Preview: 29 Oct 2019

One by-election on Tuesday 29th October 2019:

Leamington Lillington

Warwick council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Heather Calver on health grounds. She had served only since May.

After last week’s excitement there are just three local by-elections this week, and they are all on different days. It’s only convention that elections in the UK are normally held on Thursdays; for by-elections any working day will do and we normally get a few by-elections each year which are not on a Thursday (particularly in the City of London). Before this week the last non-City by-election to be held otherwise than on a Thursday was in Cardiff earlier this year, with Cyncoed division going to the polls on Tuesday 16th July.

Today’s Tuesday by-election is in Leamington Spa. Lillington is Leam’s north-eastern ward, based around the Midland Oak at the junction of Lillington Road and Lillington Avenue. That oak tree, seen here in an old postcard, had stood for centuries and was reputed to mark the centre of England. The tree in the picture died in the 1960s and was cut down, but one of its acorns was planted in its place in 1988 and is doing well.

The land around the Midland Oak has blossomed with houses. The old village of Lillington was incorporated into Leamington Spa in the 1890s, and a large council estate was developed here after the Second World War. At the time of the 2011 census the estate was covered by Crown ward, which sticks out like a sore thumb in the town’s census return: it had the highest social housing rates, the highest rate of people with no qualifications, and the youngest population in a town which is made young again each October by Warwick University. Many of Warwick’s students live in Leamington, but Lillington is away from the main bus routes to the campus and not the sort of place where the students live.

Since 2011 Warwick council’s ward boundaries have changed twice, the most recent boundary change in May this year merging Crown ward with most of Manor ward to create Lillington ward. This doesn’t vote how you might expect. Despite its council estate history Crown ward consistently voted Liberal Democrat during this century, while Manor was generally Lib Dem but went Conservative in 2015. The only previous result for the new Lillington ward was a big Lib Dem win in May this year: their slate polled 48%, against 22% for Labour and 17% for the Conservatives. There was a similar result in the 2017 Warwickshire county elections for Leamington North division, all of which is within this ward. The May elections saw the Conservatives lose control of Warwick council, which was the only district in the West Midlands that Remain carried in the June 2016 referendum; however, the Tories are still in control thanks to a coalition with the Whitnash Residents Association. That coalition holds half of the seats, and a Conservative gain in this by-election will give it a majority.

Daniel Russell defends this by-election for the Liberal Democrats. Labour have selected Luc Lowndes, who is chairman of the Lillington Community Centre. The Tory candidate is Hayley Key, who is the manager of a local ski and outdoor leisure shop; she completes a ballot paper of three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: Warwick and Leamington (part of Leamington Spa parish), Kenilworth and Southam (Blackdown parish and part of Cubbington parish)
Warwickshire county council division: Leamington North (most), Leamington Milverton (small part), Cubbington and Leek Wootton (Blackdown parish)

Hayley Key (C)
Luc Lowndes (Lab)
Daniel Russell (LD)

May 2019 result LD 1698/1505/1464 Lab 773/760/700 C 606/532/485 Grn 448/408/362