Previews: 04 Jul 2019

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

Four by-elections on 4th July 2019, with the Conservatives defending two seats, Labour one and independents one. Let's start with the independent defence:


Park End and Beckfield

Middlesbrough council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Jan Mohan who had served since winning a by-election in July 2017.

Our first northern by-election brings to mind one of the most consequential local by-elections of recent time. On Maundy Thursday 2017 the Conservative party, riding high in opinion polls, pulled off an impressive gain of the Coulby Newham ward, an estate in southern Middlesbrough. Having taken the Easter weekend to think things over, the prime minister Theresa May then called a general election the following Tuesday. And we all know how that turned out.

But it's not just the Conservative party which has been confounded by recent Middlesbrough local elections. This is one of the towns which went over to the elected mayoral system at the start of this century; despite long-standing Labour strength in Middlesbrough its first mayor was independent candidate and former police officer Ray Mallon. "Robocop" retired at the 2015 mayoral election after three terms, and Labour's Dave Budd - who had been Mallon's deputy - very narrowly gained the mayoralty, finishing 252 votes ahead of independent candidate Andy Preston.

Since 2015 little has gone right for Middlesbrough Labour. As well as the Coulby Newham by-election referenced above, the party lost the Tees Valley mayoral election to the Conservatives in May 2017, lost the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland parliamentary seat to the Conservatives in June 2017 and resoundingly lost the Middlesbrough mayoralty in May 2019. Andy Preston, a philanthropist who had moved back to his native town after making a fortune in the land of City of London hedge funds, returned this year for a second go at the mayoralty and crushed new Labour candidate Mick Thompson; Preston won in the first round with a margin of 59-23 over Labour. At the same time as this, Labour also lost their majority on Middlesbrough council, the 2019 council elections returning 23 independents against 20 Labour councillors and three Conservatives.

There has been independent strength on the council for a long time as is demonstrated by the history of Middlesbrough's Park End and Beckfield ward, in the east of the town hard up against the boundary with Redcar. At the time of the 2011 census Park End and Beckfield were two separate wards, both of which 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. This ward and its predecessors has returned a full slate of independent councillors since 2011, and in May the independent slate polled 82% of the vote against Labour and Green opposition. Some of that vote share may be related to disruption caused by the demolition of the local Southlands leisure centre, which commenced in April; the council has plans for a new community hub to be built in its place.

If Andy Preston had intended to shake up Middlesbrough politics he's clearly got his wish, but perhaps not in the way he intended: Preston's new administration hasn't shown much stability in its first two months in office. Jan Mohan had been named as his cabinet member for children's services, but she then resigned immediately citing health reasons and prompting this by-election. Two other members of Preston's cabinet have since left the main independent group on the council - the Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association - which has left Labour as the largest single party. A change in this by-election could affect the balance of power further.

There are two competing independent candidates. The continuity candidate would appear to be Steven James, a social care professional who is supported by Mayor Preston. The other independent candidate is Stephen Hill, who fought Marton East ward in May. Also standing are Paul McGrath for Labour, Ian Jones for the Lib Dems and Val Beadnall for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Middlesbrough (former Beckfield ward), Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (former Park End ward) ONS Travel to Work Area: Middlesbrough and Stockton Postcode districts: TS3, TS7

Val Beadnall (C) Stephen Hill (Ind) Steven James (Ind) Ian Jones (LD) Paul McGrath (Lab)

May 2019 result Ind 1050/979/910 Lab 178/118/117 Grn 46 July 2017 by-election Ind 505 Lab 302 C 59 Grn 12 LD 10 May 2015 result Ind 1177/1082/1043 Lab 989/716/608 C 178


Eccleston and Mawdesley

Chorley council, Lancashire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Henry Caunce at the age of 71. He had served since 2004.

For our other Northern by-election we travel to central Lancashire, arriving in the large village of Eccleston. Some miles to the west of Chorley on the opposite side of the M6 motorway, Eccleston has a name meaning "settlement by a Celtic church" (compare the Welsh word for "church", eglwys) and retains strong religious associations to this day. The Eccleston and Mawdesley ward came in the top 60 in England and Wales for Christianity in the 2011 census; high scores for this statistic usually correlate with a large Catholic population, and Eccleston's famous sons include St John Rigby who was executed for Catholicism in 1600. Rigby is recognised by the Catholic Church as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, and was canonised in 1970. However, the most obvious modern memorial in Eccleston is a golden postbox which was painted in honour of the village's most famous current resident: Sir Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner and most decorated British Olympian of all time (with five gold medals, one silver and two bronze) lives in Eccleston.

The Chorley district of Lancashire has swung strongly towards the Labour party in recent local elections, but this ward of it has gone the other way. Eccleston and Mawdesley ward was closely fought between the Conservatives and Labour up to 2014 (although Labour only won one seat out of a possible 12 in this period, at the inaugural election of 2002) but since then the Conservatives have built a significant lead. Two months ago at the ordinary local elections the Tory majority over Labour was 54-33, with UKIP being the only other party to stand; that poll was held the day after Caunce died. In the 2017 Lancashire county elections the Tory lead in the local division of Chorley Rural West was similar; Eccleston and Mawdesley is also part of a Conservative-held constituency, South Ribble.

This time there is a straight fight. Defending in the blue corner is Val Caunce, Henry's widow; back in the 1960s she won the Miss New Brighton beauty contest, and subsequently she ran a modelling agency. Challenging from the red corner is Martin Fisher, a retired maths teacher and former NUT figure.

Parliamentary constituency: South Ribble Lancashire county council division: Chorley Rural West ONS Travel to Work Area: Preston Postcode districts: L40, PR7, PR26

Val Caunce (C) Martin Fisher (Lab)

May 2019 result C 1066 Lab 649 UKIP 250 May 2018 result C 1179 Lab 762 LD 190 UKIP 56 May 2016 result C 953 Lab 823 UKIP 292 May 2015 result C 1856 Lab 1377 UKIP 442 May 2014 result C 944 Lab 741 May 2012 result C 1009 Lab 914 UKIP 241 May 2011 result C 1247 Lab 945 May 2010 result C 2015 Lab 1484 May 2008 result C 1306 Lab 956 May 2007 result C 1245 Lab 824 May 2006 result C 1176 Lab 998 June 2004 result C 1358 Lab 1168 May 2003 result C 1399 Lab 1320 May 2002 result Lab 1798/1400/1150 C 1455/1429/1325


Trowbridge Drynham

Wiltshire council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Graham Payne at the age of 71. Described as "the best councillor Trowbridge ever had", Payne was a veteran of local government who was first elected in 1976 to the former West Wiltshire council. Away from public life he had worked in civil engineering and the building trade.

Payne's ward was Drynham, which is the southern of Trowbridge's seven wards and is named after the Drynham Road, which it includes. One of England's more obscure county towns, Trowbridge was unusual for the south of England in being a textile town: woollen cloth has been made here since the 14th century, and in 1820 Trowbridge's textile production rivalled that of Manchester. Today food production is the main economic sector in town along with the administration generated by Wiltshire council.

Payne was a popular councillor who enjoyed big majorities. He had represented Trowbridge Drynham ward since Wiltshire's local government was reorganised in 2009, and at his last re-election in May 2017 had a 66-21 lead over the Labour runner-up. Trowbridge is included within the South West Wiltshire parliamentary seat which is just as safe for the Conservatives.

Defending for the Conservatives is Kam Reynolds, who is claiming to have a new approach to politics. The Labour candidate is Shaun Henley, who fought the Trowbridge Central division in the 2013 Wiltshire elections. Also standing are Andrew Bryant for the Lib Dems and independent candidate John Knight.

Parliamentary constituency: South West Wiltshire ONS Travel to Work Area: Trowbridge Postcode district: BA14

Andrew Bryant (LD) Shaun Henley (Lab) John Knight (Ind) Kam Reynolds (C)

May 2017 result C 654 Lab 203 LD 130 May 2013 result C 504 LD 195 June 2009 result C 641 LD 358


Rhondda

Rhondda Cynon Taf council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Labour councillor Robert Smith who had served since 2004.

We finish for the week with our Welsh by-election about which a word about nomenclature is in order. We are in the Rhondda division of the Rhondda Cynon Taf local government district, but we are not in the Rhondda constituency. The Rhondda division is instead the western of the eight divisions covering Pontypridd; it takes its name from the River Rhondda, and runs westward up the Rhondda valley from the edge of Pontypridd town centre. Settlements within the division include Maesycoed (where many rugby teams have come to grief over the years at the hands of Pontypridd RFC), Pantygraigwen, Hopkinstown and part of Trehafod.

All of these are classic nineteenth- and early twentieth-century pit villages. The population boomed in those years with miners and their families moving in, and they needed services in every sense of the word. On 1 November 1907 Capel Rhondda in Hopkinstown inaugurated its new organ; sat at the console in that service was John Hughes, who led a hymn featuring words of William Williams set to a new tune of Hughes' own composition. The tune was a success, and can be seen sung here in a scene from a film which was set in the South Wales Valleys (although the Second World War meant that it had to be filmed in California). That film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and famously beat Citizen Kane to the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1941. It was, of course, How Green Was My Valley, and the tune was the evergreen Cwm Rhondda.

https://youtu.be/oevNjFeWUyQ

The Rhondda division has returned a full slate of two Labour councillors since 2004, when Robert Smith gained his seat from Plaid Cymru who had done very well in the 1999 Rhondda Cynon Taf election. The most recent Welsh local elections were in May 2017 when Labour polled 43% to 26% for Plaid and 17% for the Lib Dems. Shortly afterwards Pontypridd's Labour MP Owen Smith was re-elected in the snap general election; Smith will have had more trouble from his own party than from his electors, having challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the party leadership in 2016.

Defending this seat for Labour is Loretta Tomkinson, the present Deputy Mayor of Pontypridd; she represents Rhydfelen Central ward on the town council. Plaid Cymru have selected Eleri Griffiths, who lives in Pantygraigwen and has worked in children's policy for many years. The Lib Dem candidate is Karen Roberts, campaign manager for the party's Rhondda Cynon Taf branch. Also standing are Alexander Davies for the Conservatives and Adrian Dunphy, who heads a rare local by-election outing for the Communist Party.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Pontypridd ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff Postcode district: CF37

Alexander Davies (C) Adrian Dunphy (Comm) Eleri Griffiths (PC) Karen Roberts (LD) Loretta Tomkinson (Lab)

May 2017 result Lab 558/554 PC 333/260 LD 221 C 193/164 May 2012 result Lab 623/531 Ind 434/303/155 Grn 176 PC 169 May 2008 result Lab 619/565 PC 532/463 LD 485 June 2004 result Lab 721/632 PC 379/353 LD 214 May 1999 result PC 865/653 Lab 699/661 LD 370/299 Grn 81 May 1995 result Lab 1035/943 Ind 535/423 PC 241

Andrew Teale


Preview: 27 Jun 2019

Just one by-election on 27th June 2019:


Sandhurst

Mansfield council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the election of Labour candidate on 2nd May Andy Abrahams as Mayor of Mansfield.

We're eight weeks on now from the 2nd May 2019 local elections and the 23rd May 2019 European elections are five weeks gone. All of the unfinished business from those elections was cleared last week, and it's now time to start working through the file marked "matters arising".

There are a few matters arising from May, aren't there? Realignment of the party system could be one of them. This has been coming for a while. In the last Andrew's Previews of 2018 this column mused on the volatility of Britain's politics, writing:

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

Given how much water has flowed under the bridge in the intervening six months, that prediction has held up pretty well. Support for both the major parties appears to be in freefall, and the void has been filled by minor parties: the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, independent candidates and those new kids on the block the Brexit Party. This column's former patron Ian Warren broke cover from his shed last week to write on the dilemmas facing the two traditional major parties in the national context (link) and his analyses should provide food for thought for anybody in Conservative or Labour HQs who fancies an early general election. It's like those TV gameshows where one person beats all comers to win the episode, then gets offered the chance to gamble all the Brucie Bonuses they have won so far for an all-or-nothing shot at the Star Prize. Is the gamble worth it?

This column has a different brief, to look at electoral performances in the sub-national context - a very different place. Last week we had some large swings in wards with a large proportion of Remain supporters, particularly in London where one of the candidates I filed under "also standing are" actually won (the Lib Dem candidate in Merton). It's always interesting when that happens. Now you can't rely on national publicity to win a local by-election, which is probably why we are still yet to see a Brexit Party local government candidate. That's a shame: a Brexit Party candidate in today's local by-election in Mansfield, one of the totemic Leave-voting places, would have truly been something worth writing about.

Mansfield is a strange enough place as it is politically, having already undergone a realignment of the party system in recent years. The town's council was strongly Labour in the twentieth century; but it then went over to the elected mayoral system, and the town's first mayoral election in October 2002 returned an independent candidate. Supporters of that independent mayor, Tony Egginton, coalesced into a new political party called the Mansfield Independent Forum, and pretty much ever since then the town has closely fought at local level between the Forum and the Labour party.

It's been common in recent years for the mayoralty and council to go different ways: in 2011 and 2015 Labour won a council majority but the Forum won the mayoral election. That was reversed in 2019, when the Forum became the largest party on Mansfield council but Labour won the mayoralty for the first time. Andy Abrahams, a former teacher and civil engineer who had only got the Labour nomination at the last minute (the originally-selected candidate fell out with the party, and the first replacement candidate was dropped for anti-Semitism) led in the first round by 1,021 votes over the incumbent mayor Kate Allsop, and that was only just enough. Allsop came back strongly in the runoff with transfers from the Conservatives and two other independents, but Abrahams ended up winning in the final reckoning by 7,930 votes to 7,928, a majority of two. Don't let anybody tell you your vote never changed anything. With Labour holding 15 out of 37 seats on Mansfield council plus this vacancy, Mayor Abrahams will have the power to shake things up in the town as his opponents don't have the two-thirds majority necessary to block his budget.

Abrahams had also been elected to Mansfield council in May from the Sandhurst ward, which is south of the town centre across the River Maun and includes the Fisher Lane and Spider Parks. As Abrahams can't serve as mayor and councillor at the same time, the council seat he had won was automatically vacated and we are having this by-election. He had gained the ward from Forum councillor Dave Saunders, polling 42% against 34% for Saunders and 22% for the Conservatives, who may hold the Mansfield parliamentary seat but don't normally figure in the town's local elections. Sandhurst ward is in the Mansfield South division of Nottinghamshire county council, which voted strongly for the Independent Forum in the 2017 county elections; the Forum are the junior partners in the Conservative-led coalition running the county.

Defending for Labour is Michelle Swordy, who contested Netherfield ward in May and lost a previously-Labour ward to the Forum. Dave Saunders, who was Forum councillor for this ward from 2015 to 2019, wants his seat back. The Conservatives have selected Cathryn Fletcher, and Daniel Hartshorn completes the ballot paper for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: MansfieldNottinghamshire county council division: Mansfield SouthONS Travel to Work Area: MansfieldPostcode district: NG18

Cathryn Fletcher (C)Daniel Hartshorn (UKIP)Dave Saunders (Mansfield Ind Forum)Michelle Swordy (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 284 Mansfield Ind Forum 230 C 152 LD 16May 2015 result Mansfield Ind Forum 716 Lab 528May 2011 result Lab 402 Mansfield Ind Forum 290 LD 87


Previews: 20 Jun 2019

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

There are seven local councils polls on 20th June 2019, with ten seats up for election and plenty of chances for seats to change hands. Read on...


Walkden South

Salford council, Greater Manchester; postponed from 2nd May following the death of Andrew Darlington, who had been nominated as a Conservative candidate.

To start the week on a personal note, I'd like to pay tribute to one of the unsung heroes of psephology. In 2006 a Tory activist called Iain Lindley set up a bulletin board on the Internet for discussion of the local elections that year, and once the polls were over he kept it going. This evolved into the Vote UK Discussion Forum, which is still going strong today as a place for followers of politics both amateur and professional to hang out and discuss elections and whatever else takes our fancy. Your columnist has been a member or lurker since the very earliest days. Because he established Vote UK, I owe all sorts of debts to Iain Lindley which can never adequately be repaid.

While all this was going on, Iain Lindley was a Salford councillor; he was elected in 2004 as a member for Walkden South ward at the top of the Conservative slate. An impressive achievement. Just outside the congested M60 motorway, Walkden is a classic mining and textile centre which has become a dormitory town for the big city; the A580 East Lancashire road, the Atherton railway line and the misguided bus all link Walkden to Salford and that place beyond. The South ward of Walkden, south of the A6 road and including the town's railway station, is a lot more upmarket than the North ward or (shudder) Lickle Hulton, and parts of it resemble leafy Worsley. A comparison encouraged by the Royal Mail who have been exceptionally helpful to the local estate agents: they don't recognise Walkden as a town and the whole place has "Worsley, Manchester" addresses.

The present Walkden South ward boundary dates from 2004, and this is likely to be its last election as the Boundary Commission are working on a new map for Salford to come in at the 2020 election. In 2004 Walkden South was close three ways, with one Labour councillor and two Conservatives elected. The Lib Dems, who had been a close third in 2004, then fell away very quickly and Walkden South turned into possibly the only classic marginal ward in Salford. The Conservatives convincingly gained the Labour seat in 2008, but Labour got it back in 2012 (by a majority of 55 votes) and gained a second seat in 2018, defeating the Conservatives by 51% to 40%. Laura Edwards, the Labour candidate who won Walkden South that year, was just 19 years old at the time and became the youngest-ever Salford councillor.

That suggests an uphill task for the Tories in holding this seat, a defence which will be made more difficult by the fact that Iain Lindley is retiring after fifteen years' service. He had been the parliamentary candidate for the local seat of Worsley and Eccles South in 2015 and 2017, and his results in 2011 and 2015 suggest he had developed a personal vote. To replace Lindley the Conservatives had selected Andrew Darlington, a 68-year-old who had had several goes at unwinnable Salford wards in the past. We'll never know what sort of a councillor Darlington would have made.

The second replacement Conservative candidate is David Cawdrey. Labour have selected Joshua Brooks. Also standing are Thomas Dylan for the Green Party, John-Paul Atley for the Liberal Democrats and Tony Green for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Worsley and South Eccles ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester Postcode districts: M28, M38

John-Paul Atley (LD) Joshua Brooks (Lab) David Cawdrey (C) Thomas Dylan (Grn) Tony Green (UKIP)

May 2018 result Lab 1460 C 1157 Grn 159 LD 113 May 2016 result Lab 1421 C 1266 UKIP 390 Grn 149 TUSC 29 MAy 2015 result C 2162 Lab 1969 UKIP 749 Grn 238 TUSC 76 May 2014 result C 1186 Lab 1105 UKIP 626 Grn 145 EDP 55 May 2012 result Lab 1169 C 1116 UKIP 269 Grn 159 LD 105 EDP 88 May 2011 result C 1784 Lab 1379 UKIP 167 LD 142 EDP 117 May 2010 result C 2026 Lab 1815 LD 1015 BNP 285 EDP 203 May 2008 result C 1649 Lab 815 LD 458 EDP 336 May 2007 result C 1578 Lab 839 LD 274 BNP 225 Grn 179 May 2006 result C 1385 Lab 900 LD 632 June 2004 result Lab 1031/928/858 C 1010/1008/978 LD 921/855/825 Ind 222


Farington West

South Ribble council, Lancashire; postponed from 2nd May following the death of outgoing Conservative councillor Graham Walton, who had been nominated for re-election. He was first elected in 2011.

For our second postponed poll in Lancashire past and present, let's recall a name which will have resonance for people who are older than your columnist: British Leyland. An engineering conglomerate which was nationalised in 1975 by the second Wilson government, British Leyland at its peak supplied 40 per cent of the UK car market but also had significant interests in commercial vehicles.

That interest started off in 1896, with the founding of the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in Leyland to manufacture steam-powered vehicles. They quickly diversified into petrol engines, a move which was marked by a change of name to Leyland Motors. The company grew quickly in the 1960s and ultimately over-extended itself, with financial difficulties which led to the nationalisation and the new name "British Leyland". The new government owners eventually sold off the various bits, with the company's truck division merging with the Dutch company DAF Trucks to form Leyland DAF. Leyland DAF went bust in the 1990s recession, but the British truck division survived thanks to a management buy-out and is still trading today. Now a subsidiary of the American truck manufacturer Paccar, Leyland Trucks makes around 14,000 lorries every year for the British and European markets.

Those trucks are assembled in the Farington West ward of the South Ribble district. This is a ward of utterly flat land between Leyland and the Preston suburb of Lostck Hall, and as a consequence is rather diffuse; parts of both Leyland and Lostock Hall are included in Farington West ward, together with the village of Farington Moss. The West Coast Main Line forms much of the eastern boundary, and there is an ancient sign here marking the midpoint of the route between London and Glasgow.

Farington West has returned Conservative councillors since 2007 when the Lib Dem vote in South Ribble district fell apart. In 2015, on slightly revised boundaries, the Conservatives had 52% of the vote to 35% for Labour. However, this is another of the districts where the Conservatives lost an overall majority in the May 2019 local elections; the party lost six seats in South Ribble putting them on 21, against 22 for Labour, five Lib Dems and the two vacant seats in this ward. Labour have formed a minority administration with the support of the Liberal Democrats, and that should withstand this final result even if the Conservatives hold both seats and become the largest party. At other levels of government Farington West is within safely-Conservative electoral units; the party polled 68% in the Moss Side and Farington division of Lancashire county council two years ago, while some bizarre boundaries mean that this is not part of the South Ribble parliamentary seat (which covers Leyland and Penwortham) but is instead included in the sprawling Ribble Valley constituency which Nigel Evans holds in the Conservative interest.

Graham Walton's ward colleague was his wife (now widow) Karen, and she is seeking re-election for a second term along with replacement Tory candidate Steven Thurlbourn. Thurlbourn had contested the Labour-held Seven Stars ward in May, but this should be a better prospect for him. The Labour slate is Emma Buchanan and Ryan Hamilton. Completing the ballot paper are the Lib Dem slate of Judith Davidson and Alison Hesketh-Holt.

Parliamentary constituency: Ribble Valley (almost all), South Ribble (very small part) Lancashire county council division: Moss Side and Farington ONS Travel to Work Area: Preston Postcode districts: PR4, PR5, PR26

May 2015 result C 1045/919 Lab 709/540 LD 255/134


Pelenna

Neath Port Talbot council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of independent councillor Martin Ellis who had served since 2012.

"Pontrhydyfen is, stick for stick and stone for stone, blade of grass for blade of grass, virtually the same, exactly as it was when I was a child."

For our Welsh by-election this week we are in a particularly remote part of the South Wales Valleys. The short River Pelenna rises in the hills to the east of Neath, flowing south-west through Tonmawr to a confluence with the River Afan at the village of Pontrhydyfen. This is an area of hillsides and woodlands which belie a coalmining past, and as with many coalmining areas the local list of famous sons and daughters is dominated by figures from the entertainment world. The opera singer Rebecca Evans and the actor and singer Ivor Emmanuel (Private Owen in Zulu) were both born in Pontrhydyfen, as was one of the most famous actors of all time: Richard Jenkins junior, born here in 1925, later became known the world over under the name of Richard Burton and supplied the quote at the top of this paragraph. His Appreciation Society is based in Pontrhydyfen.

In 1925 Pontrhydyfen was unusual for South Wales in being a strongly Welsh-speaking area; the census taken six years later found that 85% of the village's population spoke Welsh. Knowledge of the language is still relatively high today, reflecting the remote nature of the area. Pelenna division makes the top 90 wards in England and Wales for population born in the UK.

Now, don't let anybody tell you that your vote never changed anything. Martin Ellis had been independent councillor for Pelenna since 2012, taking over after Labour councillor Lance Whiteley retired; he was elected in that year with a narrow majority of 25 votes over Plaid Cymru candidate Jeremy Hurley. The 2017 election here, however, turned up with four strong candidates. Ellis polled just 133 votes, but that was enough to be re-elected by one vote as Plaid Cymru's Hywel Miles finished on 132. Independent candidate Peter Hughes had 114, while Andrew Jones of Labour came in last with a respectable 90 votes. In terms of vote shares, Ellis and Plaid had 28% each, Hughes had 24% and Labour 19%.

Surely this by-election can't be that close; but then again it's difficult to pick a winner from the candidate list. There are two independent candidates vying to succeed Ellis, Peter Hughes (who was third here in 2017) and Jeremy Hurley (who was runner-up as the Plaid Cymru candidate in 2012). Hurley gives an address in Tonmawr, Hughes some distance away in Maesteg. Plaid Cymru's Hywel Miles, a Pontrhydyfen resident, is also back looking for the one extra vote he needs to win, and Labour's Andrew Jones returns to the fray as well. Very unusually for a local by-election there is no Conservative candidate, so Frank Little of the Lib Dems completes the Pelenna ballot paper.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Neath ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Postcode districts: SA11, SA12

Peter Hughes (Ind) Jeremy Hurley (Ind) Andrew Jones (Lab) Frank Little (LD) Hywel Miles (PC)

May 2017 result Ind 133 PC 132 Ind 114 Lab 90 May 2012 result Ind 252 PC 227 Lab 64 May 2008 result Lab 279 LD 170 June 2004 result Lab unopposed May 1999 result Lab unopposed May 1995 result Lab 408 PC 206


Newent and Taynton

Forest of Dean council, Gloucestershire; postponed from 2nd May following the death of David Humphreys, who had been nominated as a Green Party candidate.

For our last piece of unfinished business from the May local elections we travel to the beautiful Welsh Marches. The Marches specialise in beautiful tiny market towns, of which Newent is typical. On the northern edge of the Forest of Dean, Newent has had a market since the thirteenth century and its beautiful town centre is still full of the beautiful half-timbered buildings you get all over this beautiful part of England. (Did I say that the Marches are beautiful?) The town was connected to the outside world in the eighteenth century by the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire Canal, which linked the Severn at Gloucester to the Wye at Hereford; the canal was later converted to a railway which is now gone, but there is a canal restoration project ongoing. Tourists now come to Newent for the Onion Fayre every September and the International Birds of Prey Centre, while modern sons and daughters of Newent include the Wales rugby star Alex Cuthbert and the record producer Joe Meek, whom we can thank for producing this...

https://youtu.be/ryrEPzsx1gQ

Newent is in the Forest of Dean district, which this column described as a fragmented political mess a few weeks back. The 2019 elections haven't noticeably changed this, although there were extensive boundary changes to make detailed comparison difficult; ten seats were abolished by the Boundary Commission, and the Conservatives lost eleven of them. At the moment there are two different independent groups totalling 14 councillors, 10 Conservatives, six Greens and five Labour councillors with the three seats in this ward still to come in. The independents, Greens and Labour have formed a coalition which should command the 20 seats necessary to run the council regardless of this result.

Newent and Taynton is a brand-new ward created by this year's boundary changes, taking in the old Newent Central ward together with parts of the former Oxenhall/Newent NE and Tibberton wards. In the 2015 election Newent Central elected independent candidate Julia Gooch and Conservative Len Lawton, Oxenhall and Newent North East returned Conservative candidate Craig Lawton and Tibberton also voted for a Conservative, Jane Horne. Craig Lawton stood down at this election, while Horne sought re-election in May in the new Mitcheldean, Ruardean and Drybrook ward where she finished tenth out of eleven candidates. The Conservatives had big leads in the 2017 Gloucestershire county elections for the two divisions covering this ward, and failed Tory leadership candidate Mark Harper has been the local MP since 2005.

Independent councillor Julia Gooch and the Conservatives' Len Lawton are both seeking re-election; Gooch has served since 2011, Lawton since 2007. Joining Lawton on the Conservative slate are Eli Heathfield - who was runner-up in Newent Central four years ago - and Nick Winter, while Simon Holmes and Edward Wood are also standing as independent candidates alongside Gooch. The Greens had indulged in their occasional practice in multi-seat wards of nominating specific First, Second and Third Choice candidates, and this poll has highlighted a problem with that; the late David Humphreys was originally the First Choice candidate, but it wasn't possible to change the nominations for this postponed poll so the replacement Green candidate Bob Rhodes has had to go in as First Choice ahead of already-nominated David Price (2nd) and Johnny Back (3rd), both of whom are local residents whereas Rhodes is not. The Liberal Democrats have nominated a slate of Steve Martin, Gill Moseley and Vilnis Vesma, while Labour's Jean Sampson completes a ballot paper of thirteen candidates chasing three seats.

Parliamentary constituency: Forest od Dean Gloucestershire county council division: Newent (part: Newent parish), Mitcheldean (part: Taynton parish) ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester Postcode districts: GL17, GL18, GL19

Johnny Back (Grn) Julia Gooch (Ind) Eli Heathfield (C) Simon Holmes (Ind) Len Lawton (C) Steve Martin (LD) Gill Moseley (LD) David Price (Grn) Bob Rhodes (Grn) Jean Sampson (Lab) Vilnis Vesma (LD) Nick Winter (C) Edward Wood (Ind)

No previous results on these boundaries


Furzedown

Wandsworth council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Candida Jones who is taking up a politically-restricted job. She had served since 2014.

Back to the by-elections for another year, and it's time to head to that London. South London is an area of urban sprawl, and Furzedown is typical of this; located to the west of Streatham and the south of Tooting Common, it's a residential area which was mostly laid out in the Edwardian era on the site of a former golf course. The main local feature is the Graveney School, a secondary school whose former pupils include the England rugby star Kyle Sinckler and the BBC's media editor Amol Rajan; a halls of residence for the University of the Arts London also creates a significant student population in term time.

Furzedown is just over the border from Streatham, represented by noted Labour MP Chuka (checks notes) - oh. Unlike Mr Umunna, Furzedown ward has swung strongly to the left over the last decade, a swing all the more accentuated by the fact that we are in the London Borough of Wandsworth, where normal political rules do not apply. Wandsworth has a long-standing Tory administration which can reach the parts other Tory administrations can't thanks to aggressive low-tax policies, and the party did well enough to win two out of three seats in Furzedown at the 2002 election. Labour gained one of those seats in 2006 and got a full slate in 2010, since when it has been plain sailing for the left; in the May 2018 local elections Labour led the Conservatives by 64% to 21%.

Top of that Labour slate was Leonie Cooper, who two years earlier had been elected to the London Assembly by gaining the Merton and Wandsworth constituency from the Conservatives at the third attempt; she polled 66% of the vote in her home ward, but that was eclipsed in the mayoral ballot by Sadiq Khan who was MP for the local seat of Tooting at the time. Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in Furzedown by 70-18, a much bigger lead over the Conservatives than the 59-17 margin Labour enjoyed in the London Members ballot.

Labour's candidate to replace Candida Jones (whose name my typing fingers keep autocorrecting to Candidate Jones; clearly I've been doing this too long) is Graham Loveland who, according to his Twitter, has lived in the ward for 27 years. The Conservatives have reselected Nabi Toktas, a local businessman who finished sixth here in the 2018 election. Also standing on an all-male ballot paper are Gerard Harrison for the Green Party and Jon Irwin for the Liberal Democrats. Since May 2019 local election candidates in England have been able to redact their addresses on ballot papers, and this is the first poll covered by Andrew's Previews where every candidate has chosen to do so; all the electors of Furzedown will see when they cast their vote is the candidate and party name and logo and the words "(address in Wandsworth)".

Parliamentary constituency: Tooting ONS Travel to Work Area: London Postcode districts: SW16, SW17

Gerard Harrison (Grn) Jon Irwin (LD) Graham Loveland (Lab) Nabi Toktas (C)

MAy 2018 result Lab 3488/3371/3254 C 1174/1167/982 Grn 526 LD 292/197/190 May 2014 result Lab 3101/2852/2829 C 1107/1036/990 Grn 530/511 UKIP 303 LD 254 TUSC 121 May 2010 result Lab 3750/3527/3321 C 2116/2083/1818 LD 1102/908/769 Grn 565/507 May 2006 result C 2033/1856/1837 Lab 2012/2010/1869 Grn 564 LD 316/298/274 May 2002 result Lab 1727/1608/1606 C 1696/1651/1572 Grn 395 LD 298/253/229

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters) Mayor: Lab 3496 C 890 Grn 227 LD 113 UKIP 59 Women's Equality 55 Respect 39 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 30 Zylinski 30 Britain First 18 BNP 13 One Love 4 London Member: Lab 2930 C 866 Grn 433 Women's Equality 203 LD 189 UKIP 128 Respect 65 CPA 57 Animal Welfare 42 Britain First 24 BNP 19 House Party 18


Cannon Hill

Merton council, South London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Mark Kenny who had served since May 2018.

Hmm. It's summer (although you wouldn't know it from the weather forecast) so like clockwork here is Wimbledon (and wouldn't you know it from the weather forecast). The Cannon Hill ward lies a couple of miles south of Wimbledon town centre around a common of the same name; this is later than Furzedown, with the housing dating from the 1930s when the railways came to this part of London. On the ward boundary is South Merton railway station on the Sutton Loop line, which opened in 1929 as one of the last railway lines to be built within the capital.

From the demographics it sounds like this should be a Conservative area; but Cannon Hill ward jumped a mile to the left in the 2014 election to suddenly return three Labour councillors. The Tories got one seat back in 2018 in a very close result, with both main parties polling 43%; although the Conservatives' Nicholas McLean topped the poll, the detailed vote split meant that Labour held the other two seats. Mark Kenny was elected to the third and final seat with 1,636 votes, 74 ahead of the second Conservative candidate. Following the 2018 elections Labour remained in control of Merton council; they currently have 33 seats plus this vacancy against 17 Tories, six Lib Dems and three Merton Park residents, so the Labour majority is not in danger. The 2016 GLA results were also close: Zac Goldsmith beat Sadiq Khan 41-38 in the ward's ballot boxes, while in the London Members ballot Labour led with 35% against 33% for the Conservatives and 10% for UKIP.

So, expect another close result. Defending for Labour is Ryan Barnett, who works in Westminster as an adviser on economic policy. The Conservatives have reselected Michael Paterson who was runner-up here last year. Also standing are Jenifer Gould for the Liberal Democrats, Andrew Mills for UKIP and Suzie O'Connor for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Wimbledon ONS Travel to Work Area: London Postcode districts: SM4, SW20

Ryan Barnett (Lab) Jenifer Gould (LD) Andrew Mills (UKIP) Suzie O'Connor (Grn) Michael Paterson (C)

May 2018 result C 1644/1562/1406 Lab 1642/1636/1445 LD 411/313/303 UKIP 141 May 2014 result Lab 1686/1661/1556 C 1227/1153/1081 UKIP 697 LD 254/227/131 May 2010 result C 2195/1967/1860 Lab 1355/1169/1094 LD 1195/1050/1007 Ind 498 BNP 378 CPA 149 May 2006 result C 1778/1748/1681 Lab 814/812/678 LD 450/423/416 Pensions Action Alliance 383 May 2002 result C 1396/1341/1277 Lab 893/803/785 LD 351/333/319 Ind 215 UKIP 175 Grn 153/119/98

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters) Mayor: C 1279 Lab 1182 Grn 153 LD 150 UKIP 144 Women's Equality 42 Respect 35 Britain First 32 BNP 25 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 21 Zylinski 13 One Love 8 London Members: Lab 1084 C 1027 UKIP 295 Grn 204 LD 175 Women's Equality 95 CPA 51 Britain First 50 Animal Welfare 42 Respect 40 BNP 33 House Party 9


Whippingham and Osborne

Isle of Wight council; caused by the resignation of Julia Baker-Smith, who had been elected as an independent candidate and subsequently joined the Labour Party. She has relocated to Manchester. Baker-Smith was first elected in 2013 and was a former leader of the Island Independent group on the Isle of Wight council.

For our final by-election we travel offshore to a place which inspired royalty. In the early nineteenth century the young Princess Victoria spent two holidays on the Isle of Wight; she then inherited the throne as Queen Victoria, and married a German prince who thought the views of the Solent reminded him of the Bay of Naples. The stars aligned. Victoria and Albert bought Osborne House, a minor Georgian mansion on the north coast of the island near the village of East Cowes, demolished it and built something grander.

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on 22nd January 1901, and the new king presented it to the nation. Following a spell as a naval officer training college (Robert Graves and A A Milne convalesced there after being injured in the First World War) Osborne is now open to the public.

Victoria and Albert also took an interest in Whippingham, the nearest village to Osborne. This is reflected in the local church, dedicated to St Mildred, which has a chapel dedicated to the Battenberg/Mountbatten family; several members of that family are buried there. Uffa Fox, the yachtsman and boat designer, is also interred at St Mildred's; an appropriate location as Whippingham is just across the Medina estuary from the yachting town of Cowes.

The Isle of Wight last went to the polls in May 2017. That was a very good year for the Conservatives who took back control from an independent group that had won the 2013 election - rather the reverse of the trends we have seen this year. Julia Baker-Smith was one of the independents who had defeated the Conservatives in 2013 - under her then name of Julia Hill - and she held her seat quite easily in 2017, beating the Conservatives 57-26.

With Baker-Smith's defection to Labour this by-election is looking rather more complicated. Defending for Labour is Luisa Hillard, who was an independent councillor for the neighbouring East Cowes ward from 2013 to 2017 when she lost her seat. The Island Independent Network will also want their seat back, and they have selected Ryde town councillor Karen Lucioni. There is another independent candidate in the mix, East Cowes parish councillor Michael Paler who runs a sport photography agency. The Conservatives may well be hoping to come though the middle of all this; their candidate is East Cowes resident Stephen Hendry who stood here in 2013 and got snookered by Baker-Smith. Also standing are Julie Burridge for the Liberal Democrats and Rose Lynden-Bell for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Isle of Wight ONS Travel to Work Area: Isle of Wight Postcode district: PO32

Julie Burridge (LD) Stephen Hendry (C) Luisa Hillard (Lab) Karen Lucioni (Island Ind Network) Rose Lynden-Bell (UKIP) Michael Paler (Lnd)

May 2017 result Ind 692 C 313 Lab 146 LD 62 May 2013 result Ind 646 C 398 June 2009 result C 414 Ind 398 LD 235 Lab 60


Andrew Teale is Britain Elects' by-election previewer and also edits the Local Elections Archive Project.


Previews: 13 Jun 2019

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

After the excitement of recent weeks, it's back to Andrew's Previews' normal diet on Thursday 13th June 2019 with three polls, as we continue to work through the unfinished business from the ordinary elections on 2nd May. All of these are in districts where the Conservatives lost overall control in May 2019. Let''s see how things have panned out since then...


Stapleford South East

Broxtowe council, Nottinghamshire; postponed from 2nd May following the death of outgoing Conservative councillor Chris Rice, who was standing for re-election. He had served since 2015.

For our first poll this week we travel to Nottinghamshire, to one of the small towns between Derby and Nottingham which are close to fusing into a single urban area. Located on the Nottinghamshire side of the River Erewash, Stapleford is on the original road between Nottingham and Derby and was originally a minor market town caught up in the Nottinghamshire hosiery trade. Today it's rather a dormitory town for Nottingham, although if High Speed 2 is built as planned that could change: the line's eastern branch is due to pass close by with its East Midlands station being very close to the town. The recently-built Toton branch of Nottingham's tram network terminates just to the south of Stapleford.

In the early years of this century Stapleford was a Liberal Democrat hotspot, and the party won the ward in each election from 2003 to 2011. The Stapleford Lib Dems were, however, wiped out in the 2015 election partly thanks to a split, with previous Lib Dem activists contesting that election under the "Stapleford Alliance" banner. South East ward gave 30% of the vote to the winning Conservative slate, 28% to Labour, 24% to the Lib Dems and 17% to the Stapleford Alliance. The Conservatives won a majority on Broxtowe council in 2015, and their MP for the district Anna Soubry was re-elected with an increased margin over Labour. The Tories also hold the local Nottinghamshire county council seats in the division of Stapleford and Broxtowe Central.

How things have changed. Soubry, after very narrowly holding her seat in 2017, has left the Tories and is now the latest leader of Change UK or whatever they're called this week. The Conservatives are also no longer in control of Broxtowe council: they lost five seats in the May 2019 elections to stand on 20 seats, against 14 Labour councillors, five Lib Dems and three independents. All the non-Conservative councillors have banded together to form a rainbow coalition to run Broxtowe; however, that coalition only holds 22 seats at present, and 23 will be needed for a majority once this final result comes in. If the Conservatives can hold both seats in this ward, then there will be a 22-22 split between the Tories and the ruling coalition: with a Conservative (Michael Brown) having been elected as Mayor of Broxtowe for 2019-20 at last month's AGM, the Tories might then seek to use his mayoral casting vote to take back control.

So, a crucial poll is in prospect; and it may be worth noting here that some of the worst Conservative performances in local by-elections over the last year or so have come along the High Speed 2 route. The late Christopher Rice was seeking re-election for a second term in Stapleford South East, as is the remaining Conservative candidate Adam Stockwell. Rice is replaced on the ballot paper by new Conservative candidate John Doddy, who is one of the county councillors for Stapleford and Broxtowe Central. The Labour slate is Eleanor Allan and Sue Paterson, while the Lib Dems have nominated David Grindell (who was a councillor for this ward from 2011 to 2015) and Tim Hallam.

Parliamentary constituency: Broxtowe Nottinghamshire county council division: Stapleford and Broxtowe Central

Eleanor Allan (Lab) John Doddy (C) David Grindell (LD) Tim Hallam (LD) Sue Paterson (Lab) Adam Stockwell (C)

May 2015 result C 836/829 Lab 781/625 LD 672/664 Stapleford Alliance 454 May 2011 result LD 770/711 Lab 577/497 Lab 527/434 May 2007 result LD 875/848 C 373/370 Lab 303/286 May 2003 result LD 783/772 Lab 338/323 C 233/230


Chittlehampton

North Devon council; postponed from 2nd May following the death of outgoing independent councillor Walter White, who was standing for re-election.

Four our second postponed poll of the week we travel from semi-urban Nottinghamshire to rural Devon. The Chittlehampton ward covers six parishes in the countryside between South Molton and the River Taw, of which Chittlehampton is the largest. Chittlehampton was a minor religious centre with one of the finest churches in Devon thanks to the cult of St Urith, an obscure eighth-century martyr who is buried here. King's Nympton and Atherington are the next largest villages; but the ward gets its post from Umberleigh, which only has 139 electors but also has a railway station on the "Tarka" line towards Barnstaple. In the 2011 census Chittlehampton was in the top 50 wards in England and Wales for the "small employers" occupational group and in the top 75 for self-employment, reflecting its small population size (the Notice of Poll gives an electorate of 1,977) and remote nature: agriculture will be the main source of work here.

Up until this election Chittlehampton ward had returned only independent councillors, with the late Walter White being unopposed at the 2011 election when he took the ward over. White faced a contest at the 2015 election, being re-elected with 45% of the vote against 33% for the Conservatives and 11% each for UKIP and the Greens. That election was on the same day as the 2015 general election in which the Conservatives gained the North Devon parliamentary seat (which has the same boundaries as the district council) from the Lib Dems; the Tories also hold the Chulmleigh and Landkey division of Devon county council which covers five of the ward's six parishes.

How things have changed. The Liberal Democrats did very well in the 2019 North Devon council elections, gaining nine seats so far: they have 21 seats out of a possible 42, have formed the administration and will have a majority if they can win this final poll. Whatever happens here somebody is going to make a gain: no independent candidate has come forward to replace Walter White, so it's time for Chittlehampton to go party political. Ray Jenkins, as the Conservative candidate, may be best placed to win if the county results two years ago are any guide: Cecily Blyther had also been on the original candidate list for Labour, while the postponement has allowed the Greens to nominate Neil Basil and the Lib Dems to put Victoria Nel on the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: North Devon Devon county council division: Chulmleigh and Landkey (most), South Molton (part: Filleigh parish)

Neil Basil (Grn) Cecily Blyther (Lab) Ray Jsnkins (C) Victoria Nel (LD)

May 2015 result Ind 735 C 538 UKIP 178 Grn 173 May 2011 result Ind unopposed May 2007 result Ind 578 LD 222 May 2003 result Ind unopposed


Billinghay, Martin and North Kyme

North Kesteven council, Lincolnshire; caused by insufficient candidates being nominated in the 2nd May ordinary election.

We finish with another remote rural ward, this time in Lincolnshire. Billinghay lies in the centre of Lincolnshire, about ten miles north-east of Sleaford: it's one of a series of villages in fenland surrounding the River Witham. With the fens having been long drained this is a rich agricultural area, although modern mechanised farming doesn't provide as many jobs as it used to. Lincolnshire was one of the most densely-populated parts of England in the eleventh century, and several villages in this ward are mentioned in the Domesday book; Billinghay had the wealth to support a particularly fine church which is now Grade I listed.

This two-seat ward was created in 2007 by merging two rural single-member wards, and the impression that this is a story of country folk will only be reinforced by the fact that topping the poll here in the 2007 election was Conservative candidate Frederick Ambridge, who had previously represented Martin ward. Michael Powell (outgoing councillor for Billinghay ward) won the other seat as an independent, and ever since then Billinghay, Martin and North Kyme ward has split its two seats between the Tories and an independent candidate. Powell was re-elected unopposed in 2011 alongside new Tory candidate Gill Ogden, but lost his seat in 2015 to Susanna Matthan of the Lincolnshire Independents; shares of the vote were 43% for Ogden who was the only Conservative candidate, 22% for Matthan and 18% for Powell. In May 2017 the Conservatives had big leads in the two Lincolnshire county divisions covering the ward; the following month the local parliamentary seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham returned the best Conservative score of the snap election in both seats and absolute votes.

How things have changed. The Conservatives lost eight seats in the May 2019 elections, all of them going to independent councillors of some sort or another. That put independents on 22 seats against 20 for the Tories, with this vacancy still to come. The independents are not a united bloc, which has allowed the Tories to stay in control; at the time of writing the council website lists 20 councillors in the "NK Administration Group" (the Tories), 19 councillors in the "NK Independents Group" (including the Lincolnshire Independents), three unaligned councillors and this vacancy.

Numbered among the Tories is Gill Ogden of this ward who stood for re-election; the Lincolnshire Independents councillor Susanna Matthan stood down and no-one else was nominated, so Ogden was re-elected unopposed for a third term of office. Although this by-election will effectively complete the North Kesteven 2019 election, it is unlike the other two polls this week in that is a proper by-election: this is the first vacancy generated by the Class of 2019. There will no doubt be many more to come.

The Lincolnshire Independents are effectively defending this seat, and their candidate Tracy Giannasi appears at the top of the ballot paper. Giannasi lives in Ruskington and unsuccessfully fought her home ward on 2 May. The Tory candidate is Amanda Sanderson, a North Kyme parish councillor. Two independent candidates have been nominated this time round, Robert Greetham (who fought this ward in 2015, finishing fifth and last) and Stephen Shanahan-Kluth. Labour candidate Matt Newman and Liberal Democrat Garry Winterton complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham Lincolnshire county council divisions: Heckington (part: Billingay, Dogdyke and North Kyme parishes), Metheringham Rural (part: Martin, Timberland and Walcott parishes)

Tracy Giannisi (Lincs Ind) Robert Greetham (Ind) Matt Newman (Lab) Amanda Sanderson (C) Stephen Snanahan-Kluth (Ind) Garry Winterton (LD)

May 2015 result C 1379 Lincs Ind 713 Ind 587/369 Lab 548 May 2011 result C/Ind unopposed May 2007 result C 713 Ind 672/508


Previews: 06 Jun 2019

by Andrew Teale of Andrew’s Previews


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

Three polls today, but we’ll start with the most important one:


Peterborough

House of Commons; caused by a successful recall petition against Labour MP Fiona Onasanya, who had served since 2017.

Speed kills. Speed kills lives. Driving a vehicle over the speed limit is an offence, and with good reason. For as long as there have been motor vehicles there have been speed limits, with the intention of protecting other road users from the danger caused by driving at excessive speeds. A pedestrian hit by a car is more likely to survive the slower the car is going, and partly because of this there has been a trend in recent years towards lowering speed limits on Britain’s roads. In many cases such changes are supported by our elected representatives; campaigning for speed limits to be cut in residential areas or at accident blackspots is a cheap and effective way for our local councillors to attract publicity and protect public safety.

Speed also kills careers. This column has previously covered instances of councillors who campaigned for a speed camera to be installed in their patch, and subsequently being caught speeding by that very same camera. In most instances people who are caught speeding own up, take the punishment (speed awareness course, fine, penalty points, disqualification for the most serious cases) and life goes on.

This was not, however, the option pursued by former Liberal Democrat MP and leadership candidate Chris Huhne, who got caught trying to pin the blame for a speeding ticket on his wife and ended up behind bars for perjury. Nor did owning up to this offence seem a good option for a Labour backbencher called Fiona Onasanya. A solicitor of Nigerian ancestry, Onasanya entered politics in 2013 at the age of 30 by being elected as a Labour Party member of Cambridgeshire county council. In 2017 she sought the nomination as Labour candidate for the elected mayoralty of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; although she didn’t get it, shortly afterwards she was selected as Labour candidate for the Peterborough constituency in the snap general election. To some surprise, Onasanya was elected as MP for Peterborough in June 2017, and a month later was reported as saying that she wanted to become Britain’s first black female prime minister.

Also in July 2017, Fiona Onasanya was caught speeding by a camera in Thorney, a village within her constituency. The Court heard that Ms Onasanya and her brother Festus told the police investigating that the car was being driven by a Russian man who had had the bad luck to be their tenant; however, police inquiries found that this Russian was in fact in Russia at the time of the offence. Prosecutions were launched – not for the speeding offence, but for the cover-up. Festus Onasanya pleaded guilty to three charges against him, and in December 2018 the jury unanimously found Fiona Onasanya guilty of one count of perverting the course of justice. Both Onasanyas were committed to prison, in Fiona’s case for three months. Ms Onasanya refused to resign her seat in Parliament and sought to appeal against the conviction; she appeared before the Court of Appeal without legal representation or notes. Remember, kids, she is a trained legal professional; don’t try this at home. The Appeal judges were not impressed, and on 5 March 2019 refused permission to appeal.

If Ms Onasanya had still been a local councillor (she retired from Cambridgeshire county council in May 2017) then that would have been the end of the matter. The Local Government Act disqualifies anybody who has been sentenced to three months’ or more imprisonment (including suspended sentences) in the last five years from being a councillor, and once the appeal was disposed off Onasanya would (had she been a councillor) automatically have left office and I would have been writing about a by-election in the second half of April in a very different political context. But until 1981, when IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected to parliament from his prison cell in a by-election for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, there was nothing to stop prisoners being elected to Parliament or serving as MPs; the Representation of the People Act 1981, rushed through Parliament by the Thatcher government after Sands’ election, only disqualifies from Parliament persons who are or should be serving a prison sentence of one year or more. The Onasanya case raises an issue which needs to be looked at by Parliament sooner rather than later: if somebody sentenced to three months in prison is not fit to be a councillor, why are they fit to be an MP? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

In those halcyon days when we had a strong and stable government running the country, there was an answer to this. The Recall of MPs Act 2015, one of the last pieces of legislation passed by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, introduced a system of recall petitions for MPs who passed some kind of misdemeanour threshold. We have already had one such petition, after the DUP MP Ian Paisley junior was suspended from Parliament for 30 days for not declaring visits to Sri Lanka paid for by that country’s government. The North Antrim recall petition failed to reach the target of being signed by 10% of his North Antrim electors, and Baby Doc remained as an MP.

Incidentally, your columnist has just come back from a week playing music with a military band in Northern Ireland. (Which is why this has had to be written in one day. Sorry if it reads like that.) One of our engagements was in Baby Doc’s North Antrim constituency, providing a music lesson/performance for the children of Bushmills Primary School. It was great fun and a good time was had by all. I hope that the children of Bushmills were inspired by our performance to take up a musical instrument.

While I’m on the subject of Northern Ireland it may be worth pointing out that residents of Great Britain would do well not to label its politics as peculiar. On my visit to Bushmills Primary School, there was a lamppost outside with a poster attached to it, that poster bearing a large portrait of and advocating a first preference vote for Jim Allister. The leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, a DUP splinter group which believes that the party sold out in going into government with Sinn Féin, Allister was runner-up in Northern Ireland’s European Parliament election two weeks ago and is a member of the Dormant Assembly and former MEP. Like Great Britain, Northern Ireland has severe political problems: like Great Britain, there is a sovereignty issue which dominates political debate above all else; like Great Britain, the province’s traditional political parties are being marginalised at election time by forces (like Allister’s) on the more intransigent sides of that debate; like Great Britain, the province’s government has effectively failed to function for over two years; like Great Britain, nobody appears to be in the mood to make the compromises necessary to get out of the mess and move forward.

Unlike Great Britain, in Northern Ireland all of this is bound up in the sectarian conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism. This war of religion has been going on for centuries, and in its earliest forms in the UK can be traced back to a row over one woman: Catherine of Aragon. Catherine had a luckless life. She was brought to England as a child from sunny Iberia as a bride for Arthur, Prince of Wales, son and heir of Henry VII. Had Arthur lived, history may have been very different; but he died in Ludlow five months after their wedding and Catherine found herself a 16-year-old widow. Worse was to come, as Catherine stayed on in England and subsequently married Arthur’s idiot younger brother. They had a daughter together, and then he dumped her for a younger woman; except that the Pope would not grant a divorce. Not getting the answer he wanted from his negotiations with Europe, and not being in the mood to make the compromises necessary to get out of the mess and move forward, Henry VIII chose the No Deal option and formed his own church, the Church of England, for the sole purpose of getting a divorce from Queen Catherine. We are still working through the consequences of that decision today.

Catherine of Aragon died in 1536 and lies in eternal rest in a spectacular building which gave its name to a city and has survived the centuries virtually intact. This building was located at a point where the River Nene enters the low-lying Fens, a rich agricultural area. The Romans had been here, with a major first-century fort at Longthorpe and a distinctive style of pottery called Nene Valley Ware, but the original church was founded in 655 by Peada of Mercia, king of the Middle Angles in a location called Medeshamstede. In the tenth century the church was fortified, creating a burgh – the Old English ward for a fortified place. There are lots of burghs around so disambiguation was needed: the patron saint of the church, St Peter, was added to the name, and “Peterborough” was born.

The modern Peterborough Cathedral dates from the twelfth century after the previous building was destroyed by fire in 1116. Its size bears witness to what was one of the richest monastic settlements in England, deriving its income from the agriculture of the Fens. As such it was an obvious target in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and Catherine of Aragon’s ex-husband had the abbey shut down five years after her burial; however, religion didn’t stop here as Peterborough Abbey was converted, more or less seamlessly, into a cathedral.

Six years later the city which took its name from Peterborough Cathedral sent members to Parliament for the first time, and no Parliament since then has been without an MP for Peterborough. The city thrived partially thanks to its special legal status; while it was officially part of Northamptonshire it and its hinterland, the Soke of Peterborough, effectively formed a county within a county under its Lord Paramount, the Marquess of Exeter. The Marquess of the day objected to the railways coming to his seat at Stamford, and so Peterborough became a major railway centre instead, as a major junction on the East Coast main line to Scotland. Brickworking – many of London’s bricks came from Peterborough – became a major local industry, and Peterborough also in time became a centre for engine manufacture: by the 1930s Perkins diesel engines was the major local employer.

The city’s representation was reduced from two members to one by the 1885 redistribution, and that election pitted the two former MPs for Peterborough against each other: official Liberal candidate Sydney Buxton and independent Liberal candidate John Wentworth-Fitzwilliam. The fifth son of the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam, John Wentworth-Fitzwilliam had been an MP since winning a by-election in 1878 (when he was in his mid-twenties) and was the last in a long line of Fitzwilliams which had represented Peterborough almost without a break since the restoration of the monarchy. He defeated Buxton by 54% to 46%, a majority of 258 votes, in the first of a long series of close election results in Peterborough.

Like today, 1885 was a time of major political controversy over a sovereignty issue – in this case, Home Rule for Ireland – and Wentworth-Fitzwilliam was one of the MPs who broke away from Gladstone’s Liberal party to form the Liberal Unionists, who allied themselves with the Conservatives in opposition to home rule. This forced an early general election in 1886, at which Wentworth-Fitzwilliam was re-elected under his new Liberal Unionist colours with a slightly increased majority over the Liberals.

John Wentworth-Fitzwilliam died in 1889, aged just 37, after being thrown off his horse. The resulting by-election was a Liberal gain for Alpheus Morton, an architect and surveyor who was also a councilman of the City of London (he represented Farringdon Without ward from 1882 until his death in 1923) and was largely responsible for opening the gardens at Finsbury Circus to the public. He defeated the new Liberal Unionist candidate, Robert Purvis, on an 8% swing with a majority of 251 votes.

Purvis reduced Morton’s majority to 158 in the 1892 general election, and then got the better of Morton in 1895 with a 5% swing delivering a Liberal Unionist gain with a majority of 239 votes. (This wasn’t the end of Morton’s parliamentary career, as he was elected as MP for Sutherland in 1906 and served until 1918.) Robert Purvis was a barrister and supporter of “imperial preference”. He was narrowly re-elected in 1900 in a contest with a new Liberal candidate, brickmaking entrepreneur and former Spalding MP Halley Stewart, and was knighted in 1905.

Sir Robert Purvis was swept away in the Liberal landslide of 1906 by George Greenwood. One of the select band of MPs to have played first-class cricket (he represented Hampshire in a heavy defeat to Kent, scoring one run in each innings), Greenwood was a barrister and writer who had previously fought Peterborough in the 1886 election. In parliament he supported animal protection measures and independence for India, and served on the RSPCA council; at the same time he was also deeply involved in the Shakespeare authorship controversy, publishing several books which advocated the view that Shakespeare had not written the plays attributed to him (although Greenwood never named another author).

After Purvis unsuccessfully tried to get his seat back in the January 1910 election, the opposition to the Liberals in Peterborough passed from the Liberal Unionists to their allies, the Conservatives. Henry Lygon was selected for the Tories, reducing Greenwood’s majority to 303 votes. A son of the 6th Earl Beauchamp, Lygon was the half-brother of Lady Mary Trefusis (née Lygon), who was a friend of the composer Edward Elgar and is generally thought to be the subject of his thirteenth and penultimate Enigma variation.

At this time the Peterborough constituency was tightly drawn around the core of the city itself, and the Soke was part of the rural constituency of North Northamptonshire. The list of North Northamptonshire’s MPs is even more dominated by the local aristocrats. Brownlow Cecil, Lord Burghley, represented the seat from 1877 until he inherited the title of Marquess of Exeter in 1895, and at the general election of that year Edward Monckton was elected unopposed to replace him.

Monckton retired in 1900 and was replaced by Sackville Stopford-Sackville, who returned as MP for North Northants twenty years after losing his seat in the 1880 election; he was the great-grandson of George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville, whose monstrous incompetence at both political and military matters had contributed to the loss of the American War of Independence. Stopford-Sackville had inherited Germain’s estate at Drayton House.

In the Liberal landslide of 1906 George Nicholls defeated Stopford-Sackville by 685 votes and gained North Northamptonshire for the Liberals. A smallholder and pastor, Nicholls stood for parliament eight times as a Liberal or Labour candidate but this was his only win, as he lost his seat in January 1910 in the Conservatives’ Hanry Brassey. Nicholls later served as Mayor of Peterborough from 1916 to 1918 and was involved in many agricultural and charitable bodies.

Henry Brassey came from a family which had grown rich thanks to the Industrial Revolution; he was a grandson of Thomas Brassey, a noted civil engineer who made a fortune building railways all over the world. At Thomas’ death in 1870 his estate was valued at £5.2 million; some of that fortune must have come the way of Henry Brassey, who bought the Jacobean Apethorpe Hall from the Earl of Westmoreland in 1904. Brassey was still young enough to serve in the First World War, fighting in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and the West Kent Yeomanry and reaching the rank of Major.

The 1918 redistribution effectively merged the North Northamptonshire and Peterborough constituencies, to create a new Peterborough constituency which covered the whole of the Soke and adjacent parts of Northamptonshire (including Oundle). The Peterborough MP George Greenwood was by this time suffering from rheumatism and decided to retire, and Henry Brassey fought and won the new Peterborough constituency as a Conservative candidate with the coupon. He was, however, run close by the first Labour candidate for the area, John Mansfield. Mansfield was a trade unionist with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and later served as Mayor of Peterborough; a school in the city was later named after him. Brassey and Mansfield fought three more elections against each other, with larger Tory majorities on those occasions.

In 1929 Labour broke through in Peterborough, with Frank Horrabin defeating Brassey by 525 votes. Horrabin was a cartoonist and journalist who had co-written socialist books such as Working Class Education and The Workers History of the General Strike. His tenure as MP for Peterborough was brief, as the Macdonald government fell apart, and the Peterborough constituency swung a mile to the Conservatives in 1931.

The new MP for Peterborough was one of those people whose biographies seem unbelievable. David Cecil, Lord Burghley, was a gifted athlete who three years earlier had won the gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam; he also won three gold medals (in the hurdling events and the 4 x 440 yards relay) at the inaugural Commonwealth Games, held in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario. Burghley was also the first athlete to complete the Great Court Run, successfully sprinting 367 metres around the Great Court at Trinity College, Cambridge in the time it takes the college’s clock to strike 12 o’clock. The character of Lord Andrew Lindsay in Chariots of Fire was partially based on him.

Lord Burghley may have been an MP, but his athletics career was nor yet over and he was given a leave of absence from the Commons in 1932 to compete in the first Los Angeles Olympics, finishing fourth in the 400 metres hurdles and winning a silver medal as part of the 4 x 400 metres relay team. The following year he became a member of the International Olympic Committee, and in 1936 he as elected chairman of the British Olympic Association.

Burghley resigned from the Commons in 1943 to take up the post of Governor of Bermuda, giving him a curious distinction: he was the last MP for Peterborough to leave at a time of his own choosing. After the Second World War was over Burghley served for thirty years as president of the athletics governing body, the IAAF, and at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics he presented the medals to Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the ceremony which saw the “Black Power” salute. (Burghley is wearing red in the picture below.) By this time he had succeeded to his father’s titles, becoming the 6th Marquess of Exeter.

The Peterborough by-election of October 1943 took place during the wartime political truce but was nonetheless closely contested; Samuel Bennett, who had been selected as the prospective Labour candidate for the anticipated 1939 or 1940 general election, stood as an Independent Labour candidate. Bennett finished close behind the new Conservative candidate John Hely-Hutchinson, Viscount Suirdale.

Hely-Hutchinson was cut from a similar aristocratic stock to Burghley; he was the heir to the Earl of Donoughmore, and in 1948 succeeded to his father’s titles as the 7th Earl. In the Lords he became a prominent Freemason and colonel in the TA, and was kidnapped in 1974 by the IRA who held him for a week as a political hostage. He was also related to the composer Victor Hely-Hutchinson, who was appointed as the BBC’s Director of Music in 1944; both of them were descended from the 4th Earl of Donoughmore. Victor clearly didn’t end up with the family fortune, as he died during the notoriously cold winter of 1947 after refusing to spend licence fee payers’ money on heating his BBC office. Talking of bleak midwinter, this may be a good time to point out that there are only 201 shopping days until Christmas.

Hely-Hutchinson’s succession to the peerage didn’t cause a by-election, as he had lost his seat by 571 votes in the Attlee landslide of 1945. The new Labour MP for Peterborough was Stanley Tiffany, an electrical engineer and Yorkshireman who was a director of the local Co-operative Society.

Tiffany lost his seat in the 1950 election in the first of a series of nailbiting wins for the Conservative MP Harmar Nicholls. A non-practising barrister and chairman of Darlaston urban district council in the Black Country, Nicholls had fought with the Royal Engineers in India and Burma before demobilisation and fought Nelson and Colne in the 1945 general election and Preston in a 1946 by-election. He defeated Stanley Tiffany by 144 votes, increasing his majority to 373 in the 1951 general election.

Nicholls’ majorities then increased to more comfortable levels through the rest of the 1950s; his biggest win came in the Macmillan landslide of 1959 when the Labour candidate was a very young Betty Boothroyd. He was created a baronet in 1960. However, Sir Harmar’s win in the 1966 general election has gone down in the record books: after seven recounts (a figure never surpassed before or since) Sir Harmar was declared the winner over Labour candidate Michael Ward by 23,944 votes to 23,941, a majority of three votes. Don’t let anybody ever tell you your vote never changed anything.

That was the first of four faceoffs between Sir Harmar and Ward. There was another photofinish in February 1974, in which the Pizza Express entrepreneur and prominent local businessman Peter Boizot was the Liberal candidate; Sir Harmar held on on that occasion by 22 votes, but his luck finally ran out in October 1974 when Michael Ward won the seat with a majority of 1,848. That wasn’t the end of Sir Harmar Nicholls’ political career; he was translated to the Lords as Lord Harmar-Nicholls and later served as MEP for Greater Manchester South from 1979 to 1984. His daughter, Sue Nicholls, is famous to millions: she has played Audrey Roberts on Coronation Street since 1985.

During Sir Harmar Nicholls’ tenure as MP for Peterborough the city saw major changes. There was a large influx of immigrants from Italy during the 1950s, many of the Italians finding jobs at the brickworks. The area also saw two bouts of local government reorganisation, with the Soke merging with Huntingdonshire in 1965 to form a new county of “Huntingdon and Peterborough” which was itself absorbed into Cambridgeshire nine years later. The current Peterborough city council dates from 1974 and became a unitary council in the 1990s; as well as all of the old Soke, it includes Peterborough suburbs to the south such as Fletton which were formerly in Huntingdonshire, together with the fenland around Thorney which until 1965 was part of the Isle of Ely. Peterborough was designated as a New Town in 1967 and its population has grown strongly ever since; however, many of the New Town areas were south of the Nene and thus part of the Huntingdonshire constituency until 1983.

Michael Ward was the third Labour MP for Peterborough. A PR firm director, he had been a Havering councillor in east London and local government advisor. Like Frank Horrabin and Stanley Tiffany before him, he did not achieve re-election, as the Conservatives recovered the constituency in 1979.

The new Tory MP was Brian Mawhinney, an Ulsterman who had lectured on radiation in medicine before entering politics. During the Thatcher years Mawhinney slowly worked his way up the ministerial greasy pole, finally entering Cabinet in the accident-prone later years of the Major administration where he was first Transport Secretary and later Conservative Party Chairman/Minister without Portfolio. Mawhinney had large majorities during this period; in 1987 he saw off Andrew Mackinlay, the future Labour MP for Thurrock, by almost 10,000 votes.

There were major boundary changes for the 1997 election which pretty much created the Peterborough seat we have today. Strong population growth in Peterborough and the neighbouring Huntingdon constituency led to the Boundary Commission creating a brand-new seat of North West Cambridgeshire which took in the city’s wards south of the River Nene. This was correctly projected to be a safe Conservative seat, and Brian Mawhinney was re-elected there in 1997, leaving the revised Peterborough as an open seat.

In the Blair landslide teacher Helen Brinton was elected as the fourth Labour MP for Peterborough, defeating the Tories’ Jacqueline Foster (who later served as an MEP for the North West from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2009 to 2019) and the Lib Dems’ David Howarth (who went on to serve as MP for Cambridge from 2005 to 2010). In 2001 Brinton became the first and so far only Labour MP for Peterborough to be re-elected; later that year she married Alan Clark, a political reporter for the Meridian ITV franchise, and changed her name to Helen Clark. Two years later Clark captained the House of Commons team pictured below on a Professionals series of University Challenge: this rogues’ gallery of MPs lost very badly to a team of journalists which included a young man called Michael Gove. (Whatever happened to him? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.)

Clark lost her seat in 2005 to Conservative candidate Stewart Jackson, a prominent Brexiteer who is planted firmly on the right wing of the party. Jackson had previously stood in Peterborough in 2001; before then he was an Ealing councillor from 1990 to 1994, and served half a year as president of the University of London Union before resigning rather than face a confidence motion. In twelve years as an MP Jackson never got above Parliamentary Private Secretary in the ministerial ladder, resigning as PPS in 2011 to vote in favour of an EU referendum. He got back on the ladder in 2016 as PPS to the Brexit secretary David Davis. Jackson rather unexpectedly lost his seat in 2017 to Labour’s Fiona Onasanya, who prevailed by 48% to 47%, a majority of 607 votes; subsequently he became Davis’ special advisor.

Which brings us up to date. The recall petition against Onasanya succeeded, with 19,261 electors or 27.6% of the electorate signing it – far above the 10% threshold required. As a result, Onasanya was unseated and we are having this by-election. This is the first by-election precipitated by a recall petition, but it may not be the last; another petition is open at the moment in the Brecon and Rednorshire constituency, after Tory MP Christopher Davies was fined for submitting false expense claims.

The population of Peterborough has changed very rapidly in recent years thanks to extensive immigration from the post-2001 EU members; in the 2011 census Peterborough’s Central ward was ranked number 5 in England and Wales and Park ward was ranked number 8 for population born in the new EU states. Over 20% of the residents of Central ward (on the 2011 boundaries) had such a place of birth. Many of those people will not have the right to vote in a parliamentary election, where the franchise is restricted to British, Irish and certain Commonwealth citizens. Central ward also had a large Muslim population. The Peterborough district has seen a big population increase, but this has been concentrated in the areas covered by the North West Cambridgeshire constituency whose parliamentary electorate has grown by 23.7% since 2000; the Peterborough constituency’s electorate has actually fallen over that period.

This was one of the councils which the Conservatives lost overall control of in the May 2019 local elections, although the party is still running the city as a minority with the support of the Werrington First group. As can be seen from the map there have been ward boundary changes in Peterborough since the constituency was drawn up; the parts of Central and East wards outside the seat have no population, but the Peterborough constituency only includes half of Fletton and Woodston ward (a strange ward which straddles the Nene) and a small corner of Glinton and Castor. If we include all of Fletton and Woodston but exclude Glinton and Castor, then on 2 May Labour carried the constituency with 33% to 31% for the Conservatives, 14% for the Lib Dems and 8% for UKIP. Those local elections were held on the day after the six-week Onasanya recall petition closed, and since then we have had a European election on 23 May followed by this by-election. Given how busy she has been recently I hope that the Acting Returning Officer for Peterborough has a long holiday booked soon; she deserves it.

It’s exceptionally difficult to map European election results onto parliamentary elections, but since the European elections were only two weeks ago and fresh in the mind we may as well mention it. The Peterborough district as a whole gave 38% to the Brexit Party, 17% to Labour, 15% to the Liberal Democrats and 11% to the Conservatives, who beat the Green Party for fourth place by 31 votes. Figures for this constituency are not available.

Which brings us to this by-election which has a candidate list of 15. Fiona Onasanya was eligible to stand for re-election, but has decided not to do so. Defending for Labour is Lisa Forbes, who fought this seat in 2015 and – as is the case for several candidates in this by-election – was selected before the recall petition had succeeded. The party is almost certainly regretting that decision now, after the Jewish Labour Movement disowned her for anti-Semitism on social media. Ms Forbes is a former Peterborough councillor, serving for Orton Longueville ward (outside this constituency) from 2012 to 2016.

The Conservative candidate is Paul Bristow, a former chairman of the Linford Christie Trust who runs a business “helping charities and patients campaign for greater access to life changing therapies and technologies within the NHS”, according to his website. Bristow is a former Hammersmith and Fulham councillor, and in the 2010 general election he fought Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Third here in 2017 were the Liberal Democrats, who have reselected their candidate Beki Sellick. She is an engineer working in the rail industry. The only other party to stand in 2017 were the Greens; they have selected Joseph Wells, who fought Gunthorpe ward in May and polled 4% of the vote.

The bookies’ favourite however is Mike Greene, a self-made man who in 2011 appeared in the Channel 4 series Secret Millionaire. Since then Greene has raised large amounts of money for charities based in Peterborough. He is the first parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party.

Taking the other ten candidates in ballot paper order, first is Stephen Goldspink who fought this seat in the 1997 general election for the ProLife Alliance, finishing seventh out of seven candidates. Goldspink was subsequently a Peterborough city councillor for ten years, representing East ward for the Conservatives from 2002 to 2012; this times round he has the English Democrats nomination. Howling Laud Hope is the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for the umpteenth time. Pierre Kirk comes hotfoot from the European campaign trail as the candidate of the UK EU Party; two weeks ago he was top of their list in London, polling 0.8%. Andrew Moore is standing as an independent candidate. Standing for the SDP is Patrick O’Flynn, an outgoing MEP for the Eastern region who was elected in 2014 on the UKIP ticket. Two Christian candidates with very similar names appear next to each other on the ballot, Dick Rodgers for Common Good and Tom Rogers for the Christian Peoples Alliance. Independent candidate Bobby Smith, a fathers’ rights activist, will be hoping for more than the three votes he got in the 2017 general election when he stood in the Maidenhead constituency against Theresa May; no doubt he’ll turn up to the count dressed again as Elmo from the Muppets. Peter Ward is the candidate of Renew, a pro-Remain outfit. Completing the ballot paper is a former Peterborough UKIP councillor who lost his seat to the Lib Dems in May, John Whitby.

Picture of Fiona Onasanya’s car speeding from the BBC; picture of the House of Commons University Challenge team from Sean Blanchflower.

Paul Bristow (C)
Lisa Forbes (Lab)
Stephen Goldspink (EDP)
Mike Greene (Brexit Party)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony)
Pierre Kirk (UK EU Party)
Andrew Moore (Ind)
Patrick O’Flynn (SDP)
Dick Rodgers (Common Good)
Tom Rogers (CPA)
Beki Sellick (LD)
Bobby Smith (Ind)
Peter Ward (Renew)
Joseph Wells (Grn)
John Whitby (UKIP)

May 2017 result Lab 22950 C 22343 LD 1597 Grn 848
May 2015 result C 18684 Lab 16759 UKIP 7485 LD 1774 Grn 1218 Lib 639 Ind 516
May 2010 result C 18133 Lab 13272 LD 8816 UKIP 3007 EDP 770 Grn 523 Ind 406

Ross North

Herefordshire council; postponed from 2 May following the death of Gareth Williams, who had been nominated as a UK Independence Party candidate.

There are two other elections going on today, both of which should have taken place on 2 May along with the other ordinary elections but were postponed after a candidate died. We start in the beautiful Welsh Marches with a town where the English tourist industry arguably started, with boat trips on the River Wye and views of the Wye Gorge and Black Mountains drawing visitors as early as the eighteenth century. Observations on the River Wye, a 1782 book by William Gilpin, is cited as the UK’s first illustrated tour guide. As well as the tourism, the town of Ross-on-Wye benefits from accessibility: it’s located on the main road from the English Midlands to South Wales, and is the terminus of the curiously-quiet and very picturesque M50 motorway.

Ross North ward was created in 2015 when the number of councillors for Ross-on-Wye was cut from four to three. The only previous result is from the 2015 election when the Conservatives beat the Lib Dems by 53-47 in a straight fight. The Tory councillor, Jenny Hyde, subsequently died in February 2019; as the May 2019 elections were imminent no by-election was held. Going into those ordinary elections the Tories had a majority on Herefordshire council, but their administration was very unpopular and the party crashed and burned in May; a coalition of independents, the Green Party and localist party It’s Our County has taken over.

Four candidates had originally been nominated, but with Gareth Williams’ death and no new candidates coming forward we are down to three. Defending for the Conservatives is Nigel Gibbs, who was Mayor of Ross-on-Wye in 2017-18. The Liberal Democrats have selected another former Mayor of Ross-on-Wye, former Herefordshire councillor Chris Bartrum. Completing the ballot paper is Melvin Hodges for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Hereford and South Herefordshire

Chris Bartrum (LD)
Nigel Gibbs (C)
Melvin Hodges (Lab)

May 2015 result C 833 LD 744

Wombourne South West

South Staffordshire council; postponed from 2 May following the death of outgoing Conservative councillor Mary Bond, who had been nominated for re-election. She had served since 2007.

We finish for the week at the southern end of Staffordshire. Wombourne is described as a large village, although with a population of over 14,000 “town” would be a better description; it’s located just outside the Black Country, four miles to the south-west of Wolverhampton. To some extent Wombourne is a Black Country centre which escaped the urban sprawl; it had a significant nail-making industry in years gone by, and since the Second World War a large number of people have moved here from the West Midlands towns and cities; particularly so in the 1950s when Wolverhampton Corporation built a large council estate in Wombourne. There is still some industry here, with a significant McCain potato processing plant located in the South West ward.

Wombourne is in the constituency of Gavin Williamson, whose brief recent tenure as Defence Secretary was far more lively than the village’s political scene. South Staffordshire is a strongly Conservative local government district and opposition candidates can be hard to find. Wombourne South West ward last went to the polls all the way back in 2007, when the Conservatives won both seats with 59% of the vote and the Lib Dem candidate was runner-up on 25%. Nobody had challenged the two Conservative candidates, Mary Bond and Mike Davies, since then. Further back in 2003 the ward gained some notoriety as Sharron Edwards, a former deputy leader of the British National Party, topped the poll as candidate of the shortlived Freedon Party; she didn’t seek re-election in 2007. The Conservatives also hold the local county division (Wombourne).

This election will be contested. New candidate Vince Merrick remains from the original Conservative slate; he is joined by replacement candidate Mike Davies, the county councillor for Wombourne and district councillor for this ward since 2011. It appears that Davies had originally intended to retire. Claire McIlvenna stands for the Green Party, Pete Stones is the Lib Dem candidate, and the delay to this poll has allowed Labour to nominate a slate of Adam Freeman and Michael Vaughan.

Parliamentary constituency: South Staffordshire
Staffordshire county council division: Wombourne

Mike Davies (C)
Adam Freeman (Lab)
Claire McIlvenna (Grn)
Vince Merrick (C)
Pete Stones (LD)
Michael Vaughan (Lab)

May 2015 result 2 C unopposed
May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
May 2007 result C 633/604 LD 274 Lab 175
May 2003 result Freedom Party 641 C 483/457

Andrew Teale


Preview: 30 May 2019

There is one by-election on 30th May 2019:


Brockhurst

Gosport council, Hampshire; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Austin Hicks who had served since 2014.

So, there was an election last week. Politics might being changing fast at the moment - or not, as the case may be. There could be new and exciting things going on, new parties having their time in the spotlight, ructions going on among the worse-performing parties. Well, your columnist knows nothing of this aftermath: I'm in Northern Ireland at the moment on tour with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Lancashire) Band, and this column was written last week before everything kicked off. Please bear this in mind.

In the week after the biggest electoral event of 2019 (so far), there is just one local by-election. We're in Gosport, the town across the water from Portsmouth which for centuries has been a major naval centre. The Normans first built a castle at Gosport, but the military has been fortifying the town in earnest since the seventeenth century. By 1860 the Gosport Lines - two forts and a series of ditches and bastions - were clearly felt to be inadequate to protect the town from the mainland and so an outer defence line was constructed.

Brockhurst ward is named after Fort Brockhurst, one of the five forts built on this line and now open to the public; however Fort Brockhurst is not within the ward boundary. Instead this ward is to the south of the A32, the main road in and out of town, and includes Fort Rowner - which is still in military use today - and HMS Sultan, an onshore base where the Royal Navy trains its engineers. The Navy is not alone in this, as Network Rail and EDF Energy also have engineering training schemes at HMS Sultan. That has an effect on the ward's census return: Brockhurst is just outside the top 100 wards in the UK for the "lower supervisory, technical" employment category.

Gosport council has been Conservative-controlled for some years, but the Liberal Democrats form a major opposition bloc; going into this by-election the Tories had 18 seats, the Lib Dems 13 plus this vacancy and Labour held the other two seats. This is one of the seven English districts which elects half of its councillors in even-numbered years, so there were no scheduled local elections in Gosport this month.

Brockhurst is one of the most consistent Liberal Democrat wards in the town, the party having won it in every election since 2002 with the exceptions of 2004 and 2010, when the Conservatives won. At the most recent Gosport election in 2018 the Liberal Democrats had 41% of the vote, the Conservatives 35% and Labour 13%, so if the Tories can put aside their recent national disarray they would have a good opportunity to increase their slim council majority. Most of the ward is within the large Leesland and Town division of Hampshire county council, which was safely Conservative in the 2017 elections; however, the north-eastern corner of the ward is included in the Hardway county division which is Lib Dem-held.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Siobhan Mitchell, who was previously elected as councillor for this ward at a double by-election in July 2009, but stood down in 2010. The Tory candidate is Pecs Uluiviti, a native Fijian who served for eight years in the Royal Navy and stayed on in the UK after being medically discharged; he is currently a volunteer with veterans' charities. Labour have selected schoolteacher Kirsty Smillie, who was reported this year to be unhappy at a council decision to abolish a school lollipop man in the ward. Completing a four-strong ballot paper is Simon Bellord, a former Conservative Woking councillor and cabinet member now standing for the British Union and Sovereignty Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Gosport
Hampshire county council division: Leesland and Town (most), Hardway (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth
Postcode districts: PO12, PO13

Simon Bellord (British Union and Sovereignty Party)
Siobhan Mitchell (LD)
Kirsty Smillie (Lab)
Pecs Uluiviti (C)

May 2018 result LD 452 C 381 Lab 144 UKIP 63 Grn 56
May 2016 result LD 639 C 312 Lab 107 Grn 68
May 2014 result LD 415 C 292 UKIP 283 Lab 111 Ind 82
May 2012 result LD 554 C 277 Lab 160
May 2010 result C 918 LD 850 Lab 331 Grn 92
July 2009 double by-election LD 562/523 C 364/339 Grn 131 Lab 60/56
May 2008 result LD 571 C 476 Lab 81 Grn 74
May 2006 result LD 677 C 341 Lab 156 Grn 58
June 2004 result C 681 LD 385 Lab 206
May 2002 result LD 490/473 C 323/314 Lab 306/291


Previews: 23 May 2019

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

It's time to go outside this column's comfort zone of Great Britain and talk about politics over the seas, as our three previews for 23rd May 2019 compare and contrast the largest and smallest elected bodies with remits in the British Isles. Read on...


St Mary's

Isles of Scilly council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Ted Moulson.

We'll rant and we'll roar, like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas;
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly 'tis thirty-five leagues.
- Traditional, Spanish Ladies

Welcome to the second-biggest democratic festival of 2019, only the Indian general election being larger in electorate terms. The ninth European Parliament election takes place this week, staggered over four days across the twenty-eight member states of the European Union. The Netherlands and the UK kick things off today; the Republic of Ireland will poll tomorrow; Saturday is polling day in Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and certain French overseas territories; the Czech Republic will hold two days of voting on Friday and Saturday; and the rest of the continent will take to the polling stations on Sunday. Hundreds of millions of people will be eligible to vote, and their efforts will return 751 members of the European Parliament. Delegations range from six MEPs for the smallest EU member states, to 96 for the largest (Germany).

The UK and Gibraltar, for the moment, gets 73 of these MEPs in an election which has been hastily put together at the last possible moment. And it shows. This is not to mean any disrespect to those hard-working returning officers and administrators who have toiled hard to put this on for your benefit and will do their usual fantastic job; instead the disrespect is aimed at those politicians (on both sides of the Remain-Leave divide) whose failure to reach agreement means that these elections are going ahead in such a rushed fashion.

Mind, this isn't the first year that there have been shenanigans in Parliament affecting European Parliament elections. The Act which brought in proportional representation for the 1999 election was one of only seven pieces of legislation ever passed under the Parliament Acts, in which the Commons overrode the Lords' objections. That 1999 election introduced the system of twelve regional constituencies whose boundaries remain unmodified today. The UK's delegation of MEPs has shrunk over the years as a result of EU enlargement, but this has been achieved by simply changing the number of seats elected by each region rather than by having a disruptive boundary review. The North East and Northern Ireland are the smallest constituencies, electing three MEPs each; the South East is the largest, with ten seats up for election.

The 1999 election was also marked by low voter turnout which rather worried the Labour government of the day. Its response for the following election in 2004 was to improve turnout by delaying the local elections to June so that they took place on Euro-election day, and also to introduce all-postal voting in several English regions in a pilot scheme that was not repeated. The 2009 and 2014 local elections were also delayed to coincide with European Parliament elections, but this year's local elections were not; and that's because of the last-minute nature of the organisation of this poll. By the time it became clear that the European elections would be going ahead, preparations for the local elections were too far advanced to allow a general postponement.

We can also see the effects of this procrastination in the list of local by-elections today. Local by-elections cost money and money is something which local government doesn't have an awful lot of, so piggybacking a local by-election onto a general or European election is normally an opportunity that's too good to miss. A combined poll helps the returning officer keep costs down, and helps the local parties by driving up turnout for the by-election. In ordinary times a big nationwide poll would have dozens of local by-elections combined with it; but not this one. There were just four local elections organised today. One of those is not a by-election at all but is our first piece of unfinished business from the ordinary local elections three weeks ago, and another is not taking place because only candidate stood. Llongyfarchiadau and congratulations to Gareth Tudor Morris Jones, newly elected unopposed to Gwynedd council as Plaid Cymru councillor for Morfa Nefyn, a tiny beach resort on the Llŷn.

That leaves just three polls on the undercard of the 2019 European elections, and a word is in order about how we're going to get the results this week. The local by-elections will come through on Thursday night or Friday morning in the usual fashion, and they will have a very different complexion to the European results by dint of having a shorter ballot paper. We are yet to see an official Brexit Party or Change UK candidate in a local government election. The European result declarations can't start until the rest of the continent has finished voting on Sunday evening (although the Netherlands usually ignores that rule and counts straight away...), and so counting in Great Britain and Gibraltar will start early on Sunday evening with two exceptions. One is the Western Isles, because the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar isn't interested in breaking the Sabbath for something as important as an election count; they will phone their votes in to the returning officer for Scotland on Monday morning and allow Scotland to declare its result then. The other is Northern Ireland, which will start counting at 8am on Bank Holiday Monday morning and finish when it finishes. (I wonder if the Chief Electoral Officer will be paying bank holiday rates to the count staff?) Otherwise, as usual, the European results will come in bit by bit from the UK's 400 or so local government districts.

The smallest of those European election counts, with comfortably under 2,000 electors on the roll, will be that taking place on the Isles of Scilly. Yes, I promised you politics over the seas, didn't I? There are certainly worse places to be: the Isles are the warmest part of the UK with a climate bordering on the subtropical. Agriculture - particularly cut flowers, which bloom earlier in the season here than in the rest of the British Isles - was a traditional mainstay of the local economy, but there is now a hard dependence on tourism and administration; a tenth of the islands' adult population are either Scilly councillors or employed by the council, and most of the rest cater to tourists. If the Scilly Isles were a ward, they would make the top 40 wards in England and Wales for self-employment. There is a lot here for the tourists: the weather as already mentioned, some outstanding birdwatching, and for the politically-inclined the chance to pay your respects at the grave of the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson liked the Scilly Isles; he had a holiday home on St Mary's and is buried in the Old Town churchyard. Following the death of his widow Mary last year, Wilson's Scilly home went on the market a couple of months back; if you have £425,000 in your back pocket, it could be yours (link).

The islands have a unique and rather complicated legal status, perhaps best illustrated by the only slightly tongue-in-cheek Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War. This goes back to the middle of the seventeenth century, when Cornwall was a stronghold of the Royalist side in the Civil War. The Royalist fleet had based itself in the archipelago after being driven out of the Cornish ports, and was having a good time raiding the Dutch navy (which was in alliance with the Roundheads); eventually the Dutch Lt-Admiral Maarten Tromp lost patience with this and turned up in the Scilly Isles in 1651 demanding reparations. Not getting the answer he wanted, Tromp emulated his modern-day near-namesake by declaring war - specifically on the Isles of Scilly. This war was essentially resolved within a month without a shot being fired thanks to the Royalist Navy's surrender to the Parliamentarians; but no treaty was signed at the time, and it was not until 1986 that the Dutch ambassador turned up on the islands to formally declare peace between Holland and Scillonia.

However, the Scilly Isles were the scene of a serious loss for the Royal Navy in 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, when a fleet on its way home from raiding Toulon was wrecked after mistaking Scilly for Ushant. Only 35 leagues wrong, but that error led to the loss of four ships and at least 1,400 sailors. Numbered among the dead was Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the MP for Rochester and one of the most senior commanders in the Royal Navy. The Scilly naval disaster was cited a few years later in the Parliamentary debates on the Longitude Act, which offered large financial rewards for an answer to the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War is not the only legal or administrative oddity arising from the archipelago's remoteness and small population. Income tax did not apply here until 1954; road tax was first levied in 1971; the island's vehicles are still exempt from the MoT test. Although there are no full-time firefighters, the Isles have their own independent fire brigade staffed entirely by retained firefighters. The local sixth-form pupils get free travel to and a grant towards accommodation on the mainland, there being no sixth-form college here; presumably this is by special arrangement with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which has held a monopoly on travel to the islands since the helicopter link to Penzance was withdrawn in 2012. The Steamship Company's passenger ferry, Scillonian III, is one of only three ships in the world which still carry the title of Royal Mail ship; the other two are the Segwun, a nineteenth-century steamship navigating the lakes of northern Ontario in Canada, and the modern ocean liner Queen Mary 2.

The Isles of Scilly Council is an oddity in itself, a democratic body like no other within the remit of Andrew's Previews. It was created in 1890 as the Isles of Scilly Rural District Council, but despite that name has always had a sui generis unitary status independent of Cornwall county council. The council was left untouched by the Heath local government reforms and the 2009 Cornish local government reorganisation, and has never had a ward boundary change. In fact the Isles of Scilly doesn't have wards at all: instead its five parishes (corresponding to the five inhabited islands) serve as its electoral districts. As of 2013 St Mary's elected thirteen councillors and Bryher, St Agnes, St Martin's and Tresco returned two each. At least, that was the theory; however in the 2013 election only one candidate stood for Bryher, and nobody ever called a by-election to fill the vacant second seat. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England took a look at the Isles in advance of the 2017 election, and cut the council's membership from 21 to 16 councillors; the island/parish of St Mary's continues to form a single electoral district, electing 12 councillors. Given that the LGBCE never ordinarily draws wards with more than three councillors, you can see that the islands are very much an exceptional case.

The 2014 European elections saw UKIP carry the Isles of Scilly with 150 votes, equating to 28% of the total; the Conservatives had 26%, the Green Party 16% and the Lib Dems 15%. However, this won't have much bearing on the council by-election as Scilly local elections are non-partisan. It's rather fitting that a district with the population of a medium-sized parish should have politics to match those of a medium-sized parish.

In the 2017 Isles of Scilly election eighteen candidates contested the twelve seats on St Mary's (a nineteenth candidate withdrew). Robert Francis topped the poll with 576 votes; Ted Moulson was elected in sixth place with 481 votes; and Stephen Sims (who had topped the poll in the 2013 election) won the twelfth and final seat on 376 votes, ahead of Amanda Martin who polled 321 and lost her seat. There wasn't much love for Thomas Mitchell who finished last by a very long way after giving a home address in Northolt, west London; one wonders what his qualification for office would have been. Moulson became chairman of the council following the 2017 election, but was challenged for the position a year later and lost to Francis. Ted Moulson is standing down for personal reasons which have left him struggling to get to council meetings.

So we have this by-election, in which three-quarters of the Isles of Scilly's electors will be eligible to vote. There are four candidates whom I shall take in alphabetical order. Former councillor Andrew Coombes was the only candidate in this by-election who contested the 2017 Scilly elections; he finished seventeenth in St Mary's, polling 250 votes. Tim Dean is a shuttle bus driver. Jeanette Ware is a manager at the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. Completing the ballot paper is another former Isles of Scilly councillor, Steve Whomersley.

Parliamentary constituency: St Ives
ONS Travel to Work Area: Penzance
Postcode district: TR21

Andrew Coombes (Ind)
Tim Dean (Ind)
Jennifer Ware (Ind)
Steve Whomersley (Ind)


St Osyth

Tendring council, Essex; postponed from 2nd May due to the death of Anita Bailey, who had been nominated as a Conservative candidate.

We now come to our first piece of unfinished business from the 2nd May 2019 local elections. There were seven wards in England this year where a candidate died between close of nominations and polling day. In this situation what happens is that the poll is called off, nominations are reopened (previously-nominated candidates don't have to fill in a new form) and a new polling day is set by the returning officer.

St Osyth is an Essex village to the west of Clacton with an old history. The name refers to a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon saint called Osgyth, who was married to King Sighere of Essex against her wishes before separating from him and establishing a convent at a village then called Chich. Legend has it that St Osgyth was beheaded by some pirates raiding the area, and she is normally depicted carrying her own head. The nunnery fell into disuse, but in the early twelfth century an Augustinian priory was founded on its site and some of its buildings still exist today. Channel 4's Time Team were here in the summer of 2004 investigating the early history of the village, but didn't find much that was ritual, ceremonial or sacrificial.

If the Scilly Isles have the warmest climate in the UK, St Osyth claims to be the country's driest location with average rainfall of around 20 inches per year. Despite that there's plenty of water around, as the parish lies on a peninsula to the west of Clacton-on-Sea. Here can be found the villages of Point Clear and Lee-over-Sands together with a very large number of static caravans and a couple of preserved Martello towers. Those towers could have provided some inspiration for Somerset de Chair, the father-in-law of Jacob Rees-Mogg and a Tory MP during the Second World War; after leaving Parliament de Chair owned St Osyth's Priory for four decades until he died in 1995, and edited the English translations of Napoleon's memoirs.

Somerset de Chair might look at the modern election results for this area with some bemusement. This ward is part of the Clacton parliamentary seat which until a couple of years ago was the political home of Douglas Carswell, the only MP ever to be elected and re-elected as a UK candidate. Carswell's UKIP had done very well on his coat-tails to become the second-largest party on the local Tendring council in 2015 before the inevitable split, and this column was expecting the retreat of the UKIP tide to result in a reasserted Tendring Conservative majority in May. That didn't happen; the May 2019 local elections were instead marked by big gains for independents and localist parties, and Tendring has often had large caucuses for both of these groups in the past. The 2019 Tendring election ha so far returned 16 Conservative councillors, 9 independents, seven localists from two different parties, 6 Labour councillors, 5 UKIPpers, two Lib Dems and one seat for the Foundation Party (no, me neither). This poll will complete the picture by electing the final two councillors. With 25 seats needed for a majority, there is clearly a lot of work to do to put an administration together before the council's AGM next week.

There were boundary changes for the 2019 Tendring election which created this ward, but it is essentially the former ward of St Osyth and Point Clear plus a small part of Clacton to the north of St John's Road; this was added to make up the numbers, the ward being rather undersized. The old St Osyth and Point Clear ward went back all the way to the founding electoral arrangements of Tendring district in 1974, and its previous election results were all over the place: over the years it elected members of all three main parties, although not that many Conservatives. The Liberal/SDP Alliance won the two St Osyth seats in 1983, before losing one seat in 1987 to Conservative candidate Carlo de Chair, son of Somerset. (Carlo de Chair subsequently fought a European Parliament election, turning up in 2009 in fourth place on the Eastern list of Libertas, a short-lived pro-EU party which polled 0.6% of the vote in the Eastern region; he wasn't elected.) The Liberal Democrats (as they were by now) regained de Chair's seat in 1991, but then lost the ward to Labour in 1995.

The Labour slate in St Osyth and Point Clear was defeated in 1999 by independent candidates Michael Talbot and John White, who have been re-elected at every election since with the exception of 2007 (when White lost his seat to the Conservatives by one vote). The 2015 election re-elected Talbot and White by a score of 54-29 over the Conservatives. For Essex county council purposes the ward is part of the Brightlingsea county division, which the Tories gained from UKIP in the 2017 county elections.

Talbot and White are both standing for re-election in this slightly redrawn ward. Also seeking re-election, albeit not in his previous ward, is Mick Skeels senior who had previously sat for St Johns ward in Clacton; Skeels was first elected there in a 2014 by-election for the Conservatives, but then defected to UKIP under whose banner he was re-elected in 2015. It would appear that he is back in the Tory fold now, and were he to win this election there would be all sorts of scope for confusion as his son, Mick Skeels junior, is already a Tendring Conservative councillor (for Burrsville ward). Following Anita Bailey's death the replacement Conservative candidate is Mick senior's wife Dawn, herself a former Tendring councillor (Little Clacton and Weeley ward, 2011-15, having defeated her husband in the 2011 election). Completing the ballot paper is the ward's regular Labour candidate, and councillor for this ward from 1995 to 1999, Tracy Osben.

Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Brightlingsea
ONS Travel to Work Area: Clacton
Postcode districts: CO7, CO16

Tracy Osben (Lab)
Dawn Skeels (C)
Mick Skeels (C)
Michael Talbot (Ind)
John White (Ind)

No previous results on these boundaries


Resolven

Neath Port Talbot council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of Labour councillor Des Davies. A veteran of local government, Davies had started his career in public office in 1981 when he was elected to West Glamorgan county council, and he had been a member of Neath Port Talbot council continuously since its creation in the 1996 reorganisation. At the time of his death he was Neath Port Talbot's cabinet member for community safety and public protection.

We finish in the Vale of Neath, one of the industrial South Wales Valleys which will be familiar to many as the western end of the Heads of the Valleys Road. Halfway up the Vale of Neath lies the small village of Resolven, which was one of the many villages in south Wales called into existence by coalmining. The mines are long gone now, but the hills draw visitors; within the division boundary is the beauty spot of Melincourt Falls, an 80-foot high waterfall which was painted by Turner. Also within these wooded hills, on occasion, can be heard the sound of car engines; Resolven was formerly the home of one of the most challenging stages of the Wales Rally GB. The division's census return sneaks into the top 100 wards in England and Wales for White British population and those born in the UK.

Des Davies had represented this division since the modern Neath Port Talbot council was created in 1996. He had easily defeated both outgoing Neath district councillors for the old ward in the inaugural 1995 election, with Dennis Williams coming a distant second as an Independent Labour candidate and Plaid Cymru's David Trefor Jones third. Subsequent elections were normally just as easy for Davies, but he was run close for his final re-election in May 2017: in that year Davies polled 41% of the vote against 35% for independent candidate Darren Bromham-Nichols and 24% for Plaid Cymru (David Trefor Jones, again). Labour have not performed impressively in recent by-elections in the Valleys, so this is one to watch.

Defending for Labour is (Mark) Neal Francis, a Resolven community councillor and trustee of Resolven Library. Francis was the subject of a question in Parliament in 2015, after being told he would have to give up his Motability car following a benefits assessment; the car was subsequently reinstated. There is a new independent candidate, Dean Lewis who lives in Resolven asd is a trustee of the local Miners Welfare club. Plaid Cymru have selected Andrew Hippsley, a community councillor from further up the valley in Cwmgwrach. Also standing are Jonathan Jones for the Conservatives and Sheila Kingston-Jones for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Neath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea
Postcode district: SA11

Neal Francis (Lab)
Jonathan Jones (C)
Sheila Kingston-Jones (LD)
Andrew Hippsley (PC)
Dean Lewis (Ind)

May 2017 result Lab 461 Ind 388 PC 265
May 2012 result Lab 729 PC 278
May 2008 result Lab 611 PC 469
June 2004 result Lab 729 PC 297
May 1999 result Lab 850 PC 411
May 1995 result Lab 874 Ind Lab 334 PC 278
May 1991 Neath council result Lab 877/535 PC 650 Ind 426
May 1987 Neath council result 2 Lab unopposed
May 1983 Neath council result Lab 906/890 SDP 418


Previews: 09 May 2019

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

The ordinary local elections are over for another year. Thanks to all those who read and who commented on the preview and retrospective pieces which I wrote; you might not agree with all of it but disagreement is what politics is all about. There are some errors which have been pointed out to me which I shall note here for the record. The Yorkshire Party have sent a message from the wrong side of the Pennines pointing out that they won four seats in Selby district, not one as I had said; and congratulations to them for that. Newly-elected Guildford councillor George Potter also writes to point out that the independents in Guildford were elected on multiple tickets and the Lib Dems are the largest single group on the new Guildford council.

We're back to the normal diet of local by-elections now, and there are two by-elections on 9th May 2019 in areas which did not go to the polls last week. Read on...

Cranham

Havering council, London; caused by the death of councillor Clarence Barrett at the age of 61, after suffering a heart attack during a meeting at Havering town hall. A former Havering cabinet member for finance, Barrett was the leader of the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association group on the council and was also treasurer of the independent group on the Local Government Association. He had served on Havering council since 2006.

One of the reasons I write this column is for quiz revision. Sometimes it works. Having noted that this Cranham ward vacancy was coming up, last month your columnist was in Edinburgh playing at "Scotbowl", a day-long tournament of quizzes on University Challenge rules. Our second game (of nine in total; we won six and lost three) was against a strong team of Edinburgh University students who included the captain of their recent UC winning team, Max Fitz-James. Going into the final starter question we were twenty points down, meaning that in order to win we needed to pick up the starter and all three bonuses.

This was the starter:

Which company spun off EOG Resources, which now has a market capitalisation of $57 billion, in 1999? For six years in a row between 1995 and 2000 Fortune magazine named it as America's Most Innovative Company, and it also won an Ig Nobel Prize for adapting "the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world"-

-which was enough for me to buzz in the right answer. That gave us the following bonuses on 20th-century English composers and hymns:

1. Which lifelong agnostic was the musical editor of the 1905 English Hymnal? In it he arranged the folk tunes Dives and Lazarus and the Ploughboy's Dream for the hymns I heard the voice of Jesus and O Little Town of Bethlehem respectively.

2. [The answer to question 1] also commissioned other composers to write hymn tunes, including Gustav Holst, who penned Cranham for which Christina Rosetti Christmas carol?

3. Based on the poem The Brewing of the Soma by the Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier, which hymn claims that God is found "not in the earthquake, wind or fire" but in the "still, small voice of calm"? It's often set to an aria from the oratorio Judith by Hubert Parry, a teacher of [the answer to question 1].

Yes, we got all of them and won the game by five points, 200 to 195. Let me tell you, writing this column works as quiz revision; and one reason for this is that the UK is, on the whole, lucky to have descriptive and imaginative ward and constituency names. Not for us the American or French "34th district of California" or "cinqième circonscription du Rhône"; here in the UK we have wards and constituencies named after cities, towns, villages, islands, hills, rivers, roads, parks, churches, bridges, buildings past or present, administrative units of the present day, administrative units that were abolished decades or centuries ago, notable families, famous people, even works of art, literature or music. I could go on; the list of things which have inspired ward names is almost endless.

And every one of those names is a hook on which you can hang a fact for future use, like the fact that Gustav Holst wrote a tune with the name "Cranham" for a Christmas carol. He was probably thinking of the Gloucestershire village of that name; but there is more than one Cranham in the UK and the one with a ward named after it is in Greater London.

This particular Cranham is at the point where London ends and Essex begins, one of the last parts of London before you hit the Green Belt. Cranham is an Anglo-Saxon name and the village was recorded in the Domesday Book, but most of the modern Cranham ward's housing dates from the 1950s when families bombed out of the East End were rehoused. Demographically this is one of the parts of London most like the rest of the UK, with a low non-white population by London standards and high levels of owner-occupation. In the 2011 census Cranham ward made the top 15 wards in England and Wales for the "intermediate" employment category, with financial and insurance jobs forming a major part of the local economy; most of those people will commute into Canary Wharf and the City along the railway and Underground lines from Upminster station, which lies on the ward's southern boundary and is the eastern terminus of the District Line.

Greater London wasn't part of last week's local elections, which saw big gains for independent candidates, localist parties and Residents Associations. We'll continue that theme here as the London Borough of Havering, which Cranham is a part of, is the only London Borough with a strong Residents' Association presence; and throughout this century Cranham ward has voted strongly for the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association slate. The most recent London borough elections were in 2018, when the Residents polled 59% here with the Conservative slate a poor second on 20%. Without the Residents on the ballot this is a safely Conservative area: in the 2016 London Mayor elections Zac Goldsmith beat Sadiq Khan here 62-16, while in the London Members ballot the Tories polled 48%, to 19% for UKIP and 14% for Labour.

Not that that's particularly relevant for this by-election, as the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association are defending their seat. Their candidate is Linda van den Hende, who was previously a Havering councillor for the neighbouring Upminster ward from 2006 to 2018 and was Mayor of Havering in 2017-18. The Conservatives have selected Ben Sewell, who is 20 years old and fighting his first election campaign. Also standing are Adam Curtis for Labour, Peter Caton for the Green Party, Ben Buckland for UKIP and Thomas Clarke for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Hornchurch and Upminster
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: RM11, RM14

Ben Buckland (UKIP)
Peter Caton (Grn)
Thomas Clarke (LD)
Adam Curtis (Lab)
Ben Sewell (C)
Linda van den Hende (Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc)

May 2018 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 2932/2817/2502 C 974/769/593 Lab 475/415/287 Grn 325 UKIP 274
May 2014 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 3243/3159/3090 UKIP 1014 C 857 Lab 362/353/338 Grn 343
May 2010 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 4160/4120/3923 C 2202/2085/1993 Lab 635/625/445 UKIP 482 Grn 412 Ind 94
May 2006 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 3109/3023/3014 C 1012/913/838 Lab 378/375/356 Grn 269 Third Way 99/86/75
May 2002 result Upminster and Cranham Res Assoc 4060/4042/4004 C 1048/900/883 Lab 616/615/590 Grn 306

May 2016 GLA result (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 2408 Lab 635 UKIP 357 LD 173 Grn 159 Britain First 70 Women's Equality 37 Respect 23 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 23 BNP 17 One Love 6 Zylinski 6
London Members: C 1910 UKIP 768 Lab 552 Grn 220 LD 187 Britain First 97 Women's Equality 66 Animal Welfare 48 CPA 40 BNP 28 Respect 27 House Party 11


Haddington and Lammermuir

East Lothian council, Scotland; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Brian Small who had served since 2017. He has also left the Conservative party.

From East London we move to East Lothian. Haddington may not look like a major town days but it has a more glorious past. The town has been a burgh since the twelfth century when King David I gave it a royal charter, and it became the fourth-largest town in Scotland; during the Middle Ages only Aberdeen, Roxburgh and Edinburgh had larger populations.

This has been a revolutionary place throughout the centuries. The great Protestant reformers of the early sixteenth century John Mair (also known as Haddingtonus Scotus) and his pupil John Knox were both born in Haddington, and a century later the town was at the centre of the Scottish Agricultural Revolution, with local landowners like John Cockburn working to replace the traditional runrig system of agriculture with better methods. New plants and ploughs were introduced from England, crop rotation became an important technique, fields were enclosed, and Haddington and the surrounding area became a major centre for grain production. Cockburn also had built Scotland's first planned village, Ormiston, to house his workers as part of what became known as the Lowland Clearances.

Not all of the land around Haddington is fertile though. To the south lie the Lammermuir (or Lammermoor) Hills, which may not be particularly high but are steep and difficult to cross; they form a natural barrier between this ward and the border counties to the south. Sheep farming is the main industry in the Lammermuirs now just as it was in the days of St Cuthbert, who was a shepherd up here in his youth. The hills are the setting for Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which shortly after its publication was turned into the ever-popular opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.

https://youtu.be/92jiitUEahg

Haddington once give its name to the county it's at the centre of, but Haddingtonshire is now almost always known as East Lothian. This is politically an unusual area, in that the East Lothian constituency is one of the very few to have returned Labour candidates in all five Scottish Parliament elections to date; since 2007 it has been represented by Iain Gray, who was leader of the Scottish Labour Party from 2008 to 2011. Labour also regained the East Lothian parliamentary seat (which has the same boundaries as the modern council area) in the 2017 general election.

The Haddington and Lammermuir ward was created for the 2007 East Lothian council election and turned in a fragmented result, with the Conservatives topping the poll on just 23% of the vote. This was a PR election so that entitled the Tories to one out of three seats, the other two going to the Lib Dems and the Scottish National Party. In the 2012 election Labour more than doubled their share of the vote to top the poll on 33%, and they gained the Lib Dem seat.

There were boundary changes here for the 2017 election, which brought in Ormiston from the former Fa'side ward and awarded a fourth councillor. That changed the nature of the ward significantly, as Ormiston and its associated villages had been a former coalmining centre. It helped Labour to top the poll in Haddington and Lammermuir in the 2017 local elections, the first on these boundaries; Labour polled 34%, the Conservatives 29% and the SNP 26%, and Labour won two seats with the other parties getting one each. The indefatigable Allan Faulds of Ballot Box Scotland has gone through the preference profile (link), and found that had the 2017 election here been for one seat Labour would have beaten the Conservatives by 57% to 43% in the final count.

So the Tories will be doing well to hold this. Their candidate is Haddington resident Craig Hoy, a former Westminster lobby correspondent and co-founder of an events company based in Hong Kong. Labour have selected Neal Black, who works at Edinburgh College and is vice-chair of the Ormiston community council. Lorraine Glass, who gives an address in Haddington, stands for the SNP. Completing the ballot paper are Stuart Crawford for the Lib Dems and David Sisson for UKIP. A quick reminder that, as this is a Scottish local by-election, the Alternative Vote and Votes at 16 will apply.

Parliamentary constituency: East Lothian
Scottish Parliament constituency: East Lothian
ONS Travel to Work Area: Edinburgh
Postcode districts: EH33, EH34, EH35, EH36, EH37, EH39, EH41, TD11

Neal Black (Lab)
Stuart Crawford (LD)
Lorraine Glass (SNP)
Craig Hoy (C)
David Sissons (UKIP)

May 2017 first preferences Lab 2627 C 2262 SNP 2013 LD 568 Grn 302


And the answers to the quiz questions:

STARTER: Enron

BONUSES: 1. Ralph Vaughan Williams; 2. In the Bleak Midwinter; 3. Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

There are no by-elections next week, so I'll give my typing fingers a rest and this column will return on 23rd May.

Andrew Teale


Preview: 25 Apr 2019

One by-election on 25th April 2019:


Belle Vue

Shropshire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Harry Taylor, who had served since 2017.

There is just one week to go now to the May 2019 ordinary elections, in which 248 councils in England and 11 in Northern Ireland will go to the polls to elect some or all of their councillors. That doesn't cover the whole of England; London and several English councils sit out this round of elections, and of those councils which misses out on the fun this year is Shropshire. Which is why this by-election is being held today.

The Belle Vue division of Shropshire is in the county town of Shrewsbury; this is the south bank of the Severn opposite the town centre, running from the English Bridge along the Belle Vue Road - which was once the main road to Hereford - through the suburb of Coleham. The ward was mostly built up by the early twentieth century, although this can be a bad move when the River Severn is having one of its frequent floods.

At local level this is a long-standing Labour area which had been represented by Labour councillor Mansell Williams before and after the reorganisation of 2009 which created the present Shropshire council. Williams had a large majority over the Conservatives at his final re-election in 2013; he resigned in 2015 and the resuling by-election was held by Labour candidate Amy Liebich very comfortably. Liebich didn't seek re-election in 2017, and Harry Taylor took over the seat.

Taylor has an interesting biography: he worked in journalism and the car industry before entering politics, and served as Mayor of Coleshill in Warwickshire from 2014 to 2015 before moving to Shrewsbury. At the 2017 local elections he held the Shropshire council seat of Belle Vue with 43% of the vote, to 28% for the Liberal Democrats who moved into second place and 24% for the Conservatives. Taylor subsequently became deputy leader of the praish-level Shrewsbury town council and deputy leader of the Labour group on Shropshire council; he combined this with postgraduate study at Liverpool University and with writing a biography of Victor Grayson, and at the end of last year he was appointed as deputy regional director for the Labour Party in the West Midlands.

Harry Taylor leaves behind a ward which looks safe enough for the third Belle Bue Labour candidate in four years. Defending the seat for Labour this time is Kate Halliday, a social worker campaigning on NHS issues. The Liberal Democrats have selected James McLeod. Ross George is the Conservative candidate. Completing the ballot paper are Dave Latham for the Green Party and Bob Oakley for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Shrewsbury and Atcham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Shrewsbury
Postcode district: SY3

Ross George (C)
Kate Halliday (Lab)
Dave Latham (Grn)
James McLeod (LD)
Bob Oakley (UKIP)

May 2017 result Lab 643 LD 423 C 362 Grn 67
Nov 2015 by-election Lab 546 C 282 LD 240 Grn 75
May 2013 result Lab 939 C 289
June 2009 result Lab 797 C 571 Grn 161 LD 117


Previews: 11 Apr 2019

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

There are four by-elections on 11th April 2019, and it's an interesting selection with two cities, some villages and a town. Let's start with the town:


Rosehill with Burnley Wood

Burrnley council, Lancashire; caused by the resignation of Christine White, who was elected as a Liberal Democrat but was sitting for the Burnley and Padiham Independents.

Welcome to this week's by-elections. Please park your car in the car park and join Andrew's Previews on a tour of that corner of the country which seems to be determinedly forgotten by the metropolitan élite, Lancashire. Last week the BBC's flagship Question Time programme was due to be broadcast from Bolton; but at the last minute Auntie Beeb decided to cancel this and find a new venue in South London for the benefit of its panellists. What about the benefit of the audience? Pulling out of the Greatest Town in the Known Universe is a heinous offence in and of itself; but in this time of Brexit (or not, as the case may be) that section of the population which voted to leave were unlikely to be impressed by the decision to switch from a Leave-voting town to a Remain-voting city. A Question Time from Bolton last week would have been a very different programme to the one that eventually went out, and would have been the better for it.

One group which understands the concept that the show must go on is the thinktank Centre for Towns, which last month organised a workshop in the Greatest Town in the Known Universe. All sorts of speakers and academics turned up, some of them even from the south! The subject was, of course towns: their past, their future, their identity, their economics. Provincial towns are very much on the unfashionable side of the great divides of our time - Labour versus Tory, progressive versus conservative, urban versus rural, north versus south, young versus old, harmony versus discord, and of course Leave versus Remain - but it's important to understand towns to know Britain as it is today and as it will be in the future. Apart from anything else, the list of the key marginal constituencies which will decide the next general election (whenever that is) is dominated by English provincial towns. Anybody whose first instinct is to denigrate provincial towns just because they voted to leave the EU those three long years ago needs to put those prejudices away and start thinking and acting in terms that are less insulting.

One of those Leave-voting towns in the north is Burnley, that East Lancashire location where the fish and chips come with red salt, the tipple of choice is Bénédictine with hot water and the accent is distinctively rhotic. Burrnley is typical for Lancashire in that its fortune was made by textiles and coalmining and facilitated by good transport links: the Leeds and Liverpool Canal came here in 1801, and the town's fortunes boomed. One of the effects of this was the development of the Burnley Wood district on moorland to the south-east of the town. Rather cut off from the town centre because of the canal, this was an area of Coronation Streets off the Todmorden Road, terraces to house millworkers. Politics was important here, and back in the day Burnley Wood had both Conservative and Liberal clubs to serve the locals.

Rather different in character is Rosehill, a later, higher-quality and much more upmarket area off the Manchester Road. Different again are Towneley Park and Towneley Hall, for centuries home to and named after the Towneley family. The Towneleys were influential in Lancashire for generations, but their male line died out in 1878 leaving the Hall in the hands of Alice, the dowager Baroness O'Hagan. She eventually sold the Hall and Park to Burnley Corporation. Towneley Hall is now a Grade I listed building, and run by the council as a museum.

Overlooking all this from the moorland above the ward is the Singing Ringing Tree, a sculpture which was built in 2006 as part of the "Panopticon" series of sculptures dotted around the moors of East Lancashire to mark the area's recent renaissance. The Singing Ringing Tree is a series of steel pipes into which holes have been cut, allowing the ever-present wind to play the sculpture like an instrument. It's a discordant noise.

https://youtu.be/dRYlblqXUmk

As can be seen from the video, Burnley was doing discordance long before it became fashionable at the national level. The collapse of the town's textile and coal industries left a void: there is still a lot of manufacturing in Burnley but the sector doesn't employ as many people as it used to. The town's nineteenth-century housing stock declined as well; much of Burnley Wood's terraces were cleared from the 1970s onwards, and house clearance was still going on here in the twenty-first century as part of the controversial Housing Market Renewal Initiative. Anywhere else in the country these houses would have been snapped up, refurbished and put to use; but not in Burnley.

Also in the opening years of this century there were racial tensions going on. Burnley has an Asian population which is not particularly large by Lancashire standards but is almost entirely concentrated in one ward of the town, leaving wards like Rosehill and Burnley Wood as 96% white. Ghettoisation in all but name. The town suffered race riots in 2001, and in the 2003 local elections the British National Party won the most votes and the most seats across Burnley borough. The BNP are no longer a factor in British politics but the radical right-wing vote in Burnley has not gone away: in the 2017 local elections the town's Padiham and Burnley West county division was the only seat in the country to return a UKIP councillor.

Rosehill and Burnley Wood saw the BNP finish second in the 2003 and 2004 polls (on the first occasion just 45 votes behind Labour); but the 2006 local elections marked a decisive shift in the ward's politics, as it suddenly became a Liberal Democrat area. The Lib Dems became strong across the town: they gained the Burnley parliamentary seat (which has the same boundaries as the borough) from Labour in 2010, and despite five years of Coalition their MP Gordon Birtwistle wasn't all that far off holding his seat in 2015. Birtwistle still leads the Lib Dem group on Burnley council.

One suspects that Rosehill and Burnley Wood ward was a major contributor to Birtwistle's 2010 majority. Since 2006 this ward has voted Labour only twice, once in 2012 and later by two votes on the general election turnout in 2015. The Liberal Democrats gained a seat from Labour here in 2016, and in the May 2018 elections held the ward by six votes over Labour, 699 votes to 693. In percentage terms that was a 43-42 lead.

On Lancashire county council this ward is split between two divisions. Rosehill is in the Burnley South West division which was one of only four Lancashire divisions to vote Lib Dem two years ago; but Burnley Wood is bizarrely included in the Burnley Rural division which is based on moorland villages to the east of the town. In 2017 Burnley Rural returned a Conservative county councillor, Cosima Towneley (yes, of the Burnley Towneleys).

But looking at the election results misses one major factor. The Burnley Lib Dems have split, with several of their councillors walking off to form a new group called the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party. This group have not previously contested this area at the ballot box but do have form; they held Gannow ward in Padiham at the 2018 local elections. One of their members was Christine White, who had gained Rosehill and Burnley Wood from Labour in the 2016 local elections as a Lib Dem candidate; she has now resigned from the council, citing abuse and harassment from one of her constituents.

That idiot who thought it was a good idea to abuse, harass and threaten an elected member has ended up costing Burnley council a lot of money and causing a lot of inconvenience for the residents of Rosehill with Burnley Wood. In just three weeks' time this ward will be going to the polls again for the May 2019 local elections. By the time you read this, it may have become clear that there will be another election in Rosehill with Burnley Wood three weeks after that, for the European Parliament. One wonders what effect this will all have on the respective turnouts.

This is the last by-election before May in a council which goes to the polls in May, so everybody will be looking for a good impression. Defending for the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party is Paula Riley, a parish councillor in Cliviger outside the ward and former Burnley councillor; she represented Lanehead ward as an independent from 2002 until losing her seat in 2006. The Lib Dems will want their seat back, and their nominee is the candidate who defeated Riley in Lanehead ward in 2006: he is Peter McCann, a former Mayor of Burnley (2007-08) who had previously stood down from the council in 2014. Labour, who are defending this ward at the ordinary elections in May, have selected Andy Devanney, a Worsthorne with Hurstwood parish councillor. Completing the ballot paper are Phil Chamberlain for the Conservatives (who fought this ward last year, and is also nominated for the ordinary election here in May) and Victoria Alker for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Burnley
Lancashire county council division: Burnley Rural (Burnley Wood), Burnley South West (Rosehill)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burnley
Postcode district: BB11

Victoria Alker (Grn)
Phil Chamberlain (C)
Andy Devanney (Lab)
Peter McCann (LD)
Paula Riley (Burnley and Padiham Ind Party)

May 2018 result LD 699 Lab 693 C 188 Grn 62
May 2016 result LD 625 Lab 587 Grn 112
May 2015 result Lab 878 LD 871 UKIP 550 C 236 Grn 127
May 2014 result LD 970 Lab 541
May 2012 result Lab 725 LD 586 UKIP 151
May 2011 result LD 817 Lab 691 BNP 180
May 2010 result LD 1173 Lab 755 C 460 BNP 338
May 2008 result LD 742 Lab 353 C 316
May 2007 result LD 564 Lab 462 BNP 300 C 264
May 2006 result LD 812 Lab 466 C 339
June 2004 result Lab 694 BNP 443 LD 435 C 332 Ind 252
May 2003 result Lab 679 BNP 634 LD 285 C 255
May 2002 result Lab 1106/1083/1013 Ind 890 BNP 812 C 660 Socialist Alliance 314


Cyfarthfa

Merthyr Tydfil council, Glamorgan; caused by the death of independent councillor Paul Brown. The Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil in 2011-12, Brown was first elected in 2004 as a candidate of the People Before Politics slate; he lost his seat in 2012 but returned to the council in 2017.

For our other non-city by-election this week we are in the south Wales valleys. The Cyfarthfa division has a name which recalls the white heat of the Industrial Revolution: specifically the Cyfarthfa Ironworks. High up in the Taff valley, the Cyfarthfa Ironworks were one of several plants which made the town of Merthyr Tydfil boom. The works themselves were founded in 1765 by Anthony Bacon and William Brownrigg, who leased the mineral rights on the west bank of the Taff and won a contract to supply cannon to the Army and Navy; by the time of the Napoleonic Wars this ware the largest ironworks in the world, with visitors including Admiral Lord Nelson and an official representative of the Tsar of Russia turning up to see how the place worked. An idea of the heyday of the ironworks can be seen in the painting above, Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night, which was painted by Penry Williams in 1825.

The Crawshay family, who took over the works after Bacon's death, made enough money out of the ironworks to spend £30,000 building a crenellated mansion overlooking the valley. Cyfarthfa Castle, as it became known, was sold to Merthyr Tydfil council in 1908, who turned it into a school and museum. The Cyfarthfa ironworks closed a century ago, leading to large-scale unemployment, and were dismantled in 1928. Some of the site has since been reused for a business park, but much of it remains relatively untouched since.

The ironworks give their name to a modern electoral division of villages and estates overlooking Merthyr Tydfil from the west side, above the A470 trunk road. The largest settlements in the ward are Gellideg and Heolgerrig.

Since the 1996 reorganisation of local government in Wales Cyfarthfa has returned three councillors to Merthyr Tydfil council. Its elections have been dominated by independent slates throughout the last two and half decades, and the only time that Labour topped the poll here was during a by-election held on Police and Crime Commissioner election day in November 2012.

The May 2017 election here had to be postponed after independent candidate Ieuan Harris died during the campaign; with Labour defending two seats and an independent one, this led to a crucial postponed poll in June 2017. A clean sweep for Labour in Cyfarthfa would have given the party control of Merthyr Tydfil council; but in the event they lost a seat to independent candidate Geraint Thomas, and independent councillors took an overall majority in the town. Geraint Thomas was top of the poll with 1,369 votes, Brown was second with 1,300 and the lead Labour candidate David Chaplin won the final seat with 1,202; those vote totals are higher than normal because this was snap general election day. Since June 2017 Labour have lost a by-election to the independents in the Gurnos division, increasing the Independent majority on the council to 18-14 (plus this vacancy).

There are two independent candidates seeking to follow in Brown's footsteps, although your columnist hasn't been able to find out much about them. David Tudor Griffiths was a Plaid Cymru candidate in the 2012 Merthyr Tydfil elections, while Michelle Ellen Jones gives an address in Heolgerrig. The Labour candidate is motorcycle enthusiast Mark Prevett, who has a high local profile, he is the Church in Wales priest-in-charge for a parish in Merthyr. Completing the ballot paper is Paul Phillips, who has somehow found ten people in the ward who are prepared to nominate him as a Conservative candidate.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
ONS Travel to Work Area: Merthyr Tydfil
Postcode districts: CF44, CF47, CF48

David Griffiths (Ind)
Michelle Jones (Ind)
Paul Phillips (C)
Mark Prevett (Lab)

June 2017 postponed poll Ind 1369/812 Merthyr Ind 1300/1068 Lab 1202/1137/1072 PC 685
November 2012 by-election Lab 385 Ind 364 Ind 289 PC 101 C 26
May 2012 result Merthyr Ind 797/760/655 Lab 683/640/601 PC 318
May 2008 result Merthyr Ind 1108/933/784 Lab 586/533 Ind 422 LD 276
June 2004 result People Before Politics 1174/942/830 Lab 468/453 Ind 444/326
May 1999 result Ind 1483/1140/989 Lab 754/679/517
May 1995 result Ind Res 1118/823/608 Lab 1030/864/732


Thornton

Lambeth council, South London; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Labour councillor Lib Peck, who is taking up a new politically-restricted post in City Hall.

From two by-elections in Leave-voting areas we come to two by-elections in Remainia, in the capital cities of Scotland and England. Our London poll is a return visit to the Thornton ward of Lambeth, where this column was covering a by-election as recently as 7th February this year. To set the scene, I'll quote from what I wrote two months ago:

Thornton ward lies on the South Circular road just to the north of Tooting Common; it's based on the Hyde Farm estate, which was developed in and around the Edwardian era and remains mostly well-preserved; much of it is now a conservation area. Many of the houses on the estate are now owned by the E Hayes-Dashwood Foundation, which is named after the original architect and leases them to disabled ex-servicemen. The ward has a large black population but also has high employment levels; perhaps a reflection of the fact that it borders Clapham which is going up the social scale very quickly.

Thornton ward was contested in 1971 by a Tory councillor called John Major, who had been chairman of Lambeth's housing committee; but the voters chose to reject the future Prime Minister in favour of the Labour slate. The current ward boundaries were introduced in 2002 when the Lib Dems won two out of three seats and were five votes away from a third; but since 2006 Thornton has voted Labour and is now very safe for the party; in May last year Labour led the Tories here 63-16. That was an improvement on the London Mayoral election two years earlier, where Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith in Thornton's ballot boxes 58-25; in the London Members ballot Labour polled 50%, the Conservatives 23% and the Greens 11%. ...

Let me pause there for the moment. The news of Lib Peck's resignation had already come through before the 7th February by-election, which left your columnist wondering what the heck I could say for this second poll that would be different. I shouldn't have worried. In hindsight, the clue to what was to happen next was already there in the very next sentence of my previous preview:

... Thornton is in the Streatham constituency of Chuka Umunna, who is one of those people that those on the Leave side of the referendum debate and the Corbyn side of the Labour debate love to hate; so this by-election might well be watched closely.

Well, that by-election turned up with an interesting result. The Labour majority was sharply cut by a Liberal Democrat surge back into second place: the winning Labour candidate Stephen Donnelly had 45% of the vote, to 33% for the Liberal Democrats and 10% for the Green Party, who narrowly beat the Tories for third place. A big anti-Labour swing there, and there was speculation that the local Labour membership might have taken their eye off the ball by concentrating on annoying Chuka rather than defending the by-election. Momentum (in particular) have form for that sort of thing.

In the week before the poll, the Streatham branch of the Labour party had passed a motion changing its structure to all-member meetings, in what was seen as a takeover by the left of the party. Given that Umunna was firmly planted on the right wing of the Labour party, you can see why the left wing might have wanted to get rid of him. Disquiet in Lambeth Labour is clearly a thing at the moment, given that Umunna's fellow Lambeth Labour MP Kate Hoey is not exactly flavour of the month among her local party either.

But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Within two weeks of the February by-election, Umunna had quit the Labour party to set up the Independent Group, which now numbers eleven members of the House of Commons. Lib Peck has gone as well, taking the route of several London Labour council leaders to new jobs in the Khan administration. And Labour still have to defend this by-election, which will be the first poll in a constituency held by the Independent Group - or Change UK, or whatever they're called this week. It's too early for the name "Change UK" to be appearing on our ballot papers yet, but nonetheless we can expect this poll to be closely watched yet again.

Defending this by-election for Labour in this new political context is Nanda Manley-Browne, who is chair of the BAME forum in Labour's Dulwich and West Norwood branch. The Lib Dems have changed candidate to Matthew Bryant, who has spent most of his career in the NHS and is a long-serving school governor. Returning from February's by-election is Green candidate Adrian Audsley, a chiropractor and reflexologist according to his Twitter. Three other candidates from February return to complete the ballot paper: Martin Read for the Conservatives, Leila Fazal for the Women's Equality Party and John Plume for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Streatham
London Assembly constituency: Lambeth and Southwark
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SW2, SW4, SW12

Adrian Audsley (Grn)
Matthre Bryant (LD)
Leila Fazal (Women's Equality)
Nanda Manley-Browne (Lab)
John Plume (UKIP)
Martin Read (C)

February 2019 by-election Lab 1154 LD 845 Grn 251 C 247 Women's Equality 46 UKIP 36
May 2018 result Lab 2140/1999/1990 C 545/511/489 Grn 388/364/292 LD 329/328/235
May 2014 result Lab 2280/2220/2113 UKIP 764 C 664/570/481 Grn 360/336/272 LD 271/258/227
May 2010 result Lab 2614/2609/2399 LD 1705/1670/1383 C 1188/1101/1004 Grn 504/373/311
May 2006 result Lab 1494/1445/1354 LD 1094/946/925 C 490/462/457 Grn 470/372/363
May 2002 result LD 1291/1191/1137 Lab 1142/1080/1057 Grn 277 C 268/257/197

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2051 C 884 Grn 255 LD 138 Women's Equality 69 UKIP 54 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 24 Respect 23 Britain First 23 BNP 12 Zylinski 9 One Love 4
London Members: Lab 1762 C 817 Grn 401 LD 207 Women's Equality 146 UKIP 73 CPA 30 Animal Welfare 27 Britain First 24 Respect 23 House Party 17 BNP 15


Leith Walk

Edinburgh council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Marion Donaldson, who had served since winning a by-election in September 2015.

To finish this week, it's time to mount the pulpit and read out some notices about future by-elections. The candidate lists for the 2nd May ordinary elections in England came out last week, and as usually happens a number of councillors have been elected unopposed. One of those was the Conservatives' Mike Johnson, who was the only candidate nominated in the by-election scheduled for 2nd May for the Thursby division of Cumbria county council; accordingly that poll is no longer necessary and Mike Johnson is now a county councillor. This column sends its congratulations. We haven't even started the 2019-23 council term yet, but the Class of 2019 has already generated its first vacancy: a ward in Lincolnshire attracted only one candidate for two available seats. Andrew's Previews will take you to the villages of Billinghay, Martin and North Kyme in due course.

There are no by-elections next week: as well as the fact that most parts of England are having local elections in just three weeks' time, next Thursday is Maundy Thursday and accordingly the count staff for any by-election next week would have to be paid bank holiday rates. Holding polls on Maundy Thursday, while it's no longer banned outright as it used to be, is as can be seen not an attractive option for anyone involved. So this column will therefore be taking a well-deserved week off to think about what to write for the May 2019 ordinary elections; if you have a particular subject you'd like me to cover, do please get in touch at the usual address.

I'm celebrating that week off by going to Edinburgh this weekend to play some quizbowl; and by coincidence Edinburgh is the subject of this week's final by-election. We're in the north of the city here in a ward named after one of the longest streets in the city: Leith Walk, the main route between the city centre and the port of Leith. The Leith Walk ward covers most of the Walk, although not its extremities at Picardy Place and the Foot of the Walk; instead within the ward boundaries can be found the Easter Road and the districts of Pilrig, Cannonmills and Bonnington.

The part of the ward north of Pilrig Street was once part of Leith proper, and that caused problems for tram passengers: Leith's and Edinburgh's tram systems weren't compatible with each other, so passengers had to change trams partway along the Walk. There is a tram system in Edinburgh again now, although it doesn't go to Leith thanks to the financial and other chaos which was the tram construction project; the original plan was for trams to go down Leith Walk, and there have been mutterings recently about finally building that route.

At the last first-past-the-post elections for the City of Edinburgh council in 2003, Labour won 30 seats and an overall majority on the city council with just 27.4% of the city-wide vote, while the Scottish National Party's 16% got them nothing at all. In 2007 Scotland moved to a proportional representation system which has got rid of terrible election results like that and properly reflects that Edinburgh is a pluralistic city with large amounts of support for all five major parties in Scotland. The 2017 election resulted in a minority coalition of the SNP and Labour running the city; those two parties together had 45% of the vote and won 49% of the seats, an outcome that is a fair reflection of what people voted for. Some defections since then mean that the governing coalition currently has 27 seats plus this vacancy (16 SNP and 11 Labour), against an opposition of 17 Conservatives, 8 Greens, 6 Lib Dems and four independents. Of those independents, three were elected for the SNP while the other was elected as a Conservative but now supports Scottish independence.

The Leith Walk ward is just as politically fragmented as the city as a whole. At its first election in 2007 it returned one councillor each from Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Green Party; the Lib Dems lost their seat to the second Labour candidate in 2012. In 2015 the SNP's Deirdre Brock resigned, having been elected to Westminster as MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, and the Greens' Maggie Chapman resigned to move to a new job as rector of the University of Aberdeen (she was and still is co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, and sought election to Holyrood from North East Scotland in 2016, unsuccessfully). A single by-election was held for both seats; the SNP topped the poll and held their seat, while the Greens lost their seat to Labour's Marion Donaldson.

That gave Labour three seats in Leith Walk and the SNP one, which was not a sustainable position when the 2017 election came around on slightly revised boundaries. Labour lost two seats in that election: one went to the SNP, which polled the most votes of any party with 34%; the other went to the Greens, whose nominee Susan Rae polled 20% and was the first candidate to be elected. Labour's 22% was only good enough for one seat, which went to Marion Donaldson; while the Conservatives came in as runner-up with 14%. One of the ward's SNP councillors, Lewis Ritchie, has since left the party to sit as an independent as a result of some dubious behaviour: the allegation is that he punched somebody in a taxi.

As can be seen, although Edinburgh as a whole was strongly No in the 2014 independence referendum Leith Walk gave 54% of the vote to pre-independence parties two years ago. So it looks a tall order for Labour, as a pro-Union party, to defend this by-election. Their candidate is Nick Gardner, who was a Labour councillor for the ward from 2012 to 2017 when he lost his seat. The SNP have selected Rob Munn, another former Edinburgh councillor; he represented Leith ward from 2007 to 2012 when he lost his seat to his running-mate Adam McVey. McVey has since gone on to become leader of Edinburgh council. The Scottish Greens' candidate is Lorna Slater, who fought Edinburgh North and Leith in the 2017 Westminster election. The Tory nominee Dan McCroskrie is well-travelled both physically and politically: a former chair of the Aberdeen University Labour club who later joined the Conservative party, McCroskrie was unlucky not to be elected to South Ayrshire council in a 2015 by-election, and fought Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the constituency formerly known as the Western Isles) in the 2017 general election. In between McCroskrie was a staffer for the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, and now he runs the office of Tory MSP Donald Cameron. Completing a very long ballot paper, with eleven candidates in all, are independent candidates Kevin Illingworth and John Scott (Scott fought the 2015 by-election here), Jack Caldwell for the Liberal Democrats, David Jacobsen for the Socialist Labour Party (who stood here in 2017), Steven Alexander for UKIP (who gives an address in Broxburn, West Lothian), Tom Laird for the Libertarian Party and Paul Stirling of the For Britain Movement. And a quick reminder that this is a Scottish local by-election, so Votes at 16 and the Alternative Vote apply here.

Parliamentary constituency: Edinburgh North and Leith (part generally west of Easter Road); Edinburgh East (part generally east of Easter Road)
Holyrood constituency: Edinburgh Northern and Leith (almost all), Edinburgh Central (a few buildings on the southern boundary)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Edinburgh
Postcode districts: EH3, EH6, EH7

Steven Alexander (UKIP)
Jack Caldwell (LD)
Nick Gardner (Lab)
Kevin Illingworth (Ind)
David Jacobsen (Soc Lab)
Tom Laird (Libertarian)
Dan McCroskrie (C)
Rob Munn (SNP)
John Scott (Ind)
Lorna Slater (Grn)
Paul Stirling (For Britain Movement)

MAy 2017 first preferences SNP 3670 Lab 2395 Grn 2097 C 1536 Ind 432 LD 398 Soc Lab 96 Ind 55


Andrew Teale