western and future Crossrail lines pass through, but there is no station within the ward.

Dalgarno ward has only existed since 2014; at the time of the 2011 census this was the northern two-thirds of St Charles ward. St Charles was in the top 25 wards in England and Wales for social housing and for mixed-race population, in the top 40 for "other" ethnic groups, in the top 60 for population born in the Republic of Ireland, and in the top 90 for those born in the EU-14 countries. A quarter of St Charles ward's population were born outside the EU, with the census picking up large numbers of North Africans and Arabic speakers. The major local employer is St Charles' Hospital, a small NHS unit. The boundary changes which created Dalgarno ward brought in a large but sparsely-populated area to the north of the Great Western railway line mostly filled by a derelict gasworks, the Grand Union Canal and part of the large Kensal Green Cemetery, where many of the great and good of the past lie in eternal rest. There are plane for redevelopment of the gasworks site, with an Elizabeth Line station to serve it.

Kensington and Chelsea is, as stated, very socially divided, and that social division feeds through into political division. The borough's wards are all either Labour monoliths or Tory monoliths with almost nothing in between; the 2018 election returned thirty-six Conservative councillors, thirteen Labour and one Liberal Democrat, which was a net change of just one seat from four years previously. Dalgarno ward is firmly in the Labour column, with a Labour lead over the Tories of 70-22 at the 2018 election; in the 2016 GLA elections, with a wider choice of parties, Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes by 54-25 while Labour beat the Conservatives 51-19 in the London Members ballot. One curious feature of the London Members ballot in 2016 was that Dalgarno ward produced the best result in London for the House Party, which polled 18 votes here (1.2%) and finished tenth out of twelve parties. You have to go up to Parliamentary level for actual excitement: in the 2017 general election Kensington was the last constituency to declare its result, Labour's Emma Dent Coad gaining the seat from the Conservatives by just 20 votes after three recounts.

In all probability, those 20 voters perished in the Grenfell Tower fire less than a week later. This is the first time that Andrew's Previews has been to Kensington and Chelsea since the fire, as although there were munerous resignations among the council administration in the aftermath of the disaster, none of them resulted in by-elections. Councillor Robert Thompson, who at the time was assistant curate at St Clements Notting Dale close to the tower, became chairman of the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee which is responsible for holding the council to account over its handling of the disaster.

With Thompson now tending to a new flock in West Hampstead, Labour need to find a new Kensington and Chelsea councillor. Their candidate is Kasim Ali, a community organiser who ran six marathons and an ultra-marathon within the space of seven days to raise money for a Grenfell Tower-related charity. The Tories have selected Samia Bentayeb, who is originally from Algeria but has lived in UK for nearly two decades; she fought Colville ward in the 2018 local elections. Also standing are Alexandra Tatton-Brown for the Liberal Democrats, Callum Dorrington Hutton for UKIP and Angela Georgievski of the Green Party. None of the candidates give addresses in the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Kensington
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: W10

Kasim Ali (Lab)
Samia Bentayeb (C)
Callum Dorrington Hutton (UKIP)
Angela Georgievski (Grn)
Alexandra Tatton-Brown (LD)

May 2018 result Lab 1258/1119 C 393/315 LD 137
May 2014 result Lab 977/814 C 320/246 UKIP 253 LD 105/91
May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 795 C 361 Grn 77 LD 53 Respect 46 UKIP 45 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 30 Women's Equality 28 BNP 15 Britain First 11 One Love 3 Zylinski 3
London Members: Lab 764 C 280 Grn 118 UKIP 93 Women's Equality 56 LD 54 Respect 45 Britain First 30 Animal Welfare 20 House Party 18 BNP 14 CPA 10


Holditch and Chesterton

Newcastle-under-Lyme council, Staffordshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Chris Spence who had served since 2016.

We move from the most marginal Labour constituency, Kensington, to the second most marginal, Newcastle-under-Lyme - although as Andrew's Previews has noted previously the 30-vote Labour majority in Newcastle-under-Lyme two years ago is unsafe, thanks to gross mismanagement of that poll by the Newcastle-under-Lyme elections team.

Hopefully this by-election will be better administered. We're in a ward off the A34 road to the north of Newcastle, as it passes some large business and distribution parks. These cover the site of Holditch Colliery, which was once the major local employer providing 1,500 jobs. Many of those mineworkers lived in Chesterton, which was a classic pit village and as such was badly affected by the closure of Holditch Colliery in 1990 and of Silverdale Colliery in 1998.

Newcastle-under-Lyme was one of the first councils where UKIP had a local government presence, and the Kippers won Holditch ward (the predecessor to this ward) in 2006 and 2014. The present ward was created in May 2018 and it would appear from that year's result that Labour are back in control; they polled 52%, against 17% for outgoing UKIP councillor Kenneth Owen standing as an independent and 15% for the Conservative slate. Labour also hold the local county council division, Audley and Chesterton. They are the largest party on Newcastle-under-Lyme council, with 19 out of 44 seats plus this vacancy, but do not run the council; instead the Conservatives (with 18 seats) have a minority administration with the support of independent councillors. Newcastle-under-Lyme has moved away from elections by thirds, so the council's next election will be in 2022.

Defending this by-election for Labour is Peter Radford who describes himself as Chesterton born and bred. Last year's runner-up Kenneth Owen will again try to get his seat back as an independent candidate. The Conservative candidate is Lawrence Whitworth, who appears to be a Keele University student. Completing the ballot paper are Mark Barlow for UKIP and Carol Lovatt for the Social Democratic Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Newcastle-under-Lyme
Staffordshire county council division: Audley and Chesterton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stoke-on-Trent
Postcode district: ST5

Mark Barlow (UKIP)
Carol Lovatt (SDP)
Kenneth Owen (Ind)
Peter Radford (Lab)
Lawrence Whitworth (C)

May 2018 result Lab 566/528 Ind 186 C 166/144 UKIP 105/75 LD 61/47


Esh and Witton Gilbert

Durham council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Michael McGaun who had served since 2017.

For our final by-election this week we travel back to County Durham for the second in a series of by-elections, following the Wingate poll last week. Durham council generates a large number of by-elections because with 126 councillors it is the third-largest elected body in the UK: only the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament have a larger membership.

If you read the Wingate preview you might have got the impression that Durham is all pit villages, and this piece is unlikely to change that. Indeed, the largest settlement in Esh and Witton Gilbert division is Langley Park, a village which was called into existence in the late nineteenth century by the sinking of Langley Park Colliery. Parts of the village are very well preserved and have attracted the attention of film and TV companies; sections of Ripping Yarns and The Fast Show were made in Langley Park...

https://youtu.be/cMMN7MDSgRE

Also made in Langley Park was Sir Bobby Robson, the England footballer and manager who was brought up in the village; when Robson left school at 15 his first job was as an electrician's apprentice at Langley Park Colliery. Slightly later than that, the pop band Prefab Sprout - who were from Witton Gilbert - went so far as to call their most successful album From Langley Park to Memphis.

Although the ONS have included most of the division in the Newcastle Travel to Work Area, Langley Park is only five miles from the city of Durham and the jobs it provides. Witton Gilbert is closer still. This was also a mining centre, but had a history as a Saxon settlement and was associated with the Durham clergy. Religion was still very important to the area until very recently thanks to the presence of the Catholic seminary of Ushaw College; this was closed in 2011, although Durham University are trying to keep the buildings in educational use.

There are some other small villages in the Esh and Witton Gilbert division, which is a long and thin unit that looks like it was the awkward bit which was left over after all the neighbouring divisions had been satisfactorily sorted out. One of those villages is Esh itself, after which Esh parish (which includes Langley Park) is named; and the division continues west to the villages of Quebec, Cornsay Colliery and Satley.

Langley Park and Witton Gilbert may have similar histories, but they have different political traditions. Until Durham's local government was reorganised in 2009 Langley Park was in the Derwentside district, whose electoral politics was the usual coalfield pattern of Labour versus Independents; but Witton Gilbert was covered by Durham city council which was controlled by the Liberal Democrats. Those two traditions collided when the current division was created for the 2013 Durham election, at a time of Lib Dem weakness; and Labour won the 2013 election here with 43%, to 33% for the Lib Dems.

However, Labour performed very poorly across the North East in the 2017 local elections, and Esh and Witton Gilbert saw a huge swing to the Liberal Democrats who beat Labour 55-28. Langley Park and the westerly villages are covered by the North West Durham constituency, which in the 1992 election was contested by a young lady from the Tories called Theresa May and a young man from the Lib Dems called Tim Farron. (Whatever happened to them? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.)

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Beverley Coult, who is from Langley Park and is a former Esh parish councillor. The Labour candidate is Anne Bonner, who is hoping to return to the Durham council chamber after representing Deerness division from 2013 to 2017. Also standing are Richard Lawrie for the Conservatives and independent candidate Ryan Drion. This column likes to highlight pubs which serve as polling stations, and so a mention is due here for the Royal Oak in Cornsay Colliery which is doing its bit for democracy today.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Durham (part: Esh parish, Satley parish, part of Cornsay parish), City of Durham (part: Witton Gilbert parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle (part: Esh and Witton Gilbert parishes), Durham and Bishop Auckland (part: Satley parish and part of Cornsay parish)
Postcode districts: DH1, DH7, DL13

Anne Bonner (Lab)
Beverley Coult (LD)
Ryan Drion (Ind)
Richard Lawrie (C)

May 2017 result LD 1320/1231 Lab 659/644 C 402
May 2013 result Lab 897/865 LD 693/636 UKIP 410/390 C 105/86


Previews: 14 Mar 2019

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

Welcome to Andrew's Previews, your weekly reminder that there is politics going on which does not involve Parliament or Brexit. Today we look at the three local council by-elections taking place on 14th March 2019:


Coxford

Southampton council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Keith Morrell. He was first elected in 2010 and was originally a Labour councillor.

We start this week with an unusual by-election in the south coast port of Southampton. A quick walk along the town walls will persuade you that Southampton is an old city; but not all parts of it are old, and the Coxford ward is one of the city's newer areas. The ward covers the Lordshill and Lordswood areas on the northern edge of the city; these areas were incorporated into Southampton in 1967 and the city council made short work of building new housing estates on them. Lordshill, off the Romsey Road, in particular has high deprivation levels; the ward as a whole has high levels of social housing and low qualification rates. The major local employer is Southampton General Hospital, which lies just outside the ward boundary.

Southampton got its present ward boundaries in 2002, which was a time when all three of the major parties had strong representation on the city council. Coxford ward at this point was a Lib Dem/Labour marginal with the Lib Dems normally having the better of the results; and this continued until 2008 when the Conservatives came through the middle to gain Coxford with just 32% of the vote, in a result where all three parties finished within 3.1% of each other. That 2008 result marked a realignment in Southampton's politics, with a Tory landslide delivering fourteen of the city's sixteen wards and overall control of what had previously been a very balanced council; the Southampton Liberal Democrats were wiped out, and have yet to recover.

That Lib Dem collapse left Labour in control of Coxford's election results, and by 2012 the party had all of the ward's councillors. But in that year Labour gained overall control of the council in the Age of Austerity, and were faced with making cuts. The Labour group proposed closing the local Oaklands swimming pool to save money; and two of their Coxford ward councillors, Don Thomas and Keith Morrell, left the party over that issue to form an anti-austerity political group. The swimming pool was saved, Morrell and Thomas were both re-elected and Don Thomas' daughter Tammy gained the final Coxford seat in 2016.

Although Morrell and the Thomases were officially elected as independents after leaving Labour, their group on Southampton council was called "Putting People First", and in practice they were sponsored at election time by the seriously left-wing Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, one of the larger entries in the ever-changing alphabet soup of small parties which fill the political space to the left of Labour. Whatever support they got, it was clearly effective; in May 2018 Morrell was re-elected for a third term on the council with 47% of the vote, to 28% for Labour and 16% for the Conservatives.

The Putting People First group decided to disband last year, and Morrell has now resigned leaving an open seat on the council. So this by-election will be a free-for-all, and everybody seems to want a piece of the action with no fewer than eight candidates having been nominated; if you exclude the City of London, this is the longest ballot paper for an English single-member local by-election in over two years.

So this is a ward which has been through several turnings of the tide in quick succession - rather appropriate for a city on Southampton Water, where every tide produces not one but two peaks of high water. This by-election looks like it will mark another turning point - but in whose favour?

Morrell was latterly elected as an independent, and there is one independent candidate on the ballot paper: he is Ricky Lambert, who is not the former Southampton FC striker of that name but does stand regularly as an independent candidate in Southampton elections, so far with a notable lack of success. Lambert finished last of six candidates in this ward last year, although just to confuse matters he appears on the Local Elections Archive Project under his birth name of Richard McQuillan. Putting People First's politics were anti-austerity, and hoping to fallow in that vein is Sue Atkins who has the nomination of the Socialist Alternative. Labour will no doubt want Morrell's seat back, and their candidate is Matt Renyard, a software engineer who was runner-up here in last May's election. Hoping to repeat the 2008 result in which the Tories came through the middle to win is their candidate Diana Galton. Also standing are Sam Chapman for the Liberal Democrats, Cara Sandys for the Green Party, David Fletcher for an outfit called "Integrity Southampton" which appears to be yet another UKIP splinter group, and Derek Humber as the official UKIP candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Southampton Test
ONS Ttravel to Work Area: Southampton
Postcode district: SO16

Sue Atkins (Soc Alt)
Sam Chapman (LD)
David Fletcher (Integrity Southampton)
Diana Galton (C)
Derek Humber (UKIP)
Ricky Lambert (Ind)
Matt Renyard (Lab)
Cara Sandys (Grn)

May 2018 result Ind 1595 Lab 958 C 559 LD 103 Grn 101 Ind 82
May 2016 result Ind 1317 Lab 924 UKIP 498 C 396 LD 113 Ind 84 Grn 70
May 2015 result Ind 2300 Lab 1330 C 1196 UKIP 978 LD 215 Grn 209
May 2014 result Ind 1633 UKIP 796 Lab 724 C 500 LD 168
May 2012 result Lab 1647 C 667 LD 334 UKIP 295 Grn 75 TUSC 57 Ind 39
May 2011 result Lab 2004 C 1112 LD 702
May 2010 result Lab 2379 LD 1826 C 1769 Ind 279
May 2008 result C 1018 Lab 986 LD 918 UKIP 287
May 2007 result Lab 1219 LD 1162 C 784 UKIP 201 Grn 128
May 2006 result LD 1229 Lab 1180 C 620 Grn 273
June 2004 result LD 1110 Lab 1018 UKIP 510 C 478
May 2003 result LD 1187 Lab 933 C 361 Lab 245 BNP 197 UKIP 95
May 2002 result LD 1328/1272/1185 Lab 1000/968/927 C 398/377/352


Norbury and Pollards Hill

Croydon council, South London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Maggie Mansell. A veteran of local government, Mansell was first elected in 1986 and had represented Norbury on Croydon council continuously since 1994. She was Mayor of Croydon in 2005-06, and was the Labour candidate for Croydon and Sutton in the 2000 London Assembly elections.

Our remaining two by-elections are both being defended by Labour, but are wards which are very different in character. We start in the south with that most urban of urban areas, south London; rather appropriately for a name which literally means "north borough", we are at the northern end of the London Borough of Croydon. This is an area on the old road from London to Brighton; the A23 passes through the ward running south from Norbury railway station, which is on the Victoria-Brighton line although only local trains stop there. There are plenty of them, though: with its seven trains every hour to London, Norbury handles 3.5 million rail passengers every year.

Norbury station was rebuilt in 1902 at the same time that much of the ward's housing was being built, and around the same time that Arthur Conan Doyle was tormenting Sherlock Holmes with mentions of the word "Norbury" to remind him of one of his few failed deductions. The ward's Edwardian terraces are in an area which has changed demographically rather a lot since they were built, and the 2011 census picked up significant populations born in India (particularly Gujurat), Jamaica and Poland. Ward boundaries changed in Croydon last year; in 2011 the present ward was the southern part of Norbury ward, which made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for black population (25%).

Some measure of that demographic change can be seen in the local election results. Maggie Mansell was on the Labour slate which won Norbury by just 3 points from the Conservatives in 1994; but the Tories are nowhere here now. In May 2018 - the only previous result on these boundaries - Labour led the Conservatives here 68-22, with the Greens being the only other party to stand candidates.

This by-election has a wider choice for the electors of Norbury and Pollards Hill, with seven candidates nominated. Defending for Labour is Leila Ben-Hassel, vice-chair of the party's Croydon North branch; she works for the City of London Corporation as a project manager in public realm planning. The Tories have selected Tirena Gunter who has stood for election to Croydon council six times before, so far without any success; she fought the old Norbury ward in 2014. Also standing are Rachel Chance for the Green Party, Guy Burchett for the Liberal Democrats, Kathleen Garnier for UKIP and independent candidates Mark O'Grady and Margaret Roznerska.

Parliamentary constituency: Croydon North
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: SW16

Leila Ben-Hassel (Lab)
Guy Burchett (LD)
Rachel Chance (Grn)
Kathleen Garnier (UKIP)
Tirena Gunter (C)
Mark O'Grady (Ind)
Margaret Roznerska (Ind)

May 2018 result Lab 1981/1934 C 644/638 Grn 299/291


Wingate

Durham council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Robert "Leo" Taylor at the age of 77. A long-serving veteran of local government who worked for 35 years as an administrator with ICI, Taylor was first elected to Wingate parish council in 1991; he made the step up to district council level on the old Easington council in a 2002 by-election, and was the chairman of Easington council in 2008-09 - nobody succeeded him in that role, as the council was abolished in 2009. In the 2013 Birthday Honours Taylor was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of his community work; a month earlier he had been elected to Durham council, being re-elected for a second term in 2017.

We move from South to North, from city to village, for our second and final Labour defence of the week and the first in a three-part series of by-elections in County Durham. Wingate is a name with many associations - from a superlative Lancashire brass band to the commander of the Chindits - but in electoral terms it's a village just to the west of the A19 Teesside-Sunderland road. The village didn't really exist until the 19th century, when coal was found under the area and a pit village sprang up. Coal isn't mined in Durham any longer, but Wingate has good road connections to the major local employment centres at Durham, Peterlee, Teesside and Sunderland making it an attractive commuter area.

Politically, this is of course a very strongly Labour area. This year Durham Labour will celebrate 100 years of continuous control of Durham county council, and Wingate is very much in the red column. From 1983 to 2007 it was represented in Parliament by the man Labour love to hate, Tony Blair; his successor as MP for Sedgefield, Phil Wilson, easily weathered a small swing to the Conservatives in the 2017 general election. That was shortly after the May 2017 Durham local elections, in which Taylor was re-elected for his final term with 74% of the vote.

There are several unusual features about the candidate list for this by-election. Ons is that the four candidates all live in different postcode areas. The only candidate to live in Wingate (which has Teesside postcodes) is John Higgins, who is the defending Labour candidate and whose socialist credentials are impeccable; Higgins is from a mining family, and his father represented Wingate Colliery in the so-called "Pitman's Parliament" in Durham. Another unusual feature is that there is no Conservative candidate; the Tories ran second in Wingate in 2017 with 14%, and do normally make an effort to contest as many local government seats as possible. Excluding the City of London and Northern Ireland, this is the first by-election which the Conservatives have failed to turn up for in over a year; the last poll without a Tory was in Trevethin in Gwent, in February 2018.

So the opposition to Labour in this by-election is from a rather unfamiliar set of parties, although one of them does have a track record here. The North East Party finished third in Wingate in 2017 with 10% of the vote; this is a serious regionalist movement which won three seats in the 2017 Durham elections and were within a whisker of winning two more. All of those North East Party seats are in nearby Peterlee (which has Sunderland postcodes) from where their candidate Stephen Miles hails. The Liberal Democrats' Edwin Simpson (from Esh Winning, which has Durham postcodes) hasn't been put off by the fact that his party polled just 21 votes here in 2017, the lowest tally of any candidate in that year's Durham elections. Completing the ballot paper is Gareth Fry (from Newton Aycliffe, which has Darlington postcodes) who is standing for the For Britain Movement.

Parliamentary constituency: Sedgefield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sunderland
Postcode districts: TS28, TS29

Gareth Fry (For Britain Movement)
John Higgins (Lab)
Stephen Miles (North East Party)
Edwin Simpson (LD)

May 2017 result Lab 577 C 107 North East Party 78 LD 21
May 2013 result Lab 538 Ind 256


Preview: 07 Mar 2019

Before we start this week, this column would like to pay tribute to the man who inspired its name. André Previn, who died last Thursday at the age of 89, was a noted musician and conductor who won four Oscars, eleven Grammys (one of which was for lifetime achievement) and an honorary KBE, and left behind a huge collection of recordings and compositions; but for British people of a certain age he will be forever remembered for that sketch in the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, in which "Andrew Preview" conducted Grieg's Piano Concerto by Grieg. Andrew's Previews would like to thank the original "Mr Preview" for all that entertainment.

In the spirit of the Morecambe and Wise sketch this column's mission statement is to cover "all the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"; but there is only one order to take this week in as there is just a single local by-election on 7th March 2019. Read on...


Haddenham and Stone

Aylesbury Vale council, Buckinghamshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Michael Edmonds at the age of 82. A veteran of local government, Edmonds was first elected to Aylesbury Vale council at a by-election for Stone ward in May 1975; he had a break in service from 1987 to 2003 when he returned as councillor for Long Crendon ward, transferring to this ward following boundary changes in 2015. Edmonds also served three terms on Buckinghamshire county council, in 1977-81 and 2005-13. His highest local government office was as deputy leader of Aylesbury Vale council from 2007 to 2013, and since 2014 he had chaired the council's strategic development control committee.

As can be seen, Michael Edmonds' local government career almost spanned the entire lifetime of Aylesbury Vale council; it held its first election in 1973, took on its responsibilities in April 1974, and looks likely to be abolished in 2020. As part of that the May 2019 elections in Buckinghamshire have been cancelled, and if there are no further vacancies this will be the last time that an Aylesbury Vale by-election appears in Andrew's Previews.

Edmonds' ward was Haddenham and Stone, a large rural ward of six parishes which fills the space between the Buckinghamshire county town of Aylesbury and the Oxfordshire town of Thame. The largest settlement within the ward is Haddenham, a rapidly-growing place with a commuter economic profile thanks to its location on the Chiltern railway line. Haddenham and Thame Parkway station has seen patronage grow by over 26% in the last five years, and with regular trains to London, Oxford and Banbury together with bus links to Thame and Aylesbury it is an important transport hub for the local area. Haddenham's traditional industry was duck breeding, and its duckponds and picture-postcard "wychert" buildings have made it a favourite location for TV and film productions from Midsomer Murders to The Great Muppet Caper.

Haddenham had a radical political tradition back in the day, and as late as 2003 the Haddenham ward split its three seats between the Lib Dems, the Conservatives and an independent. However, the Tories got a full slate in 2007 and haven't really been challenged here since. Boundary changes for the 2015 election added the parish of Cuddington to the ward's area and the village of Stone to its name; Stone lies just south-west of Aylesbury, in the shadow of the Chiltern escarpment.

That 2015 poll returned the Tory slate with 41% of the vote. A three-way pileup for second place was won by the Greens' David Lyons (who was a long way ahead of his running mates) ahead of independent candidate Mark Bale and the UKIP slate; Lyons, Bale and UKIP all polled 16%. David Lyons went on to be runner-up to the Conservatives for the Bernwood county division, which includes Haddenham, in the 2017 Buckinghamshire county elections; he scored an impressive 31% to the Tories' 47%. Stone is part of the Stone and Waddesdon county division which the Conservatives very easily gained from UKIP that year. The ward does not have party political contests at Parliamentary level, as it is part of the Buckingham constituency held by Speaker Bercow.

Defending for the Conservatives is Mark Bale, who as stated polled well as an independent candidate for this ward in the 2015 election; Bale is a Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell parish councillor, was once a farmer and now runs a business selling and repairing computers. Returning for the Green Party is David Lyons, an engineer in the railway industry and Haddenham parish councillor; he is an organiser for Haddenham in Transition, which is an initiative to increase the village's self-sufficiency in a world which in years to come will slowly wean itself off its oil dependency. In 2011 Lyons was instrumental in having Haddenham recognised as a "transition town". UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper are Liberal Democrat Jim Brown and Labour candidate Jennifer Tuffley.

Parliamentary constituency: Buckingham
Buckinghamshire county council division: Bernwood (Aston Sandford, Haddenham and Kingsey parishes), Stone and Waddesdon (Cuddington, Dinton-with-Ford and Upton, and Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: High Wycombe and Aylesbury
Postcode districts: HP17, HP18, HP27, OX9

Mark Bale (C)
Jim Brown (LD)
David Lyons (Grn)
Jennifer Tuffley (Lab)

May 2015 result C 2677/2075/1681 Grn 1063/673/575 Ind 1037/848 UKIP 1031/931/600 LD 771


Preview: 28 Feb 2019

One by-election on Thursday 28th February 2019:


Berkeley Vale

Stroud council, Gloucestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Penny Wride at the age of 69.

Events keep happening at the moment, don't they? Last week's column was rendered severely out of date by the creation of the Independent Group of MPs, and this week's may well suffer the same fate of News Happening.

The 24-hour news cycle turns more quickly than your columnist's submission deadline, and far more quickly than the local by-election cycle. Local by-elections take at least a month to organise from the vacancy occurring - so it's obviously far too early for the Independent Group to be troubling the ballot papers yet - and your columnist is already collecting the candidate lists and putting in the research for polls in the second half of March. There are some crackers coming up, let me tell you. Today's single by-election is to replace Stroud councillor Penny Wride, who died in December; Wride had had a varied career which ran the gamut from running a charity shop in Nairobi to setting up the Berkeley Technical College in disused buildings which were formerly part of a nuclear power complex. In her honour, the road running though the college was names Penny Lane.

The Berkeley nuclear power station - of which only the reactors remain, encased in concrete until the radiation dies down enough to permit demolition - is the newest and least-lovely notable thing about the Vale of Berkeley. The vale took its name from the town of Berkeley, which is a backwater today but in mediaeval times was an important market town, as the centre of a Hundred. In the year after the Norman Conquest Berkeley was fortified, with William fitz Osbern building a castle; a Flemish nobleman called Roger de Tosny ended up running the castle and his descendants took the name "de Berkeley" after it. The castle is still in the hands of the Berkeleys today, and is the third-oldest English castle in continuous occupation after the Tower of London and Windsor.

The Berkeleys became one of the most powerful families in the land, and there is still a Lord Berkeley sitting in the House of Lords today (on the Labour benches; clearly aristocracy isn't what it used to be). Various members of the family have given their names to Berkeley Square in London and the city of Berkeley in California, which was named after the philosopher Bishop George Berkeley and has given its name to one of the most noted universities in the USA and a transuranic chemical element. Rather an appropriate association for a town whose main export was once nuclear power.

But it's not the Berkeley family which directly gave to history the most famous examples of life and death in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. The famous death was that of King Edward II, who met his end here in 1327. In true mediaeval style all sorts of legends and counter-legends have grown up about the King's death, from his screams being heard in Gloucester to a story involving a red-hot poker, which is probably apocryphal (and even if true isn't suitable for retelling before the watershed); all that can be said with certainty is that he died and there was probably foul play involved. The famous life was that of Edward Jenner, who investigated a story he'd heard about milkmaids not getting smallpox and ended up doing an experiment which these days would get him struck off by the medical regulator in short order. But standards were different in the eighteenth century: James Phipps, the eight-year-old boy Jenner deliberately infected with cowpox, thrived and a new medical technique was born. Because this technique involved cowpox (Variolae vaccinae, in Jenner's words), it became known as vaccination and, despite the best efforts of latterday anti-vaxxers, is one of the cornerstones of modern medicine. Smallpox is now extinct in the wild, and for setting us on that path Jenner may have saved more lives than anybody else in history. His home in Berkeley is still standing today, and is now a museum.

This ward isn't all Berkeley. though. We're on the east bank of the Severn estuary here, and the major centre on the shoreline is Sharpness. This was and still is a port at the end of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, and was once the lowest fixed crossing-point of the Severn: the Severn Railway Bridge crossed the river from Sharpness to Lydney until 1960, when it was damaged beyond repair by a barge collision and subsequently demolished. It's not just boats that make use of the Severn: wildlife does too, and to the north of Berkeley can be found the nature reserve of Slimbridge. Opened in 1946, Slimbridge has the world's largest collection of captive wildfowl together with many other water birds, some living there permanently, some just migrating through.

The Slimbridge nature reserve, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust which administers it, were founded in 1946 by Peter Scott. The only son of the ill-fated Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott (who had sent him to Oundle School, providing an interesting link with last week's polls), Peter made his name in natural history but had dabbled in politics, being the Conservative candidate for Wembley North in the 1945 general election. He lost by just 432 votes, which seems implausible when you look at the 17,061-vote Labour majority in the successor seat of Brent North two years ago; but 1945 was a different age.

The current Berkeley Vale ward was created only in 2016 as a merger of two former wards called Berkeley and Vale. Vale ward, covering the south end of the present ward, was very safely Conservative - from 2010 its councillor was Penny Wride, and before then it was represented by Penny's husband David - but it was only half the size of Berkeley ward, which was based on Berkeley and Sharpness and had a significant Labour vote. In 2012 Labour broke through and Berkeley ward elected Elizabeth Ashton, who was only 99 votes away from being re-elected for the Berkeley Vale ward in 2016. Shares of the vote in 2016 were 45% for the Conservatives, 34% for Labour and 13% for the Liberal Democrats. The ward is split between three divisions of Gloucestershire county council, which in 2017 elected two Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat; the Lib Dem win was in Wotton-under-Edge division, which covers the old Vale ward, but it's clear from the district level-results that the powerbase for the Lib Dems is in Wotton-under-Edge itself.

Defending for the Conservatives is Lindsey Green; a social media consultant, she lives in the village of Newport on the A38 road and is an Alkington parish councillor. Liz Ashton wants her seat back for Labour; in an age when ideological purity seems to be all the rage and the Labour party is controlled by its left wing, it's appropriate that Ashton lives is a house called Little Moscow. (There are new rules coming in from May allowing local election candidates to redact their home address, so there may be less opportunity for jokes like this in the future.) Ashton is a Berkeley town councillor, served as Mayor of Berkeley in 2016-17 and has the backing of the local MP, Stroud's David Drew. The Liberal Democrats have reselected Mike Stayte, a businessman (he runs a family firm selling fuels and agricultural supplies) and Slimbridge parish councillor who ran a fair way ahead of the rest of the Lib Dem slate here last time. Completing the ballot paper is Thomas Willetts of the Green Party. Some of the electors in this by-election may be pleased to note that their polling station is a pub: the Stagecoach in Newport and the Salutation in Ham are both doing their bit in the service of democracy.

Parliamentary constituency: Stroud
Gloucestershire county council division: Cam Valley (Berkeley, Hamfallow and Hinton parishes), Hardwicke and Severn (Slimbridge parish), Wotton-under-Edge (Alkington, and Ham and Stone parishes)
Postcode districts: GL2, GL11, GL12, GL13

Liz Ashton (Lab)
Lindsey Green (C)
Mike Stayte (LD)
Thomas Willetts (Grn)

May 2016 result C 1279/1172/1050 Lab 951/672/646 LD 370/317/234 Grn 227


Previews: 21 Feb 2019

Two by-elections on 21st February 2019:


Oundle

Northamptonshire county council; caused by the resignation of the former Leader of the Council Helen Smith, who was elected as a Conservative but had been sitting as an independent. She was first elected in a 2007 by-election and was Leader of the Council from 2016 to 2018.

For our first by-election this week we have come to the exemplar of everything that is wrong in local government these days. Three weeks ago this column was in Warlingham, Surrey, covering a by-election to replace a former Surrey county council leader who had allegedly done a "sweetheart" deal with the government to save his council from insolvency. This should have been a wakeup call that there is only so far you can go with cuts to public services, and local government has borne the brunt of the cuts which have taken place over the last decade.

Instead the wakeup call came in February 2018, when Northamptonshire county council ran out of money and issued a Section 114 notice, banning all non-essential expenditure. Only two other councils had done that in the last thirty years. Central government was already concerned at the stories coming out of Northamptonshire, and had commissioned Max Caller, a long-serving council chief executive and former chairman of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, to take a look at what was going on. Published in March 2018, the Caller report was scathing. To quote paragraph 4.4:

For a number of years, [Northamptonshire county council] has failed to manage its budget and has not taken effective steps to introduce and maintain budgetary control. Instead it has pursued an organisational structure and operating concept which made it difficult to ensure a line of sight over costs and operational activity. It did not accompany this structure with an articulated set of financial and managerial controls. This made it impossible for the council, as a whole; to have any clarity or understanding as to what was going on. [Northamptonshire] has relied on one-off items, allocation of balances, windfalls and laterally (sic) the use of capital receipts to balance the numbers at the year’s end. This is not budget management.

Caller concluded that there was no realistic way for Northamptonshire to get out of its financial mess, and recommended reorganisation in the county as the only sustainable way forward. Next year Northamptonshire county council and the seven district councils underneath it will be abolished, with two new unitary authorities created in their place. In advance of that reorganisation the 2019 Northamptonshire district council elections have all been cancelled.

In response to the Caller report, the commissioners went in from London to run the county, found that the council's financial situation was even worse than first thought, and promptly issued another Section 114 notice. Ironically, they have only been able to balance the books for 2018-19 by selling the council's headquarters building (which cost £53 million to build and had only been open since October 2017) and ploughing over £60 million in capital from the proceeds of that sale into delivering basic services. Anybody who mixes up capital and revenue like that shouldn't be let anywhere near budgeting, and central government were only able to justify this move - a bailout in all but name - by pointing out that the county council will cease to exist in the not so distant future.

One has to wonder what the political leadership were doing while the good ship Northamptonshire was hitting the iceberg. Well, it appears that the previous administration's major strategy was to save money with a radical outsourcing plan, which failed to work (Northamptonshire's health and social services have been brought back in-house); together with constant moaning from the council leader Heather Smith about how the county's government grant was unfair, and attempts by the administration to bury bad news. After the Section 114 notice was issued, 21 backbench Tory county councillors signed a statement saying that they were appalled by what was going on, and the county's seven MPs - all of whom are Conservatives - weren't happy either. The Caller report rendered Smith's position untenable, and she resigned as leader; shortly afterwards she left the Conservative party as well. Now she has resigned from the council claiming that her presence on the backbenches serves no useful purpose, and complaining that she had been bullied by the Northamptonshire MPs. Given that on her watch we were left with the grotesque spectacle of a Tory council - a Tory council - going bust due to spending too much, and that the end result of her profligacy will be more distant local government for the residents of Northamptonshire, this column has no sympathy for Heather Smith.

Her division was Oundle, a large and deeply rural division covering most of the countryside between Corby, Stamford and Peterborough; despite being over the county boundary Peterborough is the main service centre for most of the division. The largest population centre within the boundaries is Oundle, a town on the Northampton-Peterborough road known for its public school; Oundle School, founded in 1556 by the Lord Mayor of London Sir William Laxton, is the third-largest boarding school in England (the only larger ones are Millfield and, inevitably, Eton), and its 1,100 or so pupils propel the Oundle ward into the top 30 in England and Wales for the 16-17 age bracket. Apart from some of the sixth form, those pupils will of course be too young to vote. Back in the day much of the division was covered by the royal hunting territory of Rockingham Forest, and there are many royal connections here with village names such as King's Cliffe: within the boundary is the site of Fotheringhay castle, where Richard III was born and Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded.

After all that historical and financial drama the by-election is likely to be rather an anti-climax, I'm afraid. This is a very Tory part of the world: Heather Smith had a 65-24 lead over Labour at her last re-election in 2013, and the Conservatives hold all of the district council seats within the area with similarly large majorities. Oundle is part of the Corby parliamentary constituency, which voted Labour at a 2012 by-election; but Corby is a starkly divided seat and this is part of the Tory bit of it.

Seeking to reverse the Conservatives' defection loss is the wonderfully-named Annabel de Capell Brooke, who won a by-election to the Prebendal district council ward (within the division) in 2017 and lives on the same street in Nassington as Heather Smith. The Labour candidate is Harry James, who lives in the village of King's Cliffe. Completing the ballot paper are Marc Folgate for the Liberal Democrats and Allan Shipham for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Corby
East Northamptonshire council wards: Fineshade, King's Forest, Prebendal, Oundle (part: Benefield and Oundle parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough (most), Corby (Benefield parish)
Postcode districts: LE15, NN14, NN17, PE8, PE9

Annabel de Capell Brooke (C)
Marc Folgate (LD)
Harry James (Lab)
Allan Shipham (UKIP)

May 2017 result C 2608 Lab 956 LD 420
May 2013 result C 1849 UKIP 677 Lab 573 LD 225


Ely

Cardiff council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Labour councillor Jim Murphy at the age of 72, A former steelworker, Murphy had served since 2012 and had been chairman of the council's Appeals committee.

For our other by-election this week we return to south Wales. Last week Andrew's Previews covered the Rhoose by-election, in which the Tories' Andrew RT Davies AM was easily elected to Vale of Glamorgan council; this week we cross over the city limits into Cardiff. The Cardiff boundary goes up to the roundabout at Culverhouse Cross, on the A48 road towards Bridgend and Swansea; on the Cardiff side of the junction the A48 heads into the city as the Cowbridge Road West, and Ely division stands on the northern side of that road.

Cowbridge Road goes back to the Romans, but it was the coming of the railways that started to transform this area next to a bridge over the River Ely. The railway brought industry, with two breweries and one of Britain's largest paper works quickly springing up. In 1922 the area was incorporated into Cardiff, and Cardiff council quickly filled the space between Ely Bridge and the Culverhouse Cross road junction with a large council estate of 3,500 homes.

This estate is the core of the modern Ely division. Ely has a bad reputation which has never really recovered from riots on the estate in the 1990s; it's Cardiff's most deprived electoral division, and in 2011 was in the top 60 wards in England and Wales for adults with no qualifications. As with many seriously-deprived areas, Ely's most famous children made their names in entertainment or football: the legendary Wales and Manchester United player Ryan Giggs grew up here, as did a singer called Michael Barrett who is probably better known by his stage name of Shakin' Stevens.

The current Ely division has existed since 1983 and has been safely Labour throughout that time, providing a political powerbase not just for Murphy but also for the former Cardiff council leader Russell Goodway, who has represented this division for many years. Plaid Cymru took over second place in the 2008 election; the last Welsh local elections were in 2017 at which the Labour slate polled 48%, to 25% for Plaid and 16% for the Conservatives. Ely is in the Cardiff West constituency which is Labour at Westminster and Senedd level; the current Labour AM for Cardiff West, Mark Drakeford, was recently elected as First Minister of Wales, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Rhodri Morgan.

We have head a lot this month about the retirement of one Humphreys from Cardiff who likes talking about politics, but the defending Labour candidate here is a different Humphreys from Cardiff who likes talking about politics: Irene Humphreys is a retired Unison rep and secretary of the Labour party's Cardiff West branch. The Plaid Cymru candidate is Andrea Gibson who fought this division in 2017. The Conservatives have selected Gavin Brookman, a former parliamentary researcher; in a city with lots of quiz heritage (a team of Cardiff Lib Dems appeared on the first series of Only Connect, which is recorded in Cardiff) it's appropriate that Brookman was a contestant in the 2016 series of the Radio 4 quiz Brain of Britain. Completing the ballot paper is Richard Jerrett for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff
Postcode district: CF5

Gavin Brookman (C)
Andrea Gibson (PC)
Irene Humphreys (Lab)
Richard Jerrett (LD)

May 2017 result Lab 1472/1380/1289 PC 786/745/622 C 509/507 LD 267/97/84 TUSC 64
May 2012 result Lab 1597/1481/1468 PC 791/776/767 C 237/236/230 Grn 115 LD 95/83/75
May 2008 result Lab 1273/1257/1048 PC 687/657/470 C 525/520/491 LD 248/241/208
June 2004 result Lab 1180/1136/1004 Ind 942/826 Cardiff Citizens 599 LD 543/352/331 PC 347
May 1999 result Lab 1809/1793/1452 LD 728/521/50 PC 531 C 513
May 1995 result Lab 2363/2200/2053 C 282/278/249 LD 231/202/198 PC 168
May 1991 result Lab 2448/2194/2144 C 687 LD 471/428/415
May 1987 result Lab 2361/2316/2207 C 842/819/798 All 810/791/762
May 1983 result Lab 2083/1926/1904 C 1031/1007/980