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


Previewing the council by-elections of 23 Sep 2021

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

There are six by-elections in England on 23rd September 2021 with a good spread across the country and something for everyone. There is a Conservative defence in Leicestershire, a Labour defence in London and a Residents' seat up for election in Surrey, but this week is a bit of a Liberal Democrat special with the party defending three of the seats up for election. Including our first one:

Kendal North

South Lakeland council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Owen.

S Lakeland, Kendal N

We start the week in the last bastion of Liberalism in the North of England. Welcome to Kendal, the once and possibly-future main town of Westmorland and the southern gateway to the Lake District: the main road and railway line to Windermere both pass by or through Kendal.

This is an old town with notably grey architecture, thanks to the local stone. Textiles were traditionally the main industry in Kendal, but the town is also known for an unusual food export, the energy snack known as Kendal Mint Cake. Eat this and your body will thank you for the energy boost, but (given its extremely high sugar content) your teeth might not be as happy. A number of rival mint cake factories still operate in Kendal today.

The town's proximity to the Lakes makes Kendal a favourite base for Kendal Mint Cake's largest market: mountaineers. Alfred Wainwright, whose Pictorial Guides to the Lake District are still the industry-standard guidebook to the Lakes' hikers more than sixty years after their first publication, wrote those books while he had a day job in Kendal Town Hall as the borough treasurer.

Kendal borough council has been succeeded by South Lakeland district council, which is still under the political spell cast by the former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. Farron has been the MP for the local seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005, and he achieved that by persuading the former Labour vote in Kendal to defect to the Lib Dems en masse. Until 2000 there was some decently-sized Labour and Conservative support in Kendal, and in the 2002 local elections the town's 14 wards returned 7 Lib Dem councillors, 6 Labour and 1 Conservative. Four years later the Lib Dems won a clean sweep of all 14 wards, with their worst score in any ward being 58% of the vote in Highgate ward. That gave the party overall control of South Lakeland council, which they are yet to relinquish. Your columnist had seen nothing similar since until Jason Zadrozny got to work on Ashfield council in Nottinghamshire ahead of the 2019 local elections.

The reason that there were 14 wards for a town the size of Kendal is that South Lakeland had a rather unusual electoral cycle in those days, combining a predominantly single-member ward pattern with thirds elections. The LGBCE told them to they had to drop one or the other ahead of a boundary review implemented for the 2018 local elections; the council decided to keep thirds elections, and the review reorganised Kendal (plus the parish of Natland to the south) into four wards returning three councillors each and a fifth ward of two councillors.

The two-seat ward is Kendal North, which is based on the former wards of Strickland and Underley. It covers the town's north-west corner, between the River Kent and the Windermere Road. The former Kendal Underley ward was based on Hallgarth, a council estate built just after the Second World War, and in the 2011 census Kendal Underley made the top 50 wards in England and Wales for part-time employment (18.9% of those of working age) and the top 70 wards for the ONS employment classification "Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles", with 23.5% of the workforce in this rather broad category.

S Lakeland, 2018

Underley ward was represented from 2014 to its abolition in 2018 by Matt Severn, one of Andrew's Previews' most ardent fans. Severn transferred to Kendal West ward in 2018 (above), and Kendal North was won by the Lib Dem slate with a rather low vote share of 38%, against 27% for the Green Party and 21% for the Conservatives. That is the only previous result on the current boundaries: the ward was not up for election in 2019, and the 2021 South Lakeland and Cumbria county council elections were cancelled in advance of a reorganisation of Cumbria's local government. The ward forms part of the Kendal Strickland and Fell county division, which was safely Liberal Democrat when last contested in May 2017.

This by-election results from the resignation last month of Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Owen, who was first elected in 2018. Owen has also left the Liberal Democrats and switched his allegiance to the Green Party. He would have been up for election last May had those elections gone ahead; right now it's anyone's guess how long his successor will serve for.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Jonathan Cornthwaite, a manufacture technician and Kendal town councillor. The Green Party have selected Liz Hendry, a retired teacher. The Conservative candidate is Aron Taylor who, according to a local newspaper report, is concentrating on residents' issues "from stamping out dog fouling ('not literally, thankfully') through to ensuring 'council tax is kept as low as possible'". Completing the ballot paper is Virginia Branney for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Westmorland and Lonsdale
Cumbria county council division: Kendal Strickland and Fell
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kendal
Postcode district: LA9

Virginia Branney (Lab)
Jonathan Cornthwaite (LD)
Liz Hendry (Grn)
Aron Taylor (LD)

May 2018 result LD 667/543 Grn 468/270 C 372/324 Lab 238/183

Shepshed West

Charnwood council, Leicestershire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Joan Tassell.

Charnwood, Shepshed W

For our Midlands by-election of the week we are very close to the centre of England, in the town of Shepshed. Located a few miles to the west of Loughborough, Shepshed was traditionally dominated by the mediaeval wool trade - the "shep" in the name refers to sheep - but in modern times its easy access to the M1 motorway has turned it into a dormitory town for the cities of the East Midlands.

Until its recent promotion from a parish to a town Shepshed was a claimant for the title of England's largest village, with a population well in excess of 10,000. This is big enough for the town to return four members to Charnwood council, from two electoral wards.

Charnwood, 2019

West ward has traditionally been a key marginal ward in a key marginal Parliamentary seat (it's part of the Loughborough constituency). In this century the ward has generally voted Conservative with the exception of the 2003 election and a by-election in October 2013, but the Tory majority at the last Charnwood elections in 2019 was unusually large: 41% for the Conservatives, 26% for Labour and 14% for UKIP. Some of that Tory lead is clearly a personal vote for their councillor Christine Radford, who is also Shepshed's county councillor; Radford was re-elected to Leicestershire county council in May with a whopping 60-28 lead over Labour. The Labour candidate in May was Jane Lennie, the winner of the October 2013 West ward by-election.

This by-election follows the resignation of the ward's other Conservative councillor, Joan Tassell. She had finished as runner-up to Lennie in the 2013 by-election but won the rematch in 2015, increasing her majority in 2019 against a much lower turnout.

Defending for the Conservatives is Ian Wiliams, an engineer and Shepshed town councillor. Labour have changed candidate to town councillor Myriam Roberts, who contested Shepshed East ward in the 2019 Charnwood elections; she is a school teaching assistant and, according to her declaration of interests, a "YouTube creator". UKIP have not returned, so completing the ballot paper are John Hounsome for the Green Party and Katy Brookes-Duncan for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Loughborough
Leicestershire county council division: Shepshed
ONS Travel to Work Area: Leicester
Postcode districts: LE11, LE12, LE67

Katy Brookes-Duncan (LD)
John Hounsome (Grn)
Myriam Roberts (Lab)
Ian Williams (C)

May 2019 result C 824/667 Lab 519/489 UKIP 269 Grn 227 LD 153/98
May 2015 result C 1712/1240 Lab 1156/1142 UKIP 849/632 LD 381
October 2013 by-election Lab 683 C 560 LD 178
May 2011 result C 1000/960 Lab 934/801 LD 481/396
May 2007 result C 722/677 Lab 626/560 BNP 540 LD 522/411
May 2003 result Lab 601/600 C 507/422 LD 239/179

Soham North

East Cambridgeshire council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Victoria Charlesworth.

E Cambs, Soham N

We travel to East Anglia for a return visit to Soham, which has previously appeared in this column in Andrew's Previews 2017 (page 167) and 2018 (page 345). As I recounted there, Soham is a town which never really fulfilled its potential: it had a cathedral in Anglo-Saxon times whose status didn't stick, was saved from being flattened in 1944 only by extreme bravery on the part of the crew of a goods train carrying ammunition which had caught fire; and the town is still probably best-known nationally for the 2002 murder of two ten-year-old girls by their school caretaker.

Really that's a bit unfair on Soham, which is a pleasant enough market town some miles to the north-east of Cambridge. Cambridge's hinterland has seem massive population growth in this century which has mostly been achieved by tacking housing estates onto existing towns and villages, and Soham has not escaped this process: the electorate of Soham North ward grew by 40% between 2003 and the 2017 by-election. Following a boundary review implemented for the 2019 local elections, Soham's representation on East Cambridgeshire council changed from 5 councillors out of 40 to 4 councillors out of 28 - an increase in percentage terms.

That population growth looked to have turned Soham into a safely Conservative area. Soham North was represented until 2017 by the Tory leader of East Cambridgeshire council, James Palmer; in that year Palmer won the inaugural election for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and his council seat was automatically vacated. The resulting by-election in June 2017 was won easily by the new Conservative candidate Mark Goldsack, who also won a by-election to Cambridgeshire county council in October 2018 for the local division of Soham North and Isleham.

E Cambs, 2019

However, the Conservatives have been struggling in Cambridgeshire of late. The 2019 East Cambridgeshire district elections saw a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats, who eventually came up just short: the final results were 15 Conservative councillors against 13 Lib Dems. Included in the Liberal Democrat column was the redrawn Soham North ward, which gave 48% to the Lib Dem slate and 42% to the Conservatives.

The Conservatives lost control of Cambridgeshire county council in May and also lost the county mayoralty to Labour, thanks to Lib Dem transfers. However, Mark Goldsack was re-elected in Soham North and Isleham division very comfortably, which will give the Tories some encouragement that they can win this by-election.

The by-election is to replace Lib Dem councillor Victoria Charlesworth, who was a distant runner-up to Goldsack in the 2018 county by-election but won the rematch in the 2019 district council elections. Charlesworth, who was in her first term in office, is relocating to the Midlands with her family.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Anne Pallett, a Soham town councillor. The Conservatives have reselected Mark Goldsack after he lost his district council seat in 2019. Also standing are Sam Mathieson for Labour and Andrew Cohen for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: South East Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire county council division: Soham North and Isleham
ONS Travel to Work Area: Cambridge
Postcode district: CB7

Andrew Cohen (Grn)
Mark Goldsack (C)
Sam Mathieson (Lab)
Anne Pallett (LD)

May 2019 result LD 599/558 C 528/465 Lab 124/107

Wormholt and White City

Hammersmith and Fulham council, London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Colin Aherne.

Hammersmith and Fulham, Wormholt and White City

We travel to what was once most of the iconic areas of West London. In 1908 the world came to London to attend the Franco-British Exhibition, a huge public fair which was the world's first exhibition sponsored by two countries. Attractions included an Irish village and a Senegalese village, displaying Irish industry and day-to-day life in Africa respectively. All the exhibition buildings were clad in white marble or painted white, and the site came to be known as "White City". It was a huge public success, with the local Underground railway companies opening new stations specially to the serve the exhibition.

In that summer of 1908 White City was also the focus of the fourth modern Summer Olympic Games. The 1908 Olympics had originally been awarded to Rome, which subsequently pulled out after the Italian government diverted the necessary funds towards rebuilding efforts after the 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Stepping in at short notice, London built the White City Stadium as part of the exhibition site to host the Games. Although this depends on how you classify the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, White City can reasonably claim to be the first purpose-built Olympic stadium.

The White City stadium had a huge influence on one modern Olympic event: the marathon. The 1908 Olympic marathon was run from Windsor Castle to the finishing line in the White City stadium, a distance of 26 miles and 385 yards. Now metricated as 42.195 kilometres, this has been the standard marathon distance ever since. Those last 385 yards inside the stadium took ten minutes for the leading marathon runner, Italy's Dorando Pietri, to cover. Pietri, who was suffering from fatigue and dehydration, did eventually make it over the finish line in first place but was subsequently disqualified because he had been helped onto his feet by the race umpires after a number of falls. Queen Alexandra, who had watched the whole thing from the royal box, gave him a gilded silver cup in lieu of a medal.

White City Stadium subsequently became primarily a greyhound stadium, but it hosted the British athletics championships from 1932 to 1970, the athletics events in the 1934 British Empire Games and one game in the 1966 FIFA World Cup. That was the group match between Uruguay and France, which was moved to White City because Wembley Stadium's owners refused to reschedule a greyhound-racing meeting.

The stadium was demolished in 1985 (its site is now occupied by BBC offices) and was one of the last parts of the original White City to disappear. The only remaining part of the exhibition site is Hammersmith Park, behind the former BBC Television Centre, which was originally part of the Japanese garden. Most of the exhibition grounds were redeveloped in the late 1930s into the White City Estate, a high-rise council estate which is one of the major parts of the modern Wormholt and White City ward. The roads within the estate - Commonwealth Road, South Africa Road and so on - are named after countries which took part in the Franco-British Exhibition.

To the west of Bloemfontein Road lie the Wormholt and Cleverly estates, which date from the 1920s - the era of "homes fit for heroes" - and were designed on garden-city principles. The name "Wormholt" goes back a long way, as it was a ward of the original Hammersmith metropolitan borough council.

Since the formation of the current Hammersmith and Fulham council in the 1960s this has been a Labour-voting area. White City is the only part of the borough to have never elected a Conservative councillor. Wormholt was also generally Labour, with the exception of the 1968 disaster and the 1982 election. In the latter year one of the seats in Wormholt ward was taken by the Conservatives' Bill Smith, the serving Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham and a former leader of the council, who transferred here from a safer ward. Labour took that result to the Election Court, crying foul over an allocation of free tickets for a Queens Park Rangers home game which were distributed to local schools a week before polling; Smith was a director of QPR. The legal action failed and the Court upheld the election.

The current ward, combining Wormholt and White City, dates from 2002. The legacy of the White City estate can be seen in the fact that a majority of the ward's households are socially rented, and Wormholt and White City makes the top 40 wards in England and Wales for those born in the Republic of Ireland (3.0%) and is in the top 100 for both black (25.7%) and mixed-race (6.8%) ethnicity.

The late Colin Aherne, whose death at the age of 77 has caused this by-election, was first elected for Wormholt ward in 1986 and was the longest-serving member of Hammersmith and Fulham council. Born into a mining family in Tredegar in South Wales, Aherne had joined the Army at 15 and saw action in the Malayan emergency; he left the Army in 1968 with the rank of sergeant. He had come to elected office through the TGWU, which he joined in 1974 while working for Premier Foods in west London. Aherne had been the Hammersmith and Fulham Labour group's chief whip continuously since 1990. In death he achieved the highest honour a left-wing politician can be granted: an obituary in the Grauniad.

Hammersmith/Fulham, 2018

Aherne had been top of the Labour slate which crushed the opposition with 76% of the vote in Wormholt and White City at the last London borough elections in 2018. Since then we have had the GLA elections in May, which had a wider choice of parties and candidates; we can see that from the fact that the YouTuber Niko Omilana ran fourth here in the mayoral ballot (although with only 3%). The ward's ballot boxes gave a 52-25 lead to Labour's Sadiq Khan over the Conservatives' Shaun Bailey, while the London Members ballot had 54% for Labour, 18% for the Conservatives and 13% for the Green Party.

Defending for Labour is Frances Umeh, a school governor. She is opposed by three candidates: Constance Campbell for the Conservatives, Michael Illingworth for the Liberal Democrats and Naranee Ruthra-Rajan for the Green Party. Whoever wins may need to move fast to secure reselection for the 2022 elections, when this ward will be broken up.

Parliamentary constituency: Hammersmith
London Assembly constituency: West Central
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: W3, W12

Constance Campbell (C)
Michael Illingworth (LD)
Naranee Ruthra-Rajan (Grn)
Frances Umeh (Lab)

May 2018 result Lab 2493/2396/2261 C 473/450/404 LD 242/187/172 Ind 89
May 2014 result Lab 2222/2014/1845 C 570/532/506 Grn 370 LD 171
February 2013 by-election Lab 1419 C 251 LD 209 UKIP 122 Ind 75 BNP 45
May 2010 result Lab 3052/2971/2813 C 1186/1152/1071 LD 843/727/723
May 2006 result Lab 1292/1278/1151 C 767/623/519 LD 442/404/382 Ind 184
May 2002 result Lab 1141/1084/1082 C 366/337/272 LD 289/279/242
May 2021 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1376 C 668 Grn 182 Omilana 73 LD 64 London Real 44 Reclaim 42 Let London Live 31 Count Binface 30 Rejoin EU 28 Animal Welfare 28 Women's Equality 16 Renew 12 Heritage 11 Farah London 10 Fosh 9 Obunge 9 UKIP 8 SDP 6 Burning Pink 2
London Members: Lab 1504 C 506 Grn 347 LD 108 Rejoin EU 56 Animal Welfare 51 CPA 38 Women's Equality 35 London Real 29 UKIP 22 Heritage 16 Let London Live 16 Reform UK 13 Comm 10 Londonpendence 7 SDP 7 TUSC 6 Nat Lib 4

Cuddington

Epsom and Ewell council, Surrey; caused by the death of Residents Association of Cuddington councillor Rob Foote.

Epsom and Ewell, Cuddington

We stay within the London area and the M25 but jump just over the Greater London boundary, although that's rather difficult to notice here on the ground. Cuddington was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 with 28 households; but the village recorded by the Domesday surveyors was swept away after Henry VIII bought the manor in 1538. Henry had Cuddington demolished to make way for the Great Park surrounding Nonsuch Palace, and presumably he had some good hunting around here.

The Great Park subsequently took the name of Edward Somerset, the fourth Earl of Worcester, who was an important figure in the court of James I. James appointed Worcester as Keeper of the Great Park in 1606, and the Earl promptly built Worcester Park House as a residence for himself. (Worcester was a distant ancestor of Daniel Boone, the American frontiersman.) The house was home successively to two major figures of the English Civil War, Thomas Pride (who died here in 1658) and Sir Robert Long, and Samuel Pepys visited Long at Worcester Park House in 1665. Because of the Great Plague, the Exchequer had been evacuated to Nonsuch at that time.

Worcester Park House was destroyed by fire in 1948, by which time the park had been filled with houses as another London suburb. The railways had come here in 1859 and Worcester Park railway station (just outside the ward's north-east corner) has regular trains to London Waterloo. The part of Worcester Park that lies in the Epsom and Ewell borough is a very affluent area, and it successfully fought off the threat of incorporation into Greater London in the 1960s.

Epsom and Ewell borough dates from the 1930s, when most of the houses in this ward were built. For the whole of its existence it has been controlled by Residents Association councillors, and Cuddington ward is part of the Residents' majority. At the last borough elections in May 2019 the Residents Association of Cuddington slate polled 65% of the vote, with the Lib Dems finishing as runner-up on 13% just ahead of the Conservatives.

Epsom and Ewell, 2019

May 2019 was a very poor election for the Surrey Conservatives in general. For Epsom in particular there may have been a national factor depressing their vote: since 2001 the MP for Epsom and Ewell has been international laughing stock Chris Grayling, who was at the height of his infamy as transport secretary in early 2019. Grayling proved to be so incompetent in a series of Cabinet posts that he failed to make the Johnson governments. Two years later in the May 2021 Surrey county elections, the Conservatives did recover second place in the Ewell Court, Auriol and Cuddington county division although they were still thrashed 66-14 by the Residents.

Rob Foote had served as a district councillor for Cuddington since 2003. He was Mayor of Epsom and Ewell in 2014-15. He spent 30 years working in the airline industry as an engineer, and also worked as an MoT tester and ran a car servicing business. His wife Rosemary, who passed away from breast cancer at the end of last year, had worked for many years with ITN and was a behind-the-scenes veteran of several ITV general election nights.

On 31 July Rob Foote was at the Brands Hatch racecourse in Kent, working as a volunteer marshal at a motor racing event organised by the British Automobile Racing Club. A car spun off the track into Foote and another marshal, and Foote died of his injuries at the scene. He was 67 years old. Tributes to him were led by the Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who described volunteer marshals like Foote as "heroes" who make racing possible. Kent Police identified no suspicious circumstances and were working with BARC to provide a report for the coroner.

This by-election is to fill the seat left by Foote following his tragic death. Defending for the Residents Association of Cuddington is Graham Jones, a professional musician with a glittering former career in the Corps of Army Music: he retired from the Army in 2011 as senior director of music for the Household Division, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and a military MBE. Here he is in action at his farewell concert from the Army in November 2011, directing the Band of the Coldstream Guards.

Standing against Jones are Dan Brown for the Liberal Democrats (no, not that one; this Dan Brown works in the HR world), George Bushati for the Conservatives (who was runner-up here in the county elections in May), and Kevin Davies for Labour (who fought this ward in 2019).

Parliamentary constituency: Epsom and Ewell
Surrey county council division: Ewell Court, Auriol and Cuddington
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode districts: KT4, KT19

Dan Brown (LD)
George Bushati (C)
Kevin Davies (Lab)
Graham Jones (Res Assoc of Cuddington)

May 2019 result Res Assoc of Cuddington 977/969/962 LD 190 C 175/160/118 Lab 159/136/124
May 2015 result Res Assoc of Cuddington 1304/1228/1165 C 971/937/878 Lab 589/586/484 LD 314
May 2011 result Res Assoc of Cuddington 1257/1246/1204 C 347/329/282 Lab 219/208 LD 120/120
May 2007 result Res Assoc of Cuddington 830/804/786 C 537/493/448 Lab 94/83/76 LD 85/78/75
May 2003 result Res Assoc of Cuddington 881/837/801 Lab 181/119/113 LD 142

Exe Valley

East Devon council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Fabian King.

E Devon, Exe Vy

We finish in the West Country with this week's rural ward. The Exe Valley ward of East Devon consists of seven parishes lying immediately to the north of Exeter. The largest of these, with 524 electors on the roll, is Stoke Canon, which lies between the River Exe to the west and the River Culm to the east; the Great Western railway line runs through Stoke Canon, and stray cinders from a steam locomotive were responsible for a devastating fire here in 1847. (In an interesting link with the previous section, Stoke Canon was the location where George Boone III, grandfather of the American frontiersman Daniel Boone, was baptised.) The Exe and the Culm are in wide valleys here and have changed their meanders over the years, but the parish boundaries haven't been updated to match resulting in a number of places where the ward includes territory which is now cut off on the far side of the Exe.

E Devon, 2019

The Exe Valley ward is rather out on a limb in a corner of East Devon district, which is based in Honiton and whose main focus is the towns and countryside to the east of Exeter. East Devon council was run by the Conservatives until 2019, when they lost their majority and an independent-led coalition took over. That coalition includes the Liberal Democrats, which makes Exe Valley ward something of a bellwether: it was held by the Conservatives until 2015, then gained by the Lib Dems (on revised boundaries, with the parish of Poltimore added) in the 2019 election. That election was a straight fight here between the Conservatives and Lib Dems, who won 57-43. The ward is part of the Broadclyst division of Devon county council, which split its two seats in May between the Green Party and the Conservatives.

East Devon has been going through a rash of by-elections recently: this is the fourth poll in the district this year. All of the previous three polls resulted in a change of party: the Conservatives picked up Whimple and Rockbeare ward in May and Feniton in July from independent councillors, and the Lib Dems resoundingly lost a by-election in Honiton St Michael's ward to Labour in July.

None of those by-elections had any independent candidates, and that pattern continues here in the Exe Valley by-election which follows the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Fabian King. He has stepped down to focus on his business interests.

Defending for the Liberal Democrats is Jamie Kemp, an environmentalist, beekeeper, tailor and stay-at-home dad who was the party's candidate here in the Devon county elections four months ago. The Conservatives have reselected Kevin Wraight who lost here in 2019: by his own account he lives in Stoke Canon and is recently retired. There will be more choice for the electors here, as Michael Daniell completes the ballot paper for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Central Devon (part: Brampford Speke, Huxham, Nether Exe, Rewe, Stoke Canon and Upton Pyne parishes), East Devon (part: Politmore parish)
Devon county council division: Broadclyst
ONS Travel to Work Area: Exeter
Postcode districts: EX4, EX5

Michael Daniell (Lab)
Jamie Kemp (LD)
Kevin Wraight (C)

May 2019 result LD 378 C 289


A special mention is also due to the Isle of Man. Today is the day of the Manx general election, with all 24 members of the House of Keys - the lower house of Tynwald - up for election. Man has the population of a smallish English district council and an electoral system to match: the island is divided into twelve constituencies, which each return two MHKs using multi-member first-past-the-post. The Isle of Man was the first polity in the world to enfranchise women - female property-owners have been able to vote here since 1881 - but women's representation on the island has been slower to take off, with the last Manx general election in September 2016 setting a new record of 5 female MHKs. In that election independent candidates won 21 of the 24 seats, with the other three going to the Liberal Vannin party and Manx Labour being wiped out. There will be a new head of government after the election, as the Chief Minister Howard Quayle is retiring. A continued independent majority looks the most likely outcome.

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 (16 Sep 2021)

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

Four by-elections on 16th September 2021, with two Labour defences, one Conservatives and one case where it's complicated:

Hobbayne

Ealing council, London; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Lewis Cox.

We start the week in Outer London in the valley of the River Brent, which runs generally south-west from Hendon to join the Thames at Brentford. The Brent valley was a major obstacle to the builders of the Great Western Railway on their way out of London; the result was the Wharncliffe Viaduct, whose eight arches carry Brunel's billiard-table over the valley. The viaduct was completed in 1838 and bears the coat of arms of the 1st Lord Wharncliffe, who piloted the GWR's bill through Parliament.

The valley to the north of the Wharncliffe Viaduct is maintained as a country park, partly because of the risk of flooding from the river. It includes Hanwell Zoo, a small zoological garden with a variety of small mammals, reptiles and exotic birds to see.

Ealing, Hobbayne

Hanwell Zoo is part of the Hobbayne ward of Ealing, which lies between the river to the west and north, the Great Western railway line to the south and the Greenford branch railway line to the east. Hanwell and Drayton Green railway stations lie on the ward boundary, and Greenford Avenue links the ward together.

The ward's census return shows a high immigrant population here. Hobbayne ward makes the top 20 wards in England and Wales for those born in Ireland (3.4%), the top 60 for those born in the new EU states (11.6%) and the top 80 for the White Other ethnic group (23.7%). The new EU immigrants are overwhelmingly Polish, and we shouldn't be too surprised by this: Ealing borough is home to one of the UK's longest-established Polish communities.

Ealing, 2018

Hobbayne ward has swung a mile to the left in the last decade after electing both Conservative and Labour councillors in 2006 and 2010. The most recent ordinary London borough elections were in 2018, when Labour won here with 51% against 20% for the Conservatives and 13% for the Greens. One of the Labour councillors, Anna Tomlinson, died from cancer in June 2020; the resulting by-election, which couldn't be held until May 2021, saw a swing to the Conservatives with 48% for Labour, 30% for the Conservatives and 13% for the Green Party.

We can compare and contrast this by-election result with the votes in the London Mayor and Assembly elections which took place on the same day. The ward breakdowns for the GLA elections exclude postal votes, which are tallied separately; the on-the-day vote gave 42% to Sadiq Khan for Labour, 32% to Shaun Bailey for the Conservatives and 9% to Siân Berry of the Green Party. In the London Members ballot Labour also polled 42%, against 28% for the Conservatives and 14% for the Greens. Taking into account that the GLA election had much longer ballot papers, the differences from the council by-election are not that great.

The voters of Hobbayne are going back to the polls for the second time in four months following the resignation in May of Labour councillor Lewis Cox, who had first been elected in 2018 and was in his first term office. He does not appear to be happy with the leadership of Ealing council's ruling Labour group.

Defending for Labour is Claire Tighe who is contesting her second Ealing by-election of the year; in May she stood in another poll for the Conservative-held Ealing Broadway ward. Tighe is vice-chair of the Labour Party Irish Society, and currently works in Keir Starmer's office. The Conservatives have reselected David Castle who was runner-up here in May's by-election; he is a law student, and like Tighe has worked alongside MPs in Westminster. The Greens have changed candidate to Alan Anderson, an editor for a health and wellbeing website. Completing the ballot paper are two other returning candidates from May's by-election, Alastair Mitton for the Liberal Democrats and Tony Gill for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Parliamentary constituency: Ealing North
London Assembly constituency: Ealing and Hillingdon
ONS Travel to Work Area: London
Postcode district: W7

Alan Anderson (Grn)
David Castle (C)
Tony Gill (TUSC)
Alastair Mitton (LD)
Claire Tighe (Lab)

May 2021 by-election Lab 2345 C 1477 Grn 609 LD 366 TUSC 56
May 2018 result Lab 2595/2579/2479 C 1009/979/961 Grn 669 LD 344/327/284 Duma Polska 266/254 Ind 210
May 2014 result Lab 2854/2790/2707 C 1533/1189/1140 Grn 716 LD 309/256/164
May 2010 result Lab 2673/2580/2425 C 2447/2007/1855 LD 1187/861/838 Grn 598 Ind 245
May 2006 result C 1532/1319/1184 Lab 1298/1109/1039 LD 648/640/583 Grn 589
May 2002 result Lab 1501/1436/1374 C 879/824/776 LD 428/392/349 Grn 368

May 2021 GLA result (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1009 C 756 Grn 222 LD 70 Omilana 63 Reclaim 45 London Real 39 Count Binface 30 Rejoin EU 26 Let London Live 20 Women's Equality 19 Animal Welfare 17 Renew 13 Farah London 13 SDP 11 UKIP 11 Heritage 10 Burning Pink 7 Fosh 7 Obunge 3
London Members: Lab 1050 C 684 Grn 335 LD 112 Women's Equality 52 Animal Welfare 51 Rejoin EU 41 CPA 25 London Real 24 Reform UK 24 UKIP 19 Heritage 14 Let London Live 11 TUSC 11 SDP 8 Comm 7 Londonpendence 6 Nat Lib 2

Tenbury

Malvern Hills council, Worcestershire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Tony Penn.

Malvern Hills, Tenbury

For our rural by-election this week we travel to the Teme Valley. The Teme starts off as a Welsh river, rising near Newtown, and flows east through Knighton and Ludlow to eventually merge with the Severn near Worcester.

This is an agricultural area with an unusual focus. The town of Tenbury Wells is well-known as the venue for the UK's only mistletoe market, which take place in the run-up to Christmas each year. Outside the festive period, Tenbury has traditionally drawn an income from people coming to take the waters at the town's mineral springs: the architecturally-striking Pump Rooms are now in the hands of Tenbury town council, who have their offices and meetings here.

It's presumably the communication lines provided by the Teme valley that ensured Tenbury Wells ended up as part of Worcestershire. Tenbury, which has been a typical tiny Marches market town since the thirteenth century, is very much out on a limb within Worcestershire: this ward (consisting of five parishes, including Tenbury) forms a salient between Herefordshire to the south and Shropshire to the north. The main service centre and railhead for the town is Ludlow, further up the valley in Shropshire.

The Heath local government reform also took the view that the Herefordshire/Worcestershire county boundary was perhaps not the sanest. The 1974 big bang placed Tenbury Wells within the county of Hereford and Worcester and within the district of Leominster, which is a Herefordshire town but whose district took in much of north-western Worcestershire. This proved to be unpopular, and Hereford and Worcester were demerged in the 1990s. As a knock-on effect of this, Tenbury was transferred to the Malvern Hills district council in exchange for the Ledbury area, which returned to Herefordshire.

Malvern Hills, 2019

The present Malvern Hills council is hung after the Conservatives lost their majority in 2019. That year's elections returned 13 Conservative councillors, 10 independents, 9 Lib Dems, 5 Greens and (for the first time in many years) a Labour councillor. The present administration is a coalition of the independents, the Greens and the Lib Dems. The Malvern Hills Liberal Democrats have since fallen apart a bit and there are only four Lib Dem councillors left here; most of the defectors have joined the ruling independent group.

The voters of Tenbury didn't get to participate in this fun in 2019, because nobody stood against the Conservative slate of Tony Penn and Bridget Thomas who were therefore elected unopposed. Thomas was a new face; Penn was re-elected for his fourth term. The Conservatives have held both seats in the ward since 2007; in 2011 and 2015 they were opposed here only by Jonathan Morgan, who was an independent in 2011 and had the Labour nomination in 2015. On both of those occasions the scores were 70% for the Conservatives and 30% for Morgan. The Conservatives also polled 70% last May in the election for the Tenbury division of Worcestershire county council, which covers a larger area than this ward.

Tony Penn is a retired architect who grew up in Coventry during the Second World War, and he was in the city on the night of the Coventry Blitz in November 1940. With the passage of time, there are not many people left who can remember that night. Penn is now 87 years old, and he retired from the council in July to allow someone younger to take up his role.

Defending for the Conservatives is Liam Thompson, who was a candidate for the county council in May (he contested the Green-held Malvern Trinity division). Jonathan Morgan returns for his fifth attempt on Tenbury ward this century, again as the Labour candidate. The Tenbury town clerk Lesley Bruton is standing as an independent candidate, and she completes the ballot paper along with Jed Marson of the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: West Worcestershire
Worcestershire county council division: Tenbury
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ludlow
Postcode districts: SY8, WR15

Lesley Bruton (Ind)
Jed Marson (LD)
Jonathan Morgan (Lab)
Liam Thompson (C)

May 2019 result 2 C unopposed
May 2015 result C 1414/991 Lab 618
May 2011 result C 966/730 Ind 416
May 2007 result C 1042/834 LD 451/419 Ind 269
May 2003 result C 748/675 Ind 691/324

Firth Park

Sheffield council, South Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Alan Law on health grounds.

Sheffield, Firth Park

Our remaining two by-elections this week are at opposite ends of traditional Yorkshire. We start in the city of Sheffield with a ward whose name derives from a prominent steelmaking firm of days gone by. Thomas Firth and Sons was set up in the 1840s and quickly grew: in the 1850s they had the largest rolling mill in Sheffield and a major contract with the Samuel Colt firearms company, making them a big player in the armaments market. Following a series of mergers over the last two centuries, Firth's became one of the ancestors of the modern Sheffield Forgemasters.

Mark Firth, one of the eponymous Sons and a founder of the business, used much of his wealth in major philanthropic works in Sheffield. He was Master Cutler in 1867-9 and Mayor of Sheffield in 1874-5, founded the educational institution of Firth College (now part of Sheffield University), and in 1875 he presented 36 acres of land to Sheffield Corporation as a public park. Firth Park, located around four miles north-east of Sheffield city centre, was officially opened in August 1875 by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.

Firth Park gave its name to a neighbouring council estate which was developed between the two world wars on what was then the northern edge of Sheffield. This remains a working-class area full of council houses (a massive 51% of households here are socially rented), but manufacturing here is not what it was. The major employer in Firth Park today is the Northern General Hospital, which lies just south of the ward boundary. At the 2011 census 22% of the ward's working adults were in human health and social work activities, which was the highest figure for any ward in Yorkshire and made the top 60 wards in England and Wales.

Sheffield city council fell into No Overall Control at the 2021 election, following controversy over the previous Labour administration's policy of felling a large number of the trees on the city's streets. The city is still Labour-led but the party now has to run Sheffield in coalition with the Green Party. There are currently 40 Labour (plus this vacancy) and 13 Green councillors opposed by 29 Lib Dems and a single Conservative. After a 15-year absence the Tories broke through onto Sheffield council in May, not in the middle-class areas of Hallam but in the isolated steelworking town of Stocksbridge.

One of Stocksbridge's former city councillors was Alan Law, who was elected there in 1991 but lost his seat to the Lib Dems the following year. In 1994 Law was elected as a councillor for Firth Park ward, which he had represented continuously since then: he was re-elected in 1995, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2016, winning his tenth term of office in May this year. Firth Park is a safe Labour ward, and four months ago Law enjoyed a 57-24 majority over the Conservatives. He subsequently stepped down in July on health grounds.

Defending for Labour is Fran Belbin, a community activist who fought Walkley ward in May and lost a seat which Labour were defending to the Green Party. That council seat had previously been held by Olivia Blake, who was elected in December 2019 as the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam; Blake resigned from the council after her election to Westminster, and because of the cancellation of the 2020 local elections her seat was left vacant for more than a year. This should be safer territory for Belbin. The Conservatives have reselected Steve Toone who was runner-up here in May; he chairs a local brass band committee and is a wheelchair user. Also standing are two more returning candidates from May, Marieanne Elliot for the Greens and independent April Worrall, who complete the ballot paper along with Irshad Akbar for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
ONS Travel to Work Area: Sheffield
Postcode district: S5

Irshad Akbar (LD)
Fran Belbin (Lab)
Marieanne Elliot (Grn)
Steve Toone (C)
April Worrall (Ind)

May 2021 result Lab 1896 C 810 Grn 327 Ind 157 LD 153
May 2019 result Lab 1573 Grn 779 C 453 LD 270
May 2018 result Lab 1931 C 577 Grn 478 LD 287
May 2016 result Lab 2424/1916/1844 UKIP 752/622/577 Grn 443/305/246 C 302/239/198 LD 269/229/190

Ladgate

Middlesbrough council, North Yorkshire; caused by the death of councillor June Goodchild, who was elected for Labour but was sitting as an independent aligned to the town's mayor.

Middlesbrough, Ladgate

We finish for the week in Teesside. The Ladgate ward is one of Middlesbrough's outer estates, running along the western side of Stokesley Road and divided into two halves by Ladgate Lane. The two halves of the ward form a rather stark contrast. The northern half is the Easterside estate, a 1960s open-plan development with large amounts of green space. The southern half of the ward, around the Marton Manor primary school, is higher in both elevation and social class.

Teesside has been a disaster area for the Labour party in recent years, as can be seen from the re-election of the Conservative Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen in May by the thumping margin of 73-27 over the Labour candidate. On paper Middlesbrough is the strongest of the five Tees Valley boroughs for Labour, but the borough uses the elected mayoral system. The first Middlesbrough mayor was independent Ray "Robocop" Mallon, who served three terms before standing down in 2015. That year's mayoral election was a very narrow win for Labour over new independent candidate Andy Preston, who resoundingly won the rematch in 2019.

The 2019 Middlesbrough mayoral election was combined with the Middlesbrough council election, which returned 23 independent councillors, 20 Labour and 3 Conservatives. Labour have performed very poorly in two subsequent by-elections: the independents held Park End and Beckfield ward in July 2019 (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 191), and the Conservatives resoundingly held a seat in Coulby Newham ward in February 2020 despite their previous councillor having been charged with seven historic child sex offences. Having been charged in July 2019, his trial is now not due to begin until April 2022.

Coulby Newham, like most of Ladgate ward, is part of the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency which the Conservatives gained against the national trend in June 2017. That snap election was called by Theresa May the weekend after another excellent Conservative performance in a Coulby Newham by-election in April 2017 (Andrew's Previews 2017, page 99); the winner of that by-election is now the Conservative MP for Redcar.

Ladgate ward has been won by Labour at every election this century. There were no independent candidates here in 2019, and the Labour slate won by 60-40 in a straight fight with the Conservatives. That Labour slate included June Goodchild, who had been appointed MBE in 2007 for her voluntary work on the Easterside estate. Goodchild was first elected for the ward in 2015; she subsequently left Labour in 2020 and joined the council's Middlesbrough Independent Group. (It's quite difficult for an outsider to work out what is going on in the council, as there are three separate independent groups and the independent mayor all with their own agendas.)

June Goodchild passed away in July, aged 79. The by-election to replace her has a long ballot paper. Labour, who won the last election here, have selected Mick Thompson, who was their losing candidate in the 2019 Middlesbrough mayoral election; Thompson is a former Middlesbrough councillor currently working for UNISON. There are three competing independent candidates. The Middlesbrough Independent Group, which Goodchild was a member of when she died, have endorsed Tony Grainge: he is a community worker from Easterside and a school governor at Easterside Academy. The rival Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association have endorsed Sharon Platt, a former marketing chief who is hoping to join her husband Jim (the former Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland goalkeeper) as a councillor. The third independent candidate on the ballot is Vic Hoban, who is a full-time carer for her daughter. Hoping to come through the middle of all this are the Conservatives, who have selected Lee Holmes: he is an NHS Responder volunteer and runs a small property business in Middlesbrough. Completing the ballot paper is Paul Hamilton for the Liberal Democrats, who are contesting Ladgate ward for the first time this century.

Parliamentary constituency: Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (most), Middlesbrough (Buckthorn Grove area)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Middlesbrough and Stockton
Postcode districts: TS4, TS5, TS7, TS8

Tony Grainge (Ind)
Paul Hamilton (LD)
Vic Hoban (Ind)
Lee Holmes (C)
Sharon Platt (Ind)
Mick Thompson (Lab)

May 2019 result Lab 561/451 C 367/310
May 2015 result Lab 1070/946 C 516/399 UKIP 427


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 09 Sep 2021

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

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

Cleadon and East Boldon

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

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

S Tyneside, Cleadon/E Boldon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle (Tyne), Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camperdown

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

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

N Tyneside, Camperdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barlow and Holmesfield; and
Killamarsh East

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

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

NE Derbys, Killamarsh E

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

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

NE Derbys, Barlow/Holmesfield

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

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

NE Derbys, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barlow and Holmesfield

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

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

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

Killamarsh East

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

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

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

Seales

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

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

S Derbys, Seales

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

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

S Derbys, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Andrew Teale


Previewing this week's council by-elections in the North of England (02 Sep 2021)

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

Three by-elections on 2nd September 2021, all in the North of England, with a Labour defence, a Residents defence and a free-for-all:

Park; and
Ryburn

Calderdale council, West Yorkshire; caused respectively by the death of Labour councillor Mohammed Naeem and the resignation of independent councillor Robert Holden.

Stott Hall Farm

We start this week on the wrong side of the Pennines, although only just, and with a sight which will be familiar to anybody who drives from Lancashire to Yorkshire regularly. After a long climb up the motorway from Milnrow, the M62 turns left then right into a cutting, passes a stone with a white rose marking the county boundary, runs under a footbridge carrying the Pennine Way, and suddenly the landscape opens out into wide and beautifully desolate moorland, sloping down to a reservoir on the left. The two carriageways separate, and travellers then pass one of the most famous landmarks in the north of England: the house in the middle of the M62. Stott Hall Farm, to give it its proper name, was saved from the motorway demolition men by a geological fault, which meant that a route around the farm was easier to build.

Calderdale, Ryburn

To the north of the motorway, the county boundary runs along the escarpment of Blackstone Edge to meet the head of the Ryburn valley. The River Ryburn runs east from Blackstone Edge to meet the Calder at Sowerby Bridge, and the Ryburn ward of Calderdale covers virtually all of its valley. The A58 Rochdale-Halifax road runs the length of the valley, whose main population centre is the village of Ripponden.

Calderdale, Park

Calderdale's Park ward provides a complete contrast. Whereas Ryburn ward is full of wide open spaces, Park covers the tightly-packed Victorian terraces of western Halifax. In comparison to Ryburn, which is 96% White British and has something of a commuter demographic despite its relatively poor transport links (it is in the top 10 wards in Yorkshire for those employed in the financial and insurance sector, and has above-average education levels), Park ward is in the top 20 wards in England and Wales for those who have never worked or are long-term unemployed (23.1%), for those looking after home or family (12.8%), for Islam (64.7%), and for Asian ethnicity (68.0%, mostly of Punjabi heritage). It's also in the top 30 wards in England and Wales for population aged under 16 (29.6%). It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that Park ward is Halifax's Pakistani ghetto.

The Calderdale metropolitan borough has two parliamentary constituencies, both of which are rather marginal. Park ward is in the Halifax constituency which has been Labour-held since 1964 with the exception of the 1983-87 Parliament, but has delivered a series of close results in the last decade. Labour held the constituency by 1,472 votes in the 2010 election, and by 428 votes in 2015 when the previous Labour MP Linda Riordan stood down. Holly Lynch was re-elected for a third term in 2019 with a reduced majority of 2,569; unusually for a target seat, the Conservative vote fell here in December 2019.

The Calder Valley constituency (which includes Ryburn ward) was a Conservative gain with a large majority in 2010. This large majority was rather deceptive, as the opposition vote was evenly split that year between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. That didn't apply in 2017, when the opposition vote to a large extent lined up behind Labour and Craig Whittaker was re-elected for a third term with a majority of just 609 votes. In December 2019 Whittaker increased the Conservative vote share for the fourth election in a row and took the seat to the edge of safety, with a 5,774 majority over Labour.

One of the unsuccessful candidates for the Calder Valley seat in 2017 was Robert Holden, who stood as an independent candidate, polled 1,034 votes and lost his deposit. Holden had been elected in 2014 as a Conservative councillor for Ryburn ward, but left the party a couple of years later after blowing the whistle over irregularities in the local party's accounts. He sought re-election to Calderdale council in 2018 as an independent candidate, lost his seat by 149 votes, but convincingly got it back in 2019: the vote shares that year were 50% for Holden and just 28% for the Conservatives. That was a very unusual result in what is normally a safe Conservative ward. In May this year, without Holden on the ballot, the Conservatives held Ryburn with 47% against 22% for another independent candidate and 21% for Labour.

Calderdale, 2021

Park ward is normally safe Labour - it has returned Labour candidates at every election since 2004 with the exception of a Lib Dem win in 2008 - but can also be electorally volatile. This is volatility of a different kind, depending rather less on the national scene and more on intangible variables like the ethnicity of the candidates and what's going on in the mosques at the time. You often see this sort of thing in strongly-Asian Pennine wards.

A look at the last three elections here serves to make the point. In 2018 Labour candidate Mohammed Naeem won Park ward with 57% of the vote, independent candidate Surraya Bibi (a former Labour figure who was reportedly unhappy with the party's selection process) coming in a strong second with 35%. The Conservatives, whose candidate here that year was serving ex-UKIP Yorkshire MEP Amjad Bashir, finished a poor third with just 5%. In 2019 Labour's Faizal Shoukat crushed the opposition, polling 87% of the vote as he was re-elected for a third term. In May this year Labour councillor Jenny Lynn was also re-elected for a third term, polling 61%; the second-placed Conservatives substantially improved to 33% with their candidate Shakir Saghir, who has made a number of attempts on this ward under a variety of political labels (normally Conservative, but he was the English Democrats candidate here in 2006).

Wild swings indeed. And if we go back long enough here, another source of electoral volatility comes into play. In the 1975 Calderdale local elections the area of the modern Park ward was covered by the former St John's ward, which was the scene of a howler by the counting team who accidentally overlooked one of the ballot boxes. Once the mistake was discovered the following day, the returning officer was upfront about the error: the votes in the missing box were counted, and it was found that they didn't change the winner of the election.

The Park by-election arises from the death in July of Labour councillor Mohammed Naeem, who represented St John's ward from 1989 to 1992; after some decades away, he returned to the council in 2018. Much of Naeem's career was spent working for racial equality organisations in Halifax, Bradford and Rochdale.

Naeem was part of the Labour majority on Calderdale council. Labour gained overall control here in 2019 and currently hold 27 seats plus this vacancy, with the opposition consisting of 15 Conservatives, 5 Lib Dems, two independents and Holden's vacant seat.

Defending Park ward for Labour is Mohammed Shazad Fazal, who may be the same Mohammed Shazad Fazal who was the Liberal Democrat candidate for this ward in 2007, 2010 and 2011. We have another returning figure for the Conservatives: Naveed Khan fought this ward in 2011 and 2019, and stood in the neighbouring Town ward in May. Also standing are Jacquelyn Haigh for the Green Party and Javed Bashir for the Lib Dems. Whoever wins will not be off the campaign trail for long as they will be due for re-election in May.

The Ryburn by-election is to replace independent councillor Rob Holden. Holden has been suffering from depression for some years without seeking treatment for it, until in June he attempted to take his own life. He has stepped down from the council to seek a recovery away from the public eye. This column wishes Holden well for the future.

There is no independent candidate to succeed Holden, so we have a free-for-all in Ryburn ward! On paper his seat should revert to the Conservatives who have selected Felicity Issott; she is a Ripponden parish councillor, representing Barkisland ward, and works as a science teacher. Labour have reselected Leah Webster, who finished third here in May. Completing the ballot paper are two more returning candidates from May, Freda Davis for the Green Party and Pete Wilcock for the Lib Dems.

Park

Parliamentary constituency: Halifax
ONS Travel to Work Area: Halifax
Postcode districts: HX1, HX2, HX3

Javed Bashir (LD)
Shazad Fazal (Lab)
Jacquelyn Haigh (Grn)
Naveed Khan (C)

May 2021 result Lab 2375 C 1297 Grn 124 LD 100
May 2019 result Lab 3518 C 268 Grn 160 LD 90
May 2018 result Lab 2800 Ind 1742 C 245 Grn 143
May 2016 result Lab 2734 Ind 637 C 252 Grn 104 LD 97
May 2015 result Lab 4183 C 980 LD 299 Grn 268
May 2014 result Lab 2762 C 1281 Grn 206 LD 135
May 2012 result Lab 2657 C 838 LD 651
May 2011 result Lab 2353 LD 1272 Ind 444 C 416
May 2010 result Lab 2381 LD 1856 C 1196
May 2008 result LD 1838 Lab 1678 C 489 Ind 442
May 2007 result Lab 1500 Respect 1147 LD 1022 EDP 567
May 2006 result Lab 1339 LD 971 Ind 668 C 510 Ind 273
June 2004 result Lab 2377/2346/2264 C 2035/1820/1701 LD 994/892/721 Ind 595 Red and Green 343/300/274

Ryburn

Parliamentary constituency: Calder Valley
ONS Travel to Work Area: Halifax
Postcode districts: HD3, HX4, HX6

Freda Davis (Grn)
Felicity Issott (C)
Leah Webster (Lab)
Pete Wilcock (LD)

May 2021 result C 1785 Ind 848 Lab 798 Grn 207 LD 85 Reform UK 51
May 2019 result Ind 1852 C 1043 Lab 413 Grn 237 LD 144
May 2018 result C 1451 Ind 1302 Lab 805 LD 131 Grn 98
May 2016 result C 1258 Ind 1161 Lab 820 Grn 174 LD 131
May 2015 result C 3221 Lab 1382 UKIP 757 Grn 400 LD 380
May 2014 result C 1513 Lab 791 Grn 482 LD 186
May 2012 result C 1253 Lab 944 Grn 349 LD 229
May 2011 result C 1896 Lab 1089 Grn 300 LD 292
May 2010 result C 2687 Lab 1559 LD 1418 Grn 291
May 2008 result C 1667 LD 908 Lab 502
May 2007 result C 1570 LD 768 Lab 541 BNP 256
May 2006 result C 1338 LD 782 Lab 744
June 2004 result C 1800/1711/1457 LD 1137/991/876 Lab 1059/608/596

Wilmslow Dean Row

Cheshire East council; caused by the resignation of Residents of Wilmslow councillor Toni Fox.

In satellite towns
There's no colour and no sound
- Doves, Black and White Town

The Doves have a lot to answer for. If you hear their song Black and White Town, and particularly if you watch the video, you might have trouble parsing that the satellite town they are actually from is Wilmslow.

Yes, that's the Wilmslow which is possibly the richest town in the north of England. Located at the southern end of Manchester's built-up area, Wilmslow is a classic commuter town from which the stockbrokers of Manchester go to work on the train while the Real Housewives of Cheshire buy designer clothes in the local charity shop. I'm not exaggerating much. Almost the whole of the town is within the 10% least-deprived census areas in England, and Wilmslow has the busiest Aston Martin dealership in the UK and some of the most expensive housing in the north-west. The median property in Dean Row ward, the eastern end of the town north of the River Bollin, will set you back at least half a million pounds, and you'll be shelling out significantly more than that if you want to live in Dean Row itself.

Cheshire East, Wilmslow Dean Row

You'll be shelling out even more if you want to buy 43 Adlington Road, a five-bedroom semi-detached house in Dean Row ward which was placed on the market earlier this year for £1.1 million (link). From 1949 this house was owned by the mathematician Alan Turing, who died here in 1954 from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41. Turing is possibly the most illustrious in a long list of rich and/or famous people who have lived in Wilmslow over the years; even the local MP, Tatton's Esther McVey, is a TV star. It says something that Wilmslow High School gave us not just the Doves but also The 1975, whose lead singer Matty Healy is the son of the actors Tim Healy and Denise Welch.

Rather a contrast with the area immediately to the north of Wilmslow. Although this is outside the boundary of Dean Row ward and in that sense off-topic, we can't visit the Wilmslow area without mentioning the critically-acclaimed satirical drama that is Handforth Parish Council Planning and Environment Committee. If by some mischance you have not yet seen this video, go get yourself a drink and some popcorn and settle down. If you have seen this video before, do the same thing.

When your columnist first saw that video at the start of February it had under 2,000 views and was clearly going viral then. Seven months on, what has happened in Handforth since? Well, there has been a bit of a clearout on this notoriously dysfunctional council. Brian ("you have no authority") Tolver has been replaced as chairman by John ("the fact that there were no meetings held is irrelevant") Smith. Contrary to some press reports, Tolver is still a Handforth councillor, but Aled "read the standing orders" Brewerton and Barry ("where's the chairman gone") Burkhill have both resigned from that council. The vacancy discussed in the video, following the disqualification of Jean Thompson for not attending any meetings in six months ("the fact that there were no meetings held is irrelevant") was filled at a by-election in May by John Smith's wife Julie. No by-election was called to replace Burkhill and the council have co-opted another councillor allied to Smith, Kerry Sullivan, to replace him. A by-election to replace Brewerton took place in July in West ward and was won by Sam Milward. And Handforth Parish Council now longer exists under that name: the parish has rebranded itself as Handforth Town Council as of the end of July, and John Smith will become the Mayor of Handforth. It would appear that his faction has won the war.

Mind, Handforth Town Council may not last for very long in that form. Cheshire East council, which as the principal council for Wilmslow and Handforth ultimately has some responsibility for this mess, is in the middle of a review of its parish structure. One of their proposals is to abolish Handforth parish altogether with Wilmslow town council taking over the area's governance.

Handforth's two representatives on Cheshire East council are Barry Burkhill and Julie Smith. At the time of the video Burkhill was Mayor of Cheshire East. A number of complaints against his conduct as mayor were made on the strength of that video, but he was close enough to the end of his mayoral term that Cheshire East council were able to kick the matter into the long grass until it was too late to do anything.

Ches E, 2019

One suspects that the arithmetic in Cheshire East may have had something to do with that inaction. Burkhill, who has represented the ward since 2011 for the Handforth Ratepayers Independent slate, sits in the main independent group on the council which takes in a number of other councillors elected on residents' tickets, including the Residents of Wilmslow party. (Julie Smith, who was elected as an independent, is non-aligned on Cheshire East council.) A controversial Conservative administration lost its majority in Cheshire East in 2019, and the Labour group are now running the council in coalition with the main independent group. That coalition has little or no majority, and in early 2021 they were a man down following the death of Crewe Labour councillor Brian Roberts and the COVID-enforced cancellation of the April 2020 by-election to replace him.

The ruling coalition is also one down at the moment following the resignation of Toni Fox, who has represented Wilmslow Dean Row ward since 2015 for the Residents of Wilmslow. Fox, who was a Cheshire East cabinet member with the planning portfolio, is relocating to Shropshire. She gained her seat from the Conservatives in 2015 with a narrow majority of 50 votes, and was re-elected in 2019 by the much wider margin of 69% to 31% for the Conservatives.

Defending for the Residents of Wilmslow is Lata Anderson; she is a Wilmslow town councillor. The Conservatives have reselected Frank McCarthy who stood here in 2019; he is the vice-chairman of Wilmslow town council. The 2015 and 2019 elections here were straight fights; this time there is more choice for the local electors, thanks to the nominations of James Booth for the Green Party and Birgitta Hoffmann for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Tatton
ONS Travel to Work Area: Manchester
Postcode district: SK9

May 2019 result Residents of Wilmslow 930 C 409
May 2015 result Residents of Wilmslow 1189 C 1139
May 2011 result C 1072 Lab 262 LD 229


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 26 August 2021

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

Four by-elections on 26th August 2021:

Corby and Hayton

Cumbria county council; caused by the resignation of independent councillor William Graham.

Cumbria CC, Corby/Hayton

We start the week in the north with our rural by-election. The Corby and Hayton division of Cumbria county council covers the northern end of the Pennines, as the 621-metre summit of Cold Fell - the most northerly mountain not just in the Pennines but also in Cumbria - lies within the division boundary. On the slopes running down from Cold Fell north to Hallbankgate and west to the River Eden lie seven-and-a-half rural parishes.

The half refers to Great Corby, which lies directly across the Eden from the village of Wetheral and is part of Wetheral parish. The river is crossed here by Corby Bridge, a very early railway viaduct: the bridge has carried the Newcastle-Carlisle railway line across the Eden since 1834. A footpath runs next to the line, giving Great Corby's residents easy access to the railway station in Wetheral. The Hayton element of the division name refers to the village of Hayton which is located midway between Great Corby and Brampton; there is another Hayton in Cumbria, near Aspatria, so it's important to get the location right here.

This area has a commuter profile, with Carlisle - the largest city for miles around - not that far away. However, its electoral history has been dominated for some years by William Graham, who has served on Hayton parish council for 40 years. Graham, who contested all of his elections as an independent candidate, won a by-election to Carlisle city council in 1995 and held Hayton ward on that council until his retirement in 2016. He failed in an attempt to return in 2019 (following boundary changes, he was the runner-up in the new Wetheral and Corby ward). Graham served as Mayor of Carlisle in 2009-10.

Cumbria CC, 2017

Graham was first elected to Cumbria county council for this division in 2013 and was re-elected for a second term in 2017, on that occasion defeating the Conservative candidate by 48-35. Now aged 80, he is standing down from the county council on health grounds. He might well have retired if the May 2021 Cumbria county council elections had gone ahead, but they were cancelled pending reorganisation of the county's local government.

That reorganisation meant that the 2021 Carlisle city elections were cancelled as well. The most recent city elections were held in 2019 with new ward boundaries: Great Corby is part of the Wetheral and Corby ward which returned a full slate of Conservative councillors, while the rest of the division is covered by Brampton and Fellside ward which split its three seats between two Conservatives and an independent. The whole division is covered by the Penrith and the Border constituency, which has been Conservative-held for many years.

No new independent candidate has come forward to replace Graham, so there are a lot of votes up for grabs. The Conservatives, who were runners-up last time and represented the area on the county council before Graham's win, have selected Tim Cheetham, who lives within the division in Hallbankgate. Cheetham is a former Army warrant officer, with service in Northern Ireland to his credit, who has organised the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal in North Cumbria for some years. In a straight fight Cheetham is opposed only by Roger Dobson of the Liberal Democrats. A retired Human Resources professional, Dobson started his local government career some years ago as a community councillor in Anglesey; he was a Labour candidate for Anglesey county council in 2017 before joining the Lib Dems. Dobson also lives within the ward, and he is a parish councillor in Cumwhitton.

Parliamentary constituency: Penrith and The Border
Carlisle city wards: Brampton and Fellside (Carlatton, Castle Carrock, Cumrew, Cumwhitton, Farlam, Hayton and Midgeholme parishes), Wetheral and Corby (part of Wetheral parish)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Carlisle
Postcode districts: CA4, CA8

Tim Cheetham (C)
Roger Dobson (LD)

May 2017 result Ind 830 C 608 LD 177 Grn 124
May 2013 result Ind 1083 C 390

Graig

Newport council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Margaret Cornelious.

Newport, Graig

For our Welsh by-election this week we come to another area which is noted for a very old railway viaduct. In fact the Bassaleg Viaduct, built in 1826 over the Ebbw River for the Rumney Railway, is claimed to be the oldest operational railway viaduct in the world. Unlike Corby Bridge, the Bassaleg Viaduct is no longer in passenger service: the line crossing the viaduct is a freight-only branch line serving a quarry in Machen.

The Graig division of Newport lies to the west of the city, outside the M4 motorway bypass. It is based on Bassaleg, a middle-class suburb from which many professionals commute to Newport or Cardiff: in the 2011 census Graig division was in the top 20 divisions in Wales for people employed in the financial and insurance sector. However, the area is also known for its rugby players: the current Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright and the grand-slam winning Wales captain Ryan Jones head a long list of Welsh (or, in the case of Stuart Barnes, English) rugby players who attended Bassaleg School, the local secondary school. Bassaleg School also educated the present Monmouth MP and Welsh Office minister David TC Davies, the former Welsh secretary Ron Davies, the recently-retired Archbishop of Wales John Davies and the present Green Party deputy leader and leadership candidate Amelia Womack.

The Graig division extends to the west along the A468 Newport-Caerphilly road to include the villages of Rhiwderin and Lower Machen. The Ebbw River forms the division's north-eastern boundary, and new housing developments in this century have caused the village of Rogerstone to spill over the river into this division. The resulting Afon Village development and the adjoining Rogerstone branch of Morrison's - built on the site previously occupied by Rogerstone power station - are cut off from the rest of this division by a hill and the A467 road. Afon Village will be transferred out of this division at the next Welsh local elections in May 2022.

Although this area voted Labour at the height of their powers in the 1990s, Graig is essentially a Conservative area and has voted for that party at every election this century. Margaret Cornelious was first elected here in 1990 and has continuous service since 1999; she served as Mayor of Newport in 2011-12. She is stepping down on health grounds.

Newport, 2017

At the most recent Welsh local elections in May 2017 the Conservatives led Labour here 47-38. Since then we have had four elections for the marginal Newport West constituency, including an April 2019 parliamentary by-election following the death of long-serving Labour MP Paul Flynn. Ruth Jones, the Labour winner of that by-election, was re-elected in December 2019 with a reduced majority of 902 votes over the Conservatives. In May's Senedd election Newport West constituency of the Senedd re-elected Labour MS Jayne Bryant with a much larger majority of 3,906, although there was a small swing to the Conservatives here.

So, a marginal division in a marginal constituency. We should watch this one closely. Defending for the Conservatives is John Jones, who runs a recruitment agency in Newport and has lived in the division for some years. The Labour candidate is John Harris, who represents Bassaleg on Graig community council; he was worked for the NHS for over 30 years. Completing the ballot paper is Jeff Evans for the Liberal Democrats.

Westminster and Senedd constituency: Newport West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Newport
Postcode district: NP10

Jeff Evans (LD)
John Harris (Lab)
John Jones (C)

May 2017 result C 1026/976 Lab 825/758 LD 194 Grn 153
May 2012 result C 902/805 Lab 718/580 LD 169
May 2008 result C 1187/1070 Lab 589 LD 317/241
August 2005 by-election C 770 Lab 503 Grn 69
June 2004 result C 1030/798 Lab 626/577 LD 348

Princes Park; and
Strood North

Medway council; caused respectively by the deaths of Tashi Bhutia and Steve Iles. Both were elected as Conservatives, although Iles was sitting as an Independent Conservative.

Medway, Princes Park

We finish for the week with two by-elections in the Medway towns. To start with Princes Park ward, which is based on the area around Princes Avenue in the southern part of Chatham. This area was mostly developed in the 1980s, partially as a council estate: social renting here is relatively low now, but despite the presence of a number of schools within the boundary educational attainment is not particularly high. In the 2011 census Princes Park ward was in the top 50 in England and Wales for those educated to Level 2 (5 or more GCSE passes or equivalent, but no further).

Medway, Strood N

Down by the riverside we have the town of Strood, the only Medway Town on the western bank of the river. Strood has been a major crossing-point of the Medway since the days of the Romans, who built a bridge here their route from the Channel Ports from London. Then known as Watling Street, now as the A2 road, the Roman road now forms the southern boundary of Strood North ward.

In this week's Cumbrian and Welsh by-elections we saw some very old railway viaducts. Strood goes to the other extreme with a very old railway tunnel, which was opened in 1824 as a canal tunnel linking the Medway towns to Gravesend. The Thames and Medway Canal was not a success, and in 1845 it was sold to the South Eastern Railway who converted Strood Tunnel into a railway tunnel. Strood railway station now has regular trains to London via the high speed route to St Pancras, and is the junction for the Medway Valley branch line to Maidstone and Paddock Wood.

Strood North has often been a marginal ward, and in the elections of 2007, 2011 and 2019 it split its three seats between one Labour and two Conservative councillors. On each of those occasions the winning Labour candidate was Stephen Hubbard who clearly has something of a personal vote. The May 2019 election saw the Conservative and Labour slates poll 32% each, with UKIP on 15% and the Greens on 12%. Princes Park has been marginal on occasion in the past but swung strongly to the Conservatives in the last decade; in May 2019 the vote shares here were 48% for the Conservatives, 28% for Labour and 25% for UKIP. Medway council went down the unitary route in the 1990s, so the only elections here in May were for Kent police and crime commissioner.

Medway, 2019

Both by-elections are to replace councillors who have recently died. Tashi Bhutia, who passed away last month, came to the UK after service as a Gurkha; he met his wife, Vicky, in Hong Kong while they were both serving in the Forces, and they settled in Chatham after marrying in 1980. Bhutia was first elected to Medway council in 2009, winning a by-election in Luton and Wayfield ward for the Conservatives; he transferred to the neighbouring Princes Park ward in 2015.

Steve Iles, who died in June at the age of 65, was first elected in 2015 but already had some experience of public life by then: his wife, Josie, was Mayor of Medway in 2013-14. Iles himself served as mayor in 2018-19 and was twice deputy mayor: however, his second term as deputy mayor of Medway was cut short in 2019 by a controversy over Islamophobic social media posts, which also saw him thrown out of the Conservative party. From then until his death Iles sat on the council as an Independent Conservative.

Defending Princes Park for the Conservatives is Robbie Lammas, a Parliamentary researcher who contested Luton and Wayfield ward in 2019. Labour have selected John Strevens, who fought the neighbouring Lordswood and Capstone ward last time out. UKIP have not returned, so the ballot paper is completed by Lib Dem John Castle, independent candidate Matt Durcan (who fought Rainham Central ward in 2019 and finished as a strong runner-up; he is endorsed by a localist Medway Independents slate) and Sonia Hyner for the Green Party.

The same five parties are contesting the Strood North by-election. Here the defending Conservative is Mark Joy, who was elected to Medway council in 2015 as a UKIP candidate from Strood South ward, but defected to the Conservatives in 2016. Joy contested Twydall ward in 2019, without success. The Labour candidate is Zöe van Dyke, who fought this ward in 2019; she has recently retired from a job as a mediator with UNISON. Again, there is no UKIP candidate this time. The Greens have selected Cat Jamieson, who fought Rochester West ward (where she lives) in 2019. Completing the ballot paper are independent Chris Spalding (who is also a Medway Independents candidate) and Alan Wells for the Liberal Democrats.

Finally, a shoutout is in order for Medway Elects, a rather flashy website which aims to create "the most in-depth array of electoral history for Medway available online". The work already done is very impressive, and if you would like to see it for yourself their address is www.medwayelects.co.uk. Long may Medway Elects prosper.

Princes Park

Parliamentary constituency: Chatham and Aylesford
ONS Travel to Work Area: Medway
Postcode district: ME5

John Castle (LD)
Matt Durcan (Ind)
Sonia Hyner (Grn)
Robbie Lammas (C)
John Strevens (Lab)

May 2019 result C 962/951 Lab 554/494 UKIP 497
May 2015 result C 1811/1633 UKIP 1144/907 Lab 1029/821 TUSC 60
May 2011 result C 1488/1317 Lab 1014/968 EDP 200 LD 119
May 2007 result C 1068/1029 Lab 975/832 EDP 252 Medway Ind Party 176/144 BNP 153
May 2003 result C 662/570 Lab 541/484 BNP 205 LD 205/203

Strood North

Parliamentary constituency: Rochester and Strood
ONS Travel to Work Area: Medway
Postcode district: ME2

Cat Jamieson (Grn)
Mark Joy (C)
Chris Spalding (Ind)
Zöe van Dyke (Lab)
Alan Wells (LD)

May 2019 result C 1331/1200/1055 Lab 1313/1118/1037 UKIP 604 Grn 499 Ind 410/349/264
May 2015 result C 2673/2230/2138 Lab 1841/1636/1500 UKIP 1791/1630/1513 Grn 630 TUSC 195
May 2011 result C 2016/1988/1699 Lab 1764/1480/1390 LD 318/228/198 EDP 282 TUSC 212
May 2007 result C 1771/1732/1593 Lab 1609/1402/1365 LD 477/445/340 UKIP 345
May 2003 result C 1604/1537/1531 Lab 1444/1355/1262 LD 347/276/251 UKIP 146


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 by-elections of 19 August 2021

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

Eight by-elections on 19th August 2021, with the Conservatives defending five seats, the Liberal Democrats two and the Scottish National Party one. Without further ado, we start with the big one:

Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner

Caused by the disqualification of Conservative PCC Jonathan Seed, who did not make his declaration of acceptance of office.

Welcome to the biggest by-election of 2021. You thought the recent parliamentary by-elections in Hartlepool, Chesham and Amersham, and Batley and Spen were big; well, this poll is more than twice as big as those three put together. We have a county-wide by-election for the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

You might reasonably ask what the hell is going on here. We only had police and crime commissioner elections in May, and now there's a by-election less than three months later? Well, bad luck is not involved here. The electors of the whole of Wiltshire are being called to the polls in the middle of the summer holidays, at a cost of £1,500,000 to the local council taxpayers, because of a series of failures and unintended consequences.

The story starts 29 years ago on 11 July 1992, when there was an incident in the village of Netheravon in Wiltshire. There was a hit-and-run car crash on the High Street; nobody was hurt but some damage was caused. The police caught the driver responsible: he was 34-year-old Jonathon Seed, a Royal Artillery officer, and tests revealed him to be nearly three times over the alcohol limit. Seed was charged with three offences arising from this incident: drink-driving, failure to stop at the scene of an accident, and failure to leave his name and address following a crash.

In March 1993 Seed appeared before Kennet magistrates and pleaded guilty to the first two offences, with the third charge being dropped. The magistrates fined him a total of £500 and disqualified him from driving for 18 months. And in most circumstances that would have been the end of the matter.

This column normally talks about by-elections to local government, and as a result your columnist knows what sort of court sentence can get you disqualified from being a local councillor. £500 and an 18-month driving ban, incurred 28 years ago, is nowhere near that threshold. Disqualification from being a local councillor kicks in if you have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three months or more, including suspended sentences, within the last five years. There is one by-election coming up in the next few weeks where a councillor has fallen foul of this rule.

You can be far more of a crook than that and still be an MP, as we saw a couple of years ago with the case of Fiona Onasanya MP. She got four months in prison for perverting the course of justice, and had she still been a Cambridgeshire county councillor her political career would have ended then. However, it takes a twelve-month prison sentence to disqualify from Parliament, and the electors of Peterborough had to go through the hassle and expense of an election petition to force Onansanya off the green benches.

Jonathon Seed's offences from 1993 are now spent convictions. This is thanks to the Rehabiliation of Offenders Act 1974, which (to quote from official Police advice) "aims to rehabilitate offenders by not making their past mistakes affect the rest of their lives if they have been on the right side of the law for some time". And indeed Seed went on to a successful and laudable career: he eventually left the Army with the rank of Major, went into business and became the master of a hunt. Seed also went into politics: he has been a Wiltshire councillor since 2013, served on the council's cabinet, had been an agent for a number of Conservative MPs, and had applied (unsuccessfully, as far as I can tell) to be a Conservative parliamentary candidate. In 2018 Seed was selected as the Conservative candidate for Wiltshire police and crime commissioner in succession to Angus Macpherson, who was intending to retire at the 2020 election (subsequently postponed to 2021 for obvious reasons) after two terms.

The police and crime commissionerships in England and Wales are one of the few surviving constitutional innovations of the 2010-15 Coalition government. The legislation and rules for their elections and eligibility were written by the Home Office, who don't normally have anything to do with elections. And it shows. For those who know and work with the eligibility and by-election timing rules for local government, what the Home Office came up with is ludicrous in a number of aspects which directly affect this poll.

To start with eligibility: why are we having this by-election? The eligibility rules are set out in sections 64 to 69 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. To quote from the relevant parts of section 66 (subsections (3)(c) and (4)(a)(i)):

A person is disqualified from being elected as, or being, a police and crime commissioner if the person has been convicted in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man, of any imprisonable offence (whether or not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in respect of the offence).

For [this purpose] “imprisonable offence” means an offence for which a person who has attained the age of 18 years may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

There's no time limit here. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act doesn't apply. If you've ever been done over by the courts for something you could have been sent to prison for, whether you were actually sentenced to imprisonment or not, then you're not qualified to be a police and crime commissioner.

This rule caught out a number of intended candidates when the first police and crime commissioner elections rolled around in darkest November of 2012. The most high-profile case was that of Simon Weston, the Falklands War veteran and charity fundraiser, who had intended to seek election as the PCC for South Wales. At the age of 14 Weston had been caught as a passenger in a car which some older friends of his had stolen, and he received a police caution for that. Opinion was divided as to whether this disqualified him, and in the end Weston did not stand in the election.

Section 66(3)(c) clearly does apply to Jonathon Seed. He has been convicted of two historic driving offences, both of which are imprisonable (both now and in 1993). Under the current law, the maximum penalty for both drink-driving and failure to stop at the scene of an accident is six months' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Seed declared his previous convictions to the Conservative Party when he sought their nomination for the PCC position, and it appears he was wrongly advised by the party that he was eligible to stand. His nomination papers for the election included signing a declaration that "to the best of my knowledge and belief I am not disqualified from election as Police and Crime Commissioner".

It took some fantastic work from the team of investigative journalists at ITV News, who deserve an award for this, to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, the story of Seed's disqualification broke after polling day on Thursday 6 May 2021, but before the votes in the election were counted on the following Monday. On first preferences, Seed polled 41% of the vote against 17% each for the Lib Dems and Labour and 15% for an independent candidate. The Lib Dems beat Labour for second place by 866 votes and went through to the runoff, which Seed won 63-37. Accordingly, the returning officer declared Seed elected as PCC in the full knowledge that he was disqualified from the office. Sometimes you just have to do these things.

Which brings us to the second question: why is this by-election being held now, in the middle of the summer holidays? Well, this is another case of the PCC elections legislation being ludicrous. The timing rules for by-elections, set out in section 51 of the 2011 Act, say that (unless the term is within its last six months) PCC by-elections must be held within 35 working days of the vacancy occurring. Given that notice of election has to be published 25 working days before the poll, and the nomination deadline is 19 working days before the poll, this gives almost no flexibility for the polling day. One of these days we will end up with a PCC by-election having to be scheduled over the Christmas and New Year period because of this.

There has have already been one instance of a PCC by-election taking place in the summer holidays. That was the West Midlands PCC by-election of 21 August 2014, held after the death of the incumbent on 1 July. The turnout just about crawled over 10%.

For comparison, vacancies in Scottish local government, the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd have to be filled within three months. There is no deadline for filling vacancies in Parliament or in English and Welsh local government, although it's considered bad form to leave seats vacant for months on end without a good reason.

Now, we are clearly more than 35 working days on from the May ordinary elections, so why hasn't this poll happened already? Well, in order to take up the office of PCC (and its salary and pension benefits), Seed had to make a declaration of acceptance of office under section 70 of the 2011 Act. He chose not to do so for the police and crime commissionership (although Seed had also been re-elected to Wiltshire county council, which he is not disqualified from, and he did accept that office). The deadline for making the declaration was 7 July, and the returning officer could not confirm that the position was vacant and start the timetable for election until that date had passed. Inevitably, this resulted in a polling date in the second half of August. Well done everyone.

It might take a high-profile mess-up like the one involving Seed for the Conservatives to lose this by-election. As stated, they had a 63-37 lead over the Lib Dems in May, and the two previous PCC elections (in November 2012 and May 2016) were comfortable Conservative wins as well. Wiltshire is divided into seven parliamentary constituencies, which have returned a full slate of seven Conservative MPs since 2015. The Tories have had a majority of Wiltshire's MPs continuously since 1924, with only the seat or seats based on Swindon having ever returned Labour MPs; the rest of the county has been true blue for 97 years with the exception of 2010, when the Liberal Democrats won the newly-drawn Chippenham seat.

Wiltshire, 2021

The May 2021 elections were combined with local elections in every one of Wiltshire's 118 electoral wards: the 98 wards of Wiltshire council (above) were up for election in the ordinary course, the 2020 elections for one-third of Swindon council (below) were postponed to this year for obvious reasons, and there was a by-election in the one ward of Swindon which was not scheduled to hold an ordinary election. Adding up the votes cast across the county, the Conservatives polled 48%, the Lib Dems 22% and Labour 15% (the vast majority of which was from Swindon); the council seats split 77 to the Conservatives (including Jonathon Seed in Melksham Without West and Rural), 27 to the Lib Dems, 8 to Labour and 7 to independent candidates. The Conservatives have majorities on both councils, losing seats in Wiltshire in May but gaining seats in Swindon.

Swindon, 2021

Defending for the Conservatives is another ex-military officer. Like Jonathon Seed, Philip Wilkinson is ex-Royal Artillery; he has also served as a commando, as a Para and with the special forces in Northern Ireland. He was appointed MBE for his service in Northern Ireland, and promoted to OBE for writing the NATO manual on peace support operations. Since leaving the Army with the rank of Colonel, Wilkinson has worked on security with the Rwandan, Iraqi, Afghan (oh dear), Palestinian and most recently the Somali governments.

The Lib Dems have selected Brian Mathew, who is a Wiltshire county councillor for the Box and Colerne ward and also sits on the Wiltshire Police and Crime Panel. Mathew was the Lib Dem candidate for the North Wiltshire constituency in the last three general elections.

Standing again for Labour is Junab Ali, who finished third in May. Ali, who runs an electrical contracting business, is the chair of the Wiltshire Police and Crime Panel; he has sat on Swindon council since 2008, currently represents the town's Central ward, and was Mayor of Swindon in 2018-19. In the 2010 general election Ali was the Labour candidate for the Devizes constituency.

Also returning is independent candidate Mike Rees, who finished in fourth place in May with 15% of the vote. Rees is a former Wiltshire Police detective inspector, who had a 30-year career with the force; he now runs a cleaning business.

Completing the ballot paper is Julian Malins, the Reform UK candidate, who finished sixth and last in May with 2% of the vote. The brother of the former Conservative MP Humfrey Malins, Julian is a former Alderman of the City of London and has been a Conservative parliamentary candidate in the past.

As with all police and crime commissioner elections the Supplementary Vote will be in use, and you can mark two preferences on your ballot paper. Polls will be open across Wiltshire from 7am to 10pm.

Parliamentary constituencies: Chippenham, Devizes, North Swindon, North Wiltshire, Salisbury, South Swindon, South West Wiltshire
ONS Travel to Work Areas: Salisbury, Swindon, Trowbridge
Postcode districts: BA2, BA11, BA12, BA13, BA14, BA15, GL7, GL8, GL9, RG17, SN1, SN2, SN3, SN4, SN5, SN6, SN8, SN9, SN10, SN11, SN12, SN13, SN14, SN15, SN16, SN25, SN26, SO51, SP1, SP2, SP3, SP4, SP5, SP6, SP7, SP9, SP11

Junab Ali (Lab)
Julian Malins (Reform UK)
Brian Mathew (LD)
Mike Rees (Ind)
Philip Wilkinson (C)

May 2021 result C 84885 LD 35013 Lab 34147 Ind 31722 Grn 16606 Reform UK 4348; runoff C 100003 LD 58074
May 2016 result C 56605 Lab 28166 LD 19294 UKIP 18434; runoff C 68622 Lab 39365
November 2012 result C 28558 Lab 16198 Ind 11446 LD 10130 UKIP 7250 Ind 5212; runoff C 35319 Lab 21157

Election Court Watch

The Election Court didn't need to get involved in the wrongful election of Jonathon Seed in Wiltshire, but they have disposed of one of the petitions before them arising from May's elections. This was the case of Cherry v Strangwood affecting the Banbury Ruscote division of Oxfordshire county council, in which the deputy returning officer for Cherwell had declared the Conservative candidate Jayne Strangwood to be elected with outgoing Labour county councillor Mark Cherry in second place. It was widely reported at the time that the vote totals for Cherry and Strangwood had been accidentally swapped around in the declaration, and at last week's hearing the Election Court accepted this evidence. They have accordingly quashed Strangwood's election and declared that Cherry was the rightful winner in Banbury Ruscote. With this Cherry added on top the Labour group on Oxfordshire county council has now increased to 16 councillors, while the Conservatives fall to 21 and are now tied with the Lib Dems for the status of largest party on the council. This is an increase in the majority for the pretentiously-named Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance, a coalition of the Lib Dems, Labour and Greens which runs the county council.

Sandwich

Dover council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor MJ Holloway.

Dover, Sandwich

We now turn to the seven local by-elections today in England and Scotland, starting in Sandwich. This is a Cinque Port, originally located on the estuary of the River Stour, but changes in the Kent coastline over the centuries have left Sandwich several miles away from the sea.

Back in the the day Sandwich was the scene of a number of French invasions which they don't tell you about in GCSE history. In 1216 a French force under the future Louis VIII landed here, supporting the Barons' side in the First Barons' War against King John. The French were back in 1457 with a raiding party, burning much of Sandwich to the ground; one of the dead was the town's mayor, and the present Mayor of Sandwich wears a black robe in memory of this incident.

In the space between the town and the sea is one of the world's best-known links golf courses. Royal St George's is the only golf course in the south of England on the Open Championship rota, and last month it hosted the 149th Open Championship won by the American Colin Morikawa. Ian Fleming was a member of Royal St George's, and the course appears under an assumed name in the James Bond novel Goldfinger.

The town's largest employer for many years was the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has had a large base in Sandwich since 1954 concentrating on research and development. Pfizer scaled back its operations here in 2011, and their site is now operated as "Discovery Park" with other businesses having joined the site.

Dover, 2019

Sandwich is located at the northern end of the Dover local government district, and has consistently returned Conservative candidates at all levels of government in recent years. There were new boundaries in 2019 which reduced the number of councillors for the ward from three to two: the Conservative slate won with 34%, outgoing Conservative councillor Paul Carter polled 25% as an independent candidate, while the Lib Dems and Labour polled 14% each. The Sandwich division of Kent county council (which is larger than this ward) was safely Conservative in May, and the ward is part of the Conservative-held South Thanet constituency. This was the seat contested by UKIP leader in Nigel Farage in 2015, and UKIP ran riot in that year's local elections across much of the constituency but did comparatively poorly here.

Outgoing councillor Michael John "MJ" Holloway had represented the ward since 2015. Previously he had been a senior official in the Diplomatic Service: he was the British Ambassador to Panama from 2011 to 2013, and before that from 2005 to 2010 he was the Foreign Office's director for consular services in Iberia, work for which he was appointed OBE in 2009. Holloway was deputy leader of Dover council from October 2019 until his resignation in June 2021.

Defending for the Conservatives is Dan Friend, a Sandwich town councillor who runs a group of IT businesses in the town. In a straight fight, Friend is opposed by fellow Sandwich town councillor Anne Fox, a retired environmental health officer, who is the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: South Thanet
Kent county council division: Sandwich
ONS Travel to Work Area: Margate and Ramsgate
Postcode districts: CT3, CT13

Anne Fox (LD)
Dan Friend (C)

May 2019 result C 883/872 Ind 639 LD 371 Lab 351/314 Grn 328

Downs North

Ashford council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Charles Dehnel.

Ashford, Downs N

We move inland within Kent to the North Downs. Or, as the ward name has it, Downs North. This ward covers four small parishes midway between Ashford and Canterbury, of which the largest is Chilham in the Great Stour valley. Chilham is a relatively unspoilt and very photogenic village which has appeared in several TV dramas, including the 2009 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma and editions of ITV's Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. That Poirot episode, set during a snowbound Christmas, heavily featured the village's oldest building: Chilham Castle, which dates from 1174 and is still in private occupation. Until his death last year the castle's occupier was Stuart Wheeler, the spread betting millionaire and former treasurer of the UK Independence Party.

Ashford, 2019

Wheeler had previously been a significant donor to the Conservative party, and the Downs North ward was traditionally a strong area for them. It survived a boundary review in 2019 unchanged, re-electing Tory councillor and former Grenadier Guards officer Stephen Dehnel with a relatively-low score of 47% of the vote; the Greens came second on 24% and the Lib Dems were third with 19%. Ashford's 2019 results have just been added to the Local Elections Archive Project, and the above map comes to Andrew's Previews hot off the press.

Sadly, Stephen Dehnel died very shortly afterwards. The by-election to replace him took place in July 2019 (Andrew's Previews 2019, page 212) and saw a large ballot paper - with seven candidates in total - and an unusually close result for the ward. The Conservative candidate Charles Dehnel won the by-election to succeed his father on the council with a majority of just 39 votes, polling 37% of the vote against 31% for the Green Party and 11% for the Liberal Democrats.

Charles Dehnel has now stood down from Ashford council after two years in office, provoking the second Downs North by-election of this council term. Defending for the Conservatives is Sarah Williams, who was an independent candidate here in the July 2019 by-election; on that occasion she polled 17 votes and tied for last place with Labour. Williams is the chair of Molash parish council, one of the four parishes which make up this ward. The Green Party have reselected Geoff Meaden, who lives within the ward in the wonderfully-named village of Old Wives Lees and sits on Chilham parish council; he's a former geography lecturer who has been in the Greens since the days when they were called the Ecology Party. Meaden was the Greens' parliamentary candidate for Canterbury in 2010, was a close runner-up in the July 2019 by-election, and was also runner-up (although much further back) in May's elections to Kent county council, where he contested the local division of Ashford Rural East. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Carol Wilcox, who stood in Ashford's Bockhanger ward in the 2019 borough elections. Only the top three parties from the July 2019 by-election have returned, so that is your ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Ashford
Kent county council division: Ashford Rural East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ashford
Postcode districts: CT4, TN25

Geoff Meaden (Grn)
Carol Wilcox (LD)
Sarah Williams (C)

July 2019 by-election C 229 Grn 190 LD 70 Ashford Ind 67 UKIP 22 Lab 17 Ind 17
May 2019 result C 375 Grn 186 LD 148 Lab 82
May 2015 result C 932 Lab 291 Grn 290
May 2011 result C 580 Ashford Ind 279 Grn 162
May 2007 result C 511 Grn 240 LD 102
May 2003 result C 599 LD 158

Oakham South

Rutland council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Nick Woodley.

Rutland, Oakham S

The quiz I was playing at the weekend contained the following question:

In November 2020 McDonalds opened their first “restaurant” in England’s smallest county. This was in which town, the county town?

The answer expected was Oakham. Now, as this column has pointed out in the past the definition of those crucial words "smallest" and "county" can be rather troublesome; but Oakham is indeed the county town of Rutland which has claimed the title of England's smallest county for many years.

The Oakham McDonald's is on the northern edge of town, whereas today we are concentrating on Oakham South ward. This ward takes in part of the town centre but is mostly residential, covering a series of outlying estates on the southern edges of the town. It has only existed since 2019, having been created from the merger of two predecessor wards called Oakham South East and Oakham South West.

Both predecessor wards had by-elections which were described this column in 2018. Oakham South East ward had elected an independent and a Conservative councillor in 2015, and the March 2018 by-election (Andrew's Previews 2018, page 102) resulted in the Conservatives losing their seat to another independent. The volatile Oakham South West ward had also elected an independent and a Conservative councillor in 2015, and the July 2018 by-election (Andrew's Previews 2018, page 245) also resulted in the Conservatives losing their seat to another independent.

In the case of South West, thereby hangs a tale. The defending Conservatives fell to third position in a close three-way result, independent candidate Richard Alderman tied for first place with the Lib Dems' Joanna Burrows on 177 votes each, and Alderman won the by-election on the returning officer's drawing of lots. Very shortly afterwards newly-elected Councillor Alderman was arrested over some very dubious stuff on his Facebook aimed at the then-Prime Minister Theresa May and other high-profile MPs; he subsequently pleaded guilty to four charges of making menacing or grossly offensive social media posts, and was sentenced by Birmingham magistrates to a six-month community order and a six-month night-time curfew. The terms of his curfew prevented Alderman from attending council meetings, and he was subsequently kicked off Rutland council under the six-month non-attendance rule. By this time the May 2019 elections were imminent, so there was no further by-election to replace him.

The South West and South East wards were merged into a new Oakham South ward in 2019 as stated, with one fewer councillor than previously. Curiously, none of the four previous independent councillors sought re-election here, and the candidate list saw a Conservative slate of three opposed only by the Lib Dems' Joanna Burrows. She topped the poll with 58%, the Conservative slate polling 42% and winning the other two seats by default.

Conservative councillor Nick Woodley resigned at the end of June in protest at a planning decision, which saw the Rutland council planning committee approve a new development of 62 homes on a greenbelt site off Braunstone Road within the ward. The by-election to replace him will again be a straight fight between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Defending for the Conservatives is Andy Burton, who has previous local government experience: he sat from 1999 to 2019 on East Riding council in Yorkshire (which we shall come to presently), representing Wolds Weighton ward, and held several portfolios in the council's cabinet. Burton, who has recently been co-opted onto Oakham town council, runs a business advising farmers on sustainable agriculture. Challenging for the Liberal Democrats is Paul Browne, a retired solicitor who previously ran a large practice in the town. The local press reported that a number of fake ballot papers for this by-election were discovered in a public litter bin during the campaign (link), but there are security measures to guard against this sort of thing and electors can rest assured that the returning officer will only admit genuine ballots into the count.

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

Paul Browne (LD)
Andy Burton (C)

May 2019 result LD 856 C 620/551/435

East Wolds and Coastal

East Riding council, East Yorkshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Paul Lisseter at the age of 58.

E Riding, E Wolds/Coastal

We move to the north of England, starting for once on the wrong side of the Pennines. The East Wolds and Coastal ward sprawls across an enormous area of the East Riding, covering twenty-one rural parishes between Bridlington to the east and Driffield to the west. With an area of 148 square miles, this was at one point the second-largest electoral ward in England (although subsequent reorganisations have seen it fall a long way down the table).

Back in the day the most important settlement in the ward was Kilham, which was an important market town on the old Roman road from York to Bridlington and had a larger population than Driffield. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries there was also a major centre at Skipsea, whose Norman castle - built around 1086, the year of Domesday - defended the region against Danish invaders. Today, with just over 3,000 electors on the roll, the largest population centre in this ward is Nafferton; this is a village just off the main road and on the railway line between Driffield and Bridlington.

E Riding, 2019

East Wolds and Coastal is a safe Conservative ward. (William) Paul Lisseter had represented the area since winning a by-election in May 2016 and was re-elected for a second term in 2019. He ran a housing development company. Earlier this year Lisseter had been suspended from the Conservative group over comments he made to a public inquiry into housing plans for the East Riding: he denied any wrongdoing, but was still sitting as an independent at the time of his sudden death in June.

The May 2019 election here had only three parties on the ballot, with the Conservatives beating the Green Party slate 56-31 and Labour being the only other party to stand. With Humberside county council being long gone, the only elections here in May were for Humberside police and crime commissioner.

Defending for the Conservatives is Charlie Dewhirst, who has previous local government experience: he sat from 2010 to 2018 on Hammersmith and Fulham council in London, representing Ravenscourt Park ward. (One of his ward colleagues was the political journalist Harry Phibbs.) Dewhirst has now returned to his native East Yorkshire and works as an adviser to the British pig industry. The Green Party have reselected John Scullion who was on their slate here in 2019; he is the local coordinator for the National Cycle Network charity Sustrans. Also standing are Daniel Vulliamy for Labour (who returns from 2019), Peter Astell for the Liberal Democrats and Kim Thomas for the Yorkshire Party.

Parliamentary constituency: East Yorkshire
ONS Travel to Work Area: Bridlington (part); Hull (part)
Postcode districts: YO15, YO16, YO25

Peter Astell (LD)
Charlie Dewhirst (C)
John Scullion (Grn)
Kim Thomas (Yorkshire Party)
Daniel Vulliamy (Lab)

May 2019 result C 2242/2072/1856 Grn 1222/928/757 Lab 522/522
May 2016 by-election C 1885 Lab 860 UKIP 835
May 2015 result C 4185/3788/3366 UKIP 2080 Lab 1527/1334 Grn 1393 LD 1040
May 2011 result C 2769/2595/2511 Grn 949 Lab 883/778/609 LD 470/431/418
May 2007 result C 2439/2347/2333 Grn 690 Ind 639 LD 568/533 Lab 477
May 2003 result C 2146/2055/2015 Lab 1046

Littlemoor; and
Primrose

Ribble Valley council, Lancashire; caused respectively by the resignations of Liberal Democrat councillor Sue and Allan Knox.

We cross over the border to Lancashire for two Liberal Democrat defences in the town of Clitheroe. Located in the Ribble Valley some distance to the north of Blackburn, Clitheroe is based around Clitheroe Castle, a Norman building with one of the smallest keeps of any British castle. The town around it was a textile centre like much of Lancashire.

In 1902 Clitheroe gained the distinction of being first parliamentary seat won by the Labour Party at a by-election. The previous Liberal MP Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth had been elevated to the peerage, and David Shackleton of the Labour Representation Committee won the resulting by-election unopposed. The key to understanding this result is that at the time Clitheroe was not typical of the seat named after it, which from 1885 to 1918 was based on the fast-growing textile towns of Nelson and Colne on the far side of Pendle Hill. The seat was called Clitheroe because it took in the previous parliamentary borough of Clitheroe, which had been disenfranchised by the 1885 redistribution.

In the 21st century Clitheroe has a very different political context because it is the main town in the Ribble Valley local government district and parliamentary seat. Those units have Conservative majorities and Labour representatives are nowhere to be seen. Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans has represented the Ribble Valley constituency since 1992, while the 2019 elections to Ribble Valley council returned 28 Conservative councillors, 10 Lib Dems and 2 independents. The Liberal Democrat vote is strongly concentrated in Clitheroe town, which returned nine Lib Dem councillors and one Conservative.

Ribble Vy, Primrose

Littlemoor and Primrose are the two southern wards of Clitheroe. Primrose ward (above) runs south along the railway line towards Blackburn from Clitheroe Castle and the Booths supermarket, which lie at the ward's northern end. (For the benefit of those who may be confused by this reference, Waitrose is the non-Lancashire equivalent of Booths.) Littlemoor ward (below) lies immediately to the east between the Whalley Road and the Pendle Road, which goes straight up the hill towards the Nick o'Pendle pass. In between the two is the Primrose nature reserve, a mill lodge which has recently been restored and opened to the public.

Ribble Vy, Littlemoor

Both of these are safe Liberal Democrat wards. The May 2019 elections, the only previous results on these boundaries, gave the Lib Dems leads of 58-24 over the Conservatives in Littlemoor and 60-24 over Labour in Primrose. Both wards are part of the Clitheroe division of Lancashire county council, which has the same boundaries as the town. This county division has consistently been a photofinish in recent years. The Lib Dems' Allan Knox held the seat by 23 votes over the Conservatives in 2009; he finished third in a close three-way result in 2013, the Conservatives gaining the seat with a 45-vote majority over an independent; in 2017 the Tories were re-elected with a majority of five votes over the Lib Dems, and they increased their majority to 12 votes in May this year.

Ribble Valley, 2019

Former Lib Dem county councillor Allan Knox was the leader of the opposition on Ribble Valley council, having sat for Primrose ward since 1997, and his wife Susan had served as one of the councillors for Littlemoor ward since 2011. Both of them have previously served as Mayor of Clitheroe. They are relocating north of the border, where Sue has a new job in St Andrews.

Defending Littlemoor for the Lib Dems is Gaynor Hewitt. The Conservatives have selected Jimmy Newhouse, who runs a waste management company. Also standing in Littlemoor are Mandy Pollard for Labour and Anne Peplow for the Green Party.

The same four parties are contesting the Primrose by-election. Here the defending Lib Dem candidate is Kerry Fletcher, wife of St Mary's ward councillor Stewart Fletcher. Labour have selected Michael Graveston, who was their county council candidate here in May. Katei Blezard for the Conservatives and Malcolm Peplow for the Greens complete the Primrose ballot paper.

Littlemoor

Parliamentary constituency: Ribble Valley
Lancashire county council division: Clitheroe
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackburn
Postcode district: BB7

Gaynor Hewitt (LD)
Jimmy Newhouse (C)
Anne Peplow (Grn)
Mandy Pollard (Lab)

May 2019 result LD 474/411 C 193/151 Lab 151/150

Primrose

Parliamentary constituency: Ribble Valley
Lancashire county council division: Clitheroe
ONS Travel to Work Area: Blackburn
Postcode district: BB7

Katei Blezard (C)
Kerry Fletcher (LD)
Michael Graveston (Lab)
Malcolm Peplow (Grn)

May 2019 result LD 418/403 Lab 166/151 C 109/98

Mid Formartine

Aberdeenshire council, Scotland; caused by the resignation of Scottish National Party councillor Karen Adam.

Aberdeenshire, M Formartine

We finish north of the border in Aberdeenshire. Formartine (a Gaelic name meaning "Martin's land") is an agricultural area to the north and north-west of Aberdeen. This area has boomed in population in recent years, and commuting to the big city and engineering (connected to the North Sea oil industry) have added to the area's economic mix in recent decades.

The main population centre in the Mid Formartine ward is Oldmeldrum, on the main road between Aberdeen and Banff. Oldmeldrum is home to one of Scotland's oldest distilleries: Glen Garioch whisky has been made here since 1797, trading on the area's reputation for producing Scotland's finest barley.

The Mid Formartine ward runs south-east from Oldmeldrum through Pitmedden (home to the Highland League football team Formartine United) to the coast at Potterton and Balmedie. These lie just outside Aberdeen and as such are mostly commuter villages, although Balmedie does have some work of its own: part of the major sand-dune system here has been turned into the Trump International Golf Links, which have a Balmedie address but lie just outside the ward boundary. Unlike Royal St George's which we discussed earlier, Trump International is yet to be added to the Open Championship rota.

This ward was created in 2007 and modified in 2012, losing some villages to the north to Turriff and District ward. In 2007 it elected two Lib Dems and one councillor each from the SNP and the Conservatives. For the 2012 election one of the Lib Dem councillors, Paul Johnston, was re-elected as an independent while the other lost his seat to the SNP.

Aberdeenshire, 2017

The Conservatives moved into first place here in 2017, polling 35% against 26% for the SNP, 21% for Johnston and 9% for the Lib Dems. As with many Aberdeenshire wards the Conservatives could have won two seats here in 2017 if they had stood two candidates; instead their transfers gave the final seat to the Lib Dems who gained a seat back from the SNP. New face Karen Adam defeated outgoing councillor Cryle Shand for the SNP seat; the other elected councillors for the ward were Jim Gifford of the Conservatives, independent Paul Johnston and Andrew Hassan of the Lib Dems. Gifford subsequently became leader of the council at the head of a Unionist coalition, but left the leadership and the Conservative party last year.

If we re-run the 2017 count for one seat, the Conservatives beat Johnston 52.5-47.5; a Conservative-SNP final two is more of a blowout, with a 59-41 lead for the Tories against the two SNP candidates.

As we can see, the SNP face an uphill struggle to hold this by-election. Their councillor Karen Adam was elected to the Scottish Parliament in May as the MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, holding the seat by the narrow majority of 772 votes over the Conservatives. She was the first MSP to take the oath of office in British Sign Language (her father is deaf). Adam has resigned from Aberdeenshire council to concentrate on her duties in Holyrood.

Defending for the Scottish National Party is Jenny Nicol, who manages the post office in Potterton. The Conservatives also have a Potterton-based candidate, Sheila Powell. Jeff Goodhall, who was an independent candidate here in 2017 (polling 5% and finishing as runner-up), returns with the Lib Dem nomination and the unlikely endorsement of Jim Gifford, the former Conservative leader of Aberdeenshire council; Goodhall completes a four-strong ballot paper along with Peter Kennedy of the Scottish Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Gordon (almost all)
Scottish Parliament constituency: Aberdeenshire East
ONS Travel to Work Area: Aberdeen
Postcode districts: AB21, AB23, AB41, AB51, AB53

Jeff Goodhall (LD)
Peter Kennedy (Grn)
Jenny Nicol (SNP)

Sheila Powell (C)

May 2017 first preferences C 1797 SNP 1340 Ind 1070 LD 491 Ind 249 Lab 245


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Andrew Teale