Previews: 07 Dec 2017

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

Two by-elections on 7th December 2017:


North Devon council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Michael Harrison at the age of 79. Harrison was first elected in 2003 and immediately joined North Devon’s executive committee; he was Leader of the Council from 2007 to 2009 and then became the executive member for finance. Away from the council, Harrison was a major supporter of the Royal British Legion and arranged the local Poppy Appeal for many years.

Welcome to Barnstaple, the main town and administrative centre for the North Devon district. This is an old town which before the Norman Conquest was sufficiently important to have its own mint; Barnstaple thrived during the Middle Ages as a textile centre and as a thriving port, exporting wool to the outside world. Today retail and tourism are important to Barnstaple’s economy; these are sectors with large amounts of part-time work, and Newport ward makes the top 100 wards in England and Wales for part-time employment (18% of the workforce).

Newport is Barnstaple’s southern ward, based on a former village which was incorporated into the town in the twentieth century, and generally lying on the east bank of the Taw along South Street and Landkey Road. On the west bank of the Taw is the Tarka Tennis Centre, which until a few years ago hosted an annual international women’s tournament. This is one of the better-off parts of town, with much new housing having gone up in recent years within the town’s southern bypass – part of the ridiculously long A361 road which meanders from Ilfracombe for over 200 miles before finally running out of steam at a roundabout in rural Northamptonshire.

As stated Michael Harrison had represented this ward since 2003, and in 2007 his running-mate gained the ward’s other seat from the Liberal Democrats. However, this is not a safe ward: in 2015 the Conservative slate had 40% to 32% for the Liberal Democrats and 28% for the Green Party. After their clean sweep in last week’s four by-elections, together within their gain in North Devon council’s last by-election (in Braunton in November) the Lib Dems will definitely see this as within range. On the other hand, in May’s county elections the Conservatives increased their majority in the local county division (Barnstaple South).

Defending for the Conservatives is Martin Kennaugh who, as his name might suggest, is of Manx descent; he is a Barnstaple town councillor for this ward. The Lib Dem candidate Caroline Leaver, who despite her name was a Remainer last year, has ruffled feathers with a leaflet headed “Newport schools in cash crisis” which provoked the headteacher of Newport Primary School to write to parents in response. Standing for the Green Party is retired teacher and former Barnstaple town councillor Ricky Knight, who fought North Devon in the 2015 and 2017 general elections and was on the party’s South West list in the 2014 Euro-elections. Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate Siobhan Strode.

Parliamentary constituency: North Devon
Devon county council division: Barnstaple South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Barnstaple
Postcode district: EX32

May 2015 result C 1025/889 LD 812/510 Grn 728/477
May 2011 result C 624/557 LD 498/394 Grn 353/200 Lab 143
May 2007 result C 623/611 LD 495/470 Grn 450/281
May 2003 result C 431/391 LD 416/408 Grn 286

Enfield Highway

Enfield council, North London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Turgut Esendagli at the age of 55. Born in Cyprus but having lived in London for many years, Esendagli had served since 2014 and was described as a popular, hard-working and effective councillor. He will also be missed in the world of football: Esendagli held a UEFA Pro Licence in coaching, and at the time of his death was a scout for the Turkish national football team, chief scout and under-23 coach for the League Two side Crawley Town, and chairman and former manager of the local non-league side Waltham Forest AFC.

For our second and last by-election in this quiet week, we are in North London. The Enfield Highway area took its name from Hertford Road, the eponymous Highway, and the ward named after it runs east from the Highway to the Brimsdown area in the Lea Valley. East of the Lea Valley railway line are the large Brimsdown Industrial Estate, one of Enfield’s main commercial centres, and the gas-fired Enfield power station; and to the east of those is the King George V Reservoir which supplies London with drinking water. Brimsdown railway station (two trains each hour to Liverpool Street) links the ward to central London. Most of the housing stock is inter-war including 284 Green Street, a council house which became notorious in the late 1970s for alleged poltergeist activity.

Multiculturalism is the order of the day in Enfield Highway ward’s demographics. The ward has a large Muslim population, mostly of Turkish heritage although there are Bangladeshi pockets in the ward, and the area has also seen significant immigration from “other EU accession countries” – given that this is Enfield, Cyprus is probably the most important contributor to that statistic. The White British population in Enfield Highway is 38%, and the ward makes the top 200 in England and Wales for black (22%), White Other (20%), mixed-race (6%) and “other” (6%) ethnic groups.

To see how the demographics of Enfield Highway have changed in this century, take a look at its local elections. Labour polled the same share of the vote here in both 2002 and 2014, at 47%, but over those twelve years the Conservative share has crashed from 53% to just 19%. Some of that will be down to a wider field – 2002 was a straight fight, while the 2014 election saw UKIP come in third with 18% and two other parties on the ballot. However, if May’s by-election in the neighbouring Enfield Lock ward is any guide the Conservative share has further to fall here. That by-election came shortly before Labour’s Joan Ryan was re-elected in the local Enfield North constituency with a greatly increased majority. Looking back a year to the London Mayor and Assembly elections in 2016, Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith here 57-25 in the ward’s ballot boxes while the London Members ballot had a bigger Labour win, 58-19 over the Tories; UKIP were third in both those ballots.

Defending for Labour is another candidate from the Turkish community, Ergun Eren. According to a profile in the local Turkish-language newspaper Olay Gazetesi Eren is 35 years old, a father of two children and a founder-manager of an insurance firm. The Tories have selected Andrew Thorp, who according to his Twitter was once “branded dangerously coercive by Nicky Campbell” (funny that, I remember Campbell being rather more complimentary about me when I spent a couple of days working with him…). Also a father-of-two, Thorp works in media relations for the Scouts and is therefore presumably well-prepared for the campaign. With UKIP having not returned, completing the ballot paper is Green Party candidate Andreea Malin. The recent Liberal Democrat by-election winning streak ends here, because there is no Liberal Democrat candidate.

This column will now take its leave of London for a few months. All of the capital’s local government will be up for re-election next May, there are less than six months to go until then, and this was the last vacancy which occurred before the six-month rule kicked in. Our next visit to the Great Wen will be in the summer of 2018, by which time the city’s political map may well look very different.

Parliamentary constituency: Enfield North
London Assembly constituency: Enfield and Haringey
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: EN3

May 2014 result Lab 2013/1959/1848 C 842/788/547 UKIP 774 Grn 409 BNP 289
May 2010 result Lab 3003/2876/2850 C 2038/1705/1690 LD 842 UKIP 537 BNP 450 Grn 437
May 2006 result Lab 1540/1419/1406 C 1250/1093/1036 Save Chase Farm 886 UKIP 496
May 2002 result C 1459/1396/1387 Lab 1300/1223/1199

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1650 C 710 UKIP 165 Grn 95 LD 58 Britain First 52 Respect 50 Women’s Equality 32 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 30 BNP 26 Zylinski 8 One Love 5
London Members: Lab 1710 C 574 UKIP 247 Grn 89 LD 63 Britain First 58 CPA 50 Respect 42 Women’s Equality 41 Animal Welfare 35 BNP 33 House Party 13

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