Preview: 14 Feb 2019

There is just one local by-election on 14th February 2019:


Rhoose

Vale of Glamorgan council, Glamorgan; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Matthew Lloyd who had served since 2017.

Well, last week was exciting, wasn't it? Politics, but definitely not as you know it as we got a glimpse of some of the darker sides of local by-elections. Trying to keep up with the pace of politics these days is like tilting at windmills, and two major things happened after my submission deadline for last week's previews which rather changed the course of events. The Liberal Democrat candidate in the Shadwell ward of Tower Hamlets got disendorsed by his party for anti-semitism - clearly Tower Hamlets elections today are a bit different from the Tower Hamlets election which was depicted in Call the Midwife a few weeks back - and the Labour candidate in the Totteridge and Bowerdean division of Buckinghamshire got arrested on suspicion of electoral fraud. That Labour candidate went on to win the Totteridge and Bowerdean by-election, so one suspects that the Election Court may find itself called into session within the near future - although given the slow pace of the law any disqualification might not happen quickly enough for another by-election to be held before Buckinghamshire county council disappears in April 2020.

Because of these important events I was forced to tweet an addendum to last week's column, and that addendum itself got a bit of attention - mostly along the lines of "Politics 2019" or other such despairing sentiments. This level of attention says something: clearly there is now a sort of diehard following of local elections and by-elections among the political/Twitter geek community. Even nationally-important political figures have shown a bit of interest in local by-elections. Hold that thought.

The political/Twitter geek community can be useful, but of course there is an awful lot of fake news out there. Firmly on the useful side can be found accounts such as Britain Elects (of course!) and @CompletePol, together with @ElectionMapsUK and @polmapsinfoUK which do a sterling job of mapping election results. The last three of those accounts are run by students, but that doesn't detract from their quality: their followers will see maps of which professional graphic designers would be proud, combined with puns which this column would never stoop to and an overriding sense that - to quote a man whom those students might not be old enough to remember in full flow - election night is "just a bit of fun". Maybe this old dog could learn a few tricks from them.

Over the last Christmas break some masterful work from Britain Elects pulled together a spreadsheet of all the votes cast in the May 2018 local elections. Election Maps UK aggregated Britain Elects' figures, finding total vote shares of 40.5% for Labour, 32.0% for the Conservatives, 14.2% for the Lib Dems, 6.4% for the Greens and so on.

Just a bit of fun. But having all this election data invites someone to come in and abuse it for their own ends. Many readers will have seen a leaflet at some point from their local Liberal Democrat branch with a dubiously-scaled bar chart on it; these graphics tend to be very effective at getting the intended point across (which is why the Lib Dems keep using them even though they're one of the most hackneyed clichés in British politics) but in terms of accuracy they tend more towards the "fake news" end of the spectrum. With that in mind, let's analyse this tweet from Aaron Bastani, whom I am given to understand is a prolific Tweeter parked firmly on the left-hand side of politics. Amid a torrent of emoji as seems to be standard these days, it reads:

Aggregate Council Election Results for 2018.
LAB: 40.5%
CON: 32.0%
That data is more reliable than a YouGov push poll.

May government has lost more votes than Blair, Major, Cameron & Brown combined.

Meanwhile the media spin Labour as struggling

At the time of writing this piece of fake news had over 500 retweets and over 1,000 likes.

Let's have a particular look at the sentence which I've emphasised. Repeat after me, THOSE DATA ARE. Everybody else seems to have given up arguing that the word "data" is plural but I'm not going to stop fighting. There are standards. And are those data more reliable than a "YouGov push poll"? Well, that's like comparing apples with oranges; they're both fruit, but that's all you can say as far as similarity goes.

Britain Elects' spreadsheet and YouGov's polling (I'm not going to repeat Bastani's slur again) are serving different ends and Bastani shouldn't be trying to pretend otherwise. YouGov are trying to find a sample that's representative of the whole country, but the 2018 local election results which my genial host collated are not representative of the whole country and don't pretend to be. If you live in the major urban areas of England, you probably had an election to go to in May 2018 and your vote will be recorded in the spreadsheet. Since the major urban areas of England skew towards Labour you'd expect Labour to be leading in aggregate across areas like that. On the other hand you probably didn't get a chance to vote in May 2018 if you live in the English shires, or Scotland. Or Wales.

Which brings us to the point of this week's by-election column, as there is only one poll this week. We're at the southernmost point of mainland Wales, in an area whose history goes back a long way: in the sixth century St Cadoc founded a clas or ecclesiastical community in what is now the village of Llancarfan. Llancarfan is a small place, but Rhoose (or y Rhŵs, if you're a Welsh speaker) is growing fast. Just to the west of Barry, Rhoose is a commuter village for Cardiff; it's linked to the outside world by Cardiff airport, whose runways and apron take up much of the Rhoose division's acreage, while it's linked to Cardiff by a railway station opened in 2005 which has the longest name of any National Rail station. Forget that tourist trap on Anglesey, welcome to the 33 letters of "Rhoose Cardiff International Airport". (This is also the longest station name in Welsh, but the Welsh-language name is only 28 letters - Maes Awyr Rhyngwladol Caerdydd y Rhŵs.)

The Vale of Glamorgan is one of the more Conservative areas of Wales, and the Tories won Rhoose' two seats fairly easily in both 2004 and 2008. Runner-up in 2008 was Plaid Cymru candidate Philip Clarke, who finished four votes ahead of the Lib Dems' Eluned Parrott. Three years later Parrott was elected to the Welsh Assembly in bizarre circumstances, after it turned out that the Lib Dems' lead candidate for South Wales Central held an office which disqualified him from membership of the Senedd.

Things got interesting in Rhoose at the 2012 election when Philip Clarke, standing as an independent candidate, topped the poll and knocked out Tory councillor Gordon Kemp. Up until that point Kemp had been the leader of the Vale of Glamorgan council. Clarke died in a motorcycle accident in 2016, and the resulting by-election was held in the week after the EU membership referendum thus forcing the voters of Rhoose to turn up for the polls two weeks on the trot. Despite or perhaps because of this, the by-election turned in an interesting result: the winner, but with just 29% of the vote, was independent candidate Adam Riley who was campaigning to stop Vale of Glamorgan council closing Rhoose Library. Kemp, trying to get his seat back for the Conservatives, was second with 25%, Labour had 20% and independent candidate Rachel Banner was fourth with 19%. Banner had had a central role in a less-celebrated referendum of recent years; she was the spokeswoman for the No campaign in the 2011 People's Vote on giving law-making powers to the Senedd. An impressively even vote split there, although not much of it split for the Pirate Party candidate who managed just four votes.

Gordon Kemp had his revenge in the end; he defeated Adam Riley in the 2017 Vale of Glamorgan elections. The Tory slate of Kemp and new candidate Matthew Lloyd (who beat the alphabet to top the poll) had 41% of the vote, to 30% for Riley and 22% for Labour. The following month the Tories narrowly held the Vale of Glamorgan in the snap general election, with Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns being re-elected; but his seat is now most definitely a marginal constituency. As if to confirm this, Labour represent the Vale of Glamorgan seat at the Senedd in Cardiff.

We have seen at Westminster level how unstable government can be, and the Vale of Glamorgan provides another example of this. The 2017 Vale elections returned the Tories as the largest party with 23 out of 47 seats; Labour, who had run the council going into the election, won 14, Plaid Cymru had four and six independent councillors held the balance of power. The Conservatives formed an administration in coalition with one of the independent councillors, with 24 seats and a majority of one. With this majority of one the Tory-led administration then proceeded to make themselves unpopular in Rhoose division, with a proposal to effectively close Llancarfan primary school by moving its pupils to a new school in Rhoose. Councillor Matthew Lloyd disagreed with this decision so much that he resigned his seat, forcing this by-election. A Conservative loss here will wipe out the administration's majority on the council, and could lead to a change in control.

Now I asked you earlier to hold the thought of local by-elections being important for nationally-important political figures. We have an excellent illustration of this in the Rhoose candidate list, because the defending Tory candidate is one of the most prominent Conservative politicians in Wales. Andrew R T Davies was the Tory candidate for Cardiff West in the 2001 general election and for Brecon and Radnorshire in 2005; since 2007 he has set in the Senedd as an AM for South Wales Central, and from 2011 until June 2018 he was the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. Instead of hiding in a shed on the family farm (just outside the division boundary in St Hilary), grumbling loudly from the backbenches and/or writing books, Davies has taken a different career path from other recent Tory ex-leaders by seeking a new electoral challenge, and fair play to him for that. Mind, the Vale's Tory-led administration might have mixed feelings about that as Davies is reportedly campaigning against the proposed closure of Llancarfan primary school.

Opposing Davies on the Labour side is John Hartland, a qualified chartered architect from Barry. On this Valentine's Day by-election Hartland starts with a romantic advantage, in that his name will appear on the ballot paper next to a red rose. Completing a three-strong candidate list is community campaigner and independent candidate Samantha Campbell, who finished fifth here in the 2017 election; Campbell is the only candidate to give an address in the division.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Glamorgan
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff
Postcode districts: CF5, CF62, CF71

Samantha Campbell (Ind)
Andrew R T Davies (C)
John Hartland (Lab)

May 2017 result C 1097/1067 Ind 809/565 Lab 587 LD 187
June 2016 by-election Ind 598 C 520 Lab 401 Ind 399 PC 104 LD 24 Pirate Party 4
May 2012 result Ind 882 C 810/727 Lab 713
May 2008 result C 1169/1143 PC 556 LD 552 Lab 520
June 2004 result C 1240/1085 Lab 729


Previews: 07 Feb 2019

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

We are at the leanest point of the local electoral cycle, with the vast majority of shire districts being up for election in just twelve weeks' time. There are not going to be any Super Thursdays for some months yet. If you like lots of by-election action, savour this week because with six by-elections on 7th February 2019 this may be your best night for some time. We have an interesting set, with a series of city and town areas with large ethnic minority communities and a consequent left-swing skew; four seats are defended by Labour, one by the Liberal Democrats, and one by a localist independent group to succeed a councillor who had previously been in both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. These are volatile political times and this is a volatile set of wards with lots of chances for gains and big swings. If you fancy a break from the Brexit diet of politics we are being forcefed at the moment, then this is your lucky day. Read on as we start with a memory of a Labour leader of yesteryear and an extended preview of a very modern rotten borough - but first, let's try and win some money...


Lansbury; and
Shadwell

Tower Hamlets council, North London; caused respectively by the resignations of Labour councillors Muhammad Harun and Ruhul Amin. Both of them had served only since May 2018.

We start this week by paying tribute to a party leader of years gone by, and one to whom your columnist personally has cause to be very grateful. Allow me to explain.

In the summer of 2008 a new quiz programme turned up on BBC2, broadcast in the early evening slot now normally occupied by Eggheads. It was called Battle of the Brains, and featured teams of six players (plus a non-playing captain) being whittled down over a series of head-to-head challenges. The rounds were varied in format; one was a list round, where players would alternate in giving answers from a certain list (winners of the Oscar for Best Picture, say) and the first to fail loses. I idly looked at this programme and started thinking of possible lists that might be worth learning (list-learning is an important skill in quiz). Leaders of the Labour Party seemed a good shout - a list that's long enough to be interesting but short enough to be manageable. I had a look at the list and started memorising some possible killer answers. As they say in the Scouts, "Be Prepared".

Fast forward to the Tuesday of the week before Christmas 2008. Having been out all day at work and out all evening in the pub playing quiz league, I arrived back home rather after Last Orders to find some panicked messages. A team of friends had been accepted onto the second series of Battle of the Brains but one of them had had to drop out. Could I play instead? Oh, and we're recording on Thursday evening. Naturally I said yes.

And so less then 48 hours later I found myself on the stage (far left in the picture) at Granada Studios in Manchester answering quiz questions from Nicky Campbell (centre). It was an intense and memorable time from which many experiences stand out. One of my fellow team members initially mistook me for a researcher because I'd turned up straight from a ten-hour day in work with security passes and everything. A well-known member of the quiz community ran out of interesting facts to say about himself and so lied through his teeth on national television about training as a lion-tamer. A sudden-death elimination round had to be decided on the buzzer after the production team ran out of questions. A Mastermind champion on our team lost every one of his head-to-head challenges.

In one of my head-to-head rounds I was sent up to do the list round on the subject of "Politics". To my surprise and delight, the list proved to be "Leaders of the Labour Party" (excluding acting or temporary leaders). My opponent was also knowledgeable, and after eight answers we were both still in there and it was my turn. By this point we'd picked off every postwar leader except Hugh Gaitskell, who I was struggling to remember, and Gordon Brown; Brown was leading the party at the time and I was wary of answering him, because I couldn't remember whether the question had had the word "former" in it. It was time to play my first killer answer. I said "George Lansbury". My opponent had no reply, and that was the end of that.

We ended up doing four shows over two days of recordings, and on the second of those defeated a team of Yorkshire County Cricket Club staff (captained by the then Yorkshire captain and former England test cricketer Anthony McGrath, second from right in the picture) to win the jackpot of £7,000. My £1,000 share of the prize changed my life, in that it finally cleared my student credit card debt.

Yes, even decades after his death, George Lansbury still has the power to improve lives, as he did for many people in his own lifetime. A Londoner virtually all his life, Lansbury was a radical socialist whose policies - such as pacifism - were often out of the mainstream within his own party. Sound familiar? Lansbury started off in politics on the radical wing of the Liberals; he was the party's election agent in Whitechapel at the 1885 general election, and in the inaugural London County Council election of 1889 was the agent for Jane Cobden (daughter of the radical Richard Cobden) as she was elected for Bow and Bromley, becoming one of the first women county councillors. Not that it did her much good; Miss Cobden was the subject of legal challenges over whether she was qualified to be a councillor on account of being a woman, and ended up being prevented from speaking or voting in the council chamber on pain of financial penalties. Lansbury was a strong supporter of women's suffrage, going so far as to resign his seat in Parliament in 1912 and fight a by-election on that single issue; he lost.

By 1912 Lansbury was on the ladder of elective office, having become a Poor Law guardian for Poplar in 1893. He was elected to Poplar borough council ten years later. In 1910 he was elected to the London County Council and won the Bow and Bromley parliamentary seat in December of that year; after losing his Parliamentary seat in the by-election two years later Lansbury ended up as editor of the Daily Herald, which may be the forerunner of the modern-day Sun but in those times was a very left-wing paper.

In the 1919 local elections the Labour party gained control of Poplar borough council and George Lansbury became the first Labour mayor of the borough. Poplar was a poor borough in the East End, running from Bow in the north to the docks on the north bank of the Thames; many of the borough councillors were industrial workers. The Labour administration set up a comprehensive and expensive programme of poor relief, which included such radical ideas as equal pay for women and a living wage for council workers. It was too much for Poplar's rates to support, and in 1921 Lansbury and his fellow councillors decided to make a stand by withholding the rate precepts due to the London County Council, the Metropolitan Police and other such bodies. That got thirty of the borough councillors sent to jail for contempt of court, including Lansbury, his son Edgar and his daughter-in-law Minnie (who developed pneumonia while in prison and died shortly afterwards). With farcical scenes of Poplar council meetings taking place in Brixton prison (to which the women councillors were taken by taxi from Holloway) and several other Labour councils threatening to go down the same road, the Lloyd George government caved in after six weeks and rushed a bill through Parliament to equalise the tax burden between rich and poor boroughs. It was a victory for the Poplar Rates Rebellion: the borough was a huge winner from the equalisation, the council was able to cut its rates by a third while seeing greatly increased revenues, and in the general election the following year George Lansbury was returned to Parliament with a huge majority in Bow and Bromley.

Lansbury turned down a junior ministerial post in the 1924 Macdonald government, but in 1929 entered Cabinet as the First Commissioner of Works. One of the more junior cabinet posts, this gave him responsibility for historic buildings and the Royal Parks, and a lasting legacy of Lansbury's tenure in Cabinet is the Hyde Park Lido in the Serpentine lake. The second Macdonald government was derailed by the Wall Street crash and the Great Depression, and the 1931 election was a notorious disaster for Labour which ended up with just 46 seats. One of the many Labour MPs who found themselves out of the Commons was the party leader Arthur Henderson, and George Lansbury became leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party as pretty much the only senior figure remaining from the wreckage. Henderson resigned as overall party leader the following year and Lansbury succeeded him in the top job.

By now George Lansbury's major political cause was pacifism. This was all the rage when he became party leader - within a few months the Oxford Union was voting not to fight for King and Country - but the rise of Hitler and Mussolini made that policy untenable. Lansbury was defeated at the 1935 Labour conference on a motion calling for sanctions against Italy, and resigned as party leader. He was re-elected to Parliament for the final time at the general election the following month, and served a second term as Mayor of Poplar in 1936-37 while his daughter Dorothy Thurtle was serving as Mayor of Shoreditch. George Lansbury died in May 1940, aged 81, from undiagnosed stomach cancer; he was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea. Shortly afterwards his home, at 39 Bow Road, was destroyed by enemy bombing in the war he had worked so hard to prevent.

George Lansbury and the Poplar Rates Revolt left us some surprising legacies. The death of Minnie Lansbury led her husband Edgar to remarry; his second wife Moyna Macgill was a noted actress, and her daughter with Edgar is an even more noted actress. Dame Angela Lansbury, George Lansbury's granddaughter, is still with us and still working at the age of 93 (her latest film, Mary Poppins Returns, came out last December). Moyna Macgill's other children were also involved in showbusiness: her sons Edgar Lansbury junior and Bruce Lansbury became Broadway producers, while her daughter from a previous marriage Isolde Denham was married to Peter Ustinov for a time. Another of George Lansbury's grandchildren made a huge impact on a generation of British children; George's daughter and secretary Daisy married a left-wing historian called Raymond Postgate, and their son Oliver Postgate gave us such classics of children's television as Ivor the Engine and, of course, Bagpuss.

But one of the major modern legacies of George Lansbury didn't directly have anything to do with him but was simply named in his honour. The Lansbury Estate was built in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, on a heavily-bombed triangular site between the Limehouse Cut canal, the East India Dock Road and a railway line. It was part of the Festival's architecture exhibits, and some of its buildings are now listed. The design was intended to be a self-contained community with its own pubs, churches and market - Chrisp Street Market, which is claimed to be the UK's first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area. The railway line closed some years ago but reopened in 1987 as part of the Docklands Light Railway; a station to serve the Lansbury estate, Langdon Park, was opened in 2007 and now serves nearly four million passengers each year. Since 2014 the Lansbury estate has anchored the Lansbury ward of Tower Hamlets.

The DLR links Lansbury ward (with a change at Poplar) to central London with stations at Bank and Tower Gateway, and the last stop before those termini is Shadwell. This area was first seriously developed in the seventeenth century through the auspices of Thomas Neale. One of the major figures of England in the late Stuart era, Neale was a long-serving Member of Parliament, effective postmaster-general in the North American colonies, Master of the Royal Mint until his death in 1699 (after which Isaac Newton got the job) and inveterate property developer and entrepreneur. Shadwell's proximity to the City of London made it an attractive maritime centre: the local St Paul's church has seventy-five ship's captains buried in its churchyard, and Captain James Cook's son was baptised there.

However, the modern Shadwell ward contains little of the historical Shadwell area, which ended at The Highway; instead Shadwell ward runs between The Highway and Commercial Road. The main original landmark here was the eighteenth-century church of St George-in-the-East, which gave its name to a parliamentary constituency from 1885 to 1918; the main modern thoroughfare is Cable Street, which took its name from the maritime industries (it was a ropemaking centre). In October 1936 Oswald Mosley had intended to lead a fascist march towards Stepney down that road; this was blocked by protesters and eventually abandoned in what became known as the Battle of Cable Street. The ward extends to the east through the Ratcliffe area as far as the railway and DLR stations at Limehouse.

Shadwell had one of Britain's first significant Muslim populations thanks to settlement of lascar seamen, who had come here as crewmembers on the East India Company's ships. So it's appropriate that Tower Hamlets more generally is one of the UK's major centres for immigration from Bangladesh in particular. In the 2011 census Shadwell ward (which then had slightly different boundaries) made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for Islam (47%), Asian ethnicity (52%) and those looking after home or family (8.75%). Lansbury ward, despite the best efforts of the man it's named after, remains a very poor area: eight years ago the census return for the predecessor ward of East India and Lansbury made the top 100 lists for social renting (57%), looking after home or family (10%), unemployment (10%), Islam (43%) and under-16s (28%).

Lansbury might also be perplexed by the modern politics of Tower Hamlets, which is Byzantine. Or whatever the Bangladeshi equivalent of Byzantine is. Limehouse was of course the birthplace of the Social Democratic Party, and the SDP and their successors controlled Tower Hamlets council from 1986 to 1994. Labour were returned with a large majority in the 1994 election, but indications that all was not well can probably be seen from the landslide general election result of 1997 in which Bethnal Green and Bow was one of only two constituencies to swing towards the Conservatives.

Things started to fall apart in the 2002-06 term, in which Labour lost by-elections on the council to the Conservatives (thanks to gentrification in the Isle of Dogs and riverfront areas) and to George Galloway's Respect party, which topped the poll across the borough in the 2004 European Parliament elections. The following year Respect's George Galloway won the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, gaining it from Labour; and in 2006 Respect became the official opposition on Tower Hamlets council.

The Respect spasm was shortlived and by 2008 many of its councillors had joined the Labour group. This had the effect of exacerbating already-bitter infighting within Tower Hamlets Labour, whose divisions echoed and reflected those thousands of miles away in Bangladesh between Jamaat-e-Islami and the Awami League. The balance of power within the group changed, and Labour's Lutfur Rahman took over as leader of the council. His tenure as leader was very controversial, with negative press coverage concentrating on the effective sacking of the chief executive combined with allegations - which have never been proven - that Rahman had links with extremist Islamists.

So it was probably a relief for Labour at a regional level when the 2010 elections resulted in a recovery of the Bethnal Green and Bow parliamentary seat, plus an increased Labour group with an anti-Rahman majority. That relief was however short-lived, because the voters of Tower Hamlets also passed by referendum a proposal for an elected mayor, and Rahman sought the Labour mayoral nomination. When he was blocked from getting it, he stood for mayor as an independent candidate, and won the October 2010 Tower Hamlets mayoral election in the first round.

As mayor, Lutfur Rahman attracted a number of councillors to his banner. Many of them were defectors from Labour; all of them were from the Bangladeshi community. They organised into a party - Tower Hamlets First - whose sole purpose was to support Rahman. His mayoral term was marred by corruption; central government sent in commissioners to take over council grant allocation, but that was as nothing compared to what was to come in May 2014.

The 2014 Tower Hamlets elections returned Rahman as mayor and a hung council, with Tower Hamlets First's eighteen councillors opposed by 22 Labour members and five Conservatives. The Election Court described those elections as "generally corrupt" and I have no qualms in repeating that judgment. The Court found that Lutfur Rahman, through his election agent Alibor Choudhury, had falsely and knowingly labelled Labour's mayoral candidate John Biggs as racist; the council's grant allocation (before the commissioners took over) had been politically motivated and amounted to bribery; the council had improperly paid the local Bengali-language media to portray Rahman favourably; four Tower Hamlets First candidates had cast votes unlawfully after making false entries on the electoral register; and there was evidence of postal vote fraud. But the most sensational allegation upheld by the court was that Lutfur Rahman had improperly played the religion card, by getting the local Muslim leaders to send messages to their congregations that it was the religious duty of Muslims in the borough to vote for Rahman. That offence - undue spiritual influence - had not been invoked since the nineteenth century. Possibly even more disturbing was that the Court decided that allegations of intimidation at polling stations by Tower Hamlets First supporters were not an offence under electoral law. To cap it all, the 2014 Tower Hamlets count was a notoriously incompetent fiasco: the final result, for Bromley South ward, took 118 hours to declare.

The retribution in this twenty-first-century rotten borough is still playing out. The initial consequence was that Lutfur Rahman was disqualified as mayor, as was his election agent Alibor Choudhury; both of them remain disqualified from office and struck off the electoral register. Rahman has since gone bankrupt and been struck off the roll of solicitors, and has been the subject of further court action related to the costs of the trial. His deputy mayor, Oliur Rahman (no relation) was quickly forced to resign the post because of a conflict with his civil service job. Tower Hamlets First was struck off the register of political parties after the trial revealed that it wasn't being run according to law - most notably, it had never had a bank account. The mayoral by-election in June 2015, and the by-election in Stepney Green ward to replace Alibor Choudhury, were both gained by Labour. And there were consequences for Shahed Ali, a Lutfurite councillor whom the trial revealed to have been registered to vote at two different addresses and who had cast two votes at the 2014 elections; one of those addresses was a council flat, and Ali was subsequently sentenced to five months' imprisonment for housing fraud against his own council. The resulting by-election, in December 2016 for Whitechapel ward, returned another Lutfurite independent.

By the May 2018 election the Lutfurites were in disarray, having split into two factions: the moderate People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets headed by Rabina Khan, who had been the Lutfurite candidate in the 2015 mayoral by-election, and the more hardline Aspire party headed by Lutfur's former deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed. Both parties contested the 2018 election.

Splitters! As can be seen the effect across the borough was to split the Lutfurite vote; England's first-past-the-post electoral system makes this a bad idea, and the Lutfurites were all but wiped out. John Biggs was re-elected as Labour's mayor, easily defeating Rabina Khan in the run-off, and the Labour party won 42 out of 45 seats on the council. The Conservatives held two, and the remaining councillor was Rabina Khan, re-elected at the top of the poll in Shadwell ward. Khan has since dissolved the People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets, and she has joined the Liberal Democrats.

Which makes things interesting given that one of today's Tower Hamlets by-elections is for the other seat in Shadwell ward, with Labour defending. Outgoing councillor Ruhul Amin, who was first elected in May last year, is moving to Bangladesh. The circumstances of the other by-election are more controversial: Muhammad HM Harun, who was also first elected in May last year for Lansbury ward, resigned under a cloud amid allegations of housing fraud. One of the outgoing councillors from whom Harun gained his seat was none other than the Aspire leader Ohid Ahmed.

So this is an interesting test for both sides of the former Lutfurite faction. In 2014 Lansbury ward returned two Labour councillors and one from Tower Hamlets First (Ohid Ahmed); Labour won all three seats last year with 36%, to 24% for Ahmed's Aspire, 12% for the People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets and 9% for the Liberal Democrats. Shadwell voted Tower Hamlets First in 2014; in 2018 Rabina Khan was re-elected for the People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets with 34% of the vote, to 27% for Labour who won the other seat, and 21% for Aspire. Results without a Lutfurite or two on the ballot are probably not that relevant here; but for the record, in 2016 Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith 66-13 in Lansbury and polled 73% in Shadwell, while in the London Members ballot Labour led the Tories by 64-9 in Lansbury and polled 68% in Shadwell.

As if it wasn't difficult enough for Labour to defend the Shadwell by-election, their candidate Asik Rahman has attracted controversy during the campaign over Facebook likes for the pages of two hate preachers. With the dissolution of the Peoples Alliance of Tower Hamlets we might take the Liberal Democrats to be the major challengers now in the birthplace of the SDP: although the Lib Dems finished last here in May 2018 with 4% of the vote, they have selected a strong candidate in Abjol Miah, who was a Respect councillor for the former Shadwell ward from 2006 to 2010 and later a Tower Hamlets First councillor for St Peter's ward from 2014 to 2018. Miah was the Respect candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow in the 2010 general election, losing the seat which George Galloway had won five years earlier. Mind, Abjol has had social-media-related problems of his own in the campaign after it was revealed that he'd shared on Twitter a video of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Or we might take Aspire to be the major challengers; they have selected Harun Miah who was Rabina Khan's ward colleague here from 2010 to 2018. Completing the Shadwell ballot paper are independent candidate Kazi Gous-Miah, who fought the ward last year; Tim Kiely for the Green Party; Daryl Stafford for the Conservatives and Elena Scherbatykh for the Women's Equality Party.

The Labour defence in Lansbury ward is led by Rajib Ahmed, who represented this ward and its predecessors on Tower Hamlets council from 1998 until 2018, and was Speaker (ceremonial mayor) of the borough in 2012-13. This could be a quick return for him. Also looking for a quick return is Ohid Ahmed, the Aspire candidate who lost his seat here last year. There is no People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets candidate, but their mantle has been taken over by the Liberal Democrats who have selected Muhammad Abul (or Abdul) Asad; he was a Tower Hamlets councillor for 28 years until losing his seat in Whitechapel ward in 2018, serving as Mayor in 1998-99. Before joining the Lutfurite cause Asad had been a Labour figure, and he was on the Labour list for London in the 2009 European Parliament elections and the 2000 and 2004 London Assembly elections. Also standing are Mumshad Afruz for the Conservatives, John Urpeth for the Green Party, Paul Shea for UKIP and Terence McGrenera, who will be hoping for more than the 12 votes he polled in this ward in 2016 as the London Assembly candidate for the House Party.

And remember: this is Tower Hamlets and strange things happen in Tower Hamlets politics. If you've got all the way to the end of this, hopefully you'll have some killer answers for when the unexpected happens. Be Prepared.

Lansbury

Parliamentary constituency: Poplar and Limehouse
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: E2, E3, E14

Mumshad Afruz (C)
Ohid Ahmed (Aspire)
Rajib Ahmed (Lab)
Muhammad Abul Asad (LD)
Terence McGrenera (House Party)
Paul Shea (UKIP)
John Urpeth (Grn)

May 2018 result Lab 2140/1868/1839 Aspire 1358/980/881 PATH 646/354/337 LD 506/427/299 C 398/388/247 Grn 377/331 Ind 167
May 2014 result Lab 2184/1952/1850 Tower Hamlets First 1936/1727/1535 UKIP 732 C 387/332/228 LD 232 TUSC 190

May 2016 GLA elections (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2483 C 484 Grn 208 UKIP 135 Respect 116 LD 107 Britain First 71 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 53 Women's Equality 47 BNP 31 One Love 12 Zylinski 7
London Members: Lab 2449 C 357 Grn 255 UKIP 231 LD 146 Respect 138 Women's Equality 78 Britain First 70 BNP 28 Animal Welfare 27 CPA 27 House Party 12

Shadwell

Parliamentary constituency: Poplar and Limehouse
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: E1, E1W

Kazi Gous-Miah (Ind)
Tim Kiely (Grn)
Abjol Miah (LD)
Harun Miah (Aspire)
Asik Rahman (Lab)
Elena Scherbatykh (Women's Equality)
Daryl Stafford (C)

May 2018 result PATH 1585/765 Lab 1270/1157 Aspire 993/439 Ind 244 Grn 201/121 C 179/146 LD 165/143
May 2014 result Tower Hamlets First 2199/2192 Lab 1462/892 Grn 354 C 337/326 LD 144 TUSC 141

May 2016 GLA elections (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2178 C 297 Grn 157 Respect 109 LD 58 UKIP 54 Women's Equality 37 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 27 Britain First 16 BNP 15 One Love 11 Zylinski 5
London Members: Lab 2066 C 220 Grn 216 Respect 150 UKIP 100 LD 79 Women's Equality 78 Britain First 39 BNP 26 Animal Welfare 22 CPA 13 House Party 12


Thornton

Lambeth council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor and chief whip Jane Edbrooke, who has a new job with the Big Lottery Fund which is politically restricted. She had served since May 2018 for this ward, and previously had been councillor for Oval ward since 2010.

For our other London by-election we travel to another ward associated with a party leader, this time south of the river. 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%. 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.

This will be the first in a two-part series of Thornton by-elections, as one of the other ward councillors - the outgoing leader of Lambeth council Lib Peck - has also recently resigned to take up a politically-restricted post. There will be another by-election for her seat in due course. Defending this by-election for Labour is Stephen Donnelly, a Scottish immigrant to London who fought St Leonard's ward last year. The Conservatives have reselected Martin Read who was runner-up here in 2018. Also standing are Adrian Audsley for the Greens, Rebecca Macnair for the Liberal Democrats, 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)
Stephen Donnelly (Lab)
Leila Fazal (Women's Equality)
Rebecca Macnair (LD)
John Plume (UKIP)
Martin Read (C)

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


Evendons

Wokingham council, Berkshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Helen Power on health grounds. She had served only since May 2018.

We move out of London but stay in the Home Counties, starting in Berkshire. Evendons ward is the western of the four wards covering the town of Wokingham, a strangely unlovely town which seems to exist solely to provide houses for London commuters. Evendons is a case in point; over half of its residents are in management or professional occupations.

This ward took on its current boundaries in 2004 and had been solidly Conservative up to 2016, when the Lib Dems suddenly got within range of winning. The party followed through in 2017 by winning a by-election in the neighbouring Emmbrook ward, and then the Lib Dems gained this ward in May last year by 47% to 41%. Unfortunately Helen Power, the new Lib Dem councillor, didn't get a chance to build on that victory; she was diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly afterwards.

The Conservatives are severely underperforming in Wokingham at the moment; this appears to be a reaction to a town centre redevelopment which is causing traffic chaos (although the end result surely can't be much worse than the town centre Wokingham already has). Evendons is in the Wokingham constituency of John Redwood, who is one of those people that those on the Remain side of the referendum debate love to hate; so this by-election might well be watched closely.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Sarah Kerr, a freelance pianist and music conductor who is unhappy with the new-look Wokingham town centre, believing that it's unsafe for visually-impaired people. The Tories have gone for youth in selecting Daniel Clawson, a secondary school assistant headteacher. Completing a three-strong ballot paper is Labour's Tim Lloyd.

Parliamentary constituency: Wokingham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Reading
Postcode districts: RG40, RG41

Daniel Clawson (C)
Sarah Kerr (LD)
Tim Lloyd (Lab)

May 2018 result LD 1375 C 1198 Lab 369
May 2016 result C 951 LD 839 Lab 294 Ind 115
May 2015 result C 2588 LD 1044 Lab 553 UKIP 515 Grn 399
May 2014 result C 1227 LD 598 UKIP 437 Lab 292 Ind 71
May 2012 result C 967 LD 388 Lab 286 UKIP 278
May 2011 result C 1778 LD 703 Lab 413 UKIP 278
May 2010 result C 2537 LD 1679 Lab 393 UKIP 321
May 2008 result C 1456 LD 521 UKIP 203 Lab 128
May 2007 result C 1361 LD 576 UKIP 269 Lab 150
May 2006 result C 1397 LD 639 UKIP 197 Lab 144
June 2004 result C 1302/1228/1125 LD 1075/954/879 UKIP 353 Lab 257


Totteridge and Bowerdean

Buckinghamshire county council; caused by the death of Chaudhary Ditta, who had been elected for the East Wycombe Independents.

For our final South East by-election we are in the Chiltern Hills. High Wycombe is an old market town in the valley of the River Wye, on the main road and one of the railway lines between London and Oxford. The town was once tightly packed into the valley, but the substandard housing on the valley floor has mostly been replaced by estates running up the valley sides. Totteridge and Bowerdean is such an area, lying to the east of High Wycombe town centre. This is an area which has seen immigration from Pakistan, particularly the Punjab, and the Bowerdean ward of Wycombe council (most of which is within this division) makes the top 100 Muslim wards in England and Wales.

Chaudhary Ditta was one of those Pakistani immigrants, having been born in Kashmir; he came to High Wycombe in 1973. Ditta had represented this area on Buckinghamshire county council since 2005, initially being elected as a Labour figure before defecting to the Liberal Democrats in his first term. He was re-elected in 2009 and 2013 as a Lib Dem before breaking away from the party to join the East Wycombe Independents; Ditta was re-elected under that label in 2017 for his fourth and final term, polling 40% to 25% for Labour and 20% for the Conservatives. He had also been a Wycombe district councillor from 2003 to 2015 when he lost his seat in Bowerdean ward to Labour, and was weighed in as Mayor of High Wycombe in 2011-12. Totteridge, the other ward in the division, split its two seats between the Conservatives and the East Wycombe Independents in 2015.

That 2015 poll is likely to be the last election to Wycombe district council, as local government in Buckinghamshire is due for reorganisation and the 2019 elections have been cancelled. The current plan is that in April 2020 a new single Buckinghamshire council will be created, to replace the current county council and four district councils. So Chaudhary Ditta's successor may not get to serve for all that long.

Defending for the East Wycombe Independents is Matt Knight, a Wycombe district councillor representing Micklefield ward; like Ditta, he's a former Lib Dem figure. Labour have selected Israr Rashid. The Tory candidate is Richard Peters, a chartered engineer and charity volunteer. Completing the ballot paper is Ben Holkham for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Wycombe
Wycombe council wards: Totteridge, Bowerdean (most)
ONS Travel to Work Area: High Wycombe and Aylesbury
Postcode district: HP13

Ben Holkham (LD)
Matt Knight (East Wycombe Ind)
Richard Peters (C)
Israr Rashid (Lab)

May 2017 result East Wycombe Ind 930 Lab 588 C 466 LD 344
May 2013 result LD 953 Lab 671 C 482 UKIP 354


Bolton and Undercliffe

Bradford council, West Yorkshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor and former council leader Ian Greenwood at the age of 68.

For the final poll of the week we travel from the frozen South to the North. Welcome to Bolton - not here the Greatest Town in the Known Universe, but a suburb of Bradford. This ward is immediately to the north of Bradford city centre, taking in the Undercliffe area to the south and the rather newer estates of Bolton to the north.

Bolton is one of the pasts of Bradford which has been least changed by the Jewel's transformation into a multicultural city, although its BAME population is still above average (particularly so in Undercliffe). The city's ethnic diversity is mirrored by political diversity, with pretty much every party being capable of winning a ward in Bradford under the right conditions.

One of those parties was George Galloway's Respect. In early 2012 the health of Marsha Singh, Labour MP for Bradford West, failed forcing a by-election. That by-election was won by Galloway, and he followed up by organising a Respect slate to contest the May 2012 Bradford city elections. Respect won five wards, all in heavily-Asian areas; and one of those was Little Horton ward where the leader of the council, Labour's Ian Greenwood, was defeated. The Respect spasm was shortlived and the party hasn't won anything in Bradford since.

Greenwood was by 2012 in his second period as council leader, and had served on Bradford council since 1995; he had previously been a West Yorkshire county councillor. In 2013 he was appointed OBE for services to local government, having by now become chairman of the Local Authorities Pensions Fund Forum; with local government pension funds being collectively worth over £230,000 million, that made him a big name in the pensions industry.

The loss of the Bradford West by-election meant that just one of Bradford's five parliamentary constituencies were in Labour hands. Shipley had been lost to the Conservatives in 2005, and in the 2010 election Labour also lost Keighley to the Conservatives and Bradford East to the Liberal Democrats. The fact that the Lib Dems could ever win that seat astonishes your columnist even now. It was a close three-way result with the Tories on 27%, Labour's Terry Rooney (outgoing MP for the predecessor seat of Bradford North) on 33% and the Lib Dems' David Ward taking advantage of the split opposition and the party's local government strength in the area to win with just 34% of the vote. On the same day the Liberal Democrats won three of the six Bradford city council wards in the seat.

David Ward's tenure in the Commons proved to be controversial; he was suspended from the parliamentary party for a time in 2013 for a series of anti-Semitic remarks, and even after being readmitted to the party continued to cause problems. (Compare and contrast with Naz Shah, Galloway's successor as MP for Bradford West, who went through a similar controversy and appears to have learned lessons from it.) Ward lost Bradford East to Labour in the 2015 election, but wasn't out of politics for long; he returned to elected office the following year as a Bradford city councillor for Bolton and Undercliffe ward. It seemed a good choice: this was normally a safe ward for the party and Ward increased the Lib Dem majority over Labour to 52-30.

But there were more twists to tome. The Bradford East Lib Dems readopted David Ward as their candidate for the 2017 general election and were reportedly confident of a win; but his candidacy was vetoed by party leader Tim Farron. Ward stood as an independent, finishing a distant third with 8% of vote; but that was better than the official Lib Dem candidate who finished fifth with just 1.8% of the vote. A rather large drop that, 34% to 1.8% in just seven years. And then Ian Greenwood decided to make a political comeback, and got the Labour nomination for Bolton and Undercliffe in the 2018 Bradford elections. In the closest result since the current boundaries were introduced in 2004, Greenwood defeated the outgoing Lib Dem councillor Rachel Sunderland by 45% to 42%, a majority of just 90 votes.

So, anything could happen here. Defending for Labour is local resident Amriz Hussain. The Liberal Democrats have reselected Rachel Sunderland, the councillor whom Greenwood defeated last year; Sunderland was first elected in 2014 and his hoping to make a quick return to the council. Also standing are Ranbir Singh for the Conservatives and Phil Worsnop for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Bradford East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bradford
Postcode districts: BD1, BD2, BD3, BD9, BD10, BD13, BD14, BD15, BD16, BD17, BD18, BD97

Amriz Hussain (Lab)
Ranbir Singh (C)
Rachel Sunderland (LD)
Phil Worsnop (Grn)

May 2018 result Lab 1686 LD 1596 C 376 Grn 113
May 2016 result LD 2088 Lab 1214 UKIP 443 C 179 Grn 75
May 2015 result LD 2457 Lab 2164 UKIP 1075 C 708 Grn 251
May 2014 result LD 1969 Lab 1462 C 412
May 2012 result LD 1888 Lab 1175 Respect 529 C 264
May 2011 result LD 1825 Lab 1536 C 499
May 2010 result LD 3047 Lab 1686 C 1226 BNP 492 Grn 149 Democratic Nationalist 57
May 2008 result LD 2139 Lab 798 C 557 Grn 232
May 2007 double vacancy LD 2050/1835 Lab 919/860 C 650/545 Grn 327
May 2006 result LD 2146 Lab 958 C 679
June 2004 result LD 2326/2247/2244 881/772/699 Lab 867/766/675 Grn 472

Andrew Teale


Previews: 31 Jan 2019

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

There are two polls on 31st January 2019, both in London and the South East:


Warlingham

Surrey county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Hodge, who until recently was leader of the county council.

For our major by-election this week we are atop the North Downs, just outside the Greater London boundary. Warlingham division lies in the northeastern corner of Surrey, and is a division covering a series of villages. The largest centre of population is Warlingham itself; by local tradition its All Saints church was where Thomas Cranmer started to experiment with preaching from what became the first Book of Common Prayer, and there is a stained glass window in that church showing Cranmer presenting the prayer book to Edward VI. In more modern times Warlingham was the centre of a major psychiatric hospital (new redeveloped for housing) and was on the front line in the Battle of Britain as German bombers tried to navigate their way up the local valley towards London. With Biggin Hill and Kenley airfields nearby, that might not have been the wisest move.

The division contains some other villages. Farleigh was briefly part of Greater London, joining the London Borough of Croydon on its creation in 1965, but was transferred back to Surrey in boundary changes four years later. Tatsfield, which gets its post from Westerham over the county line in Kent, was the birthplace of the motorsport legend John Surtees, who remains the only driver to win world championships on both two and four wheels.

Boundary changes in 2013 brought Woldingham into the division. The Independent reported in February 2000 that a sixth of the residents in Woldingham's CR3 7 postcode sector were cash millionaires, and the village is a notoriously rich enclave. One of its richest recent residents was the failed parliamentary candidate Katie Price (Stretford and Urmston, 2001) who was reported in 2012 to be worth £45 million. On the other hand, these sort of lists don't make allowance for what you owe: three months ago Price entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with her creditors, with her debts reported to be around £250,000. Woldingham is home to the only railway station within the division boundary, on the Oxted branch line, and is a heavy commuter area. The village also makes the top 100 wards in England and Wales for the 16-17 age bracket; this is due to the presence of Woldingham School. A Roman Catholic boarding school for girls, Woldingham School's former pupils include the former Conservative MP Louise Mensch, the BBC journalist Caroline Wyatt and the BAFTA-winning actress Carey Mulligan.

This adds up to a safe Conservative division for David Hodge. One of the few councillors notable enough to merit a Wikipedia page, Hodge was first elected to Surrey county council in 2005 for this division, having previously set for seven years on the local Tandridge council. From 2011 until late last year Hodge was the leader of Surrey county council, and in January 2017 he was appointed CBE for services to local government and charity. Shortly afterwards Hodge became embroiled in controversy after the county council planned a 15% increase in council tax, claiming that government cuts and increasing social care demands meant it couldn't make ends meet. That increase was then reduced to 4.99% amid claims that Surrey had reached a "sweetheart" deal with the government.

The shenanigans clearly didn't have much negative effect on Hodge's electorate, as he was re-elected in May 2017 with a majority of 56-29 over the Liberal Democrats; a greatly increased majority compared with 2013 when UKIP had run second here. Mind, as part of the ongoing cuts to local government Surrey county council is attempting to close the Warlingham tip and relocate the local primary school, neither of which are proposals which have gone down well in the area.

At Tandridge council level the Tories hold five of the division's eight district councillors; the Liberal Democrats have two out of three seats in Warlingham East and Chelsham and Farleigh ward (and will be hoping for a gain from the Tories there in May) while the small Tatsfield and Titsey ward returns independent candidates to the Tandridge council offices in Oxted. Warlingham West is safe Conservative and Woldingham is ridiculously safe for the party (in 2012 the Tories beat the Lib Dems here by the score of 87-13), but has a low electorate.

Defending for the Conservatives is Becky Rush, a Woldingham parish councillor. The Lib Dems have reselected Charles Lister, a Warlingham parish councillor who was appointed OBE in 2003 for his distinguished career in the public health sector, particularly on ensuring a safe blood supply for the NHS; Lister was runner-up in the division in 2017. Also standing are Martin Haley for UKIP (who was runner-up here in 2013) and Michael Snowden for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: East Surrey
Tandridge council wards: Tatsfield and Titsey, Warlingham East and Chelsham and Farleigh, Warlingham West, Woldingham
Postcode districts: CR6, RH8, RH9, TN16

Martin Haley (UKIP)
Charles Lister (LD)
Becky Rush (C)
Michael Snowden (Lab)

May 2017 result C 2265 LD 1165 UKIP 403 Lab 193
May 2013 result C 1444 UKIP 1075 LD 743 Lab 146


Billingsgate

City of London Corporation; an Aldermanic election caused by the retirement of Alderman Matthew Richardson.

For our other election we take the train from Woldingham into the centre of London to consider that weird and wonderful elected body, the City of London Corporation. The City has 25 wards of which Billingsgate is one of the smaller ones; the name is evocative of the city's fish market, but that market relocated to Poplar in the 1980s and its old building is now an events venue. Opposite the old market building is an office block built over the remains of a Roman bathhouse; opposite that office block is the Watermen's Hall, an appropriate location given that the city's watergate used to be nearby.

Any mention of a watergate will cause politicos of a certain age to prick their ears up for a good story, and Matthew Richardson certainly has an interesting backstory. A former Conservative figure and later Party Secretary of UKIP, Richardson was elected as an Alderman in 2012, despite his history standing as a non-partisan candidate as is traditional in the City. He was associated with the Young Britons Foundation, a now-defunct group of young right-wingers which backed several candidates in the 2013 City elections; none of them did particularly well. In 2012 Richardson was in his early thirties and according to his website was the youngest City alderman for 800 years; outside the Corporation he is a barrister, and presumably is standing down to concentrate on his legal career.

So we have a rare open seat in the Court of Aldermen, the senior councillors from whom the Lord Mayors of London are selected. The City's elections are dominated by business voters, and the business voters in Billingsgate ward are dominated by the insurance industry; however, there are only 258 voters on the Ward List (the electoral register) and turnout is likely to be low. In the 2017 City elections the two winning candidates, Michael Welbank and Robert Ingham Clarke, polled 42 and 40 votes respectively; Welbank resigned last year and his replacement, College of Arms herald John Allen-Petrie, won a four-way contest with 40 votes out of 90.

This time there are six candidates whom I shall take in ballot paper order. Jonathan Bergdahl, an HR and operations professional, is the only candidate with a party nomination - for that eighties throwback the Social Democratic Party. The continuing SDP is a rather different beast these days to the party founded by the Gang of Four all those years ago; apart from anything else, it's a very Eurosceptic group now and that's unlikely to go down well with the City electorate. James de Sausmarez is an investment manager and Common Councilman for Candlewick ward. Andrew Heath-Richardson works in property development and regeneration, and had a major role in the building of the "Walkie Talkie" skyscraper on Fenchurch Street, which stands just outside the ward boundary. Rachel Kent is an advisor to the financial services industry specialising in regulation. Bronislaw "Bronek" Masojada is in the unusual position of having involvement in both elections today as he lives in Woldingham, Surrey; Masojada has since 2000 been the chief executive of the insurers Hiscox. Completing the ballot paper is Alpa Raja who has had several goes at standing in City elections recently, including in last year's Billingsgate by-election where she finished third; Raja is an insolvency practitioner and chartered accountant.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EC3M, EC3R

Jonathan Bergdahl (SDP)
James de Sausmarez (Ind)
Andrew Heath-Richardson (Ind)
Rachel Kent (Ind)
Bronek Masojada (Ind)
Alpa Raja (Ind)


Previews: 10 Jan 2019

There are two local by-elections on 10th January 2019, both in the same town and both being defended by independent candidates. Read on...


Bexhill West

East Sussex county council; and

St Marks

Rother council, East Sussex; both caused by the death of independent councillor Stuart Earl at the age of 72. He had served on East Sussex county council since 2013 and on Rother council since 2011; he was also a Rother councillor from 2003 to 2007 as a Conservative, and was Mayor of Bexhill-on-Sea in 2004-05.

Welcome to 2019. Did you have a pleasant break over Christmas and New Year? Are your batteries suitably refreshed? Well, I hope so, because this is the first electoral act of what promises to be another year of bumpy politics.

Those who were following the political news over Christmas and New Year (such as it is during that time of peace and goodwill) will have noticed a particularly striking display of joined-up government. We saw the Department for Transport making preparations to facilitate people getting across the English Channel in boats, while at the same time the Home Office was making preparations to prevent people getting across the English Channel in boats.

There's nothing new under the sun, and the fear of people getting across the English Channel - whether in a contemporary context or in a different Britain to that of today - is a subject which film, TV and literature has visited many times. Fast forward to 2027, as depicted in the 2006 film Children of Men, in which Clive Owen plays a civil servant. In that film the UK government had imposed oppressive immigration laws on refugees from outside these islands: a police state is in effect, and the south coast town of Bexhill-on-Sea has been turned into the location for an internment camp for the oppressed and desperate from the rest of the world; those people who by accident of birth had the misfortune not to qualify for British citizenship.

An earlier person who had that same misfortune was a much-loved Indian-born entertainer, who joined the Royal Artillery on the outbreak of the Second World War and was posted to defend Bexhill from another imminent invasion, with rather outdated weaponry...

When the '14-'18 War ended, Churchill said the 9.2s were to be dismantled, put in grease and stored in case of 'future eventualities'. There was one drawback. No Ammunition. This didn't deter Leather Suitcase, he soon had all the gun crews shouting 'BANG' in unison. "Helps keep morale up," he told visiting Alanbrooke.

Gunner Terence Milligan further reported, in his memoir Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, that a shell for the 9.2 gun was eventually found, ceremoniously fired, and proved to be a dud. Some things in the Army don't change.

Now, having foreign invading forces come through Bexhill is not exactly fanciful: back in the autumn of 1066 an invasion force led by the Duke of Normandy landed at nearby Pevensey, and things have never been quite the same since. That landing (although not the site of it, the coastline having changed over the last nine and a half centuries) is commemorated by a hamlet and railway station called Normans Bay, in the marshes a few miles west of Bexhill.

Those marshes are covered by Bexhill's St Marks ward, named after the church serving the village of Little Common; a village which has now became part of Bexhill's urban sprawl. Now, when you look at the town's census return you begin to understand why Children of Men, a film set in a world with no young people in it, decided to pick on Bexhill: St Marks ward is in the top 20 wards in England and Wales for the 65+ age bracket and in the top 25 for retired people. It's also in the top 80 for owner-occupation. Those stats are presumably boosted by the closure in 1992 of a real-life Bexhill internment camp - Northeye prison, which was located in the ward and largely destroyed by a 1986 riot. With serious housebuilding underway at the moment at Barnhorn Green, the 2021 census may well return something different.

Or perhaps not, if you look at the rest of the Bexhill West county division which also takes in parts of the Collington and Kewhurst wards. Collington ward, covering the town's western seafront, is even older than St Marks: it ranks fifth in England and Wales for adults aged 65 or over, and just 26% of the ward's residents have yet to reach their 45th birthday. Kewhurst ward, to the north of Collington, also makes the top 25 wards in England and Wales for the 65+ age bracket.

You might think from that age profile alone that this would be a Tory area, and at parliamentary level it is. However, at local level the Conservatives have been under pressure in western Bexhill from a group of independent ex-Tory councillors including Stuart Earl, who had run a bakery in the town. Earl had set as a Conservative councillor for St Marks ward until 2007; he returned to Rother council as an independent councillor for St Marks ward in 2011, gaining his seat from the Conservatives; and he repeated the trick in 2013 at East Sussex county council level.

In 2015 Stuart Earl was re-elected to Rother council at the top of the poll in St Marks ward, polling 39%; his ward colleague Joanne Gadd, who had previously been elected here on the Conservative slate, also sought re-election as an independent but lost her seat to the Tories' Thomas Graham who had 34%. UKIP trailed in some way behind on 18%. In the same election Collington ward returned an independent slate and Kewhurst voted Conservative; one of the independent councillors for Collington resigned in 2016 and the resulting by-election was very easily won by Stuart Earl's wife Deirdre Earl-Williams, another ex-Tory councillor standing as an independent candidate. The 2017 county elections in Bexhill saw Stuart Earl easily re-elected in Bexhill West, defeating the Conservatives 50-33.

For the county by-election in Bexhill West the defending independent candidate is Stuart Earl's widow Deirdre Earl-Williams who, as stated is a Rother councillor for Collington ward. The Tories have reselected their losing candidate from 2017 Martin Kenward, a Rother councillor for Kewhurst ward. Also standing for the county council seat are Jacque Walker for Labour, Richard Thomas for the Liberal Democrats, UKIP's Geoffrey Bastin (who fought the Bexhill and Battle parliamentary seat in 2015 and 2017, treading in the footsteps of one Nigel Farage) and Polly Gray for the Green Party.

The district by-election winner will have to be back on the campaign trail in short order as they will be due for re-election in just four months' time. Defending St Marks for the independents is Kathy Harmer, who runs a shop selling wigs and dresses in Little Common. The Conservatives have selected Gino Forte, who runs a development company and a club in the town. The UKIP candidate is John Zipser. With the Lib Dem candidate having withdrawn their nomination, Labour's John Walker completes the district ballot paper.

January is a slow month for local by-elections and there are just four polls this month. This column will now take a two-week holiday before returning in time for the final two important votes, which will take place on 31st January. Please don't get withdrawal symptoms.

Andrew Teale

Bexhill West

Parliamentary constituency: Bexhill and Battle
Rother council wards: Collington (part), Kewhurst (part), St Marks

Geoffrey Bastin (UKIP)
Deirdre Earl-Williams (Ind)
Polly Gray (Grn)
Martin Kenward (C)
Richard Thomas (LD)
Jacque Walker (Lab)

May 2017 result Ind 2056 C 1356 Lab 290 LD 227 UKIP 148

St Marks

Parliamentary constituency: Bexhill and Battle
East Sussex county council division: Bexhill West

Gino Forte (C)
Kathy Harmer (Ind)
John Walker (Lab)
John Zipser (UKIP)

May 2015 result Ind 1312/808 C 1148/671 UKIP 608 Lab 318
May 2011 result Ind 1005 C 980/837 LD 494 Lab 213
May 2007 result C 1136/990 LD 605 Lab 133
May 2003 result C 1236/1106 LD 359


Previews: 20 Dec 2018

Before we start this week, there is a regrettable entry for Correction Corner. Christopher Millington, who contested the Toddbrook by-election in Harlow last week, was representing the Liberal Democrats and not, as I wrote, the Green Party. My apologies to all involved.

There are three by-elections on 20th December 2018, all Liberal Democrat defences:


Anstey

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; caused by the death of John Sutherington who was the only Liberal Democrat member of the council.

Well, last week was exciting, wasn't it? Yes, the big vote on Wednesday was a crushing win for the Ashfield Independents who polled 87% of the vote in Sutton-in-Ashfield, further proof that the voters of that corner of Nottinghamshire have confidence in the strong and stable leadership of Jason Zadrozny. Watch that man for the future, his star is in the ascendancy. Yes, last week was very difficult to write about because the pace of events on the national scene is just so fast these days. Not even satire can keep up: my Previews last week went through several last-minute redrafts and still ended up very dated. With Parliament yet to break up for the Christmas recess at the time of writing, there is still time for Things to Happen before you read this.

One of the other by-elections last week was in the council estates of Middlesbrough, a place which has been left behind by the death of its major industries and which - not coincidentally - came out in favour of leaving the EU those thirty long months ago. This is not a new phenomenon: technological change has been leaving places and people behind for a very long time, going back all the way to the Industrial Revolution and before. And for almost as long, people have been railing against technological change. Back in 1779, there was allegedly an incident in which a semi-legendary man called Edward Ludlam smashed up a couple of newfangled stocking frames in a spasm of rage; some decades later, his name - shortened to Ned Ludd - became appropriated for the Luddite protest movement against mechanisation and the industrial abuses which stemmed from it.

Ned Ludd (or Edward Ludlum) was from Anstey, a settlement on the edge of Charnwood Forest a few miles north of Leicester. Anstey is one of those awkward places to classify in that it's too large to comfortably be a village but too small to be a town, and that was also the case back in the nineteenth century when, despite Ludd's efforts, there was a thriving textile industry here with multiple hosiery factories. By the twentieth century there were other industries in Anstey - boots and shoes, wallpaper, tanning - and there is still a factory here making packaging together with the book publishers Ulverscroft, which specialises in large-print books for those with poor eyesight. Anstey's industry has, however, declined; and with its proximity to Leicester housebuilding has been the order of the day more recently. One street of new-build houses just off the main road to Leicester has been called, without a hint of irony, Ned Ludd Close.

Another road in Anstey was recently named after another local man. John Sutherington had represented the village on Charnwood council since 1999, from that year to 2003 as part of the former Bradgate ward, and was clearly well thought-of as a local councillor. He was born in Anstey in 1949 and lived here for the whole of his life, being a talented sportsman and musician in addition to his work and democratic duties. Unfortunately his last five years were blighted by aplastic anaemia, a bone marrow condition; and by becoming the victim of a telephone banking scam which cost him £20,000.

Sutherington had a clear personal vote, holding his seat easily in the 2007 election when his Lib Dem running-mate lost to the Conservatives. At his final re-election in 2015 that must have made all the difference because he held his seat by just sixteen votes over the second Conservative candidate. The lead Tory candidate that year had 34%, Sutherington as a single Lib Dem polled 26%, with UKIP and Labour on 16% each. The Conservatives normally have a better time at county council level: Anstey is part of the Bradgate division which is safe for the Tories.

John Sutherington was the last Liberal Democrat member of Charnwood council, and one suspects that with his passing there was nobody left to take up the Lib Dem torch in the area. In any event there is no defending Lib Dem candidate, so this by-election will form an early Christmas present with a gain for either the Conservative or Labour Parties. In the blue corner is Paul Baines, who is one of the few local election candidates notable enough to merit his own Wikipedia entry: Baines is a Professor of Political Marketing at the University of Leicester and has written several books on the subject, so now he has the chance to put his theory into practice. In the red corner is Glyn McAllister, vice-chairman of Anstey parish council and regular Labour candidate for the ward. With UKIP not returning, this is a straight fight. And there may be a rematch for the loser in short order, because the winner of this by-election will need to seek re-election in May 2019.

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

Paul Baines (C)
Glyn McAllister (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1552/1163 LD 1179 UKIP 739 Lab 717/443 Grn 417
May 2011 resut LD 1087 C 989/631 Lab 518/335 BNP 215
May 2007 result C 934/737 LD 883/644 BNP 422
May 2003 result LD 962/659 C 571/372 Lab 130


Kent Estuary

Cumbria county council; and

Arnside and Milnthorpe

South Lakeland council, Cumbria; both caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Stewart at the age of 65. The deputy leader of Cumbria county council, Stewart was first elected to county hall in 2001 and had served on South Lakeland council since winning a by-election in May 2002, originally sitting for Arnside and Beetham ward.

We finish for the year in the beautiful hills and valleys of Cumbria: not in the Lake District, but on the banks of Morecambe Bay. Here, on the Kent Estuary, can be found the Westmorland village of Arnside hugging the hillside next to the water. Arnside was a port in days gone by, with boats negotiating the treacherous waters of the Bay to get here; but in 1857 the railway came, with a long viaduct being built from Arnside over the estuary towards Grange-over-Sands and on to Ulverston and Barrow. The railway is still here, but the port has gone: the viaduct caused the estuary to silt up. The village lies on the side of Arnside Knott, a 522-foot hill which is recognised as England's lowest Marilyn - that is, a summit with at least 150 metres descent on all sides.

The railway runs south from Arnside towards the junction at Carnforth over the border in Lancashire, from where Arnside gets its post. However, the main lines of communication in the area run further to the east away from Kentdale, with the West Coast Main Line and M6 motorway passing through the hills east of Beetham and Milnthorpe. These are villages on the A6 road between Carnforth and Kendal which still take most of their custom from tourism and passing trade on the road, although there are some rather surprising other industries. Such as this, which was first made in 1983 in Milnthorpe:

https://youtu.be/wYj5o4kQsXs

Despite the advertising, Um Bongo is still not available in the Congo, although this may change with the forthcoming free trade agreements we are promised post-Brexit. Watch this space.

Also made in Milnthorpe was a man whose signature appears on the Lib Dem nomination papers for these by-elections. Timothy James Farron was born in 1970 in Preston and from his earliest days went pretty much straight into politics, serving on the NUS executive and becoming the first Liberal to be elected president of the Newcastle University students' union. While still a student he contested the 1992 general election as Liberal Democrat candidate for North West Durham, finishing third behind the re-elected Labour MP and a young woman from the Tories called Theresa May. (Whatever happened to her?) After spells on Lancashire county council and South Ribble district council, Farron moved to Milnthorpe and got his big break by being selected for the Lib Dem target seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2001; he failed to win that year but made some encouraging progress. In the following years the Lib Dems took control of South Lakeland council by convincing the Labour vote in Kendal to defect to them en masse, and Farron rode that Liberal wave into Parliament in 2005.

Tim Farron became leader of the Liberal Democrats following the near-wipeout of 2015, and fat lot of good it did him. With local election results pointing towards a slow Conservative recovery in Westmorland and Lonsdale, the Tories put some effort into a decapitation strategy in the 2017 general election; Farron held his seat, but only by 777 votes on an adverse swing of over 8%. Following the loss of Southport, Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam that year, Farron is the only Liberal Democrat MP in the north of England. He resigned the party leadership shortly after the election, a decision which should give him more time to concentrate on his constituency. And he'll need to do so: if the proposed boundary changes go through then Appleby-in-Westmorland and a large rural swathe full of Tory voters will be transferred into his seat, potentially wiping out that majority.

The Westmorland Lib Dems may already be seeing the fruits of those labours in Farron's home ward, which swung towards the party this year. These boundaries were first used in 2001 as the Kent Estuary division of Cumbria county council, and were left unchanged by a further redistribution in 2013. Ian Stewart had been the county councillor for Kent Estuary throughout that time: at his last re-election in 2017 he had a 53-37 lead over the Conservatives, a swing of around eight points against the Lib Dems since 2013.

During this time South Lakeland district had rather unusual electoral arrangements, in that most of its wards were single-member but it used the thirds electoral cycle. All good things must come to an end, and a rewarding earlier this year replaced that with a more conventional cycle of thirds elections with wards of three councillors each. That meant that the former two-seat ward of Arnside and Beetham was merged with the single-member Milnthorpe ward to create a new three-seat ward which has exactly the same boundaries as the Kent Estuary county division - but just to confuse matters has a different name, "Arnside and Milnthorpe". In the May 2018 elections Arnside and Milnthorpe elected the Lib Dem slate with a 52-32 lead over the Conservatives; Ian Stewart beat the alphabet to top the poll, suggesting that he had developed a personal vote.

The Lib Dems will be hoping that that personal vote carries over to Stewart's successors in these by-elections. Defending the Kent Estuary seat on the county council is Pete McSweeney, who was elected to South Lakeland council from Arnside and Beetham ward in 2016 and re-elected here in 2018; this is a busy time for McSweeney as he was elected in third place in May, meaning that he got only a one-year term and will need to seek re-election to the district council in May 2019. The Conservatives have selected Tom Harvey, a South Lakeland councillor for the neighbouring ward of Burton and Crooklands. A Tory gain could have implications for control of the county council, which is presently run by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition which holds 41 out of 84 seats plus this vacancy; the Conservatives are the largest single group with 36 seats plus another vacancy, and five independent councillors hold the balance of power at the Courts in Carlisle.

On a rare all-female ballot paper for the Arnside and Milnthorpe seat on South Lakeland district council, the Lib Dems have nominated Helen Chaffey who is an Arnside parish councillor and a marketing careers coach at Lancaster University's management school. The Conservative candidate is Milnthorpe resident Rachel Ashburner who was on the Conservative slate here in May. Completing both ballot papers are Jill Abel for the Green Party and Kate Love for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Westmorland and Lonsdale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kendal
Postcode districts: LA5, LA6, LA7

May 2018 district council result LD 1513/1449/1440 C 930/916/677 Grn 353/123/100 Lab 140
May 2017 county council result LD 1422 C 995 Grn 162 Lab 103
May 2013 county council result LD 1492 C 676 Lab 159
June 2009 county council result LD 2123 C 1032 Lab 61
May 2005 county council result LD 2038 C 1526 Lab 319
May 2001 county council result LD 1965 C 1725

Kent Estuary

Jill Abel (Grn)
Tom Harvey (C)
Kate Love (Lab)
Pete McSweeney (LD)

Arnside and Milnthorpe

Jill Abel (Grn)
Rachel Ashburner (C)
Helen Chaffey (LD)
Kate Love (Lab)


"The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?"

"The same procedure as every year, James."

So we have come to the end of the psephological year of 2018, one of the most volatile and exhausting years in British politics since, well, 2017. All sorts of Things may have Happened this year, but at least we were spared a general election this time round. Nonetheless there is an awful lot of volatility in politics right now not just in the British bubble in which we live, but around the world. We are cursed to live in Interesting Times, and the curse has clearly not yet been broken. I'm writing this on Monday, and with talk of a confidence motion against Theresa May the Christmas Truce clearly isn't in force yet. One suspects that this week's Previews will suffer the same fate as the last: of becoming hopelessly out of date in the period after my submission deadline.

This is the last Andrew's Previews of the year, and traditionally this column likes to take the opportunity to look back over the old year and forward to the new. This column traditionally signs off by wishing for all readers that their coming year be better than the one just gone. This column doesn't traditionally come into the Christmas period with dire warnings of a chaotic no-deal dystopia all over the press unless Something Happens to stop it over the next fourteen weeks.

One of the reasons I write nearly-exclusively about local politics is that I'm as sick of Brexit as you are, and local government is one of the areas least touched by the subject. But hysteria like that is only going to get worse as 29th March approaches, and one of these days the electorate are going to sit up and notice it. One of the few predictions that can be made with any certainty about the whole Brexit process is that come exit day an awful lot of people - on both sides of the Remain-Leave divide - are going to be disappointed for a whole host of reasons. I'm reminded of what happened five years ago in the wake of the referendum on Scottish independence; the Scottish National Party may have lost that one, but the number of disappointed people - on both sides of the Yes-No divide - led to a political realignment which has left the Nationalists in the ascendancy and the Scottish Labour Party on the canvas. They are yet to climb off the floor.

During that realignment it was the opinion polls which picked up the earliest signs of the change, but it was the local by-elections which proved that the shift was real. New parties may be here today, gone tomorrow, but what turns a transient opinion poll movement into something tangible? Boots on the ground. Organisation. Getting your message out in the cities, the towns, the suburbs, the estates, the villages, the places where ordinary people live. And it's the local by-elections which pick those shifts up first. We saw it in Scotland in 2014-15 with the rise of the SNP; we saw it in England earlier in 2014 as UKIP started to gain council seats from seemingly nowhere.

We may see something similar in the aftermath of Brexit, as there will be an awful lot of disappointed people - some of whom may be looking for a new political home. There are credible ways in which both main parties can deliver knockout blows on the other: there are realistic scenarios in which one or both of the main parties implode under the weight of their own contradictions. There might even be opportunities for minor parties if they can play their hand well. Volatile political times may very quickly turn into volatile electoral times. Watch this space.

The first scheduled chance the UK's electors will have to deliver their verdict on whatever post-Brexit political landscape we get will be (unless a general election turns up beforehand) the local government elections on Thursday 2nd May 2019. This is the largest year of the local electoral cycle, with nearly every district council seat in the Tory shires, together with the whole of local government in Northern Ireland, up for election. Any hint of post-Brexit chaos affecting the ordinary voters of the English or the six counties may not be taken kindly by the core electorate of the Conservative government, not to mention that of the Democratic Unionists who sustain them in office. The electoral dangers should be obvious. The political volatility is such that predicting any more than that at this stage would merely be a hostage to fortune.

And fortune is not something which the UK's local government has much of at the moment. The well-publicised case of Northamptonshire county council, which in 2018 issued not one but two notices banning all non-essential spending, is merely the tip of the iceberg. There are many more local councils out there struggling to balance the books in the face of reduced central grants, increased responsibilities and eroded spending power. It's hard to see this changing in the near future.

In the face of such economic pressure the trend has been for further consolidation in what is already some of the most remote local government in Europe. Next April fifteen district or county councils will disappear, with wholesale reorganisation in Dorset, two Somerset councils merging into one and and two new district councils being created in Suffolk to replace four old ones. The insolvency of Northamptonshire county council has forced reorganisation in that county, and the Northants shire district elections in 2019 have already been cancelled. Buckinghamshire's elections next year look likely to be called off as well. Other counties have debated reorganisation schemes, and the Local Government Boundary Commission is consistently finding that the councils they are reviewing want to propose cuts in councillor numbers while their populations increase - not in the name of increased or improved democracy, but in the name of saving money.

It's not just councillor allowances that are the point of that trend: elections cost money as well. The Electoral Commission has put a warning out to returning officers to ensure they keep hold of the money required to organise a European Parliament election, in the event that we haven't left the EU by the middle of May. Even the average local by-election costs a five-figure sum in staff time, polling station hire, ballot paper printing costs, franking for postal votes and so on.

In 2018 Andrew's Previews covered nearly three hundred local by-elections, which attracted over a thousand candidates (four of whom were elected unopposed) and in which over half a million votes were cast. The only major contest which escaped this column's attention was the West Tyrone parliamentary by-election in May, but we made up for that by covering Northern Ireland for the first time with the Carrick Castle by-election this autumn.

Half a million votes doesn't necessarily mean half a million readers, but I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to read the Previews and to those who comment on them and spot the mistakes which sneaked through. Thank you. I try to follow the Reithian principle of "inform and entertain", and hopefully you have found some entertainment and been better informed about the UK and its political scene: both nationally and locally. As we demonstrate from week to week, there are lots of stories to tell. There will be no shortage of new stories in the year ahead.

Some of you even took the time to buy the books. Andrew's Previews 2016 and 2017 remain and will remain available from Amazon, and I am considering a third book in the series to cover 2018. If you think this is a good or bad idea, let me know either in the comments or through the medium of Twitter. And remember that if you buy one or more of the Andrew's Previews books, you will be helping the future of the column because the profits will support the necessary research; and in return for that donation you'll get a nice book as a thank-you. Thank you.

Thanks are also due to the Britain Elects team, who have been steadfast in support of this column over the last year. If it hadn't been for your support, this wouldn't have happened on the same scale. Long may you go from strength to strength. Thank you.

As I said, another turbulent political year is in prospect for the year of Our Lord, 2019, and Britain Elects and this column will cover it in all the usual detail as the weeks and months unfold. In the meantime, Christmas is upon us, and it is time to close down for the year in the words that have become traditional. This column will return in time for the first local by-elections of 2019, to be held in Bexhill-on-Sea on Thursday 10th January; until then, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and may your 2019 be an improvement on your 2018.

https://youtu.be/1pks0D2xBfI


Previews: 13 Dec 2018

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

There are four local by-elections on Thursday 13th December 2018, with Labour defending three seats in England and the Conservatives one in Scotland. Read on...


West Green

Haringey council, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ishmael Osamor.

As anybody who performs on a stage will know, timing is everything. We're in a fast-changing political landscape here, and that's creating all sorts of problems for Andrew's Previews. Being a busy man, I drafted this piece last weekend prepared for all political eventualities, with the exception of the one that actually happened with the Meaningful Vote getting called off before my submission deadline; so there has been some rather hasty redrafting going on to fit the new political context. Westminster being as febrile as it is at the moment, by the time you read this things might have changed significantly yet again.

The local by-election cycle turns more slowly than the 24-hour news cycle, and the middle of December marks the point at which we start winding down towards the Christmas and New Year break. There are just four by-elections today, with the three in England all being in safe Labour wards based on large council estates. Mid-December is also the point of the year where we look back on the fifty-two weeks just gone and start to give out awards: and one of the more pointless awards is that for the Word of the Year, adjudicated by the Oxford Dictionaries. The Oxonian lexicographers selected a word which is not a new coinage but does fairly sum up the political situation in the year of our Lord, 2018: "toxic".

Which brings us neatly to this week's first by-election. There are all sorts of toxic things out there, not all of which are political. Indeed some toxic things are quite enjoyable: it's not for nothing that the dictionary lists "intoxicating" as a synonym of "exhilarating" or "exciting". Some toxic things are, however, quite illegal. Some are both enjoyable and illegal.

A lesson learned the hard way this year by a man in his twenties called Ishmael Osamor. In 2017 Mr Osamor had travelled to the Lulworth Estate in Dorset to attend the music festival Bestival. On the second day of Bestival s2017 he was caught by police in possession of £2,500 worth of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine, which led to charges being brought. At Bournemouth crown court in October 2018 Osamor pleaded guilty to four drugs offences - three counts of possession with intent to supply and one of possession - and was sentenced to a two-year community order. His mum stood by him, which is fair enough: that's what mums do. And in the normal course of events that would probably have been that.

This, of course, is not the normal course of events. (Why do you think I'm writing this?) Ishmael Osamor's mum is also his employer: she is Kate Osamor, Member of Parliament for Edmonton and (until she resigned the week before last following some ill-judged words to a journalist looking into the whole affair) shadow international development secretary, and she employs Ishmael in her parliamentary office. And between charges being brought and the trial taking place, Osamor junior had entered the weird and wacky world of Haringey Labour politics by being elected to Haringey council in May this year. He had already made his mark by joining the council's cabinet. A two-year community order is nowhere near the sentence level which would have disqualified him from the council; but when the conviction became public knowledge questions were inevitably raised over how this person was selected as a candidate given that there were criminal charges hanging over him. Knowing that timing is everything, Ishmael Osamor chose to exit the political stage before he was pushed, and immediately resigned from Haringey council after less than six months in office.

It's rather a long way from the Lulworth Estate to the Broadwater Farm Estate, both geographically and socially. The Farm is the major part of Haringey's West Green ward: in a borough starkly divided between rich and poor, this is in the poor half. Although most of the area was built-up by 1920 as the railways connected Tottenham to central London, Broadwater Farm remained rural thanks to its low-lying ground which was prone to flooding from the River Moselle; when Tottenham urban district council bought the farm in 1932 it initially turned half of it into a park (the Lordship Recreation Ground) and the other half into allotments.

Development came to the Moselle valley (that reminds me, I must get some wine in for Christmas) in 1967 with Haringey council commencing construction of the Broadwater Farm Estate, a series of concrete carbuncles in the style of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret. Le Corbusier may have seen the house as a machine for living in, but the Broadwater Farm housing didn't prove a very effective machine in its initial form: within a decade of opening the Department of the Environment had called for demolition as the only way of improving it. The Farm became a byword for unsuccessful social housing, and its problems came to a head in 1985 with race riots and the still-unsolved murder of PC Keith Blakelock. Things have turned around dramatically since, and in 2005 the Metropolitan Police disbanded its Broadwater Farm unit because there was such a low crime rate on the estate. Despite some redevelopment, the problems with substandard housing haven't gone away, and the Grenfell Tower fire brought things to a head: two of the Farm's tower blocks were condemned and evacuated earlier this year pending demolition, with nine others found to be structurally unsafe.

This ward isn't all Broadwater Farm, of course; to the west of the Lordship Recreation Ground are a series of Victorian terraces along Downhills Way and Westbury Avenue, while the West Green area itself is at the ward's southern end. Connections to Central London are provided by the Underground station at Turnpike Lane, which is at the western corner of the ward.

The census makes the point that this is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of London. In 2011 West Green was in the top 25 wards in England and Wales for the "White Other" ethnic group at 31% of the population; that compared to 24% black (just outside the top 100), 22% White British and 5.6% "other" ethnic groups. It was in the top 50 wards for those new born in the new EU states, with Poles and Bulgarians particularly strongly represented; the census also picked up large proportions born in Turkey and Ghana.

There has been a West Green ward since Haringey borough was formed in 1965, and for some time afterwards this was a close-fought marginal ward with one of the strongest Conservative votes in Tottenham. The Tories carried West Green in 1968 and 1982, and won two out of three seats here in 1986. Things changed in the early 1990s with a change in Haringey's housing policy so that people on the housing waiting list couldn't refuse an offer without a good reason. This allowed Broadwater Farm to fill up (large parts of it had previously been unoccupied) at the same time as the Conservative vote was melting away in the aftermath of Black Wednesday. The 1994 council elections marked a decisive shift with the Conservative vote halving, and Labour haven't been seriously challenged here since. One other footnote from 1994 is that the ward was contested that year by George Silcott, brother of Winston Silcott who had been wrongly convicted of PC Blakelock's murder; George stood as an independent and finished last out of 11 candidates.

Haringey Labour has had its problems over the years, most recently with a well-publicised takeover by the party's left wing in advance of the 2018 elections - rather appropriate really in a borough where Jeremy Corbyn used to be a councillor. The left-wing takeover clearly went down badly in the muesli belt of Hornsey and Wood Green (the Liberal Democrats gained six council seats there in May) but probably didn't have as much of an adverse effect in West Green ward. In May Labour won here with 64% of the vote, with the Greens best of the rest on 13%; the Lib Dems, Conservatives and George Galloway's Respect party have all filled the runner-up spot here at some point this century. In the 2016 London Mayoral election Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith here 69-13, while the Labour slate led the Greens 63-12 in the London Members ballot.

Defending for Labour is Seema Chandwani, a Unite figure and chairwoman of the Haringey trades union council. The Green Party candidate is Cecily Spelling who works for an environmental charity. Also standing are Mirza Baig for the Conservatives and Elizabeth Payne for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Tottenham
London Assembly constituency: Enfield and Haringey
Postcode districts: N15, N17, N22

Mirza Baig (C)
Seema Chandwani (Lab)
Elizabeth Payne (LD)
Cecily Spelling (Grn)

May 2018 result Lab 2077/2072/1899 Grn 437/272/270 C 292/266/231 LD 277/254/214 Ind 167
May 2014 result Lab 1780/1772/1697 Grn 455/361/325 C 383/326/290 LD 238/215/177 TUSC 237/187/154
May 2010 result Lab 2471/2264/2262 LD 926/866/826 C 803/780/761 Grn 595/333/325
May 2006 result Lab 1992/1135/1073 Respect 626/535 Grn 649 LD 426/329/328 C 378/336/324
May 2002 result Lab 1100/1079/1033 C 340/306/257 LD 313/227/223 Grn 269 Socialist Alliance 142/116


Toddbrook

Harlow council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Karen Clempner who had served since 2015.

We move further up the Lea Valley to the centre of the New Town of Harlow. Here can be found the main central shopping area, the Harvey Shopping Centre, the Playhouse and the Water Gardens; south of those is the Todd Brook, a stream after which the ward is named; and south of that is the ward's main housing area along Partridge Road and Tendring Road. Continuing our Council Estate theme, this is New Town development mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, with high levels of social housing and a working-class demographic.

Toddbrook ward normally votes Labour, although the Conservatives won it at a by-election in October 2007 and in the 2008 election, and UKIP were only 28 votes behind Labour in 2014. Since then Labour have made this ward safe again: in May this year their outgoing councillor Tony Edwards was re-elected by a margin of 52-33 over the Conservatives, which was a slight swing in his favour from the September 2017 by-election at which Edwards was first elected. The Andrew's Previews entry for that by-election is republished in the book Andrew's Previews 2017, a delightful Christmas gift for the discerning follower of politics. However, the Conservatives represent this area both at Parliamentary level and on Essex county council, where they gained the Harlow West division from Labour last year.

And, like Haringey earlier, this is a council where the ruling Labour group has been the subject of a left-wing takeover in recent months. Clempner cited an uncomfortable atmosphere within Harlow Labour in her resignation statement; and she's clearly not alone in that because she's the fourth Harlow Labour councillor to resign this year, at last three of three resignations coming after run-ins with the left of the party. That list includes Karen Clempner's husband John, who was leader of the council until he was effectively deposed in January.

Defending for Labour this time is Frances Mason. The Conservative candidate is Tom Reynolds. Also standing are former Harlow councillor Dan Long for UKIP and Christopher Millington for the Green Party. Whoever wins is likely to be back on the campaign trail in short order to seek re-election in May 2019.

Parliamentary constituency: Harlow
Essex county council division: Harlow West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode districts: CM17, CM18, CM19, CM20

Dan Long (UKIP)
Frances Mason (Lab)
Christopher Millington (Grn)
Tom Reynolds (C)

May 2018 result Lab 856 C 551 UKIP 163 Harlow Alliance 84
September 2017 by-election Lab 702 C 486 UKIP 98 Grn 41 LD 19
May 2016 result Lab 835 C 412 UKIP 408
May 2015 result Lab 1520 C 1110 UIP 699
May 2014 result Lab 706 UKIP 678 C 452
November 2012 by-election Lab 604 C 383 UKIP 111 LD 53
May 2012 result Lab 902 C 654 LD 107
May 2011 result Lab 992 C 870 LD 154
May 2010 result Lab 1457 C 1266 LD 602
May 2008 result C 1064 Lab 667 LD 170
October 2007 by-election C 728 Lab 713 Respect 102 LD 67
May 2007 result Lab 795 C 770 Respect 250 LD 122
May 2006 result Lab 812 C 759 Respect 217 LD 202
June 2004 result Lab 756 C 524 Ind 289 LD 221
May 2003 result Lab 630 C 473 LD 189
May 2002 result Lab 947/897/878 C 643/620/595 LD 339/330/293


Brambles and Thorntree

Middlesbrough council, North Yorkshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Peter Purvis. He had served since 2007, originally being elected for Thorntree ward before transferring here in 2015.

For our final Labour defence of the week we are in sunny Middlesbrough. The Boro is not a rich town: with the death of the local iron and steel industry in many ways it's a place seeking for a new future for itself. The demise of the traditional industries has led to huge unemployment in Teesside, and few places have been worse hit than Brambles and Thorntree.

The Thorntree estate in particular gets a bad press. On the eastern edge of Middlesbrough, it dates from the late 1940s and is a bastion of the unskilled working class, which is a bit of a problem when there are very few jobs of that nature remaining on Teesside. The estate was a ward of its own until 2015; the old Thorntree ward was no 3 in the 2000 English indices of multiple deprivation, and in the 2011 census ranked 6th in England and Wales for unemployment (13%) and 6th again for adults with no qualifications (49%). It also made the top 100 wards in England and Wales in the "semi-routine" and "routine" occupational groups, those who have never worked or are long-term unemployed, those looking after home or family, those with long-term sickness or disability, social renting and under-16s. Until 2015 the Brambles Farm estate was in a ward with the Victorian terraces of North Ormesby which was more of the same: in 2011 North Ormesby and Brambles Farm ranked 11th for unemployment and was in the top 100 for no qualifications, routine work and semi-routine work.

Labour haven't had it all their own way in Middlesbrough: until 2015 the town was run by an independent elected mayor, and the Labour party won the mayoralty in 2015 very narrowly. Things were easier for the party in Brambles and Thorntree ward that year, though: the Labour slate won with 47%, to 23% for independent candidates and 22% for UKIP. Top of the independents was Len Junier, who was an outgoing Labour councillor for North Ormesby and Brambles Farm ward but sought re-election as an independent. There have been no local elections in Middlesbrough since then; the Middlesbrough parliamentary seat swung slightly to the Conservatives in June 2017, but they were a long way back.

Defending for Labour is Janet Thompson, who is hoping to join her husband Mick on the council - although perhaps not for long, as Mick Thompson has been selected as Labour's prospective candidate for the Middlesbrough mayoralty when it comes up for election next year. There is an independent candidate, Graham Wilson. UKIP have not returned, so the Tories' David Smith (returning from 2015) and the Lib Dems' Paul Hamilton complete the ballot paper. As with the Harlow vacancy above, whoever wins will have a very short term of office before May 2019 when they will need to seek re-election.

Parliamentary constituency: Middlesbrough
Postcode district: TS3

Paul Hamilton (LD)
David Smith (C)
Janet Thompson (Lab)
Graham Wilson (Ind)

May 2015 result Lab 1006/1004/921 Ind 480/342/327 UKIP 475 C 171


Dee and Glenkens

Dumfries and Galloway council, Scotland; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Patsy Gilroy who had served since 1999. She was Convenor of the council in 2007-12, and since standing down has been appointed by the Queen as Lord Lieutenant of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.

We finish north of the border, but very much in the borderlands. The very name of Kirkcudbrightshire harks back to that of a man whose reputation straddled England and Scotland before England and Scotland were even thought of: the seventh-century Saint Cuthbert, who preached here when this was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. Cuthbert's remains were buried in the town named after him, Kirkcudbright, at one point on their journey between Lindisfarne and Durham Cathedral where they lie today.

That protracted journey for Cuthbert's remains was to keep them out of the clutches of the Norsemen, who from the ninth century were in the ascendancy in Galloway. The area became a distinct region with a substantial Gaelic-speaking population and links over the water to the Isle of Man and the Kingdom of the Isles. A line of independent Lords of Galloway grew up, who played off the ongoing divisions between Scotland and England for their own advantage: it wasn't until the death in 1234 of Alan, Lord of Galloway, who left no legitimate male heir, that the Kings of Scotland were finally able to take control of the area. The title of Lord of Galloway was revived in 1372 for Archibald the Grim, who was granted the revenues of all the land between the Nith and Cree rivers; he appointed a steward to collect the monies, and Kirkcudbrightshire became known as "the Stewartry"; a name which still persists today.

This is a remote and sparsely-populated area far from the main lines of communication; all the railways in Kirkcudbrightshire were closed by Beeching, and the only major road is that linking Dumfries with the port of Stranraer. That main road studiously avoids Kirkcudbright, which with slightly over 3,000 souls is the main centre of population. Kirkcudbright is a market town for the local area with connections to art: many artists of the Glasgow art movement were based here, and Dorothy L Sayers played on that tradition by setting her novel The Five Red Herrings in Kirkcudbright's artistic community. A more surprising recent work of art associated with the area is the classic horror film The Wicker Man, which may be set in the Hebrides (and indeed some scenes were filmed in Plockton, where we were last week) but was mostly filmed in Kirkcudbright and the surrounding area.

The Dee and Glenkens ward was created by boundary changes in 2017; it was the successor to the former Dee ward, which was the southern end of this ward based around Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse of Fleet; the name comes from the river on which Kirkcudbright stands. Last year's changes year brought in the Glenkens area, a large expanse based on the village of New Galloway which before the 1975 reform was Scotland's smallest Royal Burgh.

Following the Conservative wipeout of 1997 Galloway was the first part of Scotland to see a revival for them: the Tories recovered the constituency based on Galloway in 2001, but boundary changes in 2005 (which brought in the town of Dumfries) then knocked them out here. The Dumfries and Galloway constituency voted Labour in 2005 apparently thanks to a large tactical vote by SNP supporters; this unwound in 2015 when the SNP gained the seat, but the Tories did finally break through in 2017 when Dumfries and Galloway was one of the Scottish Tory gains which kept the Conservatives in office. The Scottish Parliament constituency based on Galloway - currently called Galloway and West Dumfries - is better territory for the Conservatives who have held it since 2003.

Kirkcudbrightshire tends to be the most Tory part of Gallwoay, and when Dee ward was created in 2007 they tried for two out of three seats. It didn't come off: although Gilroy was re-elected for a third term, so was outgoing independent councillor Jane Maitland and there were enough SNP votes for them to win the final seat. The Nationalists were however knocked out in 2012 by independent candidate Colin Wyper, who wyped the floor with the opposition: he topped the poll and was elected on the first count.

For the May 2017 election on the new lines Wyper retired, apparently with a severe case of disillusionment, resulting in more major vote changes. Patsy Gilroy polled 33% for the Tories and was easily re-elected on the first count; the SNP polled 20% and went on to win the second seat, and independent councillor Jane Maitland was re-elected thanks to Conservative transfers: she had started fourth on 14% but overtook another independent, Douglas Swan, who had 16%. Scottish by-election blogger Allan Faulds has examined the preference profile, finding that if the 2017 election had been for one seat Gilroy would have beaten the SNP very easily. However, this may be a red herring because examination of the candidate list shows that Colin Wyper is back on the scene, and if he can recover the support he had in 2012 Wyper could be a major contender for this by-election.

Defending for the Conservatives is Pauline Drysdale, who is a partner in a family catering firm as well as being an active charity fundraiser. The Scottish National Party candidate is Glen Murray who has had a varied career, from being a manager at a multinational publishing company to serving on the Kirkcudbright lifeboat crew. A gain for Murray will be a gain for the administration on Dumfries and Galloway council, which is a coalition of the SNP and Labour. As stated, Colin Wyper is back on the scene: a caravan park manager, he is running very much on an anti-administration ticket. A quick reminder that Votes at 16 and the Alternative Vote apply here, so if those candidates are the top three the transfers from whoever finishes third could be crucial. Completing the ballot paper are Laura Moodie for the Green Party and Jennifer Blue for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Dumfries and Galloway
Scottish Parliament constituency: Galloway and West Dumfries
Postcode districts: DG3, DG6, DG7

Jennifer Blue (UKIP)
Pauline Drysdale (C)
Laura Moodie (Grn)
Glen Murray (SNP)
Colin Wyper (Ind)

May 2017 result C 1547 SNP 904 Ind 732 Ind 664 Grn 292 Lab 217 Ind 120 LD 85 Ind 61


Previews: 12 Dec 2018

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

This column does indeed cover all the important votes, and local by-elections, unlike those votes held in the Palace of Westminster, tend not to be called off at the last moment. We already know the winner of one of this week's six polls, the election for Alderman of Broad Street ward in the City of London: nobody challenged the incumbent Alderman Michael Mainelli, and he will be formally declared re-elected at the Wardmote tonight. This column sends its congratulations to Alderman Mainelli. That's not the only piece of electoral news taking place today, as we go to Nottinghamshire for an unusual Wednesday by-election...


Sutton Junction and Harlow Wood

Ashfield council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Steven Carroll, who had been elected for Labour but had defected to the Ashfield Independents group. He was first elected in 2011, sitting for the predecessor ward of Sutton in Ashfield East until 2015; and had also been a long-serving Nottinghamshire county councillor until losing his seat in 2017.

We have come to Sutton-in-Ashfield, a town of around 45,000 souls some miles to the north of Nottingham. Although there is (or was) coal down below, Sutton-in-Ashfield was traditionally more of a textile town specialising in hosiery. The town's main park, Sutton Lawns, was once the grounds of a stately home built by a hosiery merchant, whose mill still stands on the edge of the park; and the tights and stockings brand Pretty Polly started life in Sutton-in-Ashfield in 1919. (In case you're wondering, the name comes from a racehorse which won the Fillies' Triple Crown in 1904; a local bookmaker made a lot of money from that, and his daughter lifted the name for the company.) Pretty Polly was still manufacturing here until 2005, but then crossed the border into Derbyshire where its products are now made in Belper.

This ward covers the eastern end of Sutton-in-Ashfield together with the village of Harlow Wood, located to the south of Mansfield in one of the few remaining parts of Sherwood Forest. Harlow Wood specialises in help for the infirm and disabled: there was once an orthopaedic hospital here, while still going is Portland College which provides vocational training for the disabled. Its original intake in 1949 was made up of Second World War veterans and former miners.

Sherwood Forest was of course the home of that noted criminal Robin Hood, whose speciality was in income redistribution in favour of the poor. This is similar to the sort of thing the Labour Party might like to get the chance to do, but the modern residents of what was Sherwood Forest don't always agree with that policy. Ashfield's politics has never been quite the same since the political rise of Jason Zadrozny, who became leader of the council in 2007 at the age of just 27 as leader of the Liberal Democrat group: three years later he was less than 200 votes away from becoming the first Lib Dem MP for Ashfield. Despite Labour regaining an overall majority on the council in 2011, the Ashfield Lib Dems didn't give up and were very confident of getting Zadrozny over the line and into Parliament in the 2015 general election - until just before the close of nominations when he was arrested on child sax allegations.

The case didn't come to trial until November 2017, at which point the prosecution offered no evidence and Zadrozny was acquitted of all charges. In the meantime he had been re-elected to Ashfield council and Nottinghamshire county council as an independent, having been dropped by the Lib Dems, as well as contesting the 2016 election for Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

With his political career free to resume, Zadrozny has wasted no time in getting back to the levers of power, helped by an almighty split in the Ashfield Labour party which in the 2015 election had won 22 out of 35 seats, with 5 Lib Dems, 4 Conservatives and 4 Independents forming the opposition. There was a sign of things to come in the last Ashfield by-election, held in Hucknall in October 2017 to replace Tory councillor Ben Bradley who had been elected as Tory MP for Mansfield. Let that sink in for the moment: a Tory MP for Mansfield. The Conservatives resoundingly lost that council by-election to the Zadroznyite independents. Six months later, Jason Zadrozny was back as council leader after several Labour councillors defected: his Ashfield Independents group runs a minority administration with 10 councillors, against 14 Labour, 5 Conservatives, 5 other independents, zero Liberal Democrats and this vacancy.

Which is suitably complicated, for Steven Carroll was one of the Labour councillors who had defected to the Zadrozynite banner. This ward was created only in 2015 when the Boundary Commission split up the former Sutton in Ashfield East ward into several smaller areas: and Carroll was elected very narrowly in that year. His winning score was 661 votes with the Liberal Democrats just six votes behind on 655; both parties had 38% of the vote, with the Conservatives taking the remaining 25%. With the turnaround in the district's political scene since then, a better guide may be the Nottinghamshire county council elections in May last year: all three Sutton-in-Ashfield divisions returned Zadroznyite candidates with over 60% of the vote, Labour's Steve Carroll losing his seat in Sutton Central and East (which includes this ward) by the score of 60-32. And no doubt watching closely will be the shadow justice secretary and Labour MP for Ashfield Gloria de Piero, who was re-elected in June last year with a 9% swing against her and a majority of just 441 votes over the Conservatives.

So this by-election looks more consequential than most, as it will give an important indication of where the electoral momentum (as opposed the political momentum, or even the political Momentum) is in this corner of Nottinghamshire. The Ashfield Independents will be hoping to defend their defection gain, and have selected Matthew Relf who works in IT. Labour will want their seat back, and their candidate is Kevin Hall. The Lib Dems will be hoping to prove that there is life after Zadrozny with Martin Howes, a business analyst. You can't really blame the Conservatives for running a Self-centred campaign, because Christine Self is their candidate. Also standing are two candidates who in this time of Brexit will be hoping to appeal to the town's Leave majority: Stephen Crosby for the Democrats and Veterans Party and Moira Sansom for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashfield
Nottinghamshire county council division: Sutton Central and East
Postcode districts: NG17, NG18

Stephen Crosby (Democrats and Veterans)
Kevin Hall (Lab)
Martin Howes (LD)
Matthew Relf (Ashfield Ind)
Moira Sansom (UKIP)
Christine Self (C)

May 2015 result Lab 661 LD 655 C 430


Previews: 06 Dec 2018

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

Four by-elections on Thursday 6th December 2018, with the Lib Dems defending two seats and Labour and the Conservatives one each. Without further ado, let's start with the big one:


Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh

Highland council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Kate Stephen. She was first elected in 2012 for Culloden and Ardersier ward, transferring here following boundary changes in 2017; Stephen is standing down due to increased work commitments.

Brace yourselves. Winter is coming. We travel to the sparsely-populated North for a fascinating contest to start off this week's council by-elections. It's a land of many political interests, with intrigue aplenty as the various actors seek independence, or control of the levers of power, or both, amid some of the most beautiful scenery and dubious weather imaginable. In the latest eagerly-anticipated episode the Liberal Democrats have abdicated their share of the quadripartite throne, and it's a fight to the political death for the right to sit uneasily upon it. There's only place we can possibly be with that introduction. Welcome to Wester Ross.

A phrase which may often be said by the locals, for this area is popular with holidaymakers from all over the world. The mountain scenery is spectacular, with the Ice Age having left behind deep valleys separating steep mountains of over 1,000 metres in height, which attract the camera and test the Munro-bagger. Those mountains are important to science as well. The Torridon Hills in particular are a magnet for geologists as they are made up of some of the oldest rocks in the world: 500-million-year-old pre-Cambrian sandstone sitting on Lewisian gneiss up to 3,000 million years old, which has weathered to create the west coast of the Highlands as we know it today. There are also attractions for the natural sciences as this area is a haven for wildlife, with all sorts of habitats from littoral to moorland to mountaintop; there are very few people living in this area to disturb the natural order, and even fewer roads to disturb the countryside. One of the roads which does exist here is notorious for its steep and treacherous route: but for many years the Bealach ne Bà was the only road connection to the west coast village of Applecross. Until it was built, anybody who wanted to travel to or from Applecross had to board a boat or get walking.

Further to the south is Lochalsh, which is similar in character but more strategically important. A history of Lochalsh really does read like Game of Thrones, with the kings of Dál Riata, Norway, Alba and the Kingdom of the Isles, together with various clan leaders, all fighting to be monarchs of the local glens at some point or another. The picturesque Eilean Donan castle, controlling the main road to the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye, bears witness to some of the more recent squabbles in this vein: it was destroyed in 1715 after the local Clans Mackenzie and Macrae had been leaders of the first Jacobite rebellion, and the modern castle is a twentieth-century reconstruction. That doesn't stop it being a tourist trap, mind. The main settlement here is Kyle of Lochalsh, from which a bridge leads over the sea to Skye. Kyle is one of the two railheads for Skye, but the railway doesn't follow the main road: instead it takes a more northerly route towards Easter Ross and Inverness, passing villages such as Plockton and Stromeferry on the shores of Lochcarron.

To the east the mountains ease and the area comes under the economic influence of Inverness, but you still can't get away from tourists. The town of Strathpeffer owes its very existence to non-locals: it was built in the Victorian era as a spa town, and at one point was the most northerly spa in Europe. Although the ward is known for its severe winter weather, Strathpeffer tends to avoid the worst of this through being sheltered to the west and north.

With all those inhospitable mountains, this is by a huge margin the UK's largest electoral ward. The Ordnance Survey has measured its area as 494,726 hectares or 1,190 square miles, which is bigger than two EU member states (Luxembourg and Malta) and one US state (Rhode Island). Only six English counties are larger.

The notice of poll reveals that this vast expanse has just 10,014 electors, who will be served by 25 polling stations. Rather an expense for the returning officer, who has already incurred some unbudgeted costs by sending out the polling cards for this by-election late, then sending them out twice, then sending out a letter to every elector apologising for this. The smallest polling station here, with just 47 people on the roll, is at Achnasheen which is a road junction and railway station on the Kyle Line and not much else; while the largest polling station in the ward with 1,543 electors is that at Ullapool. The largest and most important village in Wester Ross, and recognised by the ONS as the centre of its own Travel to Work Area, Ullapool was founded in 1788 by the British Fisheries Society and the sea is still important to its economy. There are regular roll-on roll-off ferries from here to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides (yes, even on Sundays these days) and some fishing boats and yachts still operate out of this port on Lochbroom.

The Scottish Highlands is one of the last strongholds of the independent councillor. At election time, it's a place where the person often matters more than the party, although this isn't always foolproof - as could be attested by the case of Charles Kennedy, who represented this area in Parliament until 2015 when even he got swept away by the SNP tide. Until 2007 independents were generally in the ascendancy in this area, which was covered by several single-member electoral wards; but two of those wards had in 2003 elected party candidates, the SNP's Jean Urquhart winning Lochbroom ward (Ullapool and its hinterland) and the Lib Dems' Isabelle "Biz" Campbell being unopposed in Kinlochshiel ward (Lochalsh except for Kyle).

Urquhart and Campbell were re-elected at the first poll for the current ward in 2007, with two new independent councillors - Richard Greene and Audrey Sinclair - winning the ward's other two seats. Urquhart stood down in 2012 and was replaced by new SNP councillor Ian Cockburn; Campbell, who was re-elected on the Lib Dem ticket, immediately left the party and went independent. Not that it did her much good initially: an SNP-led coalition was formed to run the council with the independent group shut out, but that coalition fell apart in 2015 with the independents then forming a minority administration. The Independent Group is still in control, but having lost further seats in 2017 now rules in coalition with the Lib Dems and Labour; that coalition controls 39 of the 74 seats on Highland council.

In 2017 the SNP nominated Cockburn for re-election and tried for a second seat with new candidate Alexander MacInnes; independent councillors Biz Campbell and Richard Greene stood for re-election, Audrey Sinclair retired, and the Lib Dems nominated outgoing councillor Kate Stephen who had previously sat for Culloden and Ardersier ward (east of Inverness) but had been displaced by boundary changes. When the votes came out of the ballot boxes it was a complicated picture: 26% for the SNP, 18% for the Conservatives whose candidate Derek MacLeod led on the first count; and a bunfight for the final two seats between Campbell (14%), the Lib Dems (13%), Richard Greene (12%) and the Scottish Green Party (11%). In the count Cockburn was the first candidate to reach the 20% required for election, after his running-mate MacInnes was eliminated. Outgoing independent councillor Richard Greene attracted very few transfers and was overtaken by the Green Party; Greene's transfers put the Tories and Biz Campbell over the winning line, and the Lib Dems' Kate Stephen held off the Greens to win the final seat by 1,026 votes to 934.

With that sort of fragmented political picture, and with a very long candidate list for this by-election, the result of this poll looks rather unpredictable. Particularly so given that this is a Scottish local by-election, and so Votes at 16 and the Alternative Vote apply here. Transfers could be crucial. Defending for the Lib Dems, who start from fourth place, is George Scott who gives an address on Skye. The SNP have reselected their losing candidate from last year, Alexander MacInnes. MacInnes is fighting his second by-election of the year having stood in the neighbouring Caol and Mallaig ward in April, but this is his home turf - he lives in Wester Ross, is a native Gaelic speaker and works in the seafood industry. This seat is in the constituency of Ian Blackford, who leads the SNP delegation to Westminster, so the Nationalists will be looking for a good performance.

Three of the candidates give addresses outside the ward in the village of Muir of Ord. One is the Conservative nominee Gavin Berkenheger, a geologist who runs a company looking for gold deposits in Scotland. The other two are the two independent candidates, both of whom are former Highland councillors who lost their seats in 2017: one is Richard Greene who represented this ward from 2007 to 2017, while the other is Jean Davis who won a by-election in 2015 for the neighbouring Aird and Loch Ness ward on the Lib Dem ticket but lost re-election there last year (again as a Lib Dem). The following month Davis stood for Parliament as a Lib Dem, and she came nowhere near recovering the Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat which the late Charles Kennedy lost in 2015.

The Scottish Greens, who were runners-up here last year, have selected Irene Brandt who lives in a village near Ullapool and is described as a community campaigner. Completing the nine-strong ballot paper are Labour's Christopher Birt, who finished last here in 2017; Harry Christian for the Libertarian Party; and Les Durance for UKIP. Don't wait up all night for the result because the count won't start until Friday morning.

I cannot resist finishing this preview with one of my favourite pieces of music. The brass band composer Philip Sparke wrote a suite some years ago for brass band called Hymn of the Highlands, many of whose movements are named after locations in this ward - including the final movement "Dundonnell", which in the video below is paired with a series of beautiful photographs of the Highlands. Hopefully this will help to set the scene - and maybe even provoke a yearning to be another of those tourists that come here?

https://youtu.be/56UuL6dvsaw

Parliamentary constituency: Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Scottish Parliament constituency: Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (Wester Ross and Strathpeffer); Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch (Lochalsh)
ONS Travel to Work Areas: Broadford and Kyle of Lochalsh, Inverness, Ullapool
Postcode districts: IV6, IV14, IV21, IV22, IV23, IV26, IV40, IV45, IV52, IV53, IV54, IV63, PH35

Gavin Berkenheger (C)
Christopher Birt (Lab)
Irene Brandt (Grn)
Harry Christian (Libertarian)
Jean Davis (Ind)
Les Durance (UKIP)
Richard Greene (Ind)
Alexander MacInnes (SNP)
George Scott (LD)

May 2017 result SNP 1467 C 1036 Ind 796 LD 752 Ind 656 Grn 628 Lab 285
May 2012 result LD 1162 SNP 1010 Ind 872 Ind 677 C 257 Ind 234
May 2007 result SNP 1486 LD 1242 Ind 792 Ind 608 C 451 Lab 354 Ind 328 Ind 232 Ind 199


Belgrave

Leicester council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Mansukhlal "Mo" Chohan at the age of 65. Chohan was first elected in 1999, and had continuous service since 2015.

Things change, things stay the same. Something to reflect on as we examine the week's Labour defence, in the city of Leicester: a city whose very motto is Semper Eadem - "always the same". We're on the Fosse Way about a mile or three to the north of Leicester city centre, an area which in days of olden time was the village of Belgrave. The city of Leicester has thrived for many years, and in 1709 one of its prominent businessmen - a hosiery merchant called Edmund Cradock - had built a mansion for his family from which he could commute into the city. Belgrave Hall still stands today: now in the hands of Leicester city council, it's used as a heritage centre and is a magnet for ghost hunters.

The area between Belgrave and the city was built up by 1900 with rows of Victorian terraces perpendicular to the Fosse Way - now known here as the Belgrave Road. The area to the east of these terraces was demolished in the 1960s and redeveloped as the St Marks council estate, rehousing families from slums elsewhere in the city. An electoral ward was drawn to cover the St Marks estate and the Belgrave Road terraces, and it was named after the sixteenth-century bishop Hugh Latimer. A Leicestershire man, Latimer was one of the leading figures of the Protestant Reformation in England, and for his efforts was burned at the stake in Oxford during the reign of Mary I.

But it's not Christianity for which the Belgrave area is now known. Leicester saw enormous immigration from the Indian subcontinent (particularly from Gujarat) commencing in the 1960s onwards, and this was boosted in 1972 when Idi Amin expelled the Asian community from Uganda. Around a quarter of the initially displaced Ugandan Asians ended up in Leicester, including many of the country's prominent businessmen. The effects of this can be seen today on the Belgrave Road, which is locally nicknamed the "Golden Mile" because of the large number of jewellery shops on it; the road is the centre of what are claimed to be the largest Diwali celebrations outside of the subcontinent. On the last Sunday in October this year, the Diwali lights on the road were dimmed as a mark of respect to the late Councillor Chohan.

In the 2011 census Latimer ward held several records for England and Wales. It was the number 1 ward for Hinduism (71%), number 1 for those born outside the EU (63%), number 2 for Asian ethnicity (86%) and in top 30 for "other" qualifications (17%). It also had a very working-class economic profile. Boundary changes for the 2015 election expanded Latimer ward to take in the Belgrave village area from the former Belgrave ward, which was broken up; however, just to confuse matters the "Latimer" name was dropped and the name "Belgrave" applied to the expanded ward. The abolished Belgrave ward had very similar demographics (including being number 2 in England and Wales for Hinduism), so this didn't make much of a difference to the political profile.

Which is strongly Labour. Latimer ward was 81% Labour in 2011 in a straight fight with the Conservatives; from the Labour point of view that was a big improvement on 2007 when Chohan had stood for re-election as an independent (presumably there had been some sort of falling out between him and Labour) and wasn't far off winning. The new Belgrave ward had a 70-18 lead for Labour over the Conservatives in 2015. There have been no local elections in the city since then; the 2017 snap election saw a swing to Labour in the local Leicester East constituency and an eighth term of office for the local MP Keith Vaz. (Apologies to any readers who may have been playing the Keith Vaz game.)

Defending for Labour is Padmini Chamund, who fought Latimer ward as an independent candidate in 2007. The Conservative candidate is Khandubhai Patel, and completing the ballot paper are Ursula Bilson for the Green Party and Hash Chandarana for the Liberal Democrats. Whoever wins this by-election is going to have to get straight back on the campaign trail to seek re-election in May next year.

Parliamentary constituency: Leicester East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode districts: LE1, LE4

Ursula Bilson (Grn)
Padmini Chamund (Lab)
Hash Chandarana (LD)
Khandubhai Patel (C)

May 2015 result Lab 5705/5593/4653 C 1509/1485/1273 Grn 466 UKIP 318/270/263 TUSC 199


Wolvercote

Oxford council; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Angie Goff who had served since 2016.

We move south-west from Leicester to conclude our recent mini-series of Liberal Democrat defences in Oxfordshire. Wolvercote is the first part of Oxford that people see if, like your columnist, they arrive from the north. All the main communication links - the Oxford Canal, the railways, the River Thames, the park and ride buses - between Oxford and the North pass through here. The Thames was traditionally the source of the village's economy: there was a large paper mill here which until 1998 supplied the Oxford University Press, and the University has plans to redevelop its site for housing. There are certainly a lot of its staff already here: in 2011 Wolvercote ward was in the top 70 wards in England and Wales for "higher management" occupational groups and in the top 80 for degree-level qualifications (58% of the workforce). One noted Oxonian who is permanently here is the noted philologist and Lancashire Fusilier J R R Tolkein, who is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery.

The living electors of Wolvercote tend towards the Liberal Democrat side. In May the ward gave the Lib Dems a 61-24 lead over the Conservatives, which was a big advance for the party on two years previously (when the result was 45% for the Liberal Democrats, 30% for the Tories and 14% for the Green Party) and may reflect a personal vote for long-serving councillor Steve Goddard. The Liberal Democrats also safely hold the local Oxfordshire county council division, Wolvercote and Summertown, and Wolvercote is within the Oxford West and Abingdon parliamentary seat which the Lib Dems gained in the 2017 general election.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Liz Wade, an author and former city councillor for her home St Margaret's ward (2014 until standing down in May this year). The Conservative candidate is Jenny Jackson. Also standing are Ibrahim el-Hendi for Labour and Sarah Edwards for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Oxford West and Abingdon
Oxfordshire county council division: Wolvercote and Summertown
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford
Postcode district: OX2

Sarah Edwards (Grn)
Ibrahim el-Hendi (Lab)
Jenny Jackson (C)
Liz Wade (LD)

May 2018 result LD 1341 C 517 Lab 217 Grn 125
May 2016 result LD 944 C 623 Grn 284 Lab 238
May 2014 result LD 971 C 677 Grn 275 Lab 250
May 2012 result LD 655 C 584 Grn 495 Lab 200
May 2010 result LD 1412 C 1149 Grn 444 Lab 347
May 2008 result LD 623 C 572 Grn 377 Lab 255
May 2006 result LD 911 Grn 478 C 474 Lab 145
June 2004 result LD 828 C 669 Grn 485 Lab 162
May 2002 result LD 801/690 C 616/578 Grn 444/444 Lab 244/238


The Byfleets

Surrey county council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Richard Wilson at the age of 68. He had served since 2013: in a lifetime of community service he had been a Scout leader for 47 years, and a long-serving school governor. Wilson had also served on Woking council, representing West Byfleet ward from 2007 to 2016.

Byfleet was in a tumult; people packing, and a score of hussars, some of them dismounted, some on horseback, were hunting them about. Three or four black government waggons, with crosses in white circles, and an old omnibus, among other vehicles, were being loaded in the village street. There were scores of people, most of them sufficiently sabbatical to have assumed their best clothes. The soldiers were having the greatest difficulty in making them realise the gravity of their position. We saw one shrivelled old fellow with a huge box and a score or more of flower pots containing orchids, angrily expostulating with the corporal who would leave them behind.

This quote is from H G Wells' War of the Worlds, in which the borough of Woking was the subject of a Martian invasion. The Martians may not have had a go at destroying Byfleet, but the Germans certainly did: the village is next door to Brooklands, which from 1907 was home to a motor racing circuit and a series of aircraft factories.

Byfleet is within the M25 motorway and rather downmarket by Surrey standards. The same cannot be said of West Byfleet, which is outside the motorway and a bona fide London commuter area: it helps that West Byfleet railway station has a more frequent and better-quality service to Waterloo than Byfleet and New Haw, despite being one stop further out. To the south of West Byfleet is Pyrford which is even more stockbroker-belt: in 2011 the Pyrford ward (not all of which is in this division) was in the top 60 wards in England and Wales for owner-occupation. Both West Byfleet and Pyrford effectively are now part of the built-up area of Woking, a town which has made a good recovery from the predations of the Martians all those years ago.

This should add up to a safe Tory county division, but things are a bit more complicated than that. At Woking council level Byfleet has recently been taken over by an independent group: Woking got new ward boundaries in 2016, and the independents won all three seats in the newly-drawn Byfleet and West Byfleet ward. Independent Woking councillor John Bond challenged Richard Wilson for this county seat in 2017: Wilson was re-elected but only with 41% against 32% for Bond and 18% for the Liberal Democrats. In May's Woking council elections the independents held Byfleet and West Byfleet ward with a majority of just 53 votes over the Tories; the Conservative majority in this division clearly comes out of Pyrford ward where they had a big lead in May.

This by-election looks set to be another grudge match between the Conservatives and independents. Defending for the Tories is Gary Elson, who was a Woking councillor for West Byfleet from 2008 to 2016 before losing his seat to the independents; he sat on the Woking cabinet during that period. The Independents have this time selected Woking councillor Amanda Boote, who may have a mountain to climb but she's used to that: Boote scaled Kilimanjaro in February this year. The Lib Dem candidate is Ellen Nicholson who has recently moved to the area from Somerset: she is a course director for a London University programme. Completing the ballot paper is Lyn Sage for the UK Independence Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Woking
Woking council wards: Byfleet and West Byfleet; Pyrford (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot
Postcode districts: GU22, GU23, KT14

Amanda Boote (Ind)
Gary Elson (C)
Ellen Nicholson (LD)
Lyn Sage (UKIP)

May 2017 result C 1536 Ind 1203 LD 650 Lab 198 UKIP 122
May 2013 result C 1476 UKIP 597 LD 533 Lab 231 BNP 98


And just a quick reminder that there is still time before Christmas to get hold of your copy of Andrew's Previews 2017, which contains many more previews like this and would make a delightful Christmas present for the discerning political reader. Click the book title or search on Amazon - and remember that all profits from the book will go towards the research required for future Previews.


Previews: 29 Nov 2018

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

We have now officially run out of time for a general election before the New Year, so this week's seven local by-elections form the biggest remaining electoral test of 2018. There are two defences each for the three main parties and one seat being defended by a localist independent group; and four of today's polls are in marginal areas of the South Midlands where the Lib Dems have or had strength but have given ground in recent years, so there is lots of potential for gains and losses this week. Let's get straight into the thick of things with our token Northern by-election and first Labour defence of the week. Read on...


Failsworth East

Oldham council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Cheryl Brock, who had served since 2016.

We start this week in the east of Greater Manchester, at the point where the big city of Manchester starts to break down into a series of former textile towns. One of those is Failsworth, which may look like part of Manchester but administratively never has been; instead the ward's council tax ix collected from the concrete carbuncle which is Oldham Civic Centre. Within the M60 motorway, Failsworth lies on the main road and tram line from Manchester to Oldham; the East ward is based on the Hollinwood area next to the motorway, together with the village of Woodhouses where Michael Atherton, the former England captain, learned to play cricket. Woodhouses lies in open country in the south of the ward, much of which is part of the Daisy Nook country park; at the far end of the ward can be found Hollinwood tram stop on the Oldham branch of the Metrolink network.

Failsworth East ward has appeared in Andrew's Previews a couple of times before, most recently in February 2017 - see pages 34 and 35 of Andrew's Previews 2017, still available from Amazon and a delightful Christmas present for the discerning psephologist. It's normally a safe Labour ward, certainly so in the current political climate; but I have to put a disclaimer in because of the 2008 election here, when the Tories won by eight votes in what appears to be a freak result. The Conservatives didn't even defend their gain when it came up for re-election in 2012, and the closest Labour have come to losing since was in 2014 when they had a twelve-point lead over UKIP. By 2016 the Conservatives were back in second place, and in May this year the Labour lead was 53-29. That was a recovery from the Tory point of view from the 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election, when Andy Burnham carried this ward 72-22, and from the February 2017 by-election which Labour won 58-25.

That by-election was won by Paul Jacques, and the defending Labour candidate this time round is his wife Elizabeth. Regular Conservative candidate Antony Cahill returns for his fourth consecutive attempt at the ward. Also standing are independent candidate Warren Bates, who was elected as a UKIP councillor for the neighbouring Failsworth West ward in 2014 but lost re-election as an independent in May; Stephen Barrow of the Liberal Democrats; and official UKIP candidate Paul Goldring. From the UKIP point of view that's already an improvement on last week's local by-elections, where in this time of Brexit there were no UKIP candidates at all.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashton-under-Lyne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M35, OL3, OL8, OL9

Stephen Barrow (LD)
Warren Bates (Ind)
Antony Cahill (C)
Paul Goldring (UKIP)
Elizabeth Jacques (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 1072 C 575 Ind 275 Grn 70 LD 23
February 2017 by-election Lab 829 C 360 UKIP 166 Grn 49 LD 16
May 2016 result Lab 1410 C 509 Grn 166 LD 62
May 2015 result Lab 2571 UKIP 1118 C 809 Grn 156 LD 73
May 2014 result Lab 1055 UKIP 785 C 284 Grn 93 LD 24
June 2012 by-election Lab 1199 UKIP 209 LD 109
May 2012 result Lab 1585 LD 283
May 2011 result Lab 1925 C 674 LD 124
May 2010 result Lab 2492 C 1438 LD 546 Ind 235
May 2008 result C 1036 Lab 1028 Grn 173 LD 136
May 2007 result Lab 1476 C 825 Grn 154 LD 96
May 2006 result Lab 1227 C 806 Grn 356 LD 161
June 2004 result Lab 1780/1779/1351 C 760 Grn 561 LD 221/209/206

May 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Lab 1230 C 376 EDP 35 UKIP 34 Grn 19 LD 13 Farmer 6 Aslam 0


Stratford North

Warwickshire county council; caused by the death of Keith Lloyd, who had been elected for the Stratford First Independents. Born in Ruthin in 1958, Lloyd had been a Stratford-upon-Town councillor since 1999, and was Mayor of the town in 2012-13 - as his father Ted had been in 1989-90.

Having got our Northern appetiser out of the way, we now come to the main course: a series of interesting by-elections in the South Midlands. For the first of these we come to Warwickshire and the banks of the Avon. In Roman times there was a minor road connecting Alcester to the Fosse Way, and this forded the Avon; a village grew up around the "street ford", and the Norman lord of the manor John of Coutances had big plans for it. He laid out a new town at the end of the twelfth century, and persuaded Richard the Lionheart to grant a market charter for his new settlement. And so the town of Stratford-upon-Avon was born.

Stratford's location on the Avon and the Roman Road was a good one, and it benefited from passing trade - particularly so after the completion of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal which allowed navigation from the Avon to the heavy industry of Birmingham and the West Midlands. However, the mainstay of the town's economy today is essentially down to two men who lived a century and a half apart. The first was William Shakespeare, who was born in 1564 at a house within this division on Henley Street which still stands today; the second was David Garrick, who tapped into an emerging phenomenon of Bardolatry by organising a jubilee celebration of Shakespeare's life in Stratford in September 1769. And ever since then Stratford has been overrun with tourists attracted here by the Bard of Avon and the Royal Shakespeare Company, which runs three theatres in the town.

One person one vote is a thing within the Labour party at the moment, and the Bard would certainly have recognised that; however, in his day there literally was one person one vote with that one person being an absolute monarch. Democracy was not a thing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and you don't get noted scenes in his Shakespeare set in hustings; you will find the campaign trail, but only in the context of military campaigns. However, there's certainly been a bit of electoral drama in Stratford-upon-Avon at recent times. But before we go into that a word about names is in order here: the local district council is called Stratford-on-Avon, while the parish-level town council is called Stratford-upon-Avon, so please pay attention to the exact form of the council name as this gives a clue to whatever level of government I'm writing about.

At local level the town is a stronghold of the Liberal Democrats, but Stratford's northern end has for many years been closely fought between the Lib Dems, the Conservatives and Keith Lloyd. Lloyd was elected to Stratford-on-Avon district council in 2003 as an independent candidate, defeating the Liberal Democrats by just one vote in the old Stratford Avenue and New Town ward; he lost his seat to the Conservatives in 2007, got it back in 2011 and lost again in 2015 when Avenue and New Town was broken up into three new wards by the Boundary Commission. Lloyd lost re-election in Welcombe ward, finishing eighty votes behind the Conservatives; the Tories also won Avenue ward while Clopton ward was the only part of Stratford-on-Avon district to return a Labour councillor in 2015.

Stratford Avenue and New Town also elected a Warwickshire county councillor, and Keith Lloyd gained that seat in 2013 standing for the Stratford First independent group; he was re-elected in 2017 in the successor division of Stratford North. This division now takes in part of the Hathaway ward of the district council, which voted Lib Dem in 2015 by a majority of six votes. In 2017 Lloyd had 33% of the vote, to 28% for the Conservatives and 24% for the Liberal Democrats.

So, there is all to play for here. Defending for Stratford First is Juliet Short, a former district councillor (originally Conservative, later independent) and twice Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon; she is a former teacher who now runs a dance company. In the unaccustomed position for an O of top of the ballot paper is the Conservative candidate Lynda Organ, who has been a district councillor since 1986 with continuous service from 2011; she represents the town's Bridgetown ward on the district council, and sits on the Stratford-on-Avon cabinet. The Liberal Democrats have selected Dominic Skinner, an architect, amateur actor, rugby player and prospective parliamentary candidate. Completing the ballot paper are Joshua Payne for Labour and John Riley for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Stratford-on-Avon
Stratford-on-Avon council wards: Avenue, Clopton, Welcombe, Hathaway (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leamington Spa
Postcode district: CV37

Lynda Organ (C)
Joshua Payne (Lab)
John Riley (Grn)
Juliet Short (Stratford First)
Dominic Skinner (LD)

May 2017 result Stratford First 876 C 753 LD 640 Lab 244 Grn 134


Wheatley

Oxfordshire county council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat county councillor Kirsten Johnson, who has been selected as the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for North Devon. She had served only since May 2017.

We travel south to rural Oxfordshire. The Wheatley division covers a series of villages immediately to the east of Oxford; the largest of these is Wheatley itself, the point where the M40 motorway originally ended when it was simply a London-Oxford link. The M40 was extended to Birmingham in 1990 in one of the last great motorway projects, but there may be more roadbuilding on the horizon with a huge local controversy over plans to build an "expressway" through the area to connect Oxford with Milton Keynes and Cambridge. (Whatever happened to the Northern Powerhouse?) The Wheatley division is fairly standard commuter villages, but you can't go far from Oxford without talking about education: Oxford Brookes University has a campus in Wheatley teaching IT, maths and engineering.

The Wheatley county division has been Lib Dem-held for many years, but the party's majority plunged in the 2017 election after long-serving county councillor Anne Purse retired; Kirsten Johnson held the seat with a lead over the Conservatives of just 68 votes, 45% to 43%. Adding to this recent Lib Dem weakness, the Conservatives hold all the South Oxfordshire district council seats within the division boundary.

So this could be a difficult defence for the Lib Dems, and they have selected Tim Bearder to hold the seat. A former BBC journalist, Bearder is the son of Catherine Bearder, the only remaining Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament. He's appeared in Andrew's Previews before, failing to defend the North ward by-election for Oxford city council in September 2013; and his Tory opponent also unsuccessfully stood in that by-election. Oxford University Press accountant John Walsh has been the Conservative candidate for Wheatley at every county council election since 2005, and since 2015 has been a South Oxfordshire councillor for Forest Hill and Holton ward - one of the wards within this division. Completing the ballot paper is Michael Nixon for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Henley
South Oxfordshire council wards: Forest Hill and Holton, Wheatley, Garsington and Horspath (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oxford
Postcode districts: HP18, OX2, OX3, OX4, OX9, OX33, OX44

Tim Bearder (LD)
Michael Nixon (Lab)
John Walsh (C)

May 2017 result LD 1372 C 1304 Lab 361
May 2013 result LD 932 C 622 UKIP 402 Lab 209 Grn 164


Aylesbury North-West

Buckinghamshire county council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat county councillor Martin Farrow, who had served since 2017.

For the third of our series of Midlands by-elections in marginal areas we come to Buckinghamshire. This is a county where we are going to see rather fewer local by-elections in years to come: local government reorganisation has been announced for Buckinghamshire which will see the county council and four district councils (Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe) swept away in favour of a new single Buckinghamshire council. This new structure is intended to come into operation in 2020, and as part of the package the May 2019 district council elections in Buckinghamshire are expected to be cancelled - except that they haven't been officially cancelled yet. Those few parliamentary drafters not preoccupied by Brexit are presumably still working on the legal documents, but this is a rather uncertain time for the county's election staff who theoretically have district council elections to plan for in just over five months' time.

Nonetheless, the county council will still exist for at least a year yet so it's worthwhile having a by-election. As the name suggests we're in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire's unlovely county town and one of the growth areas of modern Britain. The North-West county division (yes, it is hyphenated like that) is based on the majority of the Gatehouse ward to the north of the town centre, together with part of the Riverside ward at the western end of town. Riverside was covered in Andrew's Previews last year: as well as the town proper, it extends over the River Thame to take in the very large and very new Berryfields housing development (which is not part of this division).

Aylesbury town was a Lib Dem stronghold at local level until the Coalition was formed, after which its election results took a turn for the Eurosceptic. In the 2011 district council polls UKIP gained Quarrendon ward (the pre-development predecessor to Riverside) from the Lib Dems, and in the 2013 county elections three of Aylesbury's six county divisions, including North-West, voted Kipper. The 2015 district elections saw Gatehouse and Riverside wards expanded from two seats to three by the Boundary Commission, with both new seats going to the Conservatives; the Tory councillor for Riverside ward resigned in 2017 and the Conservatives narrowly held off the Lib Dems in the by-election.

That by-election was held in August 2017, so after the May 2017 county elections in which the Lib Dems gained Aylesbury North-West from UKIP. Their gain was on a low share of the vote: just 30% for the winning Lib Dems, 25% for the Conservatives, 23% for Labour and 20% for the outgoing UKIP councillor who finished in fourth place.

Can we expect another close result here? Defending for the Lib Dems is Anders Christensen, leader of the Lib Dem group on Aylesbury Vale council and district councillor for Gatehouse ward since winning a by-election in December 2014; Christensen is also an Aylesbury town councillor and chairman of Buckingham Park parish council (covering another new development just to the north of town, which is not part of this division). The Conservatives have selected recruitment consultant and district councillor Ashley Waite, who defeated the Lib Dems in the Riverside by-election in August last year and will be hoping to do the same thing again. The Labour candidate is Liz Hind, a pub landlady and vice-chair of the party's Aylesbury branch. In an illustration of how far UKIP have sunk from their glory days there is no UKIP candidate, so the Greens' Mark Wheeler completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Aylesbury
Aylesbury Vale council wards: Gatehouse (part), Riverside (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: High Wycombe and Aylesbury
Postcode districts: HP18, HP19, HP20, HP22

Anders Christensen (LD)
Liz Hind (Lab)
Ashley Waite (C)
Mark Wheeler (Grn)

May 2017 result LD 658 C 542 Lab 501 UKIP 436 Grn 72
May 2013 result UKIP 939 LD 543 Lab 312 C 302


Delapre and Briar Hill

Northampton council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Victoria Culbard who had served since 2015.

We conclude the series of by-elections in marginal South Midlands wards by travelling to one of the largest towns in the UK which has yet to achieve city status, Northampton. In days gone by Northampton was an important mediaeval centre with the sort of religious institutions that attracted, and one of those was the abbey of St Mary de la Pré. A mile to the south of Northampton across the River Nene, Delapré Abbey dates from an earlier Anarchy, that of the twelfth century: it was founded as one of only two nunneries is England associated with the Cluniac order. After the Dissolution the abbey buildings were incorporated into a neoclassical mansion within extensive grounds; this ended up in the hands of Northampton council and until last year was home to the county records office. The Abbey's grounds include one of the three surviving Eleanor Crosses and are a scheduled monument: the 1460 Battle of Northampton, a decisive Yorkist victory in the Wars of the Roses, was fought here.

Delapré Abbey gives its name to a ward which has something for everyone. Pretty much every style and age of housing can be found here, from the Victorian terraces of Far Cotton to the postwar estates of Briar Hill to the brand new buildings of the University of Northampton's Riverside Campus, which has only been open for two months. The census picked up a significant Polish community in Far Cotton. This is a mostly low-lying area and suffered badly from flooding when the Nene burst its banks this spring.

The ward has something for everyone politically as well, having been a hard-fought three-way marginal for years. The predecessor Delapre ward split its two seats between the Lib Dems and Conservatives in 2007, with Labour and the BNP close behind; the first election on the current boundaries in 2011 resulted in a three-way split between the three main parties. In 2015 Labour gained the Lib Dem seat and topped the poll, but with just 28% of the vote; the Conservatives held their seat with 25%, UKIP had 20% and the Lib Dems 17%. On the same day David Mackintosh, the Tory leader of Northampton council, was elected as MP for the local constituency of Northampton South.

At county level the ward is split between two divisions. Delapre and Far Cotton are in the Delapre and Rushmere division, which Labour gained from the Liberal Democrats in 2017; Briar Hill is in the Sixfields division, which the Conservatives gained from the Liberal Democrats last year. Not that Sixfields is a word the Northampton Conservatives want to hear very much at the moment. Mackintosh, as leader of Northampton Council, had approved a loan of an eight-figure sum to pay for improvements to the Sixfields football stadium, home of Northampton Town FC; but the company which received the money subsequently went bust with the work uncompleted, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money unaccounted for and accusations of improper donations to Mackintosh's election campaign fund. It was all too much for the Northampton Conservatives to stomach, and Mackintosh was essentially forced to retire from the Commons at the 2017 election after just two years in office.

Mind, Labour have problems of their own in the ward, having lost both their Delapre councillors in the last few months. Vicky Culbard has stepped down from the council on health grounds, prompting this by-election; while her ward colleague Julie Davenport has recently left the Labour Party and gone independent. UKIP haven't nominated a candidate, while the Northampton Lib Dems are yet to recover from the experience of their massively unpopular administration in 2007-11.

Defending for Labour is Emma Roberts. The Conservatives have selected Daniel Soan, who is concerned at a rise in antisocial behaviour associated with the new university campus. This may be a difficult subject for the Lib Dem candidate Michael Maher to counter - he studied at and now works at the university. As stated, there is no UKIP candidate. There is an independent candidate, Nicola McKenna, who is endorsed by ex-Labour councillor Julie Davenport and fought this ward on the Lib Dem slate in 2015 (under her former name of Nicola Hedges). Completing the ballot paper is Green Party candidate Denise Donaldson.

Parliamentary constituency: Northampton South
Northamptonshire county council divisions: Delapre and Rushmere (part), Sixfields (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton
Postcode districts: NN1, NN4

Denise Donaldson (Grn)
Michael Maher (LD)
Nicola McKenna (Ind)
Emam Roberts (Lab)
Daniel Soan (C)

May 2015 result Lab 1883/1579/1337 C 1676/1428/1234 UKIP 1355 LD 1132/984/870 Northampton Save Our Public Services 462 BNP 266
May 2011 result Lab 969/820/740 LD 947/804/771 C 911/846/744 Ind 568 BNP 274 Northampton Save Our Public Services 258 Grn 250


Welwyn West

Welwyn Hatfield council, Hertfordshire; caused by the death of the Leader of the Council Mandy Perkins at the age of 62. Perkins was a Conservative councillor who was first elected in 1995; she had served in the council's cabinet since 2002 and became Leader of the Council in May this year.

We finish with two Conservative defences in the Home Counties and London. The northern of these is in Welwyn, the Hertfordshire village which gave its name to the later Garden City a few miles to the south. Like Stratford-upon-Avon, Welwyn grew up at a place where a Roman road crossed a river - in this case, the River Mimram - and extensive Roman remains have been found here. The Roman road was succeeded by the Great North Road bringing coaching trade, but Welwyn was bypassed by the railway and never developed into a town as nearby places like Hatfield and Stevenage did. Despite this the village was a bottleneck on the Great North Road and was bypassed as early as 1927; the A1 bypass was subsequently itself bypassed by a motorway in the 1960s, and that motorway is now sorely in need of upgrade word to better carry the traffic it handles. In a chamber nine metres below the motorway traffic, the excavated remains of a Roman bathhouse can be visited.

Welwyn Hatfield council suffers from frequent boundary reviews: Welwyn West ward was created in 2008 and took on its current boundaries in 2016. The ward, which also includes the Ayots to the west, is generally a safely Conservative area, but in 2012 it did elect independent candidate Sandra Kyriakides who wasn't far off being re-elected in 2016. In May's ordinary election the Conservatives increased their lead over Kyriakides to 52-39.

Defending for the Conservatives is Paul Smith, a finance director who stood here in 2012 and lost to Sandra Kyriakides. She has not returned and there is no other independent candidate, so Smith should have an easier task this time to defeat Labour's Josh Chigwangwa (who returns from May's election) and Lib Dem Christina Raven.

Parliamentary constituency: Welwyn Hatfield
Hertfordshire county council division: Welwyn
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City
Postcode districts: AL6, SG4

Josh Chigwangwa (Lab)
Christina Raven (LD)
Paul Smith (C)

May 2018 result C 1054 Ind 785 Lab 191
May 2016 result C 1011/994/941 Ind 896 LD 337/250 Lab 304


Kelsey and Eden Park

Bromley council, South London; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Dave Wibberley who had served only since May this year. He has moved to Liverpool to take up a new job.

Our final poll this week is in the capital. Bromley is London's southeasternmost borough and was part of Kent until 1965; before the reorganisation the modern Kelsey and Eden Park ward was part of the borough of Beckenham. Development of this part of London was slow to get going: although Eden Park had a railway station as early as 1882, thanks to local landowner William R Mace who made the station a condition of using his land for the railway, at the time it was seen as a place for Londoners to escape to the countryside.

Another local landowner was Charles Hoare, a banker who played one first-class cricket match for Kent and owned Kelsey Manor and its grounds. Kelsey Manor, a rambling pile in the Gothic Revival style, was demolished almost a century ago, but some of its grounds survive today as a public park. That's at the north end of this ward; Eden Park is the centre, Elmers End (with its railway and tram station) is at the western end.

Much of the southern end of the ward is occupied by the oldest psychiatric hospital in Europe. The Bethlem Royal Hospital has been treating insane patients since at least the fifteenth century, originally at locations closer to London before moving here in 1930. Part of the hospital is open to the public as the Museum of the Mind, which focuses on the institution's history and noted former patients.

The national political scene may be a source of near-constant Bedlam at the moment, but the home of Bedlam is a much calmer place. Under current political conditions the London Borough of Bromley is safely Conservative and this ward is no different. Bromley went to the polls only in May, with the Conservative slate winning on 44%, Labour on 27% and the Liberal Democrats on 15%. In the 2016 Mayor and Assembly elections the ward's ballot boxes voted for Zac Goldsmith over Sadiq Khan by 52-26, while the London Members ballot had 43% for the Conservatives, 22% for Labour and 10% for UKIP.

Defending for the Conservatives is Christine Harris, deputy chairman of the party's Beckenham branch; she fought the neighbouring Clock House ward in May. Labour have reselected Marie Bardsley who was runner-up here in May; she is campaigning on youth issues and safety. The Lib Dem candidate is Julie Ireland, an IT consultant who fought Bexley and Bromley in the 2016 London Assembly election. Also standing are Paul Enock for the Green Party and Graham Reakes for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Beckenham
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: BR3

Marie Bardsley (Lab)
Paul Enock (Grn)
Christine Harris (C)
Julie Ireland (LD)
Graham Reakes (UKIP)

May 2018 result C 2563/2532/2412 Lab 1579/1462/1358 LD 859/675/670 Grn 553 UKIP 214
May 2014 result C 2778/2693/2593 Lab 1191/1024/904 UKIP 1081 Grn 754 LD 543
May 2010 result C 4827/4658/4586 LD 2067/2020/1869 Lab 1396/1352/1253
May 2006 result C 2678/2608/2478 LD 1148/904/903 Ind 1054/850/767 Lab 504/454/424
May 2002 result C 2349/2316/2313 LD 1820/1727/1671 Lab 430/430/425 UKIP 157/122

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 2414 Lab 1234 LD 315 UKIP 239 Grn 232 Women's Equality 90 Britain First 54 Respect 39 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 33 BNP 12 Zylinski 9 One Love 3
London Members: C 2036 Lab 1049 UKIP 470 LD 387 Grn 340 Women's Equality 175 Britsin First 50 CPA 45 Animal Welfare 44 Respect 44 BNP 28 House Party 26


Previews: 22 Nov 2018

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

There are four by-elections on 22nd November 2018, with a Labour defence on Merseyside and three Conservative defences in London and the South East. Let's start at the heart of things:


Lancaster Gate

Westminster city council, North London; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Robert Davis.

I suppose it had to happen eventually. It's time to open an edition of Andrew's Previews by talking about the riveting political developments in Westminster and that great question of our time, Brexit. Yes - how is Britain's divorce from the European Union going to affect elections to Westminster city council? You should not be surprised to hear that this is a difficult question with all sorts of unknowns and unknowables at this time - but since when has anything to do with Brexit been anything other than complicated and opaque?

For the grown-ups who lead the other 27 EU nations, one major issue arising from Brexit is the rights of their citizens who live and work in the UK. One of those rights is that EU citizens should have the right to stand for and vote in local elections throughout the Union. This was part of the Maastricht Treaty, so the assumption has been that those rights will fall away after 29th March next and that I'd be writing a bumper edition of Andrew's Previews in May to cover all the by-elections caused by those councillors who are not UK, Commonwealth or Irish citizens being disqualified (there are some elected representatives who fall into this category).

But that's not in fact true, at least not yet, thanks to the way those Treaty rights have been implemented in the UK. The key document is not the Maastricht Treaty or anything else originating from Brussels; it's the truly riveting Local Government Elections (Changes to the Franchise and Qualification of Members) Regulations 1995, which apply only to the UK and were signed into law by our then Home Secretary Michael Howard. I've read this document so you don't have to, and the important point to take away is that thanks to the EU Withdrawal Act this will still be good law after Brexit - so as things stand at the moment EU citizens living in the UK will still be able to be and to vote for local councillors after 29th March. Moreover, to my knowledge nobody in the responsible government departments (the Ministry of Housing, Communities or Local Government or the devolved administrations outside England) has yet published anything to make any changes to those democratic rights.

So everything's hunky dory then? Well, no: as with so many things about Brexit, the answer is "who can tell what's going to happen in the future"? Which is a problem if you're trying to predict the future, and that's something which Westminster city council are going to have to do very soon. Westminster's ward boundaries are now nearly twenty years old, and the Local Government Boundary Commission is intending to review them starting next year. As part of that process Westminster will be asked to forecast what their electorate is going to be five years down the line - which looks a near-impossible task when you don't know whether a significant chunk of your electorate are going to have the right to vote five years down the line.

Which brings us to central London and the Lancaster Gate ward. This is the heart of Bayswater, running along the north side of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens westwards and northwestwards from the Lancaster Gate road junction. The name Lancaster Gate refers to Queen Victoria, in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster, and comes from a prestigious Victorian housing development overlooking Hyde Park. High-end Victorian terraces quickly grew up all over the district and nearly all of them remain today; many of those Victorian blocks are now in commercial use as hotels or foreign embassies. There are two major exceptions to this rule: the modernist and mostly Grade II-listed Hallfield council estate which fills this ward's northern corner, and numbers 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens which are only a façade, walls built in the style of the adjoining buildings to hide a ventilation shaft for the London Underground. The Underground has two stations within the ward boundary, Bayswater on the District and Circle lines and Queensway on the Central Line. Queensway is the ward's main commercial street, home to the large Whiteleys shopping centre as well as the largest ice rink in London.

That last sentence might not be true for much longer though: Whiteleys is slated for conversion into a hotel and flats with a big extension, and that's not the only controversial new development in Lancaster Gate ward. Going up opposite Kensington Gardens is Park Modern, a notably ugly block of apartments for the super-rich: if you have £30 million in your back pocket, a double-height five-bedroom penthouse at the top of the nine storeys could be yours. These and other issues in Lancaster Gate are well-publicised by the influential South East Bayswater Residents Association, which - this being London, where you can do these things - put their views across via a glossy magazine. Local politicians have learnt to treat SEBRA with respect.

This ward may be full of hotels, but the ONS has taken care to ensure the census return is based on permanent residents rather than visitors. In any event there's little doubt that this is one of the most cosmopolitan parts of London. Only 35% of Lancaster Gate's population was born in the UK: it is number 5 of all the wards in England and Wales for those born in the EU-15 (18%) and number 6 for the White Other ethnic group (37%). It makes the top 20 for the 30-44 age bracket (34%) and "other" ethnic groups (10%), the top 30 for private renting (55% of households, which is not surprising given that the median property in the ward sells for over £900,000), the top 40 for population with a degree (61%) and the top 100 for those born outside the EU (40%, with particularly strong contingents from Brazil, Australia and the Middle East), Buddhism (1.8%) and the "higher management" occupational group (25%). Clearly this is a ward of people who have come to work in London from all over the world - exactly the sort of people whom the other EU governments are worried about in the Brexit process, and exactly the sort of people who are giving Westminster's electoral registration department a headache as they try to peer into the fog of the future to put their electorate forecasts together. Will these people still have the vote at the next Westminster council election in May 2022?

Well, they still have the vote for now, although actually persuading the EU residents to cast their votes here is another matter altogether. Despite Lancaster Gate's presence within the Labour-held Westminster North constituency, this is a safe Conservative ward in council elections although Labour did make significant progress this year. Shares of the vote here in May were 48% for the Conservative slate and 36% for Labour. Don't make the mistake of assuming that all of the Labour vote comes out of the Hallfield estate, as the Westminster Conservatives are very active on the estate and often poll relatively well there. There aren't many Liberal Democrat voters here but two of their local supporters in days gone by were very well-known: Jeremy and Marion Thorpe were formerly resident in the ward and would sign the Lib Dem nomination papers.

In the 2016 GLA elections the ward's ballot boxes gave a 43-36 lead to the Tories' Zac Goldsmith over Sadiq Khan; the London Members ballot gave 40% to the Conservatives, 29% to Labour and 11% to the Green Party, while in the vote for the West Central constituency of the London Assembly the Tory candidate led here with 42% to 32% for Labour and 13% for the Greens. The losing Labour candidate for West Central that year was Mandy Richards, who took the result to the Election Court and lost there as well: that was just one of the long list of failed legal actions that led to Richards being dropped as PPC for Worcester earlier this year.

While everything in the 2016 GLA election here was clearly above board, the same cannot be said of the circumstances leading up to this by-election. Robert Davis was the deputy leader of Westminster and the city's longest-serving councillor, having been first elected in 1982: he was Lord Mayor of Westminster in 1996-97, was in a civil partnership with former council leader Sir Simon Milton until Milton's death in 2011, is a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, and was appointed MBE in 2015 for services to local government and planning. That citation comes from the fact that Davis was chairman of Westminster's powerful planning committee for seventeen years, and is a little unfortunate in view of what happened next. In March this year the Guardian reported that Davis had received gifts or hospitality hundreds of times between 2012 and 2017, often from figures in the property development industry; and an independent investigation concluded in October that Davis had breached the council's code of conduct. Davis took the hint and resigned from the council, a few months after starting his tenth term of office.

With the resulting whiff of scandal this might be a more difficult Tory defence than it looks on paper. Defending for the Conservatives is Margot, Lady Bright, who gives an address in the adjoining Bayswater ward and is described as a community champion; she is the wife of Sir Keith Bright, who was chairman of London Regional Transport in the mid-1980s. Labour have reselected Angela Piddock, a former headteacher who is standing here for the third time; not surprisingly her manifesto prioritises the rights of the city's EU citizens and reform of the planning system. Completing the ballot paper are Sally Gray for the Liberal Democrats and Zack Polanski for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Westminster North
London Assembly constituency: West Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: W2

Margot Bright (C)
Sally Gray (LD)
Angela Piddock (Lab)
Zack Polanski (Grn)

May 2018 result C 1318/1226/1223 Lab 992/967/852 LD 456/376/321
May 2014 result C 1262/1152/1104 Lab 509/500/496 Grn 340 LD 314/229
May 2010 result C 1968/1936/1745 LD 930/758/641 Lab 787/775/763 Grn 455 UKIP 102
October 2008 by-election C 805 LD 325 Lab 205
May 2006 result C 1270/1258/1218 LD 348/335/326 Lab 346/330/323
May 2002 result C 1180/1160/1128 Lab 334/310/299 LD 295/269/241

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 906 Lab 764 Grn 134 LD 116 Women's Equality 55 Respect 47 UKIP 37 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 22 Britain First 9 Zylinski 7 BNP 2 One Love 1
London Members: C 810 Lab 593 Grn 221 LD 178 UKIP 74 Respect 48 Animal Welfare 31 Britain First 18 CPA 16 House Party 13 Women's Equality 10 BNP 2


Bush Hill Park

Enfield council, North London; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jon Daniels who had served only since May this year. In his resignation statement Daniels said that he had been unable to balance his duties as a councillor with his family and work commitments.

For our second London by-election we take the Central Line to Liverpool Street and head north into the wilds of Middlesex. Since 1880 Bush Hill Park has been the last stop for branch line trains going to Enfield Town; the station was opened to serve a housing estate built on the grounds of a country house of the same name. We're a fair way from central London here and the estate was rather slow to grow - not helped by its developer going bankrupt in 1887 - but the growth of the firearms industry in Enfield to supply the Boer War caused demand to pick up, and by the outbreak of the First World War Bush Hill Park was fully developed. Many of those Edwardian houses are still with us today thanks to a conservation area being created in the mid-1980s; only the northern end of the ward, around Enfield cricket club, has seen significant redevelopment.

For parliamentary purposes Bush Hill Park is within the Edmonton constituency and is by far the least-deprived ward within it. That gives a right-wing slant to its politics which would have pleased one of the ward's most famous residents: Ross McWhirter, the sports journalist and Guinness Book of Records co-founder, lived in this ward on Village Road and was murdered there by the IRA in 1975. McWhirter had been the Conservative candidate for Edmonton in the 1964 general election, doing rather poorly in what had five years earlier been a very close seat.

In fact the Edmonton constituency was often a key marginal until quite recent times. The Conservatives gained it at the 1987 election and held it in 1992; but since then the Tory vote here has fallen off a cliff and by June 2017 the Conservatives had just 23% of the vote across the constituency, a 12-point swing against them since the Coalition was formed. A large proportion of those Tory votes will have come out of Bush Hill Park, which is the only ward within the seat to reliably return Conservative councillors. Until the 2010s, that is: Labour came from a long way back to gain one of the ward's three seats in 2014; the Tories got that seat back in May this year but only with a majority of 64 votes. Vote shares were 39% for the Conservatives, 37% for Labour and 11% for the Green Party. That closeness was also a feature of the 2016 GLA elections here: Zac Goldsmith beat Sadiq Khan in the ward's ballot boxes 44-36, while the Tory lead over Labour in the London Members ballot was just 37-36.

But as the reverse in May's election might suggest, not all is rosy here for Labour. The party control Enfield council; and their Edmonton MP Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, has attracted controversy after her son, whom she employs as her parliamentary press officer, pleaded guilty to possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply. More on that story in a future edition of Andrew's Previews.

Mind, the Tories have problems of their own in Bush Hill Park: Will Coleshill, who was elected here on the Tory slate in May alongside Daniels, has since had the whip withdrawn over racist comments he made in a council meeting. And the council themselves have not shown much competence: their website team reflected Daniels' resignation and Coleshill's suspension by deleting Daniels from their website record of the May 2018 election result and changing Coleshill from a Conservative candidate to an independent candidate. This sort of rewriting of history is not on at all, and only the fact that Enfield have since acknowledged and corrected their mistake has stopped me from issuing my dreaded Useless Council Website certificate. Let that be a warning to any council who does something similar.

Defending for the Conservative is James Hockney, a businessman who may well be someone to watch for the future. He is seeking to resume his elected career after being a South Cambridgeshire councillor from 2004 to 2016, and he was the Tory candidate for Barnsley East in the 2010 general election and for Barnsley Central in the 2011 parliamentary by-election. Labour have reselected Bevin Betton, an HR consultant who was runner-up here in May. Also returning from May's election is Benjamin Maydon of the Green Party, who according to his Twitter is a musician, comedian, writer, actor, English teacher, precocious genius and awkward geek. Three more candidates complete the ballot paper: they are Robert Wilson for the Liberal Democrats, Tulip Hambleton for the Women's Equality Party and independent candidate Erol Ovayolu.

Parliamentary constituency: Edmonton
London Assembly constituency: Enfield and Haringey
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: EN1, N9, N13, N21

Bevin Betton (Lab)
Tulip Hambleton (Women's Equality)
James Hockney (C)
Benjamin Maydon (Grn)
Erol Ovayolu (Ind)
Robert Wilson (LD)

May 2018 result C 1976/1959/1926 Lab 1862/1831/1681 Grn 539 LD 484 UKIP 144
May 2014 result C 1679/1521/1334 Lab 1522/1277/1223 UKIP 897 Grn 621 LD 453
July 2011 by-election C 1108 Lab 668 Ind 230 LD 177 Grn 100 UKIP 70 BNP 61 Christian Party 45 EDP 29
May 2010 result C 3451/3225/3224 Lab 2230/2077/2049 LD 1747 Grn 942 UKIP 618
January 2009 by-election C 1320 Lab 413 LD 129 UKIP 123 Grn 97
May 2006 result C 2248/2178/1827 Save Chase Farm 1442 Lab 780/683/649 Grn 604 LD 547/533 UKIP 298
May 2002 result C 2400/2276/2272 Lab 974/867/830 LD 565/433/421 UKIP 187/144

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 1690 Lab 1456 Grn 192 LD 162 UKIP 151 Women's Equality 54 Britain First 40 Respect 35 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 27 BNP 9 Zylinski 9 One Love 2
London Members: C 1452 Lab 1382 UKIP 322 Grn 247 LD 189 Women's Equality 96 Britain First 48 CPA 46 Respect 39 Animal Welfare 37 BNP 17 House Party 16


Datchet

Windsor and Maidenhead council, Berkshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jesse Grey who had served since 2000. Grey was mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead in 2009-10 and at the time of his death was the council's cabinet member for environmental services, parking and flooding.

For our last by-election in the South East this week we travel just outside the Greater London boundary. The village of Datchet can be found on the north bank of the Thames just to the east of Windsor, and the fact that a ferry crossed the river here meant that Datchet was frequently visited by royals travelling to and from Windsor Castle. The village is the last stop before Windsor on the railway line from Waterloo, but is probably more associated with the private car as a mode of transport: the UK's first motor car was owned by the Honourable Evelyn Ellis who lived in Datchet, while the lords of the manor were the Montagu family who gave us the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in Hampshire. Much of the ward is covered by water (whether the River Thames, or the Queen Mother Reservoir which provides drinking water for London) and, this being low-lying ground, the area suffers from flooding problems when there is too much rain in the Thames catchment. Datchet was particularly badly hit by the Thames floods of early 2014.

Datchet ward has unchanged boundaries since the first elections to Windsor and Maidenhead district in 1973: in that time it has elected Conservatives throughout with the exception of 1997, the first election to the modern unitary council¸ when the Liberal Democrats won the second seat. The Lib Dems continued in second place until 2011 when an independent slate was runner-up; in the 2015 election the Conservatives led with 59% and Labour were second on 21%. There have been no local elections in Windsor and Maidenhead since then; the ward is part of the Windsor parliamentary seat which is very safely Conservative. This will be the last election on the current boundaries, as new wards are coming into force for Windsor and Maidenhead next May with Datchet and the neighbouring Horton and Wraysbury ward being merged into one; so whoever wins this by-election may have to move very quickly to secure their nomination for the 2019 elections.

Hoping to make an impact on the electorate is the defending Conservative candidate David Cannon, a retired Metropolitan Police detective inspector who now works in security for BT; Cannon is a former chairman of Datchet parish council. The Labour candidate is Deborah Foster, a UNISON figure who lives in Windsor and works in the NHS. Also standing are Datchet parish councillor and former ward councillor (1997-2000) Tim O'Flynn for the Liberal Democrats, Datchet parish councillor Ewan Larcombe for his National Flood Prevention Party, and the Greens' Christopher Moss who gives an address some distance away in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire.

Parliamentary constituency: Windsor
ONS Travel to Work Area: Slough and Heathrow
Postcode district: SL3

David Cannon (C)
Deborah Foster (Lab)
Ewan Larcombe (National Flood Prevention Party)
Christopher Moss (Grn)
Tim O'Flynn (LD)

May 2015 result C 1438/1369 Lab 523 LD 478/420
May 2011 result C 935/875 Ind 419/364 Lab 232 LD 217/139
October 2007 by-election C 799 LD 352 Ind 102
May 2007 result C 948/906 LD 211/187 Lab 150/110
May 2003 result C 613/610 LD 438 Ind 264 Lab 129
May 2000 result C 661/641 LD 367/330 Lab 80/80
May 1997 result C 1180/825 LD 1048/909 Lab 389/343
May 1995 result C 494/461 LD 349 Ind 302 Lab 278/217
May 1991 result C 882/878 LD 568/369 Lab 223/217
May 1987 result C 875/823 All 509/503 Lab 175/131 Residents/Ratepayers 121
May 1983 result 2 C unopposed
May 1979 result 2 C unopposed
May 1976 result C 810/808 Lib 503
May 1973 result 2 C unopposed


Upton

Wirral council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Matthew Patrick, who had served since winning a by-election in October 2013 and was the council's cabinet member for the environment. He is moving to London to take up a new job.

For our final by-election of the week we travel north-west to the land of plastic. Upton lies at the centre of the Wirral peninsula and in mediaeval times was the major marketplace in the area; but its fortunes declined as Birkenhead grew into a town and Upton remained a village. By the nineteenth century the area was mainly farmland to the west of Birkenhead, with Upton village in the hands of the shipping magnate William Inman (of the Inman Line) who resided at the minor stately home of Upton Manor.

Things changed in the twentieth century when the area was annexed by Birkenhead Corporation, which once the Second World War was over started filling the ward with the Woodchurch housing estate. Industry came as well: there was for many years a large spark plug factory here, but these days the major employer is Arrowe Park Hospital, just outside the ward boundary and the major A&E unit for the Wirral. Upton is relatively poorly served by rail - its railway station is on the little-used Borderlands Line, which despite being in Merseyside is run by Transport for Wales - but it's only just off the M53 motorway, and so residents of Upton can be in Liverpool city centre, through the Wallasey Tunnel, in just 15 minutes.

There was a by-election here in October 2013 at which Matthew Patrick was first elected, and I described Upton then as "a classic key marginal where swings are low". That was true in the Blair and Brown years, although the Conservatives only won Upton at Labour's low point of 2008 and then only by four votes; but it's not true now. This is a safe Labour area in the current political climate and its presence in the Wirral West parliamentary seat made all the difference in the 2015 general election: Labour won Upton ward by 3,500 votes that year and on the same day in the parliamentary seat defeated Esther McVey by 417. McVey got back into Parliament last year, but not from Wirral West: she now has a safe Tory seat in Cheshire from which to plot her next move in the parliamentary soap opera.

In the meantime Labour held Upton ward this May by 58-29 over the Conservatives, which was a slight swing to the right compared with two years earlier. Wirral council has had a Labour majority since 2012, but the Labour administration doesn't appear to be a very happy place at the moment with rumours of a left-wing takeover within the local party; two Labour councillors have gone independent in the last few months and Councillor Patrick, who was reportedly on Labour's right wing, might well be relieved to be out of the firing line now. Patrick's resignation leaves Labour with 36 out of 66 seats on the council plus this vacancy; so the Labour majority is safe for now but the May 2019 elections could be interesting.

Defending for Labour is local resident Jean Robinson. The Tories have selected another local resident, Emma Sellman who is a law student and wheelchair user. Completing the ballot paper are two candidates returning from May's election, Lily Clough for the Green Party and regular Lib Dem candidate Alan Davies.

Parliamentary constituency: Wirral Wewt
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birkenhead
Postcode district: CH49

Lily Clough (Grn)
Alan Davies (LD)
Jean Robinson (Lab)
Emma Sellman (C)

May 2018 result Lab 2289 C 1125 Grn 265 LD 166 TUSC 89
May 2016 result Lab 2218 C 900 Grn 256 LD 169 TUSC 94
May 2015 result Lab 5347 C 1807 UKIP 853 Grn 306 LD 262
May 2014 result Lab 1932 UKIP 942 C 760 Grn 206 LD 117
October 2013 by-election Lab 1954 C 762 Grn 143 LD 130
May 2012 result Lab 2504 C 948 UKIP 381 Grn 206 LD 164
May 2011 result Lab 2850 C 1495 LD 226 UKIP 221 Grn 158
May 2010 result Lab 3827 C 2143 LD 1370 Grn 286
May 2008 result C 1861 Lab 1857 LD 451 Grn 256
May 2007 result Lab 1931 C 1734 LD 575 Grn 244
May 2006 result Lab 1716 C 1424 LD 991 Grn 262
June 2004 result Lab 2140/2065/1829 C 1300/1261/1160 LD 1086/945/903 Grn 396


A couple of other notices to finish on. There are other votes going on this week, and in the most important of those your columnist would like to endorse my quiz friend Anne Hegerty in the election for the post of Queen of the Jungle. If she's still there by the time you read this, get voting for her. Vote early and vote often.

And if you liked these previews, there's a lot more like them in the two paperback collections Andrew's Previews 2016 and 2017, which are available now from Amazon and just might make a delightful Christmas present for the discerning psephologist.