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Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Preview: July 24th 2014

July 24th, 2014

Clifton on Blackpool (Lab Defence)
Last election to council (2011): Labour 27, Conservatives 14, Liberal Democrats 1 (Labour majority of 12)
Last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,090, 911
Conservatives 567, 475
Independent 221
Candidates duly nominated: Bruce Allen (Con), Gita Gordon (Lib Dem), Tina Rothery (Green), Spencer Shackleton (UKIP), Luke Taylor (Lab), Phillip Watt (TUSC)

It has been said that to holiday in Blackpool, you should count on nothing being the same. It may be hot and sunny one day, the next teeming it down with rain and gale force winds. Blackpool council has been just as volitalte. Back in 2003, Labour were firmly in control (Lab 25, Con 13, Lib Dem 4) and with two Labour MP’s at Westminster that domination looked set to continue however in 2007 that certainly came to a grinding halt as the Conservatives doubled their councillor group (inflicting tweleve losses on Labour and one on the Liberal Democrats) to gain control of the council and just three years later Blackpool North was won by the Conservatives for the first time since 1997 with Blackpool South becoming a Labour marginal. However, just as the tides had swept the Conservatives into power in Blackpool, the tides washed them out again in 2011 as the Conservatives lost all but one of their gains to Labour, who in turn picked up another couple of seats from the Liberal Democrats allowing them to regain control.

Edenthorpe, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun on Doncaster (Lab Defence)
Last election to council (2014): Labour 48, Conservatives 8, Independents 6, UKIP 1 (Labour majority of 33)
Last electoral cycle in ward (2011 – 2014)
2011: Labour 1,618 (37%), Independent 928 (21%), Conservatives 837 (19%), English Democrats 655 (15%), Liberal Democrats 394 (9%)
2012: Labour 1,409 (38%), English Democrats 731 (20%), Liberal Democrats 579 (16%), Conservatives 518 (14%), Independent 437 (12%)
2014: UKIP 1,304 (37%), Labour 1,267 (36%), Conservatives 19%), English Democrats 198 (6%), TUSC 102 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Nick Allen (Con), Paul Bissett (UKIP), Pete Kennedy (Green), David Nevett (Lab)

On the face of it you might think “Doncaster, Labour HOLD (yawn) can we get on to a more exicting council please?” but actually Doncaster has been far more exciting than the reputation of a Labour stronghold might suggest. Back in 2003, Doncaster was your typical Labour fiedom (Lab 45, Lib Dem 8, Con 7, Ind 3), and maybe that was the problem and as a result in the 2004 local elections, Labour lost control. Yes, that’s right Labour, whose MP’s read like a list of who’s who of British political stature, lost control of Doncaster with a staggering 18 losses (11 of which went to the Independent grouping, with the Lib Dems picking up five and the Conservatives two) and talk about having the stuffing knocked out of them. In 2006, just the two Labour gains, nothing in 2007, those gains in 2006 were lost in 2008 leaving Labour reeling with some people even suggesting that with the election of an English Democrat mayor that Labour could never win control of Doncaster ever again. Then came the locals of 2010 and the rally started. Seven gains at that election, then nine in 2011, seven again in 2012 leaving the Liberal Democrats and the Independents out for the count and restablishing the Labour dominance of Doncaster. Until 2014 that is when although Labour kept control of the council, UKIP topped the poll in the local area count at the Euros by 497 votes over Labour having seen their vote surge 19% and issuing Labour with a new warning.

Staplehurst on Maidstone (Con Defence)
Last election to council (2014): Conservatives 25, Liberal Democrats 19, Independents 5, UKIP 4, Labour 2 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 3)
Last election in ward (2011): Conservatives 1,211 (65%), Labour 288 (15%), Liberal Democrats 228 (12%), Greens 148 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Louise Brice (Con), David George (Green), Jamie Kalmar (UKIP), John Randall (Lab), Paulina Watson (Lib Dem)

Maidstone has been a funny old council over the years. Back in 2003, it was the classic Conservative / Liberal Democrat battleground with both parties tied on 21 seats each but as the Blair years turned into the Brown years and Labour’s representation fell, first to lower than the Independents in 2008 and then to complete wipeout in 2010, the Conservatives managed to open up a lead over the Liberal Democrats and gain control of the council. And then things started to go a little awry, Labour failed to make any gains in 2011 (bucking the national trend) and whilst the Liberal Democrats were being hammered, it was the Conservatives who were making headway, and then then came UKIP this year gaining four councillors from a standing start (all from the Conservatives) and forcing the council back into No Overall Control for the first time in six years. To misquote Shakespeare, “There is something strange in the state of Maidstone”

Longhouton on Northumberland (Ind Defence)
Last election to council (2013): Labour 32, Conservatives 21, Liberal Democrats 11, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 2)
Last election in ward (2013): Independent 705 (34%), Conservatives 315 (15%), Non Party Independent 184 (9%), UKIP 178 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kate Cairns (Lib Dem), John Hope (Con), Nicola Morrison (Lab), Wendy Pattison (Ind), Michael Weatheritt (UKIP)

There has always been a Northumberland county council (it’s name coming from the fact that it is north of the Humber) and back in the 1990′s it was a Labour fiefdom (with 40 out of 66 councillors), however after the 1997 general election things started to go south for Labour and by the 2005 local elections they came within a whisker of losing it (Lab 35, Con 14, Lib Dem 14, Ind 4), so what did the government do? Simple, they made the council a unitary authority. Yes, gone was the boroughs of Blyth Valley (Lab majority of 14), Castle Morpeth (NOC, Lib Dem short by 5), Berwick upon Tweed (NOC, Lib Dem short by 5) and the districts of Wansbeck (Lab majority of 7), Tynedale (Con majority of 8) and Alnwick (NOC, Lib Dem short by 5) and say “HELLO, Northumberland” with a council made up of 66 members with Labour within spitting distance of a majority, so you can well imagine Labour will putting everything it has into this by-election

Southcote on Reading (Lab Defence)
Last election to council (2014): Labour 31, Conservatives 10, Greens 3, Liberal Democrats 2 (Labour majority of 16)
Last electoral cycle in ward (2011 – 2014)
2011: Labour 1,543 (56%), Conservatives 858 (31%), Liberal Democrats 193 (7%), Greens 157 (6%)
2012: Labour 1,364 (65%), Conservatives 478 (23%), Liberal Democrats 142 (7%), Greens 112 (5%)
2014: Labour 1,286 (57%), Conservatives 626 (28%), Greens 213 (10%), Liberal Democrats 110 (5%)
Candidates duly nominated: Matthew Lawrence (Lab), Alan Lockey (Green), Margaret McNeill (Lib Dem), Ellis Wiggins (Con), Ann Zebedee (UKIP)

Reading has, like a large number of Labour heartlands, suffered under the Blair and Brown years and has only recovered it’s domination since the general election. Back in 2003. Reading had 35 Labour councillors out of a total of 46 members, but as Labour’s time in government lengthened so that dominance started to wane and in 2008, Labour lost control and in the 2010 locals (when both Reading constituencies elected Conservative MP’s) Labour were only two seats ahead of the Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats on nine and the Greens on one. And then came the coalition and in 2011, the Liberal Democrats were hammered losing four seats and seeing an Independent elected as Labour’s lead increased to six, a trend that continued in 2012 as Labour gained control and then this year the Greens took over the third place from the Liberal Democrats.

Aberaman North on Rhondda, Cynon, Taff (Lab Defence)
Last election to council (2013): Labour 60, Plaid Cymru 9, Independent 4, Conservatives 1, Liberal Democrats 1 (Labour majority of 45)
Last election in ward (2013): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 900, 781 (81%)
Plaid Cymru 396 (19%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sheryl Evans (Lab), Mia Hollsing (TUSC), Lewis Israel (Con), Andrew Thomas (Ind), Julie Williams (Plaid)

If it was not for Plaid Cymru gaining control of this council back in 1999, Rhondda’s electoral history would have been so boring as to not worth passing comment over but as it is this by-election (caused by the death of the leader of Rhondda, Cynon, Taff council) is likely to result in another example (as has been so often the case) of the Labour vote being weighed as opposed the counted, the interesting question will be “Who will come second? Plaid or will the Independent show that all politicians are now the same”

Birchills, Leamore on Walsall (Lab Defence)
Last election to council (2014): Labour 30, Conservatives 21, UKIP 3, Independents 3, Liberal Democrats 3 (No Overall Control, Labour and Opposition tied)
Last electoral cycle in ward (2011 – 2014)
2011: Labour 1,574 (55%), Conservatives 961 (34%), Liberal Democrats 167 (6%), Democratic Labour 158 (6%)
2012: Labour 1,424 (65%), Conservatives 274 (13%), BNP 230 (11%), English Democrats 128 (6%), Liberal Democrats 74 (3%), Greens 59 (3%)
2014: Labour 1,194 (41%), UKIP 854 (29%), Conservatives 707 (24%), BNP 140 (5%)
Candidates duly nominated: Gazanfer Ali (Con), Chris Jones (Lab), Chris Newey (Eng Dem), Paul White (UKIP)

In 1995, Labour were rampant in the Metropolitans, winning 30 out of the 36 councils that made up the former counties of Merseyside, however in Walsall there were murmurings of discontent and a group of Labour councillors resigned the whip stating that “New Labour” was not the Labour party that they had been members of and so set up the Democratic Labour Party of Walsall and led by their leader, dubbed “Citizen Dave” by the local media, they stood in the 1996 local elections and won fifteen of the twenty seats up for election forcing the council in to a state of No Overall Control, however it wasn’t to last as in 1998 the delegation halved to just seven and in 1999 Labour regained control with the party confined to the history books. However, now Labour have a new problem, UKIP, who won 3 seats on Walsall in this year’s elections.

Clewer North on Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (Ind Defence)
Last election to council (2011): Conservatives 51, Independents 5, Liberal Democrats 1 (Conservative majority of 45)
Last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 1,392, 1,159, 1,151
Conservatives 1,016, 895, 831
Labour 372
Candidates duly nominated: John Collins (Con), Wisdom Da Costa (Ind), Peter Shearman (Lab)

Windsor and Maidenhead, rightly called Royal due to it’s connections to Her Majesty, was once a Lib Dem beacon. In 2003, it was one of nine local authorities that the Liberal Democrats controlled but in 2007 that all came to a crashing end as the Conservatives made twenty one gains (eighteen of which were from the Liberal Democrats) gaining control of the council from the Lib Dems and setting a chain of events that the Liberal Democrats never recovered from (as demonstrated in 2011 when they lost another fifteeen seats again to the Conservatives) so perhaps it is not a huge suprise that people have now started to support Independents as the only way of opposing the Conservative stronghold that the council has now become