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

Fourteen by-elections on 7th September 2017:

Hednesford and Rawnsley

(Staffordshire county council);

Hednesford Green Heath

(Cannock Chase council); and

Hednesford South

(Cannock Chase council)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hednesford and Rawnsley

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

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

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

Hednesford Green Heath

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

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

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

Hednesford South

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

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

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

Eye, Thorney and Newborough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ely South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St John’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sudbury South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shrub End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Norwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouse Valley and Ringmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golden Valley South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2015 result C 1364 Grn 357 Ind 351

Skerton West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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