Previewing the six council by-elections of 09 Sep 2021

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

There are six local by-elections on 9th September 2021, with the Conservatives defending three seats, Labour and the Lib Dems one each, and one final case where it’s complicated. Half of today’s polls are in Derbyshire, including two locations this column has visited quite recently. The other half are in Tyne and Wear, which is where we start:

Cleadon and East Boldon

South Tyneside council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the disqualification of councillor Jeff Milburn.

Your columnist is going away for a few days. I was supposed to be travelling to a quiz in London, which has unfortunately fallen through; so rather than waste my leave instead I’m off to what will hopefully be the sunny and dry North East. (Please do the sun-dance on my behalf!) Putting this week’s column together has certainly whetted my appetite for the trip.

S Tyneside, Cleadon/E Boldon

We start this week’s Previews in the green belt between South Shields and Sunderland. Put away any preconceptions you may have about Tyne and Wear; there’ll be time for those later, but Cleadon is a rather nice suburban village in pleasant if unspectacular countryside. It is first recorded in the twelfth-century Boldon Book, a Domesday-style survey of the estates of the Prince-Bishop of Durham. One of the first entries in the Boldon Book was for the Bishop’s manor at Boldon, to which a large number of later entries refer (customal dues “as at Boldon”).

Modern-day Boldon has split into three villages: Boldon Colliery, West Boldon and East Boldon. The first two are in the Boldon Colliery ward of South Tyneside, leaving East Boldon in this ward. This is by far the most upmarket of the three Boldons thanks to its location on the railway line between Newcastle and Sunderland, resulting in quite a strong commuter demographic. In 2002 East Boldon station was transferred to the Tyne and Wear Metro, on which it forms part of the Sunderland and South Hylton branch.

We can see this commuter demographic in the census return. 91.3% of households in Cleadon and East Boldon are owner-occupied, which is in the top 80 wards in England and Wales and the second-highest figure for any ward in Tyne and Wear. 48% of the workforce are in managerial or professional occupations.

Cleadon and East Boldon forms part of the South Tyneside metropolitan borough which, it has to be said, has not been well-served by its elected representatives in recent years. The Labour group, which has had impregnable control of the council for decades, is prone to infighting. The opposition councillors don’t always give off a good impression either, as this column covered at the end of July with the case of independent councillor John Robertson. To cut a long story short, after acting like a dick on social media so badly and for so long that the council disciplined him twice, Robertson submitted his resignation to the council apparently by mistake, stood for re-election in the resulting by-election in Fellgate and Hedworth ward, and lost.

John Robertson was by no means the first opposition councillor in South Tyneside to turn out to be a controversy magnet. Unfortunately there has been a high concentration of these in Cleadon and East Boldon ward, which is the only ward of South Tyneside capable of electing Conservative councillors. The ward returned a full slate of Tories at the 2004 election, including a 21-year-old man called David Potts.

The then council leader Iain Malcolm exercised huge restraint in describing David Potts after his death as a “colourful but often controversial figure”. Potts led the council’s Conservative group for a while, but resigned from the party in 2011 after making an offensive tweet about David Miliband, who was the MP for South Shields at the time. His social media account also led to him being recognised as “Socialite of the Year 2012” by Private Eye, after he tweeted what looked like an invitation for people to join a sex party. More seriously, Potts was once cautioned by police for leaking confidential information to the local press. He eventually ended up in UKIP.

Sadly, underpinning all the controversies that attached themselves to David Potts was a horrific addiction to alcohol. By his own account, Potts would sometimes down a bottle of vodka in the morning, go to work as a financial investor, do his job while sipping from a hip-flask, and then wash his lunch down with up to eight gin and tonics. His alcohol intake reached, on occasion, 70 units a day. Eventually, it killed him. David Potts died in April 2013, aged just 30 years old.

The resulting by-election in June 2013 was a Labour gain and sparked a revival for the party in Cleadon and East Boldon. Following the 2016 council elections, when the last Tory councillor Jeffrey Milburn was defeated by 35 votes, Labour held all three seats in the ward for the first time. However, the Conservatives got one back in 2018, as Jeff Milburn returned to the council with a majority of 271.

Like John Robertson and the ill-fated David Potts, Jeff Milburn has trashed his reputation with his own destructive behaviour. He was elected to South Tyneside council in a September 2006 by-election as a Conservative candidate, and as stated lost his seat to Labour in 2016 but got it back in 2018. In 2019 he was thrown out of the Conservative party following claims – which he denied – that he had used racist language. From what happened next, it would appear that the party is well rid of him.

Some time later Milburn was stopped by police in Northumberland who suspected him of drink-driving. He was charged with failing to provide a specimen and the case was sent to South Tyneside magistrates, who imposed an 18-month driving ban and a 12-month community order. Milburn appealed against the sentence, and his driving licence was returned pending the outcome of his appeal. I haven’t been able to find out the result of that appeal, but nothing turns on it.

While on his way into South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court to answer the drink-driving charge in January 2020, Milburn was searched by the court’s security team who found that he was carrying a lock knife. He was charged with possession of a bladed article, and at a subsequent hearing in July 2020 South Tyneside magistrates imposed a four-month suspended prison sentence and another community order, also ordering that the weapon be destroyed. Milburn appealed against that sentence, too.

In March 2020 Jeff Milburn went into a drunken meltdown during a family dinner, and the police were called to his home. A subsequent search found a number of swords, machetes and air weapons at Milburn’s home along with two antique shotguns, in poor but working condition, which it was illegal for him to possess without a licence. At a hearing last month Milburn pleaded guilty to two firearms charges, and Newcastle Crown Court imposed a 20-month suspended prison sentence.

By this point Jeff Milburn had finally been kicked off South Tyneside council because of the knife conviction. The four-month suspended prison sentence for that offence disqualified him from being a councillor, but the disqualification could not kick in until Milburn’s appeal against the sentence was disposed of. Which is why this by-election is only being held now, rather than having been combined with the ordinary council elections in May.

May’s election in Cleadon and East Boldon was another Conservative gain, with a 48-37 lead over Labour. Labour had won the 2019 election here quite comfortably, so the seat count in the ward now stands at 1-1. If the Conservatives hold this by-election, they will be able to form a group on South Tyneside council (which currently stands at 45 Labour councillors, 4 independents, 3 Greens, 1 Conservative and this vacancy).

Defending for the Conservatives is Stan Wildhirt, a local businessman who had interests in the sportswear industry. The Labour candidate is Philip Toulson. Since I’ve had a pop at the Tories here, it’s only fair to mention that Toulson has one thing in common with Jeff Milburn: back in 2000 Northumbria Police caught him drink-driving. For extra embarrassment points, Toulson was a Northumbria Police Inspector at the time and had been responsible for a “Pubwatch” scheme to stop drunken behaviour (link). Toulson, who has also served as an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, now works as an associate tutor at Sunderland University. Completing the ballot paper is David Herbert for the Green Party, who returns from May’s election. The Shields Gazette has interviewed all the candidates, and you can find out more here (link).

Parliamentary constituency: Jarrow
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sunderland
Postcode districts: NE34, NE36, SR5, SR6

David Herbert (Grn)
Philip Toulson (Lab)
Stan Wildhirt (C)

May 2021 result C 1673 Lab 1300 Grn 450 Reform UK 63
May 2019 double vacancy Lab 1507/1076 C 839/594 Ind 386/359/284/152 Grn 363/354 LD 117
May 2018 result C 1601 Lab 1330 Grn 365
May 2016 result Lab 1503 C 1468 Grn 305
May 2015 result Lab 2631 C 2043 Grn 383
May 2014 result Lab 1249 C 1153 UKIP 713
May 2013 by-election Lab 991 C 899 UKIP 666
May 2012 result C 1692 Lab 1443
May 2011 result Lab 1931 C 1590 Progressive 238 Ind 88
May 2010 result C 2082 Lab 1978 Progressive 776 BNP 165
May 2008 result C 2224 Lab 1054 Lab 1054
May 2007 result C 1988 Lab 1080
September 2006 by-election C 1057 LD 669 Lab 601 Grn 124
May 2006 result C 1330 LD 700 Lab 660 Ind 546
June 2004 result C 1649/1569/1500 LD 1456/1177/1176 Lab 495/423/414

Castle

Newcastle upon Tyne council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Anita Lower.

We take the Metro from East Boldon north of the Tyne into what was once Northumberland and into Castle ward. We’re in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne here, and given that what’s left of the eponymous New Castle (established in the 1080s) is in the city centre, you might expect this by-election to be in the city centre.

You’d be wrong there, and the reasons why you’d be wrong go back centuries to the days when local government in England was administered on the basis of counties and hundreds, which were ancient subdivisions of counties that in many cases predated the Norman conquest. The hundred system didn’t entirely cover the whole of England: a number of counties in the former Danelaw, including the three ridings of Yorkshire, were divided into wapentakes instead.

In the four northernmost ancient counties of England (Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland and Westmorland), the name “hundred” wasn’t used either. Instead, those counties had “wards”. The old county of Northumberland had six wards: in modernised spelling they were Bamburgh, Coquetdale, Glendale (covering the north of the county around Wooler), Morpeth, Tynedale and Castle. The remit of Northumberland didn’t run to Bedlingtonshire, Norhamshire (the south bank of the Tweed, including Norham and Cornhill but not Berwick) or Islandshire (Lindisfarne and associated parts of the mainland), all of which were detached parts of County Durham until well into the nineteenth century; and it would probably be better not to discuss here the historical can of worms which is Berwick upon Tweed.

The Castle Ward of Northumberland was the county’s south-eastern corner, clearly based on the city of Newcastle. It took in basically all of the area of the current Newcastle and North Tyneside boroughs together with some areas which didn’t make it into the 1970s metropolitan county, notably the modern towns of Cramlington and Ponteland.

By the time of the 1890s when the system of hundreds was finally swept away in favour of a new system of boroughs, urban and rural districts, Newcastle upon Tyne had declared independence as a county borough and much of the rest of Castle Ward was already industrial enough that it could be covered by urban districts. The remaining rural parishes to the west of Newcastle were grouped together into a new Castle Ward Rural District, with its offices in Ponteland. The Castle Ward Rural District was dissolved in the big bang reorganisation of the 1970s, with five of its parishes annexed by Newcastle.

Newcastle (Tyne), Castle

Three of those parishes – Brunswick, Dinnington and Hazlerigg – are covered by the modern Castle ward of Newcastle upon Tyne, which as can be seen takes its name from the old rural district (and the Ward of Northumberland before it). Dinnington is the most rural of these parishes, lying beyond the airport nine miles north of the city centre: this is an old pit village, and there were a number of collieries in the area back in the day. Brunswick Village (once called Dinnington Colliery) and Hazlerigg are rather better connected thanks to their location on the A1, although some housebuilding and rather confusing boundaries have left both of those villages as part of a single urban area split between Newcastle and North Tyneside boroughs.

To the south of these parishes, along the western side of the A1 bypass, can be found Newcastle Great Park. Partly built on the site previously occupied by Hazlerigg Colliery, Newcastle Great Park is described as the largest housing development in the North East, with thousands of homes either already built (construction has been ongoing since 2001) or in the planning stage. One of the estate’s first occupiers was the technology company Sage, whose head office was here from 2004 until earlier this year. Most of the houses around the former Sage building have gone up in the last decade.

Some of the Newcastle Great Park estates form an add-on to the rather earlier development of Kingston Park, which dates from the 1970s and early 1980s. Located at the southern end of Castle ward, Kingston Park is connected to Newcastle city centre by the Tyne and Wear Metro: a station here on the Metro’s Airport branch opened in 1985.

That’s the Castle ward of Newcastle. Since 1983 this area has been part of the Newcastle upon Tyne North constituency, which is a safe Labour seat. (The present Newcastle North has little or nothing in common with the Newcastle North parliamentary seat which existed before 1983: that seat was based on the city centre, Heaton and Jesmond and consistently voted Conservative.) However, in local elections Castle ward votes for the Liberal Democrats, who form the major opposition to the Labour majority on Newcastle city council. The Lib Dems have lost this ward only once in the last twenty years (to Labour in 2015), and they improved their position here in May: the votes then were 41% for the Lib Dems, 28% for Labour and 20% for the Conservatives.

This by-election is to replace a veteran and high-profile Lib Dem councillor. Anita Lower, who died in July at the age of 64, had sat on Newcastle city council since 1994, originally representing Blakelaw ward before transferring to Castle ward in 2004. Lower had briefly served as deputy leader of the council in 2011 and was leader of the Liberal Democrat group from 2013 to 2020, and she was the party’s parliamentary candidate for Newcastle upon Tyne North in the 2015 and 2017 general elections. Judging from the 2018 result, when all three seats in the ward were up following boundary changes, she had a significant personal vote.

A hard act to follow for the defending Lib Dem candidate Thom Campion, who (then under the name of Thom Chapman) was the party’s parliamentary candidate for Blyth Valley in December 2019. Since I’ve already had a pop at the Conservatives and Labour this week, it’s only fair to mention that Campion – in a case analogous to that of the Middlesbrough footballer Marc Bola – hit the headlines during the campaign for sexist and abusive messages he put on Twitter in 2012 and 2013 (link). Like Bola, Campion is aged 23 and was under 16 at the time he tweeted that, so hopefully he has grown up a bit since. Labour have reselected Andrew Herridge who fought the ward in May. The Conservatives have nominated John Watts, the chairman of the party’s Newcastle upon Tyne branch. Also standing are regular Green Party candidate Andrew Thorp and Brian Moore, who was an independent candidate for this ward in 2018; for this by-election Moore has the nomination of the North East Party, a serious regionalist movement who are part of the ruling anti-Labour coalition on Durham county council.

Parliamentary constituency: Newcastle upon Tyne North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle
Postcode districts: NE3, NE13

Thom Campion (LD)
Andrew Herrige (Lab)
Brian Moore (North East Party)
Andrew Thorp (Grn)
John Watts (C)

May 2021 result LD 1522 Lab 1026 C 731 Ind 230 Grn 197
May 2019 result LD 1085 Lab 945 C 394 UKIP 331 Ind 237 Grn 189
May 2018 result LD 1416/1118/1093 Lab 911/882/872 C 500/490/453 Ind 359/176/151 Grn 244

Camperdown

North Tyneside council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the death of Labour councillor Raymond Glindon.

We finish our tour of Tyneside just a mile or two east of Newcastle’s Castle ward, but in the borough and constituency of North Tyneside. The name of Camperdown recalls a battle of 1797, a major British naval victory over the Dutch; this may have been fresh in the mind when the village of Camperdown grew up in the 19th century as yet another pit village on the Northumberland coalfield.

N Tyneside, Camperdown

Although this may look like a small-town area (the villages of Burradon and Annitsford are also part of the ward), Camperdown ward is not in fact like that. The ward takes in the western half of Killingworth, a quasi-New Town built by Northumberland county council in the 1960s with rather a lot of high-rise buildings, many of which didn’t make it into the 21st century. Among the people who moved to Killingworth in its early days were Bob and Thelma Ferris in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?; one of the houses in this ward was used as the filming location for their home.

There’s a fair amount of deprivation in western Killingworth and the villages, and Camperdown is a very safe Labour ward within a safe Labour parliamentary seat (North Tyneside). May’s election here was a straight fight between Labour and the Conservatives, with Labour winning 68-32. North Tyneside council has an elected mayor, Labour’s Norma Redfearn, who was re-elected in May almost as comfortably.

The Labour MP for the North Tyneside seat is Mary Glindon, whose husband Ray passed away in April at the age of 74. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago. Mary and Ray Glindon had been elected to North Tyneside council in 2004, representing Battle Hill ward in Wallsend; Ray lost his seat there to the Liberal Democrats in 2006 before finding a safer berth here in 2007. Mr Glindon’s association with the council went back a long way: he started working for the council in 1974 as an electrician, worked his way up to building manager until his retirement in 2001, and as the cabinet member for finance he presented his final budget to the council earlier this year.

Defending for Labour is Tracy Hallway. The Conservatives have selected David Lilly, who contested the safe-Labour Chirton ward in May. There is a wider choice for the electors this time, with the nomination of Martin Collins for the Green Party and Nathan Shone for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: North Tyneside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newcastle
Postcode districts: NE12, NE23

Martin Collins (Grn)
Tracy Hallway (Lab)
David Lilly (C)
Nathan Shone (LD)

May 2021 result Lab 1575 C 746
May 2019 result Lab 1281 UKIP 485 C 388
May 2018 result Lab 1565 C 547
May 2016 result Lab 1457 Ind 790 C 240
May 2015 result Lab 2915 UKIP 842 C 790
May 2014 result Lab 1391 UKIP 696 C 268
May 2012 result Lab 1747 C 353
May 2011 result Lab 1946 C 621
May 2010 result Lab 2675 C 814 LD 746 BNP 313
May 2008 result Lab 1312 C 562 BNP 363 LD 231
May 2007 result Lab 1330 C 460 LD 328 BNP 308
May 2006 result Lab 1327 C 612 BNP 405
June 2004 result Lab 1551/1399/1131 LD 610 Ind 574 C 463/462/383 BNP 309

Barlow and Holmesfield; and
Killamarsh East

North East Derbyshire council; caused respectively by the resignations of Conservative councillors Carol Huckerby and Nick Whitehead.

For the second half of this week’s Previews we travel south to Derbyshire and to territory which this column has covered quite recently. We start with a journey from Killingworth to Killamarsh.

NE Derbys, Killamarsh E

Killingworth and Killamarsh have a lot of history in common, as it was coalmining that made both towns. Killamarsh lies on the eastern side of the Rother valley on the northern edge of Derbyshire, looking across the river and the county boundary to the quasi-New Town of Mosborough on the edge of Sheffield.

The town of Killamarsh has also caught the eye of housing developers thanks to its proximity to the big city. Its population has increased by half in the last fifty years, and from looking at the census return one suspects that white flight is a major part of that. In the 2011 census Killamarsh East ward was 98.5% White British, which was the second-highest figure for any ward in the East Midlands and within in the top 60 wards in England and Wales.

NE Derbys, Barlow/Holmesfield

The White British population in Barlow and Holmesfield isn’t much lower, at 97.7%. However, this is a very different area. As can be seen from the map, Barlow and Holmesfield is a rural ward which covers a number of villages to the north-west of Chesterfield. The ward covers a large area, and much of its western half lies within the Peak District National Park.

Barlow and Holmesfield ward has had unchanged boundaries since North East Derbyshire council was set up in the 1970s, and Killamarsh East escaped a boundary review for the 2019 election unchanged. So we can compare results here over quite a long period of time. Not that there’s much to report on in the case of Barlow and Holmesfield, which has been in Conservative hands since 1991. After standing here as an independent candidate in 1995, the Conservatives’ Carol Huckerby had represented the ward continuously since 1999 without serious opposition: she was re-elected for a sixth term in 2019 with a 65-22 lead over Labour. She is standing down after 22 years’ service.

NE Derbys, 2019

Killamarsh used to be such a strong Labour town that its local elections would regularly go uncontested. Labour won Killamarsh East ward unopposed in 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003 and 2007, and the Conservatives didn’t stand a candidate here between 1979 and 2011. As recently as May 2015 the Labour slate had a 68-32 lead in Killamarsh East.

Since then Killamarsh has swung a mile to the right. In May 2019 the Conservative slate polled 53% to Labour’s 47% and won both of the ward’s seats, the second by a majority of one vote. Those two seat gains helped the Conservatives to gain control of North East Derbyshire council from Labour in the May 2019 elections, which returned 30 Conservative councillors against 18 Labour, 3 Lib Dems and two independents. A further Labour seat has since gone Conservative in a by-election.

The lead Conservative councillor in Killamarsh East, Kevin Bone, subsequently resigned from the council along with his wife Patricia (who was elected for Killamarsh West ward); both by-elections were held in May alongside the Derbyshire county council elections, and both of them were held by the Conservatives. The East ward by-election in May had an increased Conservative lead of 56-39 over Labour.

It’s not technically accurate to describe Killamarsh as part of the Red Wall. Killamarsh (like Barlow and Holmesfield) is part of the North East Derbyshire constituency, which had already been an against-the-trend Conservative gain in June 2017. However, you can see from that recent history that it does share many characteristics with Red Wall-type areas.

May’s Derbyshire county council elections also saw the Conservatives convincingly gain the two-seat Eckington and Killamarsh county division from Labour, after a near-miss in May 2017. Barlow and Holmesfield ward is part of the Dronfield West and Walton division of the county council, which was close between the Tories and UKIP in 2013 but is now very safe for the Conservatives.

Killamarsh East’s other Conservative councillor, Nick Whitehead, has now resigned in his turn provoking the ward’s second by-election in four months. He was the councillor elected in May 2019 by one vote, polling 354 votes to 353 for the lead Labour candidate.

So, this one should be closely watched. Defending Killamarsh East for the Conservatives is Wendy Tinley, who represents the ward on Killamarsh parish council. The Labour candidate is Tony Lacey, who appears to be fighting his first election campaign. Completing the ballot paper is Mark Firth for the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives should have an easier defence in Barlow and Holmesfield, where they have selected the wonderfully-named Bentley Strafford-Stephenson. He is described as actively involved in a number of local charitable and voluntary causes. Labour have selected Ross Griffin, who stood for the council in Tupton ward (on the far side of Chesterfield) in 2019. Again, the Lib Dems complete the ballot paper with their candidate John Wilcock.

Barlow and Holmesfield

Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Dronfield West and Walton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chesterfield
Postcode districts: S17, S18

Ross Griffin (Lab)
Bentley Strafford-Stephenson (C)
John Wilcock (LD)

May 2019 result C 370 Lab 122 LD 75
May 2015 result C 719 Lab 286 UKIP 208
May 2011 result C 553 Lab 208
May 2007 result C 524 Lab 131
May 2003 result C 398 Lab 126
May 1999 result C 406 Lab 183
May 1995 result C 369 Lab 264 Ind 189
May 1991 result C 500 Lab 253 Ind 165
May 1987 result Ind 422 C 321 Lab 121
May 1983 result C unopposed
May 1979 result C 787 Ind 233 Lab 151
May 1976 result Ind 695 Lab 164
May 1973 result Ind 594 Lab 194

Killamarsh East

Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Eckington and Killamarsh
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sheffield
Postcode district: S21

Mark Firth (LD)
Tony Lacey (Lab)
Wendy Tinley (C)

May 2021 by-election C 519 Lab 359 LD 42
May 2019 result C 395/354 Lab 353/348
May 2015 result Lab 1044/1017 C 502/496
May 2011 result Lab 743/652 C 282/206
May 2007 result 2 Lab unopposed
May 2003 result 2 Lab unopposed

Seales

South Derbyshire council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Amy Wheelton, who was elected as a Conservative. She is seeking re-election.

It’s traditional for a performance to be ended by clapping, so let’s finish this week’s edition of Andrew’s Previews by considering Seales. Not maritime ones though. The Seales ward of South Derbyshire includes the village of Coton in the Elms, which is recognised as the farthest point in the UK from the sea. We are 70 miles away from the Wash, the Dee Estuary or the Severn Estuary.

S Derbys, Seales

Despite that, you can almost get to Coton in the Elms by boat. The village is one of six rural parishes making up Seales ward, which lies to the south-west of Swadlincote and is the southernmost ward of Derbyshire. The ward’s western boundary is the River Trent, just beyond which (via the bridge at Walton on Trent) is the Derby-Birmingham railway line, the Roman Road of Ryknield Street (now the A38), the Trent and Mersey Canal and a marina at Barton-under-Needwood. From here it is possible to float to the North Sea, via the Trent and Mersey Canal, the navigable River Trent and the Humber estuary. Or, if you go the other way along the Trent and Mersey Canal, you can float to the Irish Sea, or to the Severn Estuary via the West Midlands’ canal network.

Seales ward (perhaps not surprisingly, given its location) is part of a local government district called South Derbyshire. The ward was created in 2003 with two councillors as a merger of three previous single-member wards (Netherseal, Overseal and Walton) which were undersized, and it survived a boundary review in 2011 unchanged. Although there was a Labour history in some of the previous wards, Seales has proven to be a safe Conservative ward with the exception of the 2011 election, when it returned one councillor each from the Tories and Labour.

S Derbys, 2019

In 2019 the Conservative slate of Amy Wheelton, a farmer from Walton-on-Trent, and Andrew Brady won Seales ward with an increased majority of 51-30 over Labour. Both of them were new candidates. May 2019 was the fourth election in a row that the Conservatives had won a majority on South Derbyshire, although they did lose two seats nett for a 22-14 lead. The South Derbyshire district has the same boundaries as the parliamentary seat of that name, which the Conservatives have held since 2010 and where they now enjoy a very large majority.

However, the Conservative group in South Derbyshire has fallen apart over the last year or so. Going into the 2021 Derbyshire county elections there were four vacant seats on the district council, all following the resignations of Conservative councillors; Seales councillor Amy Wheelton had been suspended from the Party; and a number of other Conservatives had walked off to form a splinter group. They removed the Conservative leadership of the council and installed a Labour minority administration, which remains in place.

The Conservatives held all four by-elections to South Derbyshire council in May, one of which was in Seales ward following the resignation of Councillor Brady. In a straight Tory-Labour fight, the Conservatives increased their majority to 67-33. At the last count, the council was finely balanced with 15 Labour councillors, 15 Conservatives, 5 councillors in the splinter “Independent Group” and this vacancy.

Also in May Amy Wheelton fought the local Derbyshire county council division of Linton as an independent candidate. She finished a strong third with 23% of the vote, against 46% for the Conservatives and 31% for Labour – an against-the-grain swing to Labour compared with the 2017 Derbyshire election.

Wheelton stood down from South Derbyshire council in June provoking the ward’s second by-election in four months. Although the reason for this was not disclosed at the time, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was to undergo a mastectomy. It appears that this procedure was a complete success, and in her case chemotherapy was not required.

Following this better-than-expected medical news Amy Wheelton is seeking re-election, as an independent candidate, in the by-election caused by her own resignation. It will be the second contest in four months between her and Conservative candidate Stuart Swann, who was elected in May as the local Derbyshire county councillor. Swann has sat on South Derbyshire council before, representing Church Gresley ward from 2015 to 2019 when he lost his seat to a running-mate. The Labour candidate is Louise Mulgrew, who contested Swadlincote South division in May’s county elections. Completing the ballot paper is Amanda Baker for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: South Derbyshire
Derbyshire county council division: Linton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burton upon Trent
Postcode districts: DE12, DE15

Amanda Baker (Grn)
Louise Mulgrew (Lab)
Stuart Swann (C)
Amy Wheelton (Ind)

May 2021 by-election C 1070 Lab 527
May 2019 result C 667/657 Lab 400/303 SDP 251
May 2015 result C 1371/1359 Lab 1005/925 UKIP 650
May 2011 result C 1015/919 Lab 928/730
May 2007 result C 1048/989 Lab 582/458
May 2003 result C 895/785 Lab 523/495


If you enjoyed this preview, there are many more like it – going back to 2016 – in the Andrew’s Previews books, which are available to buy now (link). You can also support future previews by donating to the Local Elections Archive Project (link).

Andrew Teale