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Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Preview : September 4th 2014

September 4th, 2014

Carfax on Oxford City (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 33, Liberal Democrats 8, Green 6, Independent 1 (Labour majority of 18)
Result of last election in ward (2012): Labour 288 (32%), Green 235 (26%), Liberal Democrat 207 (23%), Conservative 159 (18%)
Candidates duly nominated: Maryam Ahmed (Con), Kenrick Bird (UKIP), Tony Brett (Lib Dem), Alex Hollingsworth (Lab), Richard Scrase (Green)

The gleaming spires of Oxford has hidden a battle between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens as to who is best able to challenge Labour and the reason for this is that Oxford is a Conservative free zone. Yes, that’s right, there is a council in the Southern heartlands of England that does not have a single Conservative councillor on it. I am not quite sure when Conservative wipe-out was achieved in Oxford but since 2004 the number of Conservative councillors has been a big fat zero. In 2006, the Liberal Democrats had the upper hand becoming the largest grouping on the council but that only lasted one set of elections as in 2008 Labour regained their lead and in 2010 gained overall control of the council and since then the Liberal Democrats have collapsed from 17 in 2010 to 13 in 2012 and then eight this year. On the other hand the Greens have done very little by comparison starting off with seven councillors in 2004 reaching a peak of eight in 2006 but never dipping below five (as they did between 2008 and 2012) and with a sizeable 23% Lib Dem vote share in this ward could the Greens stage a recovery back towards their peak? Well, in the European Elections in the Oxford local count area a very respectable 21%, however this was down on the 26% they polled in 2009 and as a result Labour gained the local count area from the Greens (just as they did in Norwich and Brighton and Hove) so if the Greens cannot beat Labour, could UKIP (who polled 13% in 2014 up from 8% in 2009) pull off a suprise and see their first councillor in the city?

Folkestone, Harvey Central on Shepway (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 44, Independents 2 (Conservative majority of 42)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 539, 481
Labour 388, 328
Liberal Democrats 233
Independents 220
Candidates duly nominated: David Callahan (UKIP), Seth Cruse (TUSC), David Horton (Green), Tom McNeice (Lib Dem), Wendy Mitchell (Lab), Rodica Wheeler (Con)

Shepway, the council area that covers the parliamentary constituency of Folkestone and Hythe, has been nothing short of a Lib Dem disaster area. In 2003, the Liberal Democrats controlled the council with a majority of 12 (Lib Dem 29, Con 16, Lab 1) and served notice on Michael Howard, elected as Conservative leader in late 2003, that they were gunning for him despite his majority of 5,907 votes (13%) over the Liberal Democrats. There was only really ever going to be one result and Michael Howard held the seat with a majority of 11,680 votes (24%) on a swing of 5.6% from Lib Dem to Con and that was the cue for Lib Dem humiliation in the 2007 local elections. The Liberal Democrats lost 19 seats with every single one going to the Conservatives who despite that did manage to lose one seat to the Independents who also picked up the sole Labour seat and in 2011 the same thing happened again. Ten Lib Dem losses matched with ten Conservative gains and Lib Dem wipe-out. So the Conservatives have it all their own way and can expect a landslide win? No, because in the Euros Shepway voted UKIP by 43% to the Conservatives 27% and not that long ago another part of Folkestone elected a Green at a local by-election suggesting that anything could happen here (and if a friend of mine who lives in Folkestone says “All of them (councillors) are useless, so my vote is going to a useful party” then UKIP gain, Green gain and even a TUSC gain cannot be ruled out).

Old Dean on Surrey Heath (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 36, Independents 2, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 32)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 553, 526
Conservatives 337, 324
United Kingdom Independence Party 130
Liberal Democrats 91, 51
Candidates duly nominated: Heather Gerred (Lab), Eddie Hill (UKIP), Max Nelson (Con)

If Shepway has been a Lib Dem disaster area, then Surrey Heath has been an opposition disaster area. Back in 2003, the Conservatives barely won the council having an overall majority of four. (Con 22, Lib Dem 13, Lab 3, Ind 2) In the 2007 local elections, the Conservatives got to work on the Lib Dems making eight gains (six of which came from the Lib Dems) the others coming from Labour and the Independents and in 2011 (as in Shepway) wiped out the Lib Dems gaining the seven seats they had remaining leaving just two Labour (both from this ward) and two Independents which shows just how dire a situation the Lib Dems are in and probably explains why they have not nominated a candidate but again we have the perfect conditions for a UKIP surprise (a virtual one party state with the major mainstream parties fighting against each other) and given that in the Euros Surrey Heath saw a 7% swing from Con to UKIP the chances of a UKIP surprise must be pretty good.