Previews: 05 Jul 2018

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

There are five polls on 5th July 2018:


Kingsmead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Candlewick; and


Cheap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candlewick

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

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

Cheap

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

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


Curborough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shifnal South and Cosford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previews: 28 Jun 2018

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

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

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


Syston Ridgeway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


North Hykeham Mill; and
Skellingthorpe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Hykeham Mill

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

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

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

Skellingthorpe

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

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

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


Fremington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previews: 21 Jun 2018

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


Alcombe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kempshott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bicester West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Astwell; and
Whittlewood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Astwell

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

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

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

Whittlewood

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

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

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


Quorn and Mountsorrel Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Birch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2015 result C 780 UKIP 405 LD 203


Lee Chapel North; and
Pitsea South East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee Chapel North

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

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

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

Pitsea South East

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

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

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


Oxhey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Willesden Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Previews: 14 Jun 2018

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

Two council by-elections on 14th June 2018:


London Bridge and West Bermondsey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No previous results on these boundaries


Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previews: 07 Jun 2018

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

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

Cranmore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Benson and Crowmarsh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Preview: 25 May 2018

One poll on Friday 25th May 2018:

Glascote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previews: 24 May 2018

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

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

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


Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Farnham Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Aylsham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kirkby la Thorpe and South Kyme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Edgeley and Cheadle Heath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Teale


Previews: 17 May 2018

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

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


University and Scotforth Rural

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Skerton West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leiston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previewing the mayoral contests and council by-elections

Previewing the mayoral and council by-elections for LE2018

by Andrew Teale, 01 May 2018


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

So the ordinary May elections are upon us. I’m not going to try and cover all of the thousands of council seats up for election this year in the Andrew’s Previews series, as I’d never finish such a piece and you’d never read it anyway. Instead I intend to look at a few aspects of the 2018 local elections. This piece will cover the local by-elections in councils which are not holding ordinary local elections this year, together with the mayoral elections; and a companion piece will look in some detail at your columnist’s own county of Greater Manchester.


Sheffield City Region

Let’s start at the top of the pile, shall we? Unquestionably the largest single position being elected this year is the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, the latest piece of the puzzle in the government’s regional devolution strategy.

This poll was originally supposed to take place last year, but got deferred for a year mainly thanks to disputes over what area the Sheffield City Region should cover. It doesn’t help that Sheffield is hard up against the Yorkshire boundary, and indeed quite a lot of the present Sheffield council area has been annexed from Derbyshire over the years. Pretty much anything in the Sheffield commuter belt south of the city itself is outside Yorkshire.
And that has been the root of the delay. Bassetlaw council in Nottinghamshire and a number of Derbyshire districts had expressed interest in joining the City Region, but Derbyshire county council wasn’t as keen and launched legal action to stop the 2017 election going ahead. The withdrawal of Bassetlaw and the Derbyshire districts has meant that the electors for the Sheffield City Region mayor are only those who live in the four metropolitan boroughs of South Yorkshire.

But even those four boroughs can’t agree on what their devolution deal should look like. Barnsley and Doncaster had expressed support for a devolution arrangement covering the whole of Yorkshire, an idea which also has support from several other Yorkshire councils particularly in West Yorkshire. So it’s quite possible that this mayoral post may not exist for very long at all before it gets subsumed into something bigger.

We wait and see, and in any event it’s unlikely that this election will be an exciting one. There have been three previous elections for a county-wide post in South Yorkshire, all for the Police and Crime Commissioner. The first one was the farcical inaugural PCC election in November 2012, which was noted for its comedy low turnout but still safely returned Labour candidate Shaun Wright in the first round. The English Democrats, who at the time held the Doncaster mayoralty, were a distant second. Wright had come to the police and crime commissionership from Rotherham, where he had been councillor in charge of children’s services; and when the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal broke two years later, he was forced to resign. The resulting by-election in October 2014 elected Labour candidate Alan Billings, a priest and former deputy leader of Sheffield council, in the first round, with UKIP second. Revd Billings was safely re-elected for a full term in 2016, polling 52% to 20% for UKIP and 11% for the Conservatives.

The 2017 general election showed yet again that Labour are in the ascendancy across South Yorkshire. For the first time they won all of the county’s constituencies, gaining Sheffield Hallam from Nick Clegg, and polled 57% across the four boroughs to 30% for the Conservatives.

So really the question here is whether the Labour candidate will win in the first round. He is Dan Jarvis, who came to politics from a career in the military. From Sandhurst he was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment, ending with the rank of Major and a military MBE, and served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan (twice). Jarvis resigned his commission in 2011 when he was selected as Labour candidate for the Barnsley Central by-election, after former MP Eric Illsley was convicted of fraud charges arising from the Parliamentary expenses scandal. By this time Jarvis’ first wife had died from cancer at the age of just 43, leaving him as a single parent of two children.

Jarvis rose up the parliamentary ranks even more quickly than he had done in the Army; within a year of his election he was in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet, and there was speculation that he would stand for the Labour leadership in the 2015 election. In the event, Jarvis decided to put his family first (by now he had remarried and had a young child with his second wife) and endorsed Andy Burnham. Fat lot of good that did him, and Jarvis has not featured in Corbyn’s shadow cabinets. With his career stalled at Westminster, presumably Jarvis feels that being a regional mayor – even with the currently proposed mayoral position being a bit of a non-job – would be a better use of his skills. If elected he intends to combine the mayoral job with his Westminster duties.

With UKIP not standing the main challenge to Jarvis is likely to come from the Conservative candidate Ian Walker. He is a businessman who runs an engineering firm in Sheffield, and this is his third go at running for county-wide office: Walker was the Tory candidate for South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner in the 2014 by-election and in 2016, either side of fighting Sheffield Hallam in the 2015 general election.

Five other candidates are on the ballot paper: Hannah Kitching for the Liberal Democrats, David Allen for the English Democrats, Mick Bower for the Yorkshire Party, Naveen Judah for an outfit called “South Yorkshire Save Our NHS”, and the Greens’ Robert Murphy.

This by-election will be combined with elections to two of the four South Yorkshire boroughs: Doncaster council was moved away from thirds elections in an attempt to combat longstanding political dysfunctionality, while Rotherham suffered the same fate after the child sexual exploitation scandal revealed that the council, to put it charitably, hadn’t been paying attention to what was going on in their bailiwick. The Commissioners which central government sent in after the scandal are still there and still running Rotherham’s children’s services. That leaves Sheffield city council and Barnsley council electing a third of their councillors; despite a local controversy in Sheffield over extensive tree-felling, in neither of those councils do Labour look under serious threat of losing their majority.

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner elections

David Allen (EDP)
Mick Bower (Yorks Party)
Dan Jarvis (Lab)
Naveen Judah (S Yorks Save Our NHS)
Hannah Kitching (LD)
Robert Murphy (Grn)
Ian Walker (C)

May 2016 result Lab 144978 UKIP 57062 C 29904 LD 28060 EDP 19114
October 2014 by-election Lab 74060 UKIP 46883 C 18536 EDP 8583
November 2012 result Lab 74615 EDP 22608 C 21075 UKIP 16773 LD 10223

Other mayoral elections

Five local government mayors are up for re-election this year. The stand-out one to watch is Watford, where Baroness Thornhill is standing down after four terms of office. Despite the Lib Dems’ travails nationally they are strong in Watford at local level. Thornhill was re-elected in 2014 for her final term by defeating Labour 65-35 in the runoff; in the 2016 local elections the Lib Dems won 25 seats to 11 for Labour, and polled 39% to 26% for Labour and 20% for the Conservatives, who won nothing. Councillor Peter Taylor is the new Liberal Democrat candidate, 2014 runner-up and Labour candidate Cllr Jagtar Singh Dhindsa tries again, and the Conservatives have selected George Jabbour.

The other four mayoral elections on 3rd May are in Greater London and are all Labour defences. Tower Hamlets is probably the one to keep an eye on, just to see what shenanigans happen this time. Labour’s John Biggs, who won the mayoral by-election in 2015 after Lutfur Rahman was unseated by the Election Court for a corrupt 2014 election campaign, is seeking re-election for a full term. Lutfur Rahman is disqualified from voting or holding elected office until 2020, but the Lutfurites have not gone away. Their candidate Rabina Khan lost the 2015 by-election to Biggs by the relatively narrow margin of 55-45. On the other hand, the Lutfurites have split into two factions: Rabina Khan is trying again with the nomination of PATH, the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets, while former deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed is standing for the more hardline Aspire party. Also standing are Anwara Ali for the Conservatives, Ciaran Jebb for the Green Party, Elaine Bagshaw for the Lib Dems and Hugo Pierre with the nomination of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Those who remember the appalling and embarrassing shambles which was the Tower Hamlets count in 2014 will no doubt be praying, to whatever deity they may believe in, that there will be no repeat this time.

The Newham mayoralty has never been far from political controversy either, but the interesting element of the 2018 Newham election has already happened: outgoing mayor Sir Robin Wales was deselected by Labour, after four terms of office and seven years as council leader before that, in favour of new candidate Rokhsana Fiaz. Described as an East Ender through and through, Fiaz is an outgoing councillor for Custom House ward, and was appointed OBE for her work on race, faith and identity. She will have no problem being elected in this one-party state. The battle for second place looks likely to be won by the Conservatives’ Rahima Khan, a teacher and personal life coach according to her Twitter. Also standing are Gareth Evans for the Lib Dems; Chishala Kumalinga for the evangelical Christian Peoples Alliance, which once had councillors in Newham; and Daniel Oxley for the UKIP splinter Democrats and Veterans Party.

Another four-term mayor standing down – voluntarily this time – is Lewisham‘s Sir Steve Bullock. The new Labour candidate is Damian Egan, who sits in Bullock’s cabinet and is outgoing councillor for Lewisham Central ward; despite therefore being associated with last year’s controversy over compulsory purchase of land around Millwall FC’s stadium he should have little problem being elected. Last time round a close five-way race for second was won by the Conservatives, whose new candidate Ross Archer is a manager at a not-for-profit anti-fraud body. Third place in 2014 went to Duwayne Brooks of the Lib Dems; Brooks has since fallen out with the party and is standing as an independent, while the new Lib Dem candidate is Chris Maines who had several goes at gaining the Orpington parliamentary seat back in the 90s and 00s before finally giving up. Maines was the Lib Dem candidate for Lewisham mayor in 2010, finishing second and taking Bullock to a runoff; these are probably less propitious times for him. Completing this year’s Lewisham mayoral candidates are John Coughlin for the Green Party, John Hamilton for the local left-wing group Lewisham People Before Profit, and Democrats and Veterans candidate Will Donnelly.

Finally, outgoing Hackney mayor Philip Glanville should be similarly untroubled; he won a by-election in 2016 after former mayor Jules Pipe left to join Sadiq Khan’s administration in City Hall, and now has the chance to win a full term of his own. Second in the by-election was the Green Party, whose candidate is film and events producer Alastair Binnie-Lubbock. Also standing are Imtiyaz Lunat for the Conservatives, Pauline Pearce for the Liberal Democrats, Harini Iyengar of the Women’s Equality Party and independent candidate Vernon Williams.


Local by-elections

Only 150 of the 400 or so local councils in Great Britain are up for election this year, which means that there are plenty of people in England (not to mention all of Scotland and Wales) who are sitting this round of local elections out. In those councils there are thirteen by-elections, which I’m just going to namecheck here rather than go through in the usual level of detail.

We start with our token northern by-election which is a crucial poll to Cheshire West and Chester council. Labour are defending the Ellesmere Port Town by-election and with it their council majority; they hold 37 seats on the council plus this vacancy to 36 Conservatives and a single independent. Don’t expect a change of control: this is a very deprived and very safe Labour ward which should elect new candidate Mike Edwardson without much trouble.

The other Labour defence in this set of by-elections comes in Leamington Spa, where the Warwickshire county council seat of Leamington Willes is up for election. Former county councillor Matt Western has gone on to greater things by gaining Warwick and Leamington for Labour in last year’s general election; he leaves behind a division covering south-eastern Leam, an area popular with Warwick University students. The student influence can be seen in the fact that the Green Party ran second here in 2017; however, new Labour candidate Helen Adkins should be favoured to hold the seat.

The Conservatives defend two seats in the East Midlands. In Leicestershire we have a by-election for the county council in Stoney Stanton and Croft, a rural division covering much of the area between Leicester and Hinckley. This was very strongly Conservative last year and should be an easy win for new Tory candidate Maggie Wright. Things may be different in the fens of Lincolnshire; the large rural ward of Donington, Quadring and Gosberton in South Holland district has since 2011 split its three seats between two Conservatives and independent councillor Jane King. One of the Tory seats is up in this by-election and the Conservatives’ Sue Wray should be wary of an independent challenge from Terri Cornwell.

As so often seems to happen, the Eastern region of England has turned up with lots of by-elections. Two of these are in Haverhill, to St Edmundsbury council. following the resignations of a husband-and-wife couple of Conservative councillors; this isolated London overspill town in the south-western corner of Suffolk had a very high UKIP vote until not so long ago, but the Kippers’ collapse means that they can’t find candidates here now. Both Haverhill East and Haverhill North split their seats between UKIP and the Tories in 2015; in the absence of the populist right North should be safe enough for Tory candidate Elaine McManus, but in East ward Labour’s Malcolm Smith could be within range of upsetting the defending Conservative Robin Pilley. These may (tempting fate!) be the last by-elections your columnist has to describe for St Edmundsbury district, which is in merger talks with the neighbouring Forest Heath district council.

Another close Tory-Labour contest looks in prospect over the border in Essex. Bocking North split its two Braintree council seats between the two parties in 2015, and it’s the Tory seat that’s up this time. Dean Wallace leads the Tory defence while Labour’s Tony Everard, who lost his seat in 2015, will try to get back. Also in Braintree district, the Conservatives should have less trouble in Hatfield Peverel and Terling ward, a series of villages wrapping around the western side of Witham; James Coleridge leads the defence there.

The only Lib Dem defence in this set is in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans, and it’s an interesting one. We’re in the St Albans North division of Hertfordshire county council, which is a consistent three-way marginal. It voted Lib Dem in 2005 and 2009, was gained by Labour in 2013, and then regained last year by the Lib Dems who defeated Labour by 71 votes and beat the Tories by 436 votes. That was a good Liberal Democrat performance considering that the party polled poorly in the two St Albans district council wards covering this area in 2016: Batchwood is looking safe for Labour now while Marshalswick South now has a full slate of Tory councillors (and some very expensive housing to boot). Karen Young defends the seat for the Liberal Democrats, and is challenged by two local district councillors. Batchwood’s Roma Mills is the former Labour county councillor seeking to get her seat back; Mills is also up for re-election to the district council this year, giving her two chances to win or lose. On the Tory side, their candidate is Marshalswick South ward councillor, and former Mayor of St Ablans, Salih Gaygusuz; as the name might suggest, he is Turkish-born.

Moving into the South East proper, your columnist had a bit of a rant at Aylesbury Vale council a few weeks back after they put the notices for a couple of district by-elections on their website, but only to people who had registered for an online account with the council. I invited Aylesbury Vale to get in touch and claim their certificate for a useless council website. Fair play to them, they got in touch with me and apologised, and as a result I agreed to suspend the issue of the certificate pending publication of notices for the Quainton by-election. I am pleased to report that the council webmasters have got it right this time, and there will be no further action.

Quainton ward itself is a series of villages in northern Buckinghamshire, a long way from anywhere of note. Nevertheless this was once bizarrely an outpost of the London Underground network, whose Quainton Road station is now preserved as a museum. The ward is of course safe Conservative; although their candidate Steven Walker is the only nominee who does not live in the ward he should have little trouble holding the seat.

For our other by-election in the South East we are going offshore to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. The electors of Sheppey East ward are in the villages of Eastchurch, Warden and Leysdown-on-Sea at the eastern end of the island, and I have to be specific in referring to “electors” here because the ward also includes a number of large prisons. Sheppey East split its two seats in 2015 between the Conservatives and UKIP, and the Tory seat is up here. The two frontrunners both have rather androgynous names: Lynd Taylor is hoping that he will defend the Conservative seat, while UKIP have selected Sunny Nissanga to try and make a rare gain.

Our final two by-elections of this set are in the South West, and this is where it gets complicated. We have a poll in Dorset for the Weymouth West ward of Weymouth and Portland council, which has been on your columnist’s list of vacant seats since December but had previously been marked under the heading “no further action” because the outgoing councillor was due for re-election this year. Not so, as it turned out: local government in Dorset is due for reorganisation, and as part of that process the 2018 Weymouth and Portland council elections have been cancelled with councillors’ terms extended to 2019. As a result we are now having a by-election for this vacancy. Just to make things more complicated, Weymouth West is a Tory-Labour marginal but the outgoing councillor, Claudia Webb, had been elected for the Tories before defecting to the Green Party. That puts the Green candidate Val Graves into the defending position; the Tories will want their seat back and have selected Richard Nickinson, while Labour – who won Weymouth West at the most recent district poll in 2016 – have selected David Greenhalf. One to watch, this one.

We finish this preview with a free-for-all on the banks of the Torridge river in the town of Bideford. Bideford East is based on the suburb of East-the-Water together with a number of villages in Bideford’s hinterland. The ward has a complicated political history with independent and Lib Dem candidates having been successful here this century, but in 2015 it elected a Tory and two UKIP candidates. This poll is caused by the death of Sam Robinson, who won a 2014 by-election here as an independent before being re-elected in 2015 on the UKIP ticket; UKIP haven’t nominated anyone to replace him so this by-election will result in a change to the political balance of Torridge council. Given the volatile history of this ward I’d better go through the whole candidate list: James Hellyer is standing for the Conservatives, Anne Brenton for Labour, Pauline Davies and Jude Gubb as independents, Gregory de Freyne-Martin for the Greens and Jamie McKenzie for the Lib Dems. Predictions for this one are best left to the locals.


A further piece of Andrew’s Previews will follow shortly, which will look in detail at my own county of Greater Manchester. Stay tuned for that.


Previews: 19 Apr 2018

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

Before we start the week, I have a special announcement to make.

Andrew's Previews 2017

Last year, I saw fit to publish these Previews as a printed book. Andrew's Previews 2016 seems to have gone down well. Its Amazon reviewer described it as "one of those books, like the Nuffield Foundation volumes on British general elections, that makes you wonder how we managed before they came along". Well, I suppose I was taking a risk in publishing something which had literally never been done before in print. Despite my complete lack of self-publicity skills, Andrew's Previews 2016 has crawled up to my sales target; and the feedback has persuaded me that the exercise is worth doing again.

So, here's the follow-up that at least some people have been eagerly waiting for. Available now from Amazon, Andrew's Previews 2017 is another collection of the by-election previews from that volatile political year which was 2017, plus some bonus material.

If you would like to relive the year of the snap general election as it unfolded, while learning a bit about the geography and history of Great Britain, this book is for you. And by buying the book, you will help to support the research required for future previews - while having a permanent and (hopefully) positive reminder of your donation.

To give you a flavour of what's in the book, have a look at the rest of this post, in which we discuss the three council by-elections on 19th April 2018. These will be the last polls before the ordinary May 2018 elections, and they are all Conservative defences. But by no means are they all the same...


Thatcham West

West Berkshire council; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Nick Goodes, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months. He had served since 2015.

We start this week in the M4 corridor. Thatcham is one of those towns which has been a bit overlooked; its population isn't that much smaller than Newbury, which adjoins it to the west, but Thatcham is far less well-known. It could have all been so different. This area has been inhabited since prehistoric times - Mesolithic remains dating from the eighth and ninth millennia BC have been found in the area - and as late as the fourteenth century AD Thatcham was a larger and more important town than Newbury. The location was good, on one of the main lines of communication through southern England: the River Kennet and the Berks and Hants railway line form the southern boundary of West ward, the A4 London-Bath road bisects the ward, as did a Roman road; and the M4 motorway is just to the north.

What did for Thatcham was the Black Death, which hit the town hard in 1348 and led to Newbury overtaking it in importance. Nonetheless Thatcham has seen large population growth since the Second World War. It is the location of the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, which analyses cars and their security systems for the insurance industry, giving out Thatcham ratings for car alarms, immobilisers and suchlike. Thatcham is also about to go onto the sporting map: the local non-league side Thatcham Town FC, who play against such giants as Olympiakos and PAOK in the Hellenic League Premier Division (note to self: check this), will be going to Wembley next month to play Stockton Town in the final of the FA Vase.

This is not a longstanding Conservative ward. The Newbury constituency was a famous Liberal Democrat by-election win in 1993, and the party held that parliamentary seat until 2005. Thatcham West was a stronger Lib Dem area than the seat as a whole, and it took until 2015 for the Conservatives to gain it: the Tory lead that year was 48-39 over the Lib Dems. West Berkshire is a unitary council so there are no clues to be gained from last year's county elections. The Lib Dems did get a small swing in their favour in the 2017 general election across the Newbury constituency, from which the party might take some encouragement in their attempt to get this seat back.

Both the Tories and Lib Dems have selected candidates with high local profiles. Defending for the Conservatives is Ellen Crumly, the Mayor of Thatcham. The Lib Dem candidate Jeff Brooks wants his seat back: he was a Lib Dem councillor for this ward from 2003 until losing to the Conservatives in 2015, and his local government career goes all the way back to 1995 when he was elected to the former Newbury district council. Also standing are Louise Coulson for Labour, Gary Johnson for UKIP and Jane Livermore for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Newbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newbury
Postcode districts: RG18, RG19

Jeff Brooks (LD)
Louise Coulson (Lab)
Ellen Crumly (C)
Gary Johnson (UKIP)
Jane Livermore (Grn)

May 2015 result C 1493/1455 LD 1208/1133 Lab 423/251
May 2011 result LD 932/891 C 771/698 Lab 207 Ind 137
May 2007 result LD 960/957 C 837/797
May 2003 result LD 760/758 C 443/441


Lymm South

Warrington council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Sheila Woodyatt at the age of 80. The Mayor of Warrington in 2000-01, and at one point the only Conservative councillor in the borough, Woodyatt had served on Warrington council since 1983, being elected for Lymm ward until boundary changes in 2016. She also represented Lymm on Cheshire county council from 1989 to 1998. In the 2000 Birthday Honours Woodyatt was appointed MBE for services to the community in Cheshire.

Your columnist likes Lymm. This is one of those leafy Cheshire villages where the great, the good and the rich of north-west England tend to live; Lymm's list of famous residents includes a large number of well-known actors, footballers and entertainers. The village centre is in an attractive sandstone gorge running down from the Bridgewater Canal, which forms the northern boundary of this ward, and it's full of the sort of shops and cafés which clearly take as their target market the average Cheshire housewife.

The census bears this out. A majority of Lymm's workforce are in some sort of professional or managerial role, and the proportion of the population with degrees is very high. This is the sort of demographic profile that wouldn't look out of place in Wilmslow, Prestbury, Hale Barns, Knutsford or other places frequented by the Real Housewives of Cheshire; but by a quirk of boundaries Lymm, unlike the rest of those places, has ended up in the Borough of Warrington and in the parliamentary seat of Warrington South. This is a key marginal which has changed hands between the Tories and Labour three times since it was created for the 1983 election; last year Warrington South was one of those Labour gains which looked so unlikely at the start of the snap election campaign.

Not that the Labour vote comes out of Lymm, however. The present Lymm South ward was created only in 2016; before then there was a single Lymm ward covering the whole of the village. That ward had been split between Woodyatt and two Liberal Democrat councillors continuously since 1995, and as Warrington moved to the thirds electoral system when it became a unitary council that implies that all the councillors had developed personal votes. It wasn't until 2015, the last election to the old Lymm ward, that the Tories knocked out one of the Lib Dems to make the split 2-1 in their favour.

The two Conservative councillors both successfully sought re-election in the new Lymm South ward in 2016, but the Lib Dems ran them close; shares of the vote were 38% for the Tories, 32% for the Lib Dems and 19% for Labour. Warrington has reverted to whole council elections, with the next borough elections due in 2020.

Defending for the Tories is Stephen Taylor, who is retired after 40 years with the Environment Agency; he has briefly been a Warrington councillor before, representing Stockton Heath ward from 2015 to 2016. Taylor is a member of Walton parish council and lives in Stockton Heath. The Lib Dems have selected Anna Fradgley, deputy chairman of Lymm parish council. The Labour candidate is Trish Cockayne, a local resident who volunteers with the Warrington Foodbank. Also standing are Derek Ashington for UKIP and Michael Wass for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Warrington South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode districts: WA4, WA13

Derek Ashington (UKIP)
Trish Cockayne (Lab)
Anna Fradgley (LD)
Stephen Taylor (C)
Michael Wass (Grn)

May 2016 result C 925/879 LD 780/668 Lab 466 UKIP 233


Highland

Perth and Kinross council; caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Ian Campbell, at the age of 66. He had served since 2007, and became leader in 2017 at the head of a Conservative, Lib Dem and independent coalition.

Before we come to this one, let me talk about addresses for a moment. Candidate addresses, and the publication thereof, are one of the hot topics of electoral administration right now. Since 1872 they have been required to be published on the nominations list and the ballot paper, whIch has made some candidates rather uncomfortable - particularly those who for whatever reason are concerned about their own safety, privacy and security. So a few years ago, the rules were changed for parliamentary elections to allow candidates to have their address redacted and replaced with an official statement along the lines of "(address in the Bolton South East constituency)".

In true British administrative style, this change was done piecemeal and doesn't apply to all levels of elections. So at parliamentary, and police and crime commissioner level candidates can redact their address, and the Scottish Parliament went one better and abolished address publication outright for its own elections; but at local level candidates' addresses still have to be published in full. The Government is considering whether to change this in future, although any changes won't have time to come in for the upcoming set of local elections.

As part of that consideration, the Government might wish to look at the example of Perth and Kinross council, whose elections office have found an interesting middle way of protecting candidates' safety and privacy within the existing law. They produce two versions of the nominations list: an official one with the addresses on it, which is available for inspection at the council offices; and a second one for publication on the internet with the addresses redacted. Not very helpful to the armchair columnist looking at a by-election from a distance of several hundred miles, but I'm not the target market and personal safety is more important in the end.

The Highland ward of Perth and Kinross is an enormous swathe of the southern Highlands, even larger than Caol and Mallaig which we thought was big a couple of weeks back. There are 890 square miles of mostly inhospitable mountains here - an area bigger than many English counties and only slightly smaller than Luxembourg. By acreage this is the sixth largest ward in the UK, and the largest outside the Highland Council area.

The main town in the ward is Pitlochry, on the main road and railway line to Inverness as they climb up to the Pass of Drumochter. The centre of its own Travel to Work Area, Pitlochry is popular as a tourist centre for hillwalkers and pensioners' coach holidays. The town's main exports are whisky and power: nearby is the reservoir of Loch Faskally, noted for its salmon ladder which allows fish to bypass the dam. Loch Faskally is just one of nine reservoirs and associated power stations, eight of which are within this ward, which form the Tummel hydroelectric scheme.

The ward's only other population centres of note are Blair Atholl, up the road towards Inverness, and Aberfeldy in Strathtay. There are Roman remains near Aberfeldy, and there is a persistent local legend that Pontius Pilate was born in the nearby village of Fortingall. That's as may be, but Fortingall certainly has one visible reminder of the Roman and indeed pre-Roman era, a yew tree thought to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. To the west of the ward, Strath Tummel leads up to the isolated station of Rannoch Moor on the West Highland railway line; while to the east is a large chunk of the Cairngorms National Park including Glen Tilt - or "Star Wars alley" as it's known to RAF fighter pilots who use it for low-altitude training.

Within the ward is the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie, a victory for the nascent Jacobite cause during the Glorious Revolution. Recent electoral contests in the modern Highland ward had also been victories for Scottish nationalism. The Scotttish National Party carried all three predecessor wards (Breadalbane, Pitlochry, and Rannoch and Atholl) in 2003, and when PR was introduced in 2007 very easily won two seats to the Conservatives' one (Ian Campbell). One of the SNP councillors elected in 2007 died later that year, and the other emigrated to Australia in 2011; both the resulting by-elections were easy SNP holds.

But that Nationalist majority all changed in 2017. The Conservative councillor Ian Campbell was re-elected at the top of the poll with 45% of the vote, and the SNP fell to second place on 37%. That cost the nationalists their second seat, which went to independent candidate Xander McDade; he started in fourth place with 11%, but Conservative and Lib Dem transfers ensured his election. Campbell became leader of the council, and the following month the Conservatives fell just 21 votes short of defeating SNP MP Pete Wishart in the Perth and North Perthshire constituency.

Defending for the Conservatives is John Duff, who has retired to his native Aberfeldy after a 30-year career as a police officer in Glasgow, where he reached the rank of superintendent. The SNP have selected former Perth and Kinross councillor John Kellas, who narrowly lost his seat in the 2017 election in Strathtay ward. There are two independent candidates: Denise Baykal is a solicitor and former UKIP figure, while Avril Taylor is secretary of the Aberfeldy Small Business Association and is campaigning to stop RBS closing the village's last bank. Also standing are Mary McDougall for the Scottish Green Party, Chris Rennie for the Lib Dems (who will be hoping to improve on the 1% he got here as an independent in the 2011 by-election) and Jayne Ramage for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Perth and North Perthshire
Scottish Parliament constituency: Perthshire North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Pitlochry and Aberfeldy
Postcode districts: FK21, PH9, PH15, PH16, PH17, PH18

Denise Baykal (Ind)
John Duff (C)
John Kellas (SNP)
Mary McDougall (Grn)
Jayne Ramage (Lab)
Chris Rennie (LD)
Avril Taylor (Ind)

May 2017 first preferences C 1927 SNP 1549 Ind 449 Grn 168 LD 148
May 2012 first preferences SNP 1668 C 825 Ind 313 Ind 286 LD 215 Lab 141
September 2011 by-election SNP 1449 C 596 LD 321 Ind 269 Ind 27
February 2008 by-election SNP 1891 C 940 LD 229 Lab 97
May 2007 first preferences SNP 2639 C 1158 LD 609 Ind 115


There is one more vacancy to note this week. Tony Boyce had recently resigned as Conservative councillor for Moreton and Fyfield, a village-based ward in the Epping Forest district of Essex. A by-election had been called for 3rd May; but when nominations closed the Tories' Ian Hadley was the only candidate, and he has therefore been declared elected without a contest. This column sends its congratulations to Councillor Hadley.

There will be no Andrew's Previews next week as there are no by-elections next week. However, it is intended that there will be a double issue in advance of the 3rd May elections, so stay tuned.