Preview: 30 Oct 2019

One by-election on Wednesday 30th October 2019:


Windsor and Maidenhead council, Berkshire; caused by the resignation of the Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor Simon Dudley, who is concentrating on national politics. He had served since 2007.

For the second in our three-part series of by-elections this week we are in Maidenhead. Riverside ward obviously refers to the Thames: it’s Maidenhead’s north-eastern ward, running north from the Maidenhead Bridge which carries the A4 into town from London. There has been a bridge on this site since 1280, and that crossing was the making of Maidenhead at a town. The name was originally Maidenhythe, referring to a “new wharf” which was built next to the bridge to take advantage of that passing trade. This isn’t the only “hythe” on the Thames: the word “hythe” (an Old English term meaning “landing-place”) appears in heavily-disguised form some miles downstream in Putney (Putta’s landing-place), Chelsea (chalk landing-place), Lambeth (lambs’ landing-place), Stepney (Stebba’s landing-place) and Rotherhithe (oxen landing-place).

Over the centuries Maidenhead has grown into a prosperous middle-class commuter town and Riverside ward is typical of it. In 2011 the Maidenhead Riverside ward had almost half of its workforce in upper-middle-class occupation; the population also had a sizeable Asian element and 16% of its residents were born outside the EU. Rather ironic given that this is the seat held in Parliament by Theresa May, whose ill-advised term as prime minister was preceded by some years as Home Secretary. Ward boundary changes for the 2019 election removed the “Maidenhead” prefix, a small corner of the ward and one of the three councillors, but it’s still basically the same unit.

Mrs May had seen the Tory vote in her constituency grow at both parliamentary and district level since she fended off a “decapitation” attempt from the Lib Dems at the 2005 general election. In May 2015 the Home Secretary was re-elected with 66% of the vote and the Tories won all but one of the Windsor and Maidenhead council seats in her constituency. There was a by-election in Maidenhead Riverside ward in March 2016 (Andrew’s Previews 2016, page 57) whose result gave the Tories no cause for concern.

That was then, and this is now. The Conservatives came uncomfortably close to losing their majority on Windsor and Maidenhead council in May this year, finishing with 23 out of 41 seats; rather a drop from 54 out of 57 four years earlier. The Lib Dems had a resurgence to nine seats, and a variety of minor parties and residents’ groups won nine seats between them. One of those minor parties was a new grouping with the curiously-capitalised name of tBf (“the Borough first”), a localist group which won three seats and came a close second in Riverside ward. Shares of the vote in this ward were 35% for the Conservative slate, 28% for tBf and 20% for the Liberal Democrats.

So this looks likely to be a much more marginal affair than the March 2016 by-election. Defending for the Conservatives is Gregory Jones, who runs an estate agency. tBf have reselected their party leader Claire Stretton, a graphic designer and former Conservative councillor who was runner-up here in May; she previously represented Boyn Hill ward from 2015 to 2019, and before that sat on Wokingham council (for Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe ward) from 2008 to 2011. The Lib Dems have also reselected a candidate from May, Kashmir Singh. Completing the ballot paper are Craig McDermott for the Green Party, Sharon Bunce for Labour and Deborah Mason for the Women’s Equality Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Maidenhead

Sharon Bunce (Lab)
Gregory Jones (C)
Deborah Mason (WEP)
Craig McDermott (Grn)
Kashmir Singh (LD)
Claire Stretton (tBf)

May 2019 result C 851/777 tBf 678/600 LD 476/450 Grn 215 Lab 182/168

Sharon Teresa BUNCE, Windsor and Maidenhead [Labour Party]
Gregory Granville JONES, 6 Amberley Court, Maidenhead SL6 8LJ [The Conservative Party Candidate]
Deborah Celia MASON, 5 Rayfield, Ray Park Avenue, Maidenhead SL6 8DL [Women’s Equality Party]
Craig Colquhoun MCDERMOTT, 58 Ray Park Avenue, Maidenhead SL6 8DX [Green Party]
Kashmir SINGH, 21 Sperling Road, Maidenhead SL6 7LB [Liberal Democrats]
Claire Elizabeth STRETTON, Little House, Boyn Hill Avenue, Maidenhead SL6 4HA [tBf – the Borough first]