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

Four by-elections on 29th June 2017:


West Lancashire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Paul Greenall. He was first elected to West Lancashire council in 2000 for Scott ward, transferring to Derby ward in 2002, and was Conservative candidate for West Lancashire in the 2015 general election. In May’s elections Greenall was elected to Lancashire county council and he is standing down from the district council to concentrate on his county seat.

To start off this week we pay our respects to a family which has been important through the generations of English history. From the twelth century onwards the Lathoms were an important landowning family in southern Lancashire, but their lands passed by marriage in 1385 to Sir John Stanley, who despite being a convicted murderer was able to use his marriage to climb the greasy pole of mediaeval politics: he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and King of Mann, and was a supporter of Henry Bolingbroke’s usurpation of the English throne. That influence and the Stanley family’s control over Lancashire made them important power brokers during the Wars of the Roses: John’s son Thomas, as well as being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and King of Mann like his father, was called to the Lords as the first Lord Stanley; his son the 2nd Lord, also called Thomas, decisively intervened in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field in favour of Henry Tudor, his son-in-law, and was created as first Earl of Derby of the modern creation. The Lancastrian victory at the Battle of Stoke, which decisively ended the Wars of the Roses, consolidated the Stanleys’ dominance of Lancashire as they took over lands in the county confiscated from Yorkist landowners.

The Stanleys, as Earls of Derby, didn’t end their importance there. Various Earls of Derby tried Mary, Queen of Scots; sat in Parliament and in Cabinet offices up to including Prime Minister; served as Lords-Lieutenant of Cheshire and Lancashire and Governor-General of Canada; patronised William Shakespeare and Edward Lear; and made their mark in all manner of different sports with competitions as diverse as the Lord Derby Cup (in French rugby league), the Stanley Cup (in North American ice hockey) and that classic horse race, the Epsom Derby. It wasn’t for nothing that Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby (1865-1948), who served as Postmaster-General under Salisbury and as War Secretary under Lloyd George, Bonar Law and Baldwin, and one of the few people who could criticise George V to his face and get away with it, was known as the Uncrowned King of Lancashire, and it’s no coincidence that the county is littered with buildings and streets named Derby or Stanley and with pubs named after the Derby crest, the Eagle and Child. Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl, and James Stanley, 7th Earl, are among many members of the family buried in Ormskirk parish church – James was beheaded in Bolton during the Commonwealth for his Royalist views, and his head and body are in separate caskets.

So it’s fitting that one of Ormskirk’s three electoral wards should be named after the Derby family. Ormskirk is an old market town known for its gingerbread on the road and railway line from Liverpool to Preston, and very much under the influence of Liverpool; it is part of Liverpool’s postcode area and one of the termini of Merseyrail’s Northern line. Ormskirk was the centre of a parliamentary constituency from 1885 to 1983 which was very much under the Stanleys’ influence: Sir Arthur Stanley, son of the 16th Earl, was MP for the seat from an 1898 by-election until 1918 and frequently unopposed. One of the two Liberal candidates who stood against Sir Arthur was the soap magnate William Lever of Lever Brothers, in the first 1910 election; Lever had been elected MP for the Wirral in the Liberal landslide of 1906 but was contesting an unwinnable seat so he could go back to concentrating on his business. Other famous names associated with Ormskirk included future Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who won the seat in the Labour landslide of 1945 but transferred to Huyton in 1950 (along with his electoral powerbase, Kirkby) and the well-known tangerine Robert Kilroy-Silk, who was Labour MP here from February 1974 to 1983 before beginning his adventures into TV chat shows and UKIP. Boundary changes for the 1983 election brought in the New Town of Skelmersdale and prompted a name change for the constituency to West Lancashire, creating a seat which has been in the Labour column since 1992.

West Lancashire district has some of the most polarised election results in the country. Labour are capable of breaking 80% in most of the Skelmersdale wards in a good year and the Tories regularly carry the district’s rural wards with similarly commanding shares of the vote, which leaves Ormskirk and Burscough as the only marginal areas in the district. Derby, which is Ormskirk’s eastern ward and also includes some hinterland villages such as Westhead, tends to be the most Conservative of the town’s three wards but its demographics are dominated by students at Edge Hill University, whose campus is within the ward; founded in 1885 as the UK’s first teacher-training college for women, Edge Hill gained university status in 2005 and its alumni include the outgoing UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.

Derby ward has existed throughout the life of West Lancashire district and took on its current boundaries in 2002. It was normally Conservative from 1976 to 2014 except for an SDP win in 1986 which was held by the Social and Liberal Democrats (as they were then) in 1990, and during the 1994-96 nadir of the Major government during which Labour gained all three seats in the ward. The Tories recovered their full slate in 2000, but since 2014 Derby ward’s election results have gone haywire partly thanks to the intervention of OWL – a new localist party called Our West Lancashire. In 2015 OWL appears to have split the Tory vote allowing Labour to win; while in 2016 OWL won Derby ward itself with 42%, to 37% for Labour and just 18% for Conservatives. In May’s county council elections half of the ward was in the Labour-held Ormskirk division and half (including the Edge Hill campus) in the rural-focused West Lancashire East division which comfortably elected Greenall to his new post in May. Edge Hill is in the middle of its summer term (which finishes on 31 July), so it will be interesting to see if Labour can mobilise the student vote at local level in the same way that they did in the general election three weeks ago.

Even without that aspect, Derby is an interesting ward which has been won by three different parties in the last four years. Defending for the Conservatives is Jane Houlgrave, a former councillor for Rufford ward who was elected at a 2011 by-election but in 2016 retired by standing for the unwinnable Up Holland ward; she gives an address in Parbold, some distance away. Our West Lancashire have selected Ian Davis, who fought the ward in 2015 and fought West Lancashire East in May; the only candidate to live within the ward, he is an accountant and treasurer of the village hall in Westhead, where he lives. Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate George Oliver, a former councillor for Knowsley ward (covering western Ormskirk) who gained his seat from the Conservatives in 2012 but stood down in 2016.

Parliamentary constituency: West Lancashire
Lancashire county council division: Ormskirk (part); West Lancashire East (part)

May 2016 result Our West Lancs 806 Lab 710 C 339 Grn 72
May 2015 result Lab 1177 C 1055 Our West Lancs 460 Grn 323 UKIP 302
May 2014 result C 832 Lab 585 Grn 245
May 2012 result C 883 Lab 575 Grn 160 UKIP 91
May 2011 result C 1002 Lab 674 Grn 219
May 2010 result C 1396 Lab 1195 Grn 445
May 2008 result C 904 Lab 336 Grn 223
May 2007 result C 792 Lab 367 Grn 225
May 2006 result C 867 Lab 394 Grn 237
June 2004 result C 987 Lab 550 Ormskirk Party 298 LD 190 Grn 146
May 2003 result C 618 Lab 541 Grn 141
May 2002 result C 811/750/734 Lab 610/571 Grn 321


Durham council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Leanne Kennedy who was ineligible to be a councillor as she was employed at a school run by Durham council. She was first elected in May 2017.

Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales. But I saw the sea once more in all the glories of surf and foam.

That was Lord Byron writing in 1815 on the Durham coast during a short-lived and acrimonious marriage to Anne Isabella Milbanke, later Baroness Wentworth, daughter of the local landowner, social reformer and mother of their daughter Ada Lovelace. Clearly the local coast has caught imaginations through the generations – a local beach used for coal dumping was used as a location for the film Alien 3, while the Sunderland Echo reported in 1999 that scenes from Saving Private Ryan had also been planned to be filmed on the local coastline.

The Milbanke family never recovered financially from their daughter’s marriage to Byron and sold the area shortly afterwards to the Marquess of Londonderry, who had big plans. He built a harbour – called Seaham Harbour after the local village – and sunk a series of major and sucessful coal mines, founding a new community called Dawdon to serve Dawdon Colliery. From essentially nothing in 1821 Dawdon had a population over 9,000 in the 1891 census, and a church – dedicated to St Hild and St Helen – was opened in 1912 thanks to donations from local pitmen. Dawdon Colliery closed in 1991 creating major unemployment in the area, and it was in that depressed state that scenes from the film Billy Elliot, set on the Durham coast, were filmed in the town.

The electoral history of this area is a little difficult to follow as the division includes the town centre of Seaham, which over the years has migrated towards the harbour. The closure of Dawdon Colliery led to a population decline in the area and by 1999 Dawdon was the smallest of Durham’s 63 divisions, 35% below the electoral quota. The division was increased in size in 2005 and again in 2013 when it took on its current boundaries. This being the Durham coalfield, Labour are in the ascendancy but they don’t have an unblemished record: in the 2008 election, the first to the unitary Durham council, the division’s two seats split one for Labour and one to independent candidate Bob Arthur, who topped the poll. Arthur lost his seat to Labour in 2013 and tried to get back in May as lead candidate of the Seaham Community Party slate; he finished 102 votes behind Leanne Kennedy, the Labour slate winning 46-37.

Having resigned her employment, Leanne Kennedy is standing for re-election to the council, and this by-election – the first caused by the resignation of a councillor elected in May 2017 – is a straight fight between her and Bob Arthur.

Parliamentary constituency: Easington

May 2017 result Lab 886/812 Seaham Community Party 710/520 C 209 Grn 117
May 2013 result Lab 1115/992 Ind 829

Hedge End Grange Park

Eastleigh council, Hampshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Louise Bloom. She had served on Eastleigh council since 2002 and sat on the council’s cabinet until 2015; before then she was a founder member of the Greater London Authority, being elected in 2000 from the Liberal Democrat list and serving on the GLA until resigning in 2002.

From the Durham coast we travel to somewhere completely different. Hedge End is an outer suburb of Southampton which reached town status only in 1992; Grange Park is the outermost of Hedge End’s three wards adjacent to the railway station, opened in 1990 on the Eastleigh-Fareham line, and the ward’s age profile betrays that its housing stock is even younger than that. Hedge End Grange Park ward makes the top 200 in England and Wales for the 0-15 and 30-44 age brackets, for those educated to what is classified by the Census as “Level 2” which equates to 5 or more GCSEs, and for both full-time and part-time employment, and its economic profile is middle-class. Clearly this is a commuter ward full of young families, although an incident here in 2011 in which a local zoo was asked for help in tranquilising an escaped white tiger – which turned out to be a stuffed toy – shows that you can fool even some of the most educated people some of the time.

Despite their recent travails at parliamentary level the Liberal Democrats have been Winning Here in Eastleigh for a very long time – their council leader Keith House, who was in a relationship with Bloom for many years, has led Eastleigh council for 23 years and counting. The Lib Dems have won this ward at every election since it was created in 2002, and also hold the local county council seat. In May 2016 the winning Lib Dem score was 47%, to 33% for the Conservatives and 12% for UKIP.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Clifford Morris – no relation to the controversial Bolton council leader of the same name – who was elected to Hedge End town council in a by-election just before Christmas. The Conservatives have selected Jay Haythorne who gives an address in Botley. Peter House, from Chandler’s Ford, is the UKIP candidate – the first UKIP by-election candidate of this Parliament – and the ballot paper is completed by Keith Day for Labour and Rosanna Campbell for the Greens.

Parliamentary constituency: Eastleigh
Hampshire county council division: Botley and Hedge End

May 2016 result LD 1127 C 795 UKIP 301 Lab 141 Grn 52
May 2015 result LD 1649 C 1512 Lab 452 UKIP 408
May 2014 result LD 1035 UKIP 485 Lab 208
May 2011 result LD 1039 C 501 Lab 193 Ind 176 UKIP 100
May 2010 result LD 2306 C 1117 Lab 169 UKIP 97
May 2007 result LD 882 C 473 Lab 54 UKIP 46
May 2006 result LD 1019 C 562 Lab 46 UKIP 39
May 2003 result LD 618 C 461 Lab 46
May 2002 result LD 750/695 C 526/457

William Morris

Waltham Forest council, North London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Nadeem Ali at the age of just 34. The youngest ever Mayor of Waltham Forest in 2013-14, Ali was first elected in 2010.

We started this week with a discussion of a ward named after one of Britain’s most famous families, and finish with a ward named after one of Britain’s most famous artists. William Morris was born in the Essex town of Walthamstow in 1834; in his lifetime he was best known for his poetry, with epic poems on classical and fantasy subjects, and for socialist activism, but Morris is now best known as a designer of textile, wallpaper and decorative arts in the Arts and Crafts style, which became very fashionable in the late Victorian period. Morris’ former home in Walthamstow, the Georgian Water House, was opened in 1950 as an art gallery dedicated to his work, and has recently been greatly redeveloped.

Walthamstow has changed a lot since then, of course; it became an urban district in 1894, gained borough status in 1929 and was incorporated into Greater London in 1965. The ward named after Morris, which runs east from the River Lea along Forest Road, was mostly built up by the end of the First World War. There are no railway or Underground stations within the ward, but Blackhorse Road station (on the Victoria and GOBLIN lines) lies just outside its boundary. Walthamstow has not escaped the major demographic changes which have taken place in London in recent years: Willam Morris is an ethnically diverse ward with a particularly high population born in the new EU states (10.9%).

Morris, and Clement Attlee who represented Walthamstow in Parliament, would probably have been pleased to note that William Morris ward (and its predecessor ward, Lloyd Park) normally vote Labour. The only exception to this Labour rule came in a by-election in September 2003 which saw a Lib Dem gain, and the Lib Dems held their seat at the following ordinary election in 2006 before Labour took it back in 2010. Since then the Lib Dem vote in this ward has disappeared and the Greens have taken over second place. At the last borough elections in 2014 this was a strongly Labour ward with the Labour slate leading the Greens 57-17; in the 2016 London Assembly elections Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith 64-14 while Labour led the Greens 58-12 in the ward’s ballot boxes.

Defending for Labour is Umar Ali, brother of the late councillor Nadeem and son of Waltham Forest councillor Liaquat Ali (High Street ward). The Green candidate is Rebecca Tully, a trainer and volunteer who fought Chingford and Woodford Green in the 2015 general election. Completing the ballot paper is Afzal Akram, a former Labour councillor and cabinet member (Lea Bridge ward, 2006-14) until being suspended from the party for trying to fix a planning vote; he subsequently stood as the UKIP candidate for Ealing North in the 2015 general election and was on the UKIP list for the 2016 GLA election, but this time round Akram has the Conservative nomination.

Parliamentary constituency: Walthamstow
London Assembly constituency: North East

May 2014 result Lab 2441/2421/2287 Grn 724 UKIP 333 LD 317/222/176 C 290/256/233 TUSC 185/149/142
May 2010 result Lab 2467/2387/2300 LD 1714/1543/1487 Grn 713 C 596/592/508 TUSC 228
May 2006 result Lab 1421/1409/1253 LD 1288/1217/1144 Grn 496 C 322/319/293
September 2003 by-election LD 1051 Lab 932 C 188 Grn 151 Socialist Alliance 84
May 2002 result Lab 1326/1285/1256 LD 648/554/505 C 391/363/303 Socialist Alliance 256

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2232 C 479 Grn 301 LD 110 Women’s Equality 86 Respect 70 UKIP 65 Zylinski 40 Britain First 35 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 34 BNP 18 One Love 4
London Members: Lab 2047 Grn 417 C 346 Women’s Equality 186 LD 142 UKIP 131 Respect 84 Britain First 43 Animal Welfare 37 CPA 35 House Party 27 BNP 19