Preview: 30 May 2019

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


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