Previews: 13 Jun 2019

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

After the excitement of recent weeks, it’s back to Andrew’s Previews’ normal diet on Thursday 13th June 2019 with three polls, as we continue to work through the unfinished business from the ordinary elections on 2nd May. All of these are in districts where the Conservatives lost overall control in May 2019. Let”s see how things have panned out since then…

Stapleford South East

Broxtowe council, Nottinghamshire; postponed from 2nd May following the death of outgoing Conservative councillor Chris Rice, who was standing for re-election. He had served since 2015.

For our first poll this week we travel to Nottinghamshire, to one of the small towns between Derby and Nottingham which are close to fusing into a single urban area. Located on the Nottinghamshire side of the River Erewash, Stapleford is on the original road between Nottingham and Derby and was originally a minor market town caught up in the Nottinghamshire hosiery trade. Today it’s rather a dormitory town for Nottingham, although if High Speed 2 is built as planned that could change: the line’s eastern branch is due to pass close by with its East Midlands station being very close to the town. The recently-built Toton branch of Nottingham’s tram network terminates just to the south of Stapleford.

In the early years of this century Stapleford was a Liberal Democrat hotspot, and the party won the ward in each election from 2003 to 2011. The Stapleford Lib Dems were, however, wiped out in the 2015 election partly thanks to a split, with previous Lib Dem activists contesting that election under the “Stapleford Alliance” banner. South East ward gave 30% of the vote to the winning Conservative slate, 28% to Labour, 24% to the Lib Dems and 17% to the Stapleford Alliance. The Conservatives won a majority on Broxtowe council in 2015, and their MP for the district Anna Soubry was re-elected with an increased margin over Labour. The Tories also hold the local Nottinghamshire county council seats in the division of Stapleford and Broxtowe Central.

How things have changed. Soubry, after very narrowly holding her seat in 2017, has left the Tories and is now the latest leader of Change UK or whatever they’re called this week. The Conservatives are also no longer in control of Broxtowe council: they lost five seats in the May 2019 elections to stand on 20 seats, against 14 Labour councillors, five Lib Dems and three independents. All the non-Conservative councillors have banded together to form a rainbow coalition to run Broxtowe; however, that coalition only holds 22 seats at present, and 23 will be needed for a majority once this final result comes in. If the Conservatives can hold both seats in this ward, then there will be a 22-22 split between the Tories and the ruling coalition: with a Conservative (Michael Brown) having been elected as Mayor of Broxtowe for 2019-20 at last month’s AGM, the Tories might then seek to use his mayoral casting vote to take back control.

So, a crucial poll is in prospect; and it may be worth noting here that some of the worst Conservative performances in local by-elections over the last year or so have come along the High Speed 2 route. The late Christopher Rice was seeking re-election for a second term in Stapleford South East, as is the remaining Conservative candidate Adam Stockwell. Rice is replaced on the ballot paper by new Conservative candidate John Doddy, who is one of the county councillors for Stapleford and Broxtowe Central. The Labour slate is Eleanor Allan and Sue Paterson, while the Lib Dems have nominated David Grindell (who was a councillor for this ward from 2011 to 2015) and Tim Hallam.

Parliamentary constituency: Broxtowe Nottinghamshire county council division: Stapleford and Broxtowe Central

Eleanor Allan (Lab) John Doddy (C) David Grindell (LD) Tim Hallam (LD) Sue Paterson (Lab) Adam Stockwell (C)

May 2015 result C 836/829 Lab 781/625 LD 672/664 Stapleford Alliance 454 May 2011 result LD 770/711 Lab 577/497 Lab 527/434 May 2007 result LD 875/848 C 373/370 Lab 303/286 May 2003 result LD 783/772 Lab 338/323 C 233/230


North Devon council; postponed from 2nd May following the death of outgoing independent councillor Walter White, who was standing for re-election.

Four our second postponed poll of the week we travel from semi-urban Nottinghamshire to rural Devon. The Chittlehampton ward covers six parishes in the countryside between South Molton and the River Taw, of which Chittlehampton is the largest. Chittlehampton was a minor religious centre with one of the finest churches in Devon thanks to the cult of St Urith, an obscure eighth-century martyr who is buried here. King’s Nympton and Atherington are the next largest villages; but the ward gets its post from Umberleigh, which only has 139 electors but also has a railway station on the “Tarka” line towards Barnstaple. In the 2011 census Chittlehampton was in the top 50 wards in England and Wales for the “small employers” occupational group and in the top 75 for self-employment, reflecting its small population size (the Notice of Poll gives an electorate of 1,977) and remote nature: agriculture will be the main source of work here.

Up until this election Chittlehampton ward had returned only independent councillors, with the late Walter White being unopposed at the 2011 election when he took the ward over. White faced a contest at the 2015 election, being re-elected with 45% of the vote against 33% for the Conservatives and 11% each for UKIP and the Greens. That election was on the same day as the 2015 general election in which the Conservatives gained the North Devon parliamentary seat (which has the same boundaries as the district council) from the Lib Dems; the Tories also hold the Chulmleigh and Landkey division of Devon county council which covers five of the ward’s six parishes.

How things have changed. The Liberal Democrats did very well in the 2019 North Devon council elections, gaining nine seats so far: they have 21 seats out of a possible 42, have formed the administration and will have a majority if they can win this final poll. Whatever happens here somebody is going to make a gain: no independent candidate has come forward to replace Walter White, so it’s time for Chittlehampton to go party political. Ray Jenkins, as the Conservative candidate, may be best placed to win if the county results two years ago are any guide: Cecily Blyther had also been on the original candidate list for Labour, while the postponement has allowed the Greens to nominate Neil Basil and the Lib Dems to put Victoria Nel on the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: North Devon Devon county council division: Chulmleigh and Landkey (most), South Molton (part: Filleigh parish)

Neil Basil (Grn) Cecily Blyther (Lab) Ray Jsnkins (C) Victoria Nel (LD)

May 2015 result Ind 735 C 538 UKIP 178 Grn 173 May 2011 result Ind unopposed May 2007 result Ind 578 LD 222 May 2003 result Ind unopposed

Billinghay, Martin and North Kyme

North Kesteven council, Lincolnshire; caused by insufficient candidates being nominated in the 2nd May ordinary election.

We finish with another remote rural ward, this time in Lincolnshire. Billinghay lies in the centre of Lincolnshire, about ten miles north-east of Sleaford: it’s one of a series of villages in fenland surrounding the River Witham. With the fens having been long drained this is a rich agricultural area, although modern mechanised farming doesn’t provide as many jobs as it used to. Lincolnshire was one of the most densely-populated parts of England in the eleventh century, and several villages in this ward are mentioned in the Domesday book; Billinghay had the wealth to support a particularly fine church which is now Grade I listed.

This two-seat ward was created in 2007 by merging two rural single-member wards, and the impression that this is a story of country folk will only be reinforced by the fact that topping the poll here in the 2007 election was Conservative candidate Frederick Ambridge, who had previously represented Martin ward. Michael Powell (outgoing councillor for Billinghay ward) won the other seat as an independent, and ever since then Billinghay, Martin and North Kyme ward has split its two seats between the Tories and an independent candidate. Powell was re-elected unopposed in 2011 alongside new Tory candidate Gill Ogden, but lost his seat in 2015 to Susanna Matthan of the Lincolnshire Independents; shares of the vote were 43% for Ogden who was the only Conservative candidate, 22% for Matthan and 18% for Powell. In May 2017 the Conservatives had big leads in the two Lincolnshire county divisions covering the ward; the following month the local parliamentary seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham returned the best Conservative score of the snap election in both seats and absolute votes.

How things have changed. The Conservatives lost eight seats in the May 2019 elections, all of them going to independent councillors of some sort or another. That put independents on 22 seats against 20 for the Tories, with this vacancy still to come. The independents are not a united bloc, which has allowed the Tories to stay in control; at the time of writing the council website lists 20 councillors in the “NK Administration Group” (the Tories), 19 councillors in the “NK Independents Group” (including the Lincolnshire Independents), three unaligned councillors and this vacancy.

Numbered among the Tories is Gill Ogden of this ward who stood for re-election; the Lincolnshire Independents councillor Susanna Matthan stood down and no-one else was nominated, so Ogden was re-elected unopposed for a third term of office. Although this by-election will effectively complete the North Kesteven 2019 election, it is unlike the other two polls this week in that is a proper by-election: this is the first vacancy generated by the Class of 2019. There will no doubt be many more to come.

The Lincolnshire Independents are effectively defending this seat, and their candidate Tracy Giannasi appears at the top of the ballot paper. Giannasi lives in Ruskington and unsuccessfully fought her home ward on 2 May. The Tory candidate is Amanda Sanderson, a North Kyme parish councillor. Two independent candidates have been nominated this time round, Robert Greetham (who fought this ward in 2015, finishing fifth and last) and Stephen Shanahan-Kluth. Labour candidate Matt Newman and Liberal Democrat Garry Winterton complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham Lincolnshire county council divisions: Heckington (part: Billingay, Dogdyke and North Kyme parishes), Metheringham Rural (part: Martin, Timberland and Walcott parishes)

Tracy Giannisi (Lincs Ind) Robert Greetham (Ind) Matt Newman (Lab) Amanda Sanderson (C) Stephen Snanahan-Kluth (Ind) Garry Winterton (LD)

May 2015 result C 1379 Lincs Ind 713 Ind 587/369 Lab 548 May 2011 result C/Ind unopposed May 2007 result C 713 Ind 672/508