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

Previews: 07 Sep 2017

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

Fourteen by-elections on 7th September 2017:

Hednesford and Rawnsley

(Staffordshire county council);

Hednesford Green Heath

(Cannock Chase council); and

Hednesford South

(Cannock Chase council)

The first and second vacancies are caused by the death of Conservative county and district councillor Graham Burnett at the age of 59. The third vacancy is caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Joanne Christian, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months. Burnett, who had co-founded a company supplying equipment and training to people working at height using ropes, had served on Cannock Chase council from 2008 to 2012 from Hednesford North ward and since 2015 from Hednesford Green Heath ward; he had been a Staffordshire county councillor for less than two months, having been elected in May for the first time. Christian had served since gaining her seat from Labour in 2015.

The summer holidays are well and truly over, and it's time for us to enter the autumn months. Autumn is the peak time for local by-elections, and we certainly start this autumn with a bang: fourteen polls have been organised for today, the biggest polling day so far in this Parliament. The Conservatives are defending nine seats, Labour four and Liberal Democrats one. Three of the Tory defences are in the small Midlands town of Hednesford, which makes it a good place to start.

Hednesford (pronounced Hedgford if you're an old local, Hensford otherwise) is a town just to the north of Cannock, on the southern slopes of Cannock Chase much of which is within the division. As well as being a well-known forest and beauty spot, Cannock Chase has several connections with central and eastern Europe. There is a cemetery here containing the graves of nearly 5,000 German and Austrian prisoners from the two world wars, and a memorial to the victims of the Katyn massacre is located within the forest, while the former RAF Hednesford training camp was used in the 1950s as a refugee camp for Hungarians fleeing the Soviet put-down of the 1956 revolution. Also within the area is the Hednesford Hills Raceway, a stock-car racing circuit built within a disused reservoir. Hednesford's traditional industry was coalmining, but the end of mining hasn't led to the economic collapse seen in many places. The skyscrapers going up next to the toll motorway through Cannock point to a strong local economy, and Walsall and Birmingham are also within commuting distance: Hednesford consequently appears to be thriving, with high employment and owner-occupation rates.

This is reflected in a strong performance for the Conservatives in recent general elections. The Cannock Chase constituency swung strongly to the Conservatives in June, against the national trend (although it is arguable that the Tories underperformed here in 2015 following well-publicised controversies involving former Tory MP Aidan Burley). The good Tory performance here in June was presaged by a strong performance in May's county council elections, in which they gained four seats in Cannock Chase district from Labour including the two-seat Hednesford and Rawnsley division. Hednesford and Rawnsley is a key marginal which was created in 2005 and has yo-yoed between the two main parties at every subsequent county election. In June the Tory slate gained the division with 36%, to 28% for Labour and 25% for the Green Party.

That good Green performance was not a flash in the pan. The Greens have a local government base here having surprisingly gained the rabbit-shaped Hednesford South ward in the 2016 district council elections: that year the Greens came from fourth place in 2015 to win with 43%, to 22% for the Conservatives and 21% for Labour. In previous years it had generally been a tight Labour-Tory marginal, with the eight previous elections since the formation of the ward in 2002 resulting in five Labour wins and four Tory wins (the two parties split the two seats in 2002). The recent Conservative dominance in Cannock Chase at parliamentary and county level has not fed through to the district council, which has a Labour majority.

Hednesford Green Heath ward, on the west side of town along Pye Green Road, is another tight Labour-Tory marginal, although the Lib Dems did come through the middle to win here in 2003; since then the two main parties both have three wins in the ward to their names. At district level Green Heath last polled in 2015 and was a Tory gain with 41%, to 33% for Labour and 18% for UKIP. Labour hold the other seat in the ward, which is up for election next year. A quick look at previous election results in Hednesford will show several references to The Chase Independent Party; this has no connection with a well-known ITV teatime quiz show but is the political vehicle of Ron Turville, who was the Lib Dem district councillor for this ward from 2003 to 2007.

So, three Tory defences in three marginal wards which may well stand or fall together: both Green Heath and South wards are within the Hednesford and Rawnsley county division. Taking the county by-election first, the defending Tory candidate is local resident Bryan Jones. The Labour candidate is George Adamson, the leader of Cannock Chase district council who has represented Hednesford Green Heath ward since 2010 when he gained the seat from the Conservatives with a majority of four votes; Adamson was county councillor for Hednesford and Rawnsley from 2013 until losing his seat in May, and is looking to make a quick return to county level. The Greens have reselected Paul Woodhead, district councillor for Hednesford South ward since 2016. Completing the county ballot paper are John Bernard for UKIP, Ron Turville for the Chase Independent Party and Pat Ansell for the Liberal Democrats.

Bryan Jones is also the defending Conservative candidate in Green Heath ward for the district council. At district level he is opposed by Labour candidate Linda Tait, who fought Heath Hayes East and Wimblebury ward in 2014. The UKIP candidate is David Percox who fought the county council seat in 2017. Completing the Green Heath ballot paper are Ron Turville for the Chase Independent Party and Robert Branson for the Green Party.

Finally, we come to the Hednesford South ballot paper where Philip Hewitt is the defending Tory candidate; he is the remaining county councillor for Hednesford and Rawnsley. The Green candidate is Stuart Crabtree who is secretary of the party's Cannock Chase branch. Labour have selected Patrick Frondigoun, who fought Cannock West (a reliable Conservative ward) in last year's district elections. UKIP's John Bernard completes the ballot paper.

Hednesford and Rawnsley

Parliamentary constituency: Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase district wards: Hawks Green, Hednesford Green Heath, Hednesford North, Hednesford South, Rawnsley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode districts: WS11, WS12, WS15

George Adamson (Lab)
Pat Ansell (LD)
John Bernard (UKIP)
Bryan Jones (C)
Ron Turville (The Chase Independent Party)
Paul Woodhead (Grn)

May 2017 result C 2597/2305 Lab 1998/1683 Grn 1807/1482 UKIP 555/530 The Chase Independent Party 251/168
May 2013 result Lab 2074/1842 UKIP 1508/1372 C 1382/1124 LD 308/270
June 2009 result C 2282/1994 UKIP 1835 Lab 1300/1229 LD 903/755 Grn 823 Ind 675/407
May 2005 result Lab 5258/4485 C 3690/3531 LD 2692/2473

Hednesford Green Heath

Parliamentary constituency: Cannock Chase
Staffordshire county council division: Hednesford and Rawnsley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode districts: WS11, WS12

Robert Branson (Grn)
Bryan Jones (C)
David Percox (UKIP)
Linda Tait (Lab)
Ron Turville (The Chase Independent Party)

May 2015 result C 1026 Lab 831 UKIP 461 The Chase Independent Party 134 Grn 79
May 2014 result Lab 524 UKIP 335 C 283 The Chase Independent Party 77
May 2011 result Lab 580 C 443 The Chase Independent Party 161 LD 126
May 2010 result Lab 909 C 905 LD 508 BNP 207
May 2007 result C 438 Lab 374 LD 219
May 2006 result C 453 Lab 310 LD 274
May 2003 result LD 358 C 261 Lab 238
May 2002 result Lab 315/295 LD 272/268 C 250/249

Hednesford South

Parliamentary constituency: Cannock Chase
Staffordshire county council division: Hednesford and Rawnsley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode districts: WS11, WS12

John Bernard (UKIP)
Stuart Crabtree (Grn)
Patrick Frondigoun (Lab)
Philip Hewitt (C)

May 2016 result Grn 617 C 322 Lab 298 UKIP 213
May 2015 result C 1115 Lab 842 UKIP 580 Grn 169
May 2012 result Lab 586 C 371 The Chase Independent Party 164
May 2011 result Lab 621 C 446 LD 247 LD The Chase Independent Party 108
May 2008 result C 601 Lab 319 LD 152
June 2007 postponed poll Lab 397 C 243 LD 117 Ind 114
June 2004 result C 528 LD 379 Lab 338
May 2003 result Lab 370 C 326 LD 276
May 2002 result C 546/404 Lab 462/405 LD 227/206

Eye, Thorney and Newborough

Peterborough council, Cambridgeshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Sanders, who has retired from politics after 20 years' service on Peterborough council, the last of those years as Mayor of Peterborough. He had served since 1997.

Hednesford was the obvious place to start this week's previews, but the main centre of attention on 7th September 2017 is East Anglia which has five local by-elections. We start our tour of East Anglia with the most crucial of those polls in the city of Peterborough - or, more accurately, just outside it. The Eye, Thorney and Newborough ward covers the fens immediately to the north-east and east of the city; Eye, from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "island", is the largest centre of population with around 3,700 electors (around 500 of whom will vote in a "mobile unit" parked in the Travelodge car park), but Thorney is traditionally the most important settlement in the ward. Part of the Isle of Ely until 1965 when it was transferred to the short-lived county of Huntingdon and Peterborough, and a Rural District of its own until 1974, Thorney had an abbey from Saxon times until the Dissolution, when the Abbey estate was granted to the Earls of Bedford. In the seventeenth century a group of Walloon Huguenot refugees with expertise in fenland drainage settled in Thorney, and the 4th Earl of Bedford paid them a fantastic sum of money to create the rich farmland here which is still called the Bedford Levels. The investment paid off, and Thorney developed as a farming village under the auspices of the Dukes of Bedford who erected much of the village's housing; many of the houses in Thorney are Victorian in the Gothic Revival style.

This ward has existed only since 2016 when the single-member Newborough ward was combined with the two-member Eye and Thorney ward. That was a good change for the Conservatives, as Eye and Thorney was safe for them but Newborough was represented by an independent councillor, David Harrington, who had held the seat since defeating the controversial former council leader Neville Sanders (David Sanders' father) in 2006. The 2016 election gave the Tories all three seats with 35%, to 22% for UKIP, 20% for Harrington and 13% for Labour; David Sanders topped the poll a long way ahead of his running-mates and clearly had a personal vote. Nonetheless the Tories have good reason to be worried about this one; a by-election loss in June wiped out their majority on Peterborough city council, and a further loss here would put them in a minority with 29 out of 60 seats.

Defending for the Conservatives is Nigel Simons, who comes from a family with a tradition of public service: his father George Simons, his sister Sue Day and his nephew David Day have all served on the city council. Nigel works in the plumbing and heating trade and also runs an outdoor combat business; like all the candidates except the Lib Dem, he gives an address in Thorney. UKIP have reselected Mary Herdman, who was runner-up here last year and was also the party's parliamentary candidate for Peterborough in 2015. Harrington is not standing again. The Labour candidate is Christian DeFeo, who works for a publishing company and chairs the local branch of the Co-operative Party. Completing the ballot paper are Michael Alexander for the Green Party (who fought the ward in 2016) and Callum Robertson of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Peterborough
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough
Postcode districts: PE1, PE4, PE6

Michael Alexander (Grn)
Christian DeFeo (Lab)
Mary Herdman (UKIP)
Callum Robertson (LD)
Nigel Simons (C)

May 2016 result C 1299/1000/869 UKIP 812/667 Ind 764 Lab 496/299/217 Grn 356

Ely South

East Cambridgeshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tom Hunt, who had served since 2011, in order to take up a new politically-restricted role as an advisor to the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer. Hunt was fifth on the Conservatives' Eastern list at the 2014 European Parliament elections, and fought Doncaster Central in June's general election.

Moving further into East Anglia we are in the cathedral city of Ely. This is not the historic nice-looking bit, nor is the ward particularly well-named (Ely South West might have been better). Cambridgeshire has seen large population growth in recent years, which has been achieved not by building a new town (unless you count Cambourne as a town) but to a large extent by tacking new estates onto old towns and villages. Ely South is a fast-growing ward of new housing on the south-western edge of Ely, most of which has gone up in the last 25 years and a significant proportion since 2000. The ward has a middle-class commuter demographic with high full-time employment levels and an age distribution of young families (with high proportions of people in the under-16 and 30-44 age brackets).

From 2003 to 2011 this ward was closely fought between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, but the Tories pulled away in 2015 to win with 51%, to 27% for the Lib Dems and 23% for Labour; Hunt topped the poll that year. The Ely South division (which is larger than this ward) was marginal between the Tories and Lib Dems in May's county council elections, so it will be interesting to see if the Liberal Democrats can make some sort of recovery here at district level.

Defending for the Conservatives is Sarah Bellow from Prickwillow east of Ely, a money adviser with the local Citizens' Advice Bureau. The Lib Dem candidate is Christine Whelan, who sits on the parish-level Ely city council, works in early years education and fought the local county council seat in May. Also returning from May's county elections is Labour candidate Rebecca Denness, a former civil servant who is retraining to work in psychology; she completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: South East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Ely South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode districts: CB6, CB7

Sarah Bellow (C)
Rebecca Denness (Lab)
Christine Whelan (LD)

May 2015 result C 1010/969 LD 531/445 Lab 449/333
May 2011 result C 633/546 LD 567/487 Lab 210/192 Grn 178
May 2007 result LD 572/505 C 452/439 Grn 139
May 2003 result LD 317/262 C 292/281 Grn 54

St John's

Suffolk county council; caused by the resignation of Labour county councillor Sandy Martin, who was elected as MP for Ipswich in June's general election. He had served on Suffolk county council since 1997.

After two Cambridgeshire by-elections we cross over into Suffolk where there are also two by-elections this week. We start with a piece of collateral damage from the general election in June, in which the Ipswich constituency was one of the Labour gains that looked distinctly unlikely at the start of the campaign.

The St John's county division lies in the east of Suffolk's county town, Ipswich, an entirely built-up area along Spring Road and Foxhall Road lying between the Felixstowe railway line (whose Derby Road station is on the division boundary) and the Ipswich Hospital. Much of the division's housing was laid out in Victorian times by the Freehold Land Society, forerunners of the Ipswich Building Society, which bought the Cauldwell Hall estate for housing in 1849; because of the rush to speculate the area became known as California, after the gold rush of that year, and still bears that name today. The 2011 census stats for the St John's ward of Ipswich borough council (which has somewhat different boundaries) suggest that the ward has a mixed demographic profile with high employment levels.

In the present political climate this is a safe Labour area. Martin had represented the division on Suffolk county council since 1997, and in May's county elections defeated the Tories 58-32. The corresponding district ward (which, as stated, has somewhat different boundaries) was marginal during the Blair and Brown years but the Tories only won it twice, in 2004 and (by 3 votes) in 2008.

Defending for Labour is Sarah Adams, who is hoping to make a quick return to the county council: she was a county councillor for St Margaret's and Westgate division in Ipswich from 2013 until losing her seat to the Conservatives in May. The Tories have gone for youth in selecting James Harding who is just 18 years old. Also standing are Charlotte Armstrong for the Green Party and Edward Packard for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Ipswich
Ipswich borough council wards: St John's (most), Alexandra (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ipswich
Postcode districts: IP1, IP2, IP3, IP4, IP5, IP6, IP8, IP9

Sarah Adams (Lab)
Charlotte Armstrong (Grn)
James Harding (C)
Edward Packard (LD)

May 2017 result Lab 1383 C 761 Grn 138 LD 120
May 2013 result Lab 1089 C 562 Grn 227 LD 118
June 2009 result Lab 1022 C 865 LD 354 Grn 298
May 2005 result Lab 1721 C 1238 LD 1013

Sudbury South

Babergh council, Suffolk; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Holland, after he had been passed over for the role of lead councillor for Sudbury Development. A former Babergh cabinet member, he had served since 2015.

Our second Suffolk by-election this week takes place on the Essex border in the town of Sudbury. A market town since before the Norman conquest, Sudbury was a weaving town from the late Middle Ages and originally supplied the wool for the Woolsack in the House of Lords. The town became noted as a Puritan centre, seeing large levels of emigration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s, and later for its connections to art: Thomas Gainsborough was born in the town and John Constable painted extensively in the area.

By the early nineteenth century Sudbury was notorious for the corrupt nature of its elections. The Sudbury by-election of 1834 led to riots after the two candidates, Barnes and Bagshaw, tied on 263 votes each and the mayor of Sudbury gave his casting vote to Barnes despite having already voted. The general election in Sudbury the following year is sometimes cited as the inspiration for the Eatanswill election in Dickens' Pickwick Papers. Six years later in the 1841 election Sudbury elected the first ever British MP of Asian heritage, the Anglo-Indian David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, who was subsequently unseated for gross, systematic and extensive bribery. By now the Commons had had enough, and in 1844 the borough of Sudbury was disenfranchised for corruption.

Mercifully modern elections in Sudbury are much more decorous affairs, although still with a tinge of political radicalism. Sudbury South ward, which covers the town centre and the villages of Ballingdon and Brundon on what was once the Essex side of the River Stour, was a Lib Dem stronghold until the days of Coalition: the Tories gained one of the two seats from the Liberal Democrats in 2011 and then the other in 2015 as the Lib Dems crashed to fourth place. However, much of the Lib Dem vote seems to have gone over to Labour whose lead candidate, Luke Cresswell, was only five votes behind the second Tory candidate in 2015: shares of the vote that year were 32% for the Conservatives, 22% for Labour, 15% for UKIP and 11% each for the Lib Dems and Greens. This good Labour performance followed through into the Suffolk county elections in May, when Labour gained the Sudbury county division from the Conservatives - one of only two county seats the party won outside Ipswich.

So this could be a tricky defence for the Conservatives who have indulged in a bit of nominative determinism by selecting Simon Sudbury, of Sudbury, for Sudbury South. The historical precedent for this is not encouraging, as a previous Simon Sudbury - a fourteenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury - was dragged out of the Tower of London and beheaded by a mob during the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 for being behind the introduction of a poll tax. The Labour selection has dragged up historical problems of a more recent kind: the party has reselected Sudbury town councillor Luke Cresswell, who was the runner-up here in 2015 and also fought the ward in 2011, despite Cresswell having since been caught up in the Labour antisemitism scandal. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Andrew Welsh, who manages the Sudbury branch of the Post Office. With no UKIP or Green candidates this time, that is your ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: South Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Sudbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bury St Edmunds
Postcode district: CO10

Luke Cresswell (Lab)
Simon Sudbury (C)
Andrew Welsh (LD)

May 2015 result C 756/540 Lab 535/478 UKIP 367 LD 267/247 Grn 263/170 Ind 208
May 2011 result LD 508/337 C 371/364 Lab 336/332 UKIP 132/107
May 2007 result LD 603/527 C 317/275 UKIP 106/91
May 2003 result LD 381/365 C 280 Lab 162

Shrub End

Colchester council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Karen Chaplin who had served since 2015.

For our last East Anglian by-election we travel south from Sudbury to Colchester. Colchester lays claim to the title of England's oldest town: a quick look at the housing in Shrub End ward, in the south-west of the town along the B1026 Layer Road, will suggest that this is not the historic bit, but the ward's economic base has stayed pretty constant over the last twenty or so centuries. Ever since the Roman invasion of AD 43 Colchester has been an important military base and much of Shrub End ward is taken up by part of the large Colchester Garrison site. Also within the ward was Layer Road football ground, until 2008 home to Colchester United FC and now (inevitably) replaced by housing. The military presence, as well as leaving its mark on the ward's streets (many of whose names recall major battles fought by the British Army) also skews the ward's demographics: the married quarters in the ward lead to an unusually large proportion of children in the census return, while full-time employment levels are high. Voter registration and turnout among the military tends to be very poor, so the non-Forces electors will punch above their weight in this by-election.

Shrub End was unchanged in Colchester's rewarding last year and its current boundaries date back to 2002. During the Blair years it was an interesting three-way marginal, with the Tories narrowly winning all three seats in 2002, Labour gaining a seat in 2003 and the Lib Dems gaining a seat in 2006. Labour have now fallen out of contention in the ward and lost their seat to the Tories in 2007, but the Lib Dems gained a second seat in 2008 to make the seat count 2-1 in their favour, and it has stayed that way ever since. With all three seats up in 2016 the Lib Dems led with 35% - a score inflated by a huge personal vote for Lyn Barton at the top of the Lib Dem slate - to 19% for the Conservatives, 14% for UKIP and 13% for an independent candidate. Chaplin was elected in second place n 2016 and her successor will face re-election in 2019. At county level the ward is combined with most of the safe-Labour Berechurch ward to form the Maypole division, which Labour easily held in May's county elections with the Conservatives second and Lib Dems in a poor third, and the Lib Dem performance in the general election in Colchester a month later won't give the party much cause for optimism either.

So a difficult defence for the Liberal Democrat candidate Sam McCarthy, a 22-year-old former youth football coach who works in retail. Clearly going for the Forces vote, the Tory candidate is Vic Flores who is a former RAF reconnaissance photographer and has also run a TV production company. UKIP have reselected Bruno Hickman who stood here last year and in May's county elections. The independent candidate from 2016 has not stood again, so the ballot paper is completed by independent Mike Clark, Labour's Mike Dale and the Greens' Victoria Weaver.

Parliamentary constituency: Colchester
Essex county council division: Maypole
ONS Travel to Work Area: Colchester
Postcode district: CO2, CO3

Mike Clark (Ind)
Mike Dale (Lab)
Vic Flores (C)
Bruno Hickman (UKIP)
Sam McCarthy (LD)
Victoria Weaver (Grn)

May 2016 result LD 960/569/508 C 526/510/496 UKIP 379 Ind 349 Lab 324/322/305 Grn 206/143/92
May 2015 result C 1571 LD 1157 UKIP 757 Lab 736 Grn 251
May 2014 result LD 778 UKIP 510 C 480 Lab 458 Grn 92 Ind 10
May 2012 result LD 745 C 514 Lab 334 Grn 106
May 2011 result C 854 LD 731 Lab 462 Grn 124
May 2010 result LD 1832 C 1321 Lab 465 Grn 135
May 2008 result LD 822 C 811 Lab 196 Grn 89
May 2007 result C 718 LD 643 Lab 404 Grn 100
May 2006 result LD 793 C 637 Lab 370 Grn 90
June 2004 result C 777 LD 737 Lab 512
May 2003 result Lab 596 C 530 LD 408 Socialist Alliance 24
May 2002 result C 593/589/561 Lab 553/520/502 LD 490/458/452

South Norwood

Croydon council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Kathy Bee who is taking up a new job in the civil service. She had served since 2010.

Three Lions on a shirt, Jules Rimet still gleaming. In a week where the England football team have been in action trying to qualify for next summer's World Cup in Russia, our London by-election this week is in a ward lying between Crystal Palace and Crystal Palace - that is, between the park and the football club. South Norwood ward is centred on the lake of the same name, originally built as a feeder reservoir for the abandoned Croydon Canal. At the south end of the ward is the local railway station, Norwood Junction, while up South Norwood Hill is part of leafy Upper Norwood around Church Road, together with the southern end of Beulah Hill - the road where Pickles the dog found the Jules Rimet trophy.

Despite this leafiness South Norwood is a working-class and multi-ethnic area of London: the ward's population is majority non-white, South Norwood is in the top 40 wards in England and Wales for black population (33%), and just misses out on the top 10 for mixed-race population (8.7%). Unemployment is relatively high and there is a significant student population.

Croydon's wards tend to be either safe Labour or safe Conservative with very little in between. South Norwood is in the safe Labour column under present circumstances, although the Tories did top the poll here and win two out of three seats as recently as 2006. At the last London borough elections in 2014 Labour carried the ward with 51%, to 20% for the Conservatives and 11% for the Greens; in the 2016 GLA elections Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward's ballot boxes 57-22 and Labour led in the list vote with 51%, to 17% for the Conservatives and 12% for the Greens. Croydon is expected to get new ward boundaries next year which will further improve the Labour position in South Norwood.

Defending for Labour is Patsy Cummings, a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn. The Tory candidate is local resident Rebecca Natrajan. The Greens have selected Peter Underwood, a conservation specialist who fought Croydon North in June's general election. Completing the ballot paper are Michael Swadling for UKIP and Claire Bonham for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Croydon North
London Assembly constituency: Croydon and Sutton
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SE19, SE25

Claire Bonham (LD)
Patsy Cummings (Lab)
Rebecca Natrajan (C)
Michael Swadling (UKIP)
Peter Underwood (Grn)

May 2014 result Lab 2303/2211/1971 C 909/739/731 Grn 494/486/359 UKIP 480/437/437 LD 314/220/177
May 2010 result Lab 3365/3338/2942 C 1928/1603/1585 LD 1282/1232 Grn 791/400/371 UKIP 295
May 2006 result C 1670/1523/1271 Lab 1492/1393/1385 Grn 717 LD 684/616 UKIP 233
May 2002 result Lab 1574/1471/1392 C 1011/991/787 LD 469/450/442 Grn 278 UKIP 127/104/95

May 2016 GLA result (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2278 C 875 Grn 340 LD 196 Women's Equality 104 UKIP 97 Respect 42 Britain First 29 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 29 Zylinski 15 BNP 14 One Love 4
London Member: Lab 2054 C 711 Grn 494 LD 244 UKIP 175 Women's Equality 159 CPA 65 Britain First 50 Animal Welfare 42 Respect 35 House Party 21 BNP 14

Ouse Valley and Ringmer

Lewes council, East Sussex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Paul Gander at the age of 59. A former kitchen fitter, he had served since 2007; his death from heart failure came the day before June's general election and the re-elected Conservative MP for Lewes, Maria Caulfield, paid tribute to him in her acceptance speech.

Really, this ward name should be the other way round. Nearly three-quarters of the electorate are in the parish of Ringmer, a large village just to the north-east of Lewes with transatlantic connections - William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and John Harvard who gave his name to the university, both married people from Ringmer. In more recent times James and Audrey Callaghan were electors here, having moved to Ringmer in retirement.

Ringmer is too large for two councillors of its own but not large enough for three, something which is presumably still the case as the ward has survived a boundary review for the 2019 election unchanged. So Ringmer is combined with five parishes to the east and south-east of Lewes on the east bank of the Sussex Ouse, as it punches through the South Downs. Included within the ward are Glyndebourne, a country house noted for its opera festival; and Firle which was once the residence of the writers Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, the artist and interior designer Vanessa Bell and the economist John Maynard Keynes, who among his many other claims to fame was Mansfield's landlord. Firle Place is still the family seat of the Viscounts Gage, whose family first imported into Britain, and gave their name to, the greengage. At the south end of the ward is South Heighton which is essentially a suburb of Newhaven; apart from South Heighton, all of the ward is within the South Downs National Park.

Perhaps appropriately for a ward so close to Lewes, fire and fireworks have repeatedly hit the headlines in the ward in recent times. The Festival Fireworks factory in Ringmer spectacularly ignited in December 2006, detonating all the display pyrotechnics stored there; while in November 2003 the Firle bonfire society, who eschew the boring option of incinerating Guy Fawkes, lit the blue touchpaper of controversy by burning an effigy of a gypsy family in a caravan.

At the ballot box this is a ward of personalities which has never returned a full slate for any party since the former Ouse Valley and Ringmer wards were merged in 2003. That 2003 election returned a three-way split between an independent, the Tories and Lib Dems. The independent councillor died in 2006 and the resulting by-election was won by the Lib Dems; third place in that poll was taken by the Seagulls Party, a group of Brighton and Hove Albion fans campaigning for Lewes council to give planning permission for what is now the Amex Stadium (the stadium itself is within Brighton and Hove but some of the surrounding land is within the Lewes council boundary). The seat split of 2 Lib Dems and 1 Conservative was confirmed by the 2007 election despite a former Lib Dem councillor standing for re-election on the Tory slate. One of the Lib Dem councillors retired in 2015 and his seat was gained by the Conservatives; the re-elected councillors Gander (C) and Peter Gardiner (LD) had large personal votes and ran a long way ahead of their running-mates. Vote shares in 2015 were 29% each for the Lib Dems and Conservatives, 16% for the Greens and 13% for UKIP.

That was on the same day that the Conservatives gained the Lewes parliamentary seat which includes this ward, and with the Lib Dem crash in that seat at June's general election the Tories must be fancying their chances of a hold. On the other hand, the Lib Dems narrowly won both of the local county divisions covering this ward in May's East Sussex county elections: Ringmer and Lewes Bridge was a hold in a three-way marginal result (with the Greens in second place and Gander in third), while the new seat of Newhaven and Bishopstone had a 45-vote Lib Dem lead over the Conservatives; this area had voted UKIP in the 2013 elections when it was part of the former Ouse Valley East division.

Something for everyone here, you might think (unless you're of a Labour persuasion). Defending for the Conservatives is Clare Herbert, who works for the family carpentry company in Ringmer. The Lib Dem candidate is James Gardiner, a qualified teacher who works in the education sector. The Greens have reselected Johnny Denis, who fought the ward in 2015 and was runner-up in Ringmer and Lewes Bridge in May. The UKIP candidate is Phil Howson who is seeking to return to the district council; he is a former Tory county and district councillor for Peacehaven (where he lives) who defected to UKIP in 2013 and was re-elected as a UKIP candidate in that year's county elections. Completing the ballot paper is Labour's Tim Telford.

Parliamentary constituency: Lewes
East Sussex county council division: Ringmer and Lewes Bridge (Ringmer, Glynde, Beddingham and Firle parishes); Newhaven and Bishopstone (Tarring Neville and South Heighton parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Eastbourne (part: Ringmer and Glynde parishes), Brighton (part: Beddingham, Firle, Tarring Neville and South Heighton parishes)
Postcode districts: BN8, BN9, BN25, TN22

Johnny Denis (Grn)
James Gardiner (LD)
Clare Herbert (C)
Phil Howson (UKIP)
Tim Telford (Lab)

Golden Valley South

Herefordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Graham Powell. A former Herefordshire cabinet member, he had served since 2011.

We travel west from one national park - the South Downs - to the edge of another - the Brecon Beacons. We are in that consistently beautiful area, the Welsh Marches, on the eastern slopes of the Black Mountains for a ward of tiny villages: over an area of 70 square miles (the largest ward in Herefordshire by acreage) there are fewer than 2,800 electors split between sixteen parishes. The largest of these is Ewyas Harold, a village lying on the Dulas brook named after Harold, grandson of Ethelred the Unready and son of Ralph the Timid, earl of Hereford in the 1050s; the village thrived thanks to a Norman castle (of which only the motte remains) guarding these uncertain borderlands. The smallest parish in the ward, with fewer than 20 electors, is Turnastone in the Golden Valley, named for its 12th-century landowner Ralph of Tournai. The Golden Valley itself is a Norman name, deriving not from its beauty but from a confusion of the name of the local river, the Dore, with the French "d'or" (of gold), and the Normans left the ward the Cistercian Dore Abbey, which now serves as the parish church for the village of Abbey Dore. Overlooking the ward is the 2,220-foot summit of Hay Bluff on the ward, county and national boundary.

In such a remote part of England dominated by hill-farming it's no surprise to see the 2003-15 edition of Golden Valley South ward in the top 10 wards in England and Wales for self-employment (30% of the workforce) and in the top 20 for the ONS' "small employers, own account" occupation category. One slightly more surprising thing to come out of the 2011 census is that Golden Valley South made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for failure to answer the religion question.

Golden Valley South ward has existed since 2003 and took on its current boundaries in 2015, gaining the Kentchurch parish which includes Pontrilas on the Hereford-Abergavenny road. At its first two elections it returned independent councillor John Williams rather narrowly - over the Lib Dems in 2003 and over the Lib Dems and Tories in 2007. The Conservatives' Graham Powell gained the ward in 2011, the Lib Dems again finishing a close second, and was re-elected comfortably in 2015 by 68-17 over the Green Party.

Defending for the Conservatives is Simeon Cole, a farmer who sits on several parish councils in Herefordshire, at least one of which is within this ward (Michaelchurch Escley); he lives some distance away in Coughton near Ross-on-Wye and lost a by-election to Ross-on-Wye town council earlier this year. The Greens, who have a growing group on Herefordshire council with three members (all from Leominster), and won the last by-election to Herefordshire council, have selected Jeremy Milln, a conversation archaeologist from Hereford. In a ward like this independent candidates cannot be counted out and there are two of them: Richard Baker, a businessman from Pontrilas; and Peter Jinman OBE, chairman of Ewyas Harold parish council and (among many other things) former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and chairman of Defra's Farm Animal Welfare Committee. Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate Anna Coda, who lives just outside the ward boundary in Peterchurch; she chairs the Hereford branch of the Labour party and was Labour candidate for Hereford and South Herefordshire in June's general election.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Hereford
Postcode districts: HR1, HR2, HR3, HR7

Richard Baker (Ind)
Anna Coda (Lab)
Simeon Cole (C)
Peter Jinman (Ind)
Jeremy Milln (Grn)

May 2015 result C 1364 Grn 357 Ind 351

Skerton West

Lancaster council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Karen Leytham who had served since 2007.

After eleven polls meandering around the south of England, it's time to hit the M6, put the foot on the accelerator (if such a thing is possible on the M6) and set course for the North. For our token North of England by-election this week we are in Skerton, the part of the city of Lancaster north of the Lune along the Torrisholme Road and the Morecambe Road. The last time I drove along the Morecambe Road the congestion on it had to be seen to be believed (it was the main access road for both Morecambe and Heysham Port, and plugged straight into Lancaster city centre at the eastern end), but the recent opening of the Lancaster Northern Bypass, which is too new to appear on the above map, is hopefully providing some much-needed relief for the area. The ward has high levels of social renting and in 2011 was in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for part-time employment.

This is a generally safe Labour ward which has returned a full slate of Labour councillors every year since 2003 with the exception of 2011, when outgoing Labour councillor Roger Sherlock was re-elected as an independent without Labour opposition. Sherlock is now back in the Labour fold. The most recent district election in 2015 gave 37% to Labour, 26% to the Conservatives and 20% to UKIP. The local county division (Skerton) is also reliably Labour.

Defending for Labour is Hilda Parr, who comes straight off the campaign trail where she was elected in May as county councillor for Skerton. The other two main parties have both reached for their special K: the Tory candidate is Andy Kay, from Carnforth, while the Lib Dems have entered the fray with Derek Kaye. With UKIP not returning, those are your three candidates.

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

Andy Kay (C)
Derek Kaye (LD)
Hilda Parr (Lab)

May 2015 result Lab 1481/1331/1241 C 1037 UKIP 816 Grn 380/360 Ind 295
May 2011 result Lab 859/829 Ind 584 C 457 Grn 335
May 2007 result Lab 721/655/655 C 350/350/315 BNP 297 Grn 273
May 2003 result Lab 657/645/594 C 297 Ind 265/242 Socialist Alliance 183 Grn 127/109


North Lanarkshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Sandy Thornton, who appears to have had second thoughts about becoming a councillor and did not sign his acceptance of office. He was elected in May.

We cross the border into Scotland for the final two by-elections of the week, starting in the Fortissat ward of Lanarkshire. This ward is based on Shotts, a town on high ground roughly halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, together with Shotts' hinterland. Shotts was traditionally an ironworking and mining town, but with the end of industry its population has declined. One of the major local employers now is HMP Shotts, a high-security prison. The ward has good transport links to both Glasgow and Edinburgh: the M8 motorway runs through the ward to the north of Shotts, while Shotts and Hartwood stations lie on the Edinburgh-Shotts-Glasgow railway line which is scheduled for electrification in the next few years.

North Lanarkshire had extensive boundary changes this year but Fortissat ward was relatively little changed, gaining the village of Morningside from Murdostoun ward and going up from three councillors to four. The ward was created in 2007 with the introduction of PR for local elections in Scotland, and in that election returned one Labour councillor, one SNP member and independent Charlie Cefferty. The 2012 election here is notable for Labour candidate Francis Fallan topping the poll but not getting elected; on first preferences he was one vote ahead of his running-mate Jim Robertson and two votes ahead of Cefferty, but there was an SNP quota, Cefferty was elected on Conservative transfers and Robertson (who was seeking re-election) picked up more transfers from the Tories and SNP than Fallan did.

In May's election the expanded ward gave 36% to Labour, 29% to the SNP, 13% to the Conservatives, 11% to a "No Referendum Maintain Union Pro-Brexit" candidate (that is a registered description of the British Union and Sovereignty Party, which is a new one to your columnist) and 10% to Cefferty. Labour won two seats, the SNP one and the Conservatives one; during the count Cefferty overtook the pro-Brexit candidate on SNP transfers and the pro-Brexit transfers went strongly to the Conservatives. Labour and the Tories followed up that good performance in June's general election in the local seat, Airdrie and Shotts, which the SNP held over Labour by just 195 votes.

It has to be said that the Tory seat in Fortissat in May was rather an accidental win, and with a starting point of 13% and third place the Scottish Conservatives, who came from nowhere to win ten seats on North Lanarkshire council in May, have it all to do to hold this by-election. Their defending candidate is Norma McNab, from Motherwell. The Labour candidate is Clare Quigley from Shotts, who had Jeremy Corbyn up from London last week to support her campaign. The SNP have selected their losing candidate here from May Mags Murphy, who is registered blind but didn't let that stop her chairing Shotts community council until earlier this year. Shotts community councillor John Leckie is standing with the description "A Better Britain - Unionist Party": I can't find this description on the Electoral Commission's register but he appears to be the British Union and Sovereignty Party candidate. Charlie Cefferty is seeking to return to the council. Also standing are Kyle Davidson (of Cumbernauld) for the Scottish Green Party and Daryl Gardner (of Airdrie) for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Airdrie and Shotts
Holyrood constituency: Airdrie and Shotts (almost all)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Motherwell and Airdrie
Postcode districts: EH47, ML1, ML2, ML7

Charlie Cefferty (Ind)
Kyle Davidson (Grn)
Daryl Gardner (UKIP)
John Leckie (British Union and Sovereignty Party)
Norma McNab (C)
Mags Murphy (SNP)
Clare Quigley (Lab)

May 2017 first preferences Lab 1840 SNP 1465 C 670 British Union and Sovereignty Party 559 Ind 509


Glasgow council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Alistair Watson at the age of 59. A former train driver, he had served on Glasgow council since 1995, representing North Cardonald ward until 2007, Craigton ward from 2007 until May and Cardonald ward since May.

By a curious coincidence, all three of the councillors whose deaths resulted in by-elections this week were 59 at the time of their demise.

We finish this marathon edition of Andrew's Previews on the western edge of Glasgow, south of the Clyde along the Paisley Road. The Cardonald ward is based on the areas of Mosspark, Hillington and North and South Cardonald, former villages which boomed in the inter-war years thanks to good rail and tram links to Glasgow and the opening of a large industrial estate centred on a factory which made engines for Rolls-Royce. In 1950 Cardonald saw the building of Moss Heights, the first of Glasgow's many tower blocks of high-rise flats. With over 22,000 electors, Cardonald is one of the largest wards in Scotland.

Glasgow had extensive ward boundary changes this year, but the only thing which changed about Cardonald ward was the name: it was previously called Craigton. Before the introduction of PR this was one of Glasgow's more pluralistic areas: the SNP carried Mosspark in the 2003 election and the former Pollok ward was one of only a handful of places in Scotland that year to return a councillor from the Scottish Socialist Party. The 2007 election, the first on these boundaries, returned two Labour councillors, one SNP and one councillor from Tommy Sheridan's outfit Solidarity, who got transfers from the Scottish Socialist Party and benefited from Labour failing to balance their three candidates. The SNP gained the Solidarity seat in 2012 and easily held a seat at a by-election in August 2015. May's election saw the SNP top the poll with 43%, to 38% for Labour and 12% for the Conservatives; the seat count remained 2-2. This ward is in the Glasgow South West constituency which saw a very close result in June's general election: the SNP held the seat over Labour by just 60 votes.

So, all to play for in this seat and transfers could well be crucial in the result. Defending for Labour is Jim Kavanagh, chairman of the South Cardonald and Crookston community council. The SNP candidate is Alex Mitchell, who in his current job supports people with health problems and disabilities to remain in work. The Tory candidate is Thomas Haddow, a Tesco manager who fought the local seat (Glasgow Pollok) in the 2016 Holyrood elections. Also standing are John Smith for the Scottish Green Party, Isabel Nelson for the Liberal Democrats and Antony Sammeroff for the Libertarian Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Glasgow South West
Holyrood constituency: Glasgow Pollok
ONS Travel to Work Area: Glasgow
Postcode districts: G41, G51, G52, G53

May 2017 first preferences SNP 4014 Lab 3501 C 1082 Grn 233 LD 182 Tommy Sheridan - IndyRef2 131 UKIP 118
(All earlier results are for Craigton ward)
August 2015 by-election SNP 2674 Lab 1643 C 300 Grn 136 UKIP 95 LD 87
May 2012 first preferences Lab 4381 SNP 2576 Solidarity 472 C 292 Grn 169 Glasgow First 147 UKIP 86 LD 76
May 2007 first preferences Lab 5313 SNP 2729 Solidarity 1220 C 569 LD 457 Grn 315 Scottish Unionist Party 225 SSP 224

Thomas Haddow (C)
Jim Kavanagh (Lab)
Alex Mitchell (SNP)
Isabel Nelson (LD)
Antony Sammeroff (Libertarian)
John Smith (Grn)

Preview: 31 Aug 2017

One by-election on the last day of August 2017:

Weston-super-Mare North Worle

North Somerset council; caused by the death of councillor Derek Mead at the age of 72. An entrepreneur who had made millions of pounds from dairy farming, property development and other business and ran a company employing 300 people, Mead was killed in a freak accident on his farm when he was run down by his own tractor; it is thought that Mead's dog, who was in the tractor's cab at the time of the accident, had accidentally put the machine into forward gear. Mead had sat on North Somerset council since winning a by-election as an independent in July 2013, and was re-elected in 2015 for his own political party North Somerset First.

One of Mead's legacies to the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare is much of the housing which now makes up the town's North Worle ward. This ward is made up of 1980s and 1990s houses at the north-east corner of Weston, close to the M5 motorway which links the town to Bristol. Weston is now prosperous enough that since 2015 it has formed a Travel to Work Area in its own right, but North Worle's population is mainly made up of Bristol commuters and their families; although boundary changes in 2015 confuse the issue, the 2011 edition of North Worle ward (which was larger, and had three councillors rather than the present two) made the top 50 wards in England and Wales for those educated to "Level 2" (that is, five or more GCSE passes but nothing higher) and is in the top 100 English and Welsh wards for part-time working.

Before the housing got going in the 1980s this area was known mainly for Castle Batch, a Norman motte-and-bailey castle which in the 13th century belonged to William de Courtney, a grandson of Reginald FitzUrse who has gone down in infamy as one of the murderers of Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury in 1170. In reparation for that de Courtney founded Woodspring Priory, dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury and which once gave its name to the local district council and a parliamentary constituency. Castle Batch is now a park at the centre of North Worle ward, and in recognition of the history one of the main roads through the ward is named Becket Road after Thomas. (This may be a good time to announce that your columnist is appearing later in the current series of BBC Mastermind with Thomas as his specialist subject.) Also here was part of the route of the troubled Weston, Clevedon and Portishead light railway, which during its short life (1897-1940) was said to be so slow that passengers could get off and pick blackberries en route.

North Worle ward was created in 1999 and took on its present boundaries in 2015. At its creation it was a Lib Dem stronghold, but the Liberal Democrats lost the parliamentary seat in 2005 and this ward two years later, in a poll which had to be postponed till June 2007 following the death of outgoing Lib Dem councillor Alan Hockridge during the campaign. By 2011 North Worle was a safe Conservative ward, but Mead gained one of the Conservative seats in a by-election in July 2013. The 2015 boundary changes removed 800 electors and one seat from North Worle ward, and it was the Conservatives who lost out as Mead was narrowly re-elected as the only councillor from his own party, North Somerset First; shares of the vote were 29% for the Conservatives, 23% for North Somerset First, 21% for UKIP and 15% for Labour.

North Somerset First de-registered with the Electoral Commission last year, and with no defending candidate from Mead's party this seat is up for grabs in Britain Elects' favourite type of by-election: a free-for-all. The Conservatives have selected James Davis, who sits on Weston-super-Mare town council (for South Worle ward); he is working in facilities management after 26 years' service in the Army. The UKIP candidate is another Weston-super-Mare town councillor, Anita Spencer-Johns who represents the neighbouring Mid Worle ward and chairs the Weston branch of UKIP. Labour have reselected Denise Hunt, an accountant who fought the ward in 2015 and the 2013 by-election. Hoping to relaunch his political career is Lib Dem candidate Alan Rice, who has retired to Weston after formerly being a prominent Lib Dem figure in Worthing: he was a Worthing borough councillor for Gaisford ward 2006-14, leading the council's Lib Dem group, and West Sussex county councillor for Broadwater division 2009-13. Completing the ballot paper is independent candidate Richard Skinner, who is also looking to relaunch his political career: he was a Lib Dem councillor for this ward from 1999 to 2007.

I am grateful to Andrew Nisbet for help with this preview.

Parliamentary constituency: Weston-super-Mare

James Davis (C)
Denise Hunt (Lab)
Alan Rice (LD)
Richard Skinner (Ind)
Anita Spencer-Johns (UKIP)

May 2015 result C 1506/1165 North Somerset First 1209 UKIP 1113 Lab 772/750 LD 641

Preview: 29 Aug 2017

Before we start this week, another regrettable entry for Correction Corner. In the Riverside by-election in Aylesbury two weeks ago the defending candidate Ashley Waite was not Labour but (as the rest of the article made clear) Conservative. My apologies for the error.


Scarborough council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Marie Harland, who had failed to attend any council meetings in six months. She had served since 2003.

How was your bank holiday weekend? Was the weather good? Did you get out into the countryside? Well, this week Andrew's Previews has a theme of "let's see what you could have done" as our two by-elections in the last week of August 2017 cover some major tourist areas. For a rare Tuesday by-election this week we are in a ward almost all of which is covered by the North York Moors National Park. The name refers to Mulgrave Castle, a seventeenth-century country house in the parish of Lythe built by Lady Catherine Darnley, and still the family seat of her descendant, the Marquess of Normanby. The present Mulgrave Castle is not the original: there was a previous Norman castle which was demolished during the Civil War, and before that an ancient castle founded, according to legend, by the sixth-century Wada, ruler of Hälsingland in what is now Sweden.

Mulgrave Castle gives its name to a rural ward of twelve parishes covering the coast between Whitby and Loftus, a beautiful area of cliffs and moorland. The largest of the thirteen polling stations, with 806 electors on the roll, is at the village of Hinderwell and also covers the hamlet of Dalehouse and the tiny beach resort of Runswick Bay; however, the largest centre of population is Staithes, a picture-postcard fishing and tourist village with artistic and Captain Cook connections in the ward's northern corner. Staithes has attractions not just for second-home owners (of whom there are many; less than half of the village's houses are occupied by locals) but for scientists: the cliffs between Staithes and Port Mulgrave are of Jurassic rock and contain many fossils, while just outside the ward boundary is Boulby Mine, which as well as providing half of the UK's potash supply is a centre for scientific experiments attempting to detect particles of dark matter.

Mulgrave ward's population is relatively old (36% are in the 45-64 age bracket) with high self-employment levels, and almost homogeneously British: it is in the top 50 wards in England and Wales for White British ethnicity (98.6%) and the 2011 census recorded just 13 non-white people living in the ward. The ward's population is also declining: its electorate has fallen by 17% since 1998 and it looks unlikely that it will survive the present Boundary Commission review of the local district unchanged. A word needs saying about that district: Mulgrave ward is within the hinterland of Whitby, which is sufficiently prosperous and remote that the Office for National Statistics recognises it as the centre of its own Travel to Work Area; but the population of Whitby and its hinterland isn't large enough to sustain a local government district, so Mulgrave ward is administered from distant Scarborough further down the coast. A rather strange decision for Staithes in particular, which is much closer to the Teesside conurbation and actually has a Teesside postcode (TS13, for Saltburn).

Politically this is a true-blue area. Mulgrave ward returned Conservatives without a contest in 1991 and in 2003, when Marie Harland was first elected in the first use of the current boundaries. However, in 2007 the Tories lost one of the ward's two seats to independent candidate John Armsby, who was re-elected in 2011 without Tory opposition. In 2015 the Conservatives ran a full slate and regained Armsby's seat, polling 35% to 21% for Armsby, 18% for UKIP and 16% for Labour. At county council level the ward is combined with western Whitby in the Whitby/Mayfield cum Mulgrave division, which the Conservatives held in May defeating Labour 63-37 in a straight fight. Perhaps a good omen for the Conservatives, who hold 25 seats plus this vacancy on Scarborough council, to 14 Labour, 4 independents, 4 UKIP councillors and 2 Greens; as can be seen, if the Conservatives lose this by-election their majority on Scarborough council goes with it.

Defending this crucial poll for the Conservatives is Marion Watson, who comes from a fishing family in Staithes and was a founder member of the Staithes Community Initiative. Her main opposition is likely to come from former independent councillor John Armsby, who is standing again; he also gives an address in Staithes. Hoping to stir the Heartbeat of the ward's Labour voters is Goathland resident Hugo Fearnley, who was the Labour candidate here in May's county elections, and the ballot paper is completed by Yorkshire Party candidate Lee Derrick, from Whitby.

Parliamentary constituency: Scarborough and Whitby
North Yorkshire county council division: Whitby/Mayfield cum Mulgrave

John Armsby (Ind)
Lee Derrick (Yorkshire Party)
Hugo Fearnley (Lab)
Marion Watson (C)

May 2015 result C 795/558 Ind 494/188 UKIP 410 Lab 353/309 Grn 212
May 2011 result C 701 Ind 628 Lab 287
May 2007 result Ind 637 C 528/438 LD 442
May 2003 result 2 C unopposed

Previews: 17 Aug 2017

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

Before we start this week, a correction is in order. Two weeks ago in the preview for Milton Regis ward, Swale district, I stated that Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Baldock, who represented the ward from 2002 to 2003, had later become a Labour figure and was elected as a UKIP member of Swale council in 2015. In fact the former Labour figure turned UKIP Swale councillor is not Mark Baldock but Mike Baldock. I apologise to both Mark and Mike for the error.

In this middle week of August there really is something for everyone, with the Conservatives defending two seats and Labour and the Lib Dems one each. Two of this week's four by-elections occur in the fast-growing town of Aylesbury in what are effectively four-way marginal wards, which all three main parties and UKIP will be casting greedy eyes on. We also take a trip to one of the world's most famous racecourses to look at the runners and riders. But we start with the most crucial by-election of the week, an area in the throes of demographic change which will determine overall control of a city council. Read on...


Peterborough council, Cambridgeshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor John Shearman. A retired headteacher, he had served since 2011; in 2016 he was cautioned by police following an altercation with a Conservative councillor at a council meeting. Shearman is resigning from the council to concentrate on caring for his wife, who has dementia.

For our first and most important by-election this week we are in Peterborough. Park ward lies immediately to the north of the city centre, running from the King's School (venue for the UK leg of the World Quizzing Championships in 2010) northwards to Central Park and the Peterborough Regional College. This is a residential area of large Victorian houses which has seen much demographic change in recent years, because it has been a focus for immigration. At the 2011 census 18% of the population of Peterborough Park ward were born in the new EU states, the eighth-highest figure of any ward in England and Wales; in consequence the White Other population (23%) is also very high. However, the White Other ethnic group is outnumbered by the Asian ethnic group who form 30% of the population; most of those are Muslim. In consequence of these private renting is high and the ward's age profile is young.

That demographic change has turned the ward's election results on its head. Park ward, whose boundaries have survived successive boundary reviews to be unchanged since 1997 and only little changed since 1976, had previously been a safe Conservative ward under normal circumstances: although the Alliance did well here in the mid-1980s, Labour had only won the ward once at the Tory nadir of 1995, and then needed help from a split in the Conservative vote caused by an Independent Conservative candidate standing. As recently as 2008 Labour polled under 11% of the vote and finished in third place behind the Greens.

That changed in 2011 when Labour's John Shearman gained the ward from the Conservatives, polling 51% - a startling swing of 35% in just three years. Labour gained a second seat in the ward in 2014; the 2016 election, in which all three seats were up, resulted in no change to the party balance with Labour beating the Conservatives 40-38 in votes and 2-1 in seats. There were no local elections in Peterborough this May, but in June Labour gained the city's parliamentary seat and a council by-election in East ward from the Conservatives, suggesting that Labour's Peterborough machine is in good working order. It needs to be as this by-election is crucial for control of the city council: the ruling Conservative group and the combined opposition groups both hold 29 seats (plus a vacancy each), so a Conservative gain in this by-election will give the Tories overall control of Peterborough council.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have selected Asian candidates. Defending for Labour is Shaz Nawaz, a chartered accountant who fought the hopeless Dogsthorpe ward in 2016. The Conservatives have reselected Arfan Khan who was runner-up here in the 2016 election. Completing the ballot paper are Carolyn English for the Green Party, Graham Whitehead for UKIP and Ian Hardman for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Peterborough

May 2016 result Lab 1618/1569/1343 C 1546/1536/1203 Grn 355 UKIP 345 LD 163
May 2015 result Lab 2049 C 1438 UKIP 326 Grn 172 LD 90
May 2014 result Lab 1410 C 1191 UKIP 283 Grn 121 LD 74 TUSC 12
May 2012 result C 1530 Lab 1284 Grn 147
May 2011 result Lab 1555 C 1220 Grn 151 EDP 113
May 2010 result C 1694 Lab 1395 Grn 375 EDP 257
May 2008 result C 1723 Grn 274 Lab 263 LD 120 Lib 79
May 2007 result C 1408 Lab 770 Grn 252 Lib 108 LD 83
May 2006 result C 1412 Lab 399 Lib 299 Ind 249
June 2004 result C 1370/1341/1262 Lab 701/696/565 Ind 557 Lib 384
May 2002 result C 1329 Lab 672 LD 317
June 2001 result C 2020 Lab 1178 LD 568
May 2000 result C 1833 Lab 422 LD 154
May 1999 result C 1248 Lab 604
May 1997 result C 2086/2020/1903 Lab 1577/1355/1242 Lib 743

St Mary's

Forest Heath council, Suffolk; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Bill Sadler at the age of 81.

Described as a constant and often controversial figure in local politics, Sadler started his local government career on the old Newmarket urban district council, serving as the UDC's last chairman in 1973-74. He was first elected to Forest Heath council in 1976 as an independent candidate, serving as the council chairman in 1980-81, but lost his seat in 1983. Sadler returned to the council in a 1998 by-election for St Mary's ward, lost his seat again in 2007 after having supported the introduction of car parking charges in Newmarket, but returned in 2011. He had also served on Suffolk county council, and had come under fire last year: both for editing the Newmarket Messenger, a magazine part-funded by Newmarket town council which he also sat on, and for nominating opposition candidates in a town council by-election which got him kicked out of the Conservative party. Away from the council he was a Yorkshire-born civil engineer, who designed the town's Houldsworth Valley housing estate where he lived, chaired the Newmarket branch of the British Legion and was a founder member of the Newmarket Town Band.

St Mary's is the most common ward name in the UK, reflecting the number of churches which have been dedicated to the Virgin (or Magdalene) over the years. This particular St Mary's ward is in Suffolk's most westerly town, Newmarket, covering the western end of the town between the road to Cambridge and the road to Exning. That can only mean one thing: horse-racing, and this ward includes the Suffolk half of Newmarket racecourse (which spills over the county boundary into Cambridgeshire). Two of the UK's classic flat races - the 2,000 Guineas and the 1,000 Guineas - are raced here each May, and the town's entire economy is based around the gee-gees, whether it's horse trading, training, breeding, competition, veterinary, historical, artistic or related services. Even the town's MP, Matt Hancock, took part in the 2016 running of the Newmarket Town Plate, reportedly finishing in second place. As one of the most important global centres of the racehorse business, Newmarket is important for the UK's export trade and St Mary's ward has high employment levels.

Newmarket has a complicated administrative history, having originally been split between Cambridgeshire and Suffolk who have playing tug-of-war over the town ever since. The 1970s local government reorganisation had originally proposed giving Cambridgeshire custody of the town, but lobbying by Suffolk led to Newmarket between transferred back to Suffolk at a late stage. This led to, as well as a very strange-looking border, the town becoming the largest settlement in the tiny Forest Heath district, whose council chamber is however based in Mildenhall. Forest Heath shares its website and much of its administration with the neighbouring St Edmundsbury district, and it wouldn't be too surprising if a merger between the two councils was sought in the future.

Newmarket's St Mary's ward has had some complicated election results, too. In 2003 - the first election on the current boundaries - the ward's three seats split two to the Conservatives and one to the West Suffolk Independent Alliance, who topped the poll. The Conservatives lost a seat (Sadler's seat) to an independent candidate in 2007, but were back to two seats in 2011 - the other seat that year going to Labour. In the 2015 election the Tories got a full slate for the first time this century, but on a close three-way result: vote shares were 39% for the Conservative slate, 32% for Labour and 28% for UKIP. The Tories had a larger majority in May's county elections for the local division (Exning and Newmarket).

There are three runners in this particular race. In the parade ring can be found defending Conservative candidate Robert Nobbs, a hotel manager who won a by-election to Newmarket Town Council from this ward in May. Wearing the red colours is Labour candidate Michael Jefferys, a long-serving town councillor, twice Mayor of Newmarket and district councillor for this ward from 2011 to 2015; Jeffreys is also straight back on the campaign trail having fought the local county council seat in May and West Suffolk (for the fifth time) in June's general election. There is no UKIP candidate so Alice Haylock of the Green Party completes your racecard - er, ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division:

May 2015 result C 876/855/784 Lab 714/465/412 UKIP 632/482/353
May 2011 result C 540/505/355 Lab 473/329 Ind 451 UKIP 372
May 2007 result Ind 570 C 433/374/367 Forest Heath Independent Alliance 420/351 UKIP 369 Lab 350
May 2003 result West Suffolk Independent Alliance 445/394 C 443/429/340 Lab 334/250/212 UKIP 166




Aylesbury Vale council, Buckinghamshire; caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative councillor Nick Lewis and Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Agoro. Agoro had served since winning a by-election in December 2014, Lewis since 2015. Both resignations were described as being for personal reasons.

For our final two by-elections of the week we are in Aylesbury, the strangely unlovely county town of Buckinghamshire. We start with Riverside ward (the river in question is the Thame) which covers the north-western corner of town along the Bicester Road together with the parish of Berryfields.

North-western Aylesbury is one of the boom areas of modern Britain, slated for an enormous amount of new housing as part of the Berryfields development. This has led to infrastructure changes to serve the area: Aylesbury Vale Parkway railway station opened in December 2008, while a link road (not shown on the map) between the A41 and A413 opened in 2014. Even the former Quarrendon parish has been renamed Berryfields to reflect the development. The Boundary Commission took a look at Aylesbury Vale district in advance of the 2015 election; mindful of the future growth projections, their new Riverside ward is a cut-down version of the former Quarrendon ward but with an extra councillor, and its electorate is expected to almost double in size over the next few years. For what it's worth, at the 2011 census the old Quarrendon ward made the top 90 in England and Wales for those educated to Level 1 (1-5 GCSEs) with relatively high social renting and Asian populations.

Southcourt ward, on the other hand, escaped the 2015 boundary review with only minor changes. This is a residential area of mostly inter-war housing to the south of the town centre and railway station, with a young age profile and, again, relatively high social renting and Asian populations.

Both of these areas were strongly Lib Dem during the Noughties but have shown some instability since the Coalition was formed. In the 2011 elections the Lib Dems lost both seats in Quarrendon ward to UKIP and one seat in Southcourt ward to Labour. Labour lost their Southcourt seat back to the Lib Dems in a December 2014 by-election but regained it at the ordinary election five months later in a very fragmented result: the shares of the vote in Southcourt that year were 29% and 1 seat for the Lib Dems, 23% and 1 seat for Labour, 22% for the Conservatives and 21% for UKIP. In May's county elections the Aylesbury South-West division, which is based on this ward, was a Lib Dem gain from UKIP.

The only previous election in Riverside ward on the current boundaries, in 2015, went 36% and 2 seats to UKIP, 31% and 1 seat to the Conservatives, and 18% for Labour. This might suggest that the Lib Dems are out of the running, but in May they gained the county council seat covering the "town" part of the ward (Aylesbury North-West) from UKIP on a low share of the vote; on the other hand, Berrylands parish is in a strongly Conservative county division (Stone and Waddesdon).

Confused? You will be. Defending Riverside ward for Labour is Ashley Waite, who gives an address in the village of Waddesdon. (In May's county election Waites subscribed to the nomination papers of the Tory candidate for Stone and Waddesdon, as did local resident, grandson of Winston Churchill and Serco chief executive Rupert Soames.) Hoping to restore the ward's full UKIP slate is Phil Gomm, a DJ from the village of Granborough who was county councillor for Aylesbury East until May and fought (and lost) a council by-election in Aylesbury's Elmhurst ward in April. Labour have selected John Cowell, a trade unionist who has worked in the social care sector for many years. Also standing are Jason Bingley for the Lib Dems and Mary Hodgskiss for the Green Party.

In Southcourt ward the Lib Dems have reselected their unsuccessful candidate from 2015 Sally-Anne Jarvis. Both Labour and the Conservatives have selected candidates from the Asian community: Labour's candidate is Ansar Gulzar, who works for a healthcare provider, and the Tories have reselected Akhmad Hussain who was runner-up here in 2015. The UKIP candidate is Geoffrey Baile, who gives an address in Aston Clinton and fought his home ward in 2015. Completing the ballot paper is Green candidate Julie Atkins.


Parliamentary constituency: Aylesbury (except for a small corner in Buckingham)
Buckinghamshire county council division: Aylesbury North-West (part: part of Aylesbury town); Stone and Waddesdon (part: Berryfields parish)

May 2015 result UKIP 1142/918/828 C 988/895/716 Lab 566 LD 495/486/471


Parliamentary constituency: Aylesbury
Buckinghamshire county council division: Aylesbury South-West

May 2015 result LD 772/522 Lab 604/398 C 586/547 UKIP 560/432 Grn 152/93

Previews: 03 Aug 2017

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

The hit BBC2 quiz show Only Connect returned to our screens last week for a new series and included a set of four terms associated with elections, one of which has to the best of my knowledge never appeared in the six-year history of Andrew’s Previews: “cleavage”. Clearly this a word all the smart political operators use, and it turns out that in a political sense cleavage can refer to any factor which could cause differences in voting behaviour: age, class, location, you name it. So now you know.

This week’s edition of Andrew’s Previews sees several references to a man historically not averse to a bit of cleavage (in every sense of the word), King Henry VIII. Showing that our remit is not confined to this island of Great Britain, we also touch on recent British military adventures in the Middle East, international trade in a pre-Brexit era and that mainstay of August, the package holiday: we visit the town where the package holiday revolution started and two seaside resorts which have had varying degrees of success in coping with it. This week is a bit of a Southern special, with four of our six polls being south of the River Thames, including three in Kent alone; there is a pair of defences each for Labour, the Conservatives and that increasingly bedraggled political force, UKIP, to whose defences we turn first. Read on…

Margate Central

Thanet council, Kent; caused by the resignation of councillor Jeffrey Elenor who was elected as UKIP but had left the party. He had served since 2015, and also served on Kent county council from 2013 until May 2017.

On Margate sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
– T S Eliot, The Waste Land

Welcome to what is described in its tourist information as a timeless seaside resort, which may explain why the passage of time has left it behind. Margate has been serving bathers for 250 years, most of them coming from London 65 miles to the west. Like many seaside resorts, Margate’s economic base was severely damaged by the package holiday revolution which made the Mediterranean, the Canaries or other foreign climes, with their more relaxed lifestyle and better weather, more attractive holiday destinations; and Margate has been struggling to reinvent itself ever since. Recent attempts to do so have involved playing on the town’s history and particularly its association with the artist J M W Turner: the Turner Contemporary art gallery, opened in 2011 in a striking modern building on the seafront, is described as the largest exhibition space in south-east England outside London. Margate is also home to the world’s second-oldest rollercoaster, the Scenic Railway at Dreamland, which was opened in 1920 and reopened in 2015 after being severely damaged by fire some years previously.

Dreamland and the Turner Contemporary lie at opposite ends of Margate Central ward, which also claims another second-oldest – the Theatre Royal, established in 1787 and rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1829, is the UK’s second-oldest theatre. Also within the boundary is Margate’s old town centre and the headquarters of Thanet district council. Despite all this unemployment is extremely high – 11.2% at the 2011 census, in the top 25 wards in England and Wales – while the ward’s resort heritage means that it makes the top 50 English and Welsh wards for private renting, with over half of the ward’s households having that form of tenure.

This normally adds up to a Labour-voting ward, although in 2003 its two seats split between Labour and the Conservatives, whose lead candidate Colin Kiddell defeated the second Labour candidate by one vote. Kiddell was forced to resign within months over accusations that he had stolen and embezzled funds from a campaign to reopen Dreamland and save the Scenic Railway, and Labour easily gained his former seat in the resulting by-election. And that was that for excitement in the ward’s elections until 2015, when UKIP had a good go at trying to get Nigel Farage into parliament; he didn’t win South Thanet (which is based on Ramsgate and Sandwich; this ward is in the North Thanet constituency) but UKIP had the consolation prize of winning 33 of Thanet council’s 56 seats and overall control. One of those UKIP seats came from Margate Central ward, which split its votes 33% to Labour (who held the other seat), 31% for UKIP and 20% for the Conservatives; further down the ballot was one of the few local election candidates nominated by the Reality Party, a left-wing group associated with Bez from the Happy Mondays, which polled 3% and failed to make an impact. The new UKIP district councillor was Jeffrey Elenor, a retired civil servant who had been elected to Kent county council two years previously (from Margate West division).

Since then it’s been, appropriately enough, a rollercoaster ride for the ruling UKIP group on Thanet council. UKIP’s council groups have not been noted for such boring things as cohesion and internal discipline, and the fact that they are supposed to be running the council has made not a jot of difference to that in Thanet. In two short years the party has lost its majority due to defections (including their councillor for this ward, Jeffrey Elenor), got it back again in by-elections, and then lost it again through further defections. Combine that with the UKIP wipeout in 2017’s Kent county council election, in which the party fell to a poor third in the Margate division which was narrowly won by Labour with the Tories in second, and the long-term prospects for the Kippers look poor. The party are now down to 27 seats on Thanet council (plus this vacancy) and will be in a minority if they fail to recover the defection loss in this by-election.

Defending for UKIP is Liz Plewis. Labour have selected Ian Venables, who has worked in public health in Margate for 25 years. The Conservative candidate is Reece Pugh, a Commons caseworker and recent University of Kent graduate. Completing the ballot paper are Bernard Kirkham for the Greens, independent candidates Dean McCastree and Pip Rees, and Lib Dem John Finnegan.

Parliamentary constituency: North Thanet
Kent county council division: Margate
ONS Travel to Work Area: Margate and Ramsgate

May 2015 result Lab 680/497 UKIP 639/590 C 411/348 Grn 232/159 Reality Party 64 Ind 47
May 2011 result Lab 682/570 C 283/235
May 2007 result Lab 605/551 C 192/185 Ind 153 BNP 116
Oct 2003 by-election Lab 370 C 201 BNP 172 LD 85 UKIP 37 Socialist Alliance 19 Ind 18 [Lab gain from C]
May 2003 result Lab 390/353 C 354/299 Ind 108

Milton Regis

Swale council, Kent; caused by the death of UKIP councillor Katy Coleman at the age of 45. Originally from Cornwall, Coleman had moved to Sittingbourne with her husband around eight years ago.

Moving west along the north coast of Kent we come to Milton Regis, once an urban district of its own but now a northern suburb of Sittingbourne. Milton Regis is a lot older than Sittingbourne – Queen Seaxburh of Kent became a nun here in AD 680, and the town was sacked in 1052 by Godwin, Earl of Wessex, in a dispute over the Anglo-Saxon throne – but its prosperity in recent centuries came from paper manufacturing and from Milton Precast, which still makes concrete pipes in the ward today. This was traditionally an industrial and working-class area and has demographics to match.

Milton Regis ward had boundary changes in advance of the 2015 election. The 2002-15 edition of the ward was a Lib Dem-Labour marginal, electing Elvina Lowe and Mark Baldock for the Lib Dems in 2002, but Baldock lost his seat to Labour in 2003 (he later became a Labour figure and was elected as a UKIP borough councillor in 2015) and Labour easily gained the other Lib Dem seat in 2011. The expanded ward in 2015 elected one Conservative candidate and one UKIPper, a result which seems to have come as a surprise to everyone involved as neither the Tories nor UKIP had a full slate: shares of the vote were 34% for the Conservatives and 29% each for UKIP and Labour, the UKIP councillor having a majority of just four votes. As in Margate, UKIP ran a poor third in the local county division (Sittingbourne North) in May’s county elections, with the Conservatives beating Labour in the division by nine points.

Defending for UKIP is Richard Palmer, a parish councillor in Newington near Sittingbourne who fought Sittingbourne and Sheppey in the 2015 general election. The Conservatives have gone for youth in selecting 18-year-old Kane Blackwell, a “future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom among other things” if his Twitter is to be believed. The Labour candidate is Tony Winckless, councillor for the former Milton Regis ward from 2011 until losing his seat in 2015. Completing the ballot paper is Tony Clarke of the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Kent county council division: Sittingbourne North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Medway

May 2015 result C 993 UKIP 849 Lab 845/754 LD 252

Penshurst, Fordcombe & Chiddingstone

Sevenoaks council, Kent; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Paddy Cooke. He had served since 2007.

For our third Kent by-election of the week we travel away from the coast to a large and rather unwieldy rural ward in the High Weald at the western end of the county. Penshurst may not go back into history quite as far as Milton Regis, but it is the location of the fourteenth-century stately home Penshurst Place, birthplace of the Elizabeth poet and soldier Sir Philip Sidney and still held by his descendants (now the Viscounts De L’Isle), who make money by opening it to the public and film companies – scenes from the TV series Merlin and the films The Princess Bride and The Other Boleyn Girl were filmed here. The latter is particularly appropriate as Penshurst Place was situated close to Anne Boleyn’s childhood home at Hever Castle, and Henry VIII is known to have used the house as a hunting lodge. Another popular filming location within the ward is Chiddingstone (A Room with a View, The Wicked Lady, Wind in the Willows, Elizabeth R), almost entirely owned by the National Trust and described as “the most perfect surviving example of a Tudor village in the county”. Chiddingstone was the original home of the Streatfeild family, who built the nineteenth-century stately home Chiddingstone Castle and were major landowners in the area.

Although this may look like a bucolic rural area in the middle of nowhere, the ward is well within commuting range of London and consequently has a middle-class commuter demographic. Politically it’s a true blue area. Cooke was unopposed at the 2011 election; in 2015 he beat the Lib Dems 53-34 in his last re-election. The Tories had a larger majority in May’s county elections in the local division (Sevenoaks Rural South). Some of the electors in this by-election may be pleased to note that their polling station is a pub; the Wheatsheaf at Bough Beech and the Rock Inn at Chiddingstone Hoath have both been pressed into the service of democracy.

Defending for the Conservatives is Sue Coleman of Chiddingstone, a volunteer at Chiddingstone Castle. The Lib Dems have reselected their candidate from 2015 Richard Streatfeild; one of the Chiddingstone Streatfeilds, Richard served for 16 years in the Rifles, retiring with an MBE, the rank of Major, and much experience of Helmand Province and Radio 4’s Today programme. (He is the older brother of Geoffrey Streatfeild, an actor who has appeared in films and TV including the BBC series Spooks, The Thick of It and The Hollow Crown and, appropriately enough, the film The Other Boleyn Girl.) Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate Annette Webb.

Parliamentary constituency: Tonbridge and Malling
Kent county division: Sevenoaks Rural South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Tunbridge Wells

May 2015 result C 790 LD 501 Grn 191
May 2011 result C unopposed
May 2007 result C 574 LD 392
May 2003 result C 442 Lab 186


Worthing council, West Sussex; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Joan Bradley, who has since died. A long-standing chairman of the council’s planning committee, Bradley was first elected in 2004.

First of all, let’s make sure we have the right Marine ward here. There are three Marine wards in West Sussex, of which this is the middle one (the other two are in Bognor Regis and Shoreham by Sea). This Marine ward is in western Worthing, named after Marine Gardens on the seafront and running north from there through 1930s housing along Grand Avenue and George V Avenue to the West Coastway railway line (between West Worthing and Durrington-on-Sea stations).

Worthing’s first industry was mining – from around 4000 BC onwards this was Britain’s largest flint-mining area, and from later eras there are important Bronze and Iron Age forts on the hills surrounding the town. The modern town started in the eighteenth century as a seaside resort, but has avoided Margate’s fate by diversifying into financial services which now form a major part of Worthing’s economy. Glaxo SmithKline, HMRC and Southern Water, the local water company, are also major employers. Worthing has a relatively young population for a seaside resort, partly helped by the fact that it has become popular with people who have been priced out of London and Brighton.

Worthing’s Marine ward has managed to retain unchanged boundaries since at least 1983. All of the 22 elections (for 29 vacancies) held here from 1983 to 2010 resulted in a Conservative win with the Lib Dems or their predecessors in second place; the Lib Dems fell out of second with the formation of the Coalition, and Labour were runners-up in 2011 and 2012, UKIP in 2014 and 2015 and Labour again in 2016, when the Tories won with 45% to 20% for Labour and 16% for UKIP. The Conservatives also led in the Worthing West county division, three-quarters of which is in this ward, at May’s West Sussex county council elections.

Defending for the Conservatives is Joseph Crouch, a sweetshop owner in his late twenties. The Labour candidate is Beccy Cooper, a public health consultant who fought the local parliamentary seat (Worthing West) in last month’s general election. There is no UKIP candidate this time so the ballot paper is completed by Antony Brown for the Liberal Democrats and Caroline Ponto for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Worthing West
West Sussex county council division: Worthing West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Worthing

May 2016 result C 961 Lab 415 UKIP 348 LD 217 Grn 185
May 2015 result C 2296 UKIP 741 Lab 663 LD 472 Grn 455
May 2014 result C 1114 UKIP 692 Lab 298 Grn 264 LD 189
May 2012 result C 959 Lab 357 UKIP 349 LD 260
May 2011 result C 1614 Lab 465 LD 448 UKIP 312
May 2010 double vacancy C 2339/1981 LD 1467/1339 UKIP 510
May 2008 result C 1351 LD 508 UKIP 278
May 2007 result C 1511 LD 344 Grn 201 UKIP 171 Lab 155
May 2006 result C 1489 LD 383 Grn 271 Lab 173 UKIP 166
June 2004 result C 1713/1640/1637 LD 586/499/469 Grn 488 Lab 290
May 2003 result C 1282 LD 373 Lab 222 Grn 140
May 2002 result C 1235 LD 388 Lab 230 Grn 182
May 2000 double vacancy C 1207/1162 LD 562/544 Grn 182/169
May 1999 double vacancy C 1357/1267 LD 510/444 Lab 245 Grn 176
May 1998 result C 1174 LD 521 Lab 216 Grn 76
May 1996 result C 1263 LD 630 Lab 291 Grn 79
May 1995 result C 1316 LD 1132 Lab 310 Grn 69
May 1994 result C 1212 LD 1121 Lab 283 Grn 106
May 1992 result C 1619 LD 584 Lab 102 Grn 80
May 1991 result C 1580 LD 611 Grn 239
May 1990 result C 1802 SLD 582 Lab 479
May 1988 result C 1571 SLD 358 Lab 226
May 1987 result C 2054 Alliance 654 Lab 181
May 1986 result C 1545 Alliance 894 Lab 181
May 1984 result C 1642 Alliance 626 Lab 141
May 1983 result C 1866/1828/1764 Alliance 630/601/586 Residents 558/445

St Margarets with St Nicholas

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk council; caused by the disqualification of Labour councillor Claire Kittow who failed to attend any meetings in six months. She had served since 2015.

After four by-elections in Kent and Sussex it’s time for a change of scene to East Anglia, but we retain a maritime connection. We’re in King’s Lynn, a town which started to develop in the early tenth century on a constricted site between the Purfleet and Mill Fleet rivers. The Domesday book described Lynn (as it then was) as a town with many saltings, and in 1101 Herbert de Losinga, bishop of Norwich, granted a market charter to the town and established a church, which was dedicated to St Margaret and run as a priory by the Benedictines. (It is now the town’s parish church with the title of King’s Lynn Minster.)

Bishop’s Lynn thrived and by the fourteenth century was the most important port and one of the largest towns in England, helped by the diversion of the River Great Ouse which had previously entered the Wash through Wisbech. The town was considered sufficiently important to international trade that the Hanseatic League had a presence, and two Hanseatic warehouses from the fifteenth century survive in the town to this day. The English Reformation led to the dissolution of the town’s priory and its ownership being taken over by Henry VIII, prompting a name change from Bishop’s Lynn to King’s Lynn. From about that point onwards King’s Lynn declined as a port: it was in the wrong location for trade with the newly-discovered Americas, while London overtook it as a more attractive destination for European trade. Despite this the port is still important to the town while the arrival of London overspill in the 1960s led to some new industries being developed.

St Margarets with St Nicholas is Lynn’s town centre ward and includes many of its most important functions: the central business district, the town hall, the borough council offices and the railway station all lie within the ward boundary. Perhaps appropriately for a location with such a long history of continental trade, nearly 17% of the ward’s population are from the new EU states, the 14th highest figure of any ward in England and Wales. The ward’s economic profile is very working-class, making the top 100 wards in England and Wales for occupations classed by the census as “semi-routine”.

This produces a key marginal ward which voted Labour in 2003, Conservative in 2007 and since 2011 has split its two seats between the two main parties. In the 2015 election the Conservatives had 43%, with long-serving Tory councillor Lesley Bambridge having a substantial personal vote and finishing a long way ahead of her running-mate, to 33% for Labour and 24% for the Greens. Labour have held the local county seat (King’s Lynn North and Central) since 2013.

Defending for Labour is Francis Bone, a café owner. The Tory candidate is Mike Taylor, a Gulf War veteran who founded and runs The Bridge for Heroes, a local armed forces charity. Returning from 2015 is Green candidate Rob Archer, a pro-cycling campaigner. Helen Russell-Johnson of the Liberal Democrats completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Norfolk
Norfolk county council division: King’s Lynn North and Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: King’s Lynn

May 2015 result C 714/531 Lab 554/523 Grn 402/250
May 2011 result Lab 448/368 C 418/337 Grn 264 Ind 263
May 2007 result C 595/529 Lab 453/423
May 2003 result Lab 535/523 C 446/378 LD 374/358

Loughborough Shelthorpe

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Robert Sharp who had served since 2011. Sharp had also been leader of the Labour group on Leicestershire county council, but lost his seat in May’s county elections.

We started this week with a town which was arguably destroyed by the package holiday revolution, so it’s only fair to finish in the town where the package holiday revolution kicked off. In 1841 a businessman from Leicester called Thomas Cook organised a package tour for a local temperance group so that they could go to, er, Loughborough. By this time Loughborough was a developing industrial town, with thriving factories making bells, steam locomotives, motor cars and cranes in situ by the turn of the twentieth century. Today a major contributor to the local economy is Loughborough University, one of the UK’s premier universities for sports and related studies.

Shelthorpe ward, one of ten covering the town, is located in the south of Loughborough and mostly consists of a 1950s council estate along the A6004 towards Leicester, although some housing estates of newer vintage have sprung up over the last couple of decades leading to strong population growth; Shelthorpe is now the largest of Loughborough’s wards with around 5,900 electors. The ward also includes the hamlet of Woodthorpe which is rapidly being swallowed up by the growth of the town.

The new estates have trended the ward from Labour towards the Conservatives over the years, but the Labour vote in Loughborough has been stubborn at local level and it took until 2015 for the Conservatives to break through: the Tory lead over Labour that year was 45-40 with both parties winning one seat each. The Conservatives followed up in May’s county elections by gaining the Loughborough South division, which covers most of this ward, from Robert Sharp; some of the ward’s newer estates are in the safe Conservative county division of Loughborough South West.

So this is turning into a key marginal ward in a key marginal constituency (Loughborough) and as such Labour will be looking for progress. Their defending candidate is Richard Huddlestone. The Tories have selected Richard Ford. Also standing are Ford’s next-door neighbour Alex Guerrero for the Liberal Democrats and Andy McWilliam for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Loughborough South (part); Loughborough South West (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester

May 2015 result C 1653/1208 Lab 1454/1294 Grn 560
May 2011 result Lab 1078/998 C 870/832
May 2007 result Lab 870/850 C 596/561 BNP 517/485
Oct 2006 by-election Lab 643 BNP 478 C 386 LD 155
May 2003 result Lab 508/501 C 404/386

Previews: 27 Jul 2017

There are three by-elections on 27th July 2017, and we have a nice mix with one big-city ward, one market-town ward and one rural ward. The big-city ward in Manchester is solidly Labour but the other two tend to be close Tory versus Lib Dem fights, with the rural ward in Lincolnshire seeing a Tory defence in a ward where the Lib Dems hold one of the three councillors. But we start in a Dorset market town with Britain Elects’ favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all…

Blandford Central

North Dorset council; caused by the death of independent councillor Esme Butler at the age of 61. Four times Mayor of Blandford Forum, Butler was first elected to the district council in 2011 for Blandford Damory Down ward, transferring to Blandford Central ward after boundary changes in 2015.

Welcome to Blandford Forum, an attractive Dorset town on the River Stour noted for its Georgian town centre, rebuilt by local architects John and William Bastard following a disastrous fire in 1731, and described in 1970 as the most complete and cohesive surviving example of a Georgian country town in England. Blandford has been a service centre for the local area for centuries; it was a market town by the thirteen century and had traditional industries including lacemaking, button-making and brewing. Brewing remains important to the local economy – Hall and Woodhouse’s Badger brewery is based here – but the traditional textile industries have declined and been replaced by administration (North Dorset district council is based in the town), services and the Army: the Royal Corps of Signals, who are responsible for the Army’s telecommunications, are based in Blandford. Blandford also gives its name to an insect: the Blandford fly (Simulium posticatum), a particularly nasty type of biting blackfly which is endemic to the area.

Blandford’s Central ward is rather misleadingly named, in that while it is the centre of the town’s built-up area it does not cover the Georgian town centre, which is by the riverside at the southern end of town. The present Central ward was created in 2015 as a merger of the former Damory Down and Station wards; in the 2011 census Damory Down, a mostly 1970s development on the north-western edge of town, made the top 80 wards in England and Wales for part-time work (18.4% of the workforce), while Station ward – covering older housing along the Salisbury Road and named after a railway station which was a casualty of Beeching – had less remarkable demographics.

The Liberal Democrats have had a significant vote in Blandford for many years and won all five of the town’s district council seats in 2007. The 2011 election was less successful for the Lib Dems who lost Hilltop ward to the Conservatives and Damory Down ward to independent Esme Butler. In the 2015 election to the new Central ward Butler stood for election without opposition from the Lib Dems, who ran only their outgoing Station ward councillor John Tanner; shares of the vote were 30% for Butler, 27% for the Lib Dem candidate, 20% for the Tory slate and 12% for the Green candidate. In the Dorset county elections in May Blandford Forum division was a narrow Conservative gain from the Liberal Democrats.

With no defending independent candidate Butler’s seat is up for grabs. The Liberal Democrats, from whom Butler gained her seat in 2011, have selected Hugo Mieville; a Blandford Forum town councillor and the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for North Dorset in 2015, Mieville teaches French and Spanish at the independent Milton Abbey school. The Tory candidate is Noc Lacey-Clarke, a town councillor who runs a gamers’ shop (Nocs Box). There is no Green candidate so the ballot paper is completed by Labour’s Haydn White.

Parliamentary constituency: North Dorset
Dorset county council division: Blandford Forum

May 2015 result Ind 931 LD 842 C 627/436 Grn 373 Lab 348

Scotter & Blyton

West Lindsey council, Lincolnshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Adam Duguid. A lawyer and farmer, Duguid was first elected to West Lindsey council in 2002 for Market Rasen ward, and was Leader of the Council from 2009 until he lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats in 2010. He returned to the council for Scotter and Blyton ward in 2015, and has now resigned due to work commitments.

For our rural by-election this week we are in the north-western corner of Lincolnshire. This ward sprawls over most of the territory from Gainsborough to Scunthorpe but in population terms is dominated by the village of Scotter, whose 2,441 electors comprise 40% of the ward’s electorate. There are 11 other parishes in the ward, several of which are tiny: East Ferry parish has 87 electors, Wildsworth 67, Walkerith 63 (and an area under one square kilometre), Pilham 51 and Thonock, despite giving its name to a ward of West Lindsey district until 2015, has just 26 people on the electoral roll. Many of these villages (Walkerith, East Stockwith, Wildsworth, East Ferry and also Susworth which is part of Scotter parish) are located on the east bank of the River Trent and in days gone by derived their income from ferries to the Nottinghamshire bank of the river. Scotter has a relatively old age profile, but most of the ward (except for Morton parish, which is essentially an extension of Gainsborough) is within the Scunthorpe Travel to Work Area and the population has a high takeup of apprenticeship qualifications, suggesting that many people from this ward commute to the steelworks there.

Scotter and Blyton ward was created in 2015 as a straight merger of the former Scotter and Thonock wards and has the same boundaries as the Scotter Rural county council division which existed from 2005 to 2017. Before 2015 Thonock was represented by Lib Dem councillor Lesley Rollings who had a large personal vote, while Scotter ward was normally Conservative but in 2007 stayed Tory only on the toss of a coin after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates tied on 781 votes each. In the winter of 2013-14 there were two by-elections in Scotter ward after its Tory councillors both died within a couple of months of each other. The first by-election, held in the week before Christmas 2013, seems to have caught the Tories napping as they lost the district council seat to independent candidate Chris Day and a simultaneous county council by-election in Scotter Rural to the Lib Dems’ Lesley Rollings; but by the time of the second by-election in February 2014 the Conservatives were back in control with their new councillor Pat Mewis. In the 2015 district council election Mewis (C) and Rollings (LD) were re-elected with large personal votes, but Chris Day (Ind) lost his seat to the second Tory candidate Adam Duguid; shares of the vote were 35% for the Tory slate, 26% for the Lib Dems, 23% for Day and 16% for Labour. The Lincolnshire county elections in May suggested that the Tories are back on top as they comfortably recovered an expanded Scotter Rural division from the Lib Dems.

Defending for the Tories is Bruce Allison, a retired Metropolitan Police officer and Morton parish councillor. (His wife Christine formerly sat on Lewisham council in London, representing Grove Park ward from 2010 to 2014.) The Lib Dems have selected Liz Clews, a Gainsborough town councillor and fitness instructor from Morton. Chris Day is not standing again. The Labour candidate is Jonathan Harper, who gives an address in Scotter and fought Scotter Rural in May’s county elections. Also standing is one of that increasingly rare breed of election candidates, a UKIP representative: Neville Jones from Gainsborough.

I am grateful to Giles McNeill, the Conservative election agent, for help with this preview.

Scotter and Blyton
May 2015 result C 1752/1281/1134 LD 1314/999/725 Ind 1136 Lab 794/583
Scotter Rural (county council)
Dec 2013 by-election LD 726 C 348 UKIP 264 Lincs Ind 137
May 2013 result C 717 UKIP 428 LD 392 Lab 172
June 2009 result C 1447 LD 791 Lab 204
May 2005 result C 1844 LD 1674


Manchester city council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mike Amesbury, who was elected as MP for the Cheshire constituency of Weaver Vale in June’s general election. He had served as a Manchester city councillor since 2006 and before becoming an MP was a Unison convenor and parliamentary aide to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.

For our urban by-election this week we finish in the city of Manchester. The Fallowfield ward is rather misnamed, as Fallowfield itself covers a small area at its eastern end; instead Fallowfield ward runs west along Wilbraham Road (essentially Manchester’s middle ring road) across Princess Road into the eastern end of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, almost as far as City’s old Maine Road ground. There is a strong education lean to the ward’s economy, with William Hulme’s Grammar School (which educated present MP Ivan Lewis and former MPs Andrew Bennett, Leslie Haden-Guest and Michael Lord), the Manchester High School for Girls (Labour MP Louise Ellman and, in an earlier era, the Pankhurst sisters), Whalley Range High School (former Labour MPs Estelle Morris and Christine McCafferty) and several Manchester University buildings and halls of residence located within the ward boundaries; 41% of the workforce are full-time students. Interestingly Fallowfield makes the top 100 wards in the UK for population born in the Republic of Ireland (2.4%).

Fallowfield ward was created in 1982 roughly as the successor to Lloyd Street ward, which from the creation of the present Manchester council in 1974 was consistently Labour but close between Labour and the Tories on several occasions in the 1970s. One of the Tory candidates who tried and failed to break through was David Sumberg, later MP for Bury South 1983-97, who finished 130 votes behind Labour here in 1975. The Conservative remained stubborn here through the 1980s and it took until 1998 for them to fall to third place behind the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dem vote in the ward remained low but they managed to sneak a freak win in the ward by gaining one seat in 2004, the first election on the present boundaries. Labour’s Mike Amesbury recovered that seat in 2006, and with the Coalition government pulling the floor from under Manchester’s Lib Dem vote this is now a very safe Labour ward with the Greens running second; in 2016 the Labour lead here was 71-15.

Defending for Labour is Ali Ilyas, whose Twitter describes him as a 25-year-old poet, writer and solicitor-advocate. On the red side of Manchester, at least as far as football is concerned, is 29-year-old Green candidate Adam King who fought Oldham West and Royton in June’s general election; King is described as a scientist and entrepreneur. Completing the ballot paper are David Semple for the Conservatives (who fought another by-election to Manchester city council in the neighbouring Rusholme ward in May) and Alex Warren for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Manchester Gorton

May 2016 result Lab 1932 Grn 408 C 197 LD 125 TUSC 53
May 2015 result Lab 3617 Grn 1367 C 661 LD 269 TUSC 86
May 2014 result Lab 2181 Grn 780 C 362 LD 140 TUSC 80
May 2012 result Lab 1733 Grn 198 C 144 LD 80 TUSC 70
May 2011 result Lab 2167 Grn 351 C 340 LD 196 TUSC 83
May 2010 result Lab 2534 LD 1716 C 746 Grn 286
May 2008 result Lab 1178 LD 643 C 263 Grn 207
May 2007 result Lab 1215 LD 478 Grn 251 C 230
May 2006 result Lab 1357 LD 1086 C 171 Grn 168 BNP 140
June 2004 result Lab 1233/1121/1005 LD 1066/1064/1036 Grn 331/299/294 C 283/269/254

Previews: 20 Jul 2017

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

The 20th July 2017 edition of Andrew’s Previews has it all, with eight resignations and one disqualification. There is scandal and intrigue, Saints and sinners as we discuss several cases of councillors behaving badly: from the minor embarrassments of drink-driving, irregular expense claims, business failures and disagreeing with Jeremy Corbyn to the more serious stuff of planning offences, solicitors in trouble and five-figure fines. There are, like the TV schedules at this time of year, Channel 4 reality TV shows interspersed with rather a lot of repeats. There are market towns in Kent, Staffordshire and Cumbria, rural villages in Sussex and Rutland, suburban estates in south London, Merseyside and the Tees Valley. There are four Conservative defences, three Labour, one Liberal Democrat and Britain Elects’ favourite type of by-election, a free-for-all. There really is something for everyone this week. Last week’s column went from south to north, so it’s time to reverse direction and travel the length of England, starting in Cumbria. Read on…

Alston Moor

Eden council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Thomas Sheriff after less than a year in office. He was elected for the ward in a by-election in August 2016.

When reading something, it’s traditional to start at the top, and Alston Moor certainly counts as the top: it’s one of the highest wards in England. Alston itself vies with Buxton for the title of England’s highest market town, lying in the valley of the South Tyne over 1,000 feet above sea level. The town’s economy was traditionally based on mining: there are large deposits of lead, silver and coal in the area. The nearby village of Nenthead, at over 1,500 feet, dates only from the mid-eighteenth century: built by the London Lead Company to serve the Nenthead mines, it was the UK’s first village to have electric street lighting. Tynehead, once another thriving mining village but now reduced to a single house, was once the location of England’s highest primary school, while Garrigill lies on the Pennine Way at the end of the descent from its highest point, Cross Fell. With the end of mining in the area (although there are thought to be significant zinc deposits below Nenthead) the population of Alston Moor parish and ward, which includes the town, all those villages and a large amount of moorland and was a Rural District of its own until 1974, has crashed from over 6,800 in 1831 to around 2,100 today, and Alston’s Wikipedia page paints a picture of a town in serious decline: its last bank closed in 2015 and Channel 4 were in town in 2006 with a documentary examining a serious male : female imbalance in the local population. When Eden’s ward boundaries were last reviewed in 1997 Alston Moor ward was very lucky to get away with unchanged boundaries given that its electorate was then nearly 20% below quota. Tourism, farming and metalworking are now the main local employers; self-employment rates in the ward are high and there is a relatively old age profile.

Despite its location in South Tynedale, Alston is included within Eden district council which is based in Penrith and covers a large and very sparsely populated swathe of eastern Cumbria. Eden council is traditionally dominated by independent councillors, but Alston has had some very strange election results over the last year. The Conservatives have held one of the ward’s two seats since 2011, but in 2016 the Conservative councillor David Hymers, who held the economic development portfolio on Eden council, resigned after his business affairs were featured in the Rotten Boroughs column of Private Eye. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t exactly flattering coverage – essentially his business Totalpost Services, a distributor of airport x-ray equipment, had gone into liquidation owing a seven-figure sum. The resulting by-election in August 2016 saw the Tories being beaten 55-45 by the Lib Dems in a straight fight, but the Lib Dem councillor has since resigned to cause this by-election. The strangeness continued with the county elections in May, in which the ward’s independent county councillor Mary Robinson was unexpectedly defeated by Labour who have no track record in the local county division (Alston and East Fellside).

So anything could happen here, but one thing is guaranteed: there will be a gain because there is no defending Liberal Democrat candidate and the seat is up for grabs. Taking the four candidates in ballot paper order, the Conservatives have selected Jim Clapp from Garrigill, who is the parish’s vet and therefore had a high profile during the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis which hit Cumbria hard. There is one independent candidate, Lai Heung “Holly” Ho who is an Alston Moor parish councillor. The Green Party have selected their local party secretary Richard O’Brien – no, not that one – who fought Kirkby Stephen in the county elections in May, and the Labour candidate is youth worker Lissie Sharp.

Parliamentary constituency: Penrith and the Border
Cumbria county council division: Alston and East Fellside

August 2016 by-election LD 302 C 251
May 2015 result Ind 710/446 C 487
May 2011 result Ind 436/177/161 C 390 Lab 242
May 2007 result Ind 533 Ind 498 Ind 235
May 2003 result 2 Ind unopposed
May 1999 result Ind 489/466/285 Lab 155
May 1995 result Ind 550/329/193
May 1991 result Ind 503/326/321/196
May 1987 result Ind 353/320/279 Lab 225
May 1983 result Ind 417/412 Lab 249/228
May 1979 result 2 Ind unopposed
May 1976 result 2 Ind unopposed
May 1973 result Ind 415/403/283

Billingham North

Stockton-on-Tees council, County Durham; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Stephen Parry. Parry resigned shortly before the general election in opposition to Jeremy Corbyn.

We seem to having a glut of by-elections in the Tees Valley conurbation at the moment, with already two polls in Middlesbrough and one in Yarm since the general election. This time we move to the Durham bank of the Tees and to a collection of housing estates on the northern edge of Billingham off Marsh House Avenue which have mostly gone up since the 1970s. Billingham is one of the UK’s most important centres for chemicals: ICI Billingham and associated companies (like the Nobel dynamite works and Tioxide, where your columnist’s father once worked) was one of the North East’s most important employers back in the day, and ICI paid well enough that many of its employees ran two cars. (They needed to: the staff car park was placed directly under the fallout from the chimneys, so anything parked there on a regular basis would turn into a rustbucket within months.) The business rates paid by ICI meant that the old Billingham Urban District Council was able to afford modern amenities such as a shopping centre and theatre (the Billingham Forum) much earlier and to a higher standard than towns of a comparable size. Chemicals are still important to Billingham’s economy, and this ward is less than a mile away from the fast-growing Wynyard Business Park on the far side of the A19 which is described as one of the North East’s most prestigious business addresses. It’s not surprising that Billingham North ward is within the top 60 wards in England and Wales for population educated to Apprenticeship level (7.3% of the workforce) or that employment levels within the ward are high.

Interestingly this is not a safe Labour ward and never has been. Billingham North (and its predecessor on the 1979-2005 boundaries, Marsh House ward) has generally been a close Labour versus Lib Dem fight since the Alliance gained a seat in the ward in 1987. Boundary changes in 2005, as well as cutting out the village of Wolviston and renaming the resulting ward Billingham North, granted an extra councillor to the ward to reflect strong population growth. The Lib Dem councillors for Billingham North left the party in 2010 over the creation of the Coalition and rebadged themselves as the Billingham Independents Association, under which label they have not been quite as successful: Labour gained a seat in the ward in the 2011 election, and rode the general election turnout to a full slate of three seats in 2015. Shares of the vote that year were 35% for Labour, 24% for the Independents, 21% for UKIP and 20% for the Conservatives.

Without a general election turnout it’s not a guarantee that Labour can hold this if the independents get their act together. The defending Labour candidate is Paul Weston who works in the housing sector. The independent candidate is Jennifer Apedaile, Lib Dem and then independent councillor for Marsh House ward 2003-05 and Billingham North ward 2005-15. There is no UKIP candidate. Standing for the Tories is Sam Linley, who according to his Twitter is a second-year physics student at the University of York. Completing the ballot paper are Mark Burdon for the North East Party (a devolution campaign group) and official Liberal Democrat candidate David Minchella.

Parliamentary constituency: Stockton North

May 2015 result Lab 1633/1405/1390 Billingham Independents Association 1137/1060/822 UKIP 964/786 C 913/841/641
May 2011 result Billingham Independents Association 1039/980/905 Lab 935/888/882 C 637/574/535 LD 145/106/88
May 2007 result LD 1107/1092/998 Lab 714/691/654 C 592/567/565 BNP 341 UKIP 191/181
May 2005 result LD 2160/2053/1835 Lab 1493/1476/1424 C 804

St Michaels

Knowsley council, Merseyside; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Vickie Lamb. She had served since winning a by-election in April 2013.

The two by-elections above may look like a certain change and a possible change, but only the most deluded gambler would bet against a Labour hold in this week’s Merseyside by-election. We’re in St Michaels ward, post-war suburbia on the eastern edge of Huyton along the Liverpool Road and Huyton Lane.

Huyton will forever be politically associated with Harold Wilson, who wherever he is now is presumably looking down on Huyton (or up at it, depending on your political tastes) and tut-tutting at the Knowsley branch of Labour for letting one-party representation on Knowsley council slip in 2016. That was in connection with a boundary review which cut the size of Knowsley council from 63 councillors (all Labour) to 45 (42 Labour and 3 Lib Dems); while St Michaels ward survived in name it has very different boundaries from the 2004-16 St Michaels ward where Labour were perfectly capable of exceeding 90% in a good year. The only previous result on these boundaries is from 2016 when Labour, who were guaranteed a seat in the ward due to insufficient opposition candidates, beat UKIP 74-17.

Defending for Labour is Mike Kearns, who is hoping to resume what thus far has been a distinctly chequered career on Knowsley council: he was councillor for Longview ward from 1994 to 2008 when he was deselected following a drink-driving conviction, returned in 2012 by gaining Prescot West ward from the Liberal Democrats, but lost his seat in that ward back to the Lib Dems in 2016. There is no UKIP candidate this time so Kearns is opposed by Dean Boyle of the Lib Dems and Kirk Sandringham of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Knowsley

May 2016 result Lab 1200/1185/1156 UKIP 279 C 134

Leek East

Staffordshire Moorlands council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Rebecca Done. A professional singer, she had served since 2015 and in 2016-17, at the age of 37, became the youngest-ever Mayor of Leek.

In this week’s progression from north to south Andrew’s Previews may now have officially entered the Midlands, but culturally we are still in the North. Rather like Alston, Leek is a rather poor fit for the county it’s in, being the southernmost of the old Pennine textile towns and traditionally a silk-working and agricultural centre. As in the rest of the Pennines, the textile industry declined decades ago and in recent years the town’s major employer was the Britannia building society, until the financial crisis led to the Britannia being taken over by the Co-op Bank, which then nearly choked while trying to swallow it. Don’t let that put you off visiting Leek, which has an attractive town centre – almost all of which is within Leek East ward.

Leek East is traditionally a contest between the Conservatives and a localist slate which presently goes by the name of Moorlands Democratic Alliance. The localists won all three seats in the ward in 2003, but lost them to the Conservatives in 2007 and the Conservatives easily held a by-election in March 2009. The Moorlands Democratic Alliance came back in the 2011 election, tying with the Conservatives for first place and winning two seats to the Tories’ one; the Tories recovered one of their seats in 2015. The 2015 result was rather fragmented with 28% for the Conservatives, 21% for the Moorlands Democratic Alliance, 19% for Labour, 15% for UKIP and 11% for the Greens. Just to make things more complicated, at county level the ward is part of Leek South division, which voted Conservative in 2005, UKIP in 2009, Conservative in a February 2012 by-election, and Labour in 2013 and 2017 – the Labour county councillor is the former Staffordshire Moorlands MP Charlotte Atkins.

So this is an idiosyncratic ward where anything could happen. The defending Tory candidate is Roy Tomkinson, a Leek town councillor. There is no Moorlands Democratic Alliance candidate, but bracketed in the localist category could be independent candidate Nick Sheldon, an IT worker at Leek United building society who is standing on a single issue of saving Leek Moorlands Hospital from closure; Sheldon stood in last month’s general election on this issue, polling 3.4% – which was good enough for third place ahead of the Lib Dems. Labour’s Darren Price, an architecture and urban design consultant, is seeking to return to the district council after losing his seat in 2015; he won a by-election in May 2013 to Leek North ward, which is more Labour-inclined, and was Labour candidate for Congleton in the 2015 general election. There is no UKIP or Green candidate, so the ballot paper is completed by the Lib Dems’ Roy Gregg.

Parliamentary constituency: Staffordshire Moorlands
Staffordshire county council division: Leek South

May 2015 result C 997/866/659 Moorlands Democratic Alliance 734/519 Lab 694/640 UKIP 537 Grn 407 LD 211
May 2011 result Moorlands Democratic Alliance 699/697/607 C 699/635/485 LD 253
March 2009 by-election C 452 LD 238 Ind 197 Staffs Ind Group 189 Grn 91
May 2007 result C 784/751/735 Ratepayers (Staffs Moorlands) 565/535/496 Lab 346
May 2003 result Ratepayers (Staffs Moorlands) 603/552/525 C 486/477 Lab 472/448 LD 194




Rutland council; caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative councillor Diana MacDuff and Liberal Democrat councillor Kevin Thomas. MacDuff had served since 2015, Thomas since winning a by-election in February 2016. Both councillors resigned due to work commitments.

By-elections are (or appear to be) statistically random events, which means that they are subject to many of the misconceptions that people have about randomness. One is that randomness should be fairly regularly spaced out like the numbers on your bingo card, but a look at the results from a few weeks’ National Lottery draws should persuade you this isn’t true. Randomness clumps, and strangeness clumps with it. Many of the locations covered in this week’s edition of Andrew’s Previews have appeared in this column at some point over the previous six years. So it is that the largest number of by-elections for any council this week occurs in England’s smallest county, and in both cases they are wards which have appeared here before.

Whissendine ward, in fact, appears to have a season ticket for this column: this is the fourth Whissendine by-election in nine years, a very high councillor attrition rate. Whissendine is the north-west corner of Rutland, a tiny ward based on a tiny village 30 miles north-west of Peterborough probably best known for its thirteenth-century church and nineteenth-century windmill.

As befits a ward with so many recent by-elections Whissendine has a complicated electoral history. It voted Conservative in 2003 and nobody opposed the Tories in 2007, but a November 2008 by-election returned independent candidate Brian Montgomery, who had been the first chairman of the Rutland unitary council, with a majority of just six votes over the Conservatives. Montgomery died in 2014 and the resulting by-election was won by Liberal Democrat candidate Sam Asplin, a 21-year-old teaching assistant at Whissendine primary school, with a majority of just thirteen votes over the Conservatives. Asplin resigned on health grounds in early 2016 (he was a candidate for Leicestershire county council in May, so hopefully those health problems are behind him now) and the resulting by-election was won easily by new Lib Dem candidate Keith Thomas who beat the Tories 65-27. Thomas has now resigned in his turn.

Ketton ward lies at the other end of Rutland, an group of parishes running south-west from Stamford along the north bank of the River Welland: Ketton, the fourth-largest settlement in Rutland with a population comfortably under 2,000, is joined by Barrowden, Tinwell and Tixover. The ward’s economy tixover rather nicely thanks to exports of limestone and associated products: Ketton supplies more than 10% of the UK’s cement, while its Jurassic limestone was used in the building of many Cambridge colleges.

Ketton ward’s commitment to democracy is rather less deep than Whissendine’s: it elected two independents in 2003, Hugh Rees and Barry Roper, who then joined the Conservatives and were re-elected unopposed in 2007. Rees didn’t seek re-election in 2011 and his replacement, also elected unopposed, was Christine Emmett who the following year made the bad career move of being the Tory candidate who lost the Corby by-election. Roper resigned in 2013 as he was moving out of the county and the by-election was rather narrowly held by the Conservatives over an independent candidate. The 2015 ordinary election, which was contested, showed the Tory slate easily in control, beating the Lib Dems 56-27; Emmett (who now works for High Speed 2) didn’t seek re-election and was replaced on the Tory slate by MacDuff.

The Ketton by-election is a straight fight. Defending for the Tories is Gordon Brown – no, not that one – who is a parish councillor in Barrowden. Challenging for the Lib Dems is Kenneth Siddle.

Whissendine could be a more difficult defence for the Lib Dems than it looks on paper. In last year’s by-election Keith Thomas was the only candidate to give an address in Whissendine; this time round the defending Liberal Democrat candidate Johannah Randall, a former patisserie owner from Oakham now working for High Speed 2, is the only candidate not to give an address in Whissendine. Not only do the other three candidates all give addresses in Whissendine, they all give addresses on the same road in Whissendine – remember what I was saying about randomness clumping? The chief challenge is likely to come from the Tories’ Peter Jones, former councillor for Oakham South West ward who lost his seat in 2011 by just two votes. (There were apparently five recounts, which seems a little excessive given that the margin was 279-277.) Also standing are independent candidates Ian Arnold, who organises an annual road race and whose wife Linda sits on Whissendine parish council, and Whissendine parish councillor Sue Lammin.


Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton

May 2015 result C 1004/791 LD 482 UKIP 302
June 2013 by-election C 330 Ind 260 UKIP 130 Ind 24
May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
May 2003 result Ind 582/567 C 379


Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton

March 2016 by-election LD 265 C 109 UKIP 33
May 2015 result LD 511 C 265
Oct 2014 by-election LD 192 C 179
May 2011 result Ind 335 C 247
Nov 2008 by-election Ind 154 C 148 LD 71
May 2007 result C unopposed
May 2003 result C 285 Lab 186

St Helier

Merton council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Imran Uddin. Uddin, a solicitor who had served since 2014, was the Labour candidate for Wimbledon in last month’s general election; however, the day before polling day his legal practice was seized by the Solicitors Regulation Authority who are investigating allegations of dishonesty against him.

For our visit to London this week we make a return visit to the St Helier estate, one of several 1930s “cottage” housing estates built on garden-city principles by the London County Council. By 1936 40,000 people were living on what had previously been lavender fields between the village of Morden and the town of Carshalton. The estate straddles what is now the border between Merton and Sutton boroughs, and confusingly both boroughs have a St Helier ward; this is the Merton one. At the centre of this ward lies St Helier railway station, opened in 1930 to serve the estate on what is now the Sutton Loop line, while the northern end of the ward is better served by the London Underground’s southernmost station, Morden on the Northern Line. The name of the estate, incidentally, is in honour of the former London County Council alderman Baroness St Helier.

The demographics of St Helier ward bear all the usual London hallmarks of a diverse population, and also show high levels of social renting and long-term unemployment. This is, as you might expect from those statistics, a working-class area and a safe Labour ward. At the last London local elections in 2014 the Labour slate polled 59% of the vote here, with UKIP’s 20% best of the rest despite their candidate, Andre Lampitt, having been disowned by the party during the campaign for racist tweets. The ward went to the polls twice in May 2016: at the Mayor and Assembly elections; Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in the ward’s ballot boxes 45-33, while the list votes split 48% for Labour, 23% for the Tories and 10% for UKIP (the ward breakdowns for the Mayor and Assembly elections don’t include postal votes, so these figures aren’t directly comparable with 2014). Two weeks later Labour very comfortably held a by-election in the ward, beating the Tories 71-14, a majority which is surely scandal-proof.

Defending this by-election for Labour is Kelly Braund, a solicitor (with no links to former councillor Uddin’s practice). The Tories have selected Geraldine Kirby, a former RAF medic who now runs the breast screening programme at King’s College hospital. Also standing are Bob Grahame for UKIP (it says something for UKIP’s organisation that their only candidate in this week’s nine by-elections is for the poll in London, UKIP’s weakest area), Geoff Cooper for the Lib Dems and Phillipa Maslin for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Mitcham and Morden

May 2016 by-election Lab 1436 C 282 UKIP 191 LD 59 Grn 55
May 2014 result Lab 2010/1916/1673 UKIP 663 C 505/435/421 LD 203
May 2010 result Lab 2385/2206/2185 C 1373/1189/1161 LD 762 BNP 426/358
May 2006 result Lab 1347/1246/1196 C 974/931/778 BNP 599 Ind 583 LD 430
May 2002 result Lab 958/947/840 C 532/519/509 LD 324 BNP 302 Grn 192/178 UKIP 164

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1222 C 907 UKIP 188 Grn 112 LD 94 Britain First 50 Respect 47 Women’s Equality 35 CISTA 32 Ind 26 BNP 23 One Love 7
List: Lab 1335 C 638 UKIP 286 Grn 134 LD 114 Women’s Equality 67 Britain First 63 Respect 45 CPA 33 BNP 26 Animal Welfare 23 House Party 10

Chiddingly and East Hoathly

Wealden council, East Sussex; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Barby Dashwood-Morris, who failed to attend any council meetings in six months. Originally elected in 2007 as Barby Dashwood-Hall, in May she was fined £75,000 for making changes to the interior of her home, the Grade II-listed Priest House in Hellingly, without having obtained planning permission – all this while serving as chair of Wealden council’s planning committee and having the changes filmed for a never-broadcast Channel 4 property programme.

For our first by-election of the week in the South outside London, we are a particularly rural ward of East Sussex covering a series of villages off the A22 Eastbourne-Uckfield road. Despite the order of the names, the largest village within the ward is East Hoathly, about 15 miles north of Eastbourne, while Chiddingly is a more historic village which goes on the rapidly-growing list of locations built upon seven hills (see also Sheffield, Edinburgh etc.). The area was a centre of the Weald iron industry in days gone by, but is now a rural area with high self-employment levels and a relatively old age profile.

Dashwood-Morris had a safe seat: at her last re-election in 2015 she beat Labour 65-19. The local county council seat (Arlington, East Hoathly and Hellingly) is almost as safe, and that majority is surely scandal-proof.

Defending for the Conservatives is David Watts, a town councillor in Polegate some distance to the south of the ward who was Mayor of Polegate in 2016-17. Labour have selected Tony Fielding who fought the local county seat in May, and the ballot paper is completed by Lib Dem candidate Paul Holbrook.

Parliamentary constituency: Wealden
East Sussex county council division: Arlington, East Hoathly and Hellingly

May 2015 result C 1193 Lab 349 UKIP 306
May 2011 result C 865 LD 229 Lab 184
May 2007 result C 628 LD 321
May 2003 result C unopposed

New Romney

Shepway council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Peter Simmons. He had served since 2011, serving for New Romney Coast ward until 2015 and New Romney ward since then; in late 2015 he had resigned from the Shepway council Conservative group over inappropriate expenses claims, but was subsequently readmitted after repaying some money to the council.

We finish the week as we started it, in an isolated market town in the middle of nowhere. Welcome to the main town on Romney Marsh, a sparsely-populated area of Kent sticking out into the English channel and best known for its sheep. New Romney is fourteen miles south-west of Folkestone, the nearest major centre, and it says something that one of its major links to the outside world is the miniature Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway. The demographic profile is old with a large retired population.

The weather has always been, and probably always will be, a hot topic of conversation in Britain, and for decades now its political equivalent – climate change – has been one of the hottest political topics of the day. But the weather which hit the southern North Sea for three consecutive winters in the 1280s was so truly terrible it changed the course of geography and arguably history. First in January 1286 came a storm surge which hugely damaged the great East Anglian port of Dunwich; last in December 1287 was St Lucia’s flood, a storm surge which killed tens of thousands of people in what is now the Netherlands and northern Germany and created the Zuiderzee. In between was the southern England flood of February 1287, which was so violent it led to a wholesale redrawing of the coastline in what is now Kent and East Sussex. The city of Winchelsea and the port of Broomhill were completely destroyed, and the Cinque Port of New Romney, an important Channel port located at the mouth of the River Rother, almost cinq beneath mud, sand and other debris which was never completely cleared – pre-storm buildings, such as the town’s Norman church, are still accessed by steps down from street level. When the rain had stopped falling and the water had receded, the River Rother was gone – its course diverted to Rye – and the sea was more than a mile away, where it remains today. And that was the end of New Romney as a port.

Not even the Local Government Boundary Commission can redraw the map as radically as that, although they had a go in advance of the 2015 election in which Shepway district got a new and very different ward map. New Romney had previously been two wards: New Romney Coast, including the villages of Greatstone and Littlestone – named after former navigation markers in the Rother estuary – was Conservative in 2003, Lib Dem in 2007 and Conservative in 2011, while New Romney Town split its two seats Tory/Labour in 2003 but had been Conservative since then. The Boundary Commission merged Coast and Town wards into a single New Romney ward which at its only previous election, in 2015, split its two seats between the Conservatives and UKIP whose slates polled 29% each; independent candidate William Wimble – outgoing Conservative councillor for New Romney Town ward who had been deselected – polled 16% and Labour had 11%. However, it wasn’t all good news for UKIP as on the same day they lost a Kent county council by-election in the local division (Romney Marsh) which they were defending from the Conservatives, and the Tories consolidated their position in May’s county elections.

Defending for the Conservatives is Russell Tillson, who was their unsuccessful candidate here in 2015 and had served for eight years before then as councillor for the former Dymchurch and St Mary’s Bay ward. Surprisingly UKIP have not nominated a candidate, but former councillor Wimble, appearing on the ballot paper under his middle name of David, is trying again as an independent – he is now editor of a local newspaper, The Looker, and was third just behind UKIP in May’s county elections here. The Labour candidate is company director John Cramp, and the ballot paper is completed by former councillor Val Loseby (New Romney Coast ward, 2007-11) for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Folkestone and Hythe
Kent county council division: New Romney

May 2015 result C 1190/1114 UKIP 1172/971 Ind 668 Lab 451 LD 349 Grn 270

Previews: 13 Jul 2017

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

Seven by-elections on 13th July 2017:

Chorleywood South and Maple Cross

Three Rivers council, Hertfordshire; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Ann Shaw. First elected in 1971 to the former Rickmansworth urban district council, Shaw had sat on Three Rivers council since its foundation in 1974 and became Leader of the Council in 1986, stepping down from that role in 2016 as the longest-serving council leader in the country. She was appointed OBE many years ago for political service.

The Local Government Boundary Commission have a difficult job sometimes, and their review of Three Rivers district in advance of the 2014 election was a particularly difficult one. The district is a funny shape (as the 2015 map below illustrates), basically being all the bits of south-western Hertfordshire that were left over once Watford was taken out; combine this with an unhelpful population distribution and a requirement for three-councillor wards across the district, and the final result contains several wards that look rather strange. In January this column discussed possibly the most extreme example, Gade Valley ward; Chorleywood South and Maple Cross isn’t much better, combining a village with part of a town several miles away without so much as a road connecting them.

Maple Cross is a bit out on a limb within the district. The southernmost village in Hertfordshire, this is one of the few genuinely rural areas remaining within the M25; however, Maple Cross is essentially a council-built village with almost all of its housing stock being post-war. Even now the village lacks a church, although it does have several large corporations based here attracted by its proximity to the motorway and Heathrow Airport; the head office of Cadbury is here, as is the UK headquarters of Skanska. However, the village’s traditional industry is based on its proximity to the River Colne; William Bradbery grew watercress here in the nineteenth century on a commercial basis, while the Maple Lodge sewage treatment works is where all of western Hertfordshire’s effluent ends up.

Chorleywood has an older history, with Paleolithic flints having been found in the area. Once a Quaker town, it grew strongly following the opening of the Metropolitan Railway (now the Metropolitan line of the Underground) which connects the town to London, and Chorleywood was promoted to Urban District status in 1913. The town has had an important impact on baking; the Chorleywood bread process, developed here in the 1960s to make dough from lower-protein wheat, is used to make four-fifths of the UK’s bread.

Betjeman described Chorleywood as essential Metro-land, and it still has demographics to match. The Chorleywood West ward which existed at the time of the 2011 census, most of which ended up in this ward, made the top 70 in England and Wales in the “lower management” economic category and was just outside the top 100 for the “higher management” category; altogether 57% of the ward’s workforce are in some sort of management or professional role, with 51% being educated to degree level. The old Maple Cross and Mill End ward was much closer to the national average, with much lower levels of owner-occupation reflecting the ward’s history.

Both predecessor wards were safely Liberal Democrat before their abolition in 2014, and the present ward has normally continued in the same vein but did vote Conservative in 2015. As can be seen in the map above that was a general crash year for the Lib Dems in Three Rivers as the Tories rode the general election turnout to several unexpected wins and wiped out the Lib Dem majority. The Lib Dems have since got their majority back by gaining Gade Valley ward in a by-election last January, but will need to hold this by-election to preserve their majority. The 2016 result gives cause for optimism in that regard, although Shaw was the defending candidate that year: in her last re-election, she defeated the Conservatives 59-29. In the Hertfordshire county elections in May Maple Cross was included in Rickmansworth West division, where the Tories had a majority of just 66 votes over the Lib Dems, while Chorleywood formed part of Three Rivers Rural division which was also a Tory-Lib Dem marginal. On the other hand, in June the ward probably voted strongly for Tory MP David Gauke, who is now the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Phil Williams, a cafe owner from Chorleywood who may be the son of a former Tory county and district councillor but was the Lib Dem candidate for Three Rivers Rural in May. The Tory candidate is Colin Payne, a farmer from Chorleywood. Also standing are Jack Hazlewood for Labour, Hazel Day for UKIP and Tab McLaughlin for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire county council division: Rickmansworth West (part of Maple Cross and Mill End parish); Three Rivers Rural (part of Chorleywood parish)

May 2016 result LD 1418 C 687 Lab 171 UKIP 125
May 2015 result C 1972 LD 1884 Lab 446
May 2014 result LD 1216/1196/1106 C 830/729/727 UKIP 431 Lab 226/203/139

Didcot South


Didcot West

South Oxfordshire council; caused respectively by the resignations of Labour councillor Margaret Davies and Conservative councillor Margaret Turner. Davies, a long-serving member of Didcot town council, was first elected to South Oxfordshire district council in a 2001 by-election for Didcot South ward; she represented Didcot Park ward from 2003 to 2015 and Didcot South again since 2015, being from 2007-11 and since 2015 the only Labour member of South Oxfordshire council. Turner was first elected in 2007 for Didcot Park ward, transferred to Didcot All Saints ward in 2011 and had represented Didcot West since 2015.

Welcome to Didcot, described in a BBC report earlier this year as “the most normal town in England” and thus posing something of a challenge for your columnist: writing about abormality and extremes is part of what makes Andrew’s Previews worth reading. Didcot was the birthplace of William Bradbery whom we met growing watercress in Maple Cross, but this is a classic railway town built around the junction of Brunel’s Great Western line with what, for historical reasons, is still known as the Chester line although there are no trains from Didcot to Chester any longer: trains going north from here either terminate at Oxford or continue to Worcester or Birmingham. Strong population growth, particularly in the north of the town, means that Didcot is now the largest town within the South Oxfordshire district and the Wantage parliamentary constituency, and the population is still growing quickly: the Great Western Park development has added thousands of new houses in the west of the town during this decade, straddling the district boundary between South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse. (The development is so new it’s not fully reflected in the map above.) The railways have given way to science and technology as the major local employers: nearby is the Diamond Light Source synchrotron at Harwell, while the Williams Formula 1 team was formerly based in the town and the Bloodhound SSC team, based here, is aiming to break the world land speed record later this year.

The new development together with a boundary review implemented in 2015 means that the census stats for Didcot are out of date. Didcot is the best part of South Oxfordshire district for Labour and the party did well in the town in 2011, gaining seats in the town’s All Saints, Northcourt and Park wards. The boundary review for 2015 abolished Northcourt ward, with the new West ward being a cut-down version of All Saints (and deliberately drawn small to cater for the new development) and South ward based on the old Park ward with parts of Northcourt and All Saints. 2015 was the only previous result on these boundaries: West ward was safely Conservative with 40%, to 27% for Labour and 17% for UKIP; while South ward was close with 32% and 2 seats for the Conservatives, 31% and 1 seat for Labour and 20% for UKIP. In May’s county elections Didcot West division, which covers the whole of the ward of that name and half of South ward, was a Tory/Labour marginal with the Conservatives winning 42-37, while the other half of South ward was included in the rural-focused division of Didcot East and Hagbourne which was safely Conservative.

Defending South ward for Labour is Mocky Khan, a chartered marketer and parent governor of Willowcroft community school. He is challenged by the Tories’ Jackie Billington, a town councillor and Mayor of Didcot for 2017-18. With no UKIP candidate this time, the Lib Dems’ Veronika Williams completes the ballot paper.

In Didcot West the defending Tory candidate is Ian Snowdon, a hairdresser. Labour have selected Denise Macdonald, a food scientist at Reading Univesity. Again UKIP have not nominated a candidate, so the Lib Dems’ Ian Smith completes the ballot paper.

Didcot South
Parliamentary constituency: Wantage
Oxfordshire county council division: Didcot West (part); Didcot East and Hagbourne (part)

May 2015 result C 1498/1480/1371 Lab 1436/1309/1295 UKIP 937/836 LD 756/720

Didcot West
Parliamentary constituency: Wantage
Oxfordshire county council division: Didcot West

May 2015 result C 1390/1299 Lab 941/823 UKIP 604 LD 560

Coleshill South

North Warwickshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Mark Jones, who had served since 2015.

Coleshill (prounced Kohzel, apparently) South is a ward where many pass through – the M6, M6 Toll and M42 motorways, together with High Speed 2 if it ever gets off the ground, traverse the ward – but few stop. In truth there’s not an awful lot to stop for. Even when Coleshill was developing as a town its main industry was people travelling through – as a stop on the route from London to Chester, Liverpool and Holyhead, Coleshill once had over twenty coaching inns along the High Street and the Coventry Road. Although the town is just outside the West Midlands boundary and is close enough to Birmingham to have a Birmingham postcode (B46), the green belt has stymied major development and the town’s Wikipedia page isn’t that informative.

Perhaps if the Coleshill app had ever got off the ground we might have known a bit more. According to the Rotten Boroughs column of Private Eye, outgoing councillor Mark Jones – a businessman and former police officer who runs a printing company in the town and was elected to North Warwickshire council in 2015 – was awarded several thousand pounds of council taxpayers’ money to develop this app, but nothing ever came of it. (The Love Coleshill app, developed by a consortium of local businesses and providing a business directory and discount vouchers, has no connection with former councillor Jones.)

Coleshill South is a long-standing Conservative ward, although it swung to Labour in 2015 after the two previous Tory councillors retired that year: the Conservative slate that year had 45% to 37% for Labour and 19% for UKIP. At county level the ward is included in the safe Conservative division of Coleshill South and Arley.

Given the circumstances of the former councillor this could be a difficult defence for the Tories, although they may be helped by the withdrawal of UKIP from the fray. Defending from the blue corner is Caroline Symonds, who was elected to Coleshill town council in a by-election in May. Challenging from the red corner is Claire Breeze, another Coleshill town councillor.

Parliamentary constituency: North Warwickshire
Warwickshire county council division: Coleshill South and Arley

May 2015 result C 839/801 Lab 688/547 UKIP 349
May 2011 result C 681/664 Lab 396/381
May 2007 result C 697/692 Lab 203
May 2003 result C 602/565 Ind 375 Lab 252



Park End and Beckfield

Middlesbrough council, North Yorkshire; caused respectively by the deaths of Labour councillor Bernie Taylor and independent councillor Peter Cox. Taylor, who was 74 years old, had been in political life for over forty years; first elected to the former Cleveland county council, he had represented Ayresome ward on Middlesbrough council since its reconstitution in 1995 as a unitary council. A former boiler maker, Taylor had been a trade union official and active in his local Catholic church. Cox, who was 67 years old, had been an independent councillor since 2007, before 2015 representing Beckfield ward.

Middlesbrough has a reputation as an economically depressed town, but that hides a rich and rather confusing electoral picture. In April Andrew’s Previews discussed the outlying council estate of Coulby Newham in advance of a by-election which turned into a stunning Tory gain. The following Tuesday Theresa May called a general election, and we all know how that turned out.

But that’s just one example of how Middlesbrough has been confounding electoral pundits for years. Despite Labour’s dominance of the council it took them until 2015, with the retirement of Ray “Robocop” Mallon, to get hold of the elected mayoralty, and even then it was with a majority of just 256 votes (0.7%) over an independent candidate. The town’s individual wards have also often been closely fought between Labour and independent candiates. Such was the case in Ayresome ward on the western edge of town, where Labour lost a seat to an independent in 2007; the independent councillor then joined Labour but resigned in 2010, and Labour lost the by-election to a second indepedent who was re-elected in 2011. Labour regained a full slate in this young and working-class ward in 2015, polling 46% of the vote to 21% for UKIP and 20% for the outgoing independent councillor.

Park End and Beckfield, hard up against the borough boundary in eastern Middlesbrough and including the Southlands leisure centre and Outwood academy, is even more working-class than Ayresome, although the census figures are difficult to interpret as the ward was only created in 2015. In 2011 both of the former Beckfield and Park End wards made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for the proportion of the workforce with no qualifications or in “routine” work, the lowest of the seven occupation categories used by the census; Park End also made the top 30 in England and Wales for “semi-routine” work. Despite this, Labour haven’t won a seat in either ward since 2007 when they held one of two seats in Park End, independent candidates having dominated the ward’s representation; in 2015 the new Park End and Beckfield ward continued that tradition with the independent slate beating Labour 50-42. Park End itself is within the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency, which was an against-the-swing Conservative gain in last month’s general election.

Defending Park End and Beckfield for the independent slate is Jan Mohan. Labour have reselected their runner-up from 2015 Ian Blades, who finished 54 votes behind Cox in that election. Also standing are Ron Armstrong for the Conservatives, Wen Cai Bowman for the Lib Dems and Jamie Armstrong for the Green Party.

Labour should have an easier ride in Ayresome where UKIP and the former independent councillor are not trying again. Their defending candidate is Vic Walkington, who is opposed by Jill Coleman for the Conservatives, Carl Martinez for the Greens and Rhid Nugent for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Middlesbrough
May 2015 result Lab 996/751 UKIP 452 Ind 435/202 C 282

Park End and Beckfield
Parliamentary constituency: Middlesbrough (former Beckfield ward), Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (former Park End ward)
May 2015 result Ind 1177/1082/1043 Lab 989/716/608 C 178

Elgin City North

Moray council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Sandy Cooper after just five days in office. It appears he had had second thoughts about being a councillor.

For our first Scottish by-election of the 2017 term we are in the cathedral city of Elgin, home of Moray council and before then county town of Morayshire. The Elgin City North ward does exactly what it says on the tin: it is based on the Bishopmill area of Moray to the north of the River Lossie, together with the ruined cathedral, part of the city centre and the housing along the East Road (the A96 towards Aberdeen).

This ward was created in 2007 when Scottish local government was reformed to use proportional representation. In the 2007 election its three seats split one to the SNP, one to Labour and one to an independent; the independent councillor retired in 2012 and his seat very narrowly went to the SNP over the Conservatives. The Labour councillor resigned in 2014 to pursue a teaching career, and his seat was also gained by the SNP who won the by-election 55-45 in the final round over Sandy Cooper.

Most of Scotland’s wards had boundary changes this year, but Elgin City North was little changed gaining only a newly-developed part of Elgin that had spilled over the boundary into an adjoining ward. With no hope of defending all three seats in the ward the SNP fielded two candidates in the 2017 election, but there weren’t the votes to elect both of them: the Conservatives almost doubled their vote to 33% and top of the poll, their candidate Frank Brown easily winning the first seat. The two SNP candidates had 33% between them, Sandy Cooper started in fourth place on 15% and Labour crashed to 12%. Cooper picked up all the Unionist transfers to win the second seat easily, leaving the two SNP candidates to fight over the final seat: newcomer Paula Coy eventually beat outgoing councillor Patsy Gowans by 86 votes. Since May the Conservatives have renewed the Tory-Independent coalition to run Moray council for another term, and have gained the Moray parliamentary seat from the SNP after many years of trying. Clearly the Nationalists in Moray are in some disarray.

A quick note that this is Scotland and English and Welsh by-election rules do not apply. Fistly, the by-election will be held using the Alternative Vote, which means that transfers could well be crucial in deciding the winner. Secondly, 16- and 17-year-old electors have the right to vote in this by-election.

There is a defending independent candidate, Terry Monaghan, who fought his native Forres ward in May but polled just 36 first preferences. So, a change in representation looks on the cards, but in favour of whom? The Conservatives have selected Maria McLean, whose husband Raymond is their councillor for Elgin City South ward. Straight back on the campaign trail is SNP candidate Patsy Gowans, who was councillor for this ward from 2012 until losing her seat in May. Completing the ballot paper is Nick Taylor, a politics lecturer at Moray College.

Parliamentary constituency: Moray
Scottish Parliament constituency: Moray

May 2017 first preferences C 1181 SNP 1171 Ind 532 Lab 429 Ind 266