Preview: 14 Nov 2017

As your columnist returns from the European Quiz Championships in Zagreb garlanded with medals (I wish!) here's one that was made earlier: a rare Tuesday by-election in the ancient city of London...


City of London Corporation; caused by the resignation of Common Councilman Pooja Suri Tank.

Through crystal roofs the sunlight fell,
And pencilled beams the gloss renewed
On iron rafters balanced well
On iron struts; though dimly hued.
With smoke o'erlaid, with dust endued.
The walls and beams like beryl shone;
And dappled light the platforms strewed
With yellow foliage of the dawn
That withered by the porch of day's divan.

- John Davidson, "Liverpool Street Station"

For a rare Tuesday poll this week we are in the north-east corner of the ancient City of London. Here can be found the mainline railway terminus of Liverpool Street, the UK's third-busiest railway station; the Broadgate development on the site of the former Broad Street railway station; and the 164m-high Broadgate Tower, completed in 2009 and the fifth-tallest building in the old City. The map shown here is extremely up-to-date, showing as it does the tunnels for the Elizabath Line which is due to open in December 2018.

In many ways the Corporation is a hangover from the way local government was done in days of olden time, and the main effect of that hangover is business voting. Bishopsgate ward has very few local residents and its electorate is dominated by sole traders and electors nominated by businesses located within the ward. Those businesses run the gamut from the Swiss bank UBS, whose UK headquarters are in the Broadgate development, to Coventry University which has a small campus off Devonshire Square.

Bishopsgate ward was uncontested in the last City elections in March, so despite the fact that this by-election comes after the Lord Mayor's Show it's unlikely to be an anticlimax. The City's politics are non-partisan so all the candidates are independents. The establishment candidate would appear to Benjamin Murphy, an investment banker who is nominated by outgoing councilman Suri and other sitting councilmen for the ward. Former common councilman for the ward Patrick Streeter is trying to get back after standing down in May; he is a former Liberal Democrat figure who like Murphy, commutes into London from a village in the Harlow area. Completing the ballot paper is Timothy Becker, a barrister from Wimbledon.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly constituency: City and East
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: E1, EC2A, EC2M, EC2N, EC2P, EC3A

Timothy Becker (Ind)
Benjamin Murphy (Ind)
Patrick Streeter (Ind)

Previews: 09 Nov 2017

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

By the time you read these words your columnist will be in Zagreb, Croatia, where the European Quizzing Championships are taking place over the weekend. There's an interesting crossover between quizzers and psephologists: the entry list for the EQC includes at least two former UK local councillors, and several members of the Vote UK psephological web forum are active on the university quizbowl circuit and University Challenge. The Ipsos MORI pollster Roger Mortimore played for many years in the Quiz League of London and was in the last series of University Challenge before it was dropped by ITV in 1987. University Challenge was revived following its inclusion in a special BBC "Granadaland" night in 1992, and Granadaland is a theme which runs through the first two previews this week.

9th November 2017 is the quietest week for by-elections for some time, with only five polls this Thursday: three Conservative defences and two for Labour. If you can get your head around the concept of a Tory-Lib Dem-UKIP marginal, there is one up for election on the Solent coast. Following from poor Conservative performances last week, in which the party lost three seats to the Liberal Democrats, this week's other four by-elections are in constituencies where Labour outperformed and the Tories underperformed expectations in June. One each of those defences occurs in London in what will be this column's last visit to the London Boroughs for some time. But we start with a Labour defence in north Wales and a Conservative defence in Derbyshire in wards which have more in common that it might seem at first sight. Read on...

Limestone Peak

High Peak council, Derbyshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Daren Robins. He had served since 2015.

Welcome to the Peak District. We're just north of Buxton here in the village of Dove Holes, one of the highest villages in England at an altitude of over 1100 feet and, if you believe a 2001 poll for Radio 5 Live, the ugliest village in England. That's not an assessment your columnist agrees with - there are far worse places out there - but Dove Holes' setting on the busy A6 Buxton-Manchester road and the fact that the local industry is, as the ward name suggests, limestone quarrying doesn't help in the beauty stakes. Rather more beautiful is the Derbyshire Wye Valley, a dramatic gorge between Buxton and Millers Dale, while in between lie the quarrying village of Peak Dale, the older village of Wormhill and the hamlet of Tunstead which was the birthplace of the canal pioneer James Brindley. The limestone quarrying has left its mark on the local workforce: Limestone Peak is in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for the ONS "lower supervisory, technical" occupational group.

Up here on the limestone plateau we really are in the debatable lands: where does the North end and the Midlands begin? The official regional boundaries suggest that the East Midlands begins at the Cheshire-Derbyshire boundary, but the High Peak borough of Derbyshire is dominated by small towns like Glossop and New Mills that look towards Manchester rather than Derby as the nearest big city. Those towns and Buxton are politically counterbalanced by some lovely but rather sparsely-populated countryside which has seen some interesting political fights over the last two years, often swinging in different directions at the same time. In 2015 the Conservatives gained overall control of High Peak council with a majority of three at the same time as their MP Andrew Bingham was re-elected for a second term as MP for the High Peak constituency (which has the same boundaries). Included in that majority was the Limestone Peak ward where the Tories had 50% of the vote (to 27% for Labour and 23% for UKIP).

The Conservatives had an eye-catching performance across High Peak in May's Derbyshire county elections, gaining three seats from Labour and one from the Lib Dems to finish with six of the borough's eight county councillors to one each for Labour and the Lib Dems. But this was an occasion where large seat changes are deceptive: all four of those gains were by majorities of fewer than 100 votes, with the Conservative majority in Buxton North and East (which includes Peak Dale and Wormhill but not Dove Holes) being just 27 votes, and in vote terms Labour were only four percentage points behind the Conservatives across the borough last May with a large Lib Dem vote to squeeze. Once you take that into account, together with the fact that High Peak is culturally a Granadaland seat rather than a Midlands one, the Labour gain of High Peak in the general election five weeks later starts to make a bit more sense as a reflection of the strong Labour performance in north-west England.

No doubt Limestone Peak ward will now start swinging in a new direction just to confound us all further. Defending for the Conservatives is Peter Roberts, a local resident from Peak Dale. Labour have reselected their 2015 candidate Jim Lambert; a gain for him (or anyone else) would cut the Conservative majority on the borough council to one. UKIP have not returned to the fray, so completing the ballot paper are Peter Crook for the Green Party and Alistair Forbes for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: High Peak
Derbyshire county council division: Buxton North and East (Wormhill and Green Fairfield parishes), Buxton West (part of Buxton), Chapel and Hope Valley (part of Chapel en le Frith parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Buxton
Postcode districts: SK17, SK23

Peter Crook (Grn)
Alistair Forbes (LD)
Jim Lambert (Lab)
Peter Roberts (C)

May 2015 result C 575 Lab 306 UKIP 263

Buckley Bistre West

Flintshire council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Ron Hampson at the age of 79. A veteran of local government, Hampson was first elected in 1991 to the former Alyn and Deeside council and had served on the modern Flintshire council since its first election in 1995. He was Mayor of Buckley in 1997 and at the time of his death chaired Flintshire council's community and enterprise overview and scrutiny committee.

We move over the Welsh border to a location which has many similarities with Dove Holes. Like Dove Holes, Buckley is on the top of a hill. Like Dove Holes, Buckley is not within north-west England but shares many cultural affinities with Granadaland. Like Dove Holes, Buckley's main industry - in this case, a cement factory - is not exactly pleasing to the eye. Like Limestone Peak ward, Buckley Bistre West is in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for the ONS "lower supervisory, technical" occupational group. Like Dove Holes, Buckley is within a constituency - in this case, Alyn and Deeside - where Labour did well and the Conservatives underperformed expectations in June's general election. This column will be returning to Flintshire to discuss that subject further in due course, following the recent sad and untimely death of the local Welsh Assembly member, Carl Sargeant.

Buckley is rather obscure given that it is Flintshire's second largest town by population; perhaps its obscurity comes from being overshadowed in population terms by Mold, just a few miles to the west, while the main service centre for the area is Chester, over the border in England. Buckley Bistre West ward is the south-west quadrant of the town and the most deprived part of it.

Hampson's death brought to an end the double-act between him and the Liberal Democrats' Neville Phillips. They had been the two councillors for Buckley Bistre West since the establishment of the modern Flintshire council. Hampson was actually the junior member of the partnership: Phillips has represented this ward continuously on Flintshire council or the former Alyn and Deeside council since at least 1973, and may well have sat on predecessor councils before that. At their last re-election in May 65% of the electors gave a vote to Hampson as top of the Labour slate, with Phillips on 46% comfortably ahead of Hampson's running-mate.

A loss for Labour could be significant for control of the council, as Labour are running Flintshire as a minority administration with 33 out of 70 seats plus this vacancy. They have reselected Andy Williams to defend this by-election: he is a Buckley town councillor for this ward, was Mayor of Buckley in 2016-17 and was Hampson's running-mate in May's Flintshire election. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Gren James. Also standing are Louis Fox for the Conservatives and two Buckley town councillors standing as independent candidates: Edith Hutchinson and Martyn Teire.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Alyn and Deeside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chester
Postcode district: CH7

Louis Fox (C)
Edith Hutchinson (Ind)
Gren James (LD)
Martyn Teire (Ind)
Andy Williams (Lab)

May 2017 result Lab 750/445 LD 527 Ind 250
May 2012 result Lab 886 LD 638 Ind 337
May 2008 result LD 896 Lab 825 Ind 380
June 2004 result Lab 916 LD 839 Lab 329
May 1999 result 1 Lab/1 LD unopposed
May 1995 result Lab 1156/580 LD 932
May 1991 Alyn and Deeside result LD 993 Lab 870/815 Ind 676 C 333
May 1987 Alyn and Deeside result 2 Lab/1 SDP unopposed
May 1983 Alyn and Deeside result Alliance 1136/735 Lab 992/766
May 1979 Alyn and Deeside result Lib 1458 Lab 1412 C 840 Ind 591
May 1976 Alyn and Deeside result Lib 708 C 619 Lab 602/576/497
May 1973 Alyn and Deeside result Lab 821/769/721 Lib 726 C 466


Fareham council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Chris Wood who was originally elected as UKIP.

We move to the south and to Stubbington, a village a couple of miles inland from the Solent coast between Portsmouth and Southampton. Stubbington claims to be the location of Hampshire's first cricket match - played on 22nd May 1733 between a Married team and a Single team - but otherwise is rather nondescript, having mostly developed since the war as a satellite of Fareham and Gosport. With its proximity to Gosport, defence is a major employer in the ward; but Stubbington, like many places on the south coast, has a relatively old population with high retirement levels.

This ward was a close-fought marginal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats until the advent of Coalition: the Lib Dems won both seats in the ward in 2002, the Tories gained one of the seats in 2004 by a majority of eight votes, and the Lib Dems held their remaining seat in 2006 by 66 votes. The Tory and Lib Dem councillors then both developed personal votes which led to the ward seesawing between the two parties at every election until 2014, when the Lib Dems lost their seat - to UKIP, who had come second two years previously. UKIP followed up in 2016 by gaining the Conservative seat in a three-way marginal result: the Kippers' winning score was 35%, while the Lib Dems and Conservatives tied for the runner-up spot on 772 votes (30%) each. May's county elections suggest that UKIP will struggle to win this ward again: they had just 7% across the local Fareham Crofton division, which they had won four years previously.

Woods' defection means that the defending candidate is the Tories' Pal Hayre; she is the local county councillor, having gained the county seat from UKIP in May. UKIP want their seat back and have selected Andy Annear. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Jim Forrest, councillor for this ward from 2002 to 2004 and from 2006 to 2014. Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Matthew Randall. Whoever wins is likely to be straight back onto the campaign trail to seek re-election in May 2018.

Parliamentary constituency: Gosport
Hampshire county council division: Fareham Crofton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth
Postcode districts: PO13, PO14

Andy Annear (UKIP)
Jim Forrest (LD)
Pal Hayre (C)
Matthew Randall (Lab)

May 2016 result UKIP 899 LD 772 C 772 Lab 123
May 2014 result UKIP 1227 C 841 LD 646 Lab 114
May 2012 result C 940 UKIP 833 LD 650
May 2010 result LD 2159 C 1773 Lab 302
May 2008 result C 1485 LD 1111 Lab 91
May 2006 result LD 1240 C 1174 Lab 130
June 2004 result C 1190 LD 1182 Lab 162
May 2002 result LD 1276/1063 C 923/913 Lab 167/165

Gospel Oak

Camden council, North London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Theo Blackwell who is taking a politically-restricted post as Chief Digital Officer for London. A former Camden cabinet member for finance, Blackwell had represented this ward since 2010 and was previously councillor for Regent's Park ward from 2002 to 2010.

"Here from my eyrie, as the sun went down,
I heard the old North London puff and shunt,
Glad that I did not live in Gospel Oak."

- John Betjeman, "Summoned by Bells"

To finish the week we have two by-elections in London, a place we haven't seen much of this year: before this week there had only been nine local by-elections in the capital in 2017. We start north of the river in Gospel Oak, one of those places that could have become seriously fashionable but may now be being reappraised. When development began here in the mid-nineteenth century the landowners had plans for elegant streets, with Lismore Circus as their focal point, but the railways got there first, with first the North London Railway and then the Midland Railway building lines through the district. This scared the desired residents away and when the neighbourhood was built it was much more working-class than originally intended. That prejudice against Gospel Oak compared to neighbouring more middle-class or fashionable areas like Hampstead, Highgate and Camden Town was still in evidence in 1909, when Betjeman's family moved to nearby Highgate, and was to some extent reinforced after the Second World War when Camden council built a series of council estates in the area.

Some of the council estates are now being redeveloped by Camden council, and Gospel Oak has benefited from its proximity to fashionable Hampstead Heath. This together with improved transport links (the North London Line has undergone a renaissance over the last decade, and the Gospel Oak-Barking line is being electrified) have led to Gospel Oak going a little up the social scale in recent years. Today the ward is a rather socially mixed area, whiter and older than the average for London but still with 25% of its population born outside the EU - there are significant French, Bangladeshi and Filipino populations.

Politically the ward is normally Labour, but was lost to the Conservatives in 2006 before Labour regained the three seats at the 2010 election. At the most recent borough election in 2014 Labour won with 47%, to 18% for the Conservatives and 15% for the Greens. In the GLA elections in May 2016 Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes 58-19 and Labour topped the London Members ballot with 51%, to 15% for the Tories and 14% for the Greens: both of those figures were swings to Labour from 2012. This is the third Gospel Oak by-election in five years, the last one having been only in May: Labour won that by-election with 50%, the Lib Dems interestingly moving into second on 20% ahead of the Tories' 18%.

Defending for Labour is Jenny Mulholland, who works in IT and is the only candidate to live in the ward. The Lib Dem candidate is Jill Fraser who is presumably hoping to batter the opposition - she runs a local fish and chip shop - and may be familiar to Camden voters as a former councillor (winning Haverstock ward in a 2003 by-election and serving until 2014), Mayor of Camden in 2006-07 and parliamentary candidate for the local seat of Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. Returning from May's by-election is Marx de Morais who, to paraphrase Hilary Benn, is a Marx but not a Marxist: born in Communist East Germany, de Morais is a professional food designer (whatever that is) from the liberal/Remain wing of the Conservative Party, and his rather unique style of campaigning has included planting flowerbeds in the ward's council estates. Completing the ballot paper is Max Spencer; she was the UKIP candidate for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015 but now has the English Democrats nomination.

Parliamentary constituency: Holborn and St Pancras
GLA constituency: Barnet and Camden
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: NW3, NW5

Marx de Morais (C)
Jill Fraser (LD)
Jenny Mulholland (Lab)
Max Spencer (EDP)

May 2017 by-election Lab 1468 LD 587 C 523 Grn 273 UKIP 75
May 2014 result Lab 1687/1590/1534 C 634/551/456 Grn 549/527/429 UKIP 361 LD 248/245/158 TUSC 110
March 2013 by-election Lab 1272 C 419 Grn 134 LD 132 TUSC 109 BNP 57
May 2010 result Lab 2015/1965/1825 C 1421/1344/1305 LD 1107/1006/860 Grn 602/595/548
May 2006 result C 1378/1333/1297 Lab 1225/1220/1150 LD 519/461/373 Grn 428/411/337
May 2002 result Lab 880/846/791 C 550/506/459 LD 430/347/336 Grn 311/291/264 CPA 50

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1867 C 603 Grn 308 LD 142 Women's Equality 93 UKIP 89 Respect 42 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 27 Britain First 20 BNP 14 One Love 6 Zylinski 3
London Members: Lab 1653 C 493 Grn 468 Women's Equality 184 LD 182 UKIP 144 Respect 32 Britain First 30 Animal Welfare 27 BNP 19 CPA 15 House Party 11


Wandsworth council, South London; caused by the death of the Mayor of Wandsworth, Conservative councillor Jim Madden. Madden had served on Wandsworth council since 2002 and was in his second year as Mayor, having previously held the title in 2006-07. Before entering local politics Madden had been a Metropolitan Police officer, retiring in 1999 with the rank of Inspector having been in charge of policing in Putney and Roehampton for seven years, and had been national chairman of the Neighbourhood Watch network. In the 2015 New Year Honours Madden was appointed OBE for his services to policing and the community.

And thus we take leave of Putney, one of the pleasantest of the London suburbs, as well as the most accessible. The immense increase in the number of houses in late years testifies to its popularity; but there is still an almost unlimited extent of open ground which cannot be covered; and with wood and water, common and hill, there will always be an element of freshness and openness in Putney seldom to be obtained so near London.

- J C Geikie, The Fascinations of London, 1903

As we are now in the second week of November it's time to go through some administrative notices which have to be made at this time of year. The six-month rule has now kicked in in advance of next year's ordinary local elections, which will take place on Thursday 3rd May 2018. Up in 2018's local elections will be (with some modifications for boundary changes) one-third of the councillors in those English districts and metropolitan boroughs which elect by thirds, one half of the councillors in that handful of English districts which elect by halves, and every councillor in the 32 London Boroughs.

What the six-month rule means is that if any councillors who are due for re-election in May 2018 die, resign or otherwise leave office between now and then, there will not be a by-election to replace them and the seat will remain vacant until it is filled in May. So, as there are no further polls in the pipeline, this will be the last local by-election in Wandsworth before the 2018 London borough elections.

It's helpful that Wandsworth is holding a by-election so close to the end of the council term, buecause the Wandsworth 2018 election is already proving to be one of the most-discussed and most-anticipated elections of next year. Now it shows just how far the Conservatives sunk in the capital in June's general election that Wandsworth is even discussed as being in play: the party has controlled Wandsworth council continuously since 1978, in the 2006 election they won 51 seats out of a possible 60, and in the 2014 borough elections the Conservatives won 41 seats to 19 for the Labour opposition. Wandsworth has long been known as the Conservatives' "flagship" borough, because over the years the Tory administration has aggressively privatised and outsourced as many local services as it can. The payoff for this policy was that it allowed Wandsworth to set unbelievably low council tax rates, and that has proven to be a serious vote winner over the years. The Tory control from 1978 wasn't remotely affected by the two Blair landslide elections, in which Labour won all three of the borough's parliamentary seats (Battersea, Putney and Tooting). At Parliamentary level the Conservatives gained Putney in 2005 and Battersea in 2010, and rapid demographic change in recent years - with an influx of urban professionals - had been thought to have made the Battersea seat in particular safe. What happened?

Well, the first clue is in what I just wrote: urban professionals. To demonstrate this let's look at Thamesfield ward, which is the core of Putney: Putney High Street, Putney Bridge Road and Lower Richmond Road are the main thoroughfares in the ward, Putney railway station (on the Waterloo-Windsor line) serves the ward and East Putney underground station (on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line) is just outside the boundary. Despite a number of skyscrapers having gone up next to the Thames in recent years, this is an old, attractive suburb which still retains much of its pre-twentieth century housing stock. The ward runs along the south bank of the river either side of Putney Bridge; when Boat Race captains choose to start from the Surrey station (as they nearly always do) Thamesfield ward is where they start from.

Thamesfield ward stands out in a large number of 2011 census categories. It is number 2 in England and Wales for the proportion of the workforce with degrees, at nearly 69%. It is number 2 in England and Wales in the census "lower management, admin, professional" economic category and number 8 in England and Wales in the "higher management, admin, professional" economic category - almost two-thirds of the ward's workforce are in some sort of management or professional position. It is in the top 20 wards in England and Wales for people in the 30-44 age bracket. It is in the top 30 wards in England and Wales for full-time employment. It has a high concentration of people born in the EU-14 states (6%) or outside the EU (22%), with London's highest proportion of Australians and New Zealanders and some of its census districts having particularly high proportions of South Africans, south-east Asians and Thai speakers.

So, if you have a ward and a council which you would like to hold and whose electorate is dominated by young cosmopolitan professionals, perhaps some policies which might appeal to young cosmopolitan professionals might be in order. And that's where the Conservatives have been going wrong over the last eighteen months given that their flagship policy is Brexit: Wandsworth voted 3:1 Remain last year and little in the May administration's handling of Brexit thus far speaks to young urban professionals. The Conservatives reaped what had been sown in the 2017 general election, in which they lost Battersea and only narrowly survived a swing to Labour of over 10% in the Putney constituency.

Despite that it would still be a surprise if the Conservatives lost Thamesfield, although the swing in this by-election will be interesting. Like the Boat Race, Thamesfield ward is always won by a team in some shade of blue: at the last London borough elections in those long-ago days of 2014 the Conservative slate won with 49% to 18% for Labour and 16% for the Lib Dems. That followed on from a by-election in June 2011 which by all accounts Labour worked hard and performed well in, cutting the Tory majority to 46-31. In the GLA elections last year, Zac Goldsmith (whose constituency borders this ward) beat Sadiq Khan 52-29 in the ward's ballot boxes, while in the London Members ballot the Conservatives had 48% to 21% for Labour and 12% for the Greens; those were relatively good results for Labour who gained the local London Assembly constituency, Merton and Wandsworth.

Defending for the Conservatives is John Locker, who is seeking to return to Wandsworth council after losing his seat to Labour in Bedford ward in 2014. (One of the Labour councillors he lost to, Rosina Allin-Khan, has since gone on to greater things as MP for Tooting.) A senior manager working in the telecommunications industry, Locker had chaired the council's Strategic Planning and Transportation committee during the 2010-14 term. The Labour candidate is local resident Sally Warren, a disability campaigner. The Greens have also selected a long-term resident of the ward, Di McCann. Competing the ballot paper is Ryan Mercer of the Liberal Democrats, who fought the Putney parliamentary seat in June. Wandsworth council has a reputation for quick election counts, so an early declaration can be expected.

Parliamentary constituency: Putney
GLA constituency: Merton and Wandsworth
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SW15, SW18

John Locker (C)
Di McCann (Grn)
Ryan Mercer (LD)
Sally Warren (Lab)

May 2014 result C 2579/2466/2437 Lab 953/880/790 Grn 846 LD 554/479/399 UKIP 298
June 2011 by-election C 1497 Lab 1022 LD 545 Grn 202
May 2010 result C 4938/4685/4654 Lab 1559/1387/1192 LD 1479/1194/1043 Grn 849
May 2006 result C 2470/2446/2423 Lab 595/581/546 Grn 553 LD 498/447/391
May 2002 result C 1838/1834/1768 Lab 663/661/660 Ind 627/479 LD 372/318

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 2476 Lab 1374 Grn 390 LD 251 Women's Equality 141 UKIP 50 Respect 27 Britain First 21 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 18 Zylinski 9 BNP 7 One Love 3
London Member: C 2300 Lab 990 Grn 594 LD 373 Women's Equality 245 UKIP 122 Animal Welfare 43 Respect 38 Britain First 22 House Party 19 CPA 15 BNP 7

If you enjoyed this post, why not buy the book? Andrew's Previews 2016, containing many more pieces like this, is now available from Amazon.

Previews: 02 Nov 2017

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

As we move into the eleventh month of 2017 the frenetic pace of council by-elections does not let up, with six polls this week to start November. Following two weeks of by-elections in safe Conservative and safe Labour wards - polls for the purists, one might say - the new month marks a change of scene. Of the five Conservative defences this week two, in Devon and Southport, are clearly vulnerable to the Liberal Democrats, while the only Labour defence of the week is in the Copeland constituency where the Tories clearly have momentum following the parliamentary by-election earlier this year. Away from the littoral, we visit a town which has a good claim to be the spiritual home of Conservatism, but we start on the south coast by discussing a safe Tory seat in a seaside resort. Along the way we will visit a number of model villages, see the inspiration for the boulevards of Paris, get our rubbish collected by the best-dressed binmen in history, play a game of skittles, have a Brief Encounter on a Grand Day Out and indulge in the favourite sport of all politicians everywhere. Read on...

Aldwick West

Arun council, West Sussex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jacquie Maconachie. One of the longest serving Arun councillors, Maconachie was first elected in 1995 and was chairman of Arun council in 2001-02. She leaves behind her husband Dougal - also an Arun councillor - a daughter, a son, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

We start this week both alphabetically and geographically on the south coast. West Sussex' population can be divided fairly neatly into two halves, a landward half and a coastal half. The coastal half consists of a series of seaside towns running all the way from Brighton to Bognor Regis. Directly to the west of Bognor lies the parish of Aldwick which is entirely built-up and a part of Bognor in all but name.

Aldwick's development started in 1929, the year Bognor gained its "Regis" suffix from George V, with the building of the Aldwick Bay Estate: interesting period houses behind the seafront marketed to seriously wealthy Londoners who wanted a second home on the seaside. The estate was so exclusive that the dustbin men were required to wear ties. Rose Green - added to the ward in boundary changes in 2015 - also dates from the 1930s, while most of the housing in between is postwar.

The smaller towns on the Sussex coast have a reputation as retirement centres, and Aldwick West ward is no exception. On its 2011 boundaries it made the top 60 wards in England and Wales for population aged 65 or over, with over 30% of the population being retired. Pension day must be fun in the local post office.

As the profile might suggest this is a safe Conservative ward. In 2015 the Tory slate beat UKIP here 52-30, although Maconachie was a long way behind her running-mate Philip Hitchins. May's county elections saw the Conservatives win both of the county seats covering the ward, gaining Bognor Regis West and Aldwick division from the Liberal Democrats.

Defending for the Conservatives is Guy Purser, a consultant for a dry ice cleaning company and chairman of the Bognor Freemasons Hall. UKIP have not nominated a candidate, so Purser is opposed by Martin Smith for the Liberal Democrats, Carol Birch for the Green Party and Ian Manion for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Bognor Regis and Littlehampton
West Sussex county council division: Nyetimber (part); Bognor Regis West and Aldwick (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chichester and Bognor Regis
Postcode district: PO21

Carol Birch (Grn)
Ian Manion (Lab)
Guy Purser (C)
Martin Smith (LD)

May 2015 result C 1962/1397 UKIP 1122 LD 698/635

Beaconsfield (Buckinghamshire county council); and
Beaconsfield North (South Bucks council)

Both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Alan Walters at the age of 71. Known for his community work - for which he was appointed MBE in 2015 - Walters was first elected to South Bucks council in a December 2001 by-election, serving as the council's chairman from 2010 to 2013. He was also a Beaconsfield town councillor and served as Mayor of Beaconsfield in 2004. Walters had only served on Buckinghamshire county council for four months, having been first elected to County Hall in May.

Staying in the South East, we come to the Chiltern hills and the town of Beaconsfield. On the old road from London to Oxford, Beaconsfield has been a market town since mediaeval times; the old part of Beaconsfield, along the Oxford Road, had an economy based on coaching, while in Edwardian times a New Beaconsfield sprang up to the north next to Beaconsfield railway station, along the Chiltern rail line from London Marylebone to Birmingham. This is the archetypal rich commuter town, and Beaconsfield regularly comes top or near the top of lists of the UK's most expensive places to buy property: according to July 2014-June 2015 figures, the town's median house price is £790,000. One wonders whether this is proportionally reflected in Bekonscot, built in the 1920s as the world's first model village - as in scale model.

This being Buckinghamshire with its close proximity to Pinewood Studios and other film and TV areas, Beaconsfield is a popular location for filming. Films from Brief Encounter to Hot Fuzz have been shot here, and Midsomer Murders regularly uses the railway station as a substitute for Causton. The film and TV link is further cemented by the presence of one of the world's leading film schools, the National Film and Television School. Opened in 1971 on the site of a former film studio, the NTFS is still receiving royalties from the first Wallace and Gromit film A Grand Day Out, which was started here while Nick Park was a student as his graduation project.

In the 2011 census the former Beaconsfield North ward had a majority of the workforce educated to degree level and/or in a management or professional occupation. Boundary changes in 2015 reduced the size of the ward, removing the areas south of the railway line, but probably didn't much change its social composition given that the town's other two wards aren't that much further down the social scale.

The town has an association with Conservatism from the birth of Conservatism as an ideology. Edmund Burke died here in 1797, while twice Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli served for 29 years as an MP for Buckinghamshire before being translated to the House of Lords as the Earl of Beaconsfield. There is still a Beaconsfield Conservative link in the present House of Commons: Anne Main, the MP for St Albans, was brought up here. In that context it's no surprise that in the 1982 parliamentary by-election the Labour candidate for Beaconsfield polled less than one-eighth of the votes and, that being the rule in those days, lost his deposit. He was the man the Labour party loves to hate, Tony Blair.

The most recent local election results show no deviation from that pattern. In Beaconsfield North ward in 2015 the Conservatives polled 86% in a straight fight with UKIP, while in May's county elections Beaconsfield as a whole saw the Tories beat the Lib Dems 70-16.

In the county election the defending Tory candidate is Anita Cranmer, the present Deputy Mayor of Beaconsfield; she is a former schoolteacher and former South Bucks district councillor. UKIP have not returned to the campaign, but the Lib Dems have ensured a contested election by nominating Marlow resident Mark Skoyles. The district by-election is also a straight fight between the Tories and Lib Dems: the defending Conservative candidate, local resident Damian Saunders, is opposed by Liberal Democrat Paul Henry.


Parliamentary constituency: Beaconsfield
South Bucks council wards: Beaconsfield North, Beaconsfield West, Beaconsfield South (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: High Wycombe and Aylesbury
Postcode districts: HP7, HP9, HP10

Anita Cranmer (C)
Mark Skoyles (LD)

May 2017 result C 1828 LD 424 Lab 179 UKIP 175
May 2013 result C 1366 UKIP 590 LD 299

Beaconsfield North

Parliamentary constituency: Beaconsfield
Buckinghamshire county council division: Beaconsfield
ONS Travel to Work Area: High Wycombe and Aylesbury
Postcode districts: HP7, HP9

Paul Henry (LD)
Damian Saunders (C)

May 2015 result C 1285 UKIP 207

Braunton East

North Devon council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Roy Lucas. He had served since 2003.

After three safe Tory defences, it's time for the week's by-elections to start getting interesting as we consider two Conservative wards where the Liberal Democrats will be eyeing up gains. We start with a large village in northern Devon, a few miles north-west of Barnstaple on the main road to Ilfracombe. Braunton is a village of over 8,000 souls on the River Caen notable for one of the South West's premier surfing beaches; for England's largest sand-dune system, the Braunton Burrows; and for its proximity to the Royal Marines base at Chivenor. None of these lie within East ward, which covers the eastern half of Braunton and associated hamlets: the ward is chiefly notable for the village's mediaeval parish church, dedicated to St Brannock, together with the local secondary school Braunton Academy.

Braunton East ward was created in 1983 and has unchanged boundaries since then. In the 1980s and 1990s this was an Alliance and then a Liberal Democrat hotspot, but the Liberal Democrats lost their seats in 2003 to Lucas, then standing as an independent, and to the Conservatives. Lucas then joined the Conservatives and was re-elected in 2007 under his new colours. The Lib Dems gained a seat in the ward in 2011 but lost it back to the Conservatives in 2015 by just three votes; shares of the vote that year were 36% for the Conservatives, 34% for the Liberal Democrats and 21% for the Greens. The local county division (Braunton Rural) has been Tory-held since 2009 but swung towards the Lib Dems in May's county election, as did the North Devon constituency the following month.

Defending this highly marginal seat for the Conservatives is 23-year-old Felix Milton, who wants to tackle local problems with air pollution and flooding. The Lib Dem candidate is Derrick Spear, the chairman of Braunton parish council and a North Devon councillor for this ward from 1991 to 2003 and again from 2011 to 2015; he is contesting this ward for the eighth time. Also on Braunton parish council is the Green Party's candidate Brad Bunyard. Labour's Mark Cann, a regular parliamentary candidate for North Devon, completes the ballot paper. Some of the electors may be pleased to note that their polling place is a pub, the Ebrington Arms in Knowle whose Skittle Alley will host a polling station: we wait to see which of the candidates will topple their opponents like ninepins.

Parliamentary constituency: North Devon
Devon county council division: Braunton Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnstaple
Postcode districts: EX31, EX33

Brad Bunyard (Grn)
Mark Cann (Lab)
Felix Milton (C)
Derrick Spear (LD)

May 2015 result C 802/769 LD 766/764 Grn 467/348 Lab 158 TUSC 54
May 2011 result C 621/489 LD 517/495 Grn 276/191 Lab 173
May 2007 result C 653/531 LD 514/469 Grn 220
May 2003 result Ind 580 C 554/328 LD 444/420
May 1999 result LD 673/604 C 290 Lab 260/193
May 1995 result LD 984/892 C 261/219 Lab 218
May 1991 result LD 1060/1017 C 609 Ind 513
May 1987 result All 949/720 C 724/613
May 1983 result All 858 C 674 Ecology Party 365


Sefton council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Patricia Ball on health grounds. She had served since 2011.

Before we start this section, let me go all Lynne Truss on you for a moment. Punctuation is very important, and one of the most misused pieces of punctuation is the humble apostrophe. To take an example of its misuse and inconsistency, there are many wards and electoral units in the UK named after St John (or, more accurately, after a church of that name) but it's complete pot luck as to whether the actual name of the ward is St John, St John's or even St Johns - all of these exist somewhere in the UK, and Worcestershire county council even manages to have two entries from this list. When I was compiling the 2002-03 Sefton council results for the Local Elections Archive Project I ran into a similar problem with the official legal boundary sources, which were not consistent as to whether Southport's Duke's ward at that time had an apostrophe. It took an hour for me to sort that out, and that's an hour I'm not going to get back. Please proofread, people.

The apostrophe is very important in the name of Duke's ward, because it indicates that we are talking about one man. That man was William Sutton, who in 1792 built a bathing house and hotel in an isolated area of extensive sand dunes, much to the amusement of the locals who described him as "The Mad Duke" and his hotel as "Duke's Folly". Sutton had the last laugh. In the early nineteenth century his Folly came to anchor the southern end of one of the most beautiful streets in the world, Lord Street. Still Southport's main shopping street to this day, Lord Street had a huge influence on the modern face of Paris after Louis-Napoleon (as he was then) briefly lived in Southport in 1846; on becoming Emperor Napoleon III, he had Paris rebuilt with broad tree-lined boulevards in the Lord Street style.

It's not just the shopping that brings people to the Mad Duke's ward. Southport is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK with good train links to Manchester and Liverpool - Southport station lies within the ward with Birkdale and Hillside stations on its boundary - and the opening of the A5758 Brooms Cross Road, some distance to the south, in 2015 has made the town more accessible for drivers. The Promenade looks over a boating lake, pleasure gardens, a model village (again, as in scale model) and the town's notoriously long pier, which lies on the ward boundary. Further to the south, much of Duke's ward's acreage is taken up by the Royal Birkdale Golf Club, which this year hosted the Open Championship. Next to the Open course is Ainsdale Sands, a nature reserve with many rare species living here, while a climb to the top of the sand dunes is rewarded on a clear day with a breathtaking view of the mountains of North Wales.

This being a seaside resort, Lord Street is in the middle of a very deprived area with a significant Polish community having sprung up around the town centre in recent years. Almost 30% of the ward's population is aged 65 or over and 35% of households are privately rented - a very high rate for a non-student area.

Southport is a very atypical part of the county of Merseyside and many of its residents would prefer not to be in Merseyside at all. The town's location in Sefton borough has led to resentment from Sandgrounders who see much of their council tax going on attempts to regenerate Bootle, a faraway place of which they know nothing. A look at Southport's previous local election results will show a history of decent scores and the occasional councillor for a former secessionist outfit called the Southport Party, which never achieved the support necessary to declare UDI in the true Catalan style. The Boundary Commission have recently acknowledged that Southport sees itself as a Lancashire town rather than a Merseyside one: in the event that their proposals for new constituencies go through as they are at present the Southport seat will be expanded by taking in some villages from over the county line in Lancashire proper.

The town is the only one of Merseyside's parliamentary constituencies which Labour have never won, instead being traditionally a Lib Dem versus Tory battle - although the Liberal Democrats fell to third here in June after their MP John Pugh retired. Duke's is traditionally one of the more Conservative wards in Southport, but the uselessness of the Southport Tories at campaigning cannot be overestimated: the Lib Dems gained a seat in the ward in 2012, very much against the national trend, and held it at the most recent local election in 2016, when they had 45% to 28% for the Conservatives and 13% for Labour. Both the Lib Dems and Tories have run into trouble with their councillors for Duke's ward: Tony Dawson has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats for refusing to support their general election candidate this year, while the remaining Tory councillor for the ward, David Barton, is also suspended from his party because he is awaiting trial on a charge of money laundering.

Goodness knows what effect all this will have on the electorate. Defending for the Conservatives is Ann Pearmain, a former NHS nurse and qualified TEFL teacher. No doubt still smarting from their general election performance, the Lib Dems have selected without question the most high-profile candidate they have available: John Pugh, the MP for Southport from 2001 until standing down in June. Hoping to become the first Labour councillor in Southport for many a long year is Frank Hanley, who has extensive local government experience as a former Head of Service at Bradford city council. Completing the ballot paper are Terry Durrance for UKIP, who fought the parliamentary seat in June, and Nick Senior for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Southport
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode districts: PR8, PR9

Terry Durrance (UKIP)
Frank Hanley (Lab)
Ann Pearmain (C)
John Pugh (LD)
Nick Senior (Grn)

May 2016 result LD 1496 C 927 Lab 438 UKIP 349 Grn 107
May 2015 result C 2186 LD 1689 Lab 991 UKIP 967 Grn 283
May 2014 result C 1117 LD 969 UKIP 682 Lab 368 Southport Party 249 Grn 166
May 2012 result LD 996 C 827 Lab 473 UKIP 390 Southport Party 359 Ind 288
May 2011 result C 1475 LD 1152 Lab 581 Southport Party 376 UKIP 296
May 2010 result C 2589 LD 2137 Lab 687 Southport Party 635
May 2008 result C 1979 LD 790 Southport Party 497 Lab 297
May 2007 result C 1742 LD 845 Southport Party 481 Lab 326
May 2006 result C 1620 LD 885 Southport Party 531 Lab 263
June 2004 result C 2056/2003/1974 LD 1003/978/935 Southport Party 886/835 Lab 463/421/398

Egremont South

Copeland council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Lena Hogg. The Deputy Mayor of Copeland at the time of her resignation, Hogg had served since 2011.

We finish this week in an area which is going to the polls for the fourth time this year, following the general election in June, the county elections in May and the parliamentary by-election in February - a rare gain for the Government at what, just eight months later, now appears to be the peak of the May administration's powers.

We're in West Cumbria in an old market town on the main road from Whitehaven to Millom which still retains its mediaeval road layout, focusing on the Norman Egremont Castle. This was traditionally a mining town, although the mineral here was not coal but haematite: when it closed in 2008 Florence Mine, just outside the ward boundary, was the last deep iron ore mine in Western Europe. The mine buildings are now occupied by an arts centre and paintmaking company. Rowntree's once had a factory in Egremont, but the main industry here today is very different to all of these: Egremont is the closest town to the nuclear reprocessing site at Sellafield, which was a big issue in the parliamentary by-election and is very much still in operation. (Your columnist saw the Sellafield nuclear flask train going through Carnforth station last month with a swarm of accompanying transport police; rather different to the Brief Encounter image with which Carnforth station likes to associate itself.)

The importance of Sellafield to the local economy cannot be overstated. Egremont South makes the top 10 wards in England and Wales for the census "lower supervisory, technical" occupational category, is in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for Apprenticeship qualifications, and has high employment for a town in such a rural and isolated area. Take Sellafield out of the equation, and the local economy would fall apart.

Henry III's market charter of 1266 also granted to Egremont the right to hold an annual fair. The resulting annual Crab Fair, on the third Saturday in September, is known worldwide for the World Gurning Championships, and other events held at the fair include Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling together with a sport which will be familiar to all politicians, greasy pole climbing. All recent local contests have seen Labour win the Egremont South greasy-pole climbing competition - in 2015 the Labour slate had 43% to 25% for the Conservatives and 24% for an independent candidate - but in May's county elections Labour only narrowly held off the Tories 54-46 in the Egremont county division. A small part of the ward is within the Gosforth county division, which includes Sellafield and is a safe Tory seat.

Defending for Labour is Tom Higgins, a former financial advisor who was elected to Egremont town council for this ward in a by-election last year. In the blue corner is Conservative candidate Jeff Hailes, of Moor Row. With the independent candidates from 2015 not returning, this by-election is a straight fight.

Parliamentary constituency: Copeland
Cumbria county council division: Egremont (part: part of Egremont parish), Gosforth (part: part of Lowside Quarter parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Whitehaven
Postcode districts: CA22, CA24, CA28

Jeff Hailes (C)
Tom Higgins (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 915/732/623 C 518 Ind 511/379 Grn 168
May 2011 result Lab 803/694/676 C 398/374 Ind 295
May 2007 result Lab 667/618/580 C 488/488/465
May 2003 result Lab 1184/1043/1005 C 592/572/537

If you liked this post, please consider buying the book! Andrew's Previews 2016, containing many more pieces like this, is now available from Amazon.

Previews: 26 Oct 2017

There are six by-elections for seven seats on 26th October 2017. Labour are defending four seats, with a rare double by-election in Loughborough joining polls in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. There are also two Conservative defences in Derbyshire and West Sussex. Rather like last week, all of those are in safe wards with the most intersting contest being a defence by a localist party in a city which has become politically weirder and weirder. Read on...

Droylsden East

Tameside council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Jim Middleton, who is retiring after 27 years' service.

We start this week in that greatest of counties, Greater Manchester. The Tameside district is an agglomeration of small mill towns to the east of Manchester, and Droylsden is the westernmost of them, merging seamlessly into the Manchester urban area just four miles east of the city centre - the town lies within the M60 motorway and has a Manchester postcode, M43. Droylsden is a classic Lancashire milltown which claims to be the birthplace of the terry towel, first machine-woven by W M Christy and Sons in 1851. Robertson's jam factory, next to the Ashton Canal, was also a major employer. All this is gone now - the site of Christy's factory is now occupied by a Tesco off Ashton New Road. That Tesco and the proximity to the big city has clearly badly affected Droylsden's shopping centre, which when your columnist visited a few years ago was a parade of charity shops as bad as anything in Bolton. The Metrolink came here along Ashton New Road in 2013: Droylsden was briefly the terminus of the East Manchester line which now continues to Ashton-under-Lyne. Droylsden tram stop is within Droylsden East ward, which covers the Fairfield area south of Ashton New Road and also extends north along Market Street and Lumb Lane - in general, the further away you get from Ashton New Road, the nicer the neighbourhood becomes.

There was briefly a Droylsden parliamentary constituency, created in the 1950 redistribution and abolished in 1955, and if the Boundary Commisison get their way something similar could be created for the 2022 election. The Droylsden constituency was marginal between Labour and the Conservatives in the 1950 and 1951 elections, but the Conservative vote in Tameside has basically fallen apart over the post-war period - the Tories have only one reliable ward in the borough, Stalybridge South - and it's the radical right who have filled the runner-up spot in Droylsden East over the last decade. The BNP ran second here from 2006 to 2010, and UKIP were runners-up from 2011 onwards, getting within ten points of Labour in 2014. At Middleton's last re-election in 2016 his lead over UKIP was 51-34. In May's mayoral election Andy Burnham beat the Conservative candidate here 67-19.

This by-election will see a change to that pattern, as there is no UKIP candidate this time. Defending for Labour is local resident David Mills, who is opposed by Matt Stevenson for the Tories, Jean Smee for the Greens and Shaun Offerman for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashton-under-Lyne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M11, M34, M43, OL7

David Mills (Lab)
Shaun Offerman (LD)
Jean Smee (Grn)
Matt Stevenson (C)

May 2016 result Lab 1449 UKIP 948 C 256 Grn 166
May 2015 result Lab 2826 UKIP 1698 Grn 399 Ind 299
May 2014 result Lab 1431 UKIP 1168 C 250 Grn 163
May 2012 result Lab 1640 UKIP 480 BNP 236 C 221 Grn 90
May 2011 result Lab 1969 UKIP 595 C 455 Grn 112
May 2010 result Lab 2761 BNP 840 C 824 LD 671 UKIP 269
May 2008 result Lab 1408 BNP 1000 C 648
May 2007 result Lab 1582 BNP 665 C 411 LD 287
May 2006 result Lab 1396 BNP 619 C 453 Local Community Party 410
June 2004 result Lab 1726/1563/1422 Local Community Party 1044 BNP 764 C 714

May 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Lab 1506 C 425 LD 82 EDP 81 UKIP 76 Grn 45 Farmer 22 Aslam 7

Batley East

Kirklees council, West Yorkshire; caused by the disqualification of former Labour councillor Amanda Stubley, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months. Stubley had been suspended from Labour following a confrontation - broadcast by Channel 4 News - with English Democrat supporters in Batley during the Batley and Spen by-election campaign last year. She later quit the party. Stubley had served since 2011.

We move over to the wrong side of the Pennines to another smallish industrial town, although one very different in character from Droylsden. Like Droyslden, Batley is a textile town, but the industry here was shoddy - that is, recycled wool rags and clothes. Unlike Droylsden, which has been relatively little touched by immigration over the decades, Batley attracted large numbers of people from the subcontinent (particularly Gujarat and the Punjab) from the late 1950s to work in the town's textile mills. Batley East ward - based on the town centre and including its railway station - now has a majority Asian and a majority Muslim population, and there are significant proportions of Gujurati speakers and people born in India or Pakistan.

Textiles are still important to the local economy - one of the local mills has been done up as The Mill, a factory outlet attracting people from all over West Yorkshire - but the largest single employer in the town is Fox's Biscuits, whose head office and main factory is here. Monty Python fans may remember the Batley Ladies Townswomen's Guild, but Batley was known for more professional performances than that: Batley Variety Club was a major draw to punters and artists from all over the world, with in its heyday such well-known American acts as Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison and Neil Sedaka treading its boards. However, the club finally closed its doors to live music in 2016, and a gym opened in the building earlier this year. One famous musician from Batley was the late Robert Palmer, while the town has also given us a Nobel laureate, the IVF pioneer Sir Robert Edwards, and the late and much-lamented MP Jo Cox.

This is a safe Labour ward in current political conditions, although the Liberal Democrats did win a seat in the ward in 2003. Boundary changes in 2004 knocked the Lib Dem councillor out and it has generally been plain sailing for Labour since then. At the most recent local election in 2016 - before the parliamentary by-election and snap general election - Labour beat the Conservatives here 70-12.

Defending for Labour is Habiban Zaman, a Pakistan-born local community worker; she was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2014 Birthday Honours for outstanding services to women. The Conservative candidate is Paul Young, from Batley. Also standing are the Liberal Democrats' Jon Bloom (the Lib Dem councillor here from 2003 to 2004; he has fought the ward on several occasions since losing his seat and gone backwards nearly every time), David Smith of the Green Party and Aleks Lukic, who was the UKIP candidate for Batley and Spen in the 2015 general election, fought that seat as an independent in June and is now standing for his own party, the Heavy Woollen District Independents.

Parliamentary constituency: Batley and Spen
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huddersfield
Postcode districts: WF3, WF12, WF13, WF15, WF16, WF17

Jon Bloom (LD)
Aleks Lukic (Heavy Woollen District Ind)
David Smith (Grn)
Paul Young (C)
Habiban Zaman (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 3487 C 594 Ind 512 LD 248 Grn 156
May 2015 result Lab 5321 C 2194 LD 463 Grn 359 TUSC 122
May 2014 result Lab 2670 Ind 1356 C 527 Grn 386 LD 252 TUSC 181
May 2012 result Lab 3876 C 740 Ind 462 LD 230
May 2011 result Lab 3834 C 1028 LD 333 Ind 295 Grn 212
May 2010 result Lab 4843 C 1774 LD 1274 BNP 678 Grn 186
May 2008 result Lab 3060 C 823 BNP 759 LD 653 Grn 296
May 2007 result Lab 2793 LD 1147 C 852 BNP 754 Grn 185
May 2006 result Lab 2779 LD 1103 BNP 869 C 621 Grn 232
June 2004 result Lab 3024/2697/2370 LD 2008/1750/1564 C 1053/758/639 BNP 958 Grn 553

Ashbourne South

Derbyshire Dales council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Phil Chell, who had served since 2015.

Moving into the Midlands, we come to the week's first Conservative defence in a picture-postcard Derbyshire town. Variously described as the Gateway to the Peak District or the Gateway to Dovedale, Ashbourne's South ward doesn't contain much of the impossibly pretty town centre but is instead based on two areas south of it. The Leys is an area of old houses on low-lying ground along Clifton Road and Station Street, while up on the hill along the Derby Road and Old Derby Road is an area of much newer housing and industrial units on the site of the old RAF Ashbourne airfield, one of the highest military airfields built during the Second World War at an altitude of 610 feet. Manufacturing is important to the ward and the population has grown strongly in recent years.

Unitl 2015 South ward was the political fiefdom of the Conservatives' Andrew Lewer, who was elected to this ward in 2003, elected to Derbyshire county council in 2005, and in 2009 became leader of the county council at the age of just 37. The Tories lost Derbyshire back to Labour in 2013, but that wasn't the end of Lewer's political rise: he was elected to the European Parliament the following year at a time when that was still something for UK politicians to aspire to, and in June's general election entered Westminster as MP for Northampton South. Lewer retired from Derbyshire Dales council in 2015 and easily passed his seat on to Chell; that year the Tory slate had 54% to 25% for Labour and 22% for the Greens. In May's county elections the Tories had a huge lead in the local Ashbourne division, which does not have the boundaries you might expect: this is a mostly rural county division which bizarrely does not include Ashbourne town centre. (Ashbourne town centre is in Dovedale division.)

Defending for the Conservatives is local resident Dermot Murphy. The Labour candidate is Andy White, a travel agent, former Ashbourne town councillor (1995-2003) and former Mayor of Ashbourne. There is no Green candidate this time, so the ballot paper is completed by Rebecca Goodall of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Derbyshire Dales
Derbyshire county council division: Ashbourne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Derby
Postcode district: DE6

Rebecca Goodall (LD)
Dermot Murphy (C)
Andy White (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1308/1187 Lab 596 Grn 527
May 2011 result C 883/583 Lab 464
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result C 517/487 Lab 210/165

Loughborough Hastings

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; a double by-election caused by the resignations of Labour councillors Sarah Maynard Smith and Anne Williams. Williams had served since 2011, Maynard Smith since winning a by-election in October 2013.

Four years to the week after the last by-election in Loughborough Hastings we are back with a rare double by-election, as both seats in the ward are up for election. This is Loughborough's eastern ward, including part of the town centre and based around the preserved Great Central Railway station. Hastings ward is a generally low-lying area and more than half of the ward is left empty as flood plain. Much of the ward's built-up area is social housing and there has been extensive redevelopment in recent years; with that and high levels of long-term unemployment it's no surprise to find that Hastings ward includes Loughborough's most deprived census district. There is also a significant Bangladeshi population in the ward, while Loughborough University provides some employment.

Luffbra has a track record of producing surprising by-election results - most recently, the Conservatives cut the Labour majority in the neighbouring Shelthorpe ward to four votes at a by-election in August - but Hastings ward should be safe Labour under any circumstances. In 2015 the Labour slate won with 45%, to 23% for the Conservatives and 17% for UKIP, and the Labour lead was bigger in May's county elections in the local division (Loughborough East).

The defending Labour slate is Mary Draycott and Colin Hamilton. Hamilton is a local resident; Draycott is a former Lord Mayor of Leicester and long-serving Leicester city councillor with a curiously bad electoral record in Charnwood. Having lost a Labour-held seat to the Conservatives in a 2012 by-election, she was elected to Charnwood council in a by-election for Loughborough Ashby ward (covering the University campus) in September 2013 but lost her seat two years later to 19-year-old Conservative candidate Harley Hachem. The local Labour party are still smarting over that, with reports in the local press that Hachem's election agent received a police caution for forging a signature on Hachem's nomination papers, and that Hachem has been absent from Loughborough for much of the last year. This should be a safer berth for Draycott, who lives in Shepshed. The Conservatives have nominated a single candidate, Jane Hunt: she is a former Charnwood councillor (Loughborough Nanpantan ward, standing down in 2015) who stood here in May's county elections and also fought Leicester East in the 2010 general election, losing to Keith Vaz. (Apologies to any readers who may have been playing the Keith Vaz game.) UKIP have selected their go-to Charnwood by-election candidate Andy McWilliam, who stood here in the 2013 by-election; his running-mate is Simon Murray. Completing the ballot paper are the Green slate of Mia Woolley and Lewis Wright.

Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Loughborough East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE11

Mary Draycott (Lab)
Colin Hamilton (Lab)
Jane Hunt (C)
Andy McWilliam (UKIP)
Simon Murray (UKIP)
Mia Woolley (Grn)
Lewis Wright (Grn)

May 2015 result Lab 1339/1241 C 690/606 UKIP 506 Grn 416
October 2013 by-election Lab 554 C 127 UKIP 111 British Democratic Party 85 LD 26
May 2011 result Lab 1163/1104 C 612/492
May 2007 result Lab 799/769 C 529/507
May 2003 result Lab 836/693 LD 333 C 272

Kings Acre

Herefordshire council; caused by the resignation of It's Our County councillor Mark Mansell, who proved unable to balance his council duties with having a full-time job due to Herefordshire council holding all of its meetings in normal working hours. He had served since 2015, and continues to serve the ward on the parish-level Hereford city council.

For our final Midlands by-election we travel west to the Marches. The Kings Acre ward is in the north-west corner of the city of Hereford, between the Kings Acre Road and the Roman Road and covering housing off the Three Elms Road. Also within the ward and the city boundary is some open space, including the village of Huntington, the Whitecross High School and the Hereford Livestock Market, which controversially moved here from the city centre in 2011.

This area is a little difficult to interpret demographically because Herefordshire had ward boundary changes in 2015; at the time of the 2011 census this was the western half of Three Elms ward. The 2011 census found Three Elms ward to have high employment with a working-class profile and a significant Eastern European population, although drilling down to a lower level suggests that the largest non-English country of birth in Kings Acre ward's population is Wales.

The area is also a little difficult to interpret politically. Pre-coalition Three Elms ward was a Lib Dem stronghold, but in the 2011 election the party lost two of the three seats in the ward to It's Our County, an anti-Tory localist slate. In the 2015 election It's Our County mostly swept the non-Tory vote in Herefordshire, performing particularly well in the city of Hereford and the county's other towns whose residents are unhappy with the Tory farmers running the show - something which goes back to the 1995 local government reform in which Herefordshire's district councils were abolished. The Tories didn't stand in King's Acre in the 2015 election, and It's Our County beat the Lib Dems in the ward that year 50-33.

Defending for It's Our County is Matt Bushkes, a Hereford city councillor, teaching assistant at Whitecross High School and director of a roller-skating rink in the city. The Lib Dem candidate is Lucy Hurds, who fought North Herefordshire in the 2010 general election and stood in Hereford and South Herefordshire in the 2015 and 2017 general elections: it shows how far the party has sunk in Herefordshire that Hurds finished fourth on both of those occasions in a seat her party held until 2010. Also standing are independent candidate Clare Fenton, Stuart Anderson for the Conservatives and David Lewer for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford
Postcode district: HR4

Stuart Anderson (C)
Matt Bushkes (It's Our County)
Clare Fenton (Ind)
Lucy Hurds (LD)
David Lewer (Lab)

May 2015 result It's Our County 775 LD 517 Ind 257

East Grinstead Imberhorne

Mid Sussex council, West Sussex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bob Mainstone. A long-serving teacher at Imberhorne School, Mainstone was Mayor of East Grinstead in 2016-17; he had served on Mid Sussex council since 2011 and was originally elected as a Liberal Democrat.

We finish with our token southern by-election in by far the least deprived ward of the week. East Grinstead Imberhorne is the western of East Grinstead's five wards: despite the fact that one of the town's main arterial routes is called Beeching Way this is a classic railway commuter area, with East Grinstead station (at the end of a branch line from Croydon and also the terminus of the preserved Bluebell Line) lying on the ward's eastern boundary. Some non-commuter employment is provided by the Birches Industrial Estate, while also here is Imberhorne School which educated Right Said Fred. The ward's housing stock is postwar and there has been strong population growth in recent years.

This ward has swung a mile to the right over the last decade: in 2007 the Liberal Democrats had 67% of the vote here, but they lost one seat to the Conservatives in 2011, lost the other seat when Mainstone defected to the Tories in 2014, and failed to stand in the 2015 election. In 2015 the Tories beat Labour here 61-21 on their way to winning every single seat on Mid Sussex council, as can be seen from the map above. The Lib Dems have since got a seat back in a by-election earlier this year, breaking the Tory monopoly, and a gain here will give them group status. In May's county elections the local division (Imberdown) was safely Conservative with an independent in a strong second place.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rex Whittaker who fought the ward in 2011; he is the leader of East Grinstead town council on which he represents this ward. The Labour candidate is David Wilbraham, a chartered civil engineer. Also standing are Tim Martin for the Lib Dems and an independent candidate, 18-year-old local resident Ian Sanders.

Parliamentary constituency: Mid Sussex
West Sussex county council division: Imberdown
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley
Postcode district: RH19

Tim Martin (LD)
Ian Sanders (Ind)
Rex Whittaker (C)
David Wilbraham (Lab)

May 2015 result C 1706/1589 Lab 581 UKIP 531
May 2011 result C 955/794 LD 865/671
May 2007 result LD 995/986 C 404/368 Ind 89
May 2003 result LD 624/565 C 464/429

Previews: 19 Oct 2017

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

Like the first two Thursdays of the month, 19th October 2017 sees eight by-elections, but it could have been more. There was a ninth by-election scheduled for today in the Haseley Brook ward of South Oxfordshire district, but when nominations closed the Conservatives' Caroline Newton was the only candidate and she has therefore been elected unopposed. This column sends its congratulations to Councillor Newton. Of the eight remaining seats up for election this week, there are five Labour defences (three of which are in the city of Nottingham) and two Conservative defences; however, will all of those looking safe the focus is likely to be on Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all to replace an independent councillor in that most interesting of towns, Hartlepool. Three of the Labour vacancies arise from newly-elected MPs leaving their council seats behind to concentrate on their new careers in Westminster; as they join the ranks of the Commons we start this week by paying tribute to one former MP who has recently left us. Read on...

Lower Sheering

Epping Forest council, Essex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Gary Waller at the age of 72.

One of the few councillors notable enough to merit his own Wikipedia page, Waller was a Conservative MP throughout the Thatcher and Major administrations. He gained the marginal seat of Brighouse and Spenborough from Labour in 1979, and when that seat was abolished in the 1983 boundary changes he gained the Keighley seat from Labour, holding it until 1997. Waller never got off the backbenches, but during the 1992 Parliament was chairman of the House of Commons Information Committee, which oversaw Parliamentary IT and the House of Commons Library. The Major administration was never short of scandal, and Waller's contribution to that was to have an affair - resulting in a son - with Sir Marcus Fox' secretary. Waller moved from Yorkshire to Essex after his parliamentary career ended, being elected to Epping Forest council in 2011 and serving as chairman of the Harlow branch of the Conservative party. Away from politics his interests included history and his collection of Jaguar cars.

Gary Waller ended his days as a councillor in the Lea Valley. Despite its presence in the Harlow parliamentary seat, Lower Sheering doesn't really have all that much to with Essex: the village of Lower Sheering itself is essentially an extension of the Hertfordshire town of Sawbridgeworth, most of the ward has a Sawbridgeworth postcode (CM21) and the ONS classifies it as within the Cambridge travel to work area. Sawbridgeworth station, on the West Anglia main line, lies just outside the ward boundary. Lower Sheering saw strong population growth in the 1980s and 1990s and has a blue-collar commuter demographic, with high employment levels.

This adds up to a Conservative ward as you might expect. Waller was first elected here in 2011, defeating former councillor Charlotte Edwards who had won a by-election in November 2009 but sought re-election as an independent. At the most recent election to this ward in 2015 Waller defeated Labour 70-30 in a straight fight, and in May the Tories polled over 78% in the local county division (North Weald and Nazeing).

Defending for the Tories is Paul Stalker, a Sheering parish councillor (although for Sheering Village parish ward, which is not part of this district ward). Labour have withdrawn from the fray, but the Liberal Democrats have ensured a contested election by selecting Epping resident Ingrid Black who stood here at the 2009 by-election.

Parliamentary constituency: Harlow
Essex county council division: North Weald and Nazeing
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode districts: CM17, CM21, CM22

Ingrid Black (LD)
Paul Stalker (C)

May 2015 result C 821 Lab 354
May 2011 result C 420 Ind 185 LD 87 Grn 49
November 2009 by-election C 302 LD 93
May 2007 result C 409 LD 131
May 2003 result C 207 LD 80
May 2002 result C 244 Lab 72 LD 45

Meopham North

Gravesham council, Kent; caused by the death of Conservative councillor John Cubitt who had served since winning a by-election in October 2011.

For our by-election south of the Thames this week we stay in commuter territory. Meopham (pronounced MEPP-ham) is a village in the Kentish North Downs five miles south of Gravesend, on the Chatham Main Line to Victoria; this makes it a well-off area popular with London commuters, and the ward is part of the London Travel to Work Area. The village is rather strung out from north to south, and as the name suggests this ward is the northern half of Meopham parish. Within this ward lies the whole of Meopham village with the associated settlements of Meopham Green and Meopham Station.

Meopham North is the first of two wards this week to have previously appeared in Andrew's Previews, and has a very high councillor attrition rate: this is the fourth by-election here since the last boundary change in 2003, and that's without counting the 2007 ordinary election which was postponed to June following the death of a candidate. The October 2011 by-election here was the subject of an opinion poll - believed to be the first ever opinion poll for a UK local by-election - conducted by Survation for ITV Meridian with a sample size of 300. Headline figures were C 52% UKIP 26% Lab 20% LD 2%; the figures for third and fourth proved to be off with the Lib Dems eventually finishing third, but the poll did correctly indicate that UKIP would come a strong second at a time when that was still a remarkable occurrence. UKIP were still second at the 2015 ordinary election, in which the Conservative slate beat them 57-22. The Tories did even better in May's county elections in the local division (Gravesham Rural).

Defending for the Conservatives is Gary Harding, who hasn't let his deafness put him off trying for a political career: he was the UKIP candidate for Lewisham West and Penge in the 2015 general election, and in May's county elections was on the Conservative slate in the Labour-held division of Northfleet and Gravesend West. This should be a safer berth. The official UKIP candidate is Tina Brooker, a legal secretary and pro-streetlight campaigner who is from Gravesend; she fought the Gravesend East county division in a by-election last year and in May's ordinary election. Also standing are regular Labour candidate Doug Christie and the Lib Dems' John Death.

Parliamentary constituency: Gravesham
Kent county council division: Gravesham Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: DA3, DA13

Tina Brooker (UKIP)
Doug Christie (Lab)
John Death (LD)
Gary Harding (C)

May 2015 result C 1594/1336 UKIP 611 Lab 576/371
Dec 2014 by-election C 419 UKIP 204 Lab 108 LD 36
Oct 2011 by-election C 648 UKIP 462 LD 148 Lab 112
May 2011 result C 1220/1051 Lab 497/389
June 2007 postponed poll C 681/682 LD 200/178 Grn 104 Lab 59/57 Loony 31
Jan 2004 by-election C 643 Lab 105 LD 58
May 2003 result C 892/887 Lab 243/216 Grn 190

Bestwood; and
Bulwell Forest

Nottingham council; caused respectively by the resignation of Alex Norris who is now MP for Nottingham North, the resignation of Mick Wildgust and the death of Alan Clark at the age of 66. All three were Labour councillors.

Having got the southern starters out of the way, the main course this week is three by-elections for adjoining wards in northern Nottingham. We'll start alphabetically with the ward closest to the centre, Basford, which was incorporated into Nottingham in 1877 and still retains much of its original Victorian housing in the Old Basford area. Basford once had three railway stations serving it; it now has none but is served by five stations on Nottingham's tram system. They are Wilkinson Street, Basford, David Lane and Highbury Vale on the main route together with Cinderhill on the Phoenix Park branch. The ward's main traditional industries were soap and brewing, with the Shipstones brewery closing in 1991 and Cussons making Imperial Leather in Basford until 2005 This is a highly multi-ethnic area: Basford ward makes the top 15 wards in England and Wales for mixed-race population (8.5%).

Further out along the tram line is Bulwell Forest ward (served by Bulwell and Bulwell Forest tram stops), a more traditional working-class area although still with a relatively high Black and Asian population. Bestwood ward lies to the north-east, between Arnold Road and Queens Boulevard, and is based on the notorious 1930s Bestwood Estate and the rather quieter 1950s-60s Bestwood Park Estate. Bestwood ward still has very high levels of unemployment and social housing and makes the top 80 wards in England and Wales for mixed-race population. Just outside the Bestwood ward boundary, and supplying a large number of jobs in the area, is the Nottingham City Hospital which provides cancer care services for the region and has a national reputation for shoulder surgery.

As the map above suggests, all three of these wards are safe Labour under current political conditions. Bulwell Forest possibly has the most interesting history: in 2003 Labour won all three seats with independent candidate Karen Kemp and the Conservatives close behind, and in the 2007 election the Conservatives gained one of the Labour seats. Basford ward voted Lib Dem in 2003 but then the Lib Dem vote fell apart and the ward was an easy Labour gain in 2007. One of the Labour councillors for Basford stood for re-election as an independent in 2011 and got nowhere, his seat being easily held for Labour by Alex Norris whose political career started there. At the most recent city election in 2015 shares of the vote in Basford ward were 48% for Labour, 20% for the Conservatives and 16% for UKIP. Labour beat UKIP 56-22 in Bestwood ward, while Bulwell Forest ward had the lowest Labour share in this group: 46%, to 20% each for UKIP and the Conservatives.

Defending Alex Norris MP's seat for Labour in Basford ward is Nick Raine, a Unite officer representing teachers in the East Midlands and Yorkshire. The Conservative candidate is Bradley Wing, an entrepreneur in his early 20s. UKIP have secured something of a coup by selecting Bill Ottewell, a Labour councillor for this ward from 2011 to 2015; in 2015 he sought election in Clifton North ward and was defeated. Completing the Basford ballot paper are Zeb Brigham for the Green Party and Rebecca Proctor for the Liberal Democrats. Some of Basford's voters may be pleased to note that their polling station is a pub: the Mill and the Headstocks, both on Bagnall Road, have been pressed into the service of democracy.

In Bestwood ward the councillor being replaced is Mick Wildgust, Lord Mayor of Nottingham in 2011-12, who is standing down on health grounds after being first elected in 2007. Labour are hoping his replacement will be Georgia Power, a recent Nottingham University graduate and women's officer for Labour's Nottingham South branch. UKIP have reselected Francesco Lari who fought the ward in 2015, and the ballot paper is completed by the Conservatives' William Scott, the Greens' Liam McClelland, David Bishop of his Bus-Pass Elvis Party - who may have hung up his blue suede shoes as far as parliamentary by-elections are concerned, but will still turn out for a local by-election in his native Nottingham - and the Lib Dems' Christina Morgan-Danvers. Voters in polling district BESE are asked to note that their usual polling place at the Robin Hood Primary School is not available and they will vote instead at the Bestwood Park Community Centre.

Finally we come to Bulwell Forest ward where the late councillor, Open University lecturer Alan Clark, had had 29 years' service on Nottingham city council, first being elected for the predecessor Byron ward in 1988. His council career focused on energy and environmental issues, and he was responsible for setting up the UK's first council-owned energy company, the not-for-profit Robin Hood Energy. Clark's wife Eunice Campbell, another councillor for the ward, survives him.

Defending Bulwell Forest for Labour is Cheryl Barnard, who runs a property leasing company. UKIP have reselected Tony Blay who fought the ward in 2015. The Tory candidate is Karen Kemp, who was runner-up in this ward in the 2003 election as an independent. Completing the Bulwell Forest ballot paper are Andrew Jones of the Green Party and Callum Southern of the Liberal Democrats.


Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham North
Postcode districts: NG5, NG6, NG7, NG8

Zeb Brigham (Grn)
Bill Ottewell (UKIP)
Rebecca Proctor (LD)
Nick Raine (Lab)
Bradley Wing (C)

May 2015 result Lab 3523/3306/2754 C 1449/1006/925 UKIP 1162/1143/1059 Grn 885 TUSC 200
May 2011 result Lab 2436/2197/2126 C 795/765/701 Ind 567 LD 547/536/407
May 2007 result Lab 1991/1919/1831 C 1128/1114/932 LD 689/589/582
May 2003 result LD 1390/1382/1319 Lab 1258/1162/1103 C 756/733/695 Socialist Alliance 71/54


Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: NG5

David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis)
Francesco Lari (UKIP)
Liam McClelland (Grn)
Christina Morgan-Danvers (LD)
Georgia Power (Lab)
William Scott (C)

May 2015 result Lab 3409/2804/2799 UKIP 1341/1147/1109 C 971/897/730 Grn 405/342
May 2011 result Lab 2451/2066/2062 C 748/724/672 LD 497
May 2007 result Lab 1775/1367/1362 C 837/806/785 LD 666
May 2003 result Lab 1753/1615/1462 C 648/614/601

Bulwell Forest

Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode districts: NG5, NG6

Cheryl Barnard (Lab)
Tony Blay (UKIP)
Andrew Jones (Grn)
Karen Kemp (C)
Callum Southern (LD)

May 2015 result Lab 3198/2997/2820 UKIP 1382/1376/1197 C 1367/1354/1319 Grn 523 LD 292 TUSC 143
May 2011 result Lab 2956/2938/2714 C 1402/1259/1122 UKIP 336/248/194 TUSC 212
May 2007 result Lab 1944/1930/1835 C 1914/1794/1543 LD 540 UKIP 394
May 2003 result Lab 1582/1519/1497 Ind 1344 C 1051/1040/885 LD 513


Lincoln council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Karen Lee, who is now MP for Lincoln. A former nurse at Lincoln County Hospital, Lee had served on Lincoln city council since 2003 and was Mayor of Lincoln in 2012-13.

For our second "new MP" by-election of the week we travel east from Nottingham to Lincoln. The Labour gain of Lincoln was one of those results which would have come as a complete surprise before the Tory general election campaign hit the rocks, and reflects the fact that Lincoln is not representative of the county to which it gives its name. Boundary changes confuse the issue here: Carholme was a student ward at the time of the 2011 census, but since then it has seen strong population growth which led to boundary changes for the 2016 election. The new boundaries saw the University of Lincoln campus transferred to Boultham ward, so the census stats are clearly no longer comparable. That left Carholme ward entirely north of the River Witham, running west from the city centre (Steep Hill, the High Street and Brayford Pool lie on the ward boundary) along the Carholme Road. Most of the buildings are Victorian or older, but the ward also includes a rather isolated 21st-century housing estate along Long Leys Road.

Carholme is a traditionally Labour ward, although the Lib Dems gained a seat from Labour in 2007, held it at the 2008 election and were only seven votes away from defeating Lee in 2010 on a general election turnout. After that the Lib Dem vote in Carholme melted away and their seat was regained by Labour in 2012. In 2016 - the only previous contest on these boundaries - Labour beat the Conservatives here 57-20. Over the last twelve years the area has also consistently returned Labour councillors to Lincolnshire county council, which has its main offices in the ward.

Defending for Labour is Lucinda Preston, head of English at Carre's Grammar School in Sleaford, who fought the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner election in 2016. The Conservatives have reselected Kateryna Roures Salvador, a University of Lincoln student who fought the ward in 2016 and the Carholme county seat in May. Also standing are Benjamin Loryman for the Greens and James Brown for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Lincoln
Lincolnshire county council division: Carholme
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lincoln
Postcode districts: LN1, LN2, LN5

James Brown (LD)
Benjamin Loryman (Grn)
Lucinda Preston (Lab)
Kateryna Roures Salvador (C)

May 2016 result Lab 1176/1076/1029 C 414/341/311 Grn 293/223/180 LD 176

Astley Mosley Common

Wigan council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Joanne Platt, who is now MP for Leigh. She had served since 2012.

For our North West by-election we are on the Lancashire coalfield. Roughly halfway between Wigan and Manchester, Astley takes its name from the Old English for "eastern clearing", due to its location to the east of Leigh. This was one of the main centres of the Lancashire coalfield: over twenty pits were sunk in Astley and its twin town of Tyldesley. Astley Green Colliery was the last of these to close, in 1970, and its site next to the Bridgewater Canal is preserved as a museum with Lancashire's last remaining pit headgear. A landmark for those passing by on the East Lancashire Road, which since the 1930s has provided a fast road link from here to central Manchester, although the advent of the misguided bus and the strange things Salford council have done to the Crescent have rather reduced that advantage in recent years. Nonetheless Astley has a Manchester postcode (M29) and has attracted some commuters as one of the more fashionable parts of the Leigh constituency. Much of the acreage of the ward south of the East Lancs Road is taken up by Chat Moss, still a desolate peat bog into which few venture.

This ward was created in 2004 out of the former Bedford-Astley and Tyldesley East wards, which were both rock-solid Labour, so it must have been a shock when the 2004 election returned just one Labour councillor to two Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems held a seat in 2006 but lost a seat to Labour in 2007, finishing third behind the Conservatives. The Tories built on that good performance to gain the ward in 2008, meaning that Astley Mosley Common had voted for all three main parties in as many years.

Labour narrowly gained the remaining Lib Dem seat in 2010, and then the advent of Coalition led to a sharp drop in the Tory vote and the disappearance of the Lib Dem vote. Joanne Platt duly regained the Tory seat in 2012 with a vote share of 70%, and was re-elected in 2016 with 51% of the vote to 24% each for the Tories and UKIP. In May's Greater Manchester mayoral election her predecessor as MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham, beat the Tory candidate here 69-22.

Defending for Labour is Paula Wakefield, a caseworker in Platt's constituency office who got into politics through campaigning about contaminated blood. The Conservative candidate is David Stirzaker, a local resident who fought the ward in 2015; he is a boatmaster on the canals and a trustee of the Astley Youth brass band. UKIP have selected local resident Alan Hogg. Completing the ballot paper are Andy Prentice for the Green Party and Stuart Thomas for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Leigh
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M28, M29, WA3

Alan Hogg (UKIP)
Andy Prentice (Grn)
David Stirzaker (C)
Stuart Thomas (LD)
Paula Wakefield (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 1548 C 739 UKIP 731
May 2015 result Lab 2478 C 1804 UKIP 1306 Grn 290
May 2014 result Lab 1812 C 867
May 2012 result Lab 1810 C 534 LD 243
May 2011 result Lab 2028 C 1158
May 2010 result Lab 2339 LD 1894 C 1635
May 2008 result C 1207 Lab 1014 LD 634
May 2007 result Lab 1048 C 821 LD 665 Grn 218
May 2006 result LD 1472 Lab 865 C 674
June 2004 result Lab 1501/1122/1095 LD 1367/1259/1173 Grn 870

May 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral election Lab 2029 C 646 LD 92 EDP 77 UKIP 57 Grn 44 Farmer 14 Aslam 2


Hartlepool council, County Durham; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Paul Thompson due to work commitments. He had served since 2010.

They say you should save the best till last, and for this week's column that is most certainly the casex. Welcome to Seaton Carew, known to the wider world for three things: the Hartlepool nuclear power station, the controversial Able UK shipbreaking facility, and the curious case of John Darwin, who faked his own death in a canoeing accident here in 2002.

That's a completely unfair description for a lovely place. Let's start again. Welcome to Seaton Carew, known to the wider world for three things: its wide sandy beach, for being developed as a seaside resort for Quakers from Darlington, and for the Teesmouth nature reserve. This is an area of sand dunes, marsh and mudflats where lapwings, curlew, wading birds and seals thrive against the most industrial backdrop imaginable (think Blade Runner with seals, and then remember that Ridley Scott went to college in Hartlepool). Yes, there really are seals at Seal Sands, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The beach at Seaton is of high quality and deserves to be better known. There's history in that beach: a submerged forest lies along the shoreline, the wreck of a collier brig appears out of the sands every so often, and each high tide washes up some coal from an open seam out to sea. (Don't worry, there's plenty of beach left!) Some people still make a living collecting seacoal from the beach at Seaton. Recent regeneration work has demolished some of the more dilapidated shelters on the seafront, but the 1938 Art Deco bus station has survived and is a bit of a hidden gem. And it's not just the bathing that brings tourists: Seaton Carew golf club, opened in 1874 as England's tenth-oldest club, is described as one of the most challenging links courses in the British Isles, and in 2014 hosted the Brabazon Trophy - England's premier men's amateur strokeplay championship.

For all this tourism, this is Teesside and it's industry that brings money into the place. The golf club got a windfall in the 1970s thanks to the construction of the Ekofisk gas pipeline across its land from the North Sea gas fields to the Teesside Refinery, still within the ward at Greatham although refining no longer takes place here. The power station and Able UK have already been mentioned; next to them was a zinc smelter (appropriately at the end of Zinc Works Road) whose site is now occupied by Frutarom, a company making chemicals for the food industry. The chemicals don't end there: next to Able's shipyard is the Tioxide works at Greatham, where my father once had a job. (The staff smoking area was known as "Oxygen Corner", for reasons which may be obvious if you ever go there.) On the landward side of the railway line is the Hartlepool Pipe Mill, the UK's largest steel pipe mills, recently sold by Tata Steel in a transaction which will create 100 new jobs. With all this heavy industry, it's no surprise to see that Seaton ward - on its 2011 boundaries - made the top 40 wards in England and Wales for apprenticeship qualifications. Boundary changes introduced in 2012 expanded the ward west of the railway line into very deprived parts of the old Fens and Rossmere wards.

Have I sold Seaton Carew to you yet? You really must go. If you're still not convinced then, remembering this is supposed to be a piece about local by-elections, have a look at Seaton's politics which are like Hartlepool's politics as a whole: fragmented and thoroughly weird. At the first election to Hartlepool as a unitary borough in 1995 Seaton elected two Labour councillors and an Independent Conservative. One of the Labour councillors, Cath Hill, sought re-election in 1998 as an independent, losing her seat to the Conservatives; but got back in 1999 by picking up the Independent Conservative seat. The Conservatives gained a second seat from Labour in 2000, an election where Labour lost control of Hartlepool council due to an apparent electoral pact between the Tories and Liberal Democrats. In retrospect, it was at this point - more than two years before the Monkey Mayor Stuart Drummond came on the scene - that Hartlepool's local politics started to get strange. Labour got a seat back in 2002, defeating the Conservatives, but that was the last time that Seaton voted Labour.

Boundary changes in 2004 saw all three seats up for election, and Seaton ward elected two independent councillors, Mike Turner and Cath Hill, and one Conservative, seafront chippy owner David Young who narrowly held off UKIP. Turner was the outgoing Labour councillor and, judging from the 2004 result,clearly had a huge personal vote. Young lost the Conservative seat to a third independent, Paul Thompson, in 2010.

All three independents - Turner, Thompson and Hill - were re-elected in 2012 on the present, expanded boundaries. Mike Turner resigned shortly afterwards to care for his wife, and the by-election was won easily by Kelly Atkinson, standing for a localist slate called Putting Hartlepool First. Cath Hill died shortly before the 2014 local elections, leaving her seat open, and it was gained by UKIP in a fragmented result: 30% for UKIP, 25% for independent candidate Sue Little, 20% for Putting Hartlepool First and 17% for Labour. Thompson was re-elected in 2015 in an even more fragmented result, with majorities of 18 votes over UKIP and 36 votes over Labour: vote shares that year were just 24.1% for Thompson, 23.6% for UKIP, 23.2% for Labour and 13% each for the Conservatives and Little. At the most recent election in 2016 Putting Hartlepool First held their by-election gain and you'll not be surprised to hear that the result was fragmented: they had 28% to 26% for Little, 23% for UKIP and 13% for Labour. Since the EU referendum win UKIP's electoral performance has been generally appalling at every level of government, but one of the few bright spots for the Kippers among the doom and gloom of this period was a by-election gain in Hartlepool in October 2016. The party has a long and relatively impressive track record in Hartlepool, going back to the parliamentary by-election in 2004. It will be interesting to see if the relatively good Kipper organisation in the Pool can buck the trend, or whether the UKIP vote here wil be like the last tide's batch of seacoal - stranded short of the high-water mark.

To take the five candidates in order of the most recent election, Putting Hartlepool First have nominated Leisa Smith who runs a catering company; outgoing councillor Thompson has signed her nomination papers. Sue Little, another businesswoman who launched a dial-a-ride bus service in Hartlepool this year, is hoping that it will be fourth time lucky for her as an independent candidate. The UKIP candidate is Karen King. Labour have selected Ann Marshall, a former Hartlepool councillor (Rossmere ward, 2004-12) who stood here in the 2012 by-election and stood in Fens and Rossmere ward last year. Completing the ballot paper is Conservative candidate Mike Young. Goodness knows what will happen here, but at this stage possibly the safest prediction is that we can expect another win on a low share of the vote.

Parliamentary constituency: Hartlepool
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hartlepool
Postcode district: TS25

Karen King (UKIP)
Sue Little (Ind)
Ann Marshall (Lab)
Leisa Smith (Putting Hartlepool First)
Mike Young (C)

May 2016 result Putting Hartlepool First 586 Ind 540 UKIP 482 Lab 278 C 123 Grn 55
May 2015 result Ind 1004 UKIP 986 Lab 968 C 537 Ind 530 Grn 149
May 2014 result UKIP 562 Ind 473 Putting Hartlepool First 385 Lab 329 C 141
October 2012 by-election Putting Hartlepool First 441 Lab 261 Ind 193 UKIP 128 C 94 LD 31
May 2012 result Ind 1168/883/769 Putting Hartlepool First 328/172 Lab 287/274/237 UKIP 243 C 158

If you liked this post, please consider buying the book! Andrew's Previews 2016, containing many more previews like these, is now available from Amazon.

Previews: 12 Oct 2017

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

As in the first week of October 2017, the second week sees eight by-elections. Three of these are collateral damage from the snap general election as the new Labour MP for Warrington South and the new Conservative MPs for Gordon and Mansfield - surprising results all - give up their council seats to concentrate on their new careers in Westminster. Overall Labour defend five seats this week and the Conservatives defend three; there is a definite northern bias with four of the eight by-elections taking place in the North West or Yorkshire and only one south of Watford. But we start with our northernmost poll of the week, a Tory defence in Scotland. Read on...

Inverurie and District

Aberdeenshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Colin Clark, who is now MP for Gordon. He had served since winning a by-election in November 2016.

We start this week in Scotland with a poll which in one sense sets the tone for the week. Three of the eight polls in this second week of October are fallout from the snap general election, caused by newly elected MPs resigning their council seats. In many ways the gain of the Gordon seat by councillor Colin Clark was one of the most impressive of all the results in June's general election, given who Clark was up against: Alex Salmond had been defying political gravity for years and can't have expected his political career to come down to earth so suddenly. It wasn't the best of weeks for Wee Eck on a personal level either: his father had died in the week before the general election, and his sister lost a Scottish Parliament by-election on the same day.

Salmond's vanquisher may have only been a councillor for a matter of months, but Colin Clark had shown his potential by standing in the 2016 Holyrood election for the local seat of Aberdeenshire East, obtaining a 17% swing from the SNP and taking second place off the Lib Dems. Six months later he was an Aberdeenshire councillor, leading the first round in the 2016 Inverurie and District by-election with 39%, to 35% for the SNP and 22% for the Lib Dems, and picking up strong transfers to eventually defeat the SNP 56-44. Five months after that Clark had been re-elected for a full term in Inverurie and District ward, topping the poll with 36% to 28% for the SNP, 20% for independent candidate Judy White, and 12% for the Liberal Democrats who picked up Clark's surplus to win the final seat. Five weeks later, Clark was in Parliament. With that sort of trajectory, who knows where Colin Clark could end up by the end of this Parliament? One to watch, perhaps.

In the meantime we have the business of electing Clark's successor as an Aberdeenshire councillor. Clark's seat was based on the town of Inverurie, on the main road and railway line from Aberdeen to Inverness. Inverurie is an industrial town: the Aberdeenshire Canal came here in 1806 to link it to Aberdeen, and for most of the twentieth century it was home to the locomotive works for the Great North of Scotland Railway. The local non-league football team is still called Inverurie Loco Works, but these days the main game in town is oil. As well as being a commuter base for Aberdeen, Inverurie is a base for the North Sea oil industry and its population is booming: the boundary review done for the first PR election to Aberdeenshire council effectively increased its representation from three councillors to four. In that 2007 election those four councillors split two to the Liberal Democrats, one to the SNP and one to the Conservatives; the Lib Dems lost one seat to the SNP in 2012 and the other to the Conservatives in the 2016 by-election. That by-election came about as the result of a bizarre scandal in which the Lib Dem councillor, Martin Kitts-Hayes, returned early from an official trip to the North Sea Commission at Legoland in Denmark, because he was unhappy with his accommodation. Inevitably, the press called it "Legogate". The ward survived a boundary review this year unchanged, consisting of the town and a small rural hinterland.

An SNP gain in this by-election will allow the Nationalists to draw level with the Conservatives as the largest party on Aberdeenshire council, but the administration is not in danger: the Conservatives, Lib Dems and some independent councillors have formed a coalition to run the council with a secure majority.

Defending for the Conservatives is local resident Lesley Berry, who has the benefit of the Scottish Tories' heavy artillery: Ruth Davidson was up in Inverurie to support her campaign a couple of weeks ago. The SNP have selected Elaine Mitchell, a retired midwife. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Scott Bremner, who gives an address in Ellon. Also standing are Sarah Flavell of Labour, who fought the ward in May, and Craig Stewart of the Greens.

Parliamentary constituency: Gordon
Holyrood constituency: Aberdeenshire East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Aberdeen
Postcode districts: AB51, AB52

Lesley Berry (C)
Scott Bremner (LD)
Sarah Flavell (Lab)
Elaine Mitchell (SNP)
Craig Stewart (Grn)

May 2017 first preferences C 1732 SNP 1330 Ind 982 LD 568 Lab 206
November 2016 by-election C 1302 SNP 1164 LD 755 Lab 139; after transfers C 1701 SNP 1341
May 2012 first preferences SNP 1300 C 608 LD 606 Lab 463 Ind 407 Grn 113
May 2007 first preferences LD 2181 SNP 1515 C 762 Lab 567 Ind 123


Wyre council, Lancashire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Edwin "Ted" Taylor, who had served since 2003 and was Deputy Mayor of Wyre in 2007-08.

For our first English by-election of the week we are on the western Fylde coast, which may be marked by sandy beaches but here is rather more desolate than even Blackpool on a bad day. We're in the town of Fleetwood, a Victorian town dating from the 1830s when it was extensively redeveloped by Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the local landowner, MP and High Sheriff of Lancaster. Hesketh-Fleetwood had his house at Rossall Hall, a now-demolished residence in what is now the south-western corner of the town.

The main feature of the ward is Rossall School, a fee-paying school next to the tram line to Blackpool which dates from Fleetwood's initial expansion: Rossall School was founded in 1844 as a sister to Marlborough College, and has an impressive list of former pupils. Old Rossallians include musicians as diverse as Thomas Beecham and Little Boots, authors from Leslie Charteris to J G Ballard, a number of former MPs (although none currently serving) and a Head of State: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the President of Peru, was a pupil at Rossall School in the 1950s. Somewhat later than PPK, Dan Dare also passed through Rossall, becoming School Captain in the early 1980s. The presence of Rossall School rather skews the ward's census statistics - the census district covering the school had 17% of its population born in China and 11% in Germany, and the school puts the ward named after it into the top 50 wards in England and Wales for 16- and 17-year-olds. Rossall ward is also in the top 100 for those who did not answer the census' religion question.

Fleetwood is not the most prosperous of towns - its fishing fleet, the town's traditional economic mainstay, was destroyed by the Cod Wars with Iceland, several attempts to establish a ferry link to the Isle of Man or Ireland have foundered, and the main remaining industries are fish processing and Lofthouse's delicious Fisherman's Friends. Rossall ward includes a very deprived census district, and this creates a Labour-voting political profile for the ward, although Rossall is not safe: the Tories came within seven points of Labour in 2011 and in the 2015 election - when the ward survived a boundary review unchanged - the Labour share fell further although their lead increased slightly. Shares of the vote in that 2015 election were 39% for Labour, 30% for the Conservatives and 24% for UKIP.

A boundary change for this year's county elections transferred Rossall into a new division based on Tory-voting Cleveleys; the resulting "Fleetwood West and Cleveleys West" was in the Conservative column in May's county elections and formed part of the Tory group of 46 councillors which took over County Hall with an overall majority of eight. Less than five months later, an amazing series of misfortunes and self-inflicted wounds has seen that majority all but wiped out. Two Tory county councillors have left the group after falling out with the council leader, a third has been thrown out of the party for overclaiming thousands of pounds in council tax benefit, and a fourth has recently died, cutting the Tory majority to one. And there may be more to come: a fifth Tory county councillor has been suspended for alleged anti-Islamic comments on social media, and the Leader of the Council, no less, is being investigated by police on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and intimidating witnesses. This is the sort of stuff local government watchers expect to see from UKIP, not from a serious political party. The bizarreness doesn't end at County Hall either: the ruling Conservative group on Wyre council have recently deposed their group and council leader, ostensibly on health grounds, and his interim replacement has been attacked by the Labour group for having previously served a Standards Board suspension for bringing the council into disrepute.

To further add to the mix, this by-election has not thus far been run fully in accordance with electoral law. Now council by-elections in England and Wales don't just happen automatically: they have to be called, and this is done by two electors from the ward writing to the returning officer asking for a by-election to be held to fill a vacancy. (The process is normally orchestrated by the political parties and tends to be done fairly promptly: on the other hand, the Council of the Isles of Scilly had a vacancy for its entire 2013-17 term due to insufficient candidates from the island of Bryher.) Once the returning officer gets the call, he is required by law to hold a poll within 35 working days. In the case of Rossall, that didn't happen. Ted Taylor died in March and the request for an election was duly made in early August - a little later than normal, but not an unheard-of delay. However, the returning officer has refused to hold a poll until now, 52 working days later, citing staff shortages.

We wait to see whether this by-election will contribute to the strangest crisis in Lancashire since a dead pheasant got into Preston and the Fylde's water supply a couple of years ago. Defending for Labour is Cheryl Raynor, a Fleetwood town councillor. The Conservatives have selected Maggie Pattinson, who gives an address some distance away in the village of Pilling. With UKIP withdrawing from the fray, the ballot paper is completed by local resident Brian Crawford, a former Cumbria county councillor (representing Millom as a Conservative from 2013 until May this year) standing as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: Lancaster and Fleetwood
Lancashire county council division: Fleetwood West and Cleveleys West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackpool
Postcode districts: FY5, FY7

Brian Crawford (Ind)
Maggie Pattinson (C)
Cheryl Raynor (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 1085/1064/989 C 841/831/791 UKIP 659 Ind 218/173/148/91
May 2011 result Lab 841/801/758 C 698/684/655 UKIP 320/233 Ind 193
May 2007 result Lab 826/790/737 C 632/631/539 UKIP 394
May 2003 result Lab 953/950/886 C 486/463/459

Chapelford and Old Hall

Warrington council, Cheshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Faisal Rashid, who is now MP for Warrington South. He had served since 2011, originally being elected for Whittle Hall ward and transferring to this ward in 2016.

For the North West's other by-election we are in the new town of Warrington. While the Old Hall itself - Bewsey Old Hall, to be precise - was home to the Lords of the Manor of Warrington from the thirteenth century onwards, this ward is one of the most recently developed parts of town. Chapelford is a fast-growing urban area in the north-west of Warrington, located between Whittle Avenue and Cromwell Avenue; the area was once close to the US Air Force base at Burtonwood, and many of its street names (Boston Boulevard being the most prominent) are on an American theme. Most of the ward's housing has gone up since 2000 or even in this decade, and because of that the 2011 census might no longer be all that reliable here; for what it's worth, Whittle Hall ward (which covered most of this area in 2011) had a demographic of young families then with relatively high education levels and very high full-time employment. It's not surprising that Chapelford has an attracted an urban professional demographic given the proximity of the area to the motorway network: M62 junction 8 is a short distance away, providing easy access to both Liverpool and Manchester, the head office of the local water company United Utilities is just outside the ward boundary, and Warrington is a centre of the nuclear and distribution industries (as all the new distribution centres going up next to the M62 testify). Also in the ward is Old Hall, an older New Town area which includes a very deprived census district.

The Whittle Hall ward which covered this area until 2016 tended to be a Labour versus Lib Dem marginal: Faisal Rashid gained his seat in 2011 from the Lib Dems, and at the time of the ward's abolition Labour held two seats to the Lib Dems' one. The boundary changes last year took account of the strong population growth by removing the Whittle Hall estate itself to Great Sankey North ward, and that improved the Labour position in the cut-down Chapelford and Old Hall ward. At the only previous election on these boundaries, in 2016, Labour had 45% - clearly boosted by a personal vote for Rashid - to 21% for the Lib Dems and 18% for the Conservatives. On a personal note, the Lib Dem slate that year included David Knapp, an engineer whom your columnist has got to know from the UK quiz circuit; this column is grateful to David for help with this section.

Defending for Labour is Paul Warburton, a nurse and lecturer at Edge Hill University who represents most of the ward on Great Sankey parish council. The Lib Dems have reselected maths teacher Allan Bird, who fought the ward in 2015 and was top of their slate here last year. Hoping to get back on Warrington council is Conservative candidate Phil Hayward, a former Warrington councillor (for the wonderfully-named Locking Stumps, Gorse Covert and Risley ward, 1991-97) and more recently mayor of Didcot in Oxfordshire in 2011-12. Completing the ballot paper are Ian Wilson for UKIP and Stephanie Davies for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Warrington South (Central ward of Great Sankey parish); Warrington North (Old Hall ward of Burtonwood and Westbrook parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode district: WA5

Allan Bird (LD)
Stephanie Davies (Grn)
Phil Hayward (C)
Paul Warburton (Lab)
Ian Wilson (UKIP)

May 2016 result Lab 1489/1161/1011 LD 698/463/397 C 593/364/332 UKIP 332 Grn 204

Stanley and Outwood East

Wakefield council, West Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Clive Hudson who is concentrating on his work commitments as a lecturer in engineering and aviation technology at the University of Leeds. He was first elected in 2000 for the former Stanley and Altofts ward, transferring to this ward in 2004.

We travel along the M62 from junction 8 to junction 30, across to the wrong side of the Pennines. This is a rather diffuse ward running along the A642 from the edge of Wakefield proper to the M62 motorway. Stanley itself, the main population centre, is a rather diffuse settlement itself being essentially a collection of villages which have fused together over the years. As the name suggests, the ward also includes the eastern half of Outwood, a former pit village which merges into Stanley thanks to 1970s development. Settlement names like Bottom Boat and Stanley Ferry betray that much of the ward is low-lying land next to the Yorkshire Calder, and with the exhaustion of coal rhubarb is now the major export: we are in the Rhubarb Triangle, where normal rules do not apply. Just outside the southern boundary of the ward is Pinderfields Hospital, which provides a large amount of employment for the area.

This is one of the wards making up the Morley and Outwood parliamentary constituency, which has seen some strange behaviour recently and not just out of the ballot boxes. The Conservatives gained Morley and Outwood from Labour in 2015, ousting noted ballroom dancer Ed Balls, despite not holding a single council seat within the constituency; and they repeated the trick in June despite still not holding a single council seat within the constituency and some controversy involving their MP Andrea Jenkyns, who had had a child out of wedlock with fellow Tory MP Jack Lopresti. In the days of John Major and "Back to Basics" that would have ended both their political careers, but social mores have moved on over the last twenty years; when the snap election came Lopresti successfully fought off a deselection attempt, while Jenkyns hit the campaign trail despite having had her son less than three weeks before the election was called. Jenkyns and Lopresti are now engaged, and this column wishes them all the best for the future.

Stanley and Outwood East ward was a Labour-Tory marginal until the advent of the Coalition but the Tories only won it once, at the Labour low point of 2008; the most recent result in 2016 suggested that it was trending to Labour, who won with 49% to 25% for the Conservatives and 22% for UKIP. It will be interesting to see whether the Conservatives can make inroads on that big Labour lead given their good parliamentary performance in June. There have been some decent minor-party performances in the past here: the BNP polled 21% in the ward in 2006, and in 2014 the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition finished third here ahead of the Lib Dems.

Defending for Labour is Jack Hemingway, who is hoping to make a comeback to Wakefield council after retiring in 2016 as councillor for Horbury and South Ossett ward. According to his Twitter he is a fan of history, hiking and rugby league. The Conservatives have selected Nathan Garbutt Moore, a learning and employment specialist from the village of Ackworth. The UKIP candidate is James Johnson, who gives an address in Stanley. Completing the ballot paper are Nicola Sinclair for the Liberal Democrats and Lucy Brown of the Yorkshire Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Morley and Outwood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wakefield and Castleford
Postcode districts: LS26, WF1, WF3

Lucy Brown (Yorkshire Party)
Nathan Garbutt Moore (C)
Jack Hemingway (Lab)
James Johnston (UKIP)
Nicola Sinclair (LD)

May 2016 result Lab 1873 C 950 UKIP 831 LD 151 TUSC 52
May 2015 result Lab 3351 C 2358 UKIP 1651 LD 427 TUSC 129
May 2014 result Lab 2004 C 1208 TUSC 323 LD 297
May 2012 result Lab 2135 C 971 LD 370
May 2011 result Lab 2478 C 1611 LD 360
May 2010 result Lab 2936 C 2578 LD 1539 BNP 761
May 2008 result C 1392 Lab 1112 LD 661 BNP 608
May 2007 result Lab 1338 C 1130 LD 679 BNP 581
May 2006 result Lab 1246 C 986 BNP 777 LD 706
June 2004 result Lab 2156/1686/1645 C 1640/1598/1594


Sheffield council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, who is concentrating on her PhD and her work at the University of Sheffield. She had served since 2004.

For our second Yorkshire by-election of the week we are in an area which has only been part of Yorkshire since 1967. Beighton was incorporated into Sheffield in that year, having previously been part of Derbyshire south-east of the city, and Sheffield council filled the ward with housing in the 1980s and 1990s, turning former villages such as Sothall, Owlthorpe and Hackenthorpe into large estates. The Halfway branch of the Supertram links Owlthorpe and Hackenthorpe to Sheffield city centre - tram stops within the ward include Donetsk Way, Hackenthorpe and Birley Moor Road - while employment is provided by the large Crystal Peaks shopping centre just outside the ward boundary.

Beighton ward was created in 2004 from the northern half of the former Mosborough ward, which had become grossly oversized due to development, and boundary changes last year transferred part of Hackenthorpe into it. Since its creation in 2004 Beighton has been a safe Labour area, and the 2016 result - a Labour win with 43%, to 25% for UKIP and 17% for the Conservatives - doesn't suggest anything different. However, Labour embarrassingly lost the neighbouring Mosborough ward to the Lib Dems in a shock by-election result last autumn, and do need to be on their guard to prevent a repeat performance.

Defending for Labour is a young candidate, Sophie Wilson who gives an address just to the north in Woodhouse. The UKIP candidate is Shane Harper, who fought Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough in June's general election. The Conservatives have selected Laurence Smith, a Sheffield University student who chairs the university's Conservative association. Completing the ballot paper are Bob McCann for the Liberal Democrats and Anthony Naylor for the Green Party. None of the five candidates give addresses in the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Sheffield South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sheffield
Postcode districts: S12, S20

Shane Harper (UKIP)
Bob McCann (LD)
Anthony Naylor (Grn)
Laurence Smith (C)
Sophie Wilson (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 1962/1947/1704 UKIP 1154 C 777 LD 253/249/209 Grn 239/239/151 TUSC 141

Hucknall North

Ashfield council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ben Bradley, who is now MP for Mansfield. He had served since 2015.

We move south from Yorkshire for two Midlands by-elections, and we keep our link with trams. Hucknall is an old mining town a few miles north of Nottingham which makes much of its connection with Lord Byron: he and his estranged daughter Ada Lovelace are buried in Hucknall. Also associated with the town are Ben Caunt, a bare-knuckle fighter who in some stories is claimed as the inspiration behind the name Big Ben for the bell down in London, and the light-music composer Eric Coates who was born here. Although the opening of tram line has led to some growth in the town with commuting to Nottingham, manufacturing remains important to the local economy with Rolls-Royce still having a presence.

Hucknall lies within the Ashfield local government district which has turned in some very weird election results over the last few electoral cycles, although Hucknall North ward has been rather less bizarre than the district as a whole. In 2003 the ward elected an independent and a Labour candidate; the Conservatives gained the independent seat in 2007 and Labour gained the Conservative seat in 2011.

Boundary changes in 2015 added a rapidly-growing commuter area near the station, the Butler's Hill area and an extra councillor to Hucknall North ward, and that together with a split in the Labour vote - their long-serving councillor John Wilmott sought re-election at the head of a localist slate called Hucknall First Community Forum - allowed the Conservatives to draw level with Labour. The Conservative and Labour slates both polled 31%, but the Tories won two seats to Labour's one; there was also 18% for UKIP and 13% for the Community Forum. In May's county elections Tories led easily in the Hucknall North division, which has very similar boundaries to this ward; Ben Bradley was elected as the county councillor. Hucknall is part of the Sherwood parliamentary constituency, which swung slightly to the Conservatives in June.

Bradley remains on Nottinghamshire county council for the time being. The electoral arithmetic in County Hall is rather delicate, with the Conservatives short of a majority and running the county council in coalition with the Mansfield Independent Forum. That coalition controls 35 out of 66 seats, which (as we've seen in Lancashire) doesn't give much margin for error. By comparison, Ashfield district has a secure Labour majority with the Tories holding only four out of 35 seats; Bradley's resignation is not going to affect control of Ashfield council.

Defending for the Conservatives is Sheila Clarke. Labour have selected Ian Morrison, councillor for this ward from 2011 until losing his seat to the Conservatives in 2015. The UKIP candidate is Stephen Crosby who has had a busy time recently: he fought Nottingham North in June's general election, Mansfield West in May's county election and, er, Strangford in the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election (to be fair, he is originally from Norn Iron). Former Labour councillor John Wilmott, who stood here in 2015 and in May for the Hucknall First Community Forum, now has the nomination of the Ashfield Independents, a group associated with the former Ashfield council leader Jason Zadrozny. (Zadrozny was originally a Lib Dem figure, but was suspended by the party after being arrested in the run-up to the 2015 general election on suspicion of child sex offences; despite the fact that he is still awaiting trial for those charges, he was re-elected to Nottinghamshire county council in May.) Completing the ballot paper is James Harvey for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Sherwood
Nottinghamshire county council division: Hucknall North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: NG15

Sheila Clarke (C)
Stephen Crosby (UKIP)
James Harvey (LD)
Ian Morrison (Lab)
John Wilmott (Ashfield Ind)

May 2015 result C 1820/1673/1513 Lab 1797/1517/1509 UKIP 1067 Hucknall First Community Forum 741/506/482 Grn 435


Tamworth council, Staffordshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Peter Seekings on health grounds; sadly, he passed away shortly afterwards at the age of 83. Seekings was first elected in 1997 and had twenty years' continuous service on Tamworth council; he had previously served as leader of the council and the Labour group, and the first Tamworth council meeting after his death unanimously conferred the title of honorary alderman on him. His local government career started as a parish councillor in his native Yorkshire - he was Mayor of Edlington, near Doncaster, in 1978-79 - and he had settled in Tamworth after being posted there by the gentleman's outfitters Dunn and Company, for whom he had worked since the age of 16.

We continue our progress south with a trip to Tamworth. A large market town, Tamworth has grown strongly in recent years thanks to its good road and rail links to Birmingham; although not a New Town, Tamworth does resemble one in many respects. The town's population has trebled since 1961 and Tamworth is now the second-largest settlement in Staffordshire after Stoke-on-Trent. Originally the capital of Mercia, Tamworth is now a logistics and engineering centre where the Reliant Robin was manufactured until 2001.

Located to the east of Tamworth town centre along the Amington and Glascote roads, Bolehall is the most working-class of Tamworth's ten wards and the only one to reliably vote Labour. At the most recent poll in 2016 Labour had 49% to 26% for UKIP and 24% for the Conservatives. The ward is split between two Staffordshire county divisions both of which were narrow Conservative gains from Labour in May: the Tories gained Bolebridge division by 115 votes and Amington division by just 15 votes.

UKIP are not standing in this by-election creating a straight fight. Defending in the red corner is Sheree Peaple, an independent legal education consultant and former solicitor, who was previously head of the law school at De Montfort University and was county councillor for Amington division from 2013 to 2017; she is hoping to join on Tamworth council her husband Simon, who is leader of the Labour group. Challenging in the blue corner is Thomas Jay, a local businessman.

Parliamentary constituency: Tamworth
Staffordshire county council division: Amington (part), Bolebridge (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham
Postcode districts: B77, B78, B79

Thomas Jay (C)
Sheree Peaple (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 818 UKIP 431 C 404
May 2015 result Lab 1440 C 1315 UKIP 772 Grn 182
May 2014 result Lab 1162 C 602
May 2012 result Lab 1047 C 435
May 2011 result Lab 1205 C 847
May 2010 result Lab 2023 C 1476
May 2008 result Lab 864 C 710
May 2007 result Lab 990 C 718
May 2006 result Lab 1111 C 701
June 2004 result Lab 925 C 711
May 2003 result Lab 714 C 562
May 2002 result Lab 893/846/822 C 520/508/485

Oxhey Hall and Hayling

Three Rivers council, Hertfordshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ty Harris, who blames the Lib Dem-run council for a reduction in social housing in South Oxhey. He had served since 2014.

After seven by-elections in Scotland, the North and the Midlands, we finish the week south of Watford - immediately south of Watford. Oxhey Hall and Hayling is a rather socially divided ward; Oxhey Hall, just outside the Watford town boundary, consists mostly of 1930s houses with large gardens off Hampermill Lane; while Hayling, a reference to Hayling Road, covers the northern end of the large GLC overspill estate of South Oxhey. At the time of the 2011 census these areas were separate wards before being combined into one electoral area in 2014, and the census stats for the two former wards are as socially divided as you would expect. What a difference a line on a map makes.

Politically Oxhey Hall and Hayling behaved differently as well. Before 2014 Hayling ward was normally safe Labour with low turnout (although the BNP and the Conservatives both came close in 2008) while Oxhey Hall voted Lib Dem at every election from 2004 onwards, the party gaining a seat from long-serving Conservative councillor Roy Clements in 2007. With this mix the 2014 election ended up with a close four-way result: the Lib Dems topped the poll with 28% and won two seats, the Conservatives had 25.5% and won one seat, and Labour and UKIP scored 23% each. The Conservatives held their seat in 2015, but then the Lib Dems had a good hold in 2016 with 48%, to 26% for the Tories and 17% for Labour. The Lib Dems were nowhere in May's county elections, partly due to boundary effects: their strong area in Oxhey Hall is covered by the safe Conservative county division of Rickmansworth East and Oxhey Park, while Hayling is in the South Oxhey and Eastbury county division which voted Labour with the Conservatives close behind.

Defending for the Conservatives is Roy Clements, former district and county councillor for Oxhey Hall and chairman of the Association of Russian Ballet and Theatre Arts. The Lib Dem candidate is Keith Martin. Labour have selected Brendan O'Brien, a member for South Oxhey ward on the increasingly inaccurately-named Watford Rural parish council. Also standing are Mick Matthewson for UKIP and Matt Jones for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Hertfordshire (former Hayling ward), Watford (former Oxhey Hall ward)
Hertfordshire county council division: Rickmansworth East and Oxhey Park (approximately former Oxhey Hall ward), South Oxhey and Eastbury (approximately former Hayling ward)
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: HA6, WD18, WD19

Roy Clements (C)
Matt Jones (Grn)
Keith Martin (LD)
Mick Matthewson (UKIP)
Brendan O'Brien (Lab)

May 2016 result LD 926 C 496 Lab 339 UKIP 178
May 2015 result C 1221 LD 757 Lab 728 UKIP 617
May 2014 result LD 612/561/511 C 550/517/512 Lab 503/477/429 UKIP 490/465

If you liked this post, please consider buying the book! Andrew's Previews 2016, containing many more previews like this, is now available from Amazon.

Previews: 05 Oct 2017

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

A special announcement

Before we start this week, I am proud to make the following announcement.

The first Andrew's Previews book is now available for purchase. This is a permanent written collection of all the articles published under the Andrew's Previews series in 2016, whether for Kristofer Keane's blogs or for Election Data, and also including the results of each by-election featured.

If you want to relive the ups and downs of that crazy political year which was 2016; or if you've only come to this column recently and want to read more; or if you want to know more about the political and demographic map of Great Britain; or if you just fancy finding out about bits of Britain about which you might know little and visit less, then this is the book for you. If you are looking for an interesting Christmas present for somebody with those interests, then this is the book for you. It's a unique work - as far as I can tell the only other book primarily focusing on local by-elections is J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, which is not exactly non-fiction.

And remember, by buying the book you will help to support the research required to keep this column, and the Local Elections Archive Project, going.

Have I sold this to you yet? If so, get yourself over to Amazon (at the moment it's only available through Amazon).

If not, have a read of this preview of the eight by-elections on 5th October 2017, and remember that if you like what's written here there's a lot more like this waiting for you inside those pages. Read on...

Mash Barn

Adur council, West Sussex; caused by the resignation of UKIP councillor David Lambourne who had served since 2014.

Where better to start than the first English district council, alphabetically? The slightly curious name of Adur district comes from a local river, and Mash Barn ward lies on the western bank of that river. This has always been an outward-looking area: much of the ward's acreage is taken up by Brighton City (Shoreham) Airport, which opened in 1910 as the oldest purpose-built commercial airport in the world. The terminal building is listed for its 1930s Art Deco architecture. Sold by Adur council in 2006, Brighton City is not one of the UK's most important airports - it handled fewer than 500 passengers in 2014 - but was notable for the annual Shoreham Airshow until a 2015 incident in which an aircraft crashed onto the A27 road on the ward's northern boundary, killing 11 people on the ground.

With much of Mash Barn ward's area taken up by the airport, agriculture or the training grounds for Brighton and Hove Albion FC, the ward's population is concentrated at its western end in the village of Lancing. One of the many claimants this column comes across for the title of England's largest village, Lancing is effectively a part of the Brighton-Worthing conurbation and easily large enough to be a town in its own right. Mash Barn is Lancing's council estate ward, running north from the railway station to the A27 road, and has particularly high levels of part-time working.

In recent years Mash Barn's politics have been rather volatile. The current ward boundaries date from 2004 when the ward's two seats split between the Tories and Lib Dems. That split persisted, leading to some wild swings in the following years: the Lib Dems held their seat in 2006 by just 5 votes, increased their majority in the 2010 election to 28 votes, but fell to fourth place in 2012 as the Conservatives held their seat easily. In 2014 the Tory councillor resigned putting both seats in the ward up for election, and both seats were comfortably gained by UKIP. UKIP held the ward easily in 2016 when they had 42% to 23% for the Conservatives and 20% for Labour. However, the purple party seem to have fallen apart in Adur recently: they lost the Lancing county council seat, which covers this ward, to the Conservatives in May, and UKIP are not defending this by-election.

Yes, you guessed it, this is Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all! The Conservatives, who control Adur council, have gone for youth in selecting Jack Howard who is involved with the local British Legion branch. Labour, who got a huge swing in their favour in June in the local parliamentary seat (East Worthing and Shoreham), have selected Lancing parish councillor Lee Cowen who stood for the county council seat in May. Two other candidates returning from May's county council election are Doris Martin of the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party's Paul Hendy, who complete the ballot paper. Whoever wins this by-election will need to be back on the campaign trail in short order to seek re-election in May 2018.

Parliamentary constituency: East Worthing and Shoreham
West Sussex county council division: Lancing
ONS Travel to Work Area: Worthing
Postcode districts: BN15, BN43

Lee Cowen (Lab)
Paul Hendy (Grn)
Jack Howard (C)
Doris Martin (LD)

May 2016 result UKIP 398 C 212 Lab 184 LD 146
May 2014 double vacancy UKIP 461/416 LD 265/224 C 245/198 Lab 159
May 2012 result C 269 UKIP 190 Lab 174 LD 151
May 2010 result LD 815 C 787 UKIP 343
May 2008 result C 485 LD 259 UKIP 88 Lab 84
May 2006 result LD 401 C 396 Grn 105
June 2004 result C 342/274 LD 295/264 Ind 200/192 Lab 166

Borehamwood Kenilworth

Hertsmere council, Hertfordshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Thomas Ash, who had served since 2015.

Let's make a film (or a TV show), shall we? Rather like most of the Los Angeles film studios known generically as Hollywood being actually in neighbouring towns, the series of film and TV studios generically known as Elstree were in fact mostly in what has become the town of Borehamwood. Much of the acreage of Borehamwood's Kenilworth ward is taken up by the fomer site of the MGM-British Studios, which from 1948 to 1970 made a series of notable films, and not just for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was made here by 20th Century Fox, and the site was used for the TV series The Prisoner and UFO. MGM-British Studios were essentially put out of business in 1970 by Stanley Kubrick, who tied the site up for two whole years with production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the studio site was developed for housing. Appropriately the main road through the development is called Studio Way while other streets in the ward commemorate giants of the film industry: among others Korda, Novello, Niven and Danziger (the Danziger brothers also had an Elstree Studio) are all remembered in this way. Those living in this new development may be pleased to know that their polling station for this by-election is a pub - the Toby Carvery on Studio Way.

Kenilworth ward's population has traditionally lived on the south side of Elstree Way, next to the A1 in housing from the great boom immediately after war which made Borehamwood what it is today. This is a strongly Jewish area - Kenilworth ward is in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for Judaism - and the timing of this by-election on the first day of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, has led to an apology from the returning officer, who explained that he had to call a by-election within 35 working days of the request for a by-election being made and there were no other suitable dates. (We will return to this subject next week.) The print run for postal votes has been increased, but there may still be an impact on turnout nevertheless. Social renting in the ward is high, and there is an unusually large black population (6.3%) for a ward in a shire county.

Borehamwood is traditionally the most Labour-inclined part of the strongly Conservative Hertsmere district, which runs along the outer edge of Greater London from Bushey to Potters Bar. At the first poll on its current boundaries in 2002 Borehamwood Kenilworth voted strongly Labour, but then turned into a key marginal. The Conservatives gained one Labour seat in 2006 by 12 votes, and the other in 2007 by 49 votes; that year the outgoing Labour councillor Frank Ward stood for re-election as an independent candidate and polled 216 votes, so Labour could argue that their vote was split. Labour regained the Tory seats here in 2011 and 2014, but in 2015 Hertsmere moved away from the thirds electoral system putting both seats up for election, and the Conservatives narrowly gained both seats in Kenilworth ward beating Labour 53-47 in a straight fight. The ward is split between the two Borehamwood county divisions, both of which voted Conservative in May.

A Tory hold in this marginal ward would give the party a cheer in Conservative conference week. Their defending candidate is Pat Strack; she was a councillor for this ward from 2006 until losing her seat in 2014, served as Mayor of Hertsmere in 2012-13, and still sits on Elstree and Borehamwood town council (although not for this ward). Labour have selected a high-profile candidate from the Jewish community: Jeremy Newmark is the chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement and the party's Hertsmere branch, formerly worked as a spokesman for then Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and fought Finchley and Golders Green in the general election. Also standing on a much wider ballot paper than usual for this ward are Elaine Elliman for the Liberal Democrats, Vikki Johnson for UKIP and independent candidate Lawrence Stack.

Parliamentary constituency: Hertsmere
Hertfordshire county council division: Borehamwood South (part south of Elstree Way), Borehamwood North (part north of Elstree Way)
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: WD6

Elaine Elliman (LD)
Vikki Johnson (UKIP)
Jeremy Newmark (Lab)
Lawrence Stack (Ind)
Pat Strack (C)

May 2015 result C 1363/1290 Lab 1206/1084
May 2014 result Lab 595 C 485 UKIP 413
May 2011 result Lab 859 C 652
May 2010 result C 1253 Lab 1188
May 2007 result C 467 Lab 418 Ind 216
May 2006 result C 511 Lab 499 LD 167
May 2003 result Lab 349 C 321 LD 175
May 2002 result Lab 463/457 C 231/208 Ind 195

Burnham Lent Rise and Taplow

South Bucks council, Buckinghamshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Alan Samson. Samson was first elected in 2010 to Burnham parish council and had served on South Bucks council since 2011, originally from Burnahm Church ward before transferring in 2015 to this ward. Before becoming a councillor he had a 30-year career in operational management and 15 years in logistical management.

Nothing ordinary ever happened here, nor could it.
- motto of Cliveden

Moving to the west of London, we come to a long and thin ward which covers the area between Slough and Maidenhead while definitely not being part of either. The ward is based on most of Burnham, which likes to call itself a large village but which I'm going to mortally offend here by describing it as a Slough suburb. Burnham was once a market town on the London-Bath road, but fell into decline after the Maidenhead bridge over the Thames was opened in 1280 and the road diverted over it. To the south is Dorney, which came to international attention in 2012 as the venue for the rowing and sprint canoeing events in the London Olympics.

Further upstream on the Thames is the village of Taplow, which anchors a long and thin parish running from the M4 motorway almost as far as the edge of High Wycombe. Taplow is the site of the ward's railway station, a grand Victorian structure rather out of kilter with its relatively low usage, and covers the eastern end of the modern Maidenhead Bridges - the handsome A4 road bridge dating from 1777 and Brunel's flat-arch railway bridge, opened in 1839 with the widest and flattest arches in the world at that time. Both of these are Grade I listed, as is the Italianate mansion house of Cliveden. Home to various scions of the upper class from Frederick, Prince of Wales all the way down the social scale to the Viscounts Astor, and later scene of the notorious Profumo Affair, Cliveden is now a five-star hotel owned by the National Trust and home to its own species of snail - Britain's only colony of the Mediterranean land snail Papillifera bidens, happily living on the Borghese Balustrade.

We have heard a lot recently about the appalling tragedy at Grenfell Tower in west London which has thrown a spotlight on living conditions in the capital. Compare and contrast with the living conditions of the family after which the tower was named. Three generations of MPs called Grenfell lived in Taplow: Pascoe Grenfell, a Cornishman from a family of tin and copper merchants (Great Marlow 1802-20, Penryn 1820-26), his son Charles Grenfell (Preston 1847-52 and 1857-65) who bought the country house of Taplow Court adjacent to Cliveden, and his grandson William Grenfell (Salisbury 1880-82 and 1885-86, Hereford 1892-93, Wycombe 1900-05 thence Lord Desborough) who was a noted sportsman - among other achievements he was on the Oxford crews that dead-heated the 1877 Boat Race and won the race the following year, and Desborough was the first Briton to carry the flag at the opening of the Olympic Games, going on to win a silver medal for team fencing at the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens. Desborough was also the father of the First World war poet Julian Grenfell. The ill-fated tower itself was named after Field Marshal Francis Grenfell, later Lord Grenfell, a Zulu War veteran who was another grandson of Pascoe Grenfell MP. The noted actress Joyce Grenfell had acquired the name by marriage - her husband Reggie was a great-great-grandson of Pascoe Grenfell MP - but, appropriately enough, lived on the Cliveden estate in her early life.

Compare and contrast.

At the time of the last census in 2011 Taplow parish formed a single-member ward of South Bucks district with upper-class demographics to match its upper-class history: a majority of its workforce were in some sort of management occupation. (One wonders how the census enumerators classified Sir Terry Wogan, who lived in Taplow for decades until his death last year.) The former Dorney and Burnham South ward made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for Sikhism - presumably overspill from over the county boundary in Slough - and the former Burnham Lent Rise ward wasn't all that much further down the social scale. Boundary changes in 2015 fused the area into a single ward which is as safe Conservative as you'd expect: that year the Conservative slate had 42% to 18% for UKIP, 16% for Labour and 13% for the Greens. In May's Buckinghamshire county elections the Cliveden division, which is based on this ward, was also safely Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is Matt Bezzant, policy and public affairs manager for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society who ran the Berkshire branch of the Remain capaign during last year's EU referendum. UKIP have not nominated a candidate this time. Labour have selected Alexa Collins, who runs an interior design company, is secretary of the Beaconsfield branch of Labour and is finance officer for Burnham parish council. The Green candidate is Zoe Hatch, who resigned from Taplow parish council last year and, perhaps because of this, has resorted to Crowdfunder to pay for her campaign. Completing the ballot paper is Carol Linton for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Beaconsfield
Buckinghamshire county council division: Cliveden
ONS Travel to Work Area: Slough and Heathrow
Postcode districts: HP10, SL1, SL4, SL6

Matt Bezzant (C)
Alexa Collins (Lab)
Zoe Hatch (Grn)
Carol Linton (LD)

May 2015 result C 2056/1715/1584 UKIP 872 Lab 779 Grn 651 Ind 501

Stoneleigh and Cubbington

Warwick council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Nick Harrington, who had served since 2015.

We move to the Midlands for a large agricultural ward immediately to the south of Coventry. We may be in the Midlands now but we haven't got away from the aristocratic country estates: Stoneleigh Abbey, a Cistercian foundation founded in 1154, was acquired after the Dissolution by Sir Thomas Leigh, Lord Mayor of London. The Leigh family became Warwickshire's largest landowners and built an impressive Georgian country house where they lived until 1990; it is now open to the public. Stoneleigh cricket club play their matches in the grounds of the house, and Wisden have previously named their ground as England's most beautiful cricket pitch.

The Leighs closed down all of Stoneleigh's pubs, allegedly after Lord Leigh's daughter was laughed at by drunks as she was going to church on a tricycle. So we have to look elsewhere for the main contributor to the local economy, and we find it in exhibitions. The 800-acre Stoneleigh Park was formerly the National Agricultural Centre, hosted the annual Royal Show every year from 1963 to 2009, and is still in use as an exhibition and conference centre. The Royal Agricultural Society of England and the British Charolais Cattle Society are still based at Stoneleigh Park.

Rather more sleepy is Cubbington, a village on the outskirts of Leamington Spa which is perhaps best known as a filming location for Keeping Up Appearances and Chucklevision. (To me, to you, to me, to you.) Other parishes within the ward include Baginton which is the site of Coventry Airport, a minor airfield used for cargo, private jets and flight training. The airport site may be subject to future redevelopment: Jaguar Land Rover have their eyes on the area for a new factory.

This ward was created in 2015 by merging most of the former Cubbington and Stoneleigh wards. The 2003-15 Stoneleigh ward made several top 100 lists for unusual demographics, but that was because the boundaries of that ward included Burton Green parish which covers part of the University of Warwick campus; Burton Green parish was transferred to Kenilworth's Abbey ward in 2015. Comparisons should instead be made with the former Cubbington ward, which in 2011 had a commuter demographic thanks to its proximity to the Leamington-Warwick conurbation.

In 2015 the Tory slate in Stoneleigh and Cubbington was run fairly close by independent candidate David Ellwood: the Tories won both seats with 40% to 30% for Ellwood and 17% for Labour. The Conservatives had a big lead in May in the local county division. Shortly afterwards Nick Harrington was suspended from the Conservative party for making a racist tweet during the Eurovision Song Contest, and subsequently resigned from the council. Given that Harrington's tweet was aimed at Ireland, it's unlikely that Terry Wogan would have been amused.

Defending for the Conservatives is Trevor Wright, a business consultant from Kenilworth. The independent candidate from 2015 is not standing again. Labour have selected Josh Payne, an activist from Kenilworth who will hoping for more than the 9% he got in the safe-Tory Lapworth division in May's county elections. Completing the ballot paper are Chris Philpott for the Green Party and Richard Dickson for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Kenilworth and Southam
Warwickshire county council division: Cubbington and Leek Wootton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Coventry (Baginton and Stoneleigh parishes); Leamington Spa (Ashow and Weston under Wetherley parishes and part of Cubbington parish)
Postcode districts: CV3, CV8, CV32, CV33

Richard Dickson (LD)
Josh Payne (Lab)
Chris Philpott (Grn)
Trevor Wright (C)

May 2015 result C 1390/1177 Ind 1039 Lab 614/376 Grn 468/224

Burbage Sketchley and Stretton

Hinckley and Bosworth council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Stan Rooney who had served since 2015.

For our East Midlands by-election this week we move just across the county boundary from Warwickshire into Leicestershire. The large village of Burbage has grown strongly since the Second World War thanks to the building of large housing estates in Sketchley, attracted by the area's proximity to the M69 motorway giving good road links to Leicester and Coventry. Now effectively a southern suburb of Hinckley, Burbage is large enough to need two wards of its own. This is the southern ward, including the southern part of the old village around Lutterworth Road; the Sketchley housing estates; and some countryside down to the A5 Watling Street, around which a number of business parks and distribution centres have sprung up. Appropriately, the ward has a commuter economic profile.

This ward was safely Conservative when it was first fought in 2003, but in 2007 the Liberal Democrats - who are strong in Hinckley town - put together a large swing to gain the ward and control of Hinckley and Bosworth council. The Tories got one seat back in 2011 (by a majority of 5 votes) and easily gained the other two seats in the ward in 2015; vote shares that year were 44% for the Conservatives, 29% for the Liberal Democrats and 14% for UKIP. The Conservatives consolidated their position in May's county elections in which the Burbage division (based on this ward) was safe for them.

Defending for the Conservatives is David Macdonald, a businessman and executive director of Uttoxeter Racecourse who fought the ward in 2011. Hoping to get back on the council is Lib Dem candidate Robert Mayne, who represented this ward on Hinckley and Bosworth council from 2007 to 2015. The UKIP candidate is Neale Smith, who fought the county council seat in May, and the ballot paper is completed by Labour candidate Christina Emmett and independent candidate Danny Findlay.

Parliamentary constituency: Bosworth
Leicestershire county council division: Burbage
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE10

Christina Emmett (Lab)
Danny Findlay (Ind)
David Macdonald (C)
Robert Mayne (LD)
Neale Smith (UKIP)

May 2015 result C 2313/2176/1998 LD 1537/1436 UKIP 753 Lab 701/666/614
May 2011 result LD 1458/1428/1404 C 1409/1299/1254 Lab 412/361
May 2007 result LD 1184/1163/1144 C 1107/1098/1086 Ind 243/181 Lab 233
May 2003 result C 1474/1411/1377 LD 623/621/596 Lab 288/288/272

Crewe East

Cheshire East council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor David Newton, who is retiring from public service on health grounds. A Deputy Lieutenant for Cheshire, Newton had served on Cheshire East council since 2011 and before that was a long-serving Cheshire county councillor, chairing the county council for four years.

This ward is easily described: it is Crewe east of the West Coast main railway line. The archetypal railway town, Crewe developed from nothing in the 1840s at the behest of the Grand Junction Railway, which had built a station, railway junction and locomotive works here in 1837. Engineering still forms the basis of the local economy; the railway works remain in operation, there is a large factory producing Bentley cars, and the defence and aerospace industries have presences. Also here, for now (it's scheduled for closure in the next couple of years), is a campus of Manchester Metropolitan University which leads to a significant student population. If High Speed 2 gets off the ground, Crewe station could be redeveloped to handle it.

Crewe is a Labour-inclined town, and this ward is no exception. In the days of the old Crewe and Nantwich council this area was covered by two-and-a-half wards: Maw Green ward (covering the north-east corner of the town) was solidly Labour, Waldron ward (the south-east corner) was normally Labour except for a Conservative win in 2006, and the modern Crewe East also included part of Delamere ward which was a Lib Dem area. The creation of Cheshire East council in 2009 consolidated these areas into a single ward which was safely Labour, and boundary changes in 2011 haven't changed that. At the most recent election in 2015 Labour had 46% of the vote to 23% for UKIP and 22% for the Conservatives. The Crewe and Nantwich constituency was an unexpected, if razor-thin, Labour gain in the general election, suggesting that the local Labour machine is in as a good a shape as anything out of Crewe Works.

Defending for Labour is Joy Bratherton, a former Crewe town councillor and former Crewe and Nantwich councillor: she represented Valley ward for the Liberal Democrats from 2006 to 2009. Also elected in that 2006 election to Crewe and Nantwich council was Eddie Ankers, who gained Waldron ward for the Conservatives; Ankers is standing in this by-election with the UKIP nomination. The official Conservative candidate is Mary Addison, a politics graduate who, like Ankers, gives an address in Shavintgon. Completing the ballot paper is Melanie English for the Green Party. Some of the electors may be pleased to note that their polling station is a pub - the Sydney Arms.

Parliamentary constituency: Crewe and Nantwich
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crewe
Postcode districts: CW1, CW2, CW3

Mary Addison (C)
Eddie Ankers (UKIP)
Joy Bratherton (Lab)
Melanie English (Grn)

May 2015 result Lab 2752/2421/2103 UKIP 1371/1087/1075 C 1307/1204/942 Grn 567
May 2011 result Lab 2128/2058/1730 C 975/937/902 LD 343


Salford council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of long-serving Labour councillor Joe Murphy at the age of 80. Murphy was one of the few remaining veterans of local government from before the 1974 reorganisation, having first been elected to Salford county borough council in 1971. The Mayor of Salford in 1992, Murphy was deselected in his former Irwell Riverside ward in 2011 but found a new berth in Claremont ward, gaining it from the Liberal Democrats. Away from the council he had played professional football for Rochdale, and then became an engineer.

Let's go to Salford, shall we? (Note to Conservative party conference attendees: you want the 8 or 37 bus, and try not to wince when the driver quotes you a fare. You're not in London any more, this is how the rest of the country lives.) Now let's get one thing clear: not all of what was once Salford county borough is rough. In fact parts of it are quite nice and many of the nicest bits are in Claremont ward. The core of Claremont ward is Irlams o' th' Height, the eastern terminus of the East Lancashire Road and the southern terminus of the Highway to Hell (or Blackburn, whicever comes first), the A666; this is an area of desirable Victorian houses along Claremont Road which was described to your columnist, when he worked for Salford council many years ago, as the area where the city's drug dealers liked to live. Make of that what you will. Further out of the city are 1930s semis along Lancaster Road, Swinton Park Road and the aforementioned Highway to Hell. Owner-occupation in Claremont ward is high with little social housing.

This is the second Claremont by-election of the year, the first having been on general election day in June. As this column said very briefly in the preview of that poll, this is an area which was Lib Dem until the Coalition took the floor out of their vote. The Lib Dem organisation in Salford seems to have fallen apart: one of their former councillors for this ward, (Margaret) Mary Ferrer, was the Green candidate in the June 2013 Weaste and Seedley by-election, and finished as runner-up here in each year from 2014 to 2016 with the UKIP nomination. In that 2016 result Labour had 48% to 25% for UKIP and 18% for the Conservatives; UKIP didn't stand in June's by-election in which Labour led the Tories here 62-27.

Defending this second Claremont by-election of the year for Labour is Mike Pevitt, who is also fighting his second by-election of the year: he was the Labour candidate who embarrassingly lost Kersal ward to the Conservatives in March, the first time Labour had failed to win that seat since 1992. At the risk of tempting fate, this should be safer for him. The Tories have reselected Charlotte Woods who fought the June by-election. Also returning from June are the Lib Dems' Stef Lorenz and the Greens' Daniel Towers, and the ballot paper is completed by Mary Ferrer who, having seemingly run out of parties to join, is now standing as an independent.

Parliamentary constituency: Salford and Eccles
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M6, M27

Mary Ferrer (Ind)
Stef Lorenz (LD)
Mike Pevitt (Lab)
Daniel Towers (Grn)
Charlotte Woods (C)

June 2017 by-election Lab 3300 C 1455 LD 319 Grn 236 Republic Party 49
May 2016 result Lab 1294 UKIP 666 C 489 Grn 245
May 2015 result Lab 2335 UKIP 1124 C 1014 LD 315 Grn 305 TUSC 80
May 2014 result Lab 1230 UKIP 904 C 446 Grn 163 LD 142 TUSC 52
May 2012 result Lab 1310 LD 697 C 250 UKIP 234 BNP 198 Community Action 69
May 2011 result Lab 1540 LD 809 C 460 UKIP 282
May 2010 result Lab 1837 LD 1783 C 887 BNP 386 Ind 143
May 2008 result LD 1277 Lab 737 C 525 BNP 295 UKIP 149
May 2007 result LD 995 Lab 845 C 492 BNP 316
May 2006 result LD 1162 Lab 707 BNP 424 C 331
June 2004 result LD 1505/1166/1074 Lab 964/848/830 C 764

St Germain's

Redcar and Cleveland council, North Yorkshire; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Marjorie Moses at the age of 83. The Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland in 2005, Moses had served since 1999.

For our final poll of the week we are not in a seaside resort, but we are by the seaside. Marske-by-the-Sea lies midway along that long, sandy beach that stretches all the way from the Tees estuary to Saltburn. St Germain's is the eastern of Marske's two wards, named after St Germain's church which predated the Conquest, being consecrated by Bishop Ægelric during the Confessor's reign. Most of the church was demolished in 1950, but the ward also includes the oldest house in the village, a cottage called Winkies Castle which is now run as a museum. In more modern times Marske was an aeronautic centre - the Royal Flying Corps had a landing strip here where Captain W E Johns, author of the Biggles books, was briefly based - but now it's a retirement centre. St Germain's is in the top 200 wards in the UK for retired population; those who are young enough to work tend to commute to Redcar or the Teesside towns, to which Marske railway station (on the Saltburn branch) links the ward.

In a by-election in February 2002 St Germain's ward turned in a result which may well be unique for all time - a Liberal Democrat gain from Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party. In that case the Socialist Labour councillor had originally been elected as a Lib Dem. St Germain's is generally a strong Lib Dem ward; although Labour gained two of the ward's seats in 2011, the Lib Dems took them back in 2015. Lib Dem seat gains in the 2015 local election are not something the dedicated student of local elections sees very often; that year the Liberal Democrat slate had 30% of the vote to 20% for Labour, 16% for UKIP, 13% for the Conservatives and 12% for the Greens.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Deborah Dowson, a councillor for this ward from 2007 to 2011 who is seeking to return to the council chamber. The Labour candidate is David Jones. UKIP are not standing in this by-election. The Conservatives have selected Olwyn Twentyman who is a Saltburn, Marske and New Marske parish councillor for the ward. The Green nominee is Nicola Riley, and independent candidates Vic Jeffries and John Lambert complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Redcar
ONS Travel to Work Area: Middlesbrough and Stockton
Postcode districts: TS11, TS12

May 2015 result LD 1293/1218/1125 Lab 861/842/816 UKIP 694 C 549 Grn 500/417 Ind 432/296
May 2011 result Lab 1263/1001/991 LD 1054/998/921 Ind 547 C 359
May 2007 result LD 1218/1107/1088 Lab 546/503 C 541/498
May 2003 result LD 1763/1702/1477 Ind 1025/536 C 487/428 Lab 452/355

Deborah Dowson (LD)
Vic Jeffries (Ind)
David Jones (Lab)
John Lambert (Ind)
Nicola Riley (Grn)
Olwyn Twentyman (C)

Previews: 28 Sep 2017

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

Mark Senior 1947-2017

Before we start this week, this column would like to pay tribute to one of those who hacked away relentlessly at the local electoral coalface. Mark Senior was a Liberal Democrat activist in Worthing who has been arguing the toss on electoral bulletin boards and discussion forums for as long as there were electoral bulletin boards and discussion forums to argue on. More than that, when it came to the nightmarish task of keeping track of future local by-elections Mark was a trailblazer, a pioneer. It was rare for me to come home after a day at work and not see a notification from Mark of a new vacancy somewhere, anywhere in the country. More often than not, Mark laid the foundation stone on which these previews are built. Away from politics, Mark ran a coin dealership in Worthing and played bar billiards to a high standard.

Mark never let on to his fellow amateur psephologists that his health was failing, and it was not until he failed to enter the Vote UK prediction competition for September 2017 that the forum realised something was wrong. He last logged into the Vote UK forum on 8th September, and sadly died six days later from cancer. He was 70 years old. May you rest in peace, Mark.

Mark Senior was not a Worthing or West Sussex councillor, and as far as I can tall had never stood for elected office. Unlike most of the politicians whose passing is marked by this column, there will be no by-election to replace Mark. The crowdsourcing effort to identify local council vacancies will have to soldier on without him, and it is a tribute to the work he put in that the list of future by-elections may, in future, be that little bit less complete and reliable.

Mark would surely have appreciated this week's list: a bumper crop of twelve local by-elections on 28th September 2017. His own Lib Dems did well last week in their conference week, gaining two of the three seats up for election. The prospects for Labour in their conference week don't look so inviting; although the party are only defending four seats, one of those is marginal and there is only one obvious prospect for a Labour gain, in Norfolk. There are six Conservative defences, all of which look safe, and there is Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election: a free-for-all to replace a retiring independent councillor in rural Lancashire. But we start this week with the only Liberal Democrat defence of the week, in the Highlands of Scotland. Read on...

Tain and Easter Ross

Highland council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Jamie Stone, who is now MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. Stone has had a long career in politics: after a series of early jobs finishing up in the oil industry he was first elected to the now-abolished Ross and Cromarty district council, transferring to the Highland Council when it was established in 1995. In 1999 Stone was elected to the Scottish Parliament as MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and in 2004 captained a Scottish Parliament team which beat the Welsh Assembly on University Challenge: The Professionals. After losing his Scottish Parliament seat to the SNP in 2011 Stone returned to the Highland council in the 2012 election, and was re-elected in May.

Last week this column went from south to north, so it's time to reverse direction by starting in the north, and they don't come much further north than Tain. One of the major towns of Ross-shire, Tain is Scotland's oldest Royal Burgh, granted a royal charter in 1066 thanks to its status as a pilgrimage site for St Duthac. Jamie Stone's brother Ruaridh runs one of the major local employers, the Highland Fine Cheeses factory, but Tain's major export is whisky: Glenmorangie's distillery is here. The ward also includes a large swathe of rural Easter Ross, generally low-lying land between the Cromarty, Moray and Dornoch Firths.

At the last first-past-the-post elections in 2003 all three of the predecessor wards (Seaboard, Tain East and Tain West) returned independent councillors, and all three outgoing councillors for those wards were re-elected at the first Highland Council election under proportional representation, in 2007: however, former Seaboard councillor Richard Durham was re-elected that year with the Lib Dem nomination. Independent councillor Alan Torrance then joined the SNP, but died in 2011 and the resulting by-election was won by independent candidate Fiona Robertson to restore the balance of two independents and one Lib Dem; Robertson overtook the SNP, who led in the first count, on transfers from other independents. Durham sought re-election as an independent in 2012 but lost his seat to the new Lib Dem candidate Jamie Stone.

The 2017 election saw the SNP break through by knocking out long-serving independent councillor Alasdair Rhind, who had topped the poll in 2007 and 2012. Shares of the vote were 24% for the SNP, 20% for Robertson, 19% for the Lib Dems and 16% each for Rhind and the Conservatives. Following the 2017 election the Highland Council administration is a coalition of independents, the Liberal Democrats and Labour with a secure majority (40 out of 74 seats plus this vacancy).

With that sort of fragmented result transfers and a good candidate selection are going to be crucial, but the local Lib Dems have made a nomination which on the face of it looks rather bizarre. Their defending candidate is William Sinclair, who gives an address twenty miles to the north in Rogart, Sutherland, and fought the ward of North, West and Central Sutherland in May - as the Labour candidate, polling 9% and finishing sixth out of eight candidates. The SNP candidate is Stan Peace, who despite his name is a musician. Alasdair Rhind is seeking to get back on the council as an independent candidate; another independent candidate is radio presenter and radio engineer Gerald Holdsworth. The Conservatives have selected Eva Short, who lives in Dornoch and fought her home ward (East Sutherland and Edderton) in May. Completing the ballot paper is another Sutherland-based candidate, Harry Christian of the Libertarian Party who gives an address in Golspie.

Parliamentary constituency: Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Scottish Parliament constituency: Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
ONS Travel to Work Area: Alness and Invergordon
Postcode districts: IV18, IV19, IV20

Harry Christian (Libetarian)
Gerard Holdsworth (Ind)
Stan Peace (SNP)
Alasdair Rhind (Ind)
Eva Short (C)
William Sinclair (LD)

May 2017 result SNP 831 Ind 708 LD 679 Ind 569 C 558 Ind 139
May 2012 result Ind 2012 LD 508 SNP 420 Lab 78 C 44 TUSC 23
June 2011 by-election SNP 837 Ind 811 Ind 467 LD 307 Ind 97; after transfers Ind 1204 SNP 1037
May 2007 result Ind 2456 LD 627 SNP 465 Lab 148 C 124 SSP 59

Trimdon and Thornley

Durham council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Morris Nicholls at the age of 78. A former miner, Nicholls was the longest-serving Durham councillor, having first been elected to what was then Durham county council for the former Thornley division in 1981, and had just been re-elected in May for his tenth term of office. He was chairman of the county council in 1997-98 and 1998-99 and served on the cabinet from 2007 to 2015 as member for adult services. Nicholls was also a member of the former Easington district council from 1991 until its abolition in 2009, and had sat on Wheatley Hill parish council since 1983.

Our eleven English by-elections have a definite northern and eastern bias to them. We start in County Durham in an area which will forever be politically associated with the man Labour love to hate, Tony Blair. The MP for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007, Blair lived in the village of Trimdon Colliery, and Trimdon Labour Club was the scene for many an election night celebration during Labour's glory days. Lionel Jospin, then prime minister of France, came to the club in 1998 and the following year legend has it that a barmaid answered the phone and shouted across the room "Where's Tony? It's a bloke called Clinton." Like the Labour government, Trimdon Labour Club closed down in 2010 (although the building is still in use as licensed premises). Another famous figure associated with the area is Tom Simpson, the professional cyclist who died on the ascent of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France; Simpson was born in Haswell, a village at the northern end of the division. A memorial to Simpson in Haswell was unveiled earlier this month by Sir Bradley Wiggins.

As the name Trimdon Colliery suggests, this is an ex-mining area on the Durham coalfield, covering a series of villages on low hills midway between Durham and Hartlepool. The present ward was created in 2013 by merging the old Thornley division with most of the former Trimdon division, with the number of councillors cut from four to three to reflect a declining population in the area. This is one of the areas of Britain least changed by immigration: at the 2011 census the old Trimdon division made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for population born in the UK and Thornley division was in the top 200. Thornley in particular has high unemployment and a very working-class economic profile.

The 2013 boundary changes squeezed out the former independent councillor for Thornley, and this is a safe Labour ward. In May this year the Labour slate polled 50% to 20% for UKIP and 19% for the Conservatives.

Defending for Labour is Jude Grant, a Thornley parish councillor who, according to her Twitter, is "still deciding what she wants to be when she grows up", and in the meantime is working for a local Labour MP and as a children's advocate for the National Youth Action Service. UKIP have not nominated a candidate. The Tory candidate is Michael Smith, who gives an address in Durham. Also standing are Alan Bell for the Liberal Democrats, independent candidate Maurice Brown and Jonathan Elmer of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Sedgefield (part: Trimdon, Trimdon Foundry and Wheatley Hill parishes); City of Durham (part: Thornley parish and part of Shadforth parish), Easington (part: part of Haswell parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Durham and Bishop Auckland (part: Trimdon and Trimdon Foundry parishes and part of Shadforth parish), Sunderland (part: Thornley and Wheatley Hill parishes and part of Haswell parish)
Postcode districts: DH6, TS21, TS28, TS29

Alan Bell (LD)
Maurice Brown (Ind)
Jonathan Elmer (Grn)
Jude Grant (Lab)
Michael Smith (C)

May 2017 result Lab 1433/1413/1392 UKIP 582 C 546 LD 295/231
May 2013 result Lab 1801/1692/1654 UKIP 581/510


Lancaster council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Paul Woodruff on health grounds at the age of 74. "Woodie" had served on Lancaster city council since 1995, including as Mayor of Lancaster in 2011-12.

Away from the council Woodruff ran a snack bar at the Crook o'Lune, a bend in the River Lune which may be only a mile away from the M6 motorway but is still a fantastic beauty spot; JMW Turner painted it. The village of Halton lies on the Lune's north bank between the Crook and the motorway. Halton was mentioned in the Domesday book and a cross in the churchyard is believed to have been carved during the Viking occupation over 1,000 years ago. In more recent times the village's traditional industry was metalworking; in the eighteenth century there were two forges here which burned charcoal to smelt iron, while textile mills lined the riverbank in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Further up the Lune Valley is Halton's twin village of Aughton (pronounced Affton) which bakes a giant pudding every 21 years; the profits from the most recent pudding festival in 2013 paid for Aughton to be provided with broadband. The recent construction of the Lancaster Northern Bypass, which is not shown in the map above, together with the rebuilding of M6 junction 34 to accommodate it, has given Halton a direct link to the motorway for the first time and greatly increased its accessibility.

Halton-with-Aughton ward has unchanged boundaries since the formation of the modern Lancaster council. Its first election in 1973 returned an independent, but the ward went Conservative in 1976 and the Tories were unopposed in 1979. Woodruff first stood here in the 1983 election as a Residents candidate, finishing last out of four candidates; he improved to third in 1987, was second in 1991 and finally knocked the Tories out in 1995. Since 1995 Woodruff had normally enjoyed large majorities, although his final re-election in 2015 was relatively close; he had 38% to 28% for the Green Party and 24% for the Conservatives. The local county council seat (Lancaster Rural East) is safely held by the Conservatives. Lancaster city council has a small Labour majority (31 out of 60 seats) which is not in danger here.

With no defending independent candidate to succeed Woodie we have Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all! The Greens, who were runners-up in the 2015 election, have selected local resident Jan Maskell, an occupational psychologist. The Conservatives have reselected Daniel Gibbins who fought the ward in 2015. Also standing are Kevin Frea for Labour (who gives an address two doors down from Maskell) and Catherine Pilling for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Morecambe and Lunesdale
Lancashire county council division: Lancaster Rural East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
Postcode districts: LA2, LA6

Kevin Frea (Lab)
Daniel Gibbins (C)
Jan Maskell (Grn)
Catherine Pilling (LD)

May 2015 result Ind 577 Grn 423 C 364 Lab 142
May 2011 result Ind 795 Grn 133
May 2007 result Ind 513 C 367 Grn 54
May 2003 result Ind 606 C 95 Grn 60
May 1999 result Ind 684 C 151 Lab 73
May 1995 result Ind 413 C 355 Lab 172
May 1991 result C 387 Ind 301 LD 253 Grn 49
May 1987 result C 490 SDP/Lib 259 Ind 250 Lab 93
May 1983 result C 418 SDP/Lib 393 Lab 124 Residents 110
May 1979 result C unopposed
May 1976 result C 717 Lab 240
May 1973 result Ind 657 C 419


Harrogate council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Christine Ryder who had served since 2012.

Moving over to the wrong side of the Pennines we are in another rural ward. Halton-with-Aughton ward is only one parish, but Washburn ward covers nineteen parishes sprawling across the moorland between Harrogate and Wharfedale. The ward itself is named after the River Washburn, which flows through it from north to south to meet the Wharfe near Otley, and has been extensively dammed to provide water for the city of Leeds. Possibly the most evocatively-named parish in the ward is Blubberhouses, a village of fewer than 100 souls on the A59 Skipton-Harrogate road; the wall-of-death style climb from Blubberhouses west up the A59 was a Category 4 hill in the 2014 Tour de France, with Frenchman Cyril Lemoine taking the 1 point available for the "Côte de Blubberhouses" in the King of the Mountains classification.

As often happens in deeply rural wards, self-employment is high with Washburn only just outside the top 100 wards in England and Wales for self-employed workers. In addition to that, Washburn's proximity to fashionable Yorkshire towns (the ward borders not just Harrogate but also Ilkley and Otley in West Yorkshire, with Ilkley having good rail links to the West Yorkshire cities) gives Washburn ward a middle-class commuter demographic: 48% of the workforce are in some sort of management occupation.

Not surprisingly given that profile the Tories have consistently led the classification for the Washburn title since the ward was created in 2002 (the predecessor ward of Wharfedale Moors voted Lib Dem in 1995 and 1999). Ryder was first elected in 2012 and easily re-elected in 2016 with 75% of the vote against Labour and UKIP opposition. The Conservatives also hold the local county council seat (Pateley Bridge).

Defending for the Conservatives is Victoria Oldham, an accountant and the only candidate to give an address in the ward. She is opposed by Laura Dinning for Labour, Jack Render for the Yorkshire Party and Paul Trewhitt for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Skipton and Ripon
North Yorkshire county council division: Pateley Bridge
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harrogate
Postcode districts: BD23, HG3, LS17, LS21, LS29

Laura Dinning (Lab)
Victoria Oldham (C)
Jack Render (Yorks Party)
Paul Trewhitt (Grn)

May 2016 result C 761 Lab 136 UKIP 118
May 2012 result C 830 LD 155 UKIP 123
May 2008 result C 957 LD 247
June 2004 result C 963 LD 346
May 2002 result C 804 LD 184


Barnsley council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Donna Green who had served since 2012.

For our other Yorkshire by-election this week we are in a very different area. Kingstone ward covers the south-west of the town of Barnsley, an area of Victorian terracing along Park Road and Racecommon Road. The ward includes Locke Park, opened in 1862 and named after its donor Phoebe Locke. As you'd expect from Barnsley, the economic profile is working-class with high unemployment.

Kingstone ward dates from 2004 when it was created out of the former Park and South West wards. The old Park ward was solidly Labour, but South West ward normally voted for an independent slate, and it was the independents who won the first election to Kingstone ward in 2004. The independents (who at the time were challenging Labour for the council majority) organised themselves as the Barnsley Independent Group and were re-elected from 2006 to 2008, but Labour gained the Independent Group seats in Kingstone from 2010 to 2012. The Barnsley Independent Group have since left the field; UKIP came close in 2014, but Kingstone ward is now safe Labour. At the most recent election in 2016 Labour beat the Tories here 60-12.

So this should be an easy defence for Labour's Joanne Murray. The Tory candidate is Lee Ogden, and also standing are the BNP's Christopher Houston (who got within seven points of Labour here as the UKIP candidate in 2014), Chris Scarfe of the Green Party, John Ellis-Mourant of the Liberal Democrats and Trevor Smith for an outfit your columnist has not previously heard of, the Demos Direct Initiative Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Barnsley Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnsley
Postcode district: S70

John Ellis-Mourant (LD)
Christopher Houston (BNP)
Joanne Murray (Lab)
Lee Ogden (C)
Chris Scarfe (Grn)
Trevor Smith (Demos Direct Initiative Party)

May 2016 result Lab 1074 C 220 BNP 198 Grn 195 TUSC 107
May 2015 result Lab 2005 UKIP 1105 C 425 Grn 302 TUSC 166
May 2014 result Lab 1011 UKIP 873 C 164 TUSC 137
May 2012 result Lab 1099 Barnsley Ind Gp 458 EDP 120 BNP 116 C 94
May 2011 result Lab 1160 Barnsley Ind Gp 870 BNP 196 C 193
May 2010 result Lab 1768 Barnsley Ind Gp 1378 BNP 532 C 436
May 2008 result Barnsley Ind Gp 1016 Lab 565 BNP 407 C 155 Ind 80
May 2007 result Barnsley Ind Gp 1060 Lab 841 BNP 361 C 129
May 2006 result Barnsley Ind Gp 1154 Lab 721 Ind 148 C 135
June 2004 result Ind 1259/1240/1152 Lab 937/863/797 C 217


East Staffordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Rebecca Carlton who had served since 2011.

East Staffordshire is coming out in by-elections like a rash at the moment; this is the fifth council by-election in the district this year. This time we're in Stretton ward which is a northern suburb of Burton-on-Trent hard up against the county boundary with Derbyshire; the name ("Street Town") refers to the Roman road of Ryknild Street, which passes through the ward, while the village itself has effectively merged into the Burton built-up area. Most of the housing stock here is post-war, and there is a campaign against building any more houses in the ward.

Stretton ward has existed since 1973 and took on its current boundaries in 2003, going up that year from two councillors to three. It has normally been a Tory stronghold with Labour winning only in 1995 and 1999; the most recent 2015 election was true to form, with the Tory slate polling 45% to 28% for UKIP and 20% for Labour. In May the Conservatives gained the local county council seat (Horninglow and Stretton) from Labour.

Good omens for the defending Conservative candidate Dale Spedding, a postman who clearly values good electoral analysis: he retweeted last week's edition of Andrew's Previews. The UKIP candidate is Peter Levis, a business and IT consultant who is fighting his third East Staffordshire by-election of the year and also stood in the local county seat in May. As usual in this ward Labour have turned to the McKiernan family, having reselected Stretton parish councillor Cameron McKiernan who fought the ward in 2015. Also standing are Rhys Buchan for the Lib Dems and Graham Lamb, an independent campaigning on a "Save Our Stretton" anti-development ticket.

Parliamentary constituency: Burton
Staffordshire county council division: Horninglow and Stretton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burton upon Trent
Postcode district: DE13

Rhys Buchan (LD)
Graham Lamb (Ind - Save Our Stretton)
Peter Levis (UKIP)
Cameron McKiernan (Lab)
Dale Spedding (C)

May 2015 result C 2084/2078/2072 UKIP 1279/778 Lab 910/784/707 Grn 354
May 2011 result C 1489/1364/1337 Lab 1008/759/723 Popular Alliance 495
February 2008 by-election C 661 Lab 366 BNP 327 Popular Alliance 233 LD 205
May 2007 result C 1261/1221/1059 Lab 717/536/496 Popular Alliance 621
May 2003 result C 1369/1262/1009 Lab 900/883/793 LD 725/651

Eastfield; and
Nene Valley

Northampton council; caused respectively by the resignations of Labour councillor Elizabeth Gowen and Conservative councillor Michael Hill. Gowen had served since 2011, Hill since 1999.

We travel south from Burton for two by-elections in one of the largest non-metropolitan districts which has not achieved city or unitary status, Northampton. Northampton grew greatly in the 1960s and 1970s by being designated a New Town, and Eastfield ward covers some of the New Town development: it's centred on Eastfield Park, and includes the Lake View area to the north of the park together with 1930s to 1950s housing along Broadmead Avenue and Grange Road to the south. The ward has high levels of social housing and a multi-ethnic population: the Grange Road census district is particularly high up the deprivation indices.

Nene Valley ward, on the other hand, is completely different. Covering very new estates to the south of the town across the A45 road, it has an educated commuter demographic (thanks to its good links to the M1 motorway) and high employment levels. That last item is rather fitting as the ward includes the Brackmills industrial estate and the main offices of the UK's leading credit card issuer, Barclaycard.

So these two wards are chalk and cheese. Eastfield ward has a particularly complicated history, voting for all three major parties this century - however, the Tory and Lib Dem wins came on the 1999-2007 boundaries in which Eastfield ward was much larger, taking in less deprived territory to the south which is now in Headlands ward. On its present boundaries Eastfield ward is a Labour-inclined marginal; in the 2015 election Labour had 37% to 33% for the Conservatives and 21% for UKIP. At county level the ward is split; Grange Road and Broadmead Avenue are in the Labour-inclined marginal division of Headlands, while Lake View is included in the safe Conservative division of Boothville and Parklands.

Nene Valley ward, on the other hand, is consistently Conservative at all levels of government. At the 2015 borough elections the Conservative slate had 42% to 20% for UKIP, 15% for Labour and 14% for an independent candidate; the Tories had bigger leads than that this year in both the Nene Valley county division (which is only slightly larger than this ward) and in the South Northamptonshire constituency.

That should be a large enough majority to survive recent bad publicity for Northampton council, which has been the subject of a scandal regarding a multi-million pound loan made by the council to Northampton Town football club. The scandal has already terminated the political career of the Northampton South MP David Mackintosh, who was effectively forced to retire at this year's general election after just two years in the Commons; Mackintosh had been leader of Northampton council before entering Parliament and the loan had been approved on his watch. The Tory majority on Northampton council is small (out of 45 seats, they hold 24 plus the Nene Valley vacancy) but safe for now.

Luke Graystone defends Nene Valley for the Conservatives: he is chief of staff for the local Tory MP Andrea Leadsom. The Labour candidate Nikesh Jani, a history teacher, is straight back on the campaign trail after fighting the county seat in May. With UKIP and the independent not returning, the ballot paper is completed by Brian Hare for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens' Denise Donaldson.

The defending Labour candidate in Eastfield, Paul Joyce, will take encouragement from the swing to Labour in June in the Northampton North constituency. Joyce is a Communication Workers Union figure and school governor. The Tories have selected Pauline Woodhouse who works in the criminal justice sector. Again UKIP are not returning, so the Lib Dems' Martin Sawyer completes the ballot paper.


Parliamentary constituency: Northampton North
Northamptonshire county council division: Headlands (part south of Eastfield Park); Boothville and Parklands (part north of Eastfield Park)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton
Postcode district: NN3

Paul Joyce (Lab)
Martin Sawyer (LD)
Pauline Woodhouse (C)

May 2015 result Lab 794 C 722 UKIP 457 Grn 105 LD 70
May 2011 result Lab 531 C 445 LD 269 Grn 81 Christian Peoples Alliance 47

Nene Valley

Parliamentary constituency: South Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire county council division: Nene Valley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Northampton
Postcode district: NN4

Denise Donaldson (Grn)
Luke Graystone (C)
Brian Hoare (LD)
Nikesh Jani (Lab)

May 2015 result C 2444/2104 UKIP 1129 Lab 846/807 Ind 783 LD 568
May 2011 result C 1790/1596 Ind 1056 LD 524/425

Thetford Priory

Breckland council, Norfolk; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jane Bishop. She had served since 2015.

We finish the week with four by-elections in East Anglia, starting in Thetford. A large market town on the Cambridge-Norwich road and the Ely-Norwich railway line, Thetford was the capital of the Kings of East Anglia during the Heptarchy and the seat of a bishopric, which moved to Norwich during the early twelfth century. More modern characters commemorated with statues in the town are Thomas Paine, whose statue depicts him holding a copy of his Rights of Man, held upside down; and Capt George Mainwaring of the Warmington-on-Sea Home Guard. Many of the outside scenes in the BBC comedy series Dad's Army were filmed in and around Thetford.

By the time Dad's Army was being filmed Thetford was booming in population as a result of London overspill. In 1967 construction started on the Abbey Farm estate in the north of the town on which the 2003-15 Thetford-Abbey ward was based. That London overspill, and more recent immigration from Eastern Europe, gave Thetford-Abbey a very working-class economic profile: at the 2011 census it made the top 60 wards in England and Wales for routine occupations, semi-routine occupations and population born in the new EU states. Boundary changes in 2015 reconfigured the four Thetford wards, with Thetford-Abbey replaced by Thetford Priory. Despite all the development, there is still a lot of Thetford Forest left and much of the Forest is covered by this ward.

Thetford-Abbey was not a monolithically Labour ward: the party lost the ward's two seats in 2007 to an independent and the Conservatives, and failed to knock out the independent councillor in 2011. The 2015 election saw the two seats in Thetford Priory go to UKIP and the Conservatives in a close three-way result: vote shares were 37% for the Kippers, 33% for the Tories and 30% for Labour.

At county level almost all of this ward is within the Thetford West division which is just as volatile: it voted Labour in 2005, Liberal Democrat in 2009 and UKIP in 2013, by just one vote over Labour. The UKIP county councillor resigned almost immediately after it was revealed that a local supermarket had banned him from its premises for shoplifting; Labour won the resulting by-election and greatly increased their majority in May.

With that county election result this is the clearest opportunity for a Labour gain in conference week, despite the fact that they are starting from third place in the ward. The defending Conservative candidate is Jane James, a bookkeeper and Thetford town councillor who fought the Thetford West county seat in May. UKIP have selected Dean Roberts who runs a football academy. Completing the ballot paper is another town councillor, Mike Brindle for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: Thetford West (almost all); Thetford East (part east of Croxton Road)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Thetford and Mildenhall
Postcode district: IP24

Mike Brindle (Lab)
Jane James (C)
Dean Roberts (UKIP)

May 2015 result UKIP 981 C 877 Lab 786/671

Chedburgh; and

St Edmundsbury council, Suffolk; caused respectively by the death of Angela Rushen at the age of 70 and the resignation of Jeremy Farthing, both of whom were Conservative councillors. Rushen had served since 2011, Farthing since 2015.

Moving over the county boundary into Suffolk, we come to two rural wards in the western Suffolk countryside. The village of Chedburgh lies five miles south-west of Bury on the A143 road to Haverhill; a settlement of around 600 souls, it anchors a ward of five parishes in the area.

Further to the south-west, Hundon ward is equally rural, covering four parishes a few miles to the east of Haverhill running from Stradishall in the north (on the Haverhill-Bury St Edmunds road) to Wixoe and Stoke-by-Clare in the south. The 2011 census placed Hundon in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for the "inactive: other" economic category, with 23% of the workforce falling into that category; if this is not an error in the census tables, it might be explained by the presence of Stoke College, a boarding school in Stoke-by-Clare on the site of a mediaeval priory and monastic college. While Hundon is included within the Cambridge travel to work area, the demographic profile suggests that it is perhaps a little too remote from that city for commuting to be practical.

St Edmundsbury is one of those councils that tends to have lots of councillors elected unopposed, and both Chedburgh and Hundon wards have been badly affected by this tendency. Chedburgh ward has never previously seen a contested election since it was drawn up in 2003; you have to go all the way back to 1999, when the ward was called Chevington and had different boundaries, for a previous poll. For what it's worth, the 1999 election in Chevington saw the Tories beat Labour 70-30.

Hundon ward has unchanged boundaries since at least 1979 and possibly all the way back to the founding electoral arrangements in 1973. Of the ten elections which have been held to Hundon ward from 1979 onwards only three were contested: the Tories beat Labour 52-48 at their low point of 1995, beat Labour 71-29 in the 1999 election and beat UKIP 63-37 at the most recent poll in 2015.

Both of these wards are in safe Conservative county divisions (Hundon is in Clare division, Chedburgh forms part of the wonderfully-named Thingoe South) and in the safe Tory West Suffolk parliamentary seat. So it looks like the Tories shouldn't be too worried about these defences.

The defending Conservative candidate in Chedburgh's first contested election of the 21st century is Mike Chester, the chairman of Chedburgh parish council. He is opposed by Ian Chapman for the Liberal Democrats and Gary Dillon for Labour. All three candidates give addresses in the ward.

The Hundon by-election is a repeat of the county election in Clare division in May. Mary Evans, re-elected in May for a second term on the county council, is the defending Tory candidate, while Alex Rolph challenges for the Lib Dems.


Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Thingoe South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bury St Edmunds
Postcode district: IP29

Ian Chapman (LD)
Mike Chester (C)
Gary Dillon (Lab)

May 2015 result C unopposed
May 2011 result C unopposed
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C unopposed


Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Clare
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode districts: CB8, CO10

Mary Evans (C)
Alex Rolph (LD)

May 2015 result C 752 UKIP 435
May 2011 result C unopposed
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C unopposed
May 1999 result C 473 Lab 192
May 1995 result C 454 Lab 427
May 1991 result C unopposed
May 1987 result C unopposed
May 1983 result C unopposed
May 1979 result C unopposed


Harlow council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Rod Truan, who is moving to Cornwall to take up a new job. He had served since 2010.

For our final poll of this busy week we are in the centre of the New Town of Harlow, visiting the Harvey Shopping Centre, the Playhouse and the Water Gardens. South of these is the Todd Brook, a stream after which the ward is named, and south of that is the ward's main housing area along Partridge Road and Tendring Road. This is New Town development mostly from the 1950s and 1960s. Social renting levels are high and the demographic is a rather working-class one.

Toddbrook ward normally votes Labour, although the Conservatives won it at a by-election in October 2007 and in the 2008 election, and UKIP were only 28 votes behind Labour in 2014. The most recent result in 2016 suggests that Labour has made the ward safe again: that year they had 50% to 25% each for the Tories and UKIP, and Labour's majority on Harlow council is safe for now (they have 18 out of 33 seats plus this vacancy). However, Labour lost the local county council division (Harlow West) to the Conservatives in May's Essex county council elections, and didn't make much of a dent in the Tory majority in the Harlow constituency (which includes territory outside the New Town) in June.

Nonetheless Labour should be favoured to hold this one. Their defending candidate is Tony Edwards, who has 35 years' experience as a social worker and social work manager. The Conservatives have selected Peter Lamb, who has got in trouble during the campaign for past tweets on the subject of Islam. The UKIP candidate is Patsy Long, a grandmother who hopes to join on the council her son Dan Long (UKIP councillor for Bush Fair ward). Completing the ballot paper are James Aicken of the Greens and Lesley Rideout for the Lib Dems. Whoever wins is likely to be back on the campaign trail in short order to seek re-election in May 2018.

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

James Aicken (Grn)
Tony Edwards (Lab)
Peter Lamb (C)
Patsy Long (UKIP)
Lesley Rideout (LD)

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

Previews: 21 Sep 2017

It's time for that staple of September and October, the party conference season. As is traditional, the Lib Dems are up first, and in their conference week on 21st September 2017 they will be looking for two gains from Labour in urban Midlands wards with Lib Dem traditions. But first, let us go east to the UK's easternmost town, for a Tory defence in an area where they performed well in June. Read on...

Oulton Broad

Waveney council, Suffolk; caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Colin Law, at the age of 74. Law had served on Waveney council since 2002, becoming Leader in 2011, and was also a Suffolk county councillor from 2009 to 2013.

We start this week in what is now the western suburbs of the Suffolk town of Lowestoft, which have grown to the extent that the old village of Oulton Broad has been swallowed up. Oulton Broad itself is one of the largest pieces of open water in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. As well as the old Oulton Broad village, located around Oulton Broad North railway station on the Norwich-Lowestoft line, the ward includes part of the Broads National Park, the late 1950s Rock Estate to the north and an area of later and rather exclusive housing on the lakeshore to the west. Two of the roads in this area are named Borrow Road and Romany Road, commemorating the Victorian author and travel writer George Borrow, who died in Lowestoft but had travelled extensively in Europe and published a dictionary of the Romany language. The census return for the ward has the unusual combination of a very high retired population and very high takeup of Apprenticeship qualifications.

Oulton Broad ward has been consistently Conservative since it was drawn up on its current boundaries in 2002, although not always safely so. In the 2002 election the Conservatives had majorities of 82 and 18 votes, while in the most recent election in 2015 Law - who was a long way behind his running-mate, perhaps due to holding the council leadership - was re-elected for his final term by 59 votes over Labour. Shares of the vote that year were 41% for the Conservatives to 29% for Labour and 22% for a single UKIP candidate. More recent elections in the area are not encouraging for Labour: in May the Tories gained the local Oulton county division, which had split its two seats between UKIP and Labour four years previously; while in June's general election the Waveney parliamentary constituency swung strongly towards the Conservatives.

Encouraging signs for the Tory candidate Keith Robinson, who was elected as one of the two new county councillors for Oulton division in May and now has the chance to double up at district level. Robinson has recently retired from the transport industry. Labour have selected Len Jacklin, their county councillor for Oulton from 2013 until losing his seat in May. The UKIP candidate is Phillip Trindall, who ran a carpentry and joinery business for over 35 years. Completing the ballot paper is Chris Thomas for the Liberal Democrats. Some of the electors will be thrilled to know that their polling station is a pub - the Blue Boar.

Parliamentary constituency: Waveney
Suffolk county council division: Oulton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lowestoft
Postcode district: NR32

Len Jacklin (Lab)
Keith Robinson (C)
Chris Thomas (LD)
Phillip Trindall (UKIP)

May 2015 result C 1187/880 Lab 821/737 UKIP 626 Grn 232
May 2011 result C 797/715 Lab 577/496 UKIP 193 Grn 169 LD 112
May 2010 result C 1195 Lab 775 LD 407 Grn 145
May 2008 result C 740 Lab 345 LD 150 Grn 133
June 2004 result C 641 Lab 393 LD 248 Grn 151
May 2002 result C 610/546 Lab 528/460 LD 223

Oadby Uplands

Oadby and Wigston council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Gurpal Atwal. Atwal, who had served since 2015, worked as a taxi driver and taxi operator, but resigned after his own council revoked his taxi license on the grounds that Atwal was not a fit and proper person, a decision which was upheld by Loughborough magistrates.

We move into the Midlands into one of the UK's smallest and, it has to be said, more pointless local government districts. Oadby and Wigston borough covers two middle-class suburbs of Leicester which have never been incorporated into the city, and has a population of just 60,000 - well below the average for a non-metropolitan borough.

Oadby Uplands ward may be outside the Leicester city limits - it lies north-east of the A6 Leicester Road along the Uplands Road and Severn Road - but it remains culturally and demographically Leicester. The population of Oadby Uplands is majority Asian (53%), with a large population born in India, and the ward makes the top 20 wards in England and Wales for Sikhism (17%) and the top 40 for Hinduism (21%). Owner-occupation rates are high and the employment profie is middle-class, as you'd expect for Oadby.

The district has been Lib Dem-controlled since 1991 often with large majorities, and Oadby Uplands has been carried by the Liberal Democrats at every election since it was created in 2003 (previously the area had been in the oversized Brookside ward). However, in 2015 the Lib Dems lost a seat in Oadby Uplands ward to Labour candidate Gurpal Atwal who became the first Labour member of Oadby and Wigston council this century. Vote shares in 2015 were close with 38% for the Lib Dem slate, 32% for the single Labour candidate and 30% for the single Conservative candidate. The omens for Labour in holding this do not look good: their slate, headed by Atwal, was a poor third in the Oadby county division in May (the Lib Dems holding their seats), and Labour are nowhere in the local parliamentary seat (Harborough).

Defending this difficult seat for Labour is Matthew Luke. The Lib Dems, who will be hoping to follow through on their good county election performance, have selected Lily Kaufman who was councillor for Oadby St Peter's ward from 2011 until losing her seat in 2015. The Conservatives, who will be hoping to follow through on their good general election performance, have selected Kamal Ghattoraya.

Parliamentary constituency: Harborough
Leicestershire county council division: Oadby
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode district: LE2

Kamal Ghattoraya (C)
Lily Kaufman (LD)
Matthew Luke (Lab)

May 2015 result LD 1059/872 Lab 902 C 835
May 2011 result LD 775/702 C 636/531 Lab 459
July 2008 by-election LD 774 C 625
May 2007 result LD 798/673 C 415/365 Lab 257/237
May 2003 result LD 752/750 C 400/353 Lab 175


Chesterfield council, Derbyshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Stephen Hitchin who is concentrating on his family and his medical career. He had served since 2015.

For the final poll of the week we travel north to what is, with Derby being a unitary council, the largest town within the Derbyshire county council area. The Holmebrook ward covers the Brampton area immediately west of Chesterfield town centre, a residential area of Victorian and inter-war terraces along the A619 Chatsworth Road as it climbs towards the hills. Holmebrook has a working-class economic profile with relatively high levels of unemployment and private renting. The town hit the news last week with a rather bizarre floral tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, while one major local political issue is devolution: the council recently pulled out of a bid to join the proposed combined authority for South Yorkshire. Possibly for the best: Chesterfield is large enough to stand on its own economically and forms the centre of its own Travel to Work Area.

Chesterfield's local politics has been a Lib Dem versus Labour fight this century, often with lopsided election results. The Liberal Democrats held the parliamentary seat from 2001 to 2010 - which is hard to believe now given that they only just saved their deposit in June - and controlled the borough council from 2003 to 2011, during which time Holmebrook ward was part of the Lib Dem majority. Labour gained the ward in 2011 and increased their lead in 2015 to 51-28. The Labour lead is smaller in the local county council seat (Boythorpe and Brampton South) which swung to the Lib Dems in May, Labour's incumbent Ron Mihaly defeating the Lib Dem Keith Falconer by a reduced majority of 46-38.

This by-election will be the second faceoff in four months between Mihaly and Falconer. Labour's Ron Mihaly is used to being on the defending team: he is a former professional footballer who played in central defence for Chesterfield and QPR in the 1970s. After that Mihaly worked as an accountant for the NHS and Chesterfield council, and he has served on Derbyshire county council since 2013. The Lib Dems' Keith Falconer is a retired industrial engineer and a veteran of local politics: he was Mayor of Chesterfield in 2005-06 and served for 25 years as a councillor for this ward, from winning a by-election in 1986 until losing his seat in 2011. Also standing are Oliver Scheidt for the Conservatives and former Lib Dem borough councillor Paul Stone for CANDI, the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Independents.

Parliamentary constituency: Chesterfield
Derbyshire county council division: Boythorpe and Brampton South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield
Postcode district: S40

Keith Falconer (LD)
Ron Mihaly (Lab)
Oliver Scheidt (C)
Paul Stone (Chesterfield and N Derbys Inds)

May 2015 result Lab 997/973 LD 555/515 C 258 Peace Party 140
May 2011 result Lab 760/755 LD 581/576
May 2007 result LD 750/745 Lab 374/332
May 2003 result LD 1051/984 Lab 489/484 Socialist Alliance 66

Previews: 14 Sep 2017

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

Well, last Thursday was exciting, wasn't it? Eight of the fourteen seats up for election changed hands, with the Conservatives losing seven seats - three to Labour, two to the Green Party, one to an independent and one to the Lib Dems - which was only slightly offset by a Tory gain from the Liberal Democrats. As argued elsewhere on Britain Elects this week, a lot of this is a repeat of the trends which became apparent in June's general election; but as always with local by-elections there are plenty of local factors to make the picture that little bit more complicated.

Here's your guide to the local factors affecting the by-elections on 14th September 2017. This week sees only three polls, all due to resignations, and is a bit of a Defection Special; two of the resigning councillors had left the party they were elected for in 2015 and the other had lost confidence in his group leader. One of this week's by-elections is a certain UKIP loss and Labour have a good chance of recovering a seat which they lost to the Tories through defection. We will come later to two polls in small towns in the West Country, but we start with an interesting by-election in one of the more unheralded corners of Greater Manchester. Read on...

Bucklow-St Martins

Trafford council; caused by the resignation of councillor John Smith, who was originally elected for Labour but had defected to the Conservatives in 2016, apparently after the Labour group threatened him with disciplinary action. He had served since 2007.

Welcome to the only Conservative-controlled metropolitan borough in the North of England. Trafford council is divided into two halves, a Lancashire half and a Cheshire half, by the River Mersey; Bucklow-St Martins lies in the Cheshire half, and its name recalls the old Bucklow rural district of Cheshire, which was a district of commuter villages in the Altrincham and Knutsford hinterlands, together with the St Martins area of Sale, a town so middle-class and prosperous by Northern standards that its main sport is rugby union. St Martins is combined with two parishes from the old Bucklow district on the south bank of the Mersey.

This is a corner of what used to be Cheshire which is little known and less visited, and there's a reason for that. Real Housewives of Cheshire this is not. Despite the presence in the ward of Manchester United's training ground and Manchester City's former training ground (now rented out to Bury FC), Footballers' Wives this is not.

The main centre of population in Bucklow-St Martins ward is Partington, a small and isolated town which was the site of Trafford's first factory - an eighteenth-century paper mill - but was transformed in 1894 by the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal. The canal turned Partington into the most convenient seaport for the Lancashire coalfield, and in its first two decades of operation over half of the ship canal's export tonnage was coal from Partington. This attracted other industries such as steelworking and chemicals, and most of the ward's acreage is still occupied by the enormous Carrington chemical works - once a Shell refinery - and a gas storage facility.

More recent projects in the ward include the building of a new gas-fired Carrington Power Station on the site of an old coal-fired power plant; the new power station started generating electricity in September 2016. The railway line through Partington closed in the 1960s (although the viaduct it took over the canal to Irlam is still there decaying like a row of bad teeth), and the ward's road connections, which are very poor, were improved in 1987 with the opening of the Carrington Spur. Despite being two-lane single-carriageway throughout, until 2006 the Carrington Spur had motorway status - with the number A6144(M) - and was one of the very few places where it was legal to drive at 70mph on a single-carriageway road.

Carrington never took off as an urban centre - its population in the 2001 census was lower than in 1801 - but Partington grew strongly after the Second World War thanks to the building of Manchester overspill estates. The St Martins part of Sale is also a council estate. That has left its mark on the ward's demography: over 40% of Bucklow-St Martins' households are socially rented, the economic profile is working-class, and Partington contains the most deprived census district in Trafford - indeed two of Partington's census districts rank among the 10% most deprived in England and Wales.

Politically this adds up to a safe Labour ward which is not under serious threat from anybody else. At the last Trafford elections in 2016 Labour had a relatively low 38% of the vote, to 24% for an independent candidate, 17% for the Conservatives and 13% for UKIP. In May's Greater Manchester mayoral election, the results of which were made available at ward level, Labour's Andy Burnham beat the Tories' Sean Anstee, the leader of Trafford council, by 56-31 in this ward. Smith was last elected in 2015 and the winner of this by-election will face re-election in 2019.

So this will be a difficult task for the Conservatives to hang on to their defection gain. The Tory majority in Trafford is safe for now - they hold 33 out of 63 seats plus this vacancy - but a loss here will reduce their margin for error going into the May 2018 elections. Their defending candidate Sarah Marland is the only candidate to give an address in the ward. Labour want their seat back and have selected Aidan Williams, a housing officer and secretary of North West Young Labour. The independent candidate from 2016 is not standing again. The UKIP nominee is Andrew Beaumont, who fought the local parliamentary seat (Stretford and Urmston) in June. Completing the ballot paper are Joseph Ryan for the Greens and Simon Lepori for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Stretford and Urmston
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M31, M33, M41, WA13

Andrew Beaumont (UKIP)
Simon Lepori (LD)
Sarah Marland (C)
Joseph Ryan (Grn)
Aidan Williams (Lab)

May 2016 result Lab 835 Ind 517 C 371 UKIP 290 Grn 98 LD 64
May 2015 result Lab 2441 C 1082 Grn 357
May 2014 result Lab 1054 C 623 Grn 253 LD 58
May 2012 result Lab 1238 C 393 Grn 110 LD 105
May 2011 result Lab 1432 C 553 Grn 153 LD 123
May 2010 result Lab 1972 C 1025 LD 743 Grn 115
May 2008 result Lab 961 C 592 LD 183 Grn 182
May 2007 result Lab 1106 C 517 BNP 297 Grn 171
May 2006 result Lab 967 C 560 Grn 280
June 2004 result Lab 1406/1326/1287 C 686/685/647

May 2017 GM mayoral election Lab 1055 C 582 LD 90 UKIP 56 Grn 42 EDP 38 Farmer 11 Aslam 2


Mid Devon council; caused by the resignation of UK Independence Party councillor Jonathan Smith. He had served since 2015, and was UKIP candidate for Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner in 2016; at the time of his resignation he had left UKIP and was sitting as an independent councillor.

Our other two by-elections this week are in the West Country, and we start with probably the more accessible of them. Westexe is the western of the four wards covering Tiverton, an old town in the Exe valley about fifteen miles north of Exeter. An ancient Hundred site, Tiverton was fortified by Henry I who built Tiverton Castle here; the castle saw action in the Civil War, falling to the Roundheads in a brief siege in October 1645. Earlier, in the 13th century Isabella, countess of Devon, had a leat built to provide Tiverton with a water supply. Last Saturday that was commemorated with the Perambulation of the Town Leat, an ancient custom held every seven years and originally designed to clear the stream of any obstructions.

Tiverton's ancient trade was in wool, and in 1815 its textile heritage attracted a lace-making industry after John Heathcoat, an industrialist and inventor from Derbyshire, left the Midlands to escape Luddite attacks on his business. Heathcoat became an MP for Tiverton, one of the more notorious rotten boroughs even after the Great Reform Act. Heathcoat's fellow Tiverton MP for some of his time in Parliament was Lord Palmerston, despite an eventful 1847 election in which Palmerston was challenged by the Chartist leader George Julian Harney. Harney won the hustings on a show of hands, but Palmerston called for a ballot and Harney, knowing he had no chance of winning on Tiverton's parliamentary franchise, withdrew. Such shenanigans, of course, do not go on at modern polls in Tiverton.

Westexe ward's representation had a clearout at the 2015 election which saw the retirement of Mary Turner, an independent councillor who had sat on Mid Devon council since its formation in 1973, and Tory councillor Alan Griffiths who had been on the council since 1991 (having been elected as Labour up to and including 2003). The remaining councillor, independent (Ernest) Gerald Luxton, lost his seat in 2015 by just 11 votes as a single Tory candidate topped the poll and the other two seats went to UKIP; shares of the vote were 31% for the Conservatives, 29% for UKIP, 19% for Luxton and 12% for Labour. In May's Devon county elections Westexe was part of the Tiverton West division, which was safely Conservative.

With Smith's departure UKIP have lost group status on the Tory-controlled Mid Devon council, and this by-election will not change that as there is no defending UKIP candidate. The result is Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all. The Conservatives, looking to take two seats in this ward for the first time, have selected Anthony Bush who is a journalist and Tiverton town councillor. Former independent councillor for this ward Gerald Luxton is looking to make a comeback. Labour have selected Alison Mitchell, and the Lib Dems' David Whiteway completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Tiverton and Honiton
Devon county council division: Tiverton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter
Postcode district: EX16

Anthony Bush (C)
Gerald Luxton (Ind)
Alison Mitchell (Lab)
David Whiteway (LD)

May 2015 result C 1023 UKIP 962/651 Ind 640/409/224 Lab 404/392 Grn 399
May 2011 result Ind 887/660 C 578 UKIP 379 LD 259 Lab 255/222
May 2007 result Ind 1153/572 C 516/361 UKIP 256 LD 244
May 2003 result Ind 1021/560 Lab 395/109/106 LD 326/168/117

Lyme Regis and Charmouth

West Dorset council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor George Symonds, who said in his resignation letter that he had lost confidence in the leader of the council. An amusement arcade owner, he had served since 2011 for Lyme Regis ward and since 2015 for Lyme Regis and Charmouth ward.

Show me the exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell!

Those were the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who upon first arriving at Lyme Regis is said to have gone straight to the Cobb. It's a reference to Jane Austen's novel Persuasion, in which Louisa fell off the Cobb and sustained concussion.

The Cobb is the harbour wall at Lyme Regis, a rather isolated seaside town on the Dorset-Devon boundary. Lyme is one of those places which has assumed a cultural significance far beyond its actual significance, being a major centre for history, literature and science. The Regis of the name refers to King Edward I, who granted the town a Royal Charter in 1284. Lyme became a major port and shipbuilding centre, giving its name to a large bay on the south coast and significant enough to see major military action twice in the seventeenth century; the Royalists unsuccessfully laid siege to the town for eight weeks in 1644, while the Duke of Monmouth landed here in 1685 to kick off the Monmouth Rebellion.

Things calmed down after that, and by the early eighteenth century Lyme became known for fossils. The town is at the centre of the Jurassic Coast, and its rapidly-eroding Blue Lias cliffs are packed with fossils from the early Jurassic period. Mary Anning, a local fossil collector, brought this to the attention of science and also inspired the well-known tongue-twister "she sells sea shells on the sea shore". Lyme's shipbuilding industry eventually went into decline as ships became too large for the harbour to handle, and tourism and literature are now the town's main driver: Tennyson, Longfellow, Belloc, Chesterton and Tolkein all holidayed here, while Eisenhower delivered an important briefing to Allied officers here in advance of D-Day. A S Byatt set her Booker Prize-winning novel Possession in Lyme Regis, as did John Fowles with his work The French Lieutenant's Woman; Fowles lived in Lyme Regis, serving for nine years as curator of the town's museum and occasionally dabbling in local politics.

The sparse population of this part of the world means that Lyme Regis is, logically enough, part of West Dorset council, whose offices are 25 miles away in Dorchester. Lyme itself has become a retirement centre, Charmouth - which was added to the ward in 2015 following a boundary review - even more so. The former Charmouth ward was in the top 40 in England and Wales for retired population, and just outside the top 40 in England and Wales for population aged 65 or over. For those here who are still young enough to work, self-employment dominates the local employment profile.

Recent polls in Lyme Regis have seen the electors needing little Persuasion to choose the Conservative slate. The Tories gained the old Lyme Regis ward in 2011 and on the expanded 2015 boundaries were re-elected with 47%, to 27% for the Liberal Democrats and 19% for a single Green Party candidate. The local county division (Marshwood Vale) is also safely Conservative, as is West Dorset council as a whole which has a large Conservative majority.

Defending for the Conservatives is Paul Oatway, vice-chairman of Charmouth parish council and a radio-frequency engineering consultant who has worked with Transport for London and on events including the London Olympics and the 2012 Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Surprisingly there are no Liberal Democrat or Green candidates. Labour have entered the fray with Belinda Bawden, who is no doubt having a busy time at work at the moment as an admissions administrator with the University of Exeter; she has a famous name in the town as the daughter of former town councillor Liz-Anne Bawden, who took over from John Fowles as curator of the Lyme Regis Museum and was appointed MBE in 1999 for her voluntary work in establishing Lyme Regis as the birthplace of palaeontology. Completing the ballot paper is Cheryl Reynolds, a herbalist and Lyme Regis town councillor, standing as an independent candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: West Dorset
Dorset county council division: Marshwood Vale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sidmouth (Lyme Regis), Bridport (Charmouth)
Postcode districts: DT6, DT7

Belinda Bawden (Lab)
Paul Oatway (C)
Cheryl Reynolds (Ind)

May 2015 result C 1470/1461 LD 836/551 Grn 606 Ind 196