Previewing the Cavendish (Gedling) council by-election (06 Jan 2022)


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

One by-election on 6th January 2022:


Gedling council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Gary Gregory.

Welcome to Andrew’s Previews, the weekly blog from Britain Elects which attempts to bring some context and shed some light on the electoral contests which take place on nearly every Thursday of the year. These are by-elections to fill casual vacancies in our local councils: polls which often attract a low turnout and might not necessarily mean much in the grand scheme of things, but are worth noting in their own right.

Every local by-election tells us something about the state of our electoral politics and local government, at a level which is far more local than anything our national opinion polls can pick up. However, these signals can be very different to interpret because no ward is entirely representative of Great Britain as a whole, and local factors can outweigh the national picture and result in something which might look rather strange. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and Andrew’s Previews is there to give you some sort of explanation of what is going on and what sort of result we can expect to see on Thursday night.

For the first week of 2022 we’re going to ease you in gently, as there is just one by-election this week. We’re off to the fabled Red Wall, to the city of Nottingham. Or not, as the case may be. Nottingham has outgrown the city council boundaries in nearly every direction, and the town of Carlton has been swallowed up to form the eastern end of the city’s built-up area.

The eastern Nottingham suburb of Carlton and the northern Nottingham suburb of Arnold have never been incorporated into the city of Nottingham. Instead they form the core of the Gedling parliamentary constituency and local government district, which takes its name from a former pit village on the edge of the urban sprawl.

Gedling, Cavendish

Gedling’s Cavendish ward runs north-west from Gedling town centre along the Cavendish Road. It takes in the secondary school of Carlton Academy, the Carlton Cemetery and a large amount of 20th-century suburban housing. Cavendish ward was drawn up for the 2015 local elections, taking in most of the territory of the former Valley ward. Based on the 2011 census it would not be inaccurate to describe Valley as Carlton’s council estate ward: 22% of its households were socially rented.

Andrew’s Previews hasn’t been to Gedling for quite some time: the last council by-election here was all the way back in March 2014. A catchup is clearly in order.

Gedling as whole has clearly trended to the left over the last few decades. The Conservatives had a majority on the council continuously from 1973 until the disaster year of 1995, and bounced back from that to win the 1999 local elections here; but Gedling council has been Labour-controlled since 2007. John Clarke, who has sat on Gedling council for 32 years and has been Leader of the Council since 2011, was appointed MBE in the recent New Year Honours for services to local government in Nottinghamshire.

The Gedling constituency, and its predecessor seat of Carlton, voted Conservative at every election from its creation in 1950 until the 1997 Blair landslide, when it was gained by Labour’s Vernon Coaker. By all accounts Coaker was a popular local MP with a strong personal vote, and he served the constituency for six terms before losing his seat to the Conservatives in December 2019 by fewer than 700 votes. This is a definite marginal parliamentary seat to watch, although Coaker won’t be contesting it again: he’s been translated to the Lords, where he is a frontbench Labour spokesman on home affairs.

Gedling, 2019

Cavendish may be a council estate ward, but in recent years it hasn’t quite voted in the way you might expect for a council estate ward. The predecessor Valley ward was a Lib Dem-Labour marginal area up to and including 2011, but the Lib Dem vote has now fallen away. The Conservatives took over second place in the May 2019 election in what is now a safe Labour ward: the Labour lead over the Conservatives in 2019 in Cavendish was 55-25. The ward is part of the two-seat Carlton West division of Nottinghamshire county council, which remained safe Labour in May this year with little swing compared to May 2017. Quite the contrast with the wild swings to the right which we saw on the Nottinghamshire coalfield last year.

This by-election arises from the resignation of Labour councillor Gary Gregory, who was first elected for the former Valley ward in 2011 and transferred here in the 2015 boundary changes. Defending for Labour is John Butterworth, who stood for Gedling council in 2019: on that occasion he was nine votes away from winning a seat in Arnold’s Plains ward, which made him the only Labour candidate in Arnold or Carlton that year to lose to a Conservative. The Conservative candidate is Darren Maltby, who works for the Royal British Legion supporting disabled and vulnerable armed forces veterans. Also standing are Andrew Dunkin for the Lib Dems (who represented much of this area as a councillor for Valley ward from 2003 to 2007), independent candidate Fran Loi (who was a UKIP candidate in the 2019 Gedling elections), and Jim Norris of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Gedling
Nottinghamshire county council division: Carlton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: NG4

John Butterworth (Lab)
Andrew Dunkin (LD)
Fran Loi (Ind)
Darren Maltby (C)
Jim Norris (Grn)

May 2019 result Lab 704/695 C 314/272 LD 250/236
May 2015 result Lab 953/943 LD 630/612 C 599/490 UKIP 503/373
Previous results in detail

If you enjoyed these previews, there are many more like them – 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