Previewing the Super Thursday by-elections of 25 Nov 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

It's Super Thursday today, with thirteen by-elections taking place today in England in the biggest test of public opinion remaining this year. There are six Labour defences, four Conservatives, two independent seats and a Lib Dem up for election in England. There are lots of stories to tell and there will be something for everyone to enjoy here. Without further ado, let's start with the big one:

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner; and
Raskelf and White Horse

The by-election for North Yorkshire PCC follows the resignation of Conservative PCC Philip Allott. The by-election for Raskelf and White Horse ward, Hambleton council, follows the resignation of Conservative councillor Jill Mortimer MP.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
—parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Your columnist has a regular habit of doing a lot of Christmas shopping in the tiny city of Ripon. "Stay awhile amid its ancient charms", say the signs leading into the city, and Ripon is certainly a charming place which the Industrial Revolution essentially passed by. The market square was described by Daniel Defoe as "the finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England", and a few centuries on from Defoe's time that's still a fair assessment. Every evening at 9pm a hornblower turns up in the market square, providing a timecheck for the locals. The city's impressive cathedral dates from the twelfth century, and includes a tiny crypt from a previous Anglo-Saxon monastery constructed by the seventh-century St Wilfrid.

Just to the west of Ripon is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in North Yorkshire. Studley Royal Park is a romantic landscape garden dating to the eighteenth century. You're probably a bit too late in the autumn now to get the full effect of the tree colours, but the Studley Royal Park also contains the impressive ruins of Fountains Abbey. Fountains controlled extensive lands in the Yorkshire Dales back in the day, making it one of the largest and richest monasteries in England up until the time of dissolution.

The preservation of Fountains' ruins owes a lot to the taste of John Aislabie, who was MP for Ripon for much of the early 18th century and owned the Studley Royal estate. Aislabie had been mayor of Ripon in 1702-03, and he erected the obelisk in the market square which still stands. He was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718, and in that capacity he negotiated a notorious deal whereby the UK national debt was taken over by the South Sea Company in return for government bonds. The South Sea Company subsequently collapsed in 1720 with huge losses for much of the UK's upper classes. Parliament set up an inquiry, which reported that the government's support for the scheme was a result of massive levels of corruption. Aislabie himself had received £20,000 in South Sea stock. He was expelled from the House of Commons and the Privy Council, which left him free to concentrate on the development of the Studley Royal garden once he was eventually released from the Tower of London.

The Industrial Revolution may have passed Ripon by, but it has had an effect on other locations in North Yorkshire. Most notably, Skipton, which is a classic Pennine textile town and also, these days, a commuter centre for the cities of west Yorkshire.

Skipton is also a major tourist draw, thanks to its proximity to the countryside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Within striking distance of Skipton can be found the village of Malham, where generations of northern schoolchildren have been sent to learn geology; while for hikers there is the attraction of the Three Peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent. The countryside around Skipton and the Dales was brought to a wider audience in 2014, when the first two stages of the Tour de France were routed through Yorkshire.

The Dales give way in the east to the Vale of York, a low-lying area in the north of the county through which the main communication links to north-east England pass. Major towns here include Northallerton (the home of North Yorkshire county council), Thirsk and Richmond, together with the enormous Army garrison at Catterick. The military have an extensive presence in North Yorkshire. As well as Catterick, there are a number of RAF airbases in the Vale of York and two large intelligence stations: the "golf balls" at Menwith Hill which the US authorities use for surveillance, and the radar station on the coast at RAF Fylingdales watching for incoming missiles.

The Fylingdales radar station lies in North Yorkshire's second national park, the North York Moors. This rugged (although not particularly high) moorland extends over a wide area in the north-east of the county, and takes in the port of Whitby. That town is a tourist trap for all sorts of reasons - Captain Cook, Dracula, goth culture, superlative fish and chips - but it should also be well known for an event which took place here in 664. The Synod of Whitby, hosted here in that year by St Hilda, led to a decision by King Oswiu that the kingdom of Northumbria should come into line with the Roman Catholic church in customs including the calculation of Easter. St Wilfred, builder of the tiny crypt under Ripon Cathedral, led the argument in favour of the Roman practice at the Synod.

Whitby is not the major town on the Yorkshire coast. This is the resort town of Scarborough, located either side of a promontory in the North Sea. Scarborough has a long history and a fishing industry, but it was made what it is today by the Victorians. The Grand Hotel in Scarborough, at the time of its opening in 1867, was the largest hotel in Europe. Unfortunately, it has fallen into the hands of the Britannia group.

The Victorians also made the largest and most expensive population centre covered by North Yorkshire county council. This is Harrogate, a spa town which has given us Yorkshire Tea (which, according to no less an authority than the Speaker of the House of Commons, is one of only two good things to come out of Yorkshire), Betty's tearooms, a thriving conference industry and the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest. The Liberal Democrats have held a number of party conferences in Harrogate over the years.

The south of the county has an economy dominated by energy. Kellingley Colliery, which closed in December 2015, was the last deep coal mine in the UK. It was part of the Selby coalfield, which provided the fuel for three large coal-fired power stations at the southern end of North Yorkshire. The cooling towers at Eggborough power station were demolished last month, but some of Ferrybridge's towers are still standing for reuse in a future gas-fired plant. And then there is Drax. Now fully converted to biomass operation, Drax is the largest power station in the UK and provides 6% of the country's electricity.

In the centre of all this is an ancient city which was known as Eboracom to the Romans, Eoforwīc to the Anglo-Saxons and Jórvík to the Vikings. York, as centuries of smoothing of unnecessary letters have turned Jórvík into, was for centuries the major urban centre in the north of England. The Industrial Revolution has put paid to that status, but York is still by far the largest city in the North Yorkshire police area. Major employers here have traditionally included the Rowntree chocolate factory and the railways. The National Railway Museum, one of the UK's largest and most-visited museums, has been located here since 1975. The University of York was founded in 1963, on a duck-infested campus at Heslington to the south-east of the city; it has educated a number of our most prominent politicians, including the Mother of the House Harriet Harman.

York may be the largest city in North Yorkshire but only about a quarter of the county's population lives there (and this includes a significant rural hinterland which lies within the city boundary). Much of the acreage of North Yorkshire is agricultural, with prime farming land in the Vale of York complemented by upland sheep farming in the Dales. Those of a certain age might remember the books of the Yorkshire vet James Herriot, turned into the successful TV series All Creatures Great and Small; Herriot was the pseudonym of Alfred Wight, who worked as a vet in Thirsk for fifty years.

It's this rural area, and the Conservatism which dominates it, that sets the tone for North Yorkshire's elections. This is the most Conservative part of Yorkshire: even in the disaster year of 1997, the Tories still held four of the county's eight parliamentary constituencies (three went to Labour and one to the Lib Dems). The Richmond constituency, which has voted Conservative at every election since 1886 with the exception of the 1906 Liberal landslide, has since 1983 been represented successively by three titans of modern Conservatism: the European Commissioner Leon Brittan, the party leader William Hague, and the current Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Since 2010 North Yorkshire has represented by 7 Conservative MPs against 1 Labour (from the York Central constituency). The December 2019 general election gave the Conservatives 54% of the vote across the county, with Labour coming in second on 26%.

North Yorkshire, 2016-19

In the map above, the leading party for each ward in the last ordinary local elections in North Yorkshire is shown. Results are from May 2019 except for Harrogate (2018) and some wards in Craven (2018 or 2016), and each ward has been resized in proportion to its population. We can see that this extra detail gives a more diverse picture than the recent parliamentary results. The Conservatives control the district councils in Harrogate (which includes Ripon and a large rural area), Hambleton (covering the Vale of York) and Selby, and also have half of the seats in Craven district (based on Skipton and Settle) which they run in coalition with independents. The other four districts covering the county have anti-Conservative coalitions: York is run by the Lib Dems and Greens and is the weakest Conservative area of the county, Scarborough is run by Labour and independent councillors, Ryedale (based on the agricultural Vale of Pickering) is run by Lib Dem and independent councillors, and Richmondshire council has an independent-led coalition with the Lib Dems and Greens.

Not for much longer though, probably. Local government reorganisation is in the works, and the likelihood is that all of these councils (except for York, which has unitary status) will probably be swept away in a takeover by North Yorkshire county council, which has a Conservative majority. Mind, anybody who thinks that Bentham is local to Scarborough or Selby, despite their being in the same county, probably hasn't grasped the concept of local in local government. All of those locations are over an hour (in some cases, well over an hour) by road from Northallerton, where the new North Yorkshire council will likely be administered from.

The three elections to date for North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner have resulted in Conservative wins, although they have all gone to runoffs with the exception of the 2012 election (which only had two candidates). The Conservative majority over Labour has steadily increased, from 58-42 at the comedy elections of November 2012 to 61-39 at the last PCC elections in May this year. The Tories weren't far off winning six months ago on first preferences alone: the first count gave 47% to the Conservatives, 26% to Labour and 14% to independent candidate Keith Tordoff.

That was the first major election win for Philip Allott, a former leader of the Conservative group on Harrogate council who had been elected as Mayor of Knaresborough when he was just 25 years old. Allott had previously stood for parliament four times, losing three contests in marginal seats: in Bolton West in 2005, and in Halifax in 2010 and 2015. On the last occasion, he finished just 428 votes behind the new Labour candidate. He finally got his chance at high office after the previous Conservative PCC Julia Mulligan, who had served since 2012, was deselected.

Philip Allott served for just five months as North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. His downfall came as the result of an interview he made to BBC Radio York following the sentencing of a police officer for the murder of Sarah Everard in London. Allott's remarks that women should be "streetwise" caused sustained outrage, and he resigned as commissioner two weeks later after losing the confidence of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel.

This kicks into action the police and crime commissioner by-election rules, which have been criticised in this column on a number of previous occasions. Suffice to say that the timing of Allott's resignation meant that the by-election would have to take place either this week or next week. It's a ridiculously short time to organise a by-election across such a large area for such an important post.

Anyway, we are here now. Defending for the Conservatives is Zoë Metcalfe, a project manager for a property asset management company, who sits on North Yorkshire county council and on Harrogate council. She represents the town of Knaresborough on the county council and Claro ward, which covers a number of villages to the north and east of Knaresborough, on the district council. Metcalfe has stood for Parliament twice, on both occasions in safe Labour seats (Doncaster Central in 2015, Leeds West in 2017).

Labour have gone for youth in selecting Emma Scott-Spivey, a 23-year-old student paramedic. Scott-Spivey lives in Thirsk and is the daughter of two police officers.

There are three other candidates on the ballot, headed by independent candidate Keith Tordoff who returns after his third-place finish in May. Tordoff served as a police officer in Leeds for 20 years, working on the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, and went on to work for the Bank of Scotland; for 20 years he has run the sweetshop at Pateley Bridge, in Nidderdale, and in the 2018 Birthday Honours he was appointed MBE for services to the community. Also returning from May's election is the Lib Dems' James Barker, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who represents the Rural West York ward on York city council. Completing the ballot paper is Hannah Barham-Brown, a junior doctor who sits on the council of the British Medical Association; Barham-Brown is the candidate for and deputy leader of the Women's Equality Party.

Hambleton, Raskelf/White Horse

There is one local by-election taking place in North Yorkshire to help drive up turnout for the PCC by-election. The Raskelf and White Horse ward covers seventeen parishes in the countryside between Thirsk and Easingwold. Part of the ward is within the North York Moors National Park, including the eponymous White Horse at Kilburn: thought to be England's most northerly hill figure, the White Horse dates from the nineteenth century and dominates the horizon of the southern Vale of York. As well as the White Horse tourists can visit Shandy Hall, the former home of the Tristram Shandy writer Laurence Sterne, which is now a museum in the village of Coxwold. The ward runs downhill through Raskelf, which is the largest population centre in the ward with 443 electors on the roll, and its western boundary is the River Swale at Helperby and Myton-on-Swale. Myton-on-Swale was the location of a battle in 1319 when an army of locals, led by the Archbishop of York William Melton, were defeated by Scottish raiders.

This ward was created in 2015 as a merger of the former Helperby ward with most of the former White Horse ward, neither of which had been contested in the 2003, 2007 or 2011 Hambleton elections. The new ward was also Conservative unopposed in 2015, but the Greens stood a candidate in 2019 after the previous Conservative councillor Caroline Patmore stood down: new face Jillian Mortimer won a straight fight by 59-41. Patmore remains the county councillor for Stillington, which covers the former White Horse ward; this was one of only two county council seats in the whole of England to go uncontested in the May 2017 local elections. We can see that contested local elections in this corner of the Vale of York are relative novelties.

Hambleton, 2019

Jill Mortimer is now an MP, having gained the Hartlepool parliamentary seat in May's by-election, and she has taken the opportunity to stand down from Hambleton council to concentrate on her duties in Westminster. To succeed her the Conservatives have selected Philippa James. The Greens have returned with new candidate Adam Harper, who gives an address in the ward in the village of Helperby, and the ballot is completed by the ward's first Liberal Democrat candidate Neil Beckwith.

Don't wait up for these two results: although all the other by-elections today are overnight counts, the PCC and Raskelf by-election votes won't start being counted until Friday morning.

North Yorkshire PCC

Parliamentary constituencies: Harrogate and Knaresborough, Richmond (Yorks), Scarborough and Whitby, Selby and Ainsty, Skipton and Ripon, Thirsk and Malton, York Central, York Outer

Hannah Barham-Brown (Women's Equality)
James Barker (LD)
Zoë Metcalfe (C)
Emma Scott-Spivey (Lab)
Keith Tordoff (Ind)

May 2021 first preferences C 73657 Lab 40803 Ind 22338 LD 19773; final C 84737 Lab 53442
May 2016 first preferences C 53078 Lab 34351 Ind 30984 LD 13856; final C 65018 Lab 44759
November 2012 result C 47885 Lab 34328

Raskelf and White Horse

Parliamentary constituency: Thirsk and Malton
North Yorkshire county council division: Easingwold (part: Birdforth, Brafferton and Helperby, Fawdington, Myton-on-Swale, Raskelf, Tholthorpe and Thormanby parishes), Stillington (part: Angram Grange, Carlton Husthwaite, Coxwold, Husthwaite, Kilburn High and Low, Newburgh, Oulston, Thirkleby High and Low with Osgodby, Thornton-on-the-Hill and Wildon Grange parishes)
ONS Travel to Work Area: York (part: part of Easingwold county division), Northallerton (part: part of Stillington county division)
Postcode districts: YO7, YO61

Neil Beckwith (LD)
Adam Harper (Grn)
Philippa James (C)

May 2019 result C 560 Grn 396
May 2015 result C unopposed
Previous results in detail

Speldhurst and Bidborough

Tunbridge Wells council, Kent; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Julian Stanyer.

Tunbridge Wells, Speldhurst/Bidborough

For our discussion of the remaining local by-elections this week we will start in the south and work our way back north. The Speldhurst and Bidborough ward covers the rural villages to the west of Tunbridge Wells which are part of the Tunbridge Wells district. As well as the two eponymous villages, the ward extends along the A264 road towards East Grinstead as far as Ashurst, which is the ward's railhead (Ashurst station is on the Uckfield branch line). Also here is the village of Langton Green, which for many years was home to the factory which made Subbuteo figures.

For many years Speldhurst and Bidborough has been won by the team playing in blue, as you would expect for a leafy middle-class area in west Kent. A majority of the workforce in this ward are in managerial or professional occupations. However, Tunbridge Wells council has courted controversy in recent years with a now-abandoned plan for a new civic centre in the town which went down with the locals with, for want of a better word, disgust. The Conservatives performed appallingly here in the May 2019 local elections, with Speldhurst and Bidborough ward being won by the anti-civic centre Tunbridge Wells Alliance group, and there was enough residual disquiet that the ruling Conservatives lost their majority on the council this year. The Tories currently have 23 seats plus this vacancy, against 13 Lib Dems, 5 seats each for Labour and the Tunbridge Wells Alliance, and an independent; the Conservatives need to hold this by-election in order to retain control via the Mayor's casting vote.

Both of the remaining Conservative seats in Speldhurst and Bidborough came up for election this May following the resignation of councillor Julia Soyke. After the disaster of 2019 the Tories recovered to hold both seats quite comfortably: shares of the vote were 42% for the Conservatives, 22% for the Tunbridge Wells Alliance and 14% for the Green Party. Julian Stanyer, a chartered surveyor who had represented the ward since 2008 and was Mayor of Tunbridge Wells in 2014-15, was re-elected in second place; that meant that he would need to finish Soyke's term and seek re-election next May. As will the winner of this by-election. The Tories also won with 42% in May in the local county division of Tunbridge Wells West, where the Lib Dems ran second; this is not the strong Lib Dem part of the division.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rowena Stanyer, who will be hoping to take over the seat previously held by her father. Rowena works as a communications specialist. The Tunbridge Wells Alliance have reselected their runner-up from May Matthew Sankey, who is a restaurateur. The Greens have not returned, so the ballot paper is completed by Labour candidate Aleksander Klimanski.

Parliamentary constituency: Tunbridge Wells
Kent county council division: Tunbridge Wells West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Tunbridge Wells
Postcode districts: TN3, TN4, TN11

Aleksander Klimanski (Lab)
Matthew Sankey (Tunbridge Wells Alliance)
Rowena Stanyer (C)

May 2021 double vacancy C 912/860 Tunbridge Wells Alliance 486 Grn 311 LD 290/246 Lab 176/174
May 2019 result Tunbridge Wells Alliance 1007 C 613 LD 351
May 2018 result C 1186 LD 361 Lab 251
May 2016 result C 1139 Lab 283 UKIP 212
May 2015 result C 2289 LD 491 UKIP 446 Lab 366
May 2014 result C 1255 UKIP 396 LD 201 Lab 198
May 2012 result C 1011 UKIP 221 Lab 212 Lab 164
May 2011 result C 1613 LD 517 UKIP 265
May 2010 result C 2272 LD 921 UKIP 249
May 2008 result C 1345 LD 331 UKIP 152
May 2007 result C 1302 LD 457
May 2006 result C 1400 LD 451
June 2004 result C 1373 LD 568
May 2003 result C 1011 LD 333 Grn 89
May 2002 result C 1128/1126/1096 LD 420/415
Previous results in detail

Bedford

Wandsworth council, London; caused by the resignation of former Labour councillor Hannah Stanislaus.

We move into Greater London for what may be the last local by-election before all the London borough councillors are due for re-election next year. This is one of only two council vacancies in the capital at the moment which occurred before the six-month rule came into effect: the other is in the Kenton West ward of Harrow, which will have one fewer councillor once boundary changes kick in next year, and accordingly nobody seems to be in any hurry to call a by-election there for a seat which will shortly disappear anyway. However, this column will return to Greater London next week for the Parliamentary Special in Old Bexley and Sidcup.

Before then, we discuss a borough which will be the subject of a lot of column inches in the run-up to next year's elections: the borough of Wandsworth. This district now has three Labour MPs following the gain of Putney, against the national trend, in the 2019 general election. However, the Conservatives have run Wandsworth council for decades with an aggressive low-council-tax policy, which has found favour with many local residents who would normally vote Labour for other levels of government.

Wandsworth, 2018

Despite this, Wandsworth council has been trending to the left in recent years. The 2006 borough elections returned 51 Conservatives and 9 Labour; but by 2018 (above) the Tory lead was down to 33-26, with one independent councillor. Labour actually topped the poll in the 2018 Wandsworth elections, polling 38.6% against 38.1% for the Conservatives, but their vote was not well distributed.

Wandsworth, Bedford

We can see this leftward shift in the electoral history of Bedford ward. If Balham is the Gateway to the South, then Bedford ward is the area immediately beyond the Gateway. The ward is named after Bedford Hill and takes in most of Tooting Common; Tooting Bec underground station, on the Northern Line, lies on the ward boundary. Unsurprisingly, the area is part of the Tooting constituency. This is another middle-class ward but is very different in character to Speldhurst and Bidborough. In the 2011 census Bedford ward made the top 40 wards in England and Wales for full-time employment (57.0%) and for residents with degree-level qualifications (61.1%), was in the top 50 for those employed in professional, scientific and technical activities (19.1%), and was in the top 60 for lower managerial, administrative and professional occupations (33.0%) and for the 30-44 age bracket (31.7%).

Up until the 2014 borough elections Bedford ward had a full slate of Conservative councillors. In May 2014 Labour gained two seats in the ward, and both of their elected candidates that year went on to become MPs. Rosena Allin-Khan made it to the green benches just a couple of years later by winning the June 2016 Tooting by-election after Sadiq Khan's election as Mayor of London, while Fleur Anderson was the Labour candidate who gained the Putney constituency in December 2019.

Allin-Khan saw out her term on Wandsworth council, retiring at the 2018 election at which Labour won all three seats in Bedford ward with a large majority of 50-34 over the Conservatives. Anderson resigned from the council earlier this year to allow a by-election to be held alongside the 2021 London mayor and assembly election: that by-election gave 48% to Labour's Hannah Stanislaus, 32% to the Conservatives and 15% to the Green Party.

We can contrast these results with the Mayor and Assembly elections held on the same day, however some caution as required as the ward breakdowns for those elections do not include postal votes (which were tallied at borough level). The on-the-day vote in Bedford ward gave the former local MP Sadiq Khan a 54-25 lead over the Conservatives' Shaun Bailey, while in the London Members ballot Labour led with 45% to 26% for the Conservatives and 15% for the Greens.

Hannah Stanislaus' time on Wandsworth council proved to be brief. Stanislaus left the Labour party at the end of August, citing bullying allegations, and subsequently resigned from the council in October after a couple of months sitting as an independent councillor.

As such the voters of Bedford ward are being called out for the second by-election here in six months. Defending for Labour this time is former Wandsworth councillor Sheila Boswell, who was the Labour parliamentary candidate for Putney in the 2015 general election and is now chair of the party's Tooting branch. The Conservatives have reselected Thomas Mytton, who will be hoping for a result which improves on what he got in May's by-election. The Greens' Roy Vickery returns after standing here in 2014 and 2018; Vickery worked for over 40 years as a botanist at the Natural History Museum in central London, and he still helps out with the museum's lichen collection as well as lecturing on plant folklore and studying the flora on Tooting Common. Completing the ballot is Paul Tibbles for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Tooting
London Assembly constituency: Merton and Wandsworth
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: SW12, SW16, SW17

Sheila Boswell (Lab)
Thomas Mytton (C)
Paul Tibbles (LD)
Roy Vickery (Grn)

May 2021 by-election Lab 2714 C 1778 Grn 815 LD 310
May 2018 result Lab 2835/2719/2376 C 1955/1889/1794 Grn 525 LD 354/317/295
May 2014 result Lab 1935/1843/1716 C 1895/1828/1826 Grn 673 LD 329/288 UKIP 243
May 2010 result C 3351/3068/3023 Lab 2673/2299/2025 LD 1458/1310/1309 Grn 710/5
25
May 2006 result C 1960/1929/1836 Lab 1093/1093/1062 Grn 750 LD 521/464 Ind 95
May 2002 result C 1394/1366/1276 Lab 1254/1057/1019 Grn 533 LD 468
Previous results in detail

May 2021 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 2272 C 1055 Grn 405 LD 156 Count Binface 61 Reclaim 57 Omilana 42 Women's Equality 40 London Real 31 Rejoin EU 20 Animal Welfare 17 Farah London 15 Let London Live 14 Fosh 14 Heritage 10 SDP 9 Obunge 9 Burning Pink 6 UKIP 6 Renew 3
London Members: Lab 1936 C 1102 Grn 640 LD 235 Women's Equality 115 Rejoin EU 50 Animal Welfare 45 CPA 24 Reform UK 24 London Real 16 Comm 14 Let London Live 14 Heritage 13 TUSC 11 SDP 8 UKIP 7 Londonpendence 3 Nat Lib 2

Lee Chapel North

Basildon council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Kayode Adeniran.

We travel out of London to one of the first New Towns, built to take overspill from London in the post-war era. This is Basildon, which now forms another link in the chain of towns on the north side of the Thames Estuary running from London to Southend.

Basildon, Lee Chapel North

Lee Chapel North ward is one of the New Town-type developments in Basildon. It covers the area between Laindon in the west and Basildon town centre in the east, and Laindon railway station lies on the ward boundary. The New Town origins are betrayed by Lee Chapel North's census return: it is in the top 20 wards in England and Wales for adults with "Level 1" qualifications (in real money, 1-5 GCSE passes or equivalent) and despite a few decades of Right to Buy over 40% of the households are still socially rented.

This makes Lee Chapel North one of the safest Labour wards in a town noted for its electoral volatility. Basildon was of course the constituency whose Conservative hold in April 1992, by the late and much-missed David Amess, symbolised the re-election of the Major government that year. In the local elections a month later the Conservatives won every ward in Basildon; two years later, they lost every ward in Basildon.

Since the current ward boundaries were introduced in 2002 Labour have only lost Lee Chapel North ward once. That was in 2014 when the winners were the UK Independence Party, who ran riot across Basildon that year in a result never repeated before or since. Labour regained the UKIP seats here in 2016 and 2018.

The May 2021 elections in Basildon were good for the Conservatives, who gained two seats from what was left of Basildon UKIP and two seats from Labour to regain overall control of the district, two years after losing control to a Labour-led hung council. The Conservatives scored a big swing in Lee Chapel North to take their best result yet on the current boundaries, although it wasn't quite enough to win here: shares of the vote were 39% for Labour, 37% for the Conservatives and 14% to the Basildon Community Residents Party. However, there was relatively little swing in the simultaneous Essex county council election: this ward is part of the large county division of Basildon Laindon Park and Fryerns, which continued to split its representation between a Conservative and a Labour county councillor.

So this is a marginal seat for Labour to defend following the resignation of Kayode Adeniran. He had won the last by-election here in June 2018 (Andrew's Previews 2018, page 221) and was re-elected for a full four-year term in 2019, so the winner of this by-election will serve until 2023.

Defending this marginal seat for Labour is Terry Webb. The Conservatives have reselected Deepak Shukla after his near-miss in May. Also returning from May's election is Kay Quested of the Basildon Community Residents Party, which was formed in opposition to extensive redevelopment proposals by Basildon council for the town centre. Completing the ballot paper are former UKIP county councillor Frank Ferguson for Reform UK, and Michael Chandler for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Basildon and Billericay
Essex county council division: Basildon Laindon Park and Fryerns
ONS Travel to Work Area: Southend
Postcode district: SS15

Michael Chandler (LD)
Frank Ferguson (Reform UK)
Kay Quested (Basildon Community Residents Party)
Deepak Shukla (C)
Terry Webb (Lab)

May 2021 result Lab 966 C 921 Basildon Community Residents Party 354 Reform UK 123 LD 113
May 2019 result Lab 870 C 437 LD 348
June 2018 by-election Lab 612 C 267 UKIP 145 BNP 42
May 2018 result Lab 1160 C 552 UKIP 369
May 2016 result Lab 1003 UKIP 814 C 363 Ind 26
May 2015 result Lab 1895 UKIP 1825 C 1131 LD 215
May 2014 double vacancy UKIP 983/924 Lab 922/919 C 329/263 LD 99/91 National Front 80
May 2012 result Lab 1048 UKIP 359 C 343 National Front 107 LD 85
May 2011 result Lab 1408 C 740 National Front 244 LD 173
May 2010 result Lab 1818 C 1649 LD 855 BNP 536
May 2008 result Lab 972 C 604 BNP 358 LD 160 Grn 126
May 2007 result Lab 875 C 628 BNP 361 LD 218 Grn 134
May 2006 result Lab 1009 C 610 BNP 560 LD 212 Grn 153
June 2004 result Lab 996 C 604 BNP 519 LD 261 Grn 145 Respect 57
May 2003 result Lab 766 C 434 BNP 285 LD 207 Grn 114 Ind 80
May 2002 result Lab 1165/1159/1085 C 530/518/515 LD 241/229/214 Socialist Alliance 93
Previous results in detail

Horringer

West Suffolk council, Essex; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Terry Clements.

This is getting beyond a joke. West Suffolk district has only existed for two and a half years, but this is already the ninth by-election which has been held to the council. Some councils haven't had nine by-elections so far this decade. Now, West Suffolk is on the large side for a shire district council with 64 members, but even so that's already a vacancy rate of 14% with eighteen months of the council term still to go. We shouldn't necessarily read too much into this: while high numbers of by-elections can sometimes reflect a dysfunctional political culture, other times it can just be the result of random chance.

W Suffolk, Horringer

The latest West Suffolk by-election occurs in Horringer ward, which covers six parishes immediately to the south of Bury St Edmunds. Horringer is the largest of these parishes with 799 electors on the roll; it is located on the main road from Bury St Edmunds to Haverhill. Just to the west of Horringer is the neoclassical stately home of Ickworth House, until recently home to the Marquess of Bristol and now in the hands of the National Trust.

The retirement of Terry Clements brings to an end a long political career. Clements had served continuously as a councillor for this area since 1983, when he was elected to the former St Edmundsbury council. He was Mayor of St Edmundsbury in 2017-18, and also served on Suffolk county council from 2005 to 2017.

West Suffolk, 2019

Clements had won his final term in Horringer ward in 2019, defeating Labour by a 69-31 margin. The area is just as safe Conservative at other levels of government: it is part of the wonderfully-named county division of Thingoe South, and is split between the Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk constituencies.

Defending for the Conservatives is Nick Wiseman, a landscape gardener and fencing contractor. Labour have gone for youth in selecting Aaron McIntyre, who has only just turned 18; McIntyre is president of the students union at Abbeygate sixth-form college in Bury St Edmunds. Completing the ballot is Daniel Linehan of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Bury St Edmunds (part: Great Whelnetham, Horringer, Ickworth, Little Whelnetham and Nowton parishes), West Suffolk (part: Hawstead parish)
Suffolk county council division: Thingoe South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bury St Edmunds
Postcode districts: IP29, IP30

Daniel Linehan (LD)
Aaron McIntyre (Lab)
Nick Wiseman (C)

May 2019 result C 524 Lab 237
Previous results in detail

Bar Pool

Nuneaton and Bedworth council, Warwickshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Patricia Elliott.

We now travel west for two difficult Labour defences in the West Midlands, starting in Nuneaton, a place this column hasn't profiled in detail since 2015 (and then only for the county council). There is a lot to catch up on.

Nuneaton/Bedworth, Bar Pool

The Bar Pool ward lies in western Nuneaton, taking its name from a local brook which opens out into a series of ponds on the ward's northern boundary. The ward takes in the eastern part of the Stockingford area along the Arbury Road; its eastern boundary is the Coventry Canal, while the ward extends south to take in St Thomas More secondary school. Nuneaton is an industrial town and this is a strongly working-class area of it, with over 41% of the workforce in routine or semi-routine occupations. The ward also includes a lot of council housing and takes in Nuneaton's most deprived census district.

Nuneaton and Bedworth is one of the few councils which re-elects half of its members every two years. Until this year, Bar Pool ward had voted Labour in every Nuneaton and Bedworth election since the current boundaries came into force in 2002, with one exception. That was 2008, when the British National Party came through the middle of a tight race between Labour and the Conservatives: the winning BNP candidate that year polled 663 votes, the Conservatives 650 and Labour 624. There has often been a strong Conservative vote here, but they could never break through until this year.

The May 2021 Nuneaton and Bedworth election was a stunning victory for the Conservatives, and its impact was all the greater because this was one of the few councils this year which counted its results overnight after polls closed. Going into the election Nuneaton and Bedworth had been a hung council with Labour holding 17 seats, half of the total; in opposition to them were 13 Conservatives, 3 councillors from a Tory splinter group and a Green. In a result well out of kilter with what had gone before, the Conservatives won 15 seats this year, out of a possible 17, to take overall control with a strong majority.

That total included ten gains from Labour, one of which was Bar Pool ward where the Conservatives suddenly ran out winners by the score of 56-33. Let me again stress, this is a ward which had not previously voted Conservative this century. On the same day the Stockingford division of Warwickshire county council, which has very similar boundaries, turned in a very similar result.

Following the May elections there were just seven Labour councillors left in Nuneaton and Bedworth, with six of them due for re-election next year. One of those was Patricia Elliott, who has represented Bar Pool ward since 2014. Elliott handed in her resignation last month, and there is just time to squeeze in a by-election before her term finishes.

The difficult task of defending this ward for Labour falls to Abi Olaifa, who is described by the party as a career-driven professional. Oliafa stood in May in the St Nicolas ward of Nuneaton and Bedworth and in the Coleshill North and Water Orton division of the county council, both of which are more traditionally weak Labour areas. The Conservatives have gone for youth in selecting Jamie Hartshorn, who works in COVID testing. Completing the ballot paper is Andrew Heritage for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Nuneaton
Warwickshire county council division: Stockingford
ONS Travel to Work Area: Coventry
Postcode district: CV10

Jamie Hartshorn (C)
Andrew Heritage (Grn)
Abi Olaifa (Lab)

May 2021 result C 917 Lab 536 Grn 135 Ind 54
May 2018 result Lab 744 C 607 Grn 135
May 2016 result Lab 677 C 429 UKIP 254 Grn 73
May 2014 result Lab 695 UKIP 402 C 382 BNP 71 TUSC 40
May 2012 result Lab 815 Ind 281 C 235 BNP 121
May 2011 by-election Lab 1034 C 519 BNP 204 LD 142 UKIP 65 TUSC 38
May 2010 result Lab 1513 C 907 LD 517 BNP 394 Socialist Alternative 40
May 2008 result BNP 663 C 650 Lab 624
May 2006 result Lab 762 C 632
May 2005 by-election Lab 1507 C 846 LD 615
June 2004 result Lab 622 Lib 377 C 371
May 2002 result Lab 620/570 C 380 Lib 273/227
Previous results in detail

Knutton

Newcastle-under-Lyme council, Staffordshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Brian Johnson.

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Knutton (zoom in)

For our other Midlands by-election this week we come to another district where Labour have been under pressure in recent years. The village of Knutton lies on the edge of the urban sprawl of the Potteries, about a mile to the north-west of Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre. Knutton lies on the North Staffordshire coalfield, which was still operating into the 1990s, and it remains a strongly working-class village. The present ward is a cut-down version of the Knutton and Silverdale ward which existed until 2018, and that ward made the top 100 in England and Wales for routine occupations at the 2011 census.

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Knutton (zoom out)

The collieries may have gone, but the site of the mines have now been put to other uses. As we can see by moving to a smaller-scale map: suddenly, there's Walley! Just to the south of the Knutton ward boundary lies Walleys Quarry, a landfill site which has been the scene of one of the most pungent political controversies in recent years. And when I say pungent, I mean pungent: the place stinks, and has stunk the borough out for years with high levels of hydrogen sulphide emissions. In September the High Court ruled that the Environment Agency's enforcement action against the landfill site operator had been inadequate, and ordered that action be taken to bring the emissions to safe levels by January next year. The Environment Agency have come up with a new plan to do this, and we wait to see whether that will work.

Newcastle (Lyme), 2018

Before then, there's an election to talk about. Newcastle-under-Lyme council last went to the polls in May 2018, and the only previous result on these boundaries is from that year with Labour beating the Conservatives 75-25. As will become clear, there's more to this area's local elections results than that.

The previous ward of Knutton and Silverdale was generally Labour but rather complicated. Its first two elections, in 2002 and 2003, saw the runner-up spot go to Derrick Huckfield, standing for the "Caring Party". Huckfield then joined UKIP, came close to winning in 2006 and gaining the ward in 2007.

Without Huckfield as candidate UKIP struggled to make headway here in 2010, and the ward went to new Labour candidate Gareth Snell who later had a brief term as MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. Huckfield then lost his seat to Labour in 2011 by 30 votes.

In 2014 Snell moved to contest Chesterton ward (which he lost), and Labour selected as their candidate for Knutton and Silverdale Baroness Golding, who had been the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1986 to 2001. Golding resoundingly lost the ward to Derrick Huckfield, who returned as a UKIP councillor. Huckfield left UKIP the following year, and he has ended up in the Conservatives.

The 2018 Newcastle-under-Lyme elections were held in the wake of a damning report into the running of the 2017 general election here (Andrew's Previews 2017, page 374). That report led to the resignation of the Labour leader of the council and the installation of a Conservative-led administration. The 2018 borough elections returned a hung council, with the Conservatives polling more votes than Labour but winning fewer seats: 20 Labour councillors were returned, 18 Conservatives, 3 independents and 3 Lib Dems. Huckfield sought re-election in the new Silverdale ward, this time with the Conservative nomination, and lost. The Tory-led administration continued.

Since 2018 Labour have lost a by-election in Holditch and Chesterton ward to an independent candidate (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 64). All four independent councillors joined the Conservative group earlier this month: together with a previous defection from the Lib Dems, that means that the Tories now have a majority on Newcastle-under-Lyme council.

This builds on excellent Conservative results at other levels of government. The Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency (which is rather more urban than the district) was a gain for the former Krypton Factor superperson Aaron Bell in December 2019, and the Conservatives won a full slate of Staffordshire county council seats in the district in May. That full slate included an excellent performance for Derrick Huckfield, who convincingly gained the Keele, Knutton and Silverdale county division from Labour. Huckfield had previously won the division in 2013 for UKIP, defeating Labour's Gareth Snell by two votes.

This by-election is a straight fight. Defending for Labour is Steph Talbot, who stood in May's county council elections for Newcastle South division; she runs Alice, a charity supporting disadvantaged and vulnerable families in Newcastle and Stoke. Challenging for the Conservatives is county councillor Derrick Huckfield. Despite the 3:1 margin in favour of Labour three years ago, this column would rate Huckfield as favourite.

Parliamentary constituency: Newcastle-under-Lyme
Staffordshire county council division: Keele, Knutton and Silverdale
ONS Travel to Work Area: Stoke-on-Trent
Postcode district: ST5

Derrick Huckfield (C)
Steph Talbot (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 355 C 120
Previous results in detail

Halton Castle

Halton council, Cheshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Harry Howard.

Halton, Halton Castle

Now Runcorn lay over on one side of stream,
And Widnes on t'other side stood,
And, as nobody wanted to go either place,
Well, the trade wasn't any too good.

One evening, to Ted's superlative surprise,
Three customers came into view:
A Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom it were,
And Albert, their little son, too.

'How much for the three?' Mr Ramsbottom asked,
As his hand to his pocket did dip.
Ted said: 'Same for three as it would be for one,
Per tuppence per person per trip.'

- Mariott Edgar, The Runcorn Ferry

We now come to two by-elections on the south side of the Mersey, within the Liverpool City Region. The first of these lies not in Merseyside but in Runcorn, as we come to our second New Town by-election of the week. Halton Castle ward is definitely one of the New Town areas, taking in the Castlefields and Halton Village residential areas away from the river and the industrial units of Astmoor down by the Ship Canal bank.

Astmoor has had a swathe cut into it in recent years thanks to the construction of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. Opened to traffic in 2017 to replace the ageing and congested Silver Jubilee Bridge (which replaced the Runcorn-Widnes Transporter Bridge, which replaced the ferry), the Mersey Gateway Bridge has an impressive cable-stayed design with three supporting towers. Unlike the former Silver Jubilee Bridge, there is a toll for crossings of £2. Stanley Holloway's "tuppence per part of a person per part of a trip" is clearly some years of inflation in the past.

At the time of the 2011 census Halton Castle ward was called Castlefields, after its main New Town development, and had slightly different boundaries. It is a seriously deprived area, with 13% of the workforce being long-term sick or disabled and 51% of the households being socially rented - both figures are in the top 100 wards in England and Wales. As I set out in Andrew's Previews 2018, page 69, this ward was closely fought between Labour and the Lib Dems until the Coalition era, when the Lib Dem vote disappeared in line with the regional swing in Merseyside. Halton council got new ward boundaries in May this year meaning that all three seats in this ward came up for election; the Labour slate was re-elected with 52% of the vote, with left-wing independent candidate Darrin Whyte and the Conservatives polling 18% each.

This by-election is to replace councillor Harry Howard, who passed away in September at the age of 75. Howard was part of the council's majority Labour group, and he had sat on Halton council since winning a by-election for this ward in 2006. He had beat the alphabet to top the poll in May, so the winner of this by-election will be due to serve until 2024.

Defending for Labour is Sharon Thornton, a café owner and community volunteer. Darrin Whyte, who has contested this ward in every election since 2014 (originally for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, since 2016 as an independent candidate) is back for another go; he has been runner-up in the last four elections here. The Conservatives' Danny Clarke has also had a few goes at standing for Halton council, and he hit the headlines in 2019 with an attack on the number of takeaways in Runcorn. Also standing are Anthony Dalton for the Lib Dems and Iain Ferguson for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Halton (almost all), Weaver Vale (small parts)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode district: WA7

Danny Clarke (C)
Anthony Dalton (LD)
Iain Ferguson (Grn)
Sharon Thornton (Lab)
Darrin Whyte (Ind)

May 2021 result Lab 669/635/560 Ind 234 C 229 LD 144
Previous results in detail

Oxton

Wirral council, Merseyside; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Andy Corkhill.

Wirral, Oxton

For our Liberal Democrat defence of the week we are well and truly in the land of the plastic Scouser. The Birkenhead suburb of Oxton, located south-west of the town centre and well away from the riverfront, has for well over a century been the sort of place where people who work in Liverpool and have money prefer to live and to commute from. The 2011 census showed Oxton to be the most middle-class ward in the Birkenhead constituency, and the ward's fine Victorian houses show that this status has been maintained for generations.

This being Merseyside, that doesn't translate to Oxton being a Conservative-voting area. Instead this has been a Liberal Democrat ward, with one exception, throughout this century. Oxton was safely Lib Dem until the advent of the Coalition, and then turned into a Lib Dem-Labour marginal in line with Merseyside's lurch to the left. However, Labour were only able to break through once, in 2015. In recent years the Lib Dems have pulled away again and the ward has reverted to safety: May's result gave the Liberal Democrats 57% against just 26% for Labour.

That rise provided an opportunity for Lib Dem rising star Andy Corkhill, who was elected in May 2019 and recovered the seat his party had lost to Labour four years earlier. Corkhill went on to be the Lib Dem candidate for the Wirral West constituency in the December 2019 general election, and he had been selected as the party's candidate for the recent Liverpool City Region mayoral election.

Unfortunately, Andy Corkhill had to give that up after being diagnosed with cencer. His health continued to decline after surgery in February, and he passed away in October at the appallingly early age of 36.

The resulting by-election is unlikely to affect control of Wirral council. This has swung in recent years between Labour majorities and hung councils; the 2021 election brought in another hung phase. Currently, 30 Labour councillors form a minority administration against 23 Conservatives, 5 Lib Dems plus this vacancy, 5 Greens and two independents.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Orod Osanlou, a consultant physician in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics. He was one of the doctors working on the clinical trial of the Novavax COVID vaccine, which at the time of writing is awaiting approval from the UK medical regulator. Labour have selected Sue Mahoney, who stood in May in the neighbouring ward of Birkenhead and Tranmere: she resoundingly lost to the Green Party a seat which Labour were defending. Also standing are Philip Merry for the Conservatives and Mary Heydon for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Birkenhead
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birkenhead
Postcode districts: CH41, CH42, CH43

Mary Heydon (Grn)
Sue Mahoney (Lab)
Philip Merry (C)
Orod Osanlou (LD)

May 2021 result LD 2311 Lab 1050 C 328 Grn 306 Reform UK 58
May 2019 result LD 2627 Lab 1298 UKIP 245 C 220
May 2018 result LD 2073 Lab 1700 C 376 Grn 205
May 2016 result LD 2381 Lab 1568 C 275 Grn 183
May 2015 result Lab 3085 LD 2788 C 854 UKIP 615 Grn 424
May 2014 result LD 1620 Lab 1483 UKIP 563 C 310 Grn 250
May 2012 result LD 2026 Lab 1763 UKIP 258 C 232 Grn 149
May 2011 result LD 1918 Lab 1792 C 655 UKIP 234 Grn 222
May 2010 result LD 2941 Lab 2310 C 1425 UKIP 301 Grn 276
May 2008 result LD 1910 C 748 Lab 614 UKIP 179 Grn 139
May 2007 result LD 2007 Lab 693 C 611 Grn 193 UKIP 158
May 2006 result LD 2067 Lab 646 C 565 UKIP 267 Grn 185
June 2004 result LD 3295/3074/2924 Lab 999/997/985 C 843/663/661 Grn 489
Previous results in detail

Carnforth and Millhead

Lancaster council; caused by the resignation of John Reynolds, who was elected for Labour but sitting as an independent.

Lancaster, Carnforth/Millhead

We'll divert north for the first of our Lancashire by-elections today. Carnforth is the most northerly town in Lancashire, and is a major railway junction. The Cumbrian Coast Line and a branch line towards Skipton both leave the West Coast main line here, at a station which is famous as the filming location for the acclaimed 1945 film Brief Encounter.

Carnforth station has been sympathetically restored and is a place of pilgrimage for fans of the film. Mind, on the occasion your columnist had a brew in the station's refreshment room the nuclear flask train turned up from Sellafield, and then stopped at the end of the platform waiting for its slot on the main line. Suddenly the station was swarming with armed police. Not exactly the sort of image that the tourist board like to tell you about.

Legend has it that a teenage Cecil Parkinson was an extra in Brief Encounter: Parkinson was from Carnforth, and his father was the stationmaster at the time. There is a large railway depot behind the station, maintaining and overhauling steam locomotives for excursion trains; and that continued railway influence has meant that Carnforth is historically a Labour-inclined town. However, it's not quite large enough for three Lancaster councillors of its own, so the neighbouring village of Millhead was added to the ward in 2015 to make up the numbers. This has made the Conservatives competitive.

The Tories won the first contest for Carnforth and Millhead ward in May 2015 fairly easily. One of the Conservative councillors, Christopher Leadbetter, passed away shortly afterwards while on holiday in Croatia; the Tories held the resulting by-election in November 2015. The by-election winner was George Askew, a former Pendle councillor who had been the election agent for Pendle's Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson; Askew had also been a regional director for the Vote Leave campaign.

George Askew didn't live to see the eventual success of that campaign. In February 2016 he was found dead by his fiancée at their home, aged just 32. The coroner heard that his death was the result of alcohol and drug abuse. The resulting by-election in May 2016 was narrowly gained by the Labour candidate John Reynolds.

Lancaster, 2019

All three outgoing councillors - Reynolds for Labour, Peter Yates and Mel Guilding for the Conservatives - were re-elected in 2019, with Reynolds polling almost twice as many votes as his Labour running-mates. He topped the poll with 37%, against 32% for the Conservatives and 19% for an independent slate. The ward is Conservative-held at other levels of government; it is the most Labour part of the safe Tory county division of Lancaster Rural North, and it is covered by the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency.

John Reynolds has now stood down from the council for personal reasons, having previously left the Labour group last year. So we have the second episode in our current three-part series on Lancaster council, which kicked off with the Labour hold in University and Scotforth Rural ward two weeks ago. This will be a tougher defence for Labour, who have given the job of holding this seat to Luke Taylor. Taylor sat on Blackpool council from 2014 to 2019, representing Clifton ward; he was on the Labour slate for this ward in 2019 and stood here for Lancaster county council in May. (The preview I wrote for the 2014 by-election Taylor won in Clifton ward was the only one I ever wrote in verse. I intended it as a parody of Albert and the Lion. It was godawful.) The Conservatives have selected former Lancaster councillor Stuart Bateson, who lost his seat in Heysham South ward in 2019. The independents from last time have not returned, so the ballot paper is completed by Patrick McMurray for the Green Party and Tony Saville for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Morecambe and Lunesdale
Lancaster county council division: Lancaster Rural North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
Postcode districts: LA5, LA6

Stuart Bateson (C)
Patrick McMurray (Grn)
Tony Saville (LD)
Luke Taylor (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 680/395/356 C 588/499/440 Ind 354/332 Grn 199/142/108
May 2016 by-election Lab 702 C 671 UKIP 134 LD 74 Grn 49
November 2015 by-election C 545 Lab 320 Grn 52 LD 38 UKIP 37
May 2015 result C 1405/1238/1184 Lab 1027/981/921
Previous results in detail

Bryn

Wigan council, Greater Manchester; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Steve Jones.

It's now time for this column to consider an important question. When is a resignation not a resignation?

Wigan, Bryn

Our other by-election today in what was once Lancashire takes place in the town of Ashton-in-Makerfield. Located halfway between Wigan and Warrington, Ashton was once of the main towns of the Lancashire coalfield; but the pits are now replaced by the industrial estates and the spoil heaps have been landscaped into the Three Sisters Recreation Area, a nature reserve of woodlands and ponds. Bryn, the northern ward of Ashton-in-Makerfield, has excellent connections to the main towns and cities of north-west England via the M6 motorway, while Bryn railway station links the area to Wigan, St Helens and Liverpool.

In the 2011 census the Bryn ward had the 74th highest return of any ward in England and Wales for Christianity, at 80.4%. This is a common feature of the census results for north-west England (of the 73 wards with higher Christian results, 71 are in the north-west). For whatever reason, lapsed Christians (particularly lapsed Catholics) living in the north-west are more likely to list their old religion on the census form than lapsed Christians elsewhere in the country.

Bryn may be an ex-mining area, but that doesn't mean it's a Labour ward. The 2004 election returned a full slate of councillors for the now-defunct Community Action party, which at the time was the official opposition on Wigan council. Labour have only won here on current boundaries in 2010, 2014 and 2015; all the rest of the elections in Bryn since 2007 have returned independent councillors. With one exception.

The 2016 election here returned independent candidate Steve Jones, standing with the nomination of the Wigan Independent Network, for his first term of office with a narrow majority of 77 votes over Labour. Jones got into a number of controversies the following year: he was prosecuted for drink-driving, and at the end of 2017 he accepted a police caution for common assault. The leader of Wigan council, Lord Smith of Leigh, branded Jones as "unfit for office" and advised him to "seek professional help".

As the year ticked over to 2018, and as his assault arrest became public, Jones decided that he wanted to tender his resignation as a councillor, but he wasn't in a good enough financial position to leave the council immediately. So Jones emailed the council's chief executive on 5 January 2018, to advise that he would be stepping down on 20 February 2018.

At which point somebody at Wigan council decided to look in their copy of the Local Government Act 1972. Section 84 subsection (1) of that Act relates to resignation of councillors and, so far as is relevant, reads as follows:

A person elected to any office under this Act ... may at any time resign his office by written notice delivered ... to the proper officer of the council; ... and his resignation shall take effect upon the receipt of the notice by the person ... to whom it is required to be delivered.

Wigan council's interpretation of this was that councillor resignations could not be postdated ("shall take effect upon the receipt of the notice"), and that Jones had delivered a written notice within the meaning of the section. Accordingly, they promptly declared Jones' seat to be vacant and a by-election was quickly called for 22 February 2018.

Steve Jones withdrew his resignation notice three days later. He tried to sit in a full council meeting on 10 January, but was thrown out of the chamber.

For the by-election polling stations were booked, ballot papers were printed and postal votes were issued and returned, causing significant expenditure for Wigan council. Your columnist put time into researching and drafting a preview, which wasn't published at the time (for reasons which will become clear) but has been rescued from my archives: it appears in Andrew's Previews 2018, page 84. Candidates were nominated by Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. Steve Jones also stood in the by-election to seek re-election.

Jones had also taken Lord Smith's advice by seeking professional help - from lawyers. He took Wigan council to judicial review over its decision to declare his seat vacant. On 21 February 2018 - the day before polling day in the Bryn by-election - the High Court heard the judicial review at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre (Stephen Jones v Wigan Council [2018] EWHC 528 (Admin)). The judge, Mr Justice Martin Spencer, ruled that Steve Jones' email of 5 January was not a resignation letter within the meaning of the Act but merely a notice of an intention to resign on some future date; as the notice had subsequently been withdrawn, it followed that Jones' seat was not vacant. He found in favour of Jones and issued an injunction against the Returning Officer of Wigan to stop the by-election going ahead (Andrew's Previews 2018, page 86).

All this appears, in the end, to have had a positive effect on how Steve Jones' electors saw him. Jones was re-elected in May this year for a second term of office with a stonking majority of 67-23 over Labour.

Jones has now sent his resignation in to Wigan council again, and it's just as messy as the last time. I quote Wigan council's statement on the matter, published on 24 September, in full:

Joint statement from Wigan Council and Councillor Steve Jones:

"Wigan Council has developed a culture of kindness and compassion among its workforce and elected members. At the time of his resignation [in July 2021], Councillor Steve Jones was under a lot of pressure, which is why the resignation was not accepted immediately to give time for reflection and proper consideration.

"Unfortunately, this decision has been challenged by an individual who is threatening legal action against the council. Therefore, in the interest of taxpayers and in agreement with Councillor Jones we have no choice but to accept the resignation."

Councillor Steve Jones, independent member for Bryn ward, added: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my role as a local councillor and have been involved in some great community projects. I’d like to thank my constituents for voting me into office and my colleagues at the council for all their support over the last five years. I’d like to thank the council for all the help and support they’ve given me, especially Alison who has always shown me and other members nothing but kindness."

Councillor David Molyneux, leader of Wigan Council, said: "I’d like to thank Councillor Jones for his hard work and commitment to his constituents during his time as a councillor. I’d like to wish him and his family all the best."

This column would submit that Wigan council and Steve Jones both need to get a grip on reality. After the fiasco of Wigan council accepting an invalid resignation, and incurring substantial legal and administrative costs for Wigan's council tax payers as a result, it appears that this time round they were prepared to reject a valid resignation. That's not something the council has the power to do either, and the High Court would likely have dressed them down a second time had it gone that far. As for Jones, meanwhile, while this column wishes him well for future I really don't want to have to write about him again.

Anyway, he's finally gone.

Three independent candidates put nomination papers in to replace Steve Jones in Bryn ward, but one of them has withdrawn. Jones has signed the nomination papers for independent Gareth Fairhurst, who has his own history with Wigan council. The Fairhurst family are from Standish on the other side of Wigan; Gareth's father George Fairhurst, who passed away earlier this year, had served as a Conservative member of the council before falling out with the party and forming his own localist group. He actually managed to get the party name "Wigan Independent Conservatives" registered with the Electoral Commission, in one of that Commission's more questionable decisions. The new group proved locally popular and at one point all three councillors for Standish with Langtree ward were Fairhursts. Gareth sat for that ward from 2012 to 2016 and got into a number of his own disputes with the council: in 2017 Wigan council took the unusual step of distributing a leaflet to Standish residents to remind them who their councillors are, following complaints that Gareth was continuing to hold surgeries and act as an elected member despite having lost his seat the previous year. The other independent candidate is James Richardson, who lives in the ward and whose nomination papers have been signed by one of Bryn ward's two remaining independent councillors. Labour have selected Sam Flemming, a politics and international relations student. Completing the ballot are Paul Martin for the Conservatives and David Burley for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Makerfield
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode district: WN4

David Burley (LD)
Gareth Fairhurst (Ind)
Samuel Flemming (Lab)
Paul Martin (C)
James Richardson (Ind)

May 2021 result Ind 2047 Lab 703 C 252 LD 51
May 2019 result Ind 1147 Lab 1072 UKIP 284 C 131 LD 84
May 2018 result Ind 1065 Lab 973 C 198 UKIP 133 LD 67
February 2018 by-election cancelled
May 2016 result Wigan Ind Network 1200 Lab 1123 UKIP 438 C 161
May 2015 result Lab 2245 Wigan Ind Network 1717 UKIP 948 C 378 Ind 267 Community Action 141
May 2014 result Lab 1190 UKIP 724 Ind 625 Community Action 289 C 131
May 2012 result Ind 1516 Lab 1352 C 146
May 2011 result Ind 1955 Lab 1363 C 274
May 2010 result Lab 2274 Ind 1697 Community Action 609 BNP 531 C 525
May 2008 result Ind 1606 Lab 765 Community Action 394 BNP 284 C 204
May 2007 result Ind 1667 Lab 1030 BNP 307 C 179
May 2006 result Community Action 1429 Lab 1050 BNP 457 C 171 New Party 45
June 2004 result Community Action 2370/2297/2239 Lab 1233/1183/986 C 326
Previous results in detail

Maryport South

Allerdale council, Cumbria; caused by the disqualification of independent councillor Peter Little.

If you thought Bryn ward was bad for elected representatives saying and doing stupid things, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's time to finish this week's column with a bang.

Allerdale, Maryport S

There has been a harbour for centuries on the coast of West Cumbria, at the point where the River Ellen flows into the sea. The first record of Maryport is in AD 122, under the name of Alauna, when it was a Roman port: part of the coastal defences on the Solway Firth which were developed at the same time as Hadrian's Wall.

Similar to Whitehaven further down the coast, modern Maryport is a planned settlement dating from the eighteenth century. Its developer was Humphrey Senhouse, who obtained an Act of Parliament in 1749 to construct the town at a location then known as Ellenfoot; Senhouse renamed the settlement as Maryport, after his wife. The town became a major port for the Cumberland coalfield, and there were a number of pits in the area. In the 1840s Maryport was linked to the railway network with the opening of the highly-profitable Maryport and Carlisle Railway.

Maryport is part of the Allerdale district of Cumbria, which also takes in Workington, Keswick and a large agricultural area between the mountains and the Solway coast. Allerdale council got new wards at its last election in 2019, and Maryport South is an expanded version of the previous Ewanrigg ward. The 2011 census placed Ewanrigg in the top 80 wards in England and Wales for adults with no qualifications (42.2%) and for those working in construction (13.4%), and in the top 30 for those in routine (25.6%) and semi-routine (25.0%) occupations. There are few wards more working-class than this.

As well as the southern half of Maryport, this ward takes in the village of Broughton Moor. This was historically a pit village, but the mine here closed in the 1930s; after that, the colliery site was reused by the Royal Navy as an armaments depot. RNAD Broughton Moor was subsequently used by the West German and American forces under the auspices of NATO, before closing in 1992 upon the end of the Cold War. The extensive depot site is only now starting to be redeveloped, with the Derwent Forest Development Consortium having ambitious plans for lots of new houses there.

Although Workington has a Tory MP these days, Maryport is Labour at other levels of government. The last Cumbria county council elections, in May 2017, returned a Labour councillor for the Maryport South division (which is larger than this ward) with a big majority. In its previous contests this century Ewanrigg ward had been safe Labour, and nobody bothered to stand against the Labour slate in 2003.

Allerdale, 2019

Things changed in the 2019 Allerdale elections, when Labour lost a seat in the new Maryport South ward to independent candidate Peter Little. Shares of the vote were 43% for the Labour slate, with long-serving councillor Carni McCarron-Holmes re-elected at the top of the poll, and 39% for Little who won the ward's second seat with a majority of 23 votes over the second Labour candidate.

Peter Little has a bulging record in the Councillors Behaving Badly file. In May this year he got into a parking dispute with his neighbours while extremely drunk; the police were called and Little was arrested after his behaviour got worse. He was taken to Workington police station where he insulted and homophobically abused police officers, and that bad behaviour continued even after he had spent a night in the cells sobering up. Little subsequently pleaded guilty to three public order offences; in August the magistrates' court sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison, suspended. He was kicked out of the independent group on Allerdale council, but kept his position as a councillor. The threshold at which councillors are disqualified for convictions is 13 weeks' imprisonment, and Little's sentence was one week short of that.

A month later Little was back before the magistrates again, having sent an email on 9 September to the chief executive of Allerdale council in offensive terms, making threats against him and Mark Jenkinson, the Conservative MP for Workington. Little pleaded guilty to sending an email that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, and the case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports. His sentencing hearing was scheduled for 18 October.

On that day, the news was dominated by the killing of the Conservative MP Sir David Amess, which had happened three days earlier. Workington magistrates, no doubt seeking to send a message loud and clear that abuse of public servants and elected representatives will result in consequences, sentenced Peter Little to six weeks in prison for the threatening communication and activated the 12-week suspended sentence for the public order offences, the two sentences to run consecutively.

You can't really blame the Allerdale council staff for wanting to get Little off their council as soon as possible. The council added 6 weeks and 12 weeks together, noticed that the sum came to more than the 13-week threshold, and promptly pronounced him to be disqualified. A by-election was just as promptly called to replace him.

The by-election comes with Allerdale council rather evenly balanced between the three main groups. The Conservatives are in minority control but only hold 18 of the 49 seats; opposing them are 17 independents (plus this vacancy) and 13 Labour councillors.

One new independent candidate has come forward: he is Eric Galletly, a retired electrician who has been endorsed by the council's independent group. Labour have selected Bill Pegram, who is a Maryport town councillor and former Mayor of Maryport; he contested Maryport North in the 2019 Allerdale elections. The Conservatives' Steve Newton completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Workington
Cumbria county council division: Maryport South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Workington
Postcode districts: CA13, CA15

Eric Galletly (Ind)
Steve Newton (C)
Bill Pegram (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 377/324 Ind 347 For Britain Movement 98 C 60/55
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) and would make an excellent Christmas present for the discerning psephologist. You can also support future previews by donating to the Local Elections Archive Project (link).

Andrew Teale


Previewing the council by-elections of 18 Nov 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

There are nine by-elections on 18th November 2021, and this week is very much a left-wing special with six of today's polls being Labour defence; the other three seats were previously independent, Liberal Democrat and continuing Liberal. There's a wide variety of wards up this week and we should have something for everyone. Without further ado, let's go to our Labour defence in the south of England...

Gorrell

Canterbury council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor George Caffery. A former firefighter, Caffery was first elected in 2019.

'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.'

Oysters anyone? We start last week as we finished the previous week: in north Kent, this time visiting the seaside town of Whitstable. Whitstable has been known for its oysters since Roman times, but the modern town really got going in the mid-eighteenth century when a ferry service to London and a turnpike road to Canterbury were introduced.

From here on the town became a minor port and seaside resort, something which was enhanced in 1830 with the opening of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. Known from its initials as the "Crab and Winkle", the C&WR was one of the UK's first railways and was the first railway in the world to issue passenger season tickets (in 1834). Its original locomotive, Invicta, is now on display in the town. The railway terminated at Whitstable harbour, providing a port for the city of Canterbury.

Canterbury, Gorrell

The present Gorrell ward, named after a local stream, was created in 2015 as a merger of two previous wards: a smaller Gorrell ward plus the former Harbour ward which covered the town centre. In the period 2003-11 Harbour ward was safely Labour while Gorrell was marginal; the new ward has also proven to be marginal. In 2015 Gorrell split its representation between two Conservatives and one Labour councillor. Labour won all three seats in 2019 as the Conservatives fell to third place, the Green Party surging into a close second: the lead Green candidate finished just nine votes behind the third Labour candidate. Shares of the vote were 37% for Labour, 34% for the Greens and 23% for the Conservatives.

Canterbury, 2019

Gorrell ward also forms part of a marginal division of Kent county council: Whitstable West, which swung strongly to Labour in May. It's also part of a marginal Parliamentary seat. The Canterbury constituency was possibly the most unexpected of the Labour gains in the 2017 general election, with Rosie Duffield becoming the city's first-ever Labour MP with a majority of 187 votes; despite some travails with her local party, she was re-elected in 2019 with an increased majority.

But four young Oysters hurried up.
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

The Labour selection produced as their defending candidate Dane Buckman, a self-employed gardener. Standing for the Greens is Clare Turnbull, who works in educational research. The Conservative candidate is Stephen Spencer. Completing the ballot paper is our fourth candidate Colin Gardner, standing for the Workers Party of Britain.

'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
'You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Parliamentary constituency: Canterbury
Kent county council division: Whitstable West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Canterbury
Postcode district: CT5

Dane Buckman (Lab)
Colin Gardner (Workers Party of Britain)
Stephen Spencer (C)
Clare Turnbull (Grn)

May 2019 result Lab 1418/1416/1307 Grn 1298/894/638 C 889/707/690 LD 262
May 2015 result C 1977/1848/1427 Lab 1844/1658/1638 UKIP 1102 Grn 903/808/801 LD 531/476/451 Ind 412 TUSC 116/110/99
Previous results in detail

Bere Ferrers

West Devon council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Robin Musgrave.

For our Liberal Democrat defence of the week we have come to the West Country, for a ward on the Devon side of the Tamar Estuary. The Bere peninsula lies at the head of the estuary between the Tamar to the west and the Tavy to the east; its main population centre is the village of Bere Alston.

W Devon, Bere Ferrers

The city of Plymouth is only a few miles away, but the road connections to it are so poor (thanks to the Tavy estuary) that the railway line from Plymouth to Bere Alston managed to survive the Beeching cuts which had recommended it for closure. Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers were once on the second main line from Plymouth to Exeter via Okehampton, and trains now reverse at Bere Alston to take the former branch line to Gunnislake. The section of line between Okehampton and Exeter is due to reopen to passengers this weekend, but reopening of Okehampton to Bere Ferrers is a rather more distant prospect.

Bere Alston was one of most notorious of the rotten boroughs which were swept away by the 1832 Reform Act. Sir George Beaumont, the artist and art patron who was one of the founders of the National Gallery in London, was an MP for Bere Alston from 1790 to 1796. By the 1830s elections here were controlled by the Duke of Northumberland, with the freehold tenants of around 30 houses (out of 112 in the borough) having the right to vote. A vivid account of the 1830 general election here was published in The Times:

"Dr Butler [the Portreeve, who was Returning Officer for the borough] ... met the voters under a great tree, the place usually chosen for the purpose of election. During the time the Portreeve was reading the acts of Parliament usually read on such occasions, one of the voters handed in to him a card containing the names of two candidates, proposed by himself and seconded by his friend. He was told ... this was too early. Before the reading was completed, the voter on the other side handed in a card corresponding with the former, which he was told was too late. The meeting broke up. The Portreeve and assistants adjourned to a public house in the neighbourhood, and then and there made a return of Lord Lovaine and Mr Blackett, which was not signed by a single person having a vote."

The "voting tree" still stands in Bere Alston. Mr Christopher Blackett here was a colliery owner from Northumberland, while Lord Lovaine came from a cadet branch of the Percy family who were Dukes of Northumberland. Good local candidates both. Lovaine entered the Lords the following year after succeeding to the title of Earl of Beverley (he ended up as the 5th Duke of Northumberland), and the resulting by-election in January 1831 was contested: the Tory candidate won it by seven votes to nil. In the general election four months later the Conservative slate defeated the Whig slate by nine votes to nil.

Modern-day by-elections in Bere Ferrers are rather more democratic than that, although the returning officer did play a crucial role here again in the 2011 election. The outgoing Lib Dem councillor Robin Musgrave tied for second place with the Conservatives' Andrew Sadleir on 486 votes each; but only one of them could be elected. Lots were drawn, and the returning officer's casting vote fell on Musgrave.

The Bere Ferrers ward was expanded in 2015 to take in the parish of Gulworthy to the north. Its two outgoing councillors Robin Musgrave and Mike Benson were re-elected that year, although Musgrave had by then left the Liberal Democrats and gone independent. Benson died in 2017, and the Conservatives held his seat in the resulting by-election (Andrew's Previews 2017, page 123).

Musgrave, by now back in the Lib Dem fold, topped the poll again here in May 2019, with the Conservatives holding the other seat. Vote shares are a bit difficult to interpret here because of personal votes and partial slates, but for what it's worth the topline figures were 31% for the Lib Dems, 30% for the Conservatives, 20% for Labour and 18% for UKIP.

The ward is split between two divisions of Devon county council (Yelverton Rural and Tavistock), which were both safely Conservative in May's county elections. It is part of the Torridge and West Devon constituency represented by the former Conservative cabinet minister Geoffrey Cox, who has been in the news a bit recently.

Robin Musgrave is standing down on health grounds after many years of service as councillor for Bere Ferrers. He was first elected in 1991, and had continuous service from 2007. Musgrave served in 2012-13 as Mayor of West Devon.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is their losing candidate from 2019 Graham Reed, who works as a craftsman in glass; Reed is a former Plymouth city councillor and has contested Plymouth constituencies in the last three general elections. The Conservatives have selected Angela Blackman, while Labour have changed candidate to Isabel Saxby. UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper is a former European Parliament and London Assembly candidate: that's local resident Judy Maciejowska of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Torridge and West Devon
Devon county council division: Yelverton Rural (Bere Ferrers parish), Tavistock (Gulworthy parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Plymouth
Postcode districts: PL19, PL20

Angela Blackman (C)
Judy Maciejowska (Grn)
Graham Reed (LD)
Isabel Saxby (Lab)

May 2019 result LD 491/258 C 473 Lab 320/149 UKIP 291
May 2017 by-election C 639 Lab 421 UKIP 164
May 2015 result Ind 738 C 681/630 UKIP 504 Grn 445 Lab 430
Previous results in detail

Brockworth East

Tewkesbury council, Gloucestershire; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Sara Stevens.

For our remaining southern by-election we consider a strong contender for the most dangerous Quaint British Tradition. Every Spring Bank Holiday, a number of people who really should know better race 3 or 4 kilograms of the best Double Gloucester cheese down Cooper's Hill, above Brockworth in Gloucestershire. With the hillside having a 1-in-3 slope, and with the cheese travelling fast enough to injure anyone who gets in its way, someone always gets hurt at the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling. Councillor Sara Stevens, one of the organisers, was herself hurt by the cheese when the event was last held in 2019; she ended up in A&E with an internal crush injury.

Cheese-rolling here has been going on for centuries by and for the people of Brockworth, a village on the arrow-straight road going east out of Gloucester. This was once the Roman road of Ermine Street running towards Cirencester, and just outside the ward boundary are the remains of a Roman villa at Great Witcombe. In modern times Brockworth was the home of the Gloster aircraft factory, which closed in the 1960s and whose site has now been redeveloped.

Despite being much closer to Gloucester and Cheltenham, the parish of Brockworth is part of the local government district and parliamentary seat of Tewkesbury. Brockworth's location just outside Gloucester, with good road links, has led to strong population growth in recent years. Tewkesbury council got new ward boundaries in 2019 as a result of which Brockworth parish went up from three councillors to four; the LGBCE don't like drawing wards with more than three councillors, so this meant that the parish had to be divided into two new wards. Accordingly Brockworth East ward came into being.

Tewkesbury, Brockworth E

The old Brockworth ward had four by-elections in the period 2003-19, with one going to a now-defunct residents' party, two to the Liberal Democrats and the last one, in May 2014, to the Conservatives. The Conservatives followed up by winning all three seats in Brockworth in 2015. In May 2019 both Brockworth wards returned two independent candidates, with shares of the vote in East ward being 38% for the independents, 24% for the Conservatives, 15% for UKIP and 13% for the Liberal Democrats. However, the Conservatives held the Brockworth county division in May's Gloucestershire elections with a swing in their favour.

Sara Stevens stood down from Tewkesbury council in June, so there has been plenty of time for prospective candidates in this by-election to get their act together. Despite this, independent candidate Gareth Evans had his nomination papers rejected by the returning officer on the grounds that the two electors who had signed it do not in fact live within the ward. Evans will not be on the ballot. This leaves one defending independent candidate, Brockworth parish councillor Charlotte Mills (who is listed on the parish council website under her previous surname of Parry). The Conservatives have reselected Ronald Furolo who regularly contests local elections here; Furolo was a councillor for the former Brockworth ward from 2015 to 2019. UKIP have not returned. The Lib Dem candidate is Gilbert Yates, who stood in 2019 in the ward of Churchdown Brookfield with Hucclecote, closer to Gloucester. Completing the ballot paper is Joseph Ambrose for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Tewkesbury
Gloucestershire county council division: Brockworth
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester
Postcode district: GL3

Joseph Ambrose (Lab)
Ronald Furolo (C)
Charlotte Mills (Ind)
Gilbert Yates (LD)

May 2019 result Ind 352/324 C 227/184 UKIP 140 LD 120/70 Grn 89
Previous results in detail

Anfield;
Clubmoor; and
Kirkdale

Liverpool council, Merseyside; caused respectively by the deaths of Ros Groves and Tim Jeeves and the resignation of Malcolm Kennedy, all of whom were Labour councillors.

Liverpool, Clubmoor

We now travel to north-west England for three by-elections in adjoining wards in north Liverpool. Let's start with Clubmoor ward, which is a residential area of inter-war housing straddling Queens Drive, the inner ring road, about four miles north-east of the city centre. In the 2011 census Clubmoor made the top 100 wards in England and Wales for long-term sickness or disability (11.3%) and the top 80 wards for Christianity (80.4%).

Liverpool, Anfield

To the west of Clubmoor ward lies Anfield ward, which is famous the world over as the home of Liverpool FC. The ward boundaries take in Anfield Stadium as well as the whole of Stanley Park and some very deprived Victorian and Edwardian terraces to the east and south-east of the park. According to the 2019 indices of multiple deprivation, two of the fifteen most-deprived census districts in England are in Anfield ward. Anfield Stadium itself shows up in the 2011 census, with the output area covering the stadium reporting that almost half of the people who work there are in the "arts, entertainment or recreation" sector.

Liverpool, Kirkdale

The western of the three polls today takes place in Kirkdale ward, which covers the Mersey waterfront north of the city centre. All of the waterfront here is dockland, and Liverpool's docks aren't nearly as busy as they used to be: a trip along Regent Road, with its buried railway tracks crossing at regular intervals, can give the impression that this is a land which time forgot. It's a reflection of how many jobs the docks once provided, and the scale of Liverpool's depopulation. that the boundaries of the modern Kirkdale ward aren't too dissimilar to those of the old Liverpool Scotland parliamentary seat. That constituency famously returned an Irish Nationalist MP, T P O'Connor, to Parliament from 1885 until his death in 1929. All the main transport links going north from the city centre pass through here - the main roads towards Bootle and Preston, the Northern line of Merseyrail (Bank Hall, Kirkdale and Sandhills stations are within the boundary), and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, while the Wallasey Tunnel also surfaces here. Kirkdale ward is in the top 50 wards in the UK for long-term sickness or disability (12.6%) and has very high levels of social renting. All three wards have very low levels of car use for a location outside London, with corresponding high rates of bus travel and (in Kirkdale, which goes up to the edge of the city centre) walking to work.

One of the docks within Kirkdale ward is Bramley Moore Dock, which Everton FC have their eye on as the site of their new stadium. This hasn't impressed UNESCO, who earlier this year took the rare step of revoking the status of Liverpool's waterfront as a World Heritage Site in response to this and other developments.

But that is a long way from being the worst controversy which has attached itself to Liverpool council. For a couple of years now Merseyside Police have been conducting Operation Aloft, an investigation which has resulted in a number of arrests on suspicion of fraud, bribery, corruption and misconduct in public office. In December 2020 Inspector Knacker arrested the then Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

Although Operation Aloft is yet to reach its conclusion this arrest was something central government really couldn't ignore, and they sent in Max Caller to look into Liverpool's governance and see what was going on. Caller, who had previously done something similar in Northamptonshire, produced a report which detailed a number of failings by the council relating to highways, regeneration, property management, audit and governance arrangements. He recommended that the government send the Commissioners in to run those things and change the electoral cycle for the city to all-out whole council elections. Accordingly, the May 2022 elections to Liverpool city council have been cancelled, with the Mayor's and councillors' terms varied to end in May 2023 when a whole council election will be held.

What was the effect of this on the electors of north Liverpool? Well, it certainly cut through. Big Joe was forced to announce his retirement, and Labour selected Joanne Anderson to succeed him in the 2021 mayoral election. This column covered Joanne's first election to Liverpool city council at a by-election in October 2019 (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 321); as I made clear at the time, Joanne Anderson is not related to Big Joe Anderson. (Big Joe does have a daughter called Joanne, but she sits on the council under her married name of Joanne Calvert.)

Joanne Anderson did eventually become Mayor of Liverpool, but her performance in May was very poor compared to Big Joe, and indeed compared to the Labour candidates for Mayor of the Liverpool City Region and for Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, both of whom won in the first round on the same day. By contrast Ms Anderson was taken to transfers after polling just 39% of the first preferences, with independent candidate Stephen Yip on 22%, the Lib Dems on 17% and the Greens on 9%. In the runoff Anderson beat Yip by a 59-41 margin.

This Labour underperformance also fed through to the party's results in the three wards holding by-elections today. In recent years all of these have been places where the Labour vote is weighed rather than counted, where the party's dominance has been so great that it's difficult to find a non-Labour voter. Although Anfield ward voted Lib Dem until 2007, it is now dominated by the red team. The runner-up position there has been filled by six different parties in the seven elections since 2012 (in order, Lib Dem, National Health Action, UKIP, continuing Liberal, Conservative, Green and Liberal again). Kirkdale ward voted 90% Labour in a by-election on general election day in 2017 (Andrew's Previews 2017, page 151); second place there has been taken on a number of occasions by far-left candidate Roger Bannister, who has also stood in the past to be general secretary of UNISON. (Bannister should not be confused with the legendary athlete of the same name.) Clubmoor ward turned in a Labour vote of 86% at a by-election on general election day in December 2019 (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 396).

That Clubmoor by-election returned Tim Jeeves, who was re-elected for a full term in May with a 62-19 lead over the continuing Liberals. Sadly, Jeeves passed away in September at the appallingly early age of 42. To quote from his death notice in the Liverpool Echo, he was "taken too soon from his adopted city which he loved so much".

Jeeves' passing came a month after the death of Anfield ward councillor Ros Groves, who had served since 2016 and had also just been re-elected in May; her final score was 67%, with second place again going to the continuing Liberals on 11%.

The Kirkdale by-election has been the result of some local controversy. Malcolm Kennedy had represented this ward and the predecessor Vauxhall ward since 1998, and had served as Lord Mayor of Liverpool. He moved to Madrid in March 2020 and has been doing his council work remotely from Spain since then. Once remote council meetings were phased out from May, as the pandemic eases, this became an untenable position for Kennedy. He was due for re-election next year, but the cancellation of next year's Liverpool elections means that his successor will now serve an extended term until 2023. In May Kirkdale ward had the lowest Labour percentage of the three Liverpool wards up for election today, the party beating the second-placed Greens by 59-12.

Shoutouts are due to some previous unsuccessful candidates here. David Jeffery, a lecturer in British politics at Liverpool University who published the above Important Piece of Research this week, has had the thankless task of being the Conservative candidate in Kirkdale on a few occasions. The Lib Dem candidate for Clubmoor in 2016 was former city councillor Paula Keaveney who, like your columnist, is a former Mastermind semi-finalist. Finally, commiserations are due to George Edwards who was the continuing Liberal candidate for Kirkdale ward in 2006 and was declared as polling zero votes. Legend has it that the Liverpool Liberal leader and talisman Steve Radford demanded a recount after the declaration, by which time it was of course too late to change the result.

In wards like this the Labour selection is often more important than the actual poll. With the Labour party in Liverpool being in special measures following the recent scandals, the NEC has had rather more control of the selection process than some local members might like. The Labour party's branch for the Liverpool Walton constituency, which covers Anfield and Clubmoor, went so far as to put out a statement saying they weren't particularly happy. There are certainly some interesting choices there.

Defending Anfield for Labour is Tricia O'Brien, who had been the chair of the council's planning committee until she lost her seat to the Lib Dems in Cressington ward this May. It may not be unfair to suggest that she has taken the flak for a number of the committee's more controversial decisions. The Liberal candidate is Jimmy Richardson, who returns after his second-place finish in May. Also standing are Daryl Hodge for the Green Party, Alma McGing for the Conservatives, Wiebke Rueterjans for the Lib Dems and independent candidate Adam Heatherington, who has previously stood for election in Liverpool on the tickets of UKIP (he was the UKIP mayoral candidate in 2012), Five Star Direct Democracy and the Brexit Party.

In Clubmoor the defending Labour candidate is Matthew Smyth, who is in his late twenties and works in a call centre. Smyth has done a lot of campaigning about Universal Credit, having been the victim of an error a few years ago which left him unable to claim a free prescription. The Liberals rather give the game away as to the secret of their success in Liverpool with their ballot paper description "Steve Radford's Candidate": Steve Radford's candidate for Clubmoor ward is again Liam Buckley, who was second here in May and lives and works in the ward. Also standing here are former Green Party European Parliament and leadership candidate Peter Cranie, Steve Fitzsimmons (the last Conservative to sit on Liverpool city council, after holding Woolton ward by seven votes in 1994) for the Lib Dems, Wendy Hine for the Conservatives, Ann Walsh for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and independent candidate Laura-Jayne Wharton who appears to be standing after being disillusioned by the Labour selection process.

Finally we come to Kirkdale where the Labour selection has produced another ex-councillor. Dave Hanratty represented Fazakerley ward from 1992 to 2018, when he stood down apparently under threat of deselection; for some years he was chair of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. The Greens ran second here in May, but their candidate from that election Peter Cranie is, as stated, contesting the Clubmoor by-election; for the Kirkdale by-election the Green candidate is instead local resident Maria Coughlan. Also standing are the aforementioned Roger Bannister for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Jenny Turner for the Lib Dems, Kate Burgess for the Conservatives and Peter Furmedge, who is associated with a new party called Beacon Liverpool; the paperwork for the party wasn't filed with the Electoral Commission in time, so Furmedge is on the ballot paper without a party description. As per the usual practice this column follows for undescribed candidates, Furmedge is listed in the table below as an independent.

Anfield

Parliamentary constituency: Liverpool Walton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode districts: L4, L6

Adam Heatherington (Ind)
Daryl Hodge (Grn)
Alma McGing (C)
Tricia O'Brien (Lab)
Jimmy Richardson (Lib)
Wiebke Rueterjans (LD)

May 2021 result Lab 1520 Lib 247 Grn 171 C 120 LD 104 Ind 94
May 2019 result Lab 1448 Grn 193 Lib 141 LD 97 C 97
May 2018 result Lab 1777 C 140 LD 134 Grn 114 Lib 56
May 2016 result Lab 1601 Lib 132 Grn 120 LD 120 C 89 TUSC 65
May 2015 result Lab 4276 UKIP 568 Lib 281 Grn 261 C 126 TUSC 68
May 2014 result Lab 1850 National Health Action 245 Lib 146 Grn 145 C 97
May 2012 result Lab 2312 LD 193 Grn 116 Lib 95 C 88
May 2011 result Lab 2223 LD 643 BNP 105 C 94 Lib 83 Grn 50
May 2010 result Lab 2817 LD 1526 BNP 278 Lib 274 C 185 Grn 88
May 2008 result Lab 1521 LD 1077 Lib 133 C 97 Grn 96 Ind 27
May 2007 result LD 1324 Lab 935 Lib 237 Grn 96 C 76
May 2006 result LD 1101 Lab 824 Lib 448 Grn 133 C 95
June 2004 result LD 1586/1500/1328 Lab 836/719/680 Lib 688/519 Ind 335 Socialist Alliance 108/55
Previous results in detail

Clubmoor

Parliamentary constituency: Liverpool Walton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode districts: L4, L9, L11, L13

Liam Buckley (Lib)
Peter Cranie (Grn)
Steve Fitzsimmons (LD)
Wendy Hine (C)
Matthew Smyth (Lab)
Ann Walsh (TUSC)
Laura-Jayne Wharton (Ind)

May 2021 result Lab 1647 Lib 510 Grn 207 LD 147 C 139
December 2019 by-election Lab 6276 Lib 420 Grn 328 LD 243
May 2019 result Lab 1770 Lib 203 Grn 195 LD 118 C 98
May 2018 result Lab 2136 Lib 129 C 127 Grn 104 LD 75
May 2016 result Lab 2072 Grn 244 LD 204 Lib 200 C 105
May 2015 result Lab 5493 UKIP 711 Grn 260 Lib 221 C 184 LD 157
May 2014 result Lab 2201 UKIP 686 Lib 130 Grn 117 C 75
May 2012 result Lab 2587 UKIP 215 Lib 124 LD 106 TUSC 97 Grn 85 C 81 British Freedom Party 26
May 2011 result Lab 2904 LD 232 C 184 Lib 166 Grn 125
May 2010 result Lab 4245 Lib 1073 BNP 364 C 281 Grn 148
May 2008 result Lab 1341 Lib 859 BNP 358 C 150 Grn 68 Ind 18
May 2007 result Lab 1366 Lib 999 BNP 210 C 147 Grn 99
May 2006 result Lab 1440 Lib 791 LD 410 C 132 Grn 120 Soc Lab 71
June 2004 result Lab 1844/1626/1624 LD 1542/1445/1230 Lib 466/432/377 Soc Lab 72
Previous results in detail

Kirkdale

Parliamentary constituency: Liverpool Riverside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool
Postcode districts: L3, L4, L5, L20

Roger Bannister (TUSC)
Kate Burgess (C)
Maria Coughlan (Grn)
Peter Furmedge (Ind)
Dave Hanratty (Lab)
Jenny Turner (LD)

May 2021 result Lab 1703 Grn 334 TUSC 324 LD 231 C 168 Lib 107
May 2019 result Lab 1935 UKIP 182 Grn 149 LD 95 Socalist Alternative 69 C 31
May 2018 result Lab 2094 TUSC 149 Grn 104 C 103 LD 76 Lib 23
June 2017 by-election Lab 6416 C 346 Grn 177 LD 154
May 2016 result Lab 2166 TUSC 276 Grn 181 C 105
May 2015 result Lab 5280 UKIP 442 Grn 318 TUSC 236 C 210 Ind 70
May 2014 result Lab 2303 TUSC 206 Grn 177 Lib 140 C 100
May 2012 result Lab 2771 TUSC 143 Grn 89 Ind 76 C 59 LD 38 Lib 13
May 2011 result Lab 3001 TUSC 162 C 128 Grn 106 Lib 78
May 2010 result Lab 4284 BNP 403 Lib 336 C 246 Grn 133 Ind 86
May 2008 double vacancy Lab 1971/1737 BNP 389 Ind 146 LD 144/107 Grn 96/95 C 95/61 Lib 46
May 2007 result Lab 1927 BNP 169 LD 147 UKIP 109 Grn 84 C 66 Ind 47 Lib 37
May 2006 result Lab 1958 LD 232 UKIP 182 C 69 Grn 64 Lib 0
June 2004 result Lab 2378/2315/2145 Liverpool Labour Community Party 365/258/243 LD 274/260/250 Lib 125/125/105 Grn 125/121/115
Previous results in detail

Chorlton

Manchester council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Matt Strong.

Manchester, Chorlton

We now move east up the Mersey to the major city of north-west England. Chorlton-cum-Hardy was historically a village on the north bank of the Mersey, three miles from the growing industrial town of Manchester. The village grew rapidly in the late Victorian era as a middle-class suburb within easy striking distance of the city, and Chorlton was incorporated into Manchester in 1904. Chorlton tram stop, on the Airport and East Didsbury lines, has linked the ward to the city centre since 2011.

For those of a certain age, it's impossible to talk about Chorlton without mentioning some of the classic pieces of children's television. Chorlton was the home of the Cosgrove Hall animation studios, which gave us such great artistic works as Chorlton and the Wheelies, Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, together with feature-length versions of The Wind in the Willows and Roald Dahl's BFG. Cosgrove Hall's employees included a very young Bernard Sumner, before he found fame in the bands Joy Division and New Order. The studio ended up as part of ITV, which wound it up in 2009.

Modern-day Chorlton still has that middle-class vibe, with urban professionals dominating its current demographic. In the 2011 census Chorlton (which then had slightly different boundaries) was in the top 50 wards in England and Wales for those educated to degree level (60.6%), and 30.8% of its population was aged between 30 and 44: that was the highest figure for any ward in north-west England and in the top 100 wards in England and Wales. A majority of the workforce are in middle-class occupations and full-time employment is very high. Less salubriously, Chorlton's M21 postcode was reported in 2014 to be the most burgled postcode district in the UK.

Manchester is a monolithically Labour council these days: the latest composition has 93 Labour councillors plus this vacancy, opposed by one Lib Dem (John Leech, who represented Chorlton from 2005 to 2015 as the MP for Manchester Withington) and one Green (for the unlikely-looking Green ward of Woodhouse Park, in Wythenshawe). Chorlton ward last failed to vote Labour in 2010, when the Liberal Democrats won. In May this year Labour won with a 68-17 lead over the Green Party, and the Lib Dems fell to fourth place. Matt Strong had represented Chorlton since 2011, gaining his seat from the Lib Dems.

Defending this by-election for Labour is Matthew Benham, who describes himself on his Twitter as a "Volunteer, Allotmenteer and Leafleting Specialist". The Green candidate is Simon Milner-Edwards, who describes himself as a single-issue candidate: the single issue being stopping development on Ryebank Fields, an open space in the ward. Also standing are Kathleen Fitzgibbon for the Conservatives, Rosie Hughes for the Liberal Democrats, regular candidate Jo Heathcote for the Women's Equality Party, and independent candidate Paul Harnett.

Parliamentary constituency: Manchester Withington (most), Manchester Gorton (small part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: M16, M21

Matthew Benham (Lab)
Kathleen Fitzgibbon (C)
Paul Harnett (Ind)
Jo Heathcote (Women's Equality)
Rosie Hughes (LD)
Simon Milner-Edwards (Grn)

May 2021 result Lab 3656 Grn 917 C 368 LD 291 Women's Equality 141
May 2019 result Lab 2574 Grn 950 LD 575 C 212 Women's Equality 146 Ind 59
May 2018 result Lab 3175/3165/2974 Grn 731/728/653 LD 614/507/463 Women's Equality 465 C 301/242/221 Ind 145
Previous results in detail

Bamber Bridge East

South Ribble council, Lancashire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Christine Melia at the age of 72. She had served as a councillor since 2019.

S Ribble, Bamber Bridge E

For the last of the five Labour defences this week in north-west England we travel north to the edge of Preston. Bamber Bridge lies a few miles to the south-east of Preston, forming another link in the chain of towns which connects Preston to Chorley. This a major location on the motorway network: the ward includes the original southern terminus of the UK's first motorway, the M6 Preston Bypass, while the later M61 and M65 motorways also pass through the ward. Also here is the unnumbered Walton Summit motorway, a spur road which is one of the few places in the UK where you can legally do 70mph on a single-carriageway road.

There's nothing out of the ordinary about the ethnic profile of this ward, but Bamber Bridge has gone down in history as the unlikely location of an American race riot. The so-called Battle of Bamber Bridge occurred in June 1943, starting at a pub in the modern-day Bamber Bridge East ward called Ye Old Hob Inn. At the time the 1511th Quartermaster Truck regiment, a logistics unit of the US Air Force with almost entirely black GIs commanded by almost entirely white officers, was stationed in Bamber Bridge. Its soldiers often socialised in Ye Old Hob with the locals, in a way they couldn't do back home in segregated America. News had come through of race riots in Detroit earlier in the week, and the author Anthony Burgess - who lived in Bamber Bridge for a time - recounted that the US authorities demanded a colour bar in Bamber Bridge's pubs in response. The landlords promptly put up signs saying "Black Troops Only". Then a cack-handed attempt by white US military police to arrest a black soldier in Ye Old Hob, for not wearing the proper uniform, was thwarted by British servicewomen and local civilians; the military police subsequently came back in numbers for another go, and there was a firefight which lasted most of the night. One GI died. All the other soldiers involved were back to normal duties within thirteen months, which was a very light punishment considering that this was a mutiny in wartime; the Eighth Air Force commander preferred to put most of the blame for the incident on the behaviour of the MPs.

These days the East ward of Bamber Bridge has a lot of industry, and it has been Labour-voting throughout this century. In the May 2019 elections to South Ribble council Labour polled 47% here, the Conservatives 30% and UKIP 24%; that election led to the Conservatives losing control of the council, and South Ribble is now run by a minority Labour administration with Lib Dem support. Until the death of ward councillor Christine Melia in September, the Labour and Conservative groups were tied on 22 seats each; accordingly, if the Conservatives gain this by-election they will become the largest party on the council.

The Tories may take heart from the fact that they represent this area at other levels of government. Most of Bamber Bridge East ward is covered by the South Ribble East division of Lancashire county council, which is safe Conservative; however, part of it is in the Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge division which is a Conservative-held marginal. The ward is part of the Ribble Valley parliamentary seat held by Tory MP Nigel Evans, who returned to his former role as a Deputy Speaker after the 2019 general election.

Defending for Labour is local resident Clare Hunter. The Conservative candidate is Matthew Forshaw, a maintenance manager for a hospitality company. UKIP have not returned, but we will still have a three-way contest with the intervention of Rachel Knowles for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Ribble Valley
Lancashire county council division: South Ribble East (most), Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Preston
Postcode district: PR5

Matthew Forshaw (C)
Clare Hunter (Lab)
Rachel Knowles (Grn)

May 2019 result Lab 474/433 C 303/269 UKIP 241
May 2015 result Lab 1127/1021 C 752/736
Previous results in detail

Cropton

Ryedale council, North Yorkshire; caused by the death of Liberal Party councillor John Clark.

Ryedale, Cropton

As a warmup for next week's North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner election, we finish the week by coming to, well, North Yorkshire. Yes, this means that the voters of Cropton are going to have to turn out for by-elections on two successive Thursdays. Blame the PCC by-election rules for that one.

The Cropton ward of Ryedale covers eight tiny parishes wrapping around the western and northern side of Pickering. Much of its acreage is within the North York Moors National Park, and those who have travelled the preserved North Yorkshire Moors railway - which runs along the valley of Pickering Beck which forms the ward's eastern boundary - will attest that this is beautiful countryside. It's not highly populated countryside even in the more lowland parishes, in the fertile Vale of Pickering: Middleton, located on the main road running west from Pickering, is the largest parish in the ward but has just 343 electors on the roll. There may well have been a larger population at the end of the 1st century, when the Romans had a camp at Cawthorne, just outside Cropton, which is thought to have been used by them as a training camp.

A look at the election results for Cropton ward reinforces the sense of historical throwback. Since the ward was created in 2003 it has had only one councillor: John Clark, one of the few remaining councillors for the continuing Liberal Party. Clark went through a number of very close elections - in 2011 he was re-elected with a majority of just six votes over the Conservatives - and it wasn't until his final re-election in 2019 that he achieved safety in Cropton ward. On that occasion he won with a 55-25 lead over an independent candidate.

Ryedale, 2019

Clark had also served on North Yorkshire county council, representing the local Pickering division from 2009 to 2017. Again, all those elections were photofinishes: Clark won by 58 votes in 2009, was re-elected by 50 votes in 2013, and lost his seat to the Conservatives by eight votes in 2017.

The May 2021 North Yorkshire county elections were cancelled due to possible local government reorganisation in the county. Ryedale council, which is based on the Vale of Pickering and whose largest towns are Pickering, Malton and Norton, may well be one of the main reasons for this reorganisation. Although it is a coherent economic unit - the ONS recognises a Malton Travel to Work Area with very similar boundaries - the district has a very low headcount and is one of the smallest remaining shire districts in England by population. Part of the reason for that is that Ryedale came off badly from the creation of a unitary York council in the 1990s: the new York city council expanded to cover the whole of the city's urban area and a rural hinterland, and that boundary change robbed Ryedale of a large chunk of its population and council tax base.

Ryedale council is too small to sustain a leader and cabinet system of governance, and John Clark's position as chairman of the council's policy and resources committee meant that he was in effect the council leader. The council chamber is hung, with currently 12 independent councillors (in at least three different groups), 11 Conservatives, 4 continuing Liberals plus this vacancy, and two new-style Liberal Democrats.

Defending this by-election for the Liberal Party is Alasdair Clark, John Clark's son. The independent from last time has not returned, so opposing Clark junior are Greg White for the Conservatives (who is the local county councillor), Richard McLane for the Green Party and Jill Wells for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Thirsk and Malton
North Yorkshire county council division: Pickering
ONS Travel to Work Area: Malton
Postcode districts: YO17, YO18, YO62

Alasdair Clark (Lib)
Richard McLane (Grn)
Jill Wells (Lab)
Greg White (C)

May 2019 result Lib 362 Ind 167 C 128
May 2015 result Lib 526 C 471
May 2011 result Lib 359 C 353 LD 57
May 2007 result Lib 342 C 301 LD 86
May 2003 result Lib 368 C 306
Previous results in detail


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


Previewing the council by-elections of 11 Nov 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

There are eight by-elections on Armistice Day, 11th November 2021, and this is a very interesting set. We have two seats defended by the Lincolnshire Independents, one defence each for the Conservatives, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru, together with three free-for-alls! With hung councils galore, two councillors having left the country and a wide mix of places and issues to talk about, there really is something for everyone this week. Let's start this week's edition of Andrew's Previews by talking turnout, in the UK's most millennial ward...

University and Scotforth Rural

Lancaster council; caused by the resignation of Jack O'Dwyer-Henry.

Last week this column discussed a by-election in inner-city Salford, a place where there is a lot of building of new apartments going on. New apartment blocks in city centres can be very difficult places for political campaigns: they are often impossible to access or leaflet for people who don't live there, and the people who do live there in many cases don't stay for long before moving on. Those were some of the excuses given for the turnout in last week's Blackfriars and Trinity by-election, which was a pathetic 10.06% of the electorate. Salford Council reckon this is the lowest ever turnout for an election in the city, and I'm not going to contradict that.

It's not a record low turnout for the UK, though. The last by-election before the pandemic hit, in Coventry in March 2020, had a turnout of 9% - but that was with the public health emergency at its height. That's a one-off factor (at least we hope so). For a turnout that's really difficult to beat you need a highly transient population - preferably somewhere where the electorate completely turns over every year, perhaps have little connection to the area, and are largely absent for a large chunk of the year...

Lancaster University Chaplaincy

Welcome to Lancaster University. This is one of the 1960s "plate-glass" universities located on its own separate campus just to the south of Lancaster. The university is known for the high quality of its teaching: its alumni include the Opposition Chief Whip, Sir Alan Campbell, and the present Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith, while the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn is the present Chancellor of the university. The University is on a growth spurt and has expanded beyond the original campus in recent years.

From 2003 to 2015 Lancaster council had a University ward, which covered the original Lancaster University campus and nothing else. Its 2011 census return is unique. 94% of the population were full-time students, 94% were aged between 18 and 29, 68% were educated to A-level but not (yet) further: all of these were by a long way the highest figures for any ward in England and Wales. University ward also made the top 100 in England and Wales for households living rent-free, which appears to be an artefact of the census enumerators recognising the university's colleges as one household each - only 62 households were counted in the ward for 3,384 residents.

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the most millennial ward in the UK turned out to be politically left-wing. University ward voted Lib Dem on its creation in 2003, then Green in 2007, was won by Labour in 2011 and went back to the Greens at a by-election in 2014.

Lancaster, University/Scotforth Rural

The University's expansion has made a mess of the administrative boundaries in the area. The building of the original campus left Scotforth parish divided into two parts, while the new south-west campus forms part of Ellel parish. For the 2015 Lancaster elections an expanded University and Scotforth Rural ward was drawn up, taking in all of these areas. Scotforth parish covers some lovely but sparsely-populated countryside, so this expansion hasn't had much effect on the ward's unique demographic. The University and Scotforth Rural ward has not proven to be particularly workable in practice, and draft proposals from the Local Government Boundary Commission will break it up for the 2023 Lancaster elections. That change would create something similar to (but smaller than) the local county council division of Lancaster South East, which is safely Labour but has a permanent population to give the demographic profile a more conventional look.

The LGBCE faces an extra difficulty in its current work which it didn't have in the last review of Lancaster: Individual Electoral Registration. When this was brought in for the December 2015 register the enrolment of University and Scotforth Rural ward dropped like a stone, because the University administration was no longer able to process applications to vote and send them to Lancaster electoral services en bloc. For the following academic year the University brought electoral registration back in-house with an opt-out for those students who for whatever reason don't want to register: but this hasn't brought the ward's register back up to scratch in the long term. The December 2020 register, which the Commission are using for their current review, gives University and Scotforth Rural an entitlement of just 1.77 Lancaster councillors, a figure which is not projected to change significantly in the near future. The ward simply doesn't have the electorate to justify its three councillors.

As to why the ward has proven difficult in practice: remember that the vast majority of electors here are students. University students generally don't vote in local elections. This may seem like a heretical question for a psephological piece to ask, but: why should they? Most students won't hang around for a full electoral cycle. Student housing is let on contracts of one year or less: students will often move in and out of halls of residence, finding themselves in different wards or even different council areas from one year to the next. Student residences are exempt from council tax. And campus-based universities like Lancaster are very much their own bubble, with those inside the bubble taking very little notice of what is going on in the city next door. In May 2002 your columnist was a poll clerk at the campus polling station for another "bubble" campus university, Warwick, in the Coventry city council elections: we recorded an on-the-day turnout of 8.4%.

The first election for the present ward was in 2015, and it returned two Labour councillors (Lucy Atkinson and Matt Mann) and a Green (Sam Armstrong). The Tory slate, despite including a candidate with the name Ice Dong, finished in third place. Mann resigned from the council in late 2016, having taken up a new job outside Lancaster, and the resulting by-election featured a campaign visit from none other than Jeremy Corbyn.

This did help the new Labour candidate Nathan Burns hold the December 2016 University and Scotforth Rural by-election (Andrew's Previews 2016, page 328) with 98, to 79 for the Greens and 68 for the Conservatives. Those figures are not percentages: they are votes. Nathan Burns holds the dubious distinction of being the only English district councillor this century (outside the City of London and the Isles of Scilly) to be elected with fewer than 100 votes at a contested election. The final turnout was around 7%, which this column suspects to be the record low turnout for a UK local election. It's going to be very difficult to beat.

The other two ward councillors, Lucy Atkinson for Labour and Sam Armstrong for the Greens, both stood down in early 2018. The resulting double by-election in May 2018 (Andrew's Previews 2018, page 173) returned the Labour slate of Amara Betts-Patel and Oliver Robinson quite comfortably with a much higher turnout: they polled 518 and 423 votes respectively. Labour held the ward at the May 2019 Lancaster city council elections with 41% of the vote, against 30% for the Green Party and 17% for the Conservatives: Robinson was re-elected, with Katie Whearty and Jack O'Dwyer-Henry joining the Labour slate.

Lancaster, 2019

Lancaster has been a hung council for many years. Labour came close to winning a majority here in 2015, but fell back in 2019 largely thanks to a resurgence from the Morecambe Bay Independents, a long-standing Morecambe localist party. The 2019 election returned 21 Labour councillors, 14 Morecambe Bay Independents, 12 Conservatives, 10 Greens and 3 Lib Dems. A by-election in the rural Kellet ward in May 2021 saw the Conservatives recover a seat they had lost to the Lib Dems in 2019.

The Labour group on the council has since split, with a number of councillors elected on their ticket forming a new "Eco-Socialist Independent" group. At the 2021 AGM the Eco-Socialist Independents deposed the Labour council leader and installed a new leader from the Green Party, who have formed a minority coalition with the Eco-Socialist Independents to run the council. The Greens have 10 councillors and the Eco-Socialist Independents have 4: the opposition now consists of 14 Labour councillors plus one vacant seat, 11 Conservatives plus two vacant seats, 9 Morecambe Bay Independents, 2 Lib Dems, 6 other councillors and this vacancy. Three different dates over the next few weeks have been set for the four pending by-elections, so this is the first in a three-part series of Previews covering Lancaster city council.

The 2021 University and Scotforth Rural by-election is to replace Jack O'Dwyer-Henry, who was one of the Labour councillors who defected to the Eco-Socialist Independents. O'Dwyer-Henry has now graduated from Lancaster University, and he has returned to his native Belfast to take up a new job with the Green Party of Northern Ireland.

There is no defending Eco-Socialist Independent candidate, so this by-election is a free-for-all! You need four people to make up a University Challenge team, and four people is what we have here. Labour will want their seat back: their candidate is (Sayeda) Fabiha Askari, who is described as a Lancaster lass and student. The Greens, whose policies are rather high on the news agenda at the moment with the ongoing COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, will presumably want to pick up the seat previously held by their Eco-Socialist Independent partners: their candidate is Jamie Payne, who is a final-year student reading politics and international relations. The Conservatives have broken with the trend and not selected a student for this by-election: their candidate is Matthew Maxwell-Scott, who represents the neighbouring Lancaster Rural East division on the county council. Completing the ballot paper is Zanna Ashton for the Lib Dems.

Picture of the Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University copyright © Ian Greig and licensed for reuse under CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Parliamentary constituency: Lancaster and Fleetwood
Lancashire county council division: Lancaster South East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lancaster and Morecambe
Postcode districts: LA1, LA2

Zanna Ashton (LD)
Sayeda Askari (Lab)
Matthew Maxwell-Scott (C)
Jamie Payne (Grn)

May 2019 result Lab 295/278/267 Grn 217/175/142 C 119/113/112 LD 88/83/72
May 2018 double by-election Lab 518/423 Grn 264/235 C 184/184 LD 120/114
December 2016 result Lab 98 Grn 79 C 68 LD 36
May 2015 result Lab 605/500/480 Grn 555/440/417 C 405/391/339 LD 143/79/66
Previous results in detail

Melton Dorian

Melton council, Leicestershire; caused by the disqualification of Conservative councillor Alan Pearson, who failed to attend any meetings of the council in six months.

Melton, Melton Dorian

For our first East Midlands by-election this week we have come to what is, in population terms, the smallest remaining non-metropolitan district in England. Melton district council covers a population of just over 50,000, according to the latest ONS estimates; only Rutland (which this column visited last week), the City of London and the Isles of Scilly have smaller headcounts. Should the current proposals for reorganisation in North Yorkshire and Cumbria go through, Melton would be one of only three shire districts with a population under 60,000, along with West Devon and another Leicestershire council, Oadby and Wigston.

Slightly more than half of Melton district's electors live in the town of Melton Mowbray, which has given us not only the famous pork pie but also Stilton cheese: the Tuxford and Tebbutt creamery is one of only six dairies in the UK permitted to produce the real thing. The town is surprisingly industrial for its size, and Dorian ward (covering the south-west corner of the town) is in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for those employed in manufacturing. Within the ward boundary is the Melton Foods factory, the world's largest supplier of genuine Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Despite the presence of all that pork the Conservatives have a large majority on Melton council, and even with this manufacturing profile the Labour Party have won just two seats in Dorian ward this century, both in the 2011 election. At the first contest on the current boundaries in 2003 Dorian elected two Conservative councillors and an independent, Patricia Cumbers, who subsequently joined the party and has topped the poll at each ordinary election since. The ward returned a full slate of Conservatives in 2007 and 2015, but not in 2019 when the Tory slate was opposed only by Philip Wood as a Green Party candidate. Wood polled 48% and was elected in second place, with the Tory slate polling 52% and winning the other two seats. At other levels of government Dorian ward is part of safe Conservative units: the Melton West division of Leicestershire county council, and the Rutland and Melton parliamentary seat.

Alan Pearson had represented this ward on Melton council since 2015 and was also the ward's county councillor from 2013 until this May, when he didn't seek re-election. Pearson is currently in Western Australia, having gone there before Christmas to see family and get a second opinion following recent surgery on his shoulder. It appears that the second opinion was not a good one. Pearson has not returned to Leicestershire, and as a result he has now been thrown off Melton council under the six-month non-attendance rule.

The by-election to replace him has a curious candidate list, given the 2019 result. Defending for the Conservatives is Timothy Webster, a former manager of the town's livestock market who is a trustee of the Melton Mowbray Town Estate. One of the longest-running forms of town government in England, the Town Estate has been doing good work in Melton since the sixteenth century and still runs the town's parks, sports grounds and market. Curiously there is no Green Party candidate, so the opposition to Webster comes from Sarah Cox. A local resident, Cox is a former police chief inspector who also plays a leading role in local charities, and she has been nominated by the Labour Party. It's a straight fight: seconds out!

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
Leicestershire county council division: Melton West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode districts: LE13, LE14

Sarah Cox (Lab)
Timothy Webster (C)

May 2019 result C 477/429/385 Grn 438
May 2015 result C 1221/1146/1039 Lab 797/646/579 Ind 642
May 2011 result C 649/540/524 Lab 642/563
May 2007 result C 581/484/439 Ind 352 Lab 313
August 2004 by-election C 397 Lab 140 Ind 125
May 2003 result C 367/302 Ind 297 Lab 268/239/237 Melton Borough Progressive Alliance 188
Previous results in detail

Metheringham; and
Sleaford Castle

North Kesteven council, Lincolnshire. The Metheringham poll is a double by-election following the resignations of Lincolnshire Independents councillors Nick Byatt and Laura Pearson. The Sleaford Castle by-election follows the resignation of a third Lincolnshire Independents councillor, Cara Sandy.

In a change to some advertised listings, our other East Midlands by-elections this week take place in North Kesteven council, which covers a large rural area immediately to the south of Lincoln. They were notified to this column very late; and by "very late" here I mean "two-and-a-half hours before polls closed", which was the time I had to write this section. As such, take this piece with even more salt than usual.

N Kesteven, Sleaford Castle

The main town in the North Kesteven district is Sleaford, which has an important location at a place where the River Slea breaks through the ridge of high ground which runs south from Lincoln. The town had a castle to go with it: Sleaford Castle, located rather curiously on flat fenland, was constructed during the early twelfth century by the Bishop of Lincoln. Little remains of the castle today, and its site is a green space just to the west of the present-day town centre. Sleaford Castle is the central of the five wards for Sleaford town, and covers housing either side of the railway line to the west together with a small part of the town centre (the western side of South Gate).

N Kesteven, Metheringham

Sleaford's main focus has always been as an agricultural town servicing the rich fenland of Lincolnshire. Some of the fenland villages are covered by the Metheringham ward, which covers four long and thin parishes about halfway between Sleaford and Lincoln. The shape of the parish boundaries show that these are spring-line villages, located at places on the ridge slope where streams rise before flowing down to the fens. Metheringham itself has a railway station, linking the village to Lincoln and Sleaford.

The North Kesteven district forms the basis for the Sleaford and North Hykeham parliamentary seat, which (with slightly different boundaries) returned the largest Conservative vote total and largest Conservative vote percentage in the 2017 general election. Less than two years later, the Conservatives lost overall control of the council: the 2019 election returned 22 independent and 20 Conservative councillors, with one vacancy due to insufficient nominations. The Conservatives won the resulting by-election (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 175) and they have managed to stay in power on North Kesteven council - but only by peeling off some of the independent councillors to form a coalition administration.

A number of the opposition councillors were returned with the nomination of the Lincolnshire Independents, who at one point had a sizeable group on the county council but have been down to one county councillor since 2017. The Lincolnshire Independents are defending all three seats today, so there is a chance for the Conservative-led administration to increase its majority here. Both wards are in divisions which voted Conservative in May's county elections by large margins.

Metheringham ward has only previously been contested by independent and Conservative candidates this century. In 2003 and 2007 all the candidates were independents; the Conservative slate gained the ward in 2011 without a contest, and held both seats in 2015 against a challenge from a single Lincolnshire Independent, Nick Byatt, who lost out by just four votes. The Lincolnshire Independents won both seats in 2019 rather convincingly, with a 60-40 margin.

Sleaford Castle ward has been in independent hands since 2011 when Keith Dolby gained the ward from the Conservatives. Dolby stood down in 2019 and his seat went to the Lincolnshire Independents in a close three-way result: Cara Sandy won with 194 votes, while the Labour candidate Linda Edwards-Shea and the Conservatives' Steve Fields (a former Lincolnshire Independents councillor) tied for second place on 172 votes each. In percentage terms that's 36-32-32, and it's the closest Labour have come to winning a seat on North Kesteven council since they were wiped out in 2007.

The Sleaford Castle by-election is a free-for-all, with no defending Lincolnshire Independents candidate. There are, however, two independents on the ballot. Ken Fernandes is a Sleaford town councillor, while Steve Mason was an independent candidate in May's Lincolnshire county elections (for Sleaford Rural division, which doesn't cover this ward). Labour's runner-up from last time Linda Edwards-Shea, the deputy mayor of Sleaford, is back for another go. The Conservatives' offer to the electors is Malcolm Offer, who is also seeking election to the town council in a different by-election. Completing the Castle ballot paper is Susan Hislop for the Lib Dems.

We have seven candidates chasing the two available seats in Metheringham. The Lincolnshire Independents have put up a slate of Amelia Bailey and Mark Williams; Bailey runs a tearoom in Metheringham, while Williams is a qualified FA coach who works in IT for the county council. The Conservatives will be looking to recover their 2019 loss with their slate of Dave Parry and Fran Pembury; Parry is a Metheringham parish councillor, while Pembury runs a hairdressers' in the village. For the first time this century other parties are getting in on the act here: Labour have nominated Paul Edwards-Shea and Calvin Rodgerson, while Diana Catton stands for the Liberal Democrats.

Metheringham

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Metheringham Rural (part: Blankney, Dunston and Metheringham parishes), Potterhanworth and Coleby (part: Nocton parish)

Amelia Bailey (Lincs Ind)
Diana Catton (LD)
Paul Edwards-Shea (Lab)
Dave Parry (C)
Fran Pembury (C)
Calvin Rodgerson (Lab)
Mark Williams (Lincs Ind)

May 2019 result Lincs Ind 814/807 C 544/489
May 2015 result C 1641/1340 Lincs Ind 1336
May 2011 result 2 C unopposed
May 2007 result Ind 1054/949/585
Previous results in detail

Sleaford Castle

Parliamentary constituency: Sleaford and North Hykeham
Lincolnshire county council division: Sleaford

Linda Edwards-Shea (Lab)
Ken Fernandes (Ind)
Susan Hislop (LD)
Steve Mason (Ind)
Malcolm Offer (C)

May 2019 result Lincs Ind 194 Lab 172 C 172
May 2015 result Ind 678 C 451
May 2011 result Ind 492 C 225
May 2007 result C 271 LD 187 Lab 146
Previous results in detail

Llandrillo

Denbighshire council, North Wales; caused by the resignation of Plaid Cymru councillor Mabon ab Gwynfor.

Denbigshire, Llandrillo

We have reached the second week of November, which as long-term readers of Andrew's Previews know can mean only one thing: it is now time for your columnist to mount the pulpit and read out the following notice.

The six-month rule has now come into effect as we approach the next ordinary local elections on Thursday 5 May 2022. What this means is that from now on, if a councillor who was due for re-election in May 2022 dies, resigns or gets disqualified, then there will be no by-election to replace them and their seat will be left vacant.

The May 2022 local elections will see all local councillors in Greater London, Scotland, Wales, Birmingham, Huntingdonshire, Newcastle-under-Lyme, St Helens and South Cambridgeshire up for election, together with one-third or one-half of those councils which hold elections by thirds or halves (generally, these are boroughs and districts in urban England outside London). If the government gets its act together, we may also have some form of elections to a new local government structure in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset.

My list of council vacancies currently has two entries in London (not counting the parliamentary vacancy in Old Bexley and Sidcup), four in Scotland and six in Wales (one of which, in Torfaen, has been left vacant for over six months now and nobody appears to be in any hurry to call it). Once those are cleared, this column will take its leave of London, Scotland and Wales until the summer of 2022 at the earliest. The first half of next year is looking likely to be an England-only diet for council by-elections.

So, savour today's two Welsh polls while you can. We start in the north with a ward in the Dee valley at the southern end of Denbighshire. Llandrillo yn Edeirnion is a small village to the south of Corwen, in the shadow of the high Berwyn mountains. This is very much rural Wales. Llandrillo ward's census return has an unusual feature: 27 of its 489 households were living rent-free, which is the highest proportion for any ward in Wales and in the top 50 for England and Wales.

Cadair Berwyn, on the ward boundary, rises to an altitude of 832 metres and dominates the horizon for a large swathe of western England: on the clearest of days, views from the summit of Cadair Berwyn extend north to the Lake District, over 100 miles away. The Berwyn range forms an impassable ward boundary to the east: that's something which Henry II, in one of his invasions of Wales, failed to appreciate until it was too late. His 1165 campaign made the mistake of starting from Oswestry, struck west over the Berwyns, and quickly ground to a halt against guerilla military action and terrible weather. The mountains were also the scene of an obscure incident in January 1974 which some people have claimed to be a UFO crash; the MoD investigation ascribed the loud noise and bright lights on the Berwyns to a combination of a small earthquake, a meteor and poachers.

The modern Denbighshire district is based on the Vale of Clwyd, with its main towns being Rhyl and Prestatyn on the north coast. However, Llandrillo yn Edeirnion and its sister village of Cynwyd, further down the valley, are in the Dee valley rather than the Clwyd valley and form a rather remote corner of the district. Indeed, until its transfer to Clwyd in the 1974 reorganisation, this ward was a part of Merionethshire. So from February 1974 until the parliamentary boundaries caught up in 1983, Llandrillo was represented by the Plaid Cymru MP Dafydd Elis Thomas.

Thomas was the Baby of the Commons between the two 1974 elections (he was aged 27 when first elected), and his long career in politics didn't finally come to an end until May this year when he retired from the Senedd. He was the leader of Plaid Cymru from 1984 to 1991, has been a member of the House of Lords (as Lord Elis-Thomas) since 1992, was Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly (as the post was then known) from 1999 to 2011, and he finished his political career from 2017 to 2021 as an independent MS and as a junior minister in the Welsh Government.

Lord Elis-Thomas sat in the Senedd until 2021 for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, the successor to the Merioneth constituency he had first won 47 years earlier. Upon his retirement that seat was recovered for Plaid Cymru by Mabon ap Gwynfor. A grandson of the first Plaid Cymru MP Gwynfor Evans, Mabon started his political career in 2004 by being elected to Aberystwyth town council; he made the step up to principal council level in May 2017 by winning the Llandrillo division of Denbighshire without a contest. His new Senedd constituency borders his old ward.

The Welsh Government have recently tightened up the rules on "double-jobbing" by elected representatives. Local councillors who are elected to the Senedd are now required to resign their council seat unless they are in or entering the final year of their council term. As the next Welsh council elections are due in May 2022 this exception applied to Mabon ap Gwynfor, who was eligible to finish his term on Denbighshire council but would need to stand down from either the Senedd or the council in May next year. Mabon was not required to resign his council seat before May, but he has chosen to do so.

Mabon ap Gwynfor had previously stood in the 2011 Senedd election and the 2015 Westminster election as the Plaid Cymru candidate for the Clwyd South constituency, which has covered Llandrillo since the 1997 election. (In that year the Conservative candidate for Clwyd South was one Boris Johnson; answers on a postcard to the usual address as to what happened to him.) Clwyd South was a Conservative gain from Labour in December 2019 making this area technically part of the Red Wall, but the seat re-elected its Labour MS Ken Skates quite comfortably in May.

These figures are unlikely to be replicated in this by-election, not least because there is no Labour candidate. Mabon ap Gwynfor's predecessor as ward councillor was Plaid's Cefyn Williams, who was re-elected for his penultimate term of office in 2008 with 78% of the vote. After that experience, nobody bothered to oppose Plaid here in either 2012 or 2017.

Denbighshire, 2017

The 2017 election left Denbighshire council very evenly balanced, with 16 Conservative councillors, 13 Labour (mostly from Rhyl), 9 Plaid, 8 independents and a Lib Dem. All the parties except Labour are represented in the ruling administration.

So this by-election is the first contested local election for Llandrillo in 13 years. Defending for Plaid Cymru is Gwyneth Ellis, a community councillor in Cynwyd. The other two candidates both give addresses in Llandrillo: they are independent candidate David Robinson, who was a distant runner-up here in 2008, and Julian Sampson for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary and Senedd constituency: Clwyd South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Rhyl
Postcode district: LL21

Gwyned Ellis (PC)
David Robinson (Ind)
Julian Sampson (C)

May 2017 result PC unopposed
May 2012 result PC unopposed
May 2008 result PC 405 Ind 93 C 19
June 2004 result PC 391 Ind 158
Previous results in detail

Heath

Cardiff council, Glamorgan; caused by the resignation of Heath and Birchgrove Independent councillor Fenella Bowden.

Cardiff, Heath

Our other Welsh by-election of the week is quite the contrast, as we travel from Wild Wales to suburban Cardiff. The Heath ward is a leafy area a few miles to the north of Cardiff city centre: much of the eponymous heath was built on in the inter-war years with spacious houses and large gardens located on tree-lined roads.

Some of the open space survives as Heath Park and Cathays Cemetery, but in 1960s more of the heath disappeared with the construction of the University Hospital of Wales. Run by the NHS and Cardiff University, UHW is the largest hospital in Wales, and its presence propels Heath ward into the top 100 wards in England and Wales for those working in health or social work (21.1% of the workforce, according to the 2011 census).

The Heath ward extends west across the Caerphilly Road to take in the Birchgrove area. This is rather lower down the social scale, with terraces rather than semis or detached houses dominating. Famous former Birchgrove residents include the Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and the athlete Colin Jackson.

Heath ward has spectacularly volatile voting patterns and has returned councillors from all three main parties this century. In 2004 it was safely Liberal Democrat, but the Conservatives took two of the ward's seats off the Lib Dems in 2008. The remaining Lib Dem seat went to newly-elected Fenella Bowden, who subseuently left the party in late 2010: she then formed her own localist party, the Heath and Birchgrove Independents. The 2012 and 2017 elections here both returned a three-way split between Fenella Bowden, the Conservatives and Labour. Shares of the vote in May 2017 were 31% for Labour, 28% for the Conservatives and 27% for the Heath and Birchgrove Independents.

Cardiff, 2017

Again, this is rather different from the local parliamentary seat. Heath ward is part of the Cardiff North constituency, a traditional marginal seat which has been trending to Labour in recent years. Cardiff North was gained by Labour in 2011 for the Senedd and in June 2017 for Westminster, and the Conservatives lost ground here in the last Westminster and Senedd elections.

Fenella Bowden has had some serious health problems over the last couple of years, and she has stood down on health grounds after 13 years in office,. There is just time to squeeze in a by-election for her seat before the next Cardiff city council elections in May 2022. To add extra excitement, there is no defending Heath and Birchgrove Independents candidate. It's a free-for-all! Labour, who topped the poll here in 2017 and will increase their very small majority on the council with a gain in this by-election, have selected Julie Sangani: she is a healthcare volunteer and school governor at Ton yr Ywen primary school. The Conservatives have selected Peter Hudson, the husband of their current ward councillor Lyn Hudson. Also standing are Gwennol Haf for Plaid Cymru and Kathryn Lock for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cardiff
Postcode districts: CF14, CF23

Gwennol Haf (PC)
Peter Hudson (C)
Kathryn Lock (LD)
Julie Sangani (Lab)

May 2017 result Lab 2010/1704/1667 C 1830/1602/1477 Heath and Birchgrove Ind 1737/1143/930 PC 410 Grn 251 LD 244/163/119
May 2012 result Heath and Birchgrove Ind 1500/1151/888 Lab 1416/1240/1116 C 1277/1242/1101 LD 349/175/140 PC 325 Ind 262 Grn 253
May 2008 result C 2205/2135/1819 LD 1877/1642/1545 Lab 896/656/575 PC 468 Grn 435
June 2004 result LD 2380/2305/1929 C 1040/1026/992 Lab 920/634/612 Cardiff Citizens 502/367/288 PC 265/248 Grn 244
Previous results in detail

Thanet Villages

Thanet council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Green Party councillor Trevor Roper.

Thanet, Villages

And now for something completely different as we finish the week at the eastern end of Kent. The Thanet Villages ward covers the relatively undeveloped south and western ends of the Isle of Thanet, together with the low-lying ground which was once under water and made Thanet a genuine island. The ward's largest population centre, the village and railway junction of Minster-in-Thanet, is a long way from the sea now; but in AD 597 it was the location where St Augustine of Canterbury landed on English soil on a mission from God and the Pope. Non Angli, sed angeli.

Much of the acreage of Thanet Villages is taken up by the apron and very wide runway of Manston Airport. Opened in the winter of 1915-16 by the Royal Flying Corps, Manston has the UK's eleventh-longest and widest runway - wide enough for three planes to land simultaneously - and its location close to the Continent placed it on the front line during the Battle of Britain. Manston was heavily bombed, and often became the final destination for damaged RAF planes limping home to the UK. After use by the US Air Force in the early part of the Cold War, Manston from 1960 became a joint civilian and RAF airport with the occasional charter and scheduled flight. It was renamed Kent International Airport in 1989, but efforts to attract budget airlines were derailed by the collapse of EUjet - which had bought Manston - in 2005 and by the financial crash of 2008. Manston saw its final scheduled flight on 9 April 2014, a KLM departure to Amsterdam, and officially closed on 15 May 2014 with the loss of 144 jobs. Possibly the widest prominence for the airport came in 2001, when it featured as a North Korean airbase in the James Bond film Die Another Day.

The fate of Marston Airport has been a political open sore for many years. Thanet council elected a UKIP majority in 2015 with a manifesto pledge to reopen the airport to traffic, mainly air freight. A plan by the landowners to redevelop the airport site for housing, business and leisure now appears to have fallen through in favour of an eventual reopening. The transport secretary Grant Shapps granted a development consent order for the reopening in July 2020, but the High Court subsequently threw this out in February; and further assessments have questioned the long-term need for another air freight hub in the UK.

In the meantime, Manston hit the headlines last December for all the wrong reasons. The Government has for some years hired the airport for use as an emergency lorry park in the event of disruption at the Channel ports. In late December 2020, this actually happened: thousands of lorries and their drivers were trapped at Manston in December, spending Christmas in their cabs, thanks to chaos at Dover and Calais.

Thanet, 2019

Thanet council's politics has just as turbulent over the years. Since the last election in 2019 alone a Conservative minority administration has been deposed in favour of a Labour minority administration, which was then deposed in a counter-coup at June's AGM in favour of another Conservative minority administration. The latest available composition gives 26 Conservative councillors, three short of a majority, against 17 Labour, 6 Thanet Independents (the main remnant of the UKIP group which won a majority here in 2015), 3 other independents, 3 Green Party councillors and this vacancy.

Thanet Villages ward has been politically split at every election this century. From 2003 to 2015 it was represented by two Conservatives and an independent councillor; in 2015 UKIP took one of the Conservative seats. In 2019 the Conservatives defeated the UKIP councillor, while independent councillor Bob Grove stood down. His seat went to the Green Party candidate Trevor Roper in a close fight for the final seat: Roper polled 599 votes, the Lib Dem candidate had 567 and the outgoing UKIP councillor ended on 551. Shares of the vote were 25% for the Conservatives, 23% for the Greens, 22% for the Lib Dems and 21% for UKIP.

Thanet Villages ward forms part of the large Birchington and Rural county division, which returns two Kent county councillors and is safely Conservative. Following May's county elections one of the Conservative county councillors for Birchington and Rural is Derek Crow-Brown, the former UKIP councillor for Thanet Villages.

So this could be a difficult seat for the Green Party to hold, particularly given the circumstances of the vacancy. Trevor Roper travelled to France last year with the intention of buying a home he and his wife could retire to, and then found himself unable to return to the UK. He resigned from the council after his situation was exposed by a local blogger.

Defending this by-election for the Green is Abi Smith, who lives in Westgate-on-Sea and has previously worked for Thanet's library service. The Conservatives have selected their unsuccessful candidate from 2019 Guy Wilson, who ran rather a long way behind his running-mates last time: Wilson is a Manston parish councillor. The Lib Dem candidate Jeremy de Rose runs a railway service company and a bicycle business, and like Smith he was on the Kent county council ballot here in May. Thanet UKIP now appear to be defunct, so those are your three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: North Thanet
Kent county council division: Birchington and Rural
ONS Travel to Work Area: Margate and Ramsgate
Postcode districts: CT7, CT9, CT12

Jeremy de Rose (LD)
Abi Smith (Grn)
Guy Wilson (C)

May 2019 result C 638/602/460 Grn 599 LD 567 UKIP 551 C 460 LD 416 Lab 223
January 2018 by-election C 620 LD 313 Lab 206 Grn 66 Ind 52
May 2015 result Ind 1326/335 C 1273/1083 UKIP 1197/1033/916 Grn 601 Lab 515
May 2011 result Ind 1209/523 C 1011/837/720 Lab 516/472
June 2009 by-election Ind 937 C 596 LD 316 Lab 133
May 2007 result Ind 793 C 670/625/434 Lab 368/359

May 2003 result C 687/574/572 Ind 627/424/419 Lab 499/380/284
Previous results in detail


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


Previewing the council by-elections of 04 Nov 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

A quick update to last week's item from Bromley Cross in Bolton. First, having been there on Tuesday night for a quiz league match I can report that the Dunscar Conservative Club have now found a picture of Boris Johnson, looking uncharacteristically serious, for their entrance hall. The late Duke of Edinburgh is still there, too.

I had thought that the concept of a safe Conservative ward in Bolton might be too much for some people to handle, and my goodness social media delivered last week. Some of the Twitter commentary on the Bromley Cross result was absolutely hilarious. All I can say is, you either need to get our more or read the Previews - at least then you won't be making elementary mistakes. Hopefully.

Welcome to what is shaping up to be a busy November. Your columnist is currently aware of thirty-three local by-elections taking place this month, with the first six of them on 4th November 2021. The Conservatives defend three, Labour and the Lib Dems defend one each, and there is a free-for-all! This week we'll travel from south to north, starting with the first Conservative defence on the south coast...

Bourne

West Sussex county council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Mike Magill.

W Sussex, Bourne

As stated, we begin in the south-western corner of West Sussex, just off the edge of the Portsmouth and Havant urban area. The Bourne electoral division bears no relation to a well-known film franchise of the same name: this area takes its name from the villages of Southbourne, Westbourne and Nutbourne, which lie on the north bank of Chichester Harbour roughly halfway between Portsmouth and Chichester. Southbourne is the largest population centre in the ward, and has a railway station linking it to the outside world. To the north are a number of smaller parishes within the South Downs National Park, including the country estate of Stansted Park with its Edwardian country house, where generations of Royals have been entertained.

The southern end of the ward is rather more bleak. Thorney Island (now linked to the mainland by seawalls) has been a military base for many years thanks to its isolated position in Chichester Harbour. It was on the front line of the Second World War as an RAF Coastal Command airfield; the Air Force moved out in the late 1970s and were replaced by the Army in the mid-1980s. In between Thorney Island provided a temporary home to hundreds of Vietnamese refugee families, before they were properly resettled in the UK.

The psephologist Robert Waller wrote in every edition of his magisterial and much-missed Almanac of British Politics that "even after the revolution the workers' soviet for Chichester would be Tory". Like all good jokes, there's a grain of truth and a lot of exaggeration in that. The forerunner to the future Chichester Workers' Soviet does normally have a Conservative majority, but the first election to the modern Chichester council in 1973 saw the Conservative group outnumbered by independent councillors, and at the Tory nadir of 1995 the Liberal Democrats were the largest party on a hung council.

It's a mark of the volatile political times in which we live that the May 2019 election to Chichester council delivered no overall control: the Tories crashed from 42 seats out of 48 to 18 out of 36. They did return to a majority six months later by taking a by-election off the Lib Dems (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 374), but some defections mean that the ruling Conservative group is now in a minority again with 17 seats. The opposition is made up of 11 Lib Dems (who took a by-election off Labour in June), 3 independents, 2 Green Party councillors, 2 Selsey localists and one remaining Labour councillor. This county division is mostly covered by the Southbourne ward (which voted Lib Dem in May 2019) and the smaller Westbourne ward (which voted Conservative on that occasion).

The Tories do still retain a strong majority on West Sussex county council. The Bourne division, thanks to its position in a corner of the county, has survived a number of boundary reviews to remain unchanged since at least 2005. In that timescale it has normally been Conservative, but did vote for UKIP in 2013. The Tories recovered the seat in May 2017, but then their county councillor Viral Parikh defected to Brexit Party.

Parikh subsequently relocated to Sunderland, and he was the Brexit Party's parliamentary candidate for Sunderland Central in the December 2019 general election. He resigned from West Sussex county council in advance of that, and a by-election was held for Bourne division in November 2019 (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 374). The Brexit Party didn't defend their defection gain, and the Conservatives' Mike Magill won the by-election with a 49-36 lead over the Lib Dems.

W Sussex CC, 2021

Magill was re-elected in May this year with an increased majority over the Lib Dems of 51-29. He stepped down from the county council three months later, prompting this by-election.

Defending this second Bourne by-election in as many years is Conservative candidate Bob Hayes, who is a Southbourne parish councillor: he represented Southbourne on Chichester council from 2007 until 2019, when he lost his seat to the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems have re-selected Andrew Kerry-Bedell, who was their candidate here in May and in the 2019 by-election. Also standing are Ann Stewart for the Green Party and Alan Butcher for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Chichester
Chichester council wards: Southbourne, Westbourne, Harbour Villages (part: Chidham and Hambrook parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chichester and Bognor Regis
Postcode districts: PO9, PO10, PO18

Alan Butcher (Lab)
Bob Hayes (C)
Andrew Kerry-Bedell (LD)
Ann Stewart (Grn)

May 2021 result C 1869 LD 1064 Grn 400 Lab 336
November 2019 by-election C 1368 LD 1009 Grn 250 Lab 161 Patria 12
May 2017 result C 1357 UKIP 865 LD 659 Lab 264 Grn 234
May 2013 result UKIP 1241 C 1158 LD 360 Lab 295
June 2009 result C 1948 LD 1382 Lab 127
May 2005 result C 2377 LD 1922 Lab 841 Ind 375 UKIP 347
Previous results in detail

Huntingdon East

Huntingdonshire council, Cambridgeshire; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Trish Shrapnel.

For our Liberal Democrat defence of the week we come to a relatively-recent hotspot for the party: the county of Cambridgeshire. Following May's elections this is one of two English county councils with a Lib Dem-led administration: the other is Oxfordshire, and the party is also the junior partner in the coalition running Cumbria county council.

In recent years the Liberal Democrats have had less luck in Cambridgeshire's district councils. They hold a majority only in South Cambridgeshire district: the city of Cambridge itself is strongly Labour these days, and Peterborough has a minority Conservative administration. Cambridgeshire's other three local government districts, including Huntingdonshire, have Conservative majorities. The elected Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is a representative of the Labour Party, elected in May thanks to Lib Dem transfers.

Hunts, Huntingdon E

The Huntingdon East ward is based on Hartford, an old village on the north bank of the River Great Ouse which has been swallowed up by the town's growth. Hartford is located north-east of Huntingdon town centre, on the main road towards Wisbech.

Hunts, 2018

This has traditionally been a marginal ward of Huntingdon council which has returned councillors from the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and (on one occasion) UKIP in the last decade. Going into the 2018 election here Huntingdon East ward had two Liberal Democrat councillors and one Conservative; boundary changes cut the ward down to two councillors so someone was going to miss out, and in the end it was the Conservatives who lost as the ward voted Lib Dem by a 47-39 margin. There have been no ordinary elections to Huntingdonshire council since 2018, although this is the eighth by-election of the current council's term: the score in the previous seven by-elections stands at 4 Conservative holds, 1 Lib Dem hold, 1 Labour hold and 1 independent gain from Labour.

Some weird boundaries mean that the part of this ward closest to Huntingdon town centre is part of the Godmanchester and Huntingdon South county division, which is Lib Dem-held. However, most of the Huntingdon East ward forms part of the Huntingdon North and Hartford division of the county council, which was an against-the-trend Conservative gain in May. Huntingdon North is traditionally the strongest Labour part of the district, and Labour fielded their district councillor Patrick Kadewere, who finished in second place; the Lib Dems, who were defending the seat, fell to third and the Conservatives came through the middle to win.

That will not happen in this by-election, as there is a straight fight. Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Michael Shellens, who represented the former Huntingdon East ward from 2008 to 2018 and also sat on Cambridgeshire county council from 2013 until May this year; on both occasions, he retired. Challenging for the Conservatives is Jonas King, a local resident who took over from Shellens in May as county councillor for Huntingdon North and Hartford.

Parliamentary constituency: Huntingdon
Cambridgeshire county council division: Huntingdon North and Hartford (part), Godmanchester and Huntingdon South (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Huntingdon
Postcode district: PE29

Jonas King (C)
Michael Shellens (LD)

May 2018 result LD 896/749 C 744/626 Lab 264/256
Previous results in detail

Oakham North West

Rutland council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor Adam Lowe.

Rutland, Oakham NW

We stay in the east for our second trip this year to England's "smallest" "county", as we consider what must rank among the most bizarrely-shaped wards this column has seen in a long time. Your columnist's first reaction on seeing the map above was to wonder what the Local Government Boundary Commission had been smoking. The Commission, of course, has far more integrity than that and there is an explanation for this bizarre shape.

The explanation is to do with Barleythorpe, which used to be a small village just out of Oakham on the road towards Melton Mowbray and which until 2019 was covered by Oakham North West ward. Barleythorpe's Wikipedia entry quotes a population, from the 2001 census, of 178. No longer is that the case: there is a lot of new housing going up in Barleythorpe at the moment, and the village's population is booming out of all recognition. Barleythorpe declared independence from Oakham in 2016 by becoming a parish of its own, and for the 2019 election the Boundary Commission drew a brand-new Barleythorpe ward based on that parish, with two Rutland councillors to allow room for further population growth in the next few years.

The shape we see here is basically what was left of Oakham North West ward after Barleythorpe was taken out. The ward doesn't include the first Rutland branch of McDonald's (which opened in November, to some local controversy, just outside the parish and ward boundary in Barleythorpe), but the salient to the north takes in an industrial area on Pillings Road and the Lands' End factory outlet shop. However, the ward's electors live in the southern part along the Cold Overton and Braunston Roads; landmarks here include the Oakham Memorial Hospital, the secondary school Catmose College, and the town's railway station which lies on the ward boundary.

The 2003-2019 Oakham North West ward had two seats: one was held throughout this period by independent councillor Richard Gale, while the other seat was won by four different candidates (two independents, two Conservatives) at the four elections in this period. On the revised boundaries in 2019 only two candidates were nominated, Paul Ainsley for the Conservatives and independent Adam Lowe; since two seats were available in the ward, Ainsley and Lowe were both declared elected unopposed. The only elections here in May were for Leicestershire police and crime commissioner, so there is a distinct lack of information to go on in predicting this by-election.

Adam Lowe handed in his resignation as a Rutland councillor in September, explaining that he was seeking a better work:life balance. Lowe also sits on Oakham town council, and away from politics he works 12-hour shifts for the Probation Service and does all sorts of other worthy and time-consuming things. When push came to shove, there weren't enough hours in his week and something had to give: Lowe chose to give up his county council role.

No new independent candidate has come forward to replace Lowe, so we have a free-for-all! It's a straight fight. In the blue corner is Daniel Bottomley, a former Oakham town councillor. In the red corner is Leah Toseland, who is a mother of two children with special needs; she is described as a community campaigner.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough
Postcode district: LE15

Daniel Bottomley (C)
Leah Toseland (Lab)

May 2019 result C/Ind unopposed
Previous results in detail

Longlevens

Gloucester council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Clive Walford.

Gloucester, Longlevens

We move to the western half of England for the three remaining by-elections this week, starting in the south-west with the city of Gloucester. The Longlevens ward is the north-eastern corner of the city's built-up area, between the Tewkesbury and Cheltenham roads, and consists entirely of privately-developed lower-middle-class housing from the twentieth century, with very high levels of owner-occupation. This area was not fully incorporated into Gloucester until 1967, and it is still not fully linked with the city even now: since 2010, this ward has been part of the Tewkesbury parliamentary constituency.

Longlevens ward survived a boundary review implemented in 2016, the year in which Gloucester came off the thirds electoral cycle and moved to whole-council elections. In this century it has mostly voted Conservative, although the Lib Dems won the ward in 2004 and came close on a number of other occasions. The ward became safe Conservative during the coalition years, but turned back into a marginal at a by-election in November 2016 (Andrew's Previews 2016, page 276) at which the Conservative majority was cut to 46-37.

That by-election returned Conservative councillor Clive Walford, who was fairly well-known in the city having played on the back row for Gloucester Rugby in the mid-1970s. Walford was re-elected quite narrowly in May 2021, with a majority of 62 votes over the Lib Dem runner-up Sarah Sawyer: overall the Conservatives polled 49% of the vote and won two seats, while the Lib Dem slate polled 45% and won one seat. The city council ballot paper only had Conservative, Lib Dem and Libertarian candidates: the Longlevens division of the county council, which takes in part of the Lib Dem-held Elmbridge ward, had a Labour candidate in addition and a much larger Conservative lead on the same day.

Clive Walford became deputy mayor and Sheriff of Gloucester for 2021-22, but he resigned in September partway through his term. Defending the resulting by-election for the Conservatives is Julie Evans, who was the losing Conservative candidate here in May. The Lib Dems have reselected Sarah Sawyer, who as stated was runner-up here in May. Also standing are Claire Carter for the Green Party and Alfie Harrison for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Tewkesbury
Gloucestershire county council division: Longlevens
ONS Travel to Work Area: Gloucester
Postcode districts: GL1, GL2

Claire Carter (Grn)
Julie Evans (C)
Alfie Harrison (Lab)
Sarah Sawyer (LD)

May 2021 result C 1645/1312/1129 LD 1523/1250/1147 Libertarian 204
November 2016 by-election C 1066 LD 852 Lab 223 UKIP 167
May 2016 result C 1657/1636/1410 Lab 696 UKIP 541 LD 515 Grn 494
May 2015 result C 2870 Lab 955 UKIP 815 LD 548 Grn 262
May 2014 result C 1545 UKIP 683 Lab 463 LD 282 Grn 135
May 2012 result C 1425 LD 1111 Lab 372 Grn 127
May 2011 result C 2005 LD 821 Lab 695
May 2010 result C 2958 LD 1686 Lab 863
May 2008 result C 1819 LD 1537 Lab 172
May 2007 result C 1884 LD 822 Lab 272 UKIP 158
May 2006 result C 1962 LD 1256 Lab 215
June 2004 result LD 1704 C 1650 Lab 247
May 2003 result C 1506 LD 1287 Lab 269
May 2002 result C 1511/1465/1367 LD 1246/1118/1001 Lab 386/329/307
Previous results in detail

Blackfriars and Trinity

Salford council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Raymond Walker.

Go on, admit it. When you think of inner-city Salford, was this the sort of image that came unbidden to your mind? If so, well, you are out of date.

Salford, Blackfriars/Trinity

If anywhere can be described as being the heart of Salford, this is it. The Blackfriars and Trinity ward lies in a bend of the River Irwell, immediately across the river from That Other City on the far bank. Salford is the only locality in this area mentioned in the Domesday Book - indeed, it was the centre of its own hundred - but the presence of That Other City means that it never really fulfilled its potential. Of the two main thoroughfares of original Salford, Chapel Street never became the major commercial destination that Deansgate turned into; while Greengate has all but disappeared under railway viaducts and relief roads. To add insult to injury, the railway station built on top of Greengate - Exchange station, which closed in the 1960s - bore the name of That Other City rather than Salford.

Mind, it's not all bad. There is a five-star hotel within this ward: the Lowry, with its landmark footbridge over the Irwell. Employment is provided by (among others) HMRC, who occupy a large tower block next to the Lowry. Salford Cathedral, further along Chapel Street, will administer to your soul if you happen to be a Catholic. And a couple of blocks up from Salford Cathedral can be found the imposing building once occupied by Salford Royal Hospital, now turned into flats.

The 1885 constituency map for Salford, which divided the borough into three parliamentary constituencies, shows that the modern area of this ward was covered by four of the twelve wards of Salford county borough at the time: Greengate, St Matthias, St Stephens, and Trinity. This area had enough population to be a constituency in its own right (although in the event it was divided between Salford North and Salford South).

But waves of slum clearance have swept away nearly all of old Salford. The Cathedral and the Royal Hospital are rare survivors of old buildings in Blackfriars and Trinity ward. There's not much housing left here now that's older than or indeed resembles the Cat Jumping photograph above. The area outside Trinity Way is characterised by low-rise residential areas, of much lower density than the terraces they replaced, while inside the inner relief road an orgy of modern tower blocks is going up - apartments for contemporary city living. Whether it's Salford or That Other City.

We can see one effect of this just outside the ward boundary. Immediately opposite the old Salford Royal Hospital can be found Transport House, which was built in 2005 on a site which used to be offices for the Transport and General Workers Union and whose flats were sold as housing for key workers. A number of its apartments are in shared ownership. Transport House is a five-storey apartment block which has proved, in a post-Grenfell survey, to be unsafe in its current form thanks to flammable insulation; however, it is not tall enough to qualify for a government assistance fund for fire safety improvements. Instead, the occupiers have been presented by the freeholder with a bill for £3 million - more than the block cost to build in the first place - to remove the unsafe insulation from the building's walls. Lewis Goodall, the policy editor of the BBC's Newsnight programme, has covered the plight of Transport House's leaseholders on a number of occasions this year.

Despite the experience of Transport House, the population projections for inner-city Salford are through the roof as more and more of these apartment blocks are built. The 2004-21 Ordsall ward, which covered the Chapel Street area along with Salford Quays, was becoming seriously out of shape. The Boundary Commission's response was a new ward map for Salford, introduced in May this year, which effectively created a new ward in the inner city. The three previous wards of Irwell Riverside, Langworthy and Ordsall were reorganised into four new wards: this one, a cut-down Ordsall, Pendleton and Charlestown, and Quays. Apart from Pendleton and Charlestown, all of these were drawn with low headcounts to allow for population growth. Blackfriars and Trinity ward's electorate was projected to grow by 80% between 2018 and 2024.

There has only been one previous contest on these boundaries, in May 2021. On that occasion the Labour slate won all three seats in Blackfriars and Trinity with a 54-27 lead over the Greens. There was wide variation between the candidates on the Labour and Green slates, partly because the lead Green candidate Wendy Olsen was also the Green candidate in the simultaneous Mayor of Salford election. (She finished third, polling 9%). In Blackfriars and Trinity Olsen polled twice as many votes as her running-mates, mostly at the expense of Labour's Ray Walker for no obvious reason other than the fact that Walker's name is at the wrong end of the alphabet.

Walker had been a council servant for decades, although he had only recently made it into the council chamber up in Swinton. He was employed by Salford council for 31 years as a librarian and on reception at the civic centre, and he got into politics through the trade union route. Walker had once been on the executive of the Communist Party of Britain, but he later joined the Labour Party. He was first elected in 2019 for Irwell Riverside ward, which covered the Blackfriars area, and transferred here in 2021 when that ward was broken up. Sadly, Ray Walker passed away in August after a sudden illness, aged 57. No age at all.

Because he was the third-placed candidate in May 2021 Walker was due for re-election next May, so the winner of this by-election will not be able to rest for long. Defending for Labour is Roseanna Wain, who stood in May on the Labour slate for Kersal and Broughton Park and got thrashed by the Conservatives in the most Jewish ward in the UK. Wendy Olsen is no longer on the scene in Salford so the Green Party needed a new candidate: they have selected David Jones, who stood in Broughton ward (over the river to the north) in May: Jones was the Green candidate for Blackley and Broughton in the 2019 general election. Also standing are Christopher Bates for the Conservatives and Joseph Allen for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Salford and Eccles
ONS Travel to Work Area: That Other City
Postcode district: M3

Joseph Allen (LD)
Christopher Bates (C)
David Jones (Grn)
Roseanna Wain (Lab)

May 2021 result Lab 1226/1205/946 Grn 606/349/276 C 177/137 LD 142/96/61 Ind 118
Previous results in detail

North Meols

West Lancashire council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tom Blane.

W Lancs, N Meols

We finish as we began: by the seaside. The word "meols" (here pronounced "meals") is a Norse-derived word for sand-dunes which appears in a number of places on the Lancashire and Cheshire coasts, but the landscape of North Meols ward is utterly flat and dominated by saltmarsh and worse. Don't set off walking towards the bright lights of Lytham to the north: that way lies the Ribble estuary, which is impassable unless you have a hovercraft handy. Even more of this area was under water until Martin Mere was drained in the nineteenth century, and the result of this land reclamation is utterly flat and very rich agricultural land.

While the ward's arable landscape may look similar to somewhere in Lincolnshire or the Dutch polders, this is Lancashire. The largest population centre is the village of Banks, just to the east of Southport off the main road towards Preston. Although Southport is the main service centre for the area, it is part of Merseyside whereas North Meols has remained part of Lancashire. So for the moment the ward is part of the South Ribble parliamentary seat, based on Leyland and southern suburbs of Preston, while its council services are administered from Ormskirk by West Lancashire council.

West Lancashire went into No Overall Control at May's council elections after many years of Labour majority. The main reason for this is the OWLs, who are not what they seem: OWL here is Our West Lancashire, a localist group which now holds seven seats on the council. There is also one independent, 19 Conservatives plus this vacancy and 26 Labour councillors, two short of a majority. Labour continue to run West Lancashire as a minority administration, and if they gain this by-election they will hold half the seats on the council.

W Lancs, 2019

What are the chances of that? Well, West Lancashire district tends to have very few marginal wards but this can now be counted as one of them. North Meols voted Labour in 2018 for the first time this century, the party winning 55-45 in a straight fight having never come particularly close in previous years. The ward last went to the polls in 2019 (above), when Tom Blane was re-elected for a second term of office by a 49-38 margin over Labour. The Conservatives enjoyed a much larger majority in May's Lancashire county council elections, at which North Meols ward was part of the West Lancashire North division.

Tom Blane passed away in September at the age of 78, leaving an intriguing by-election which is a straight fight. Defending for the Conservatives is John Howard, a North Meols parish councillor. Challenging for Labour is Liz Savage, who is a former West Lancashire councillor (for Ashurst ward in Skem, 2011-19) and has three very creditable parliamentary campaigns under her belt: Savage was the Labour candidate for the neighbouring Southport constituency in 2015, 2017 and 2019, taking her party's share of the vote in Southport from 9% in 2010 to 39% in 2019. This could be one to watch.

Parliamentary constituency: South Ribble
Lancashire county council division: West Lancashire North
ONS Travel to Work Area: Liverpool (part), Preston (part)
Postcode district: PR9

John Howard (C)
Liz Savage (Lab)

May 2019 result C 595 Lab 459 UKIP 152
May 2018 result Lab 625 C 503
May 2015 result C 1026 Lab 586 UKIP 420
May 2014 result C 439 UKIP 364 Lab 277
May 2011 result C 785 Lab 422
May 2010 result C 1192 Lab 638
May 2007 result C 567 LD 254 Lab 137
May 2006 result C 620 Ind 243 Lab 126 Grn 108
May 2003 result C 386 Ind 286 Lab 117
May 2002 result C 549/548 Ind 383 Lab 304
Previous results in detail


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


Council by-election previews (28 Oct 2021)

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

A quick update to an item from Nottingham earlier this month regarding David "Bus-Pass Elvis" Bishop. Elvis has been in touch and he assures me that he is ready for a Comeback Special, if this is necessary in the national interest. You heard it here first.

There are eight by-elections in England and Wales on 28th October 2021, with the Conservatives defending six seats (two of them to replace council leaders who have recently died), Labour defending one and a crucial free-for-all to finish off. We have a nice geographic and demographic spread this week, but there's only really once place to start. Welcome to the Greatest Town in the Known Universe...

Bromley Cross

Bolton council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of the Leader of the Council, Conservative councillor David Greenhalgh.

The Dunscar Conservative Club is a very well-appointed venue. Its entrance hall proudly proclaims that it was opened in 1974 by Enoch Powell, and above that plaque can be found portraits of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the present party leader. Mind, the last time your columnist was there for some quiz, in late 2019, the wall had a prominent gap where you might expect Boris Johnson to appear. A lot of money has been spent on the place since Enoch's day, and with its large performance space, decent-sized breakout room (from which a bust of Churchill looks disapprovingly at your quiz answers), and good food and drink offerings it's always a bustling place.

Bolton, Bromley Cross

Which is appropriate for the area it's located in. We're in Bromley Cross, a prosperous northern suburb of Bolton on the railway line towards Blackburn. With its attractive location in the Pennine hills and regular trains to the big city, Bromley Cross is an excellent location for the well-heeled Manchester commuter who might not be sufficiently well-heeled to afford a mansion in Cheshire. In 2011 the place was ranked by an investment and savings firm as the fifth-best place for a family to live in England and Wales. You can see why Theresa May, in her ill-fated 2017 general election campaign, made Bromley Cross her first stop.

Mind, one of Bromley Cross' greatest claims to fame is not all that salubrious. This was the home of the Greenhalgh family, who raised hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years as one of the most diverse art forgery teams ever caught. A number of artworks forged in Bromley Cross by Shaun Greenhalgh were exhibited as the real thing by several museums and galleries, most notoriously Bolton Museum which was successfully fooled by - and paid £440,000 for - an ancient Egyptian-style statue, the Amarna Princess. Shaun's parents George and Olive Greenhalgh, the public-facing part of the frauds, have now passed on; Shaun, after some years in prison, has gone straight and now produces art under his own name, with occasional TV work on the side.

Amarna Princess: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaun_Greenhalgh#/media/File:Amarna_Princess.JPG

The present Bromley Cross ward extends north-west to Egerton, a large village on the A666 Bolton-Blackburn road (and yes, the road number is appropriate given its dire accident record) and south to Bradshaw Brow and Canon Slade School. Canon Slade has a strong academic reputation, and its former pupils include one current MP (Lilian Greenwood, the opposition Deputy Chief Whip and Labour MP for Nottingham South), the current England cricketer Matt Parkinson, the noted actress Maxine Peake and the Radio 2 drivetime presenter Sara Cox.

The Bromley Cross area wasn't incorporated into Bolton until the big bang of the 1970s, having previously been the major part of the Turton urban district. There has been a ward on roughly these lines since the modern Bolton borough was created, and it has voted Conservative on every occasion over the last half-century, normally with large majorities. This is one of the safest Conservative wards in Greater Manchester.

That may surprise, given that we are in a very marginal parliamentary seat here. The Bolton North East constituency was a Conservative gain in December 2019 with a majority of just 378 votes. However, Bolton North East is an extremely socially-divided constituency, with three prosperous middle-class Conservative-voting wards (this one, Astley Bridge and Bradshaw) counterbalanced by three deprived and Labour-voting wards (Halliwell, Crompton and Tonge with the Haulgh). Only one of the constituency's seven wards, the working-class estates of Breightmet on the eastern edge of the town, can be described as marginal. That's one reason why swings in this constituency don't tend to be huge. The swing from June 2017 to December 2019 in Bolton North East was 4.6% Labour to Conservative, almost exactly in line with the national average. Bromley Cross is not Red Wall territory in the slightest, and anybody who describes it as such should be pointed to this Preview until they see the error of their ways.

Bolton, 2019

Bolton council elections (outside Bromley Cross) are a different matter. A discredited Labour administration of the borough has crashed and burned over the last electoral cycle, and following the 2019 election, mapped above, Bolton became the only Conservative-run metropolitan borough in the north of England. David Greenhalgh (no relation of the art forgers), who had represented Bromley Cross ward on the council since 2006 and had led the Conservative group since 2013, became leader of a minority Conservative administration propped up in office by the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and a gaggle of localist parties for the small towns outside Bolton proper.

Greenhalgh's time as leader was generally not a happy one, and that wasn't his fault. Almost nowhere in the UK has been worse hit by COVID and lockdown than Bolton. For those who moan on Twitter that the government were slow to lock down in autumn 2020, all I can say is that you did not have the same experience I did as a Bolton resident. And if you had had it, you wouldn't have enjoyed it. Household visiting was banned here from the end of July 2020, a decision announced by the Health Secretary on Twitter with 2.5 hours' notice; the town's pubs and restaurants were closed down in the first week of September 2020, with no notice whatsoever. Other measures changed so many times that I lost track, at a time when losing track of what was permitted, where it was permitted and who it was permitted for could lead to a criminal offence. It might not surprise to learn that these measures had little discernible effect on the spread of the virus.

Despite this, the Conservative administration led by David Greenhalgh became the largest party on Bolton council after the May 2021 elections. Bromley Cross ward had a 62-28 Conservative lead over Labour, representing almost no swing since 2016, but the gains came elsewhere. The latest council composition is 20 Conservatives plus this vacancy, 18 Labour, 5 Lib Dems, 5 Farnworth and Kearsley First, 3 Horwich and Blackrod Independents, 2 Bolton Independent Group (both elected as Conservative), 2 Crompton Independents (both elected as Labour), 2 other independents (1 elected as Conservative, 1 as Labour), a "One Kearsley" councillor (elected as Farnworth and Kearsley First) and a UKIP councillor (elected as UKIP, twice). The Lib Dems have withdrawn support for the Conservative administration, but there are enough localist and ex-Conservative councillors in the chamber for this not to matter too much.

Immediately after the May 2021 local elections, Bolton - and specifically the Great Lever, Harper Green and Farnworth wards - became the first part of the UK to be hit by the Delta variant of COVID in a big way. Rather than bring in yet more local lockdowns, this time the local health leaders thought outside the box and organised more effective ways to damp down the outbreak, by bringing vaccination to the heart of the communities and areas affected and damn the people in Whitehall telling them not to do that. The Vaccine Bus became a regular feature in the Greatest Town, and the people who hopped onto it included your columnist: I got my second vaccine dose from the bus in Moses Gate Country Park on a wet Saturday morning in July.

In the event that you haven't been vaccinated yet, it's still not too late to board the Vaccine Bus yourself. It will be parked in Victoria Square in Bolton town centre between 1000 and 1600 hours on Saturday. Pfizer, first and second doses available.

It's a shame that David Greenhalgh never lived to see the ultimate success of the vaccine programme. He passed away at the end of June, only a couple of weeks after badgering Nicola Sturgeon to lift a travel ban between Scotland and Greater Manchester. Greenhalgh's health had never been particularly good, as a moving obituary published by Bolton council made clear. His early career performing in musicals on the West End stage was cut short by his first kidney failure, and he ended up under the surgeon's knife at various points for two kidney transplants, a heart valve replacement and a broken spine. But even given all that, 53 is no age at all. Rest in peace, David.

Those are big shoes to fill for David Greenhalgh's successor as councillor for Bromley Cross. Defending this by-election for the Conservatives is Amy Cowen, who chairs a community group in Egerton where she lives. Labour have reselected Emily Mort, who stood here in May. Also standing are the ward's regular Green candidate Liz Spencer, James Haslam for the Lib Dems and Laura Armstrong for "Bolton for Change", another new localist group which failed to establish itself in May.

Picture of the Amarna Princess by "geni" and licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Parliamentary constituency: Bolton North East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode districts: BL2, BL7

Laura Armstrong (Bolton for Change)
Amy Cowen (C)
James Haslam (LD)
Emily Mort (Lab)
Liz Spencer (Grn)

May 2021 result C 2748 Lab 1261 Grn 282 LD 164
May 2019 result C 2566 Lab 658 UKIP 342 Grn 296 LD 241
May 2018 double vacancy C 2928/2257 Lab 1023/910 Grn 374 LD 303/196
May 2016 result C 2443 Lab 1022 UKIP 460 LD 196 Grn 183
May 2015 result C 4340 Lab 1589 UKIP 1057 Grn 424 LD 368
May 2014 result C 2312 Lab 957 UKIP 878 LD 169
May 2012 result C 2207 Lab 1215 LD 317
May 2011 result C 2821 Lab 1244 Grn 336 LD 327
May 2010 result C 4236 Lab 1774 LD 1456 Grn 303
May 2008 result C 2933 Lab 705 LD 331 Grn 147 You Party 141
May 2007 result C 2784 Lab 677 LD 362 Grn 350
May 2006 result C 2725 Lab 712 LD 462 Grn 292
June 2004 result C 3315/3286/3257 Lab 1043/997/890 LD 938/782/614
Previous results in detail

Gresford East and West

Wrexham council, North Wales; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Andrew Atkinson.

Wrexham, Gresford E/W

We travel south-west from Bolton into the Welsh Marches. Gresford is close enough to the border to have been listed in the Domesday Book as part of Cheshire, but is now most definitely part of Wales.
The village of Gresford lies over coal measures just to the north of Wrexham, and has a handy location on the main road and railway line between Wrexham and Chester.

Gresford boomed in the early 20th century with the sinking of Gresford Colliery, one of the deepest mines in the Denbighshire coalfield. This came at a cost: the mine proved to be working coal seams containing high levels of gas. At 2:08am on 22 September 1934 Gresford Colliery was the scene of one of Britain's worst coalmining disasters, with 266 men killed by an underground explosion and fire; only eleven of the bodies were recovered. The disaster was commemorated in music with the composition of the so-called "Miner's Hymn", Gresford, played here by the Black Dyke Band.

Gresford Colliery finally closed in 1973, and its site has been redeveloped as an industrial estate. The mining heritage has left its mark: Gresford East and West ward has a much more working-class demographic profile than the village-based wards around it.

With the death of mining in Gresford, the Labour stranglehold on this ward has been well and truly broken. The ward became marginal in 2004 and has voted for three different parties in its last three elections: Liberal Democrat in 2008, Labour in 2012, Conservative in May 2017.

Wrexham, 2017

The Tory win was a very convincing one, with a 73-16 lead over Labour for new councillor Andrew Atkinson. Atkinson had a high local profile at the time, as he was the Conservatives' parliamentary candidate for the Wrexham constituency at the general election five weeks later; on that occasion he finished 1,832 votes behind Labour, having lost by 1,831 votes two years previously. Atkinson had also contested the Wrexham seat in the 2016 Welsh Assembly election.

The Wrexham constituency was eventually gained by the Conservatives in the December 2019 general election (without Atkinson as the candidate), but it stayed with Labour in the May 2021 Senedd election. Wrexham council had been hung at every ordinary election this century, but the May 2017 election here gave independent councillors half of the council: 26 seats, against 12 Labour, 9 Conservatives, 3 Plaid Cymru and two Lib Dems. Two by-elections since then have resulted in gains for Plaid Cymru: one from an independent in Gwersyllt North in February 2020 (Andrew's Previews 2020, page 57) and one from Labour in March.

Continuing this mixed political picture, the Wrexham council cabinet consists of independent and Conservative councillors. It included Andrew Atkinson as cabinet member for children's services. Atkinson attracted controversy in July this year after it emerged that he was on a working holiday to Panama ahead of a planned emigration, and that he was carrying out his council duties remotely from there. He was eventually forced to announce his resignation from the cabinet and council, effective from the end of August.

Defending this seat for the Conservatives is Jeremy Kent, who was the losing Conservative candidate for Wrexham in May's Senedd election and in the 2020 Gwersyllt North by-election. Kent is a former restaurant manager who now works with the Air Cadets. Labour have selected Aled Canter, who gives an address in Llay on the far side of the River Alyn. Also standing are the ward's former Lib Dem councillor (2004-08) Beryl Blackmore, Alan Butterworth for the Green Party, Charles Dodman in a rare local election outing for Reform UK, and Aimi Waters for Plaid Cymru who have not contested this ward since 1999.

Parliamentary constituency: Wrexham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wrexham
Postcode districts: LL12, LL13

Beryl Blackmore (LD)
Alan Butterworth (Grn)
Aled Canter (Lab)
Charles Dodman (Reform UK)
Jeremy Kent (C)
Aimi Waters (PC)

May 2017 result C 917 Lab 204 LD 125 UKIP 11
May 2012 result Lab 314 LD 311 C 248
May 2008 result LD 386 C 347 Lab 286
June 2004 result Lab 401 C 343 LD 181
May 1999 result Lab 470 PC 278
May 1995 result Lab 695 C 268
Previous results in detail

Kinver; and
Wombourne South East

South Staffordshire council; caused respectively by the deaths of Conservative councillors Brian Edwards (who was Leader of the Council) and Reginald Williams.

We cross back over the border into England for the rest of this week's column, considering two wards which lie just off the western edge of the Black Country. Not all of southern Staffordshire ended up in the West Midlands metropolitan county at the 1970s reorganisation: a small rural fringe, sandwiched between the Black Country and Shropshire, remains part of Staffordshire. And that's where we are today.

S Staffs, Wombourne SE

The South Staffordshire district is effectively everything in south-western Staffordshire which didn't get incorporated into Stafford, Cannock, Wolverhampton or anywhere else in the Black Country. A number of its settlements are clearly part of somewhere else: Great Wyrley is part of the Cannock urban area, Perton is effectively a part of Wolverhampton which has escaped over the border. The district contains no large towns of its own and Wombourne, a settlement south-west of Wolverhampton which readers may reasonably have never heard of despite its population of around 14,000, is its largest independent urban area.

As this column has previously discussed (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 170), Wombourne is in effect a Black Country industrial town which managed to escape the urban sprawl. Its traditional nailmaking industry has been effectively supplanted by commuting to Wolverhampton and the other Black Country towns.

S Staffs, Kinver

Kinver, located at the southern end of the district a few miles to the west of Stourbridge, has a rather older history than that of Wombourne. The name is first recorded in AD 736 as Cynibre, the second half of the name referring to a steep hill: this is most likely Kinver Edge, which was home to a hillfort in prehistoric times. Kinver Edge is a local beauty spot which deserves to be better known, and a tourism industry here was established here in the 20th century thanks to the opening of the Kinver Light Railway, a tram line from the village to Amblecote. The steep sandstone rock of Kinver Edge provided a base for England's last troglodyte dwellings: the Rock Houses on Holy Austin Rock were inhabited into the 1960s, and some of them have been restored by the National Trust. A visit is strongly recommended, although you can surely do better than this photograph which I took earlier this year.

Rock Houses, Kinver

Kinver has left its mark on our elections in an unusual way, following the death on 2 May 2005 of Josephine Harrison. This was three days before the 2005 general and local elections, in which Harrison was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the South Staffordshire constituency and for the Kinver division of Staffordshire county council. Both elections were postponed to allow nominations to be reopened, eventually taking place on 23 June 2005; the postponed polls eventually re-elected county councillor Brian Edwards, who in the interim had been elected as leader of South Staffordshire council, and the long-serving MP Sir Patrick Cormack. This was the first time for many years that a general election had been postponed following the death of a candidate. Cormack was unhappy with the experience, and he sponsored an amendment to the Representation of the People Act to allow parliamentary elections to proceed to polling if an independent candidate dies during an election campaign. The Cormack amendment doesn't apply to local elections in England and Wales, but one Scottish council by-election and at least one parliamentary general election (following the death of former Eurovision contestant Ronnie Carroll) have since proceeded to polling with a deceased candidate on the ballot paper.

Sir Patrick Cormack retired to the Lords in 2010, after successfully fighting off a deselection attempt from his local party, and was replaced as MP for South Staffordshire by Gavin Williamson who remains in situ eleven years later. Williamson's times in Cabinet have been notably ill-judged: he was dismissed as defence secretary on 1 May 2019 by Prime Minister May for leaking confidential information, and a subsequent appointment as education secretary in the Johnson government did not reflect well on anyone involved.

Brian Edwards proved to have rather more staying power at the top. He was first elected to South Staffordshire council in 1983 and to Staffordshire county council in 1989, and as stated he became leader of South Staffordshire council in 2005. Edwards was still holding that office when he passed away in August 2021 at the age of 81, after 38 years as a district councillor and 16 years as council leader. He had been appointed MBE in 2015 for his work to local government and communities.

Edwards' death came a week after the passing of another long-serving district councillor, Reg Williams, at the age of 90. Williams had sat on Wombourne parish council for 25 years, and also represented the town's South East ward on South Staffordshire council. He had a reputation as a planning expert, but suffered a reverse in 2013 with an abortive plan to erect a wooden replica of Stonehenge in Wombourne; South Staffordshire council asked Williams to carry out a public consultation, which revealed concerns from locals that the structure would become an "arena for alcohol". A shame.

Williams had won his district council seat in 2003 in a close fight in Wombourne South East ward, but he was not remotely threatened at later elections. The ward was uncontested in 2015, and in May 2019 the Tory slate beat Labour here 73-27.

South Staffordshire, 2019

Kinver ward, which is more rural in nature and covers a number of hamlets outside Kinver itself, split its three seats in 2003 and 2007 between Brian Edwards for the Conservatives, an independent and a Lib Dem candidate. In 2011 the Lib Dem councillor stood down and the independent was narrowly defeated, and since then this ward has been safely Conservative. The 2019 election saw the Conservative slate of three candidates opposed only by a single Green and a single Lib Dem candidate; shares of the vote were 45% for the Conservatives, 29% for the Green and 26% for the Lib Dem.

Which brings me to a point I've seen discussed on the Twitter recently: there have been a number of good Green Party performances in recent local by-elections. Since normal service resumed in June the party has gained six by-elections, mostly from the Conservatives in unlikely-looking places, and come close to winning a few other contests. For a party which historically tends not to have a lot of luck in local by-elections, this is notable. With environmentalism and the forthcoming climate summit in Glasgow high on the political agenda, and with hard work by local Green Party activists having given the party representation on an increasing number of councils over the last electoral cycle, we might reasonably expect this trend to continue in the near future. In this context I note that the Greens won three seats on South Staffordshire council at the last district elections in 2019; one of their councillors is long-serving activist Ian Sadler, who was a close runner-up in Wombourne South East back in 2003 as a Liberal Democrat candidate. (Green Party district councillor Ian Sadler should not be confused with Conservative Kinver parish councillor Ian Sadler; they are different people.)

Something to think about, perhaps, as we turn to the candidate lists, although the fact that the Conservative vote share was over 70% in May's county elections in both Kinver and Wombourne may dampen grounds for opposition optimism.

Defending Kinver for the Conservatives is parish councillor Geoff Sisley. The Greens have reselected Bernadette McGourty, who was runner-up in the 2019 district elections and a much more distant runner-up in May's county elections in Kinver. The Lib Dems have not returned, so Labour's Michael Vaughan completes the ballot paper.

In Wombourne South East the defending Conservative candidate is Mark Evans, who gives an address in the neighbouring Wombourne South West ward. The other two candidates on the ballot both contested Wombourne in May's county elections: Denis Beaumont stands for Labour, Claire McIlvenna for the Green Party.

Kinver

Parliamentary constituency: South Staffordshire
Staffordshire county council division: Kinver
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dudley
Postcode districts: DY6, DY7, DY8, DY10, DY11

Bernadette McGourty (Grn)
Geoff Sisley (C)
Michael Vaughan (LD)

May 2019 result C 1022/1004/889 Grn 665 LD 598
May 2015 result C 2903/2760/2521 Lab 1055
May 2011 result C 1659/1655/1122 Ind 1071 Lab 644
May 2007 result C 1305/977/976 Ind 1096 LD 1002
May 2003 result C 972/765/600 Ind 947 LD 941/743
Previous results in detail

Wombourne South East

Parliamentary constituency: South Staffordshire
Staffordshire county council division: Wombourne
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wolverhampton and Walsall
Postcode districts: DY3, WV5

Denis Beaumont (Lab)
Mark Evans (C)
Claire McIlvenna (Grn)

May 2019 result C 677/585 Lab 250/172
May 2015 result 2 C unopposed
May 2011 result C 873/860 UKIP 501
May 2007 result C 784/636 UKIP 432
May 2003 result C 556/545 LD 494 Ind 458
Previous results in detail

South

Luton council, Bedfordshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Paul Castleman.

Our Labour defence this week is in our southernmost by-election, taking place in the aptly-named South ward. We have been wafted from paradise to the centre of Luton, the largest town in Bedfordshire and rather different from the rest of the county. This is quite an industrial town, having grown during the Industrial Revolution on hat manufacturing and then in the twentieth century on vehicle manufacturing. The Vauxhall Motors factory here was in operation from 1907 to 2002, and Luton Airport was opened in 1938.

Luton Airport has always been owned by the borough council, and over the last couple of years this has proved to be bad news. The council had been funding a number of its services using its income from the airport's dividend; when this dried up overnight as the pandemic hit, the council suddenly found itself unable to balance its budget. Despite passing an emergency budget in July 2020 with £22 million of cuts, central government still had to step in with a bailout of £35 million to stabilise the council's finances.

Luton councillors have faced the full wrath of their public before. On 19 July 1919, a special bank holiday known as "Peace Day" marking the end of the First World War, Luton town hall was burned to the ground by rioters who were unhappy with the town's high unemployment rate. The replacement town hall, an Art Deco building opened in 1936, is located on the same site in the town centre.

Luton, South ward

Luton's town centre is contained in the town's South ward, which runs south to take in the New Town and Park Town areas and the business park at Capability Green. Luton railway station and Luton Airport Parkway railway station lie on the ward boundary, providing fast links to London and the East Midlands. The ward includes a number of buildings belonging to the University of Bedfordshire, together with a large number of students.

That gives South ward's census return a very different look from your average ward in the East of England. The ward is in the top 30 wards in England and Wales for people born in the EU 2004-07 accession countries, is in the top 40 for those born in the Republic of Ireland, and is in the top 70 for private renting and full-time students.

South ward has voted Labour at every election this century, usually quite comfortably. At the most recent poll, in May 2019, the Labour slate had 40% of the vote against 19% for the Green Party, 16% for the Conservatives and 14% for UKIP.

Luton, 2019

The ward is part of the Luton South parliamentary seat, which was a Conservative seat until the 1997 Labour landslide but is now safe Labour. Its 2010-19 MP Gavin Shuker was one of the Labour MPs who defected to Change UK; he sought re-election in 2019 as an independent candidate, saving his deposit. The seat's new Labour MP Rachael Hopkins was a Luton councillor for the neighbouring ward of High Town; she resigned her council seat after being elected, and the resulting by-election was held there in May 2021.

Councillor Paul Castleman, who passed away in August, was a lifelong Lutonian who was first elected in a March 2014 by-election in the neighbouring Farley ward. He transferred to this ward in 2015. Until a reshuffle in May, he had been the council's cabinet member for planning and transport.

Defending the South ward by-election for Labour is Fatima Begum, a "lover of all things good" according to her Twitter. Marc Scheimann, who had been the ward's regular Green Party candidate and has contested general and European elections under the Green banner, is standing this time as an independent candidate without Green opposition. The Conservatives have selected Abid Aziz, a businessman and former special constable. UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper are Markus Kearney for the Communist Party of Britain and Nigel Marshall for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Luton South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Luton
Postcode districts: LU1, LU2, LU3, LU4

Abid Aziz (C)
Fatima Begum (Lab)
Markus Kearney (Comm)
Nigel Marshall (LD)
Marc Scheimann (Ind)

May 2019 result Lab 938/813/710 Grn 445 C 373/316 UKIP 339 Ind 259
May 2015 result Lab 1898/1787/1655 C 1075/1061/773 Grn 649
May 2011 result Lab 994/957/930 C 653/528/518 UKIP 196 Grn 161/150/108 LD 149/142/114
May 2010 by-election Lab 1493 C 1015 LD 616 UKIP 201 Grn 155
May 2007 result Lab 840/734/657 C 619/610/447 Grn 266 LD 249/221/162
May 2003 result Lab 681/681/678 C 354/289/250 LD 261/234/221 Ind 242/120
Previous results in detail

Grantham Arnoldfield; and
Stamford All Saints

South Kesteven council, Lincolnshire; caused respectively by the resignation of Helen Goral and the death of Mike Exton, both of whom were Conservative councillors.

We travel to the East Midlands for contests in two towns off the A1 Great North Road. The town of Stamford, located at the point were Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland all meet, was as important in the Danelaw as the great cities of the East Midlands, but never really grew into a major city. Some miles to the north lies Grantham, the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher. Grantham is home to the headquarters of South Kesteven district, which also covers all of Stamford and a large rural area in south-western Lincolnshire.

S Kesteven, Grantham Arnoldfield

The Arnoldfield ward of Grantham is the town's north-western corner. It covers two disconnected urban areas either side of the railway line towards Nottingham: the larger of these is Gonerby Hill Foot, on what was once the Great North Road. The ward was drawn up for the 2015 election and includes a small amount of overspill beyond the town boundary: this is still part of the Sleaford and North Hykeham constituency, leaving the ward split between two seats at parliamentary level. The Boundary Commission should sort this out for the 2024 general election.

S Kesteven, Stamford All SS

Further south the Great North Road entered Stamford, whose narrow town-centre streets ensured that this was one of the first towns on the A1 to be bypassed, in 1960. Stamford's four wards are all named after ecclesiastical parishes: All Saints is the town's north ward, covering housing around the Little Casterton Road.

S Kesteven, 2019

All Saints ward suffered from a lack of opposition candidates in the 2019 election: the two-person Tory slate was opposed only by a single Labour candidate, who lost 62-38. The ward returned an independent councillor in 2007 and 2011 and also elected a Lib Dem in 2007. Arnoldfield ward was brand new for 2015: the predecessor wards, Green Hill and Greyfriars, had consistently returned Conservative councillors this century. Arnoldfield is split between two divisions of Lincolnshire county council which both voted Conservative in May; All Saints ward is split between the two Stamford county divisions, with East voting Conservative and West gained in May by an independent candidate, Richard Cleaver.

So, on this evidence the Stamford All Saints by-election looks the more interesting of these two contests to South Kesteven council. It follows the death of Conservative councillor Mike Exton, who passed away in August at the age of 80. A double kidney transplant recipient and passionate supporter of opening up the organ donor register, Exton had served on South Kesteven council since winning a by-election in 2005; he had also previously sat on Lincolnshire county council, and he was Mayor of Stamford in 2003-04.

The Grantham Arnoldfield by-election is caused by the resignation of Helen Goral, who is concentrating on her other roles as a mother of two children and with the housing and planning PR company which she works for. Goral had stood down from the council cabinet last year for the same reason.

Defending Grantham Arnoldfield for the Conservatives is Kaffy Rice-Oxley. A cousin of the Keane songwriter and keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley, Kaffy is a singer and music teacher and she has recently been appointed as secretary of the Conservatives' Grantham and Stamford branch. The Labour candidate is Stuart Fawcett, who trains horses for carriage driving. Also standing is Mike Turner for the Green Party.

In Stamford All Saints the defending Tory candidate is Amanda Schonhut who is a freelance photographer, director of fundraising at Grantham Museum and founder of a charity for domestic and workplace abuse victims. She is opposed by three independent candidates. Richard Cleaver, as already stated, was elected in May as Lincolnshire county councillor for Stamford West; Maxwell Sawyer contested this ward in 2011 and 2015 on a Stamford localist slate; and Tony Story is a former Mayor of Stamford.

Grantham Arnoldfield

Parliamentary constituency: Grantham and Stamford (almost all), Sleaford and North Hykeham (small part)
Lincolnshire county council division: Grantham North (part), Grantham West (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Grantham
Postcode district: NG31

Stuart Fawcett (Lab)
Kaffy Rice-Oxley (C)
Mike Turner (Grn)

May 2019 result C 655/612 Lab 232/225
May 2015 result C 1203/886 UKIP 516/483 Lab 382/349 Ind 335
Previous results in detail

Stamford All Saints

Parliamentary constituency: Grantham and Stamford
Lincolnshire county council division: Stamford East (part), Stamford West (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Peterborough
Postcode district: PE9

Richard Cleaver (Ind)
Maxwell Sawyer (Ind)
Amanda Schonhut (C)
Tony Story (Ind)

May 2019 result C 562/533 Lab 343
May 2015 result C 1100/826 Stamford Group of Inds 646/609 UKIP 603 Lab 529
Previous results in detail

Currock and Upperby

Carlisle council, Cumbria; caused by the death of UKIP councillor John Denholm.

We finish in the north with our city by-election of the week. The city here is Carlisle, for the moment the capital of Cumbria and home to both Cumbria county council and Carlisle city council.

Carlisle, Currock/Upperby

The Currock and Upperby ward is on the southern edge of the city, lying in between the West Coast railway line and the Maryport railway line. Drawn for the 2019 local elections, it takes in the majority of two previous wards. The former Upperby ward, on the southern edge of the city, was an utterly working-class area: at the 2011 census 27.1% of the workforce were in semi-routine occupations, which was the highest figure for any ward in the North West region and the seventh-highest figure in England. (Four of the six wards with higher figures were in Boston, for what that is worth.) Currock ward, which extended into part of the city centre around Citadel railway station, was in the top 100 wards in England and Wales for 1-5 GCSE passes or equivalent (19.6%), part-time employment (18.4%) and, again, semi-routine occupations (18.9%).

With that sort of profile, you'd expect this to be a Labour area; but stranger things have happened in elections. When this ward was contested for the first time in May 2019 Labour did indeed top the poll, but only with 37% of the vote; and the ward's third and final seat went to UKIP candidate John Denholm. Denholm had contested both predecessor wards in the past without much success; but this time his tally was enough to beat Labour's third candidate Robert Rynn by a margin of one vote, 556 to 555. Don't let anybody tell you your vote never changed anything.

Carlisle, 2019

Having won the ward's third and final seat, John Denholm would have been due for re-election in May 2020 when Carlisle council went back to elections by thirds. However, the May 2020 elections were postponed to May 2021 because of the pandemic; and then the May 2021 Carlisle elections were postponed to May 2022 in advance of local government reorganisation. The same thing happened to the May 2021 Cumbria county elections. This ward covers the whole of the Upperby county division, and most of the Currock county division, both of which were safe Labour at the last Cumbria elections in May 2017.

John Denholm suddenly passed away in July 2021, 27 months into his 12-month term of office. He was 73 years old. His death leaves the UK Independence Party (who recently elected Neil Hamilton as their leader, for those who are keeping track or want to win Pointless) with nine councillors remaining: two in Folkestone and Hythe, and one each in Bolton, Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole, Great Yarmouth, Pembrokeshire, South Staffordshire, Tamworth and Tendring. Councillor Dowson in Pembrokeshire (who was elected as an independent and subsequently joined UKIP) is due for re-election next year, with all the rest being up in May 2023. The Bolton UKIP councillor represents my ward and might have enough name recognition to get re-elected, but faced with this evidence even your columnist has had to accept that UKIP are no longer a major national party.

The UK Independence Party are not defending this by-election. We have a free-for-all, I repeat we have a free-for-all! And this could have a major impact on the council composition. Labour lost control of the council in 2019 with the Conservatives becoming the largest party on the council, and the Tories formed a minority administration. In May the Tories took two by-elections off Labour in working-class city wards not dissimilar to Currock and Upperby, and that has left them with 19 seats on the council to 13 Labour, 4 independents, 1 Green, 1 Lib Dem and this vacancy. If the Conservatives can gain this by-election from UKIP, they will win overall control of Carlisle city council.

With Labour holding the other two seats in this ward they should start as favourites here. Their candidate is Chris Wills, who lives in this ward and works for the National Trust; in May he fought a council by-election on less-promising territory in Brampton, coming third. The Conservatives, who are reportedly giving this by-election some serious hard work, have selected Geoff Mitchell who gives an address in the village of Scotby; he fought Dalston and Burgh ward in 2019, and his wife Linda won one of the May by-elections to Carlisle council. The Greens have selected Tom Adams, who gives an address some distance away in Brampton; and he completes a ballot paper of three candidates.

Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Cumbria county council division: Upperby, Currock (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Carlisle
Postcode district: CA2

Tom Adams (Grn)
Geoff Mitchell (C)
Christopher Wills (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 798/667/555 UKIP 556 C 326/293/283 Grn 251 LD 237
Previous results in detail


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


Previewing the council by-elections of 21 Oct 2021

 

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

Three by-elections on 21st October 2021, Trafalgar Day, as we replace three councillors who had 83 years of local government service between them. There is something for everyone to enjoy as we consider villages, a city and a town, with Labour defending one seat and the Lib Dems two. Let's start with the Labour defence which, for reasons which will become clear, is the village ward...

Rainworth South and Blidworth

Newark and Sherwood council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Kathleen Arnold.

Newark/Sherwood, Rainworth S/Blidworth

We start this week with our Labour defence in the heart of Sherwood Forest. Indeed the village of Blidworth, around five miles to the south-east of Mansfield, is sometimes cited as the burial place of Will Scarlet, one of Robin Hood's Merrie Men. However, there is no documentary evidence to support this or the claim that Maid Marian was born here.

We're on safer ground when considering the area's recent history. Blidworth was a small rural village until the 1920s, when Blidworth Colliery was sunk as the latest development of the Nottinghamshire coalfield. The colliery remained in operation until 1989, leaving behind a village of around 4,500 souls.

The village of Rainworth - or at least the part of it which hasn't been incorporated into Mansfield - has a similar history. Rainworth's mine was Rufford Colliery, which closed in 1993 and whose site is now being returned to nature, after the locals fought off an attempt by the county council in 2008-12 to site an incinerator there.

There used to be rather a lot of nature round this corner of Nottinghamshire thanks to the efforts of Joseph Whitaker, a noted naturalist of the early 20th century. Whitaker lived in Rainworth for most of his life, and his animal and bird collections included his own deer park here with 21 acres of land. He died in Rainworth in 1932, having lived long enough to see the collieries begin operation in the local villages.

With the local landscape now being decidedly post-industrial, the local politics is following suit. It's only in the last decade that the Conservatives have started contesting this area in local elections, and for much of this century Blidworth's local elections were instead contests between Labour and an independent candidate, Geoff Merry. Merry represented Blidworth on both Newark and Sherwood council and Nottinghamshire county council, eventually retiring in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

With Merry off the scene, the 2015 local election - the first for this ward - was an easy win for the Labour slate of Yvonne Woodhead and Kathleen Arnold. Woodhead and Arnold were re-elected in 2019 but rather more narrowly: Labour polled 40% that year while an independent slate and the Conservatives had 30% each.

Newark/Sherwood, 2019

Subsequent results will give the opposition to Labour grounds for optimism. This ward is part of the Sherwood constituency, where the Government Chief Whip Mark Spencer now has a very large majority over Labour. In the May 2021 Nottinghamshire county council elections Yvonne Woodhead lost her seat in the Blidworth division, finishing a poor third: the Conservatives gained the division, but only with a majority of 54 votes over independent candidate Tina Thompson.

That result introduces some unpredictability into this by-election, which follows the death of veteran Labour councillor Kathleen Arnold. She had first been elected for Blidworth ward in 1991, and served on Newark and Sherwood council for a total of 22 years (excluding 2007-15).

Defending this seat for Labour is Callum Walsh, on whom I have no information. Independent candidate and Blidworth resident Tina Thompson returns to the campaign trail after her near-miss in May's county elections. Completing the ballot is another candidate who gives an address in Blidworth: she is Sheila Jackson for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Sherwood
Nottinghamshire county council division: Blidworth
ONS Travel to Work Area: Mansfield
Postcode districts: NG18, NG21

Sheila Jackson (C)
Tina Thompson (Ind)
Callum Walsh (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 450/401 Ind 345/334 C 341/292
May 2015 result Lab 1401/1361 C 792/732 Ind 304
Previous results in detail

Yardley East

Birmingham council, West Midlands; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Eustace.

Birmingham, Yardley E

We stay within the Midlands for our big city by-election, which takes place in the city of Birmingham. If you start in Birmingham city centre and travel east, you will pass through a heavily Muslim area in Bordesley Green and Sparkhill before coming to outer and whiter areas on the way to the airport. This is the core of Yardley, which was a part of Worcestershire until it was incorporated into Birmingham in the 1910s.

Although the Asian population here is increasing, Yardley is still best characterised as a white working-class area. But it doesn't have the sort of electoral history you would expect for a white working-class area. For decades now this has been Birmingham's Liberal Democrat hotspot. Yardley was the political home of John Hemming, who was the only third-party MP elected for a Birmingham seat in the last fifty years: Hemming represented the Yardley constituency from 2005 to 2015 and came close to winning on a number of other occasions.

Hemming's election agent was Neil Eustace, who was one of the longest-serving members of Birmingham city council. Eustace was first elected as a city councillor for the former Yardley ward in 1986, gaining the seat from the Conservatives. The hard work of Eustace and his ward colleagues quickly turned Yardley and a number of neighbouring wards into Liberal and then Liberal Democrat strongholds, providing the base for their parliamentary campaigns. Eustace' seat was redrawn in 2004 with the name Stechford and Yardley North, but - with the exception of a narrow Labour win in 2015 - remained in the Lib Dem column.

Times change, of course. The Lib Dems ran a very poor third in the Yardley seat in December 2019, with future Labour leadership candidate Jess Phillips winning a third term in the Commons very easily. By contrast, the last Birmingham city council election was in 2018 on radical new ward boundaries; Stechford and Yardley North ward was split up, with about half of it forming the new ward of Yardley East. Neil Eustace stood for re-election here and was returned by the wide margin of 65-30 over Labour.

Birmingham, 2018

Eustace passed away last month at the age of 65, having served the residents of Yardley for 35 years. Hoping to step into his shoes is the defending Lib Dem candidate Deborah Harries, who has worked for Birmingham council and for central government in senior communications roles. The Labour candidate is Carmel Corrigan, who contested Longbridge and West Heath ward in the 2018 city council elections; she is a caseworker for Jess Phillips MP. Completing the ballot paper is Pervez Akhtar, a retired railwayman, for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Birmingham Yardley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Birmingham
Postcode districts: B25, B26, B33

Pervez Akhtar (C)
Carmel Corrigan (Lab)
Deborah Harries (LD)

May 2018 result LD 1856 Lab 863 C 140
Previous results in detail

Forest

Horsham council, West Sussex; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Godfrey Newman.

Horsham, Forest

We finish for the week back in what is nominally a forest, but really one in name only. The Forest ward of Horsham is the eastern ward of Horsham town, and actual forested territory is confined to the ward's eastern fringe. This marks the edge of St Leonards Forest, which covers much of the area between Horsham and Crawley.

Horsham was the major town of inland western Sussex before the New Town of Crawley got going, and its history is mainly as a market town for the surrounding agricultural villages. The area was a major centre for iron smelting back in the day, but this industry had died out long before the Industrial Revolution got going and modern Horsham is not politically left-wing. Major industries in the town these days include brickmaking and brewing, while RSA Insurance and the RSPCA (whose head office is located just outside the town) are important local employers.

Forest ward was extensively redrawn for the 2019 local elections, taking in a large chunk of the abolished Horsham Park ward around Horsham railway station and going up from one councillor to three. It would probably be more accurate to say that Horsham Park ward was the main predecessor: this was rather more downmarket than the old Forest ward and included Horsham's most deprived census district, although that's not really saying much. Both Horsham Park and the old Forest ward had been closely fought between the Lib Dems and Conservatives in the period 2003-15, and the 2015 elections in the two wards had returned two councillors from each party.

Horsham, Forest

May 2019 was a good election for the Horsham Lib Dems, who won the new Forest ward comfortably with 39%. Surprisingly, the Conservatives finished in third place with 21% of the vote, behind the Labour slate on 22%. The ward is split between all three Horsham divisions of West Sussex county council, all of which voted Liberal Democrat in May's county elections (the party held Hurst and Riverside, and gained East from the Conservatives). The Tories do, however, still have a large majority on Horsham council and in the Horsham constituency.

As with our two other polls this week, the voters of Horsham will be replacing a long-serving councillor. (David) Godfrey Newman was first elected for Forest ward in 1991, gaining his seat from the Conservatives; he lost his seat in the 2007 election by just 13 votes, but returned in 2011 with a convincing majority. Newman was also the Liberal Democrats' parliamentary candidate for Horsham in 2010. He is standing down from the council due to ongoing health issues, having served his constituents for 26 years.

Defending this by-election for the Lib Dems is Jon Olson, who sits on a local residents' group and volunteers at a primary school in the area. The Labour candidate is David Hide, who works as a technical manager at a plant nursery and was a candidate in May's county elections. The Conservatives' Ross Dye has a point to prove after losing the Horsham East county division in May: he is recently retired from an IT career and is a parish councillor in Southwater, just to the south of the town. Completing the ballot paper is Jon Campbell for the Green Party.

This is a slow week for by-elections, so in order to fill some space let me finish this week's column by bringing you some gratuitous music. One of Horsham's other wards is called Trafalgar, and there was a by-election there last May. By coincidence today is Trafalgar Day, marking the 216th anniversary of Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. To celebrate, let me bring you this recording made in 2005 for the 200th anniversary of the battle. The narrator here is a real-life Admiral, Lord Boyce (the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and formerly Chief of the Defence Staff); while the Plymouth Band of the Royal Marines, under the baton of Major Paul Weston, demonstrate yet again why they are the best in the business.

Parliamentary constituency: Horsham
West Sussex county council divisions: Horsham East (part), Horsham Hurst (part), Horsham Riverside (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Crawley
Postcode district: RH13

Jon Campbell (Grn)
Ross Dye (C)
David Hide (Lab)
Jon Olson (LD)

May 2019 result LD 1305/1224/1120 Lab 742/719/613 C 703/623/567 Peace Party 314 UKIP 243
Previous results in detail


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


Previewing the council by-elections of 14 Oct 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

There are four by-elections on 14th October 2021, with something for everyone. There is one defence for each of the three main English parties, and a Labour seat up for election in Scotland. That will come last in this week's Previews; instead we start by discussing a Conservative seat in outer London. Read on...

Pinner South

Harrow council, London; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Chris Mote.

Harrow, Pinner S

We start the week in Greater London by taking a trip along the Metropolitan Line to Pinner. This is the heart of Metroland, that quadrant of north-west London which was aggressively developed by the Metropolitan Railway in the inter-war era and which provided the railway with a secure commuter base. Most of the housing in Pinner South ward dates from the 1930s, and the area is no longer the Middlesex village it once was but instead part of the urban sprawl, although the green belt is not so far away.

These nice suburban houses remain sought-after nearly a century after they were built. Pinner South's census return shows nearly half of the ward's workforce in professional or managerial occupations, and all of the ward's census districts are in the 20% least-deprived in England and Wales. The list of famous people who were born in Pinner includes the astronomer Patrick Moore, the children's author Michael Rosen and the global pop star Sir Elton John; but the long list of local worthies also attests to the fact that this is a place celebrities tend to come to as well as come from.

In recent years inner Metroland has come a major centre for London's Indian community, by which I mean here people of specifically Indian heritage rather than subcontinental heritage in general. Pinner is on the edge of this area, and Pinner South ward is not dominated by residents born in India or speaking Indian languages. However, this ward is in the top 50 in England and Wales for Hinduism (19.0%) and miscellaneous other religions (1.8%) and was also in the top 90 for Judaism (4.7%) at the time of the 2011 census.

Harrow, 2018

The present Pinner South ward was created in 2002 and has similar boundaries to the Pinner West ward which existed from 1978 to 2002. With the exception of a Liberal Democrat victory in 1994, the Conservatives have won every election here since 1978 and usually quite comfortably so. At the last London borough elections in May 2018 the Conservatives had a 57-26 lead over Labour, who have run second here since 2010. The ward is included within the parliamentary seat of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, which is safely Conservative too.

The recent London Mayor and Assembly elections suggest that hasn't changed. In May the Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey beat Sadiq Khan 50-29 in the ward's ballot boxes, and the London Members ballot for the Assembly gave 49% to the Conservatives, 25% to Labour and 11% to the Green Party.

Harrow council as a whole is rather more left-wing than this ward, and it has returned Labour majorities at every election since 2010. It hasn't been Labour-controlled throughout that period, though: there was a bizarre episode in advance of the 2014 borough elections when a small Labour splinter group briefly held the leadership before collapsing under the weight of numbers.

The last time the Conservatives held a majority on Harrow council was after the 2006 election, when Pinner South ward councillor (Charles) Chris Mote became leader of the council. Mote had first been elected in 1982 as a councillor for Rayners Lane ward, standing down in 1986 after one term. (In that year Rayners Lane was gained by the Liberals, one of whose slate - James Bartrick - was subsequently forced to resign after it was revealed that he was underage at the time of the election. Bartrick was re-elected in the resulting by-election, held after his 21st birthday.) Mote returned to Harrow council representing this ward in 1998, and his two years (2006-08) as leader of the council were the high point of his local government career. He subsequently served as Deputy Mayor of Harrow in 2009-10. Chris Mote passed away at the end of July after a short illness, having served his constituents here for 23 years.

Defending this by-election for the Conservatives is Hitesh Karia, who is described as a local resident and businessman (although the address he gave on his nomination papers is in Hatch End). The Labour candidate Brahma Mohanty, who went into a career in finance after studying at both Oxford and Cambridge, already has a parliamentary campaign to his credit: he faced off in December 2019 against Michael Gove in the Surrey Heath constituency. More on that story later. Completing an all-BAME ballot paper are Sanjay Karia for the Liberal Democrats and Alex Lee for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
ONS Travel to Work Area: Slough and Heathrow
Postcode district: HA5

Hitesh Karia (C)
Sanjay Karia (LD)
Alex Lee (Grn)
Brahma Mohanty (Lab)

May 2018 result C 2156/2024/2019 Lab 965/941/910 LD 653/487
May 2014 result C 1889/1751/1659 Lab 1062/1007/949 UKIP 511
May 2010 result C 3400/3002/2801 Lab 1740/1535/1343 LD 1527
May 2006 result C 2226/2068/1886 LD 670/612/549 Lab 609/591/537
May 2002 result C 1812/1766/1734 Lab 897/818/795
Previous results in detail

May 2021 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: C 1243 Lab 705 Grn 176 LD 110 Omilana 52 Reclaim 35 Count Binface 29 Rejoin EU 18 Animal Welfare 15 Let London Live 12 UKIP 11 London Real 11 Obunge 10 SDP 8 Farah London 8 Heritage Party 7 Renew 6 Fosh 6 Women's Equality 5 Burning Pink 3
London Members: C 1223 Lab 634 Grn 272 LD 178 Animal Welfare 43 Rejoin EU 35 Reform UK 25 Women's Equality 25 Heritage 12 Let London Live 10 CPA 9 London Real 9 Nat Lib 7 Comm 6 UKIP 6 Londonpendence 4 TUSC 4 SDP 3

Frimley Green

Surrey Heath council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Benjamin Leach.

Surrey Heath, Frimley Green

I promised you more on Surrey Heath, so we now travel outside London to the western edge of Surrey. Frimley Green lies on the eastern side of the Blackwater valley, which is home to a surprisingly large urban area: the towns of Camberley, Farnborough, Aldershot, Sandhurst and Frimley have effectively merged together into a single conurbation. Because of the location of this urban sprawl on the borders of Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire, our local government structures rather disguise this. Camberley and Frimley, the Surrey towns in this conurbation, are included in the Surrey Heath local government district.

Frimley Green still has a bit of a village feel to it even though it's now part of this urban area. The Blackwater valley towns have traditionally had an economy dominated by the Army and aerospace, but the largest single employer in Frimley Green is a large factory making SC Johnson cleaning products; and the town is best known for flying projectiles which, while sharp, are distinctly not military. Frimley Green is home to the Lakeside Country Club, which from 1986 until 2019 advertised itself as the "Home of World Darts", being the venue for the BDO World Darts Championship. (The tournament moved to the madhouse of the O2 in London for January 2020 for a tournament which fell short of financial expectations. As all darts players know, if you go for madhouse and fall short with your first shot then you go bust, and that's what subsequently happened to the BDO.)

Full disclosure: Your columnist once aimed three darts at a dartboard on the stage of the Lakeside in Frimley Green, and missed the scoring area of the board with every one. This game is harder than it looks on the telly.

Surrey Heath's council elections have consistently returned a Conservative majority this century, the party's fortunes peaking in 2015 when they polled 58% across the district and won 36 seats out of a possible 39. Previous elections were closer, and Frimley Green ward returned a full slate of Liberal Democrats in 2003 and 2007. The ward was redrawn for the 2019 elections, gaining part of Frimley ward to the north.

As I mentioned last week the May 2019 local elections saw enormous Conservative losses in western Surrey, with the party losing control of Guildford and Waverley districts. They came very close to losing control of Surrey Heath district as well, finishing with 18 councillors out of 35 and a majority of one. Frimley Green swung a long way to the Lib Dems who gained the ward with 49% of the vote, against just 29% for the Conservatives and 13% for UKIP. The ward was also contested by the Pirate Party in a rare foray for them into UK local elections: the Pirates finished last with a creditable 9%.

The Conservatives have since lost their majority on Surrey Heath council after two of their councillors formed a new "Camberley Independent" group. The current council composition stands at 17 Conservatives, 8 Lib Dems plus this vacancy, 6 independents (including the two Camberley Independents) and two Greens.

However, subsequent elections here have been more encouraging for the Tories. Michael Gove was re-elected as the MP for Surrey Heath very comfortably in December 2019, and following the recent reshuffle he is now the Cabinet minister responsible for local government. In May 2021 the Conservatives held all six of the district's Surrey county council divisions and gained a district council by-election from the Lib Dems in Bagshot ward. That by-election followed the sad death of Sam Kay, whose short but luckless life is remembered in Andrew's Previews 2020, page 90.

Frimley Green has a larger Lib Dem lead than Bagshot, but the party will still need to be on their guard in this by-election. The poll follows the resignation of Ben Leach, who stood down from the council last month on health grounds.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Jacques Olmo, who gives an address in Deepcut and sits on the committee of the Mytchett, Frimley Green and Deepcut Society. The Conservatives will regain an overall majority on the council if they win this by-election, and their candidate is Stuart Black who has lived in Frimley Green for 20 years and has "a background in industries from defence to healthcare, delivering innovation and change". UKIP have not returned, so Labour's Christine Richards completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Surrey Heath
Surrey county council division: Frimley Green and Mytchett
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot
Postcode district: GU16

Stuart Black (C)
Jacques Olmo (LD)
Christine Richards (Lab)

May 2019 result LD 1019/1012/889 C 601/568/519 UKIP 269 Pirate Party 190
Previous results in detail

Leigh West

Wigan council, Greater Manchester; caused by the death of Labour councillor Lord Smith of Leigh.

Wigan, Leigh W

For our English Labour defence this week we come to a place which is emblematic of the so-called "Red Wall". Until 2019, the Leigh parliamentary constituency had never returned a Conservative MP: it had been Liberal from its 1885 creation until 1922, and then Labour continuously from 1922 to 2019.

That included the catastrophe of 1931, when the Labour MP for Leigh Joe Tinker - one of the most vocal advocates of better working conditions for coalminers - survived with a majority of just over 2,000 against the Conservative candidate, a Leigh lad made good called Peter Eckersley. Eckersley was a star cricket player who had captained Lancashire to the County Championship the year before. He eventually got into Parliament in 1935 as the Tory MP for Manchester Exchange, but was then killed in a plane crash while serving in the Second World War.

The Conservatives had never come so close to winning Leigh in Parliament since 1931. Even in 2015, when Andy Burnham (now the Mayor of Greater Manchester) won his final term in the Commons, he enjoyed a majority of 14,096 and the Conservative vote was under 23%. His successor, Jo Platt, won by over 9,500 votes in June 2017.

We can see the seeds for the Conservative gain of Leigh in what happened next. Platt promptly resigned from Wigan council, and a by-election was held for her seat in Astley Mosley Common ward in October 2017 (Andrew's Previews 2017, page 302) which saw a sharp swing to the Conservatives.

This fitted into a wider pattern. Like many ex-coalfield areas, Leigh is changing. The town of Leigh itself is notoriously one of the largest towns in England without a railway station, but the A580 East Lancashire Road and the M6 motorway gives the area excellent road connections to the major urban centres around it - Manchester, Warrington, Liverpool. Astley Mosley Common ward borders the strongly middle-class commuter area of Boothstown in Salford, Golborne and Lowton in particular are transforming into a commuter centre on the quiet, and many years of solid, hard work by the local Conservatives have turned the pit ward of Lowton East into a Conservative stronghold. The Conservative candidate for Leigh in December 2019 was one of the prime movers behind that hard work, Lowton East ward councillor James Grundy, and he can take a lot of personal credit for his result. A generic Tory candidate might not have done so well.

If Leigh were a town in the Midlands then it and the mining district around it would probably be a local government district of its own, as we see in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. However, we're in Greater Manchester here and the Leigh area is instead administered from Wigan, whose council has an almost impregnable Labour majority. For many years Wigan council was led by Peter Smith, an Old Boltonian and LSE economics graduate who was first elected to Wigan council in 1978. In 1982 Smith became chairman of the council's finance committee; in 1991 he was elected as Leader of the Council, a post he went on to hold for 27 years until retiring in 2018. During this time Smith was elevated to the House of Lords in 1999, taking the title Lord Smith of Leigh. He died in August, aged 76.

Lord Smith was Leigh born and bred and his ward was Leigh West, based on the Westleigh area and taking in the Bickershaw Country Park and Pennington Wharf. The collieries have left their mark on the landscape with a number of large lakes - "flashes" - which owe their origins to mining subsidence. Just to the south of the ward is the largest of these, Pennington Flash, which for some years now has been the starting point for the Ironman UK triathlon. This isn't the only sport associated with Leigh: Leigh Sports Village includes a 12,000-seat stadium which hosts Leigh Centurions rugby league club and Manchester United reserves, and it was due to be the venue for three group games in the Rugby League World Cup this autumn before its postponement.

Wigan, 2019

Leigh West is a safe Labour ward where the party has not been seriously threatened for many years. In May's Wigan council elections Labour led the Conservatives here 57-26; that was the first time the Tories had made second here since 2008 and 2014, when the ward was a straight Labour-Tory fight. In 2019 (mapped above), UKIP were runners-up here with third place going to a new localist party, "Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Together". Lord Smith was last re-elected in 2018, so the winner of this by-election will have to go back to the polls next May to seek re-election.

Defending this seat for Labour is Samantha Brown, who gives an address in the ward and works at Leigh Sports Village. The Conservatives have selected James Geddes, who works in prisoner rehabilitation: he stood in Leigh East ward in May. Completing the ballot paper are Jayson Hargreaves, standing again for the Leigh and Atherton Independents (as Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Together now appear to be called); and Sharron Honey who returns for the Lib Dems after contesting May's election.

Parliamentary constituency: Leigh
ONS Travel to Work Area: Warrington and Wigan
Postcode districts: WN2, WN7

Samantha Brown (Lab)
James Geddes (C)
Jayson Hargreaves (Leigh and Atherton Ind)
Sharron Honey (LD)

May 2021 result Lab 1582 C 714 Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Together 394 LD 104
May 2019 result Lab 1049 UKIP 613 Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Together 412 C 196 LD 161
May 2018 result Lab 1308 Ind 578 C 374 LD 158
May 2016 result Lab 1610 UKIP 738 C 205 Grn 129
May 2015 result Lab 3066 UKIP 1418 C 645 Grn 278
May 2014 result Lab 2005 C 658
May 2012 result Lab 1761 Ind 650 C 195
May 2011 result Lab 1844 Ind 430 C 334 BNP 239
May 2010 result Lab 2509 LD 828 BNP 693 C 557 Ind 280 Ind 255 UKIP 247
May 2008 result Lab 1543 C 817
May 2007 result Lab 1380 Ind 600 C 289 Community Action 280
May 2006 result Lab 1377 LD 721 C 410
June 2004 result Lab 1708/1624/1503 Community Action 669/549/508 BNP 513
Previous results in detail

Falkirk South

Falkirk council, Scotland; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Pat Reid.

Falkirk, Falkirk S

We finish north of the border in Scotland's most beautiful town, according a 2011 poll for the STV television station. Falkirk might not have seemed so beautiful back in the day to the Romans: in the second century AD this was the northern frontier of the Roman empire, with the Antonine Wall guarding the high ground overlooking the Forth estuary.

The Romans recorded the site as Varia Capella; this, the Celtic Ecclesbrith, the Gaelic An Eaglais Bhreac and the Scots Fawkirk all refer to a "speckled" church on the site of the present Falkirk Trinity Church. Falkirk's location next to the Forth and with easy access to local ironstone resulted in it becoming an early centre of the Industrial Revolution, with communication links to match. The Forth and Clyde Canal opened in 1790, the Union Canal in 1822 and the railways came in the 1830s, giving easy access to Edinburgh and Glasgow. All of them run through this ward. The two canals were rejoined in the twenty-first century by the Falkirk Wheel, a unique rotating boat lift which draws large numbers of tourists to the area. Including your columnist, who took this picture in April 2019.

Falkirk Wheel, by the author

The Falkirk Wheel lies on the boundary of Falkirk South ward, which takes in the town centre and points south of it including a small rural hinterland. Both of the town's main railway stations (High and Grahamston) are here, as is the mansion of Callendar House which serves as the main museum and heritage centre for Falkirk.

This ward was originally drawn up for the May 2007 elections when Scotland introduced proportional representation to its local elections. In both 2007 and 2012 Labour won two seats, the SNP and Conservatives one each. Boundary changes for the 2017 cut the ward down from four councillors to three, and it was Labour who lost from this: the SNP took over first place with 36% of the first preferences, the Conservatives were second with 32% and Labour tell to third on 27%. All three of those parties won one seat each; in fact, all of the winning candidates (Lorna Binnie for the SNP, John Patrick for the Conservatives and Pat Reid for Labour) got over the 25% required for election on first preferences alone, so there was no need to go to transfers.

Falkirk, 2017

That was back in May 2017, since when we have had two general elections to Westminster and one to Holyrood. The ward is part of the Falkirk constituency at Westminster (where an awful Labour performance in 2019 was exacerbated by their candidate being disendorsed for anti-Semitism), while in Holyrood the vast majority of the ward is in Falkirk West with the rural hinterland included in Falkirk East. All of these are SNP units with large majorities.

There is not too long to go now before the next Scottish local elections in May 2022, and the six-month rule cutoff point is fast approaching. Currently this column is aware of three Scottish vacancies: this one, a Tory seat in the Highlands which will go to a by-election at the start of December, and a very messy situation involving independent Renfrewshire councillor Paul Mack. That story is too long to explain here without digressing too far from Falkirk: suffice to say it's one for the Councillors Behaving Badly file. In short, the Standards Commission for Scotland has disqualified Mack from office (again) for bad behaviour (again); Mack has appealed against the decision (again); and the by-election is on hold (again) while the appeal is sorted out (again).

If we don't get a final resolution to the Paul Mack saga soon, and no other Scottish vacancies arise in the next month, then this will be the last Scottish by-election in the central belt during this council term. So, everyone will be looking to make a good impression.

This by-election arises from the resignation of Labour councillor Pat Reid, who is retiring from public life at the age of 79. Reid's connection with Falkirk council lasted for more than six decades, as he started working for the council in 1959 while still a boy; he retired from its employment in 2002 as head of administration, won a by-election to the council in 2004 and ended up serving for ten years (2007-2017) as Provost of Falkirk. During those years Reid represented Falkirk North ward; he transferred here in 2017 after that ward lost its fourth councillor.

Following the May 2017 local elections the Scottish National Party were the largest group on Falkirk council with 12 councillors, and they have formed a minority administration with the support of two independent councillors. Labour (9) and the Conservatives (7) are in opposition. An SNP gain in this by-election would give the SNP/Independent administration half of the seats on the council.

If we re-run the 2017 count in Falkirk south for one seat it goes to transfers, with the SNP winning by the narrow margin of 2,868 to 2,727 over the Conservatives. Labour would have more comfortably beaten either the Conservatives or the SNP in a head-to-head, but to do that they need to get into the top two. And they're starting from third place.

Defending this difficult seat for Labour is James Marshall, a former community councillor in Denny who has retired after a 30-year career in waste management and recycling. The SNP candidate is Emma Russell, who is studying for a masters degree in Human Resources and is a former vice-chair of a dementia services charity. Standing for the Conservatives is Sarah Patrick; the daughter of the present Conservative ward councillor John Patrick, Sarah is a solicitor and an elder with the Falkirk Trinity Church. Completing the ballot paper, as they did in 2017, are the Scottish Green Party who have selected Stuart Duffin.

Parliamentary constituency: Falkirk
Scottish Parliament constituency: Falkirk West (most), Falkirk East (rural part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Falkirk and Stirling
Postcode district: FK1

Stuart Duffin (Grn)
James Marshall (Lab)
Sarah Patrick (C)
Emma Russell (SNP)

May 2017 first preferences SNP 2216 C 1993 Lab 1686 Grn 315
Previous results in detail


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


Previewing the six council by-elections of 07 Oct 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

Before we start this week, I regret that there is an entry for Correction Corner. In last week's preview for the Hetton by-election in Sunderland I stated that independent candidate Maurice Allen was a disgraced former police officer. In fact the Maurice Allen who stood in the by-election is the son of the disgraced police officer of the same name. My apologies to both Maurice Allens for the error.

There are seven by-elections on 7th October 2021. It's Tory conference week, and that party is on the front foot in the sense that they are not defending in any of the polls today. There are four Lib Dem seats up for election in Taunton, Surrey and greater Nottingham, in at least some of which the Conservatives might fancy their chances, and there is a wildcard Independent versus Labour contest in north Wales. But we start in England, in Nottingham proper, with two safe Labour defences...

St Ann's; and
Sherwood

Nottingham council; caused respectively by the resignations of Labour councillors Chantal Lee and Lauren O'Grady.

Welcome to Nottingham, one of the three cities that vie for primacy over the East Midlands. Like many places north of the Trent, Nottingham boomed during the industrial revolution as a textile centre, specialising in the manufacture of lace. Also like many places north of the Trent, this led to rather a lot of poor-quality housing being built, much of which has now been redeveloped.

The patron saint of lace makers is St Anne, and a district of nineteenth-century housing north-east of the city centre for the working poor of Nottingham was named after her. St Ann's has always been a poor area of Nottingham, and in the postwar period this led to a large number of Caribbean immigrants to Nottingham being housed here. There were race riots in St Ann's in August 1958.

Nottingham, St Ann's

There has been a lot of redevelopment here as you might have seen from the acclaimed 2006 film This Is England, much of which was filmed in St Ann's. The slum terraces have been replaced by new council estates, but the area is still at the wrong end of the deprivation indices and the demographic profile remains highly multicultural more than six decades after the St Ann's riots. In the 2011 census St Ann's ward (which then had slightly different boundaries) was number 2 of all the wards in England and Wales for mixed-race population, at 9.9%. (Number 1 was Princes Park ward in Liverpool, or in other words Toxteth: see Andrew's Previews 2019, page 321.) St Ann's also had the highest black population (13.9%) of any ward in the East Midlands. Nearly half of all the ward's households are socially rented. As well as St Ann's itself, the current ward boundaries take in part of the city centre including the Victoria Centre, a 1970s shopping mall built on the site of the former Nottingham Victoria railway station.

Nottingham, Sherwood

Nottingham's Sherwood ward lies a mile or two north of the city centre, along the main road towards Mansfield. This ward takes in Nottingham City Hospital, a teaching hospital run by Nottingham University which is a major centre for cancer care and shoulder surgery.

Both of these wards form part of the Nottingham East parliamentary constituency, which is currently represented by the Baby of the House Nadia Whittome. Whittome was born in Nottingham in August 1996, which makes her now 25 years old, and is of mixed immigrant stock herself: her father is a Punjabi Sikh, her mother an Anglo-Indian Catholic. She was elected in December 2019 with a large majority in what is currently a safe Labour seat: the previous Labour MP Chris Leslie, who had defected to Change UK, lost his deposit seeking re-election under his new banner.

In local elections, the city of Nottingham (which, as we shall see, only covers a fraction of the city's urban area) has swung a long way to the left over the last decade. Sherwood ward split its seats betwen two Labour and one Conservative councillor in 2003, but the Conservatives lost that seat in a by-election later that year. It's now as safe as St Ann's, whose vote shares change little from year to year.

Both outgoing councillors were first elected in 2019 and resigned just over halfway through their first terms of office. Councillor O'Grady of Sherwood ward was one of a number of Nottingham councillors who formed the board of Robin Hood Energy, a not-for-profit energy supplier which the council had set up in 2015. Robin Hood Energy inspired a number of other copycat municipal utility firms, all of which - given the cash-starved state of our local government - ran into financial trouble well before the current headwinds in the energy supply market. Nottingham council was eventually forced to close Robin Hood Energy down in September 2020, with the company's customer accounts being sold to British Gas.

Nottingham, 2019

On revised boundaries at the May 2019 election, both St Ann's and Sherwood wards gave 65% to the Labour slate and 14% to their nearest challengers - an independent in St Ann's, the Conservatives in Sherwood. Labour won a clean sweep of all 50 Nottingham city council seats north of the Trent, with the five councillors for the isolated Clifton estate splitting three to an independent slate and two to the Conservatives.

Before turning to the candidate lists, we should pay tribute to one candidate who is not standing this time. David Bishop has been entertaining the returning officers of Nottingham and other areas for many years as a perennial election candidate, being one of those people who are prepared to fill out the paperwork and (in the case of a Parliamentary election) hand over £500 in order to get their picture on the TV from an election count while wearing fancy dress. The name of Bishop's registration with the Electoral Commission - "Church of the Militant Elvis Party" - gives you an idea of what his fancy dress costume is. Time waits for none of us, and if you are old enough to remember Elvis Presley performing live you are now in a dwindling minority of the UK's population. Bishop has recently passed the age of 75, and after a number of entertaining by-election campaigns over the last 24 years it would appear that he has finally decided to hang up his blue suede shoes. He never came anywhere near winning any of those contests, although he did notoriously once finish ahead of the Lib Dems in a by-election to Nottingham city council.

With Elvis having left the ballot, the voters in the St Ann's and Sherwood by-elections will both have six candidates to choose from. In St Ann's the defending Labour candidate is former Nottingham city councillor Corall Jenkins, who represented Clifton South ward from 2015 to 2019; Clifton South was abolished in boundary changes that year, and Jenkins lost re-election in the new Clifton East ward to the Nottingham Independents slate. That party have selected Franceso Lari to stand against Jenkins; Lari is a parish councillor for St Albans parish, just outside the Nottingham city limits on the northern edge of the built-up area, and he runs an IT company. Also standing are Ngoc Thanh Tran for the Conservatives, James Housley for the Lib Dems, Florence Chadwick for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and Barbara Coulson for the Green Party.

The defending Labour candidate in Sherwood ward also has previous experience in local elections. Nayab Patel has recently moved to the city from Redditch in Worcestershire, and she was a Labour candidate for Redditch council in 2016, 2018 (losing a seat Labour were defending) and 2019. The Conservatives start second here and they have selected Alfie Pryor, who is described as having a wide background of experience in catering, the care sector and community work. The other four candidates are Alison Rouse for the Lib Dems, Colin Barratt for the Nottingham Independents, Catriona Sibert for the Green Party and Geraint Thomas for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

St Ann's

Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode districts: NG1, NG2, NG3

Florence Chadwick (TUSC)
Barbara Coulson (Grn)
James Housley (LD)
Corall Jenkins (Lab)
Franesco Lari (Nottingham Ind)
Ngoc Thanh Tran (C)

May 2019 result Lab 1990/1900/1838 Ind 434 C 335/329/252 LD 322
Previous results in detail

Sherwood

Parliamentary constituency: Nottingham East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode districts: NG3, NG5

Colin Barratt (Nottingham Ind)
Nayab Patel (Lab)
Alfie Pryor (C)
Alison Rouse (LD)
Catriona Sibert (Grn)
Geraint Thomas (TUSC)

May 2019 result Lab 2773/2715/2634 C 599/556/481 LD 529/490/406 UKIP 372/365/357
Previous results in detail

Musters

Rushcliffe council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Annie Major.

Rushcliffe, Musters

We now travel over the Trent to the southern end of Nottingham's built-up area. Despite being the home of Nottingham Forest FC and Nottinghamshire county cricket club, West Bridgford - on the south side of the Trent Bridge - has never been incorporated into Nottingham and has always remained an independent town. This is a strongly middle-class area favoured by Nottingham's professional classes, and in the 2011 census all of the top three wards in the East Midlands for people with degree-level qualifications were in West Bridgford. One of them is Musters ward.

Located in the south of the town, Musters ward is named after the Musters family, who owned much of the town - including the Trent Bridge cricket ground - until the First World War. The family placed strict restrictions on the housing along Musters Road when it was built, with tree-lined streets, minimum bedroom numbers and constraints on housing density. You can see why this has become a middle-class enclave. A majority of the ward's workforce are in managerial or professional occupations, and Musters is in the top 75 in England and Wales (and number 2 in the East Midlands) for the ONS' higher managerial and professional employment category.

The fact that the local secondary school is rather good helps this image too. The Rushcliffe Spencer Academy (recently renamed from "Rushcliffe School") regularly comes near the top of the annual league tables for comprehensive schools, and its former pupils include one current MP (the South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis), the Sun editor Victoria Newton (whose father served as deputy headmaster of the school), and a number of recent Olympic gymnasts.

Rushcliffe, 2019

This ward has been in Liberal Democrat hands since 2007. At the most recent elections to Rushcliffe council in May 2019 the Liberal Democrat slate had 57% of the vote, well ahead of the second-placed Conservatives on 23%. The ward is split between two divisions of Nottinghamshire county council, both of which remained in Conservative hands after May's county elections. The Labour candidate for West Bridgford West in the May 2017 county elections was Nadia Whittome, in her first election campaign; four years on, her successor got a swing towards Labour which has turned the division marginal. None of Musters ward is in a marginal Parliamentary seat, though: Ken Clarke represented West Bridgford, as part of the Rushcliffe constituency, in the Tory interest for 49 years and his successor Ruth Edwards has a safe enough seat for now. Rushcliffe council also has a Conservative majority.

The Musters ward by-election follows the resignation of Lib Dem councillor Annie Majors, who had served since 2019 and was in her first term of office. She is relocating with her family to Switzerland.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Vicky Price, who runs an IT consultancy business: as a cricket fan, it's appropriated that she contested her home Trent Bridge ward in May 2019. The Conservatives' Paul Coe, a retired chemist, has also previously contested Trent Bridge ward, in 2003 and 2015; he is looking to return to Rushcliffe council after many years away, having previously represented the town's Lady Bay ward between 1983 and 1991. Completing the ballot paper is Julie Chaplain for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Rushcliffe
Nottinghamshire county council division: West Bridgford West (part west of Musters Road), West Bridgford South (part east of Musters Road)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Nottingham
Postcode district: NG2

Julie Chaplain (Lab)
Paul Coe (C)
Vicky Price (LD)

May 2019 result LD 917/873 C 379/311 Lab 320/278
May 2015 result LD 1209/1158 C 814/723 Lab 596/586
Previous results in detail

Penyffordd

Flintshire council, Wales; caused by the death of independent councillor Dave Williams.

Flintshire, Penyffordd

For our wildcard this week we travel to north Wales, a few miles to the south-west of Chester. Penyffordd - "the summit of the road" - is a largish village on the road between Wrexham and Queensferry, in the Alyn valley. The valley forms an obvious communication link given the high ground of the Clwydian range to the west, and Penyffordd retains a railway station on the Borderlands line between Wrexham and the Wirral.

The Penyffordd ward runs along the main road to the north to take in the villages of Penymynydd and Dobs Hill, the latter lying on the busy A55 road through North Wales. The ward is in the top 10 wards in Wales for Apprenticeship qualifications, which is almost certainly driven by the nearby presence of the Airbus factory at Broughton. This employs 6,000 people making wings for Airbus commercial aircraft, and underpins the economy of this part of Flintshire.

Flintshire, 2017

This by-election could be crucial for control of Flintshire council. This has been hung since 2008, but the 2017 elections left Labour close to a majority with 34 seats; they run the council as a minority against 24 independents (plus this vacancy), six Conservatives and five Lib Dems. A gain in this by-election would give Labour half of the seats on the council.

Penyffordd's local elections tend not to be exciting ones. Flintshire's ward boundaries were last reviewed for the 1999 local elections, and ever since then the ward has returned one Labour councillor and one independent. No party other than Labour has stood here in that timeframe. The late Dave Williams had served since 2008, when he gained his seat from independent councillor Colin Bithell by 7 votes; the result that year gave 630 votes to new Labour councillor Cindy Hinds, 629 to Williams and 622 to Bithell. Williams increased his majority over Bithell to 201 votes in 2012, and that was the last contested election here. Nobody opposed Hinds and Williams at the last Welsh local elections in 2017, at which Penyffordd division's boundaries were realigned to match changes to the community boundaries in the area (the map at the top shows the current boundaries, the Flintshire 2017 map hasn't been updated and shows the old lines).

That electoral history is rather unusual, given this ward's presence in a marginal Parliamentary seat. Alyn and Deeside has had only three MPs, all Labour, since it was created in 1950 under the name of East Flintshire; but Mark Tami, the last remaining Labour MP in North Wales, won his sixth term of office in December 2019 with a majority of just 213 votes over Conservative candidate Sanjoy Sen. (Your columnist has since had the pleasure of playing quiz against Sen: he knows his stuff.) This column extensively previewed Alyn and Deeside for the Senedd by-election there in February 2018 (Andrew's Previews 2018, pages 38 to 46): Jack Sergeant, who held that by-election for Labour following the suicide of his father, was re-elected as the constituency's MS in May by the convincing margin of 4,378.

However, yet again we have a Penyffordd contest which is entirely Labour versus Independent. There are three competing independent candidates seeking to take over Williams' seat, all of whom are Penyffordd community councillors. To take them in ballot paper order, Pat Ransome has been on the community council on and off since the 1990s and she is a school governor at Ysgol Penyffordd; Steve Saxon is a former professional wrestler who works as a wrestling promoter and as general manager of the Red Lion in Penyffordd; and Roy Wakelam is the vice-chairman of the community council for 2021-22. Hoping to come through the middle of all this is community councillor Alasdair Ibbotson, who already has a parliamentary campaign under his belt: Ibbotson was the Green candidate for Alyn and Deeside in the 2015 general election, when he was 20 years old, but six years on he is now firmly in the Labour camp.

Parliamentary and Senedd constituency: Alyn and Deeside
ONS Travel to Work Area: Chester
Postcode districts: CH4, CH5, CH7

Alasdair Ibbotson (Lab)
Pat Ransome (Ind)
Steve Saxon (Ind)
Roy Wakelam (Ind)

May 2017 result Lab/Ind unopposed
May 2012 result Lab 812 Ind 563/362
May 2008 result Lab 630 Ind 629/622
June 2004 result Ind 694 Lab 693/446
May 1999 result Ind 758/607 Lab 696/451
Previous results in detail

Cranleigh East

Waverley council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Richard Cole.

Waverley, Cranleigh East

We now move to the Home Counties to consider one claimant for the hotly-contested title of "largest village in England". Located around seven miles south of Guildford, Cranleigh parish contains around 11,000 souls most of whom live in Cranleigh itself. The ward is a centre for the local area but has few major industries: agriculture (in the form of plant nurseries) and the independent Cranleigh School form large sections of the local economy. Cranleigh is one of Surrey's more remote areas, lying off the main roads and with Beeching having closed the local railway station many years ago.

The Cranleigh East ward contains most of the village and returns three members of Waverley council, which is named after Waverley Abbey and covers the towns to the west and south of Guildford. Farnham and Godalming are its main population centres. This district and the neighbouring Guildford district saw extraordinarily high Conservative losses in tha May 2019 local elections. In 2015 the Conservatives had won 53 seats on Waverley council out of a possible 57; four years later they crashed to 23 seats, with 15 going to the Farnham Residents slate, 14 to the Liberal Democrats, 2 each to Labour and the Green Party and one to an independent. The independent councillor died shortly afterwards and the resulting by-election in February 2020 returned another independent candidate (Andrew's Previews 2020, page 37). All the non-Conservative councillors have formed a coalition to run the council.

Cranleigh East ward had a bit of a Lib Dem tradition from when that party had a majority on this council back in the Noughties. In 2003 the ward returned split representation of two Lib Dem councillors and one Conservative; the Lib Dems held their seat at a by-election in July 2004 and gained the Conservative seat in 2007. The Tories subsequently won a full slate in 2011 and 2015, on the latter occasion with a 45-25 lead over the Liberal Democrats (an independent finished third with 16%). So the 2019 result was a bit of a turnaround: the Lib Dem slate polled 45% and gained two seats from the Conservatives, who polled 39% and held one seat.

Waverley, 2019

Subsequent results have shown that this was not a flash in the pan. Cranleigh is part of the Guildford parliamentary seat, which saw a large swing to the Liberal Democrats in December 2019 and is now firmly in the marginal column. Matters on the Tory side were not helped by the outgoing Conservative MP for Guildford Anne Milton being thrown out of the party for voting in Parliament against a no-deal Brexit. Milton stood for re-election as an independent, and saved her deposit. Then, in the Surrey county council elections five months ago the Liberal Democrats narrowly gained the Cranleigh and Ewhurst division from the Conservatives. That seat had previously been safe Tory, and from 2009 to 2011 its county councillor was Jonathan Lord who is now the MP for Woking.

This by-election follows the resignation of Lib Dem district councillor Richard Cole, who had been the losing runner-up here in the 2017 county council elections. Cole has reportedly relocated to Devon. Like nearly all the ruling councillors in Waverley, he was in his first term on the council.

The candidate list for the by-election reveals a straight fight. Defending in the yellow corner is Philip Townsend, who runs a gardening firm and is the husband of the ward's newly-elected county councillor Liz Townsend. Challenging from the blue corner is Rosemary Burbridge, a teacher who represents the ward on Cranleigh parish council.

I can't leave Cranleigh without giving you some music. One of the most prolific composers you've never heard of, Derek Bourgeois (1941-2017), attended Cranleigh School and later became a music teacher there. For his first wedding in 1965 Bourgeois composed his Serenade, a lovely piece of music which was designed to be impossible to march to and therefore is rather a test for a military band. Bourgeois's Serenade is on the programme for your columnist's military band in our first concert back this weekend: if you can get to All Saints Church, Hindley, Wigan on Saturday night for 7:30pm, we'd love to see you in the audience.

Parliamentary constituency: Guildford
Surrey county council division: Cranleigh and Ewhurst
ONS Travel to Work Area: Guildford and Aldershot
Postcode district: GU6

Rosemary Burbridge (C)
Philip Townsend (LD)

May 2019 result LD 779/702/664 C 678/648/610 Lab 280
May 2015 result C 1652/1600/1570 LD 901/879/831 Ind 600 Lab 509/490
May 2011 result C 1219/1201/970 LD 850/804/745 Lab 394/387
May 2007 result LD 1237/1173/1170 C 1121/1093/1031
July 2004 by-election LD 936 C 855 Lab 156
May 2003 result LD 1029/975/884 C 915/836/803 Lab 228/210/189
Previous results in detail

Comeytrowe and Trull

Somerset county council; and

Wilton and Sherford

Somerset West and Taunton council; both caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Alan Wedderkopp.

We finish the week with yet another visit to the district of Somerset West and Taunton. This is getting beyond a joke, now. Somerset West and Taunton council has only existed for two-and-a-half-years, and this is the sixth by-election that has been held to it and the fourth this year. There are some councils out there that haven't yet got to six by-elections so far this century. Sort it out, please.

Somerset CC, Comeytrowe and Trull

Anyway, we're in the Somerset county council division of Comeytrowe and Trull. Trull parish covers the rural area immediately to the south of Taunton, but most of the division's electors live in 1970s and 1980s estates on the southern fringe of Taunton. Although this is an integral part of the Taunton urban area, only the area of Wilton and Sherford ward (the north-east corner of the division, mapped below) is actually part of Taunton proper. Instead the majority of the electors live in the parish of Comeytrowe, which was created in 1986 from an area previously included in Trull parish.

SWAT, Wilton/Sherford

At the time of the 2011 census, this area was covered by two-and-a-half wards of what was then Taunton Deane district: Comeytrowe, Trull, and the southern half of Taunton Manor and Wilton. Both Comeytrowe, and Manor and Wilton wards made the top 50 wards in England and Wales for those employed in human health and social work activities: many of those will work at Musgrove Park Hospital, the largest acute hospital in Somerset, which is just outside the boundary. Manor and Wilton ward also made the top 60 wards in England and Wales for population aged 85 or over, which is surprising to say the least given that it included much of the town centre; presumably the boundaries took in an unusually large number of nursing homes.

Somerset CC, 2017

In Taunton Deane district elections this century Comeytrowe ward was consistently Lib Dem, Manor and Wilton was consistently Conservative (although not all of it was in this division), and Trull was strongly Conservative but had a small electorate. The Comeytrowe and Trull county division was created in 2013 as a cut-down version of the former Taunton and Trull division, which was a rather curiously drawn Conservative-held marginal; by contrast, in its two elections to date Comeytrowe and Trull has been a Lib Dem-held marginal. Alan Wedderkopp was re-elected for a second term in May 2017 (mapped above) with a 48-40 lead over the Conservatives; the May 2021 county elections were cancelled pending another reorganisation of Somerset's local government.

SWAT, 2019

That reorganisation may mean that the 2019 Somerset West and Taunton election proves to be only ordinary election to that council. The two maps above form quite the contrast, don't they? In May 2019 the Liberal Democrats rather unexpectedly won a majority, with 30 seats against 14 independents, just 10 Conservatives, 3 Labour and 2 Greens. Comeytrowe parish was included in a ward with Bishop's Hull, which returned an independent and two Lib Dems; Trull parish was included in a large rural ward with Pitminster and Corfe, which surprisingly returned two Lib Dems; and the brand-new ward of Wilton and Sherford returned the Lib Dems' Alan Wedderkopp with a 68-32 majority over the Tories in a straight fight. The Lib Dems subsequently gained two seats in by-elections (Andrew's Previews 2019, pages 284 and 311), and also held Trull, Pitminster and Corfe ward in a by-election held on 6 May this year. However, they have also suffered from defections, and if the Wilton and Sherford by-election is lost their overall majority will be gone.

Frederick Alan Wedderkopp died in July at the age of 89. He had a long and varied life. Wedderkopp was brought up in North Shields where his father was a docker, served in the Korean War (although he never saw action), and spent most of his career in the oil industry, ending up supervising the running of entire rigs in the North Sea. After leaving the rigs he ended up in Taunton as a taxi driver, got into politics and served as a Lib Dem councillor for a total of eighteen years.

Defending Wedderkopp's county council seat is Dawn Johnson, who won the district by-election for Trull, Pitminster and Corfe ward in May and now has the chance to double up at district and county council level. For how long, who knows? Ruth Harmon also has the chance to double up as she is the Conservative candidate for both the county and district by-elections; she is involved with the Wilton and Sherford Community Association. Completing the ballot paper is Michael McGuffie for Labour.

A different set of three parties contest the Wilton and Sherford by-election for the district council. Here the defending Lib Dem candidate is Tom Deakin, a digital consultant who has recently moved to Taunton from Exeter. As stated Ruth Harmon is the Conservative candidate, and also standing here is Fran Hicks for the Green Party.

Comeytrowe and Trull

Parliamentary constituency: Taunton Deane
Somerset and West and Taunton wards: Wilton and Sherford; Comeytrowe and Bishop's Hull (part); Trull, Pitminster and Corfe (part); Vivary (part)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Taunton
Postcode districts: TA1, TA3, TA4, TA21

Ruth Harmon (C)
Dawn Johnson (LD)
Michael McGuffie (Lab)

May 2017 result LD 1790 C 1496 Lab 219 Grn 132 UKIP 128
May 2013 result LD 1498 C 1164 UKIP 713 Lab 243 Grn 139
Previous results in detail

Wilton and Sherford

Parliamentary constituency: Taunton Deane
Somerset county council division: Comeytrowe and Trull
ONS Travel to Work Area: Taunton
Postcode district: TA1

Tom Deakin (LD)
Ruth Harmon (C)
Fran Hicks (Grn)

May 2019 result LD 692 C 320
Previous results in detail


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


Previewing the council by-elections of 30 Sep 2021

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

Before we start this week, I am proud to make the following announcement:

Andrew's Previews 2020

Andrew's Previews 2020

The fifth annual paperback collection of Andrew's Previews is now available for purchase! Much shorter than previous year's editions for obvious reasons, this is a printed book containing all of last year's by-election columns (with some edits and updates), together with previously unpublished material. We have contemporary discussions of local by-elections as the majority Johnson government delivers Brexit and the stormclouds gather, and break. Some electoral action did take place in the UK last year despite everything, and it's all described here. Andrew's Previews 2020 will make an excellent present for the psephologist in your family, and you can get it here.

In case you're not yet sold, Andrew's Previews 2020 has a lot of pieces like the ones below. We have six by-elections to cover today, Thursday 30th September. This may have been Labour conference week, but the party has few obvious targets today with one seat to defend. There are three Conservative defences and one free-for-all to be discussed later, but we start in Kent with a seat the Liberal Democrats will be trying to get back...

Priory

Swale council, Kent; caused by the resignation of councillor Benjamin A Martin, who was elected for the Liberal Democrats but sitting as an independent.

Swale, Priory

It's the last day of September, and the big ship sails on the alley-alley-o; so it's appropriate to end the month by starting in an old port. On a creek off the Swale, which separates the Isle of Sheppey from the Kent coast, can be found the town of Faversham which was quite an important port back in the day. In mediaeval times Faversham was a junior member of the Cinque Ports, as a limb of Dover, and before that it was an important stopping-point on the Roman road from the Channel and Canterbury to Londinium. Many pilgrims would have passed through here on the way to Canterbury and the shrine of Thomas Becket.

In England, important mediaeval towns often had a religious institution or two, founded by and enjoying the patronage of kings and nobles. Faversham was particularly favoured by King Stephen, who founded the Cluniac Faversham Abbey in 1148, during the Anarchy. Stephen's wife Queen Matilda, who was countess of Boulogne in her own right, was buried in Faversham Abbey in 1152 and Stephen himself was interred there two years later. Unfortunately they are not lying in eternal rest: their graves were disturbed when Faversham Abbey was demolished, and a 1964 excavation found their tomb to be empty.

One of King Stephen's last acts was to found another religious house in Faversham. Davington Priory was established in 1153 as a nunnery, under the Benedictine rule. The priory became defunct when its last nun died at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, but some of its buildings survive today. The priory church's nave is still in use as a parish church, and part of the cloister was converted into a house which was bought in 1982 by Bob Geldof. Geldof was reportedly still living in Davington Priory in 2013, and his many honours include the freedom of the Borough of Swale, which the council awarded him in 1986.

The grounds of the former Davington Priory have long been swallowed up into the town of Faversham. In more modern times this area was the centre of the British explosives industry, but the gunpowder factories were all closed in the 1930s as they were too close to the Continent. That left brewing as the town's longest-standing industry: Shepherd Neame claims to be the UK's oldest brewery still in production, with an official foundation date of 1698.

Faversham is divided into four electoral wards, of which Priory is the northern one. The present ward was created by a boundary review in 2015 but has effectively the same boundaries as the Davington Priory ward which existed before then. In the 2011 census Davington Priory's population was 96.5% White British, which is nothing special on the national level but was the second-highest figure for any ward in Kent; the ward also has high levels of social renting and a working-class demographic profile.

Swale, 2019

This doesn't translate to a Labour-voting ward. Swale council does have a decent-sized Labour group these days, but most of the party's councillors represent wards in Sittingbourne or Sheerness. Instead, Faversham is the district's Liberal Democrat hotspot. The Lib Dems' Michael Henderson gained Davington Priory ward from the Conservatives in 2008, was re-elected as a Lib Dem in 2011, and won a third term in the renamed Priory ward in 2015 as an independent candidate without Lib Dem opposition. Henderson stood down in 2019 and his seat went back to his old party; the new Lib Dem candidate Benjamin A Martin won with a 52-29 lead over the Conservatives. I have given Martin's full name and middle initial here because there were two Faversham Lib Dem councillors both called Ben Martin, and the other one (who represents Watling ward, and is the leader of the council's Lib Dem group) is still in situ.

The 2019 Swale elections saw the Conservatives lose their majority, and a Labour-led rainbow coalition was put together to run the council. That coalition currently controls 25 seats on the council (10 Labour, 10 Swale Independents, 3 Lib Dems and 2 Greens) plus this vacancy, with the opposition consisting of 17 Conservatives, three independents and a councillor who was elected as UKIP and is now in Reform UK. There was a by-election in May in Sheerness ward, which the Conservatives gained from Labour; also in May we had the Kent county council elections, in which the Lib Dems increased their majority over the Conservatives in Faversham division.

Defending this by-election for the Lib Dems is Michael Henderson, who has extensive electoral experience in this ward: he first stood here in 1988 for what was then the Social and Liberal Democrats, and he represented Davington Priory from 1992 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2019. As stated above, Henderson's last re-election was as an independent, but he is now back in the Lib Dem fold. He is up against another candidate with a long history in the ward: the Tories' Andy Culham, who lost here in 2011, 2015 and 2019 and was also the unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Faversham in May's county elections. Completing the ballot paper are Frances Rehal for Labour and Viv Moore for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Faversham and Mid Kent
Kent county council division: Faversham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Canterbury
Postcode district: ME13

Andy Culham (C)
Michael Henderson (LD)
Viv Moore (Grn)
Frances Rehal (Lab)

May 2019 result LD 382 C 215 Lab 86 Grn 55
May 2015 result Ind 610 C 356 Lab 196 Grn 61
(Previous results for Davington Priory ward)
May 2011 result LD 360 C 256 Lab 145 Grn 60
May 2008 result LD 495 C 235 Lab 121
June 2004 result C 429 Lab 224
May 2002 result C 414 Lab 254

Horndean Downs

East Hampshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tony Denton.

E Hants, Horndean Downs

For our other by-election in the South East we come to an area of much more recent vintage than Faversham. The village of Horndean can be found at the northern end of the Portsmouth-Havant urban area, running along the A3 dual carriageway towards Petersfield and London. Horndean has seen large population growth in the last few decades, and some of this has been concentrated in a large and rather isolated housing development to the west of the A3, north of the original village and running seamlessly into the village of Clanfield to the north. The dual carriageway forms a hard eastern boundary to the estate and ward, and the open ground on the far side of the A3 is now part of the South Downs national park.

This area became a ward of its own in 2003 under the name of Horndean Downs, having previously been associated with the village of Catherington to the west. Horndean Downs was Liberal Democrat at its first election in 2003, but the Conservatives gained the ward in 2007 by a 9-vote majority and have now made it safe. In May 2019, on slighlty revised boundaries, Horndean Downs gave 53% to the new Conservative candidate Tony Denton, 19% to independent candidate David Alexander (who had also finished second here in 2015, on that occasion with the UKIP nomination) and 16% to the Green Party. Horndean Downs is part of the Conservative majority on both East Hampshire council and Hampshire county council; the local county division (Catherington) was safe Conservative in May.

This by-election is caused by the resignation of Tony Denton from East Hampshire council for the second time in five years. He had been elected in 2015 as a Conservative councillor for the neighbouring Clanfield and Finchdean ward, but didn't last a year before resigning due to pressure of work; a by-election for his previous seat was held in May 2016. Denton returned to East Hampshire council in 2019, representing this ward. Then in May 2021 he was elected to the neighbouring Havant council, gaining his seat from UKIP, and subsequently joined that council's cabinet. He has presumably stood down from East Hampshire council to concentrate on his new elected role.

Defending for the Conservatives is Jonathan Whtifield. Independent candidate David Alexander is back for another go after two second-place finishes. The Green Party have selected Blossom Gottlieb, a writer, podcaster and Petersfield town councillor, who completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Meon Valley
Hampshire county council division: Catherington
ONS Travel to Work Area: Portsmouth
Postcode district: PO8

David Alexander (Ind)
Blossom Gottlieb (Grn)
Jonathan Whitfield (C)

May 2019 result C 425 Ind 151 Grn 128 LD 103

The Rows

West Suffolk council; caused by the death of independent councillor John Smith.

Last week Andrew's Previews was in the Cambridgeshire town of Soham, describing a by-election in Soham North ward which the Conservatives eventually gained from the Liberal Democrats. We now turn to one of Soham North's neighbouring wards, over the county boundary in Suffolk, to see if the Conservatives can gain that one too.

The eponymous Rows here are three villages to the west of Mildenhall: Beck Row, Holywell Row and West Row. The ward also takes in the village of Kenny Hill and a large area of fenland to the west. West Row has gone down in history as the place where the Mildenhall Treasure was discovered by a local farmer; this collection of Roman silver masterpieces can now be seen in the British Museum.

At the time of the 2011 census this area was part of the Eriswell and the Rows ward of what was then Forest Heath district. This ward had a very unusual census return. In 2011 Eriswell and the Rows ranked number 1 in England and Wales for people with non-UK qualifications, number 5 in England and Wales for the proportion of households living rent-free, made the top 20 wards in England and Wales for people born outside the UK or an EU country and for the White Other ethnic group, made the top 40 wards in England and Wales for "intermediate" occupations, and had the highest mixed-race population of any ward in the Eastern region (6.7%). This is the sort of return you'd expect to see in London or another city with a large immigrant population, not in rural Suffolk.

W Suffolk, The Rows

Well, the reason for this is not hard to seek. In between the Rows villages lies RAF Mildenhall, which for over sixty years has been on the front line of the Cold War and subsequent conflicts as the United States Air Force's main base in Britain. Since 1959 Mildenhall has been the main point of entry to the UK for American service personnel. Among its most recent arrivals was President Biden, who landed here in June on his way to the G7 summit in Cornwall and addressed US troops here.

RAF Mildenhall is a major local employer and its population dwarfs that of the Rows, but very few if any of the military personnel there will have the right to vote in this by-election. Instead it's the villagers who will decide this election in an area whose administrative boundaries have been subject to some flux in recent years. The whole of this ward was part of Mildenhall parish (hence the name "Mildenhall Treasure") until 1999, when Beck Row, Holywell Row and Kenny Hill declared independence. West Row also subsequently became a parish of its own, as recently as May 2019.

That May 2019 reorganisation also extended to the district council. From the 1970s the local authority had been Forest Heath, a district with a rather low population based on Mildenhall and Newmarket. Forest Heath district was effectively taken over by the neighbouring St Edmundsbury district in 2019, the two fusing into a new district with the name West Suffolk.

West Suffolk, 2019

This merger went down pretty badly in the former Forest Heath area, which had been strongly Conservative: the wards covering that area returned a majority of independent councillors in May 2019. The Rows ward voted for an independent slate of John Smith (who had contested the former Eriswell and the Rows ward with both the Lib Dem and West Suffolk Independent nominations in previous elections) and Donald Waldron, who beat the Conservative slate 61-39 in a straight fight.

Subsequent election results suggest that the Conservatives are well on the way to recovery here. They have performed well in a number of subsequent by-elections to West Suffolk council, including a gain from an independent in the neighbouring Lakenheath ward in May. This ward is covered by the Row Heath division of Suffolk county council, where the Conservatives had a big lead in May. Mind, the less said about the local Tory MP (Matt Hancock) the better.

This by-election arises from the death of John Smith, who passed away in June after a short but difficult illness. Smith had one of the major advocates of the new parish council for West Row, and he had hit the headlines in March last year with a campaign for the Mildenhall Treasure to be renamed as the West Row Treasure.

There is no independent candidate to replace John Smith, so we have a free-for-all! On paper the Conservatives look best-placed to gain The Rows ward, and their defending candidate has extensive local government experience. Matt Hancock's election agent Lance Stanbury served from 1995 to 2004 on Welwyn Hatfield council in Hertfordshire, and was leader of that council for two years; more recently he had sat on Forest Heath council from 2015 to 2019 for Red Lodge ward, serving in that council's cabinet until its abolition. Stanbury now lives in West Row and was on the defeated Conservative slate here in 2019. He is opposed by two candidates, Theresa Chipulina for Labour (who was a distant runner-up here in May's county council elections) and Robert Pinsker for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: West Suffolk
Suffolk county council division: Row Heath
ONS Travel to Work Area: Thetford and Mildenhall
Postcode districts: CB7, IP27, IP28

Theresa Chipulina (Lab)
Robert Pinsker (LD)
Lance Stanbury (C)

May 2019 result Ind 636/467 C 402/306

Tutbury and Outwoods

East Staffordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Gary Raybould.

E Staffs, Tutbury/Outwoods

For our Midlands by-election we come to the valley of the River Dove. This forms an obvious communication link between the high ground of the Peak District to the north and Needwood Forest to the south, and the main road and railway line from Stoke-on-Trent to Derby run through the Dove valley. However, the Dove is also a county and regional boundary: Derbyshire and the village of Hatton are located on the left bank, Staffordshire and the village of Tutbury on the right.

Overlooking the right bank of the Dove is what's left of Tutbury Castle, which in its original form dates back to the Norman Conquest. The first Tutbury Castle belonged to Henry de Ferrers, one of the Conqueror's leading Norman magnates who was rewarded with large amounts of land in Staffordshire and Derbyshire. His descendants became the first line of the Earls of Derby. As well as the castle, Henry also founded a Benedictine priory in Tutbury, part of whose church survives as the parish church; its west door retains a well-preserved Norman archway.

Tutbury Castle came into the hands of the Crown centuries ago and is still owned by the Duchy of Lancaster to this day. It was largely destroyed in the Civil War and never rebuilt. However, the damage to Tutbury Castle doesn't come close to what happened during the Second World War at RAF Fauld, a couple of miles to the west. Located just outside the present ward boundary, RAF Fauld was an underground depot used for storing munitions; at 11:11 on 27 November 1944 at least 3,500 metric tons of high explosive went up in the largest explosion ever on UK soil. The resulting crater, which obliterated a farm and a reservoir, is still visible today. The explosion and flooding are thought to have killed around 70 people, some of whom are buried in the churchyard at Tutbury.

The ward containing Tutbury extends to the south into the higher ground of Needwood Forest. The Outwoods part of the ward name refers to the parish of Outwoods, or more specifically to what's left of that parish after some of it was annexed by Burton upon Trent many years ago. Some recent development on the edge of Burton has spilled over into this ward.

East Staffordshire, 2019

This area is covered by East Staffordshire council, which is based on Burton and Uttoxeter. Burton is traditionally quite a Labour town, but it's outvoted at local elections by Tory-voting Uttoxeter and the villages. Tutbury and Outwoods ward is part of the Tory majority on the council; at the most recent elections in May 2019 they had a 58-42 lead over Labour in a straight fight. The local county council division (Dove) is also safe Conservative.

District councillor Garry Raybould stood down in August, midway through his first term of office. Defending for the Conservatives in the resulting by-election is Russell Lock, the chair of Tutbury parish council; he is a lecturer in computer science at Loughborough University. The opposition appears to have split: John Anderson, who was the Labour runner-up here in the 2015 and 2019 elections, is this time standing as an independent candidate while the official Labour candidate is Dale Barr. Completing the ballot paper is Lynn Furber for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Burton
Staffordshire county council division: Dove
ONS Travel to Work Area: Burton upon Trent
Postcode districts: DE13, DE14

John Anderson (Ind)
Dale Barr (Lab)
Lynn Furber (Grn)
Russell Lock (C)

May 2019 result C 935/856 Lab 683/627
May 2015 result C 1774/1502 Lab 963/782 UKIP 732 Grn 292
May 2011 result C 1266/1238 Lab 752/671
May 2007 result C 1275/1183 Lab 485/470
May 2003 result C 1207/1132 Lab 718/658 LD 292/270

Penrith West

Eden council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor John Thompson.

Eden, Penrith W

We want the finest by-elections known to humanity, we want them here and we want them now. Let me oblige. Welcome to Penrith, the main town in the very sparsely-populated Eden district of Cumbria. This is the point where all the main communication links in eastern Cumbria meet: the main road and railway line between Carlisle to the north and Lancaster to the south cross the main road going west to Keswick and Workington and east to Scotch Corner.

All those roads lead to Penrith, a small but perfectly-formed market town which is the largest population centre for a long way in any direction. The Penrith West ward covers most of the town centre together with the railway station and points west along the road to Greystoke, including the industrial estate at Gilwilly. The ward is in the top 100 in England and Wales for those employed in the wholesale and retail sector (23%) and for those with 5+ GCSE passes or equivalent but no higher qualification (19.9%, the highest figure for any ward in Cumbria).

Eden's ward map is one of the oldest in England, having been unchanged since the 1999 local elections. All of Penrith West's six ordinary elections since then have resulted in split representation. In 1999 the ward returned an independent councillor and a Labour representative; Labour gave up their seat in 2003 and it went to the Conservatives' John Thompson, who won without a contest. The ward's independent councillor Colin Nineham, who was leader of the council at the time, resigned in 2009 after being arrested on suspicion of fraud at a recycling company he ran, and the resulting by-election was won by the Liberal Democrats.

Since then the ward has had one Lib Dem and one Conservative councillor, with both parties seemingly content not to challenge the other for a full slate. May 2019 was a poor election for the Eden Conservatives, and John Thompson kept his seat with a majority of just five votes over Labour; shares of the vote were 41% for the Lib Dems, 23% for the Conservatives and 22% for Labour. Eden council has been run since 2019 by a rainbow anti-Conservative coalition, with Penrith West ward's Lib Dem councillor Virginia Taylor serving as leader of the council. The Penrith West county council division, which also takes in the Penrith South district ward, is Conservative-held; however, the 2021 Cumbria county council elections were cancelled pending a reorganisation of the county's local government.

This by-election is defended by the Conservatives following the retirement of John Thompson after 18 years' service. With the party starting from second place in the ward this may be an uphill struggle for their defending candidate Dale Normington. The Lib Dems have selected Roger Burgin, an accountant and Penrith town councillor. Labour's Dave Knaggs, who lost out here by five votes in 2019, is standing again; he is also a Penrith town councillor. Also standing are Jonathan Davies for the localist slate Putting Cumbria First, Richard O'Brien for the Green Party and independent candidate Jeff Thomson, a PR copywriter and campaigner against smells from an animal byproducts processing plant in the ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Penrith and the Border
Cumbria county council division: Penrith West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Penrith
Postcode district: CA11

Roger Burgin (LD)
Jonathan Davies (Putting Cumbria First)
Dave Knaggs (Lab)
Dale Normington (C)
Richard O'Brien (Grn)
Jeff Thomson (Ind)

May 2019 result LD 283 C 159 Lab 154/108 UKIP 100
May 2015 result LD 571 C 545 Lab 475
May 2011 result LD 488 C 318 BNP 94
October 2009 by-election LD 387 C 157 BNP 102 Ind 58 Lab 26 Grn 18
May 2007 result Ind 324 C 276 Lab 116
May 2003 result Ind/C unopposed
May 1999 result Ind 264 Lab 147/121

Hetton

Sunderland council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the death of Labour councillor Doris Turner.

Sunderland, Hetton

We finish for the week in the north-east with our Labour defence, on the Durham coalfield. The village of Hetton-le-Hole was described as "a close-knit community where coal was king and football was religion" by the great Liverpool manager Bob Paisley, who was born here in 1919. Deep mining in Hetton had started here a century before that with the sinking of Hetton Colliery's first shaft.

Hetton has an unusual distinction in transport history. The colliery owners decided to export their coal by building a waggonway to cover the eight miles from Hetton to the River Wear. To build it they commissioned George Stephenson, who had already done something similar for the colliery at Killingworth in Northumberland. Stephenson's resulting railway, opened in 1822, was the first in the world that used no animal power; the wagons were hauled by locomotives on the level stretches and by gravity down the inclines. His locomotives, as on the Killingworth waggonway, had wheels 4 feet 8 inches apart, which (with the addition of an extra half-inch) remains to this day the standard gauge for most of the world's railways.

Football might still be the religion in Hetton-le-Hole (Steph Houghton, the England and Manchester City women's team captain, went to school here), but coal is no longer king. The last pit, Eppleton Colliery, closed in 1986 and most of the spoil tips have been landscaped. The legacy of coal has left its mark on the census return, with Hetton ward just creeping into the top 100 wards in England and Wales for those born in the UK (98.3%), but this is now for the most part a post-industrial landscape.

Hetton ward is the southernmost ward in the county of Tyne and Wear, and has been part of Sunderland city council since the 1970s. Its current boundaries were introduced in 2004, and the ward has voted Labour at every election since. This record has been maintained despite a number of strong challenges from UKIP, who came close to winning in 2012, 2014 and 2019 when the anti-Labour vote was split a number of ways. Labour councillor Doris Turner was lucky to be re-elected that year for a second term on just 33% of the vote.

Labour put in some appalling election results generally in Sunderland in 2019 and 2021, and their majority is now down to 41 seats out of 75, plus this vacancy; there are 19 Conservatives, 12 Lib Dems and 2 Wearside Independent councillors, who were originally elected on the UKIP ticket. Mind, in Hetton ward Labour's May 2021 result was a lot better than two years previously: they improved their vote share to 45%, against 20% for independent candidate David Geddis and 19% for the Conservatives.

This by-election follows the death of councillor Doris Turner at the age of 81. Turner had served on Sunderland city council since 2015, and had also been Mayor of Hetton. Away from politics she was a Sunderland FC fan, and could often be seen at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground in Hetton selling raffle tickets at Sunderland Reserves matches.

Defending for Labour is Iain Scott, a Hetton town councillor. Independent town councillor David Geddis is having another go after finishing as runner-up in 2018 and in May this year. The Conservatives have selected Adelle Burnicle, a primary school teacher. Also standing are Justine Merton-Scott for the Green Party, John Lennox for the Lib Dems and disgraced former police officer (link) Maurice Allen, who is standing as an independent candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Houghton and Sunderland South
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sunderland
Postcode districts: DH4, DH5, SR7

Maurice Allen (Ind)
Adelle Burnicle (C)
David Geddis (Ind)
John Lennox (LD)
Justine Merton-Scott (Grn)
Iain Scott (Lab)

May 2021 result Lab 1258 Ind 554 C 545 UKIP 313 Grn 81 LD 63
May 2019 result Lab 990 UKIP 854 Ind 642 Democrats and Veterans 208 C 168 Grn 111
May 2018 result Lab 1480 Ind 799 C 358 Grn 74 LD 54
May 2016 result Lab 1531 UKIP 1037 C 159 Ind 135 LD 92
May 2015 result Lab 2544 UKIP 1617 C 435 LD 154
May 2014 result Lab 1470 UKIP 1351 C 188 LD 75
May 2012 result Lab 1628 UKIP 1363 LD 154
May 2011 result Lab 1940 UKIP 956 C 239 LD 167
May 2010 result Lab 2465 LD 966 C 575 BNP 389
May 2008 result Lab 1843 C 821
May 2007 result Lab 1506 LD 489 BNP 402 C 328
May 2006 result Lab 1364 BNP 544 C 494
June 2004 result Lab 1670/1663/1413 LD 920 C 676 BNP 442


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


Previewing the Tuesday council by-elections (28 Sep 2021)

"All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order"

There are two by-elections, for three seats, on Tuesday 28th September:

Brundall; and
Old Catton and Sprowston West

Broadland council, Norfolk. The double by-election in Brundall ward is caused by the resignations of Conservative councillors Rebecca Grattan and Michael Snowling. The by-election in Old Catton and Sprowston West ward is caused by the resignation of Samuel Walker.

Autumn is normally peak time for local by-elections, and the week ending 1st October is the busiest week so far this autumn with nine seats up for election. Three of these are polling on a Tuesday, because why not? It's only tradition that by-elections have to be on a Thursday; any working day will do, and sometimes some other day of the week might be more convenient for everyone involved. In this particular case, Tuesday polls will allow the winners of these by-elections will be in place for Broadland's full council meeting on Thursday. Don't wait up all night for the results, as the counts will start at 1000 on Wednesday morning.

Broadland, Brundall

So it is that we travel on a Tuesday to two wards on the edge of the city of Norwich, although that description is not immediately obvious for the Brundall ward. Brundall itself is a large village (with 3,504 electors on the roll) on the north bank of the River Yare downstream of Norwich, and the ward named after it also includes three other parishes on the Yare. The Wherry Lines railway between Norwich and Lowestoft links the ward together, with stations at Brundall Gardens, Brundall, Buckenham and Cantley. There's no railway station at Postwick, which is the main eastern point of entry for the Norwich built-up area and has a park-and-ride site for the city centre; Postwick is also the eastern terminus of the Broadland Northway, a dual-carriageway road around the north of Norwich which opened in 2018. The ward's major employers include the British Sugar factory at Cantley, which has been processing sugar beet for more than a century.

Before the railway was built in the nineteenth century the River Yare was the main mode of transport here. This is one of the main waterways of the Norfolk Broads, and is navigable as far as Norwich. Much of the low-lying ground around the river is part of the Broads national park, and there is a boundary oddity here. For centuries the harbour authority for the Yare has been Norwich city council, which controls the river all the way down to the confluence with the River Chet at Hardley Cross, and one result of that is that the Norwich city boundary includes the River Yare upstream of Hardley Cross. Accordingly, the southern boundary of this ward is not with South Norfolk district on the far side of the river, but with the city of Norwich.

Broadland, Old Catton/Sprowston W

Boundary oddities of a different kind apply to the Old Catton and Sprowston West ward, which is to all intents and purposes part of the built-up area of Norwich but has never been formally incorporated into the city. Old Catton was once an agricultural area - Anna Sewell wrote her novel Black Beauty here in the 1870s - but became fashionable among the Norwich business classes following the laying-out of Catton Park in the late 18th century. This was the first major work of the landscape gardener Humphrey Repton, who was commissioned by two-time Mayor of Norwich Jeremiah Ives in 1788 after Ives had taken over the brand-new stately home of Catton Hall. Catton Hall still stands today but has been split up into apartments; much of Catton Park has been turned into housing estates, but some of it survives as a public park to this day. The area has seen strong population growth this century, thanks to the building of more housing in the Sprowston West part of the ward.

The Parliamentary boundaries in Norwich are rather saner than the Norwich city boundary, and Old Catton and Sprowston West ward is firmly part of the Norwich North parliamentary constituency. This traditionally-marginal seat has been represented since a 2009 by-election by Chloe Smith, who was the junior minister responsible for the Elections Bill which has passed its second reading in the Commons and is currently at the committee stage. However, Smith was transferred to the DWP in the recent reshuffle. Presumably a new minister will be taking the Elections Bill over.

One recent piece of news regarding the Elections Bill is a government proposal to amend the bill to change the electoral system for local and combined authority mayors, and for police and crime commissioners. The idea is to move from the supplementary vote (which has always been used to elect these positions, and has been legislated for by both Conservative and Labour governments) to first-past-the-post. This column is old enough to remember when electoral system changes were seen as important enough to require a public referendum, so it's disappointing that the current government couldn't even bother to have such a proposal ready for the second reading of the Elections Bill. It's not an urgently-required change and it deserves to be properly considered in a second-reading debate. Although elections offices around the country will shudder at the thought of yet more legislation landing on their desks, perhaps having a separate bill for this electoral system change would be a neater way of doing things.

Broadland, 2019

The supplementary vote has never been applied to elections of local councillors in England, which have always been first-past-the-post. On the current ward boundaries (which were introduced in 2004), both Brundall ward and Old Catton and Sprowston West ward have always returned Conservative councillors, usually with lots of room to spare. At the last Broadland elections in May 2019 the Conservative slate won Old Catton and Sprowston West with 47% of the vote, against 20% for the Liberal Democrats and 18% for Labour. This ward has the same boundaries as the Old Catton division of Norwich county council, which in May this year had a 60-24 Conservative lead over Labour in second place. In 2019 the Conservatives carried Brundall ward with 41% of the vote, with Labour and the Greens disputing second place on 22% each; Brundall ward is part of another safely-Conservative county council division (Blofield and Brundall).

The Old Catton and Sprowston West by-election is to replace Samuel Walker, a young man who was in his first term on the council having been elected in May 2019. He is moving away from Norwich to take up a new job.

Similar considerations apply to the outgoing Brundall ward councillor Rebecca Grattan, who was also first elected in May 2019. In February 2020 Grattan relocated to Prague to take up a new job with Avast, the Czech cybersecurity firm. She was able to keep her position on the council because the recent public health emergency forced council meetings to take place virtually; there has been some controversy over this, mainly because Grattan was still drawing councillor allowances, but if everybody's dialling into meetings then realistically it makes little difference whether you're dialling in from the Norfolk Broads or the Czech Republic. Once the provisions for remote council meetings expired in May this year Grattan's position on Broadland council was no longer tenable, and she resigned at the end of July 2021.

Once that vacancy opened up, Brundall ward's other councillor Michael Snowling also took the opportunity to leave the stage. Snowling had represented this ward since 1998, and he was appointed MBE in January 2009 for services to children and young people in Norfolk. No reason was given for Snowling's resignation, but he has recently been reported to have been in poor health.

Defending the Brundall double by-election for the Conservatives are Tim Catmull and Michael Phelps. Catmull, who runs a children's shoe shop in Norwich, had contested the Buxton ward of Broadland in the 2019 district elections, finishing two votes short of gaining the seat from the Lib Dems; Phelps, who appears to be standing for election for the first time, should not be confused with the serial Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer of the same name. The Labour slate consists of Alice Free and Glenn Springett: Free was the runner-up here in the Broadland elections two years ago, while Springett was the runner-up here in the Norfolk county elections four months ago. One those occasions Free and Springett both finished one position ahead of the Green Party's Jan Davis, who returns for another go and is joined by running-mate Eleanor Laming. The Liberal Democrats put in nomination papers for three different candidates, but one of them has withdrawn leaving their slate of Eleanor Mason and Victor Scrivens to complete the Brundall ballot paper.

The same four parties contest the Old Catton and Sprowston West by-election. Defending this seat for the Conservatives is Richard Potter, a former military man with a prosthetic leg to show for his service. The Lib Dems have selected John Chettleburgh, a biker and automotive engineer according to his Twitter. Standing for Labour is Martin Booth, a retired osteopath who sat on Norfolk county council from 1989 to 2001; at the time he represented the very rural area of North Walsham, in one of the last gasps of the strong agricultural vote which Labour used to enjoy in Norfolk. Completing an all-male candidate list in Old Catton and Sprowston West is Ian Chapman for the Green Party.

Brundall

Parliamentary constituency: Broadland
Norfolk county council division: Blofield and Brundall
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR7, NR13

Tim Catmull (C)
Jan Davis (Grn)
Alice Free (Lab)
Eleanor Laming (Grn)
Eleanor Mason (LD)
Michael Phelps (C)
Victor Scrivens (LD)
Glenn Springett (Lab)

May 2019 result C 814/720 Lab 441/385 Grn 427/295 LD 304
May 2015 result C 1672/1420 Lab 782 LD 692 UKIP 606
May 2011 result C 1314/1208 Lab 407/334 Grn 305 LD 286/236
May 2007 result C 1174/1111 LD 238/139 Grn 225/116 Lab 206/185
June 2004 result C 1214/1196 LD 508 Lab 434/348

Old Catton and Sprowston West

Parliamentary constituency: Norwich North
Norfolk county council division: Old Catton (same boundaries)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Norwich
Postcode districts: NR3, NR6, NR12

Martin Booth (Lab)
Ian Chapman (Grn)
John Chettleburgh (LD)
Richard Potter (C)

May 2021 county council result C 1420 Lab 580 Grn 227 LD 153
May 2019 result C 1024/985/962 LD 433/425/236 Lab 401/398/351 Grn 344
May 2017 county council result C 1356 Lab 418 LD 310
May 2015 result C 2107/2020/1661 Lab 1256/1017/901 UKIP 904 LD 528/483/300
May 2013 county council result C 796 UKIP 497 Lab 389 LD 362 Grn 119
July 2011 county council by-election C 664 LD 414 Lab 337 UKIP 107 Grn 75
May 2011 result C 1688/1493/1398 Lab 849/691 LD 439/350 UKIP 306
June 2009 county council result C 1206 UKIP 402 LD 334 Lab 267 Grn 262
May 2007 result C 1357/1288/1248 LD 574/553/529 Lab 480
May 2005 county council result C 1790 Lab 1456 LD 1019 Grn 217
June 2004 result C 1060/1022/1006 LD 779/753/692 Lab 497/477/439


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