Previews: 23 Aug 2018

Six by-elections on 23rd August 2018:


Rushcliffe council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Stuart Matthews.

Three wise men of Gotham
They went to sea in a bowl
And if the bowl had been stronger
My song would have been longer

What better way to open this week than with a pair of memes? The first one is probably what most people associate with the name "Gotham", but the second is more important here. There is a meme common to many places in the UK and around the world that the people of the town next door to yours are yokels, idiots, just wrong in some way or another, while of course none of those considerations apply to your town; it's no coincidence that many of the best-known footballing rivalries involve neighbouring teams. However, the legends told about the Nottinghamshire village of Gotham take the imbecile meme to another level entirely.

The story as often told is set in the reign of King John, who was not a good man and had his little ways. Or, more accurately, big ways; for there was a rule that any road the king travelled on had to be improved and maintained as a public highway. Now, the king was planning to progress through Gotham on the way to Nottingham, but the people of Gotham didn't want a new road through their village - it's a local village for local people, what's all this shouting, we'll have no trouble here - and they came up with an ingenious solution for getting out of their responsibilities. According to a nineteenth-century retelling, when King John's advance messengers turned up in Gotham, they

found some of the inhabitants engaged in endeavouring to drown an eel in a pool of water; some were employed in dragging carts upon a large barn, to shade the wood from the sun; others were tumbling their cheeses down a hill, that they might find their way to Nottingham for sale; and some were employed in hedging in a cuckoo which had perched upon an old bush...

This was all a bit too hickish even for the itinerant Plantagenet royal court to stomach; and when this intelligence was fed back to the king, surprisingly enough John and his entourage decided to steer clear of the village. It was a victory for the Tubbses and Edwards of Gotham, as the new road was never built - and that remains the case to this day, as the main road into Nottingham from the south studiously avoids the place.

This story of the ironically-named "Wise Men of Gotham" has been doing the rounds since at least the fifteenth century. It was familiar to the nineteenth-century American writer Washington Irving, who in 1807 was writing a magazine satirising the culture and politics of New York City; in the 11th November 1807 edition of Salmagundi Irving rechristened the Big Apple as Gotham. The appelation stuck, and a century later the comic book writer Milton "Bill" Finger, while fingering through the New York phone book looking for inspiration for a new comic strip, came across a business called "Gotham Jewellers". Inspiration struck, and a fictional city - going strong on the silver screen to this day - was born. This came at a price: somewhere along the way from fiction to fiction the village's real-life pronunciation, "Goat-ham", got lost.

For a place as anti-transport development as Gotham has been over the centuries, it's strange that Gotham ward has been the scene for some major transport developments in recent years. In 2015 Nottingham's tram system was extended into the suburb of Clifton, and beyond it; Clifton South tram stop, a large park-and-ride site which is the terminus of the tram line, lies just outside the Nottingham city limits in the Gotham ward. At the other end of the ward, near the village of Ratcliffe on Soar, is another park and ride site: East Midlands Parkway railway station, on the main line from London to Derby and Nottingham, which opened in January 2009. In contrast to the tram East Midlands Parkway has been a bit of a white elephant, failing to reach the projected passenger numbers; its location doesn't help, being simultaneously in the middle of nowhere and in the shadow of the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, which in the year the railway station opened was described as one of the largest single sources of carbon dioxide emissions in Europe.

For nearly forty-eight years Gotham has been represented in Parliament by Ken Clarke, the Father of the House of Commons. A look at the 2015 election result might suggest that Gotham resembles the title of Clarke's memoirs - kind of blue - but that hasn't always been so. From 1983 to 2015 Gotham ward was represented on Rushcliffe council by Trevor Vennett-Smith, an auctioneer specialising in postcards, ephemera and sporting memorabilia. Vennett-Smith was elected for the Lib Dems or their predecessors throughout with the exception of his last re-election in 2011, at which he was an independent opposed only by Labour. When Vennett-Smith brought the gavel down on his auction career in 2013 that merited a couple of paragraphs in the following year's edition of Wisden; his retirement from Rushcliffe council in 2015 was less remarked upon but did leave an open seat. That went to the new Conservative candidate Stuart Matthews rather easily: Matthews had 53% of the vote, to 24% for Labour and 23% for UKIP. The ward is also part of a safe Tory division of Nottinghamshire county council (Leake and Ruddington).

On the face of that recent form your columnist hadn't expected the Gotham by-election to be politically very interesting; but then the candidate list came out and delivered a twist worthy of any DC Comics storyline. If you're on the Conservative side then no doubt you'll be casting outgoing councillor Stuart Matthews as Two-Face; for Matthews is standing for re-election as an independent candidate. He is from Ratcliffe on Soar, and was elected to Rushcliffe council in 2015 after selling his former business. The official Conservative candidate is Rex Walker, of Gotham. Also from Gotham is the new Labour candidate Lewis McAulay. UKIP haven't returned but there are two candidates to complete the ballot paper, Jason Billin for the Liberal Democrats and Neil Pinder of the Green Party.

The Riddler himself would have struggled to come up with a more intriguing candidate list. It's very hard to pick a winner out of this lot: but if you fancy staking a pennyworth or a little more on the outcome, head over to the betting exchange Smarkets... (link here)

Parliamentary constituency: Rushcliffe
Nottinghamshire county council division: Leake and Ruddington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode districts: DE74, LE12, NG11

Jason Billin (LD)
Stuart Matthews (Ind)
Lewis McAulay (Lab)
Neil Pinder (Grn)
Rex Walker (C)

May 2015 result C 836 Lab 378 UKIP 364

Halewood South

Knowsley council, Merseyside; caused by the death of Labour councillor Tina Harris. A former Mayor of Halewood, she had served since 2010.

Our by-elections this week fall neatly into three pairs, and we now come to our northern pair of by-elections to consider two wards either side of the Mersey estuary. We start on the north side in the town of Halewood, which is essentially a southern extension of Liverpool that hasn't been incorporated into the city. The road and railway lines from Runcorn and Widnes enter the Liverpool built-up area here.

Halewood South's housing stock almost all dates from the early 1960s, and there's a reason for that. Also built here in the early 1960s was the Halewood motor plant, opened in October 1963 by the Ford Motor Company; Halewood has been turning out cars and car parts ever since, and for 33 years until 2000 it was the main European production centre for the Ford Escort. In the 21st century Halewood became a production centre for Jaguar Land Rover; the Jaguar X-Type was made here in the 2000s, while a government grant in March 2010 secured production of the Range Rover Evoque at Halewood. It was a sound investment; the Evoque had good reviews and even better sales figures, prompting JLR to introduce 24-hour running at the plant to meet demand. Of course, it's not just Jaguar Land Rover who provide jobs here: Everton FC's training ground is in the ward, while Halewood railway station on the Liverpool-Warrington-Manchester line provides a fast link from the local houses to Liverpool city centre.

Halewood South was closely fought between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the 2000s, but since the Coalition was formed the Merseyside area has swung a mile towards Labour with particularly sharp falls in the Lib Dem vote. Labour gained all three seats in Halewood South between 2010 and 2012; in the 2012 election the defending Lib Dems fell to third place behind the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and they hadn't been since here since. However, Labour have not had it all their own way in Halewood since 2012, and the problem for them started with the 2016 election when a boundary review cut the size of Knowsley council from 63 councillors to 45. Since Labour held all 63 seats at the time, that meant they needed eighteen of their councillors to retire or be deselected; and one of those deselected was Halewood South councillor Allan Harvey. He didn't take it well. Harvey stood for re-election as an independent, finished as runner-up, and in this May's ordinary election was narrowly returned to Knowsley council as an independent candidate: he defeated the official Labour candidate by 47% to 46%, a majority of 41 votes.

That defeated Labour candidate Gary See now has the chance to make a quick comeback; he was a councillor for this ward from 2012 until his defeat three months ago, at which point he was in the Knowsley council cabinet. See's toughest opposition may well come from another independent candidate: Halewood town councillor Bob Swann was a long-serving Labour councillor for the former Halewood West ward, who got deselected when his ward was abolished in 2016. Also standing are Victoria Smart for the Conservatives and Jenny McNeilis for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Garston and Halewood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode districts: L24, L25, L26, WA8

Jenny McNeilis (LD)
Gary See (Lab)
Victoria Smart (C)
Bob Swann (Ind)

May 2018 result Ind 1231 Lab 1190 C 180
May 2016 result Lab 1339/1333/1191 Ind 558 TUSC 442/330/324 C 215


Wirral council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Warren Ward. First elected in 2016 at the age of 18 as the youngest-ever Wirral councillor, Ward is resigning to concentrate on his role at Wirral Chamber of Commerce and to attempt to become a special constable.

From one iconic factory to another, as we cross the Mersey into the land of plastic. Or soap. In 1887 business was booming for Lever Brothers, one of the UK's major soap manufacturers, and their Warrington plant was struggling to cope with the demand. William Lever (as he was then) alighted on a site for a new factory, on the Wirral peninsula between the Liverpool-Chester railway line and the Mersey estuary, and built a factory and model village to house his employees. The village became known as Port Sunlight, after Lever Brothers' most popular product, and is architecturally astonishing; every house was built by a different architect, no two houses are the same, and virtually every one is now listed. A big change from the identikit terracing which was going up all over the North West at the time. One of those listed buildings is Hulme Hall, originally built as a women's dining hall, where Ringo Starr first performed as part of the Beatles in August 1962. Port Sunlight was very much a company village until comparatively recently: Lever Brothers, and their successors Unilever, continued to own all the houses in the village into the 1980s.

Ideas like model villages do not come in isolation, and Port Sunlight wasn't even the first model village in Bromborough ward. That was Bromborough Pool, developed closer to the Mersey in the mid-1850s for workers at the Price's candle factory which by 1900 was the world's largest manufacturer of candles. No longer; although the Price's name still exists production moved to Italy some years ago. It's no coincidence that James Wilson of Price's Candles and William Lever of Lever Brothers were both evangelical Christians, concerned for the welfare of their workforce; but that religious fervour hasn't been passed on to Bromborough ward's modern population. Bromborough turned in a 70% Christian score at the 2011 census, which is in the top fifth of wards in England and Wales but comparatively low for a ward in north-west England, where lapsed Christians are generally more likely to list their old religion on the census than people elsewhere.

Bromborough proper remains an industrial area, although one particularly nasty place - the Port Sunlight landfill site on the estuary coast - has recently been landscaped into a rather nice park. The main railway line (with four stations) and the old road from Liverpool to Chester pass through the ward, giving easy links to the big city over (or more accurately under) the water. Indeed New Ferry, a rather deprived area at the northern end of the ward, had a ferry service to Liverpool Pier Head until the 1920s.

Bromborough ward is in the Wirral South parliamentary constituency, which has been Labour-held since a by-election in early 1997 but where Labour have often struggled in local elections. At one point in the 2000s there were no Labour councillors in the seat at all. During this time Bromborough was a Lib Dem area, but as elsewhere in Merseyside their vote melted away with the advent of Coalition: Labour gained two of Bromborough's Lib Dem seats in 2010 and 2011 and the other through the defection of Lib Dem councillor Steve Niblock. Niblock was deselected by Labour in 2016 and stood for re-election as an independent, coming a rather distant second to Warren Ward; he didn't stand in the May 2018 election at which Labour beat the Conservatives 61-22.

Defending for Labour is Jo Bird, a business consultant in the co-operative movement. The Conservatives have selected Des Drury, a former New Ferry shopkeeper who fought the neighbouring Bebington ward in May. Also standing are Vicky Downie for the Liberal Democrats, Susan Braddock for the Green Party and the aforementioned Steve Niblock as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: Wirral South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birkenhead
Postcode districts: CH62, CH63

Jo Bird (Lab)
Susan Braddock (Grn)
Vicky Downie (LD)
Des Drury (C)
Steve Niblock (Ind)

May 2018 result Lab 2120 C 768 LD 386 Grn 198
May 2016 result Lab 1805 Ind 985 C 442 LD 151 Grn 131 TUSC 60
May 2015 result Lab 4478 C 1396 UKIP 865 LD 367 Grn 330 TUSC 118
May 2014 result Lab 1709 UKIP 772 C 469 LD 247 Grn 225
May 2012 result Lab 2292 C 466 UKIP 298 LD 296 Grn 187
May 2011 result Lab 2609 LD 768 C 742 UKIP 227 Grn 157
May 2010 result Lab 3016 LD 1815 C 1428 BNP 328 Grn 170
May 2008 result LD 1496 Lab 817 C 746 BNP 253 Grn 132 UKIP 53
May 2007 result LD 1753 Lab 1002 C 684 Grn 192
May 2006 result LD 1827 Lab 924 C 487 Grn 190
June 2004 result LD 2633/2517/2335 Lab 1146/1049/1017 C 460/433/392 Grn 260 Wirral Ind Network 114

Newton Regis and Warton

North Warwickshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Patrick Davey who had served since 2015.

We return to the Midlands with the northernmost ward of Warwickshire, covering several villages to the east of Tamworth either side of the M42 motorway. Despite the order of the names, the largest centre of population is Warton, a village just to the north of Poleworth and part of Polesworth parish; Warton grew strongly in the 1960s with the construction of a housing estate which attracted some Birmingham overspill. Other villages in the ward, such as Austrey (which is recorded in the Domesday Book) are more rural in character.

This ward was created in 2003 by merging the former wards of Warton and Newton Regis, which both elected one North Warwickshire councillor even though population movements meant that Warton had twice the electorate of Newton Regis by 1998. The combined ward split its two seats between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in 2003 in a close three-way result, but the Tories knocked the Lib Dem out in 2007 and have since made the ward safe. In 2015 the Conservatives won here with 53%, to 26% for Labour and 21% for UKIP. Things are more pluralistic at county council level where most of the ward is in the Polesworth division, which voted Labour last year; Warton however is in the Baddesley and Dordon division which is safely Conservative.

This by-election is a straight fight between two local candidates. Defending from the blue corner is Marian Humphreys of Austrey, who is the wife of the ward's other councillor David Humphreys. Challenging from the red corner is Andrew Downes, from Newton Regis.

Parliamentary constituency: North Warwickshire
Warwickshire county council division: Polesworth (Austrey, Newton Regis, Seckington and Shuttington parishes), Baddesley and Dordon (part of Polesworth parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham
Postcode districts: B78, B79, CV9

Andrew Downes (Lab)
Marian Humphreys (C)

May 2015 result C 1083/834 Lab 538/525 UKIP 427
May 2011 result C 838/798 Lab 457/383
May 2007 result C 620/610 LD 491/238 Lab 252/233
May 2003 result LD 454/291 C 382/363 Lab 377/297


East Hertfordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Michael Freeman, who has since died. He had served since 2015.

After two polls in the Midlands and two in the North, we come to our southern pair of by-elections this week. We are in the Home Counties in Watton-at-Stone, a village on the road and railway line halfway between Stevenage and Hertford; Watton has a railway station with hourly trains to Moorgate in central London, and so is favoured by commuters. The village was the childhood home of the actor Rupert Grint, and the boxing promoter Frank Warren is an elector here; famous former residents include the locomotive engineer Sir Nigel Gresley, who died here in 1941, and the mathematician Alan Turing who spent a summer here during his childhood.

Watton-at-Stone ward has unchanged boundaries since East Hertfordshire district was created in the 1970s reorganisation. The inaugural 1973 election here was between two independent candidates, but at every opportunity since then Watton-at-Stone has returned Conservatives, often with very large majorities. In 2015 the Conservatives polled a relatively low 66% here, with 15% for UKIP best of the rest.

Defending for the Conservatives is Andrew Huggins, a town councillor in Buntingford some distance to the north-east. With UKIP withdrawing he is opposed by Veronica Fraser of Labour and local resident Sophie Bell of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire county council divsiion: Hertford Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City
Postcode districts: SG12, SG14

Sophie Bell (LD)
Veronica Fraser (Lab)
Andrew Huggins (C)

May 2015 result C 931 UKIP 206 Lab 157 Grn 108
May 2013 by-election C 755 Lab 82
May 2011 result C 750 Lab 128
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 585 Lab 62
May 1999 result C 631 Lab 129
May 1995 result C 556 Lab 150
May 1991 result C 580 Lab 157
May 1987 result C 475 All 322 Lab 56
May 1983 result C 585 Lab 149
May 1979 result C 776 Lab 322
May 1976 result C 528 Lab 298
May 1973 result Ind 351 Ind 148


Cornwall council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Pearce. He had served on the modern Cornwall council since its creation in 2009, sitting for Bude South ward until 2013; before that he was a North Cornwall district councillor for Bude ward from 2007 to 2009. He has recently remarried following the death of his first wife, and intends to travel and enjoy life with his new spouse.

It's August, so it must be time for a trip to Cornwall and to the seaside. We were in Newquay a couple of weeks ago; this time Andrew's Previews travels to Cornwall's northernmost town, Bude. Like Newquay, this is another Victorian seaside resort with sandy beaches, good surfing and good weather - in the summer of 2013 Bude was the sunniest place in the UK with 783 hours of sunlight recorded. There is also a small port here which in times gone by exported grain to and imported coal from Wales; the port is the starting-point of the Bude Canal, a navigation which once ran all the way to Launceston.

Newquay has retained its rail link to the outside world, but Bude has the dubious distinction of being the English town most remote from the rail network. The nearest stations, Bodmin Parkway and Gunnislake, are over thirty miles away; while the local tourist website suggests a bus connection from Exeter as the most convenient railhead. Those pre-Beeching days when the Atlantic Coast Express ran here straight from London are long gone. Despite the access difficulties tourism is still the mainstay of Bude's economy, although the town's largest employer is now GCHQ which runs a listening station a few miles to the north.

At the time of the 2011 census this area was covered by three electoral divisions, Bude South, Bude North and Stratton, and the misnamed Flexbury and Poughill which in fact didn't cover Flexbury. (Flexbury was in Bude North and Stratton.) That rare error by the Local Government Boundary Commission was compounded by delays in getting the boundaries ready for the first unitary Cornwall council election, which led to a decision being taken to use the Commission's draft boundaries for the 2009 election rather than the finished article. The mistake was sorted out for the 2013 poll which introduced the final map of 122 Cornish divisions electing 123 councillors; Bude is the odd one out, returning two councillors to the county hall in Truro. Census analysis still has to use the draft boundaries: the 2011 census return had [Flexbury and] Poughill in the top 90 wards or divisions in England and Wales for small employers, reflecting the fact that as well as Poughill the division included a large and remote rural area.

In 2009 the Lib Dems won all three of the predecessor divisions, and they have held both seats in Bude since the present division was created in 2013. In 2017 the Lib Dem slate led the Conservatives here 53-38, which was a swing to the Conservatives compared with four years previously.

Defending for the Lib Dems is David Parsons, who was a Cornwall councillor from Bude from 2011 (when he won a by-election in Bude North and Stratton) to 2017 when he stood down. He owns a family hardware shop in the town and was formerly deputy headteacher at Launceston College. The candidate list reveals a split on the Conservative side: the official Conservative candidate is Alex Dart, from Launceston, a recent politics graduate from the University of Kent; but standing as an independent is the Mayor of Bude-Stratton, photographer Bob Willingham who was on the Conservative slate here last year and finished as runner-up. Completing the ballot paper is Ray Shemilt of Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: North Cornwall
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bude
Postcode district: EX23

Alex Dart (C)
David Parsons (LD)
Ray Shemilt (Lab)
Bob Willingham (Ind)

May 2017 result LD 1395/1272 C 1006/938 Lab 248
May 2013 result LD 1413/1281 C 460

Previews: 16 Aug 2018

Three by-elections on 16th August 2018, as it's time to go back to where it all began...


Bury council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mike Connolly who had served since 1994. He was Leader of the Council from 2011 to 2016 and Mayor of Bury in 2016-17.

What do the former Tory prime minister Robert Peel and present Tory MP Sir Alistair Burt, the barrister Cherie Blair and present Labour MP Sir David Crausby, the Elbow lead singer Guy Garvey, the sporting twins Gary and Phil Neville and Adam and Simon Yates, and the England World Cup star Kieran Trippier all have in common with your columnist? We were all born in Bury, that town nine miles north of Manchester which still likes to think it's part of Lancashire. Unfortunately the list of those born in Bury is going to get shorter and older as the years pass: the town's maternity unit at Fairfield General Hospital, on the eastern edge of town, closed down a few years ago.

Fairfield has been good to me over the years: as well as safely delivering me into the world all those years ago, the hospital once gave your columnist a few weeks temping. The hospital anchors Jericho, a group of houses clinging to the hillside on the old road to Rochdale. The new road to Rochdale is further south, reaching the borough boundary and the M66 motorway at Heap Bridge. Visitors to Bury - and they are legion, particularly on market day - will often leave the motorway at Heap Bridge and climb up Rochdale Road into the town centre.

Their climb will be rewarded. Bury is noted for its compact town centre with some of the best shopping in Greater Manchester. In contrast to some towns in the county (Bolton, I'm looking at you) it's rare to see a vacant unit here, while the "world famous" market is rightly praised and attracts day trippers from all over the North of England. And you don't have to be a local to sample the black pudding. For those who don't fancy shopping, check out the art gallery with its collection of Victoriana and modern sculpture; the regimental museum of the Lancashire Fusiliers; or the preserved East Lancashire Railway, whose headquarters are at Bolton Street station. If all this has made you a little thirsty or hungry, your columnist recommends the Clarence pub and the Jewel in the Crown Indian restaurant, both on Bolton Street.

Bury was one of the classic Lancashire milltowns, with its location between two rivers (the Irwell and the Roch) providing power for textile mills and water for dyeing and finishing. Sir Robert Peel's family gave much of the early impetus to Bury's industrialisation: the prime minister's father, also called Sir Robert Peel, developed a mill in the town and was a subscriber to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal, which gave Bury a link to the outside world by 1808. The railways, and further development, came here quickly. Unfortunately Bury's housing stock failed to keep pace with the resulting scale of population growth, and the early nineteenth-century terraces which surrounded the town centre were noted for severe overcrowding and slum conditions. The 1844 Health of Towns Commission report, which had been set up by Peel, noted that King Street, Bury had ten one-bedroom houses and a population of 69. Those houses and indeed King Street no longer exist - subsequent regeneration work has swept them away - but most of the housing in East ward, which stretches from the town centre to Jericho, is still Victorian terracing.

But it's not all Victoriana here: there has been a rash of new buildings developed in Bury in recent years. A few years ago a major new health centre and hotel opened opposite Bury's 1930s town hall; but the most important new feature in the town is the Rock Development, a district of shops, restaurants, leisure facilities and flats with all the major chains represented. Rather than competing with the town centre as happens in so many other places (Trafford Centre, I'm looking at you), the Rock is effectively a town centre extension and proud of it. The Rock may have originally opened in the pit of the last recession but it's doing rather nicely, and it's noticeable how several towns in England are looking to replicate its success: this column recently covered an unsuccessful attempt to do something similar in Lichfield.

Your columnist is a member of a military band based in Bury which has been supported by the town's mayors over the years. I well remember one job we did in the Rock Development on a cold afternoon during Mike Connolly's mayoral year, in which he conducted the band for one number while wearing his chain of office and the "why am I doing this" smile which all mayors very quickly develop. We were polite, of course.

Connolly had been appointed mayor after five years as leader of the council, a position which is never far from controversy. Longterm readers of Andrew's Previews may recall a by-election I covered to Bury council from Tottington ward in late 2015, which came after a Labour councillor, Simon Carter, admitted downloading sexual images of children. That court case and by-election was only the beginning of what has become a major scandal which led last year to the resignation of the council's chief executive and the director of children's services; two independent reports identified serious safeguarding failings in how the council had handled the initial allegations against Carter. Connolly, who was leader of the council at the relevant time had written a reference for Carter on council notepaper in advance of Carter's sentencing, was then suspended by the Labour Party pending an investigation into his conduct. Connolly had referred himself to the council's standards committee, but his hearing was yet to take place. His resignation from the council was believed to be for health reasons.

So we have a by-election in East ward. Of Bury's seventeen wards, East ward is the most deprived and has the largest Asian population - 23% at the 2011 census, overwhelmingly of Pakistani Muslim origin. It is also one of three Bury council wards which Labour have never lost since the current boundaries were drawn up in 2004, and the result in May was true to recent form with Labour leading the Tories 59-34.

Defending for Labour is Gavin McGill, a Unite member, former teacher and former civil servant which is the only candidate to live in the ward; in May he stood in Holyrood ward in Prestwich. The Conservatives, who normally nominate Asian candidates here (the one time in recent years they didn't, in 2014, was also their worst result in recent years) have reselected Sohail Raja, a businessman and taxi operator who stood here in May. Also standing are Nicole Haydock for the Greens, Andy Minty for the Liberal Democrats and Angela Zwierzanski for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: BL8, BL9

Nicole Haydock (Grn)
Gavin McGill (Lab)
Andy Minty (LD)
Sohail Raja (C)
Angela Zwierzanski (UKIP)

May 2018 result Lab 1673 C 960 Grn 185
May 2016 result Lab 1566 C 616 Grn 286
May 2015 result Lab 2748 UKIP 853 C 762 Grn 220
May 2014 result Lab 1494 UKIP 682 C 384 Grn 137
May 2012 result Lab 1430 UKIP 566 C 501
May 2011 result Lab 1589 C 983 UKIP 433 LD 132
May 2010 result Lab 2103 C 1294 LD 714 BNP 436
May 2008 result Lab 1148 C 1023 LD 384
May 2007 result Lab 1216 C 753 LD 296 Ind 180
May 2006 result Lab 1259 C 702 LD 421
June 2004 result Lab 1597/1582/1538 C 1115/1051/757 LD 1083 Ind 489/441


North Yorkshire county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Nicola Wilson, who had served since May last year.

We cross to the wrong side of the Pennines and to the Harrogate district, which covers a swathe of the Yorkshire Dales nearly as large in area as Greater London. This is a sparsely populated area, and most of the district's electors are concentrated in the the city of Ripon and the towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough.

Knaresborough is a town that repays a visit. It's a spa town overlooking a gorge created by the River Nidd, a few miles to the east of Harrogate. The town was fortified soon after the Norman conquest, and Knaresborough Castle was where the murderers of Thomas Becket hid out immediately after their grisly deed: Hugh de Morville, one of the four knights, held the castle at the time. Fat lot of good it did them: the four knights eventually and quietly lost all their land, and were despatched on penitential journeys to the Holy Land from which they did not return. More worthy sons and daughters of Knaresborough include Ursula Southell, a sixteenth-century seer better known as "Mother Shipton"; and John "Blind Jack" Metcalf, who didn't let his blindness stop him from being one of the greatest roadbuilders of the eighteenth century.

Modern Knaresborough is to some extent a dormitory town thanks to its good railway connections to Harrogate, York and Leeds. There's also some industry here: the St James Business Park, recently developed in a bend of the Nidd to the south-east of the town, has attracted many major retailers together with a warehouse for Taylors of Harrogate, the suppliers of the excellent Yorkshire Tea.

The Knaresborough county division covers the whole of the town and the small parish of Scriven to the north. It is part of the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency, which was Lib Dem-held up until 2010. The division's county results reflect that: this was a Lib Dem county division until 2017, but the Conservatives have made all the running here in recent years. They gained the division in 2017 by polling 39%, to 35% for the Lib Dems and 11% for Labour. Harrogate council held a full election on new ward boundaries in May this year: the four new Knaresborough wards split 3 to the Tories and 1 to the Lib Dems, and in vote terms the Conservatives led 46-38 across the division.

So, good omens for the defending Conservative candidate. Phil Ireland is the present Mayor of Knaresborough and has been a Harrogate district councillor since 2011: he represents Knaresborough Aspin and Calcutt ward on the district council, where he is the cabinet member for sustainable transport. The Lib Dem candidate is David Goode, who lost out in the 2017 county elections here by just 31 votes; he was rather further behind the Tories in May's district elections where he contested Knaresborough Castle ward. The Labour candidate is Sharon-Theresa Calvert, who has been a teacher for 27 years and is a local NASUWT officer; she completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Harrogate and Knaresborough
Harrogate council wards: Knaresborough Aspin and Calcutt, Knaresborough Castle, Knaresborough Eastfield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harrogate
Postcode districts: HG1, HG5

Sharon-Theresa Calvert (Lab)
David Goode (LD)
Phil Ireland (C)

May 2017 result C 1829/1676 LD 1656/1618 Lab 537/474 Grn 405/336 UKIP 322
May 2013 result LD 2084/1861 C 1219/1108 UKIP 947/764 Lab 399/376 Grn 330
June 2009 result LD 1985/1659 C 1765/1719 Ind 1240 Lab 355
May 2005 result LD 4147/3911 C 2398/2147 Lab 1193


Neath Port Talbot council, Glamorgan; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ralph Thomas who had served since 2012.

For our third and final by-election this week we are in the Valleys of South Wales, and this is one of the lesser-known ones. The Gwynfi division is the head of the Afan Valley, one of the shorter valleys in south Wales: Port Talbot, where the Afan empties into the sea, is just nine miles away. As with many Welsh valleys coalmining was the main industry here, and the Gwynfi - a tributary of the Afan, after which the division is named - remains to this day slightly alkaline thanks to pollution from the former local collieries. Those collieries supported the small villages of Blaengwynfi and Abergwynfi, which form the division's population. Part of the northern slopes of the valley are now covered by woodland as part of the Afan Forest Park, which is noted for its mountain biking and hillwalking trails; while there are ambitious plans to turn the southern slopes into a major artificial skiing centre. It remains to be seen whether this comes to pass.

The census return for Gwynfi division paints a picture of an area which is poor and not in good health. Gwynfi is number 3 of all the wards or divisions in England and Wales for long-term sickness or disability, in the top 30 for the ONS "routine" employment category (and in the top 400 for both of the other two working-class employment categories), and in the top 70 for adults with no qualifications. Agriculture and forestry appear to be among the main employment sectors now. More surprisingly, Gwynfi ended up in the top 40 for those of no religion (for cultural and historical reasons, the Valleys record particularly high scores for this statistic) and in the top 90 for those aged 16 or 17.

Gwynfi division was created in 1983, initially as a ward of the old Afan district council (which renamed itself as Port Talbot district council in 1986). There is something strange about the initial Gwynfi result listed by the Elections Centre for 1983, in which there were three candidates described as "Labour", "Labour" and "Labour/Ratepayer"; either this is an error in the Elections Centre data or something went entertainingly wrong in the local Labour party. At any event, Labour's David Evans was elected, and he represented the area under various guises (Labour in 1987 and 1991, Progressive Labour in 1995) until his defeat by Labour in 1999. However, the Labour party lost Gwynfi in 2004 to independent candidate Jane Jones, and didn't get the seat back until 2012. The 2017 election, a rematch between Jones and Labour's Roger Thomas, saw Thomas prevail by the reduced majority of 56-44.

This by-election has a much wider choice for the local electors. Defending for Labour is Nicola Irwin, a resident of Port Talbot. There are three independent candidates: former councillor Jane Jones, the only candidate to give an address in the division, is back to stand here for the fifth time, and she is joined on the ballot paper by David Joshua (of Cymmer) and Jac Paul (of Croeserw). Two party candidates complete the lineup: Katie Jones for Plaid Cymru and Orla Lowe for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberavon
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea
Postcode district: SA13

Nicola Irwin (Lab)
Jane Jones (Ind)
Katie Jones (PC)
David Joshua (Ind)
Orla Lowe (C)
Jac Paul (Ind)

May 2017 result Lab 273 Ind 214
May 2012 result Lab 502 Ind 153
May 2008 result Ind 390 Lab 288
June 2004 result Ind 424 Lab 313
May 1999 result Lab 446 Ind Lab 392
May 1995 result Progressive Lab 640 Lab 263
May 1991 Port Talbot council result Lab unopposed
May 1987 Port Talbot council result Lab 605 Ratepayers 268
May 1983 Afan council result Lab 521 Lab 319 Lab/Rate 141

Preview: 09 Aug 2018

Just one by-election on 9th August 2018:

Newquay Treviglas

Cornwall council; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Summers at the age of 62. A former teacher, Summers had served since winning a by-election in July 2016.

It's August, so it must be time for a trip to Cornwall. We are in the town of Newquay, home for this long weekend to the Boardmasters Festival. Boardmasters is sescribed as "five epic days of music, surf, and laid-back lifestyle all set to the stunning backdrop of the Cornish coastline". The musical lineup looks impressive enough, with acts including Catfish and the Bottlemen, the Chemical Brothers, George Ezra, Rag 'n' Bone Man, Lily Allen and Idris Elba among many more.

Unfortunately Boardmasters has sold out, but there are plenty of other things to do in Newquay if you don't have a ticket. The local newspaper recently described the place as the UK's "stag night capital", a claim which will raise a few eyebrows in Blackpool but is probably appropriate for the birthplace of the man who wrote Lord of the Flies. Newquay has been a tourist town for over a century thanks to its sandy beaches which look out onto the Atlantic Ocean, and as the name "Boardmasters" might suggest it is the capital of the UK's surfing industry. There is also some aerospace work providing jobs in Newquay out of season: the town is home to Cornwall's main airport, which is on a growth spurt at the moment. Last Saturday there were 23 scheduled departures from Newquay, including to international destinations such as Berlin and Faro. Who knows, you may be able to get even further from Newquay Airport in the near future: the Virgin group have their eye on it as a spaceport.

As with many seaside resorts it was the Victorians who made Newquay, and before the mid-nineteenth century the main settlement in the area was the village of St Columb Minor, whose fifteenth-century church indicates a much older history than the town it's now a suburb of. St Columb Minor is the major part of Newquay Treviglas division; the name Treviglas is also that of the local secondary school, which educated the singer-songwriter James Morrison.

Treviglas division was created in 2009 for the first election to the modern Cornwall council. Its first contest was won by Harry Heywood, an independent candidate who had previously represented the area on Restormel district council. Heywood retired in 2013 and his seat went to UKIP on a low vote share. The UKIP councillor, Mark Hicks, resigned in 2016 for personal reasons and UKIP didn't defend the by-election, which was rather convincingly gained by the Liberal Democrats' Paul Summers. Summers was re-elected very easily last year for what would have been a full term, defeating the Conservatives 68-32 in a straight fight.

For this second Newquay Treviglas by-election in three years, the defending Liberal Democrat candidate is someone who certainly appreciates the tourist industry that keeps the place afloat. Steven Daniell is setting up his own travel business while also working as a chef, and has a proven electoral track record: he won this ward back in February in a by-election to Newquay town council. The Conservatives have reselected Mark Formosa who stood here last year; Formosa is a former Newquay town councillor and Restormel borough councillor, and was also twice a failed Conservative parliamentary candidate: he fought the North Cornwall seat in 2005 and Taunton Deane in the 2010 general election. Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Brod Ross, a Falmouth resident and widower of the former Cornish Labour MP Candy Atherton.

Parliamentary constituency: St Austell and Newquay
ONS Travel to Work Area: St Austell and Newquay
Postcode district: TR7

Steven Daniell (LD)
Mark Formosa (C)
Brod Ross (Lab)

May 2017 result LD 753 C 351
July 2016 by-election LD 486 C 210 Lab 87 Ind 58
May 2013 result UKIP 266 C 237 LD 218 Lab 156

Previews: 02 Aug 2018

After the rush of July we are now well into the summer holiday season, so it's natural to begin and end this piece on the coast. There are just three by-elections on 2nd August 2018, all of which are Conservative defences:


Fylde council, Lancashire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Eaves, who has since died at the age of 71. Eaves was first elected for Ansdell ward in 2007 following a long career in senior management at Blackpool Transport; his business and managerial skills saw him quickly climb the ranks of the Fylde Conservative group, and he served as Leader of the Council from 2010 to 2014. He leaves behind his wife Linda, a son, a stepdaughter and two grandchildren.

We start this week by paying tribute to an early Victorian artist whose work has been rather forgotten. Richard Ansdell was born in Liverpool in 1815, the son of a freeman who worked at the Port of Liverpool; he showed early promise in art, and by the age of 20 was exhibiting at the Liverpool Academy. Ansdell's work, which concentrated on rural, military, animal and hunting scenes, became popular; he attracted wealthy patrons, and exhibited his pictures at the Royal Academy every year from 1840 until his death in 1885. Richard Ansdell may not be in the first rank of famous British artists, but that doesn't detract from the quality or indeed the price of his work - one of his paintings turned up on the Antiques Roadshow last year and was given a five-figure valuation. Ansdell lived down south but for most of his career maintained a house in the Lancashire coastal village of Lytham, which he depicted in the 1853 painting above, Lytham Sandhills.

Much has changed since his day, of course. In the early Edwardian era much of the sand-dunes were built on, creating a village between Lytham and St Annes which became known as Ansdell, after the artist. These were large, posh homes for the Edwardian elite of Lancashire, who could take advantage of Lytham's coastal climate and excellent facilities for links golf. Within the ward boundary are the clubhouse of Fairhaven golf club, and the 8th green, 9th hole and 10th tee of the Royal Lytham and St Annes course - one of the golf courses on the Open Championship rota. Next to the Open course is Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College, which with over 2,000 pupils is described as the largest school in Lancashire; while Fylde Rugby Club also play within the boundary.

Lytham last hosted the Open in that celebration year of 2012, with Ernie Els winning after Adam Scott blew a four-shot lead going into the final day. I was there for that final day, and it was a hot one - one of the best days of a summer which was not a patch on the long, hot and dry summer of 2018. The continual sunshine has scorched Lancashire - literally. At the end of last month Lytham was blanketed by smoke from the wildfire on Winter Hill, which on a good day can be seen on the horizon over twenty miles away. That fire is much reduced now but still smouldering at the time of writing. More seriously, in the first week of July two fires on the Lytham seafront severely damaged Lytham Green and the St Annes sand dunes; after that Fylde council had had enough and promptly banned barbecues on the seafront.

A good decision by Fylde council's Conservative administration, whose strong area in the district is Lytham St Annes town. Ansdell ward is one of the wards within the town, and despite the travails of the local train service (which has been badly affected by electrification and the chaos which is Northern Rail) is still a commuter area for the rich and high-powered of Lancashire. 48% of Ansdell ward's workforce are in some sort of professional occupation. That creates a safe ward for the Conservatives, who have held all three seats here since knocking out a Fylde Ratepayers councillor in 2007; in the 2015 election the Conservative slate had 51% against opposition only from a single independent (27%) and a single Labour candidate (23%). The Conservatives had more competition in last year's county elections which saw the Fylde Ratepayers come a strong second in Lytham division; however, the Ratepayers' strong area is Lytham proper and the division was still safe enough for the Tories.

Defending for the Tories is Chris Dixon, a former local journalist who is now a staffer for the local MP Mark Menzies. In a straight fight Dixon is challenged by Labour's Gareth Nash, a former governor of the Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College; he is active in the co-operative movement.

Parliamentary constituency: Fylde
Lancashire county council division: Lytham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackpool
Postcode district: FY8

Chris Dixon (C)
Gareth Nash (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1379/1337/1282 Ind 727 Lab 613
May 2011 result C 1033/1002/981 Fylde Ratepayers 386 Lab 319/267/219 LD 181
May 2007 result C 886/824/810 Fylde Ratepayers 555 Lab 335
May 2003 result Fylde Ratepayers 708 C 704/605/547 LD 407 Lab 253

Orton Longueville

Peterborough council, Cambridgeshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor June Bull, who had served since 2016, on health grounds. Mrs Bull came to local politics after a 39-year career in central government, where she had worked as a civil servant and been an EU trade delegate to ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Now we come to the main course of this week's three polls, and it's a crucial one. We're in the city of Peterborough, the point where the Midlands end and East Anglia begins (or the other way round, depending on your point of view). Peterborough is an old city, but it's also a New Town; and the rural village of Orton Longueville, located on the south side of the Nene a few miles to the south-west of the city centre, became the focus of one of the New Town developments during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Orton Longueville ward was drawn up in 1975 by the Boundary Commission with a very low electorate to cater for future population growth, which was fully realised: between 1976 and 1992 the electorate here grew from under 1,700 to almost 7,600, a rise of 349%.

In its early years Orton Longueville ward was Tory, but Labour have been competitive here since development completed in the mid-eighties resulting in a close-fought marginal, although in recent years the Tories have held the upper hand - since 2006 Labour have only won the ward once, at their recent high point of 2012. Occasionally other parties can come through the middle - the Lib Dems won seats here in 2001 and 2002, while UKIP won a seat in 2014 and held it in 2016. That was the year the current ward boundaries came into force, although changes from the previous ward were minor; and the Conservative strength in Orton Longueville is rather curious given that the old ward's census return in 2011 was very working-class, with some of the New Town districts having high deprivation levels.

Peterborough's election results since 2016 have been rather curious as well. In June 2017 Labour surged in the city proper, gaining the Peterborough parliamentary seat and a by-election in the city's East ward to wipe out the Tory majority on the city council. However, little has gone right for Peterborough Labour this year, partly due to a difficult electoral map which saw Labour defending most of the city's marginal wards in May's elections. Seats flew in all directions in Peterborough this May, but it was the Tories who had the momentum: they gained two wards from Labour, were within thirty votes of gaining two more, and also knocked out UKIP in Orton Longueville ward. This doesn't mean, however, that the Conservatives made Orton Longueville safe: shares of the vote were 38% for the Conservatives, 33% for Labour (who returned to second place) and 14% for UKIP. Losses to Labour in Park ward and to the Green Party in Orton Waterville restricted the Tory net gain to one, but that was all that was needed for the Conservatives to regain overall control of Peterborough council. However, as we saw last year such a small majority is vulnerable to by-election losses: if this poll is lost by the Conservatives that overall control will go with it.

Last week things went from bad to worse for Peterborough Labour when it was revealed that the city's Labour MP, Fiona Onasanya, had been charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice. The allegation is that she lied about who was behind the wheel of a speeding car. There must be something about Peterborough that attracts controversial MPs. Onasanya's predecessor Stewart Jackson, who served from 2005 to 2017, was a notably right-wing Conservative firmly on the I Can't Believe It's Not UKIP branch of the party, who since losing his seat had been working as an aide to then-Brexit secretary David Davis; his predecessor, Labour's Helen Clark, was originally caricatured as a Blair Babe before falling out with the party over the Iraq War; her predecessor as MP for Peterborough was Dr Brian Mawhinney (as he then was), one of the more accident-prone ministers of the Major administration. Boundary changes for the 1997 election transferred Orton Longueville and Dr Mawhinney out of the Peterborough constituency into a new safe Conservative parliamentary seat called North West Cambridgeshire, where it still lies; so if Onasanya's present legal troubles end up provoking a parliamentary by-election, Orton Longeuville will not be taking part in it.

This particular by-election is going to be a Conservative defence, and their candidate is hoping to make a quick return to Peterborough council. Gavin Elsey was the cabinet member for "waste and street scene" until May when he lost his seat to the Green Party in the neighbouring Orton Waterville ward. He is up against the new Labour candidate Helen Skibsted, a tutor. UKIP, who held a seat here until May, have selected Graham Whitehead, a business analyst, TSSA member and chairman of the party's Peterborough branch. Also standing are Daniel Gibbs for the Liberal Democrats and Alex Airey for the Green Party.

If you would like to bet on the result, Smarkets have a market up here.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Cambridgeshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough
Postcode district: PE2

Alex Airey (Grn)
Gavin Elsey (C)
Daniel Gibbs (LD)
Helen Skipsted (Lab)
Graham Whitehead (UKIP)

May 2018 result C 850 Lab 730 UKIP 322 LD 172 Grn 170
May 2016 result C 894/859/581 UKIP 846 Lab 658/581/497 Grn 421 LD 268


King's Lynn and West Norfolk council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Avril Wright, who had served since 2015, for personal reasons.

We started the week on the west coast, and we finish on the west coast - the west coast of Norfolk, this time. The village of Snettisham lies on the main road between King's Lynn and Hunstanton, about 9 miles north of Lynn; it's known for two ancient things, a 14th-century church which Pevsner described as "perhaps the most exciting Decorated church in Norfolk", and a hoard of gold jewellery and other precious metals dated to the Iron Age. The Snettisham Hoard, and a later find of Roman jewellery from AD 155 or later, can now be seen in the British Museum. Modern-day Snettisham is also old, although not quite that old: the ward makes the top 70 in England and Wales for the proportion of the workforce who are retired. To the west of Snettisham on the coast is a nature reserve run by the RSPB; to the south and east lie the four other parishes in this rural ward.

This is the third Snettisham by-election in fourteen years which suggests a high councillor attrition rate, but there is not much electoral volatility here. In the 2015 election the Conservative slate beat Labour 71-29 in a straight fight; the last time the Tories lost Snettisham was in 2003 when its seats were taken by an independent slate. At county level Snettisham ward is split between two Norfolk county divisions - Dersingham and Docking - which are both safely Conservative.

Defending this by-election for the Conservatives is Stuart Dark, a retired Metropolitan Police detective superintendent who was honoured by the police for commanding the UK's initial response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsumani. A Snettisham parish councillor, Dark was elected last year to Norfolk county council for Dersingham division. Labour appear to have given up here, but three other candidates have turned up to contest the by-election: they are Erika Coward of the Liberal Democrats (whose nomination papers, in a bizarre twist, have been signed by local resident, Conservative party member and Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green), Matthew Hannay of UKIP and Nigel Walker of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Dersingham (part: Ingoldisthorpe, Shernborne and Snettisham parishes); Docking (part: Fring and Sedgeford parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: King's Lynn
Postcode districts: PE31, PE36

Erika Coward (LD)
Stuart Dark (C)
Matthew Hannay (UKIP)
Nigel Walker (Grn)

May 2015 result C 1537/1534 Lab 636/474
May 2013 by-election C 593 UKIP 361 Lab 263
May 2011 result C 1113/969 Lab 494
May 2007 result C 1080/1005 Lab 358
Dec 2004 by-election C 437 LD 247 Lab 121 Ind 120 [C gain from Ind]
May 2003 result Ind 1217/887 C 605/549 Lab 296

Previews: 26 Jul 2018

There are seven by-elections on 26th July 2018, and we have something for everyone this week: a city, big towns, small towns, villages, industry, residential areas, farming. There are four Labour seats up for election, one each for the Tories and Lib Dems, and Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election: a free-for-all. There is strong theme of isolation linking many of our visits this week, and fans of the Channel 4 poverty porn series Skint may recognise a location or two. There are also a couple of betting opportunities, if you're that way inclined. Without further ado, read on as we travel to what the Post Office used to call South Humberside...


North East Lincolnshire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ray Sutton, who had served since 2011. He is moving away from the district.

Sacha Baron Cohen has a lot to answer for. It's almost twenty years now (God, that makes me feel old) since The 11 O'Clock Show first aired on Channel 4, bringing the character of Ali G to our screens. For the benefit of those who are too young, too old or too uncool to remember Ali G, his shtick was to conduct a series of interviews, like the one above, with public figures and celebrities with the intention of getting them to say or do something stupid. Despite the fact that his victims over the years have included several prominent Americans, including a rather younger pre-political version of Donald Trump, it would appear that the American political class has learned nothing from the Ali G experience. Baron Cohen has been up to his old tricks recently for his new show Who Is America, prompting several prominent politicians and Sarah Palin to try and get their excuses, fake news or outrage in early.

Outrage, fake or otherwise, is of course a reaction which Baron Cohen will be used to. The Kazakh government were distinctly unimpressed with the mauling their country got at the hands of Borat. Closer to home, the town of Grimsby got the treatment in 2016 with the release of a film of that name where Baron Cohen played a football hooligan. Grimsby got poor reviews and was a financial failure; rather like the film, then.

Now, writing negative things about Grimsby is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. But please don't do that, the town needs the money it can get from processing and selling the fish. This is still an industrial town with all sorts of intractable geographical and structural problems. Together with its twin town of Cleethorpes, Grimsby forms the largest urban area in Lincolnshire; but it's administratively cut off from Lincoln by the fact that it was part of the old Humberside county when that existed. For a location in England Grimsby is surprisingly remote: there is one good road in and out, the notoriously noisy A180 the west, but Hull is more than thirty miles away over the Humber Bridge, Doncaster fifty miles away. The landscape is featureless and the only thing bringing tourist money is the beach at Cleethorpes, which is not the holiday draw it once was. The main industry is fish and fish processing, which is a bit of a problem giving the decline in North Sea fish stocks, the vagaries of the Common Fisheries Policy and the loss of the Cod Wars with Iceland. Other industries are not doing well either: the Tioxide chemical plant, which dominated the seafront on the north-west corner of the town, ceased operation in 2009 and Associated British Ports, who now own the site, are apparently turning it into an enormous car park for vehicle imports and exports. Add all this together and you end up with a town in serious decline, with some of the UK's most deprived neighbourhoods and cheapest property.

The Tioxide chemical plant/car park forms the northern end of Grimsby's Freshney ward. The name comes from the River Freshney, which forms its southern boundary and which emptied into the Humber here until the eighteenth century, when the river was diverted into Grimsby harbour. The ward which the Freshney gives its name to is based on Great Coates, a former village at the western end of Grimsby which was incorporated into the town in 1968 and which has expanded greatly since then. This is a socially divided ward, with the Wybers Wood estate at the south-west end being a very desirable area. If there are any of Jacob Rees-Mogg's upper class living in Freshney ward, that area is probably where they are.

As an electoral unit Freshney ward has unchanged boundaries since 1981, when it was formed as a Humberside county council division. The division and later ward was safe Labour until 2003, since when it has been extremely volatile: in the last fifteen years Freshney has elected councillors from all three main parties and UKIP.

As stated, the fun started in 2003 when the Tories and Lib Dems formed an electoral pact to oust the Labour administration in North East Lincolnshire. It was devastatingly effective: across the district that year Labour had 29.9% of the vote, the Tories 29.8% and the Lib Dems 29.3%, but Labour won only seven out of 42 seats to 16 for the Conservatives and 13 for the Lib Dems. Isn't first-past-the-post wonderful? Three of those Conservatives were elected in Freshney ward, but Labour took two of the Tory seats back in 2004 and 2006.

In 2007 the anti-Labour pact broke down, the Lib Dems started to contest Freshney, and the ward immediately became a very tight three-way marginal. From nowhere in 2006 the Lib Dems gained the remaining Tory seat in 2007 and took a seat off Labour in 2008 for good measure.
The early 2010s were good for Labour, who picked up the Lib Dem seats in 2011 and 2012 - the winner in 2012 was the Lib Dem councillor elected in 2008, who had defected.

But then UKIP made their big breakthrough in Grimsby. The party topped the poll across North East Lincolnshire district in 2014, and won seven of the fifteen seats up for election. That led to speculation that the Kippers could gain the Great Grimsby parliamentary seat in the forthcoming general election; but it didn't work out like that. UKIP instead fell back and Labour held Freshney quite easily in both 2015 and 2016.

But there is one final twist in the tale here. In May's ordinary election the UKIP seat was up and it was duly lost - not to Labour but to the Conservatives, who came from third place to win a seat in Freshney for the first time since 2006. Shares of the vote were 45% for the Conservatives and 41% for Labour. It was one of seven seats the Tories gained in May's election across the district, so the momentum is clearly with them.

Just in case you thought it couldn't get any more interesting, this by-election could be crucial for control of North East Lincolnshire council. Going into the poll Labour and the Conservatives are tied on 18 seats each, with four Lib Dems and an independent holding the balance of power. (UKIP were wiped out in May's election.) Whoever out of Labour and the Tories wins this by-election will become the largest group on the council; and if the Conservatives gain the seat they may seek to oust North East Lincolnshire's minority Labour administration.

So, high stakes. Defending for Labour is Sheldon Mill, an NHS accountant who finished second in Park ward in May's election. The Tories' Steve Holland, a former ship's captain, will be hoping that the recent blue wave in Grimsby will carry him to victory. Also standing are Barry Fisher for UKIP (who returns from May's election), Loyd Emmerson for the Green Party and independent candidate Mick Kiff, who is the only candidate to live in the ward.

You can try and predict the winner with the betting exchange Smarkets: just click here (affiliate link).

Parliamentary constituency: Great Grimsby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Grimsby
Postcode districts: DN31, DN37

Loyd Emmerson (Grn)
Barry Fisher (UKIP)
Steve Holland (C)
Mick Kiff (Ind)
Sheldon Mill (Lab)

May 2018 result C 878 Lab 793 UKIP 180 Grn 83 TUSC 17
May 2016 result Lab 876 UKIP 434 C 386 Grn 68 TUSC 29
May 2015 result Lab 1791 UKIP 1182 C 1133 Grn 136 TUSC 37
May 2014 result UKIP 763 Lab 631 C 394 LD 85 Grn 73 TUSC 32
May 2012 result Lab 1043 C 332 UKIP 332 LD 112 Ind 87
May 2011 result Lab 1011 LD 709 C 469 UKIP 268
May 2010 result Lab 1542 LD 1277 C 1119 UKIP 369
May 2008 result LD 900 Lab 767 C 766
May 2007 result LD 752 C 675 Lab 673 Ind 61
May 2006 double vacancy Lab 969/809 C 936/842
June 2004 result Lab 1005 Ind 857 C 783
May 2003 result C 993/780/755 Lab 737/640/619 Ind 665
May 1999 result Lab 1035/897/821 LD 625/552 C 541
May 1995 result Lab 1476/1354/1267 LD 714/596 Ind 699 C 285
May 1993 Humberside county council result Lab 1155 C 718
May 1989 Humberside county council result Lab 1527 C 1264
May 1985 Humberside county council result Lab 1283 All 857 C 636
May 1981 Humberside county council result Lab 1675 C 955


West Lancashire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Michelle Aldridge, who was elected only in May and had served on the council for just six weeks.

For our Northern by-election this week we return to West Lancashire district for the second week in a row, following the Tory hold in Hesketh-with-Becconsall last week. This time we move from the villages to the towns: Knowsley ward is the western of the three wards covering the town of Ormskirk.

A market town since the 13th century (so, unlike Skelmersdale), Ormskirk has strong associations with that important family, the Earls of Derby. Knowsley ward itself ultimately takes its name from the Derbys' country seat and safari park outside Liverpool. Several of the Derbys are buried in Ormskirk parish church (the 7th Earl has his head and body in separate caskets, after he made the mistake of going to Bolton), which is also notable for being the only one in the UK to have both a tower and a spire at the same end. The uncrowned Kings of Lancashire did help to promote the town: the future Edward VII, who knew the Derbys, liked Ormskirk's gingerbread so much he sent orders to the local bakeries. Despite the town's reputation for gingerbread Ormskirk doesn't have a manufacturing sector to speak of (so, unlike Skelmersdale); instead its economy is based on services, students at Edge Hill University whose campus is here, and some commuting to the nearest large city, Liverpool.

This gives Knowsley ward somewhat of a commuter demographic (so, unlike Skelmersdale). It also means it comes under the sphere of influence of Liverpool. Now, Ormskirk as a parliamentary seat may have been represented over the years by such giants of the Labour movement as Harold Wilson and Robert Kilroy-Silk; but the town itself was traditionally Tory-inclined. However, Liverpool and its surrounding districts have swung a mile to the left since the Coalition was formed, and Ormskirk has not been immune from that. From being safe Conservative, Knowsley ward turned marginal in 2010 and has consistently voted Labour since 2012. By 2015 Labour had made it safe, and two months ago Aldridge was elected for her first term with a 51-34 lead over the Conservatives.

We have reached mid-July before getting to the first by-election caused by the resignation of a councillor newly-elected in May, which by recent standards is pretty good going. When UKIP were in their pomp there would normally be a vacancy or two within a week of the count finishing. Defending for Labour is Gareth Dowling, former president of Edge Hill students' union and a former West Lancashire councillor; he was elected for this ward in 2014 but didn't seek re-election in May. This is a good chance for Dowling to get back quickly. The Tories' Jeffrey Vernon returns from May's election, as does Kate Mitchell of the localist party Our West Lancashire; she completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: West Lancashire
Lancashire county council division: Ormskirk
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode district: L39

Gareth Dowling (Lab)
Kate Mitchell (Our West Lancs)
Jeffrey Vernon (C)

May 2018 result Lab 1014 C 673 Our West Lancs 306
May 2016 result Lab 1063 C 744 Our West Lancs 173 Grn 85
May 2015 result Lab 1512 C 1125 UKIP 316 Grn 188 Our West Lancs 186
May 2014 result Lab 913 C 885 Grn 224
May 2012 result Lab 981 C 711 Grn 161
May 2011 result C 964 Lab 820 Grn 210
May 2010 result C 1535 Lab 1331 Grn 294
May 2008 result C 1003 Lab 357 Grn 211
May 2007 result C 885 Lab 506 Grn 196
May 2006 result C 1062 Lab 409 Grn 225
June 2004 result C 1360 Lab 652 Grn 204
May 2003 result C 730 Lab 415 Grn 145
May 2002 result C 1059/1010/913 Lab 635/541


Merthyr Tydfil council, Glamorgan; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rhonda Braithwaite who had served since 2012.

Croeso i Gymru. Croeso i Ferthyr Tudful. Croeso i'r Gurnos. By God, Merthyr and the Gurnos get a bad press. The Daily Mail were in town in 2011 reporting that Merthyr had a life expectancy of 58.8 years, lower than Iraq or Haïti. It sounded too good to be true, and it was: the 58.8 years figure related to healthy life expectancy. Rather out of character for the Mail to print something that isn't true, but anyway.

Nonetheless the Gurnos (GEER-noss would be a good English-language phonetic rendering) has long had a reputation as one of the most notorious estates in Wales. Built in the 1950s by Merthyr Tydfil council, and expanded in the 1970s through the building of what is still called the New Estate, the Gurnos lies a mile or two to the north of Merthyr town centre just below the Heads of the Valleys road. It is not a healthy place. In the 2011 census Gurnos division made the top 15 wards in England and Wales for long-term sickness and disability (14% of the workforce). It was also in the top 20 for adults with no qualifications (a staggering 47%), in the top 80 for the ONS routine employment category (15% of the workforce) and in the top 100 for social renting (49% of households). Manufacturing was and remains the main local job source, but the retreat from Merthyr of Hoover (who once employed 5,000 people in the town), Birmingham Small Arms, Lines Brothers toys and other manufacturers, not to mention the mines and steelworks, has taken its toll. According to a Sun report last year a fifth of the Gurnos' population were on benefits. All three of its census districts are in the most deprived 10% in Wales. The largest employer in the Gurnos now is the Prince of Wales Hospital, a small NHS district hospital.

This sort of reputation is a magnet for journalists and TV companies who want to make a quick profit from the sort of poverty porn programmes we have seen in recent years. April 2015 saw the broadcast of the third series of Channel 4's Skint, filmed on the Gurnos shortly after the programme-makers had given Grimsby the same dubious treatment. (As if Grimsby hasn't suffered enough.) The 2017 Sun report made clear that locals were seriously unhappy with how the Gurnos was portrayed in Skint, and pointed to regeneration in the area and a feeling that things have changed for the better on the estate.

Hopefully so. But this is a psephological blog and we have to discuss elections sooner or later. The Gurnos elects four councillors to Merthyr Tydfil council, and since 1999 it has been closely fought at council level between Labour and independent candidates. At the last Welsh local elections in 2017 the Independents and Labour split the Gurnos' four seats equally, with the independents having the upper hand 55-45 in vote terms; the independents gained control of Merthyr council in 2017, so Labour have the luxury of running in opposition here for once. It has been 25 years since anybody other than Labour or an independent contested the division; the last party to try was Plaid Cymru, which stood here in the last Mid Glamorgan county council election in 1993.

Defending for Labour is Allyn Hooper, who is described in his election literature as FROM the Gurnos FOR the Gurnos; in his spare time he is an author writing fantasy, science fiction and horror stories. There are two independent candidates, but the stronger one is local resident Jeremy Davies who was interviewed in the 2017 Sun article; Davies moved to Bridgend a few years ago, didn't like it, and came back to the Gurnos where he is a volunteer at 3GS, the local regeneration and development trust. The other independent candidate is Dillan Singh, who gives an address down the valley in Aberfan. Somehow the Conservatives have managed to find ten people on the Gurnos who are prepared to nominate a Tory, although the party must now be wondering why they bothered; they have had to disown Laurel Ellis for Islamophobic stuff on her Facebook, but it was too late for her to withdraw and she will still complete the ballot paper as the Conservative candidate.

Again, you can try and predict the winner with the betting exchange Smarkets: just click here (affiliate link).

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

Jeremy Davies (Ind)
Laurel Ellis (C)
Allyn Hooper (Lab)
Dillan Singh (Ind)

May 2017 result Ind 659/486/403/368 Lab 541/479/423/421
May 2015 by-election Lab 706 Ind 698 Ind 340
May 2012 result Lab 591/586/496/492 Ind 500/419/417/408
May 2008 result Ind 610/603/481 Lab 489/481/443/383
June 2004 result Lab 567/530/491/457 People Before Politics 432/430/418/372 Ind 253
May 1999 result Ind 743/548 Lab 681/635/619/531
May 1995 result Lab 1020/993/914/888 Ind Residents 256/180
May 1993 Mid Glamorgan county council result Lab 724 PC 163 Ind Lab 37
May 1991 result Lab 946/870/837/804 PC 630
May 1989 Mid Glamorgan county council result Lab unopposed
May 1987 result 4 Lab unopposed
May 1986 result Lab 850 PC 374
May 1984 result Lab 1054/987 PC 705/688
May 1983 result Lab 875/854/850/831 PC 608/595/522/496

Birchington South

Thanet council, Kent; caused by the death of Alan Howes, a former taxi driver, at the age of 72. He had served since 2015, and was originally elected for UKIP but had been sitting as an independent.

From the Valleys we move to the coast for the first of our two by-elections in the South East of England. We start in Kent with Birchington-on-Sea, the westernmost of the resort towns on the north Thanet coast; this is the landward of Birchington's two wards. If the Gurnos' problem is low life expectancy, Birchington has the opposite issue: 34% of its population are aged 65 or over and 28% of the workforce are retired. One famous person associated with Birchington who never got to that age was the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who is buried here.

Rossetti's grave no doubt brings some admirers to Birchington; however, another draw to the town now is the collection of the Northumberland Fusilier, African hunter and conservationist Percy Powell-Cotton. His home, Quex House in Quex Park, has been turned into a museum dedicated to his and his daughters' natural history and ethnography collections; the Powell-Cotton Museum is described as one of the oldest dead zoos in the world and, with the Koninklijke Museum voor Midden-Afrika in Belgium still closed for renovation and modernisation, it has a claim to being one of the largest dead zoos in Europe at the moment. The Powell-Cotton Museum is definitely going on the list of places covered by Andrew's Previews which sound so intriguing that I'm going to have to visit at some point.

Brichington is on the Isle of Thanet, which already had local politics of Byzantine complexity before Nigel Farage and UKIP came on the scene. The 2011 Thanet election had returned a hung council; a minority Tory administration was deposed mid-term following defections and by-election losses, and Labour took over with a minority administration of their own. In the 2015 election UKIP rode the coat-tails of Nigel Farage to win a majority on the council from almost nothing: the Kippers had 33 seats to 18 for the Conservatives, just 4 Labour and one independent. Large UKIP council groups have not generally been noted for such boring concepts as cohesion and internal discipline, and so it was in Thanet: the Thanet Kippers have split down the middle, just 13 of the 33 UKIP councillors elected in 2015 are still in the party, and the Conservatives are now in minority control. Those 33 UKIP seats in 2015 included all three seats in Birchington South ward, which in 2011 had returned two Conservatives and an independent: 2015 shares of the vote were 34% for UKIP, 28% for the Conservatives, 19% for the independent slate and 13% for Labour. The ward is part of the Birchington and Rural division of Kent county council, which returned two Conservatives in the 2017 county elections; one of the Tory councillors died later that year and the resulting by-election, held in January, was a very easy Conservative hold.

UKIP are not defending this seat and there is no independent candidate either, so we have a free-for-all. Best placed to gain is the Conservatives' Linda Wright, a retired dental practice manager and former Thanet councillor for the neighbouring Thanet Villages ward, which she represented from 2011 to 2015. She presently sits on Birchington-on-Sea parish council. The Labour candidate is Helen Whitehead, a former school deputy head who, as a sufferer of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and spinal arthritis, is campaigning hard on health and disability issues. Completing an all-female ballot paper is RAF veteran Hannah Lloyd-Bowyer, standing for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: North Thanet
Kent county council division: Birchington and Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Margate and Ramsgate
Postcode district: CT7

Hannah Lloyd-Bowyer (LD)
Helen Whitehead (Lab)
Linda Wright (C)

May 2015 result UKIP 1348/1277/1273 C 1091/1056/923 Ind 767/581/302 Lab 520/518 LD 221/187
May 2011 result C 1171/1079/900 Ind 1023 Lab 499/433
May 2007 result C 1106/968/890 Ind 819 Lab 317/310/286
May 2003 result C 1133/996/924 Lab 452/409 Ind 448/370

Fawley, Blackfield and Langley

New Forest council, Hampshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bob Wappett who had served since 2007.

For our second South East by-election we have struck oil. This ward covers the south bank of Southampton Water at the point where it meets the Solent; a sparsely-populated area rather cut off from the rest of Hampshire by Southampton Water, over which there is no bridge or other crossing. That sense of isolation might have been appreciated by the inhabitants of the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, who were evacuated here in the wake of the volcanic eruption of 1960.

The Tristanians ended up in an RAF base at the village of Calshot, on a promontory which marks the southern end of Southampton Water. This is an obvious strategic military point, and Calshot was fortified in 1539 on the orders of Henry VIII; Calshot Castle, and the RAF flying boat base which developed next to it in the early twentieth century, remained in military use until 1961 when the Tristanians moved in. The castle is now open to the public. Calshot is part of the New Forest National Park, as is the Lepe Country Park on the Solent Coast.

Have I fooled you into thinking that is a country paradise? Well, that bit is only half of the ward. This is one of Hampshire's most industrial wards thanks to the presence of the Fawley Refinery. This has been going since 1921, when it was founded on a sparsely-populated site on the shore of Southampton Water. It was a good location, as the seawater was important for the refining process while also allowing crude oil tankers to supply the site directly; in addition, ocean liners and other ships sailing from Southampton could simply cross the water for refuelling. Now in the hands of ExxonMobil, Fawley is the largest oil refinery in the UK. processing up to 270,000 barrels of oil a day. It employs 2,300 people, and those jobs propel Fawley, Blackfield and Langley into the top 60 wards in England and Wales for apprenticeship qualifications and the "lower supervisory, technical" occupation group.

Despite all that industry Labour are not organised here. Fawley, Blackfield and Langley ward voted Lib Dem in 2003 but was gained by the Conservatives in 2007 and now looks safe Tory. In 2015 the Conservatives polled 43% here to 31% for UKIP and 14% for the Lib Dems; the ward is part of the South Waterside county division which is safely Conservative.

UKIP have not contested this by-election providing us with a straight fight. Defending in the blue corner is Merv Langdale, a Fawley parish councillor; challenging from the yellow corner is Craig Fletcher.

Parliamentary constituency: New Forest East
Hampshire county council division: South Waterside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southampton
Postcode district: SO45

Craig Fletcher (LD)
Merv Langdale (C)

May 2015 result C 1551/1402 UKIP 1118 LD 519/334 Lab 452
May 2011 result C 1417/1215 LD 671/591
May 2007 result C 1061/974 LD 777/698
May 2003 result LD 1011/921 C 680/584


Plymouth council, Devon; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Philippa Davey, who is taking up a new role as a special constable with Devon and Cornwall Police. She had served since 2011.

We travel to the South West, to the largest city in Devon and the most isolated city in England. Stoke Damerel is located in the west of Plymouth, roughly occupying the area between the city centre and Devonport dockyard; Devonport railway station lies at the western end of the ward, Plymouth intercity railway station just off the eastern corner. This area was mostly built up by 1900 and has an unusual tenure pattern, with large amounts of private renting.

Stoke ward, like Plymouth as a whole, is closely fought between Labour and the Conservatives. The Tories carried the ward from 2006 to 2010, but Labour are now in the ascendancy in Stoke as they are across Plymouth. The Labour party gained control of Plymouth city council in May's election, and in Stoke ward they beat the Conservatives in May by 53% to 33%.

So there are good reasons for Labour to be confident about this poll. Their defending candidate is Jemima Laing, a freelance writer, former solicitor and former BBC journalist who fought Moor View ward in May's elections. Laing has had the big guns out working on her campaign: her sister-in-law, Wirral councillor Gillian Wood, reportedly travelled here all the way from Birkenhead to help out. The Tory candidate is Kathy Watkin, another ex-solicitor who has recently retired; she fought the ward in May's ordinary election. The ballot paper is completed by Liberal Democrat candidate Connor Clarke, and by Iuliu Popescu, who fought Drake ward in May for the anti-Islamic For Britain Movement; Popescu is now standing for a new party, Active for Plymouth, which is fighting its first election campaign.

On a personal level, I cannot resist a shoutout to Plymouth councillor Jonny Morris, who as well as being the Labour election agent here is one of Andrew's Previews' most diehard fans. If your life is missing a bit of animal magic, Jonny Morris can rectify that: he runs the highly-recommended Twitter account "Pets for Labour" which proves yet again that the internet is made of cats. As can be seen, Morris' own "special adviser" Max has been hard at work on the campaign...

Parliamentary constituency: Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
ONS Travel to Work Area: Plymouth
Postcode districts: PL1, PL2, PL3, PL4

Connor Clarke (LD)
Jemima Laing (Lab)
Iuliu Popescu (Active for Plymouth)
Kathy Watkin (C)

May 2018 result Lab 1915 C 1219 Grn 186 LD 184 UKIP 143
May 2016 result Lab 1645 C 964 UKIP 506 LD 209
May 2015 result Lab 2299 C 2150 UKIP 930 Grn 637 LD 298 TUSC 63
May 2014 result Lab 1333 C 814 UKIP 802 Grn 333 Ind 279 TUSC 55
May 2012 result Lab 1602 C 1205 UKIP 443 LD 197
May 2011 result Lab 1875 C 1492 UKIP 520
May 2010 result C 2030 Lab 1880 LD 1335 UKIP 542 Grn 209
May 2008 result C 1500 Lab 1014 LD 382 Grn 347
May 2007 result C 1459 Lab 1182 LD 595 UKIP 223 Grn 217
May 2006 result C 1358 Lab 1232 LD 552 Grn 338
June 2004 result Lab 1259 C 915 UKIP 653 LD 504 Grn 230
May 2003 result Lab 1128/1045/1007 C 935/926/877 LD 506/469/422 Grn 287 Plymouth Party 178/170

Hartland and Bradworthy

Torridge council, Devon; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Jane Leaper, who had served since winning a by-election in June 2017.

From the south-west corner of Devon we travel to the north-west corner. The very north-west corner of Devon is Hartland Point, a 325-foot cliff marking the point where the Bristol Channel ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. The point has been important to navigation since the days of the Romans: it appears on Ptolemy's world map under the name of "Hercules Promontory", and there is a lighthouse and air traffic control radar station atop the cliff.

Inland from the point lies the village of Hartland, which until Tudor times had an important harbour on the south side of the point. This has been a holy place since ancient times, when a cult grew up around the shrine of St Nectan of Hartland, who died here around AD 510; around 1050 Gytha, countess of Wessex (and mother of Harold Godwinson, who would later become the last Saxon king of England), founded a church at Stoke-by-Hartland dedicated to St Nectan. This was replaced in the fourteenth century by a grand church in the Gothic style which claims to have Devon's tallest church tower. Mary Norton, author of The Borrowers, is buried here. Hartland is also important to science: the British Geological Survey maintain a magnetic observatory at Hartland, which makes continuous measurements of the strength and direction of the Earth's magnetic field. Further to the south-east, around the northern end of Cornmwall, is Bradworthy which claims to have England's largest village square.

Remoteness has been a bit of theme in Andrew's Previews this week, but they do not get much more remote than this particular corner of England. That's reflected in the ward's census return, where Hartland and Bradworthy is in the top 25 wards in England and Wales for the "small employers, own account" occupational group and in the top 30 for self-employment. It's also reflected in the ward's election results, which tend to be personality-driven rather than party political. In party political terms, the ward elected two independent councillors in 2003 without a contest; the Lib Dems gained one seat in 2007 and the other in 2011, but then didn't contest the 2015 election which elected an independent (on 49% of the vote) and a UKIP candidate (on 26%); the Greens (who had the other 25%) narrowly missed out. The UKIP councillor died last year, and the resulting by-election - held on the snap general election day - was bizarrely a straight fight between the Lib Dems and the Green Party, the Lib Dem candidate Jane Leaper prevailing 57-43. Leaper has now resigned, prompting the second Hartland and Bradworthy by-election in as many years. The Conservatives hold the two local county council seats, Holsworthy Rural (which covers Bradworthy) and Bideford West and Hartland; the latter was a gain from UKIP in 2017.

Goodness knows what's going to happen here. Defending for the Lib Dems this time is Martin Hill, a parish councillor just to the east in Woolsery (or, if you prefer the alternative spelling, Woolfardisworthy). The other two candidates are both from Bradworthy: parish councillor John Sanders returns for the Green Party after contesting last year's by-election, while the Bradworthy parish council chairman Richard Boughton has entered the fray with the Conservative nomination.

Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
Devon county council division: Bideford West and Hartland (part: Hartland and Welcombe parishes), Holsworthy Rural (part: Bradworthy parish)
Postcode districts: EX22, EX23, EX39

Richard Boughton (C)
Martin Hill (LD)
John Sanders (Grn)

June 2017 by-election LD 973 Grn 720
May 2015 result Ind 1114 UKIP 598 Grn 567
May 2011 result LD 494/473 C 401/245 Ind 271 UKIP 188 Grn 177
May 2007 result LD 657 Ind 598/363 UKIP 245 Grn 195
May 2003 result 2 Ind unopposed

Previews: 19 Jul 2018

By-elections on 19th July 2018:


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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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

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

Bletchley East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary constituency: Milton Keynes South

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

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

St George

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oxfordshire county council division: Headington and Quarry

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary constituency: Bury South

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

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

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

Previews: 12 Jul 2018

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

Rural West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Parliamentary constituency: Darlington
Postcode district: DL3

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

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

Old Town

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary constituency: Barnsley Central
Postcode districts: S71, S75

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

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

Oakham South West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Hewitt (Ind)
Susan Langley (Ind)

Oxshott and Stoke d'Abernon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chailey and Wivelsfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verwood East

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Beck (C)
Sandra Turner (Lab)

May 2015 result 2 C unopposed

Yare and All Saints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pakefield; and
Southwold and Reydon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Southwold and Reydon

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

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

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

Previews: 05 Jul 2018

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

There are five polls on 5th July 2018:


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

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


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.


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)


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)


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

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


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


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...


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


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

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.


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


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.

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


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


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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