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…


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.

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:


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